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Holistic Wealth

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC

About the Columnist
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The Pain of Undercharging

Are you charging what your therapy is worth? Or are you settling for fees that reflect your insecurities instead? That's an important distinction, because how you do money is how you do everything. If your rates are too low, they're compromising more than the health of your practice. They're having a negative impact on your clients — and on every other area of your life.

To find out if you need to heal your fees, take this fee stress test:

  • When you think about raising your fees, do you feel guilty, like you're letting someone down?
  • Are you afraid people will judge you and say you're greedy, or that you care more about money than you care about them?
  • Do you wake up at night freaked out about paying your bills?
  • Do you feel like you have to justify yourself whenever someone asks, "What do you charge?"
  • Would you rather discount your fees than say "No" to a potential client?

The Pain of Undercharging - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark If any of these questions caused your throat to tighten or your breathing to become shallow, that's a good sign that you're suffering from the pain of undercharging. And chances are, you came by it honestly.

If you're like most practitioners, you spent a decent chunk of money earning your license to touch. Then you looked around your community for a treatment room you loved. You chose your massage table, your linens and your artwork with care. And then you selected session fees that were low enough to keep you feeling comfortable.

You may have even justified that to yourself by saying, "That's okay. I'm just starting out. It'll give me room to practice. I can always raise my rates later." The problem is, in that moment, you unconsciously reinforced an old subconscious pattern you hold that's not just preventing your practice from growing. It's also preventing you from growing — until you decide to change it.

In order to serve your clients to your greatest capacity, you have to overcome your old money habits and embrace prosperity in your practice. You've got to create an environment that allows you to share your skills freely without holding back. And your environment is more than your physical space. It also consists of the ideas and beliefs you surround yourself with every day. And these ideas and beliefs will always show up in your relationship with money. That's why, when you release the restrictions you hold around money, you naturally release those old patterns in the other areas of your life. And you free yourself to become more deeply fulfilled as a practitioner.

I was once in the middle of a heavenly 90-minute massage when I spontaneously told Deidre, my therapist, "I hope that one day when I die, it's when I'm getting a massage." She got a wistful look on her face and said, "I hope I die giving a massage." Wow, right? That's the mark of a woman who is doing what she was born to do. I wouldn't want her doing anything else. Yet, I knew she was also extremely stressed out. She was divorced with two grown kids who had challenges of their own. And she was often working to squeeze one more session into her already booked days because she needed more money to make ends meet.

Deidre is a perfect example of the first big problem you face when you're undercharging for your work: The only way to make more money is to work on more clients. And you know better than anyone: Massage therapy is hard work. Yes, it's a labor of love. But it's still hard work.

Some therapists mistakenly believe that if they practice only light-touch modalities like Craniosacral Therapy or Lymph Drainage Therapy, it'll be easier. But that's not always the case. Because even when you're using a light touch, these sessions can be emotionally taxing. Some days, you may be working on garden-variety head, neck and back pain. But other days you'll be working on a little boy with autism. Or a midlife woman whose body has been wracked with the pain of fibromyalgia for years. Or a young mother with cancer.

These are some of the real benefits of the hands-on work you do. And you should feel blessed to have the natural skills and abilities to help these deserving people. But make no mistake, