There are two groups here:
- The people who have some money stuff to work through that aren’t actually charging too much, but fear they are (cue imposter syndrome, not-enoughness, fear people won’t pay it, etc.) They’re usually in the process of accepting a new fee and it’s uncomfortable but it passes after stating the fee several times and seeing that people aren’t punching you in the face when you say it and many are happy to pay it. Depending on how many referrals you’re getting (i.e. how much you get to practice saying the fee), this could take days or a couple weeks.
- The people who actually are charging too much. What’s too much? It’s not a number, it’s a level of discomfort that inhibits your growth. These are the folks who have had the fee for a while and it’s just not sitting right inside. It feels wrong, even. It’s not that they don’t think they’re worth it or that no one will pay it, it’s that they’re gut is saying no. The idea of people paying the fee doesn’t feel expansive. It feels confining. I was recently in this camp & I’ll tell you a little about that in a second.
In this blog post I’m talking primarily to Group 2. Those of you in Group 1 will find some relevant blog posts here. But read this too because you may land here at some point & it’s better to recognize it early.
Let’s say you set your fee. Maybe you were coached or influenced by colleagues or whatever, but you set your fee at a rate that felt like a stretch. Which it’s supposed to and basically always will when you give yourself a raise.
So you set or raised your fee and that pit-of-your-stomach feeling didn’t go away. And you searched your soul and found that it wasn’t money shame or lack of confidence. Here’s what I want you to know: when you’re outside the realm of money shame and imposter syndrome you have a clearer sense of what works for you. Your fee and money is a deeply personal issue that is about what YOU’RE looking for in life and what works for you.
Other people’s fees are irrelevant. What others charge applies to you about as much as what size shoe I wear. Maybe you set your fee because your colleagues have a similar fee. Maybe you grappled with the fee and someone said “what, do you think you’re not worth it?” and you felt you had to prove your worth with your fee. Your fee has nothing to do with your worth. Whether you charge $5 or $500, you and what you provide is worthy.
Here’s the story of what happened to me recently.
It’s a common business maxim that when demand is high, you raise your fees. That way it takes some of the pressure off the demand and you don’t lose money when you can’t take on more clients. I did this with my individual consulting packages. I was saturated with a waiting list with my 3 month (12 weekly sessions with in-between support), $5,000 package. So I shifted my model and the way it was delivered to 1 month (2 one hour session and 1 three hour strategy session) at $2,500. I had several takers within the month it quietly opened and despite really loving the individual work, I just couldn’t keep up with demand. AND raising the fees beyond that felt really off.
I’ve worked through a shit ton of money shame in my time. Most other consultants charge significantly more than that, people I respect, people I’m friends with. So I felt like I should keep bumping against this barrier I couldn’t name. Then it hit me that my why is about helping more people build private practices. And the more I spent with individuals, as much as I love them, the fewer internal resources I have to reach more people. And while I know people got plenty of value from what they invested in individual packages with me, I also know that I can do more for more people.
And that’s when the “Practice Building for the Cost of a Copay” Abundance Party struck me. Right as I decided to retire my individual packages. When I finally listened to my gut that said something was off. It wasn’t necessarily the money. It was the purpose or offer.
How to Manage This In Private Practice
If you’re in this space with your fee and you’ve done the requisite self-exploration, lower your fee. There’s absolutely no shame in lowering it. You’re not less worthy as a clinician with a lower fee. You’re modeling honoring your own boundaries, listening to your gut, and flexibility. To me that feels better than rigidly holding to a number because someone else suggested that it was a good one.
Have you experienced this? Let us know in the comments!
Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group, and get help from Allison and a small group of new, close friends in Abundance Practice-Building Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.