The price is right...or is it?

One of the first questions you’ll ask yourself when venturing into the world of private practice is: "How much should I charge?"

If you’re planning to rely on private practice for most or all of your income, you’ll need to take into account how much it will cost you to run your business if you want to make a reasonable profit.

Pricing is one of the most important business decisions you’ll ever make. Your price will determine whether you earn a satisfactory income from your efforts.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to getting it right:

1. Write down all of the services you are going to offer, and who you are going to offer them to. If you don’t yet have a clear idea, have a look at our articles on target market and what to sell.

2. Have a look at the charges of other practitioners in your area. You can usually get a list of local competitors by visiting Google and typing in your service (e.g. psychotherapist, acupuncturist, osteopath) and your location (e.g. Bristol, Manchester, Ipswich).

3. If you’re a counsellor or psychotherapist, visit BACP - type in your postcode and you will see a list of therapists in your area.

4. Visit your competitors’ websites to see if they list prices, or simply ring them up and ask (be tactful).

5. Don’t automatically match their prices - use them as a guide. Think about your level of expertise, experience, and what you can offer to your clients, then decide how you want to pitch your prices. High prices are often seen as an indicator of a premium service, and could attract clients.

6. Think about how much your clients can afford. Regardless of your expertise and experience, there’s no point setting a premium rate if your clients will simply be unable to afford it. How will your clients pay?

  • will they pay out of their own pockets?
  • will you have to collect fees from an insurance company?
  • will you receive the referral, and payment, from a rehab company or solicitor?
  • will you be seeing NHS patients and receive payment from the PCT?

7. When you’ve got an idea of price, have a look at your business plan and think about how many clients you should be able to see each week. Will the prices you charge give you enough income, and cover your costs?

How flexible can I be with my prices?

As flexible as you can afford. Here are a couple of tips:

1. When quoting a price, you could say "each session costs £90, but as you will be paying direct I will only charge you £70." Or, “I usually charge £90 per session but I am occasionally able to offer a concession.” Or, “As the fees are going to be too much for you I am prepared to offer sessions to you at £50.” Statements such as these will raise the perceived value of your service.

2. If you propose a treatment plan that covers several sessions, offer your client a discount if they book all of the sessions. You will be giving them value for money. However, try to get payment either up front or after each session rather than at the end of the treatment plan.

Fee arrangements

As well as how much to charge, you should also think about fee arrangements such as cancellation or what to do if your client doesn't attend. Read our article about fee arrangements here.

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