Are you struggling with figuring out how to set your rates in private practice? Not sure how often you can raise your rates? Want an outline of how to do this?
In this ‘Five Questions for Private Practice’ series podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about setting your rates in private practice.
In This Podcast
In this podcast series, episode 3, Joe Sanok talks about how to set your rates in private practice and look at what people do wrong and right within this.
What To Look At
You won’t be paneled for everyone’s insurance, so either way, you need to set your rates for your private practice. First, look at any insurances you are on. Your rate needs to be above your highest paying insurance. If you’re 100% private pay, set whatever price you want (I’ll guide you through how to do that).
Also, look at what the typical private pay practice is charging and go 20% above that. Why 20%, do you know which wines sell the most? It’s not the cheapest or the most expensive, it’s those in the middle. If you’re at a restaurant, you may have self-confidence or wine knowledge to buy the cheapest glass, but most people will get the 2nd or 3rd cheapest glass.
Potential clients will think, “They must be worth that little extra.”
Next, you’ll want to have your intake price and regular session price be different. This is because:
- More work goes into the first session
- First sessions have a higher no show/cancellation rate
- It helps you test new prices
Say you start at $125 for intake and $100 per session, you’re on BCBS, they pay $112 for intake and $98.45 per session. The last factor in rates is your caseload. For you, what is busy?
If you want to see 15 clients, raise your rates when you are 60-70% full. You’ll raise your rates not with current clients, but instead with new clients. Say you’re at 10 clients and want to be at 15, raise your rates to $150 intake and $125 for sessions. Try that for a month or two. You’’ ll be shocked at how many people are fine with the rates (if they know that you are good).
Let’s Look At The Math Of Raising Rates In Private Practice:
- 15 clients x $100/session = $1,500/week x 48 weeks per year = $72,000
- 12 clients x $125/session = $1,500/week x 48 weeks per year = $72,000
- 15 clients x $125/session = $1,875/week x 38.4 weeks per year = $72,000
- 15 clients x $125/session = $1,875/week x 48 weeks per year = $90,000
More Vacation or Money?:
By raising rates from $100 to $125 you could:
- Work three fewer hours per week
- Have an extra 9.6 weeks of vacation
- Have an extra $18,000 per year
Next, when you start to fill up, raise your rates again. Especially when you are close to your max, you don’t want to have a waiting list, just make sure that the rate makes it worth going beyond your max.
Lastly, every year you want to raise your rates for everyone.
How To Raise Rates In Private Practice. Here’s The Schedule:
- In October, email or send a letter to everyone explaining the current rates and that you will be raising rates on Jan 1.
- Decide if you are aligning everyone to the same rate or whether people will slowly be raised. For example, if someone started at $100 last year and you’re currently charging $225, that might be too large of a jump.
- Jan 1 raise rates.
- How Much Time Should I Spend on My Private Practice? Five Questions for Private Practice Series 1 of 5 | PoP 366
- Should I Take Insurance in My Private Practice? Five Questions for Private Practice Series 2 of 5 | PoP 367
- The Five Most Important Questions for Private Practice: An Authoritative Guide
- How to Kill It In Private Practice Masterclass
- Slow Down School
- Killin’it Camp
- Killin’it Camp Tickets
- Next Level Practice
- Free Downloadable Resources
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 368.
I’m Joe Sanok, your host and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I am so excited that you are here. Every week, if not more than that, we are doing podcasts all about private practice. So, if you are a counselor, an MFT, a psychologist, massage therapist, functional medicine doctor, maybe even an attorney or dentist, we’re really glad you’re here. Private practice is so exciting, so much fun. And you know, we’re covering all things private practice and beyond.
I just went to Disneyland in California with my kids, so, I’ve got a little buzz right here inside of me. We had so much fun out in California, got to hang out with a lot of fun people. So, hang out with our friend Veronica, who, she is building out a community called Who the F Am I and, it’s helping women through these challenges to just rock out being a mom and discovering who they are. Hang out with Allie Casazza. Allie, she was on the podcast and she’s all about minimalism and hang out with her and her family.
