If you’ve ever felt confused about how to set your fees or what to charge for your online therapy sessions (or other services/products), you’re not alone. Pricing is an issue many mental health professionals struggle with, so we’ve put together this blog post on how to set your fees to provide you with some guidance and food for thought.
There are many factors that come into deciding what to charge. For example, should it be based on where we’re located, where our clients are located, the “value” we provide, the impact of our work, or something else? Or a combination of all these factors?
Of course, there isn’t one simple answer to this question.
We can’t tell you what you should charge, as that will depend on what you offer, who your target client is, your personal and business expenses, and much more.
But we hope that this blog post will help you to make a more strategic and informed decision on how to set your pricing for your services.
We’ll also cover how to increase your fees (which is something everyone will need to do at some point) and how to communicate that change with your clients.
But First – Your Money Mindset
One of the biggest struggles many colleagues have when starting or growing their own LIT business is how to set their fees and/or how to talk about (and ask for) money.
As location independent therapists, we’re part of this industry because we want to help people. Often, this means that we struggle to put a price tag on our valuable services and tend to shy away from embracing the financial side of our businesses. We’ve met plenty of therapists who even go so far as to say, “I wish I could just do this work for free!”
But the truth is, money isn’t a bad thing. It’s a very powerful tool that can be used for good, and it’s also the fuel that keeps your business up and running. After all, without it, your entrepreneurial journey ends.
So, it’s essential that you work on your money mindset. You’ll need to get comfortable with talking about money because you won’t be able to avoid it as a business owner. And you’ll also need to come to accept that you need to make money and you deserve to get paid well for the work you do.
We’ll have a whole blog post on money mindset soon – make sure you’ve signed up for our newsletter, so you’ll know when we publish it.
For now, start reflecting on your attitude towards money and the stories you tell yourself about money. We recently read “We Need To Talk About Money” by Otegha Uwagba in the LIT Community Book Club, and we would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand and improve their relationship with money.
How much money do you need to make?
Next, you need to consider how much money you need to make to cover your regular expenses and living costs.
If you’re growing your LIT business so you can quit your regular job or replace your salary, you’ll need to know exactly how much turnover will make that possible.
Here is one way to work out how much you’ll need to earn. You’ll need to think about:
- How many clients you want to see each week. (Think about what’s sustainable for you!)
- How many weeks you want to work each year.
- Your personal expenses and any extras (e.g. money you’d like to put into savings)
If you know your expenses and cost of living, you can calculate how much you would need per client session to charge to cover those costs.
Factor in other expenses as a business owner
However, don’t forget to factor in the other expenses that you’ll incur as a business owner. For example, you won’t take home all the money you bring into your business. You’ll need to pay taxes on what you earn, so you should be realistic about how much money you’ll keep for your own outgoings.
Plus, you’ll need to cover business expenses, such as:
- Any software you’ll need- your booking system, email provider, Zoom, etc
- Outsourcing – paying a virtual assistant, accountant, web designer, etc
- Tools like a new laptop, keyboard, monitor, or mouse
You might have additional expenses to cover, like health insurance, or saving for retirement. On the other hand, you might also be thinking about moving somewhere with a lower (or higher) cost of living once you’re fully location independent. In that case, make sure to adjust your numbers to factor that in.
Can your ideal client afford your services?
Once you have an idea of what you’d like to charge, the next step is to work out if it’s feasible. If you have a niche and an ideal client in mind, think about whether they can afford your services.
You might want to charge a higher price, but will that work for your clients or put you out of their reach? Alternatively, if you charge too low, people might overlook you or not take you seriously.
Your fees need to make sense for both your business and your clients, and you may also have to do the inner mindset work when it comes to finances.
Expectations and prices can vary from location to location. For example, LIT co-founder Sonia Jaeger works with clients in French and German. But she’s found that clients from France expect to pay a lot less for the same service as clients from Germany, as that’s the norm in the respective countries.
Your client’s location, age, career, and life choices, among other factors, can affect how much they are willing to pay for a therapy session.
If you don’t know who your ideal client is yet, check out our blog post on clarifying your ideal client. It’s a crucial step that will allow you to connect with your target audience, and it will make it so much easier to market your business and attract the right people to your offers.
If you’re already working with clients – are you happy with the clients you attract?
If you’re already working with some clients online, spend some time reflecting on who you’re working with or have worked with so far. Are you happy with the kind of clients you’re attracting with your current prices?
If the answer is yes, that’s fantastic. It sounds like you’re already taking the right steps in your business, and your pricing is working well for you and your clients.
But if not, let’s think about this a bit more. How are your clients’ money mindsets? Are they reliable and want to work with you long-term? Or do they cancel at the last minute, turn up late (or not at all), or only book one or two sessions?
If your clients aren’t taking you seriously, it could be that you’re undercharging. Many therapists think that they are giving back by lowering their prices, but sometimes, it backfires. A lower price could be a red flag to some people – “Why are they charging so little? Maybe they don’t provide as much value or they aren’t an experienced therapist?”
