I often hear from therapists that you set your rate based on your ideal income, only to find you’re now having trouble filling your practice with private pay therapy clients willing to pay your full cash rate.
Uh oh, talk about nightmare city!
Is the only solution to lower your rate?
…I don’t think so!
In this article, I cover my top tips to help you fill your practice with private pay therapy clients who are able (and willing!) to pay your full rate.
My struggle getting more private pay therapy clients
Without the right tools, it can feel impossible to fill your practice with clients who are willing to pay your full rate.
I’ve totally been there myself! When I was a pre-licensed intern working in private practice I offered a sliding scale based on client income. For some seasons, nearly all of my clients were paying my lowest rate – which was less than HALF of my full rate!
But wait, it gets worse…
Word of mouth referrals filled up my practice with even more clients who qualified for my lowest rate.
Of course, the benefit here is that many clients had access to care who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
But I also needed to balance my income with clients who could afford my full rate.
It got to the point where even if I got an inquiry from someone whose income was high enough that they didn’t qualify for a lower rate, they felt disappointed because they expected to pay my lowest fee.
What happened here? Did this mean that I wasn’t a good therapist? Or that I was doomed to always work with low-fee clients?
Here’s what happened:
I became known as the therapist who charged less than everyone else.
I wasn’t known for my areas of expertise. Which means the referrals I got were from folks looking for a low therapy rate, rather than folks who wanted to work with me because of my specialties.
How to get more (full-fee) private pay therapy clients
In time, I started changing my strategy. Here are a few takeaways from the lessons I learned to help you book full-fee private pay therapy clients in your practice:
1. Position yourself as an expert
I know I always harp on the importance of knowing your specialties and niche in order to grow your practice.
A huge reason for this is because if you market yourself as a generalist, folks won’t know what you’re about and may simply shop around for the cheapest therapist.
So if you’re not the cheapest therapist in town, you’ll have some serious trouble filling your practice with full rate private pay therapy clients as a generalist.
By having an area that you specialize in and positioning yourself as an expert in that arena, folks looking for someone who specializes in what you do will be less focused on shopping for the lowest rate and more focused on their relief in finding someone who specializes in exactly what they’re looking for.
Want a little help with learning how to position yourself as an expert in your specialty? I made a video all about that! Feel free to check it out here: Market Yourself as an Expert in Private Practice.
2. Focus your marketing
If you don’t yet have a marketing strategy implemented that targets your ideal clients, there’s not really any way for them to find you.
A lot of therapists slap together a pretty generic Psychology Today listing and hope potential clients find them.
But just like we talked about in the first tip, if you don’t take a specialized approach, folks will gloss over your page, or simply shop around for the therapist offering the lowest rate.
I don’t suggest instead that you now try to tackle ALL the marketing strategies. It’s not sustainable and often doesn’t pan out in your favor.
It’s important to find one or two areas to direct your marketing to target your ideal clients. Take some time to consider who your ideal client is and where they’re hanging out in order to market directly to them.
Need some help with this? Check out these two resources to help you get the ball rolling:
- Article: How to Get Counseling Clients | Marketing Your Private Practice
- Check out all my articles about Marketing for Therapists
3. Don’t advertise lower rates
If potential clients know that you offer a sliding scale, many will shoot for your lowest rate even if they are high-income earners.
That’s just the way our minds work. We want to snag a deal even if we can afford something pricier.
Keep in mind that a sliding scale is not a discount, it’s a reduced rate for those who qualify based on their resources. Learn more about the ins and outs of sliding scales in my video: Should You Offer a Sliding Scale in Private Practice?
To avoid folks shopping for your lowest rate, advertise your full rate as your only rate.
Then in the initial phone screening, you can explore the potential client’s income to then offer the sliding scale rate if it applies.
4. Solve a problem
This is also referred to offering a transformation to potential clients.
Communicate to potential clients that you understand the problems they’re seeking help with, and that you have the tools needed to help them arrive at the transformation they’re seeking.
Both through your marketing materials and your initial communications with potential clients, it’s important to focus on how you can help them. Validate how it feels to experience the problem they’re facing, name the place you believe you can help them arrive at, and share briefly about how you’re uniquely positioned to help them get there.
When potential clients see that you are uniquely equipped to help them with their specific need, their focus shifts away from the price tag of counseling and instead they just feel relieved that they found the exact person who can help them.
To get the ball rolling with this concept, think about the common problems your ideal clients face in life. Make a list of those problems. Then for each of the problems on the list, think of where those clients wish they could be in the following months and years if things got better.
That is the transformation you want to highlight in all your marketing materials!
5. Be different (aka be YOU!)
If I’m honest, the first four tips listed in this article are the tools you can use to help potential clients find you. But the real selling point is YOU.
Let me get something clear here:
Who you are is the foundation of your entire business.
So it’s absolutely worth taking some time to find out what sets you apart from other therapists and allow that to be at the forefront of how you talk about yourself on your website, social media, and any other marketing materials you have out there.
For both of my businesses, I’m constantly revisiting every piece of content I create against my personal values and how I want to infuse myself into my business mission statement. By staying consistent with who I am in all my materials, people who resonate with me or share similar values are drawn to my content and want to work with me specifically.
The same goes for you. There are potential clients out there who would love to work with you specifically, so allow bits of your values and passions to infuse into how you talk about yourself to the world, and it will come across to the folks who would be the best fit for you!
If you’d like a little help with this step, I have a free worksheet helping you develop your brand story. You can find that here: Grab your free step-by-step guide to build your brand story!
Go ahead and give these tips a whirl and see how they impact your practice. You may be surprised to find out how willing potential clients are to pay your full rate when they’re clear on how you’re uniquely positioned to help them solve their problems.
And until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!