Then hung out with Kelly Higdon, uh, from ZynnyMe and Kelly Higdon Coaching, you know, these people that, you know, they really become friends. They aren’t just these people that, you know, we work with. And, I want to encourage you to create these friendships with people. You can meet people in Next Level Practice or through all sorts of other online communities and get to know them beyond just private practice-wise. Because when you have that support, it’s amazing how you just help each other continue to grow and scale just so much.
Today we’re going to be talking about how do you set your rates in private practice. We’re going to talk about some things that people do wrong in that, we’re going to go through what people do right in that, and you know, kind of some shortcomings of that discussion.
But, you know, a couple of things that we’re working on here at Practice of the Practice, you know, we always have things cooking and, you know, you often hear about it, you know, kind of far down the road. So, we just had another, it was actually our largest launch of Next Level Practice. We had, I want to say 74 new members join that community. I want to say we just passed 300. I’d have to get the actual numbers, probably should have before this podcast.
But these are people that are all starting and growing their practices. They’re under $80,000. They might have added like a first clinician if they’re growing a group, but really from that moment that you’re like, “I should start a counseling practice or I should start a massage therapy practice.” You know, that first moment, you think that all the way through when you’re kind of joining and doing a group practice, that’s what Next Level Practice is for and we’ve got a ton of awesome content there.
But to see people supporting each other, coming to the live Q&A’s, getting assigned to their small groups that meet weekly, going through the modules, we send them a welcome box. It’s super cool. And our plan, we’re evaluating our pricing structure and, our plan is probably in September to raise our rates for that. And so, the June cohort, if you want to lock that in, make sure that you’re on that invite list over at practicethepractice.com/invite. But we’ve been working on that. We’ve been planning Slow Down School, which is going to be happening in July.
And so, it’s just this week here in Northern Michigan where the first couple of days we go hiking, I bring in massage therapists, a yoga teacher, and then for the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning of that week, we run full tilt towards your practice and your big ideas. You get put into small families where you can connect with people that are the same phase of practice as you working on very similar things and really to see those relationships form when you take time away to really work on your business and slow down.
It’s amazing to see what people achieve in that one week. And then we go wine tasting on Friday. So, that’s really for people that are approaching that six-figure practice all the way up to a seven-figure practice. And it’s a small group. It’s 20 to 30 people depending on the year they come out to that. And so, if you want to chat with me about that, head on over to slowdownschool.com. And then we’re also working on Killin’It Camp. Killin’It Camp is our conference we’re doing in October. And so, you can go over to killingitcamp.com to read more about that. But we’ve got a lot of things cooking and I always have ideas that I kind of get to put on the side and kind of come back to what do people really care about.
And you know, some of these basic things, it’s good to circle back to like, how do I set my rates in private practice? So, for most people, if you’re not on insurance, your rate is going to be a question. But even if you’re on insurance, you want to know what your rates are going to be. And so, if you’re paneled with an insurance company, they set your rates. You can try to negotiate them, things like that but, your rates are pretty locked in. But if you’re private pay or have an element of private pay in your practice, you really want to look at what are your rates. When I first started mental wellness counseling, it was a side gig. There were no panels open. So, I’m just like, “I’m going to open a practice and do private pay.”
I didn’t even know that was a thing. And so, what I did is I looked on, I don’t think I even looked at Psychology Today. I think I went to a bunch of people’s websites to look at their private pay rates. And the average rate in our town was $80 a session. And so, I set my rate at 70 thinking, “Well, I’m a little bit then under the market and I’m going to get a lot of people.” And I did.
But you know, when you think about it, you know, if there were to child psychologists, for example, and one was $80 a session and one was 120th session, there’s a certain assumption that comes with the higher priced one is better. And if you’re charging that 50% more, so, you’re 120 versus 80, that means you can have fewer clients or you can scale faster. And so, some things that you really want to think about is, you know, what’s your initial price per session? But also, I really encourage people to have their intake be more expensive than their typical sessions because more work goes into the first session. Your first sessions often have a higher no-show or cancellation rate and also helps you test new prices for your practice.