When people pay a higher price, they often feel more invested in the process, and as result, they will engage more in the therapeutic relationship. Plus, you won’t end up feeling resentful for earning less than you’d like.
On the other hand, if you have your business all set up but you’re not finding clients, it could be that your price point is too high for your ideal client.
What are other colleagues in the niche charging?
It can be useful to do some research and find out what other professionals are charging. But remember that you’ll need to factor in their niche, target audience, experience, etc. As you’ve seen, there isn’t a simple formula for calculating the right fee – so much more comes into it.
However, knowing what your colleagues are charging is useful, as it shows what people are willing to pay. It can give you a ballpark figure or a range to consider when setting your prices.
That’s especially useful if you’re getting inquiries but people aren’t committing to work with you, and you think your price point is to blame.
Knowing what your colleagues are charging is useful. But you don’t have to charge the same as others! You need to differentiate yourself from your colleagues in different ways, and your pricing is one of the ways you can do that.
Offering Packages vs. Single Sessions
Many therapists start off by offering individual sessions to their clients. But another option is to only offer packages, for example, 3, 6, or 10 sessions. That way, you’re asking for more commitment from your clients, and it can also provide a more regular and stable income.
However, it’s also a higher outgoing for your client, and that could put some people off. So, you’ll need to consider whether it will work for your business.
Transitioning to offering packages can be a mindset switch for you, too! It might seem scary at first, as you’ll worry that the higher cost will turn people away. But remember that you can experiment with your business and try different things. If one approach doesn’t work, you can switch back to offering single sessions.
Raising Your Prices
At some point, you’ll need to raise your prices. That might be because you charged a lower price when you were starting out and wanted to establish your business, and now you feel ready to charge more. We had a discussion about raising prices with our LIT Community members, and almost all of them started on a lower fee and increased their prices over time.
There are many different reasons for increasing your price, for example:
- You have more experience
- You’ve gained additional qualifications and skills
- You’re moving to a more expensive country
- You want more financial stability and independence
- You’re having a child, or your family circumstances have changed
- You’re earning more and need to pay VAT now
Or it could be that you want to raise your prices annually in line with inflation. That’s a standard business practice for most service providers.
Either way, it can feel scary to raise your prices and communicate this change to your clients. What if they can’t afford your increased price? Or if you upset your clients and they decide not to work with you any more?
How to Tell Clients about a Price Increase
We recommend giving your clients plenty of notice when you plan to raise your fees. Also, know that you’ll get lots of questions, so have answers prepared as to why you’re increasing your prices. This way, you’ll sound more assertive and confident than if you’re put on the spot.
If you have long-term clients, you might want to offer them a grace period during which they can stay at their lower price for a time. Let them know that you value them and want to continue working with them. At the same time, make them aware of the change and let them know when to expect to pay your increased price.
Finally, if you’re worried about raising your prices, consider why this is. Do you have any mindset blocks around money? You might need to work on this yourself with your own therapist or business coach. Or join us inside the LIT Community, where we now host a monthly money mindset talk and monthly hot seat coaching calls.
It’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable about money, but it’s all part of developing a business mindset as the owner of your own business. When you’re charging your lower price, are you attracting your ideal client? If people pay less, they might not be as committed to the therapy process.
What to do if people can’t afford your prices
As a mental health professional, you got into this career so you could help people. So, you might worry what to do about people who can’t afford your fees. You might want to work with people in difficult situations or have people reach out to you, but your price is out of their range.
There are different ways to approach this dilemma. For example, you could have a number of pro-bono spots or offer a discount or a sliding scale. (But factor this into your overall finances so that it makes sense financially for you, too.)
You could also have a list of organisations you can direct people towards if you don’t have the capacity to take on another client or if they can’t afford your services.
It’s important to remember that you deserve to be paid well for your services. Being a therapist is a profession, not a volunteer activity or charity.
We often tell our clients things like “you can’t pour from an empty cup” to encourage them to make sure their own needs are met before helping others. It’s important we follow the same philosophy with respect to our financial needs and quality of life.
In Conclusion – Setting Your Fees
As you can see, there are so many factors involved with how to set your fees. It’s a very personal decision that takes into account your outgoings, cost of living, and location. But you’ll also need to consider who your ideal client is and whether they can afford your prices.
By now, you should have a good idea of how to decide what makes sense for your pricing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different prices or formats (e.g. packages) until you work out what makes sense for your business.
Let us know if you have any questions about pricing or tips you’d like to share with other mental health professionals working online or in private practice. Share them below in the comments section!
And if you’d like to talk about these topics and many others with like-minded colleagues, the LIT Community could be just what you need. It’s our community for location independent mental health professionals around the world, where we support our members in starting or growing their online businesses. We do this via regular business, social, and therapy-based events (such as case supervision sessions and hot seat coaching), our 24/7 discussion board, and the info & resources we’ve learned in growing our own businesses.
Our doors are currently closed, but you can find out more about the LIT Community here and sign up to our waitlist to be the first to hear all our latest news, plus monthly tips & resources for mental health professionals.