In the lead up to their events, Zynnyme has written a brilliant blog for us on how you can calculate your fair fee and start putting it into practice to raise your income and improve your own personal wellbeing, as well as regaining that all-important work-life balance.
You love your work… at least on most days. Some days you even fantasize that were you to be independently wealthy, you’d provide your psychological, psychotherapy, or counselling services for free!
But the truth is, you’re probably far from realizing that dream. In fact, a lot of mental health professionals in private practice in the UK and around the world report living paycheck to paycheck. The cost of living continues to rise in most areas of the country, but most of us don’t find our professional fees rising proportionally to keep up with the shift.
Why your fee is important
As a counsellor in private practice, you are a business owner. You have to plan for expenses, taxes, ongoing training needs, slow times, sick days, holidays and even retirement! The fee you charge should not be your hourly wage. As a business owner who works within your business, you have many tasks that you must set aside time for, so you will never be seeing clients 100% of your working hours.
What is a fair fee?
Why would I use the term fair fee? I’ve spoken to mental health professionals all around the world about fees, their experiences, client responses and their fears. The biggest concern of these professionals often boils down to: “Am I being fair to my clients?”
This work is unique and requires your full and undivided attention. People often come to work with you and share their most vulnerable moments and fears, and trust you to help them make deep transformation within their lives. They need a therapist who is fully present. A fair fee is one that allows you to be fully present for your client and do your highest and best work.
Without a fair fee that allows you to be taken care of and fully present for your clients it’s easy for you to start to resent your clients or to become at risk for burnout. A fair fee gives you the confidence to stay home when you are sick, schedule a great consultation when you need it and to take holidays to recharge your own batteries.
What is included in a fair fee?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that you may need to plan for when calculating your fair fee:
- Your personal non-negotiable expenses.
- Your personal negotiable expenses.
- Personal savings.
- Vacation and sick time.
- Savings account for unexpected expenses.
- Training and consultation expenses.
- Public liability insurance.
- Phone, Internet services and utilities.
- Marketing expenses.
- Website development, hosting, etc.
- Taxes, registrations and licensing fees.
- Income tax and National Insurance.
- Furnishings and office equipment.
You need to create a realistic personal budget as well as a business budget, and then use them to create a business plan. All of this adds up to create your gross income goal. Now that you know your gross income goal, you can use that as a basis for calculating your fair fee!
What else do you need to calculate your ideal fee?
You need two additional pieces of data to calculate your fee. First, you need to determine the maximum number of clients you can see each week in your private practice whilst still doing great work. I encourage you to be completely honest with yourself and determine how many people you can see and still feel like you are giving the same level of attention, care and enthusiasm from your first client of the week to your last.
Remember, you are a business owner. You will not just be seeing clients. You will have other tasks to do throughout the week including returning phone calls, billing, accounting, marketing and so much more! Be honest with yourself so your clients get the highest level of care possible. They deserve your best self, and you deserve to feel your best.
Second, you need to determine how many weeks you will work per year. How many weeks of holiday do you need per year to stay rested and resilient? Do you need to plan to take time for trainings or additional CPD certification? How often do you get sick? Even if you don’t ever get sick, plan for at least one week per year just in case. The last thing you need to be worrying about when ill is whether you can pay the bills!
Your fair fee equation
Now, take your gross income goal and divide it by the number of weeks you will work per year. That will give you the average weekly income you need to earn during the weeks you work in order to meet your goal and not be stressed. Now, take that weekly goal and divide it by the number of clients you can see each week and still be an amazing clinician. This should be the basis for your hourly fee!
Wait… but that is TOO much!
It can be scary, to be honest, to find out how much it really takes to run a business. Many therapists have set fees that don’t allow them to be successful and lead them to burn out, leave the profession or provide sub-par services. An amazing clinician in Dublin had this same panic when she calculated her fair fee. She thought nobody would ever pay that fee. And truth was, it wasn’t a crazy fee. But, based on her training and what she was experiencing around her, she believed that she had to accept fees that were unfair in order to do the work she loved.
As she became more aware of the reality of being a business owner and more confident in her fee, she started scheduling clients at her new, fair fee. She started turning away clients when she got too full. She realized the quality of her sessions was improving – and she was getting sick less! Clients she thought would quit therapy if she raised their rate even £5 remained in therapy as she gradually raised the fees of her existing clients to her new fair fee.
Now, it’s your turn!
I know it’s scary to make changes, but your community and clients need you to be taken care of, fresh and ready to do deep work with them. It is time to sit down, get clear about your financial needs, calculate that fee and then learn how to charge it with confidence! If you need more support, you can check out our free How to Set Fees Video Training.
And don’t forget about all of the amazing resources here at the Private Practice Hub. You have support and a community ready and waiting to help you be happy and successful as a clinician in private practice. Good luck!