Should I Provide Sliding Scale or Discounted Fees in My Private Practice?


Here’s a radical idea- instead of discounting your fees, just GIVE AWAY your services!

I’m serious…

Do you WANT to provide a sliding scale? Wouldn’t you rather have your private pay clients value your services enough to pay your full fee?

As you might guess, I’m not a fan of sliding scale as it devalues your services and messes up your relationship with your client. Do you feel differently about your sliding scale clients than your full fee clients? C’mon, you know you do.

Here’s an alternative for those folks who say they can’t afford your full fee-

“I have a busy practice and don’t discount my fees, however, if you’d like to work with me and truly can’t afford it I do have a few pro bono slots in my practice. The waiting list is about six months at this time. Would you like an application?”

Often, the prospective client would rather not “apply” and wait six months, and will decide to either work with you at your full fee or move on to another practitioner who will haggle fees with them. If they truly want to work with you and can’t afford your fees and apply for a pro bono slot, you’ve got a motivated client that will be gratifying to work with.

Some guidelines for this to work-

1. Don’t discount your fees, ever.

2. Do have two pro bono slots and let your referral sources know (you’ll get a lot of goodwill AND referrals, far better results than by discounting your fees)

3. Have a written agreement/contract with your pro bono clients

4. Make your pro bono services time limited- maximum 90 days/3 months

5. Reserve pro bono slots for truly deserving and urgent cases, not mild or “maintenance” cases or prospective clients who simply appear to be frugal and want a deal.

6. In your written agreement require they give back in some way- testimonial (if appropriate), referral, etc.

7. After 90 days if they wish to continue working with you require they pay full fee

Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way after 25 years of private practice as a therapist and coach- Results correlate with investment. Your clients best benefit when they invest their hard-earned dollars into working with you. The lower the investment, the lower the benefit.

It’s common (in my experience) for people who say they can’t afford your full fee to have no problem paying for expensive cars, vacations, etc. If they truly are living at poverty level there are government and non-profit alternatives. YOU are not a non-profit so don’t act like one.

It’s also common for motivated clients who really want to work with you but can’t afford it to find a way, most commonly getting financial help from a friend or family member. People don’t like asking for help, which is understandable, but YOU shouldn’t take the hit because they don’t want to reach out to their support system. You can actually coach them in being supportable and building and leaning on their support system.

Have some respect for your time, your services, and yourself. Don’t open the can of worms that is sliding scale. Been there, done that, regretted it. The “Full Fee” approach is best for you and your clients, and providing limited pro bono services can transform your practice into a valuable (and busy) community resource.

Source by David Steele

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