CAM practitioners need to work smarter not harder…

Woman laughing at her laptop computer in the park

…and the key is getting your fees right, says nutritional therapist Niki Gratrix.

It is incredibly challenging being a successful CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) practitioner. It essentially involves being self-employed and running your own business and this is not the same skill set as being successful in the clinic room.

It’s not like you finish your training course then there are organisations like businesses, hospitals or governments that are there to employee you and take care of the business side of things.

Only the most talented and driven practitioners become successful in my experience, and they often have a rare and wide-ranging set of business as well as practitioner skills, or they are exceptionally talented as a healer.

According to small business expert Michael Gerber in his book The E Myth, 95% of small businesses fail in the first five years, and a further 80% of those fail in the next five, and it is no exception in the CAM world.

Getting your price right is one of the most important factors for CAM practitioners in my experience

How much you charge links to your self-confidence and self-esteem and to your trust in the world. It also determines how burnt-out or rejuvenated you feel because it dictates your workload.

It dictates how well you balance your work and personal life, and whether you have time for research, personal development, creativity, innovation and more.

Pricing is particularly important for CAM practitioners because we are selling our TIME, not products, and you can’t make up for selling at a discount with volume – i.e. you are not in manufacturing where you can give volume discounts on bulk sales on products.

Undercharging hurts you and your business because you have to work harder to make up for discounts or undercharging by doing more hours per week.

So many CAM practitioners I know have trouble charging what they are actually worth.

It’s not more spiritual to be broke!

Being a caring healer and having abundance should not be a question of either/or – you CAN have both!

The one consistent factor I find is that healers tend to still have these underlying beliefs that somehow money is evil, or reflects greed or must be bad! This is very out-dated thinking.

As healers we deserve to get the rewards for the value we bring. When you don’t pay attention to basic business principles, understand basic marketing and pricing, your business and income will suffer.

All too often, there seems to be a naive belief that all you need is the law of attraction! Sorry but in my ten years of experience in CAM therapy, you actually need both – practical and wise business understanding with a large dose of positive attraction energy!

Here are 12 reasons you can’t afford to undercharge for your services:

1. As a “helper type” personality, when clients ask us for discounts or argue that they can’t pay our fees we are tempted to give them a reduced price because we care and we want to help. But like I said, because you are in the business of selling your time, you can’t make it up in volume discounts – you’ll just be working harder, longer hours in the week to make up for it. By increasing prices and correctly charging for your time you can have the same number of clients, be doing the same amount of work, and be earning more money. In other words, income from a price increase goes to bottom line profit without any extra effort!

2. Most practitioners never sit down and look at their true costs – which would be used to determine the correct price per hour they should be charging. This can lead to not covering those costs and getting into the stress of debt. You may have an office with related costs to factor in, internet and broadband access, yearly cost of career development courses, costs of lost income on days you are not working, costs of sickness days and holidays, costs of savings for pensions and investments, training books, professional trade association subscriptions, insurance, running a car or travel, office furniture and computer equipment and repairs, phone and office supplies, professional services such and legal and accounting advice and lastly the cost of marketing – whether that is leafleting, time writing articles or doing talks and so on. Oh – and you should be factoring in a profit margin as well!

3. Your price really does have an influence on how you attract clients. Sometimes when people aren’t charging enough and they’re not charging the price that really reflects the VALUE of the services they’re providing, a resentment factor arises and energetically clients will feel this. It’s like the practitioner has put up an invisible “closed for business” sign that deters new business, because they don’t want clients on that unequal exchange.

4. If you’re undercharging, you may have to work five days per week and have no time or money to invest in your ongoing personal and professional development. This means over time, the services you offer your patients will potentially fall behind the times and suffer from lack of innovation. In the long term you will lose clients to more innovative practitioners.

5. When you undercharge and end up doing too many hours, you are at risk of cutting corners and the quality of your work may be affected. At some point you’re going to end up under-preparing for consultations, which may affect efficacy as well as safety of treatment. Not because you are ill-intentioned or lazy, but because you are tired and verging on burnout. A big clue is the resentment factor – if you are starting to dread consultations or feel angry towards clients it’s a clear sign your hours are too long and your prices are probably too low.

6. Working too many hours means you don’t have the time to step back and think strategically about your business. It’s what Michael Gerber calls time working ON the business rather than IN the business. Working IN the business is spending all your time in consultations. Working ON the business is stepping back and looking at the larger picture such as how you run consultations, the documentation, marketing strategy and cost efficiencies you may be missing out on. Working ON your business is having time to be able to look outwards into your marketplace so you can spot potential opportunities (such as creating a referral network or discovering an innovative new health solution) and dealing with possible threats (e.g. E.U. or government health regulations).

7. Practitioners who are booked out and in great demand often feel a sense of self-worth: “I am needed – I am in demand!” Actually, an over-full diary can be sign you are undercharging. As a rule of thumb at least 20% of your potential clients should be rejecting working with you because your price is too high for them. That is a GOOD thing. You’ll have free time for holidays, rest, personal development, strategic business thinking and more.

8. It won’t just be you who loses out if you undercharge and end up going out of business – the world loses out on you and what you had to offer.

9. When you undercharge, you also have no time for an increasingly important aspect of being a CAM practitioner – completing research studies on your work. The future of CAM depends on CAM practitioners embracing the rigorous standards of conventional clinical research. We need to answer our critics in the language they understand: the language of research. You won’t have time to do this if you are glued to spending all your time in consultations.

10. The lower your price, the less committed the clients you attract are likely to be. This is a known phenomenon in the therapy world: the more you charge, the more successful therapy is. You should never be more committed to the health of your patients than they are themselves. You want to work with clients who are ready and willing to commit to change. Higher prices means more committed clients. Attracting clients who aren’t really committed means your results will not be as good, and nor will your bank balance or your reputation.

11. The idea that lower prices will always attract more clients is a myth. Fairy Liquid, Coca Cola and Pampers nappies are all the bestselling brands in their genres, and they are all more expensive than many (less successful) competing brands. There are clients who are more interested in paying for value and getting what they perceive to be the best in the marketplace, rather than just cheap deals. One year when I was about to put my prices up, I asked a few of my clients what they thought about my price as compared to another practitioner who was a medical doctor specialising in the same work as me. All my clients said they would worry/wonder what was wrong with me and my service if I was charging less than this doctor and they may have switched! So if you think cutting your price will get you more clients than other higher priced practitioners – not necessarily! You may lose clients who perceive your service to be inferior to that of your competitors! In other words you will lose clients whose main concern is value and you will attract more of the worst kind of clients – those whose prime concern is cost.

12. When you undercharge you don’t factor in time to eat well, exercise, de-stress and have holidays and other times when you can switch off completely. Everyone needs rest and relaxation. Aren’t we always saying this to our clients? You know why you need to do this so – are you walking your own talk?

At the moment I only do about 4 consultations per week as I choose to offer a premium, specialised and high-value service.

This allows me all the rest of that time to create products which are not dependent on my presence in consultations, time to cook well, exercise with my personal trainer weekly, invest time in new product and supplement research so that I stay at the cutting edge of what frontier science has to offer health, organising clinical research on my protocols for optimum energy, having fun creating educational videos for my clients, running my group forum, traveling internationally to conferences worldwide, taking lots of time out with friends and family and enjoying myself, and writing for health magazines and giving back to the regulatory body that oversees my profession.

1 Comment

  • Finally! Someone in the CAM world who thinks like I do! I charge far more than the average practitioner and have trouble finding clients who will pay but I wont let this put me off as I am providing value and changing lives. Thanks for this. At least I know I am not alone.

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