And so, to say, you are going to be at 120, to have 135 or 145 for the intake session to kind of test that pricing is really important. Now, let’s also look at some other elements. So, if you are on insurance, you always want your private pay rate to be higher than your highest paying insurance. Your private pay rate always needs to be higher than your highest paying insurance. So, if Blue Cross Blue Shield pays you 112 for intake and say $98.45 cents per session, you want to make sure that your intake is higher than that 112 and that your session is higher than that 98. So, you’d at least want to be at like a 125, 100.
And so, the next factor that you also want to look at is for you what is busy? And so, an example and I have a blog post, if you just type Five Questions into Practice of the Practice, or we’ll have a link to it in the show notes, like if you want to see, say, 15 clients and you’re, you know, at just a couple of clients a week, maybe raise your rates when you’re 60 to 70% full. And so, if we know that, then that means that you’re going to raise your rates, you know when you’re at around 10 clients. But you won’t do it with your current clients, just new clients. And so, then you’re going to raise your rates. Maybe you go from being, you know, $100 a session, to, you go to 125 and your intake goes up to 150. Try that for a month or two.
When I have had people experiment, oftentimes I do these pre-consulting calls for people that, you know, do want to join one of the mastermind groups, or do one-on-one consulting, or come to Slow Down School and you know, we’ll talk and I’ll say, “For a week, just have your assistant or you give the rates a big jump for yourself. So, if you’re at a hundred, jumped to 150. do that for a week and see what happens. Let me know if it doesn’t work out.
Almost every time people say, “Oh my gosh, nobody blinked at that price. I am amazed that nobody blinked.” You know, you will be shocked at how many people are fine with the rates if they know that you’re good. I mean, sometimes when you’re fresh out of grad school and you have a crappy looking website and all these other things, yeah, people aren’t going to pay for it.
But like, let’s look at the math of raising your rates in private practice. Imagine you’re seeing 50 clients a week, that’s insane. If you’re seeing 50 clients, stop it. If you’re seeing 15 clients a week at $100 per session, that’s $1,500 a week, a hundred times 15. And let’s say you work 48 weeks a year, that’s $72,000 gross. Now, let’s just say we raised your rates to 125 overall. You would only need to see 12 clients and you’d still work those 48 weeks. So, 12 clients a week times 125 is 1500 a week; also, times 48 weeks. Now let’s say we want it to just work fewer weeks per year. If you are at 15 clients per week at 125 per session, that’s actually $1,875 per week. And you could actually work 38.4 weeks per year. So, almost 10 weeks off per year and still make that $72,000 gross.
Now let’s say you just wanted to make more money, 15 clients, times 125 a session, that’s 1875 per week, and then you do that times 48 weeks, that’s $90,000. So, the equivalent of 15 sessions a week, times a hundred times 48 weeks, that’s $72,000 per year. That’s the same as 12 clients per week. So, three hours a week extra that you’d get back what would you do at three hours a week? Like what would you look like as a father or a mother or as a partner or what art classes would you take? Or would you go for a run and work out? So, oftentimes we just kind of stick with these prices, but you know, how often do we say, “Oh, I don’t have time to work out,” or “I don’t have time to go shopping, to eat healthily,” or “I don’t have time for whatever.”
If you had three hours a week extra by just charging $25 more per session, what would you do with those three hours? Or what would you do with 10 weeks off a year extra? I mean, that’s crazy to think about taking that much time off. Like would you travel more? Would you take summer off with your kids? Like what would your life look like? And we’re talking $25 per session. That’s not counting if you were to jump to 195 or 225 or, you know, some of our clients that are in larger markets are at 225 that I push them to raise it to 300 or 350 and they do it because they’re good. They’re clients that see a difference and they’re really good at marketing themselves.
So, a lot of times people say, all this is just, you know, “You’re being greedy. You just want to make more money.” But no, that is not the case. In my mind, people pay for what they believe is worth it. You know, if you have, say, you know, a plumbing problem, it’s one thing if someone just needs to change out a toilet, it’s another thing if you need to have that plumbing finished in the next half hour. You’re going to pay for that. In the same way, we want to make sure that we’re getting compensated for what we’re actually doing; our expertise, all the time we put into it, our ability to help clients grow and change.
The number of counselors that are living just above the poverty line, it’s so shocking to me. When really the things we’re talking about, it doesn’t take much to have a successful practice that is ethical, that matches who you are and allows you to spend your time how you want to. So, more vacation or more money. By raising your rates from 100 to 125, you could work three fewer hours per week or have an extra 9.6 weeks of vacation or have an extra $18,000.
So, how do you raise your rates? All right, let’s talk about that. So, when you first start to feel like you’re getting busy, so when you’re at that 60 to 70% full mark, that’s when you really want to start raising your rates. So, first, you’re going to start by raising your rates for people that are new coming in. It’s unfair to people to keep raising their rates throughout the year when they come in for counseling with you. But then every October I send an email. Now, if you’re not communicating via email with your clients, do it in whatever way you communicate.
So, that could be in the sessions, that could be to call them, it could just be that you mail a letter, whatever way you already communicate with them. I prefer email so, then we have that tracking. But every October I send an email explaining that the current rates, what they’re paying, what the new rates, what the rates are for people that are coming right now, and then what the rates will be at the first of the year.
So, for example, I might say something like, “When you first started counseling, you came in at the 125 rate. Current clients right now are paying 150 per session. So, on January 1st I’d like to move your rates up to 150. If that gets in the way of you being able to do counseling, I went into counseling to help people, not just to make money. So, please let me know. I want to make sure that you and your family can continue the counseling treatment and the goals that you’ve been working on.
So, I’ve been doing that for years and no one has ever pushed back. So, that’s why you want to keep raising your rates throughout the year because otherwise you get to the end of the year and you’re like, “You’re paying 125. So, like everyone else, we’re raising everyone’s rates.” It’s a lot easier to raise rates when you say that new people are currently paying this rate and so, we’re going to be raising you up to that rate.
Now, there are times if you started really low that you’re not going to jump people up. So, say you started the year at $70 per session, you realized that was way too low and then you raised it to 125, and then you raise it to 150, and then you raise it to 165, and you hadn’t found that breaking point. For someone to go from $70 per session up to 165 on the first of the year, that just doesn’t for me feel fair. Now some people want everyone to be completely aligned, to have no difference in what they’re paying. That’s kind of a value judgment on your side.
But for me, for someone to go up by 25 or $30 that feels like an appropriate jump for someone versus going from say $70 a session to 165. People always want to have a deal. It’s a lot easier to give someone a discount than it is to raise the rates. So, if people get used to every October that you’re sending that letter, if you have longer-term clients, seems a lot easier to make sure that you’re keeping up with your real costs that are going up, your rent, your Internet, you know the cost of having water in your lobby, electricity, all the things that it takes to run a business.
Those are going up every single year and so, you need to make sure that you are getting paid more every single year. As well, your expertise is growing, your ability to help people, your results are hopefully getting better. You’re hopefully becoming a better therapist as you do this private practice work. So, make sure you’re raising your rates.
So, in our next talk, we’re going to be talking about how to get more of your ideal clients into your private practice. I’m so excited that you’re here. We have lots of resources over at practiceofthepractice.com.
We specifically want to thank Brighter Vision. Brighter Vision has been such a great sponsor. When you’re looking for a quality website, when you want a website that is going to help people see you and to get your practice full, it’s got to be Brighter Vision. Head over to brightervision.com/Joe to get their free offer today. Thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an awesome week.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It’s given with the understanding that neither of the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one. Also, thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for that intro music.