Fee Setting - How Do I Set My Fee?
Choosing how much to charge for your private practice can be tricky. Here, I’ll show you a simple way to ensure you are charging enough to make your business work.
last updated: 29/04/2022
One of the biggest decisions to make when setting up your private practice is deciding how much to charge. There are many aspects to consider for this. But by far the most important thing to get right is knowing your figures and being aware of what you need to charge in order to cover your costs.
This article explains how to manually calculate your minimum fee per session. Alternatively, you can use our Fee Calculator.
Step 1 - How Much Does My Business Cost?
As the old saying goes, “it takes money, to make money” and this is true for running a business. Before you can decide how much you wish to charge, you need to know how much money it takes to run your business. A successful business owner will always have a good knowledge of the income and expenditure for their business.
There are quite a few common costs that will apply to most private practitioners. Some examples are:
- Professional Indemnity Insurance
- Professional Membership Fees
- ICO Membership
- Room Rental
- CPD costs
- Advertising (websites / directories etc)
- Room Rental
- Software subscriptions (zoom, office, finance packages)
- Stationery and office equipment (eg: laptop)
- Phone / Broadband
Then there are costs that are unique to your business. You may work creatively with your clients which may require supplies such as paper, small items etc. You may have to decorate your counselling room or perhaps you choose to provide refreshments or tissues for your clients. For a more indepth look at what constitutes a business expense, you can read my article on Business Expenses for Sole Traders.
Step 2 - Calculate Non Working Weeks
Non working weeks are your desired holiday leave, plus an allowance for potential sickness leave and then an allowance for Client absences / non payable cancellations.
Step 3 - Weekly Client Hours
Within a standard working week, how many client hours could you provide? When calculating this, remember to make allowances for admin time and supervision time. Depending on your circumstances, you may also wish to factor in some time for CPD / reading (alternatively you could include an allowance for training in your Non Working Weeks).
Once you have all these figures, you can calculate how much your minimum charge per session is (how much your to charge in order to break even).
- Total Costs divided by Working Weeks to find your cost per week
- Cost per week divided by client hours to find your minimum session cost
Once you know the minimum amount your need to charge, anything over this is pure profit. So you can then factor in how much you want to get paid for your time. If you know how much you want to earn as an annual figure, you can include this in your costs to work out what session fee will cover your costs and your desired income. Alternatively, if you have a weekly figure in mind, you can add it onto the costs per week.
Sliding Fee Scale & Free Sessions
You might be thinking about offering a slide fee scale or even some free sessions. You can use the above calculation to help you decide what is feasible for you to offer. For free sessions, I would suggest making an adjustment to the number of sessions you offer per week. If you have 8 sessions available per week and you want to offer 2 of these for free, use 6 hours per week in the calculation. For a sliding fee scale, you really need to make sure you are covering your minimum costs.
EAPs can be a great way to fill your practice, but some of the rates can be very low and whilst some money may seem better than no income, you could end up paying to work for the EAP if you don’t have a handle on your minimum cost per session.
What Are Others Charging?
I see a lot of counsellors who look around at what others are charging in their area and then they will frequently then pitch themselves according to that figure. Whilst it is a good thing to be aware of the ‘going’ rate in your area, you need to be aware of where you are pitching yourself in the local market. It can be helpful to think of a supermarket analogy here. Supermarkets will frequently offer their own brand of product. In some cases, they will offer two or even three versions of the product according to their different value brands. For example, Tesco have their standard own brand, a ‘value’ brand and a ‘finest’ brand. Think about where you see yourself in the local market and think about how your clients will view your price. If you were choosing a photographer for a special occasion, you wouldn’t necessarily pick the cheapest.
One Final Note.....
It is perfectly ok to charge different clients, different amounts. This is your business and you get to set the rules. If you find selected days or times are particularly popular, you might want to consider putting a premium on those sessions. A lot of counsellors will state in their advertising that they offer concessionary rates. You may or may not wish to advertise this, but even if you don’t, you can always negotiate with an individual client and reach an agreement on what is acceptable for both of you. Once again, being aware of the minimum cost of your session is key to ensuring that you don’t end up paying to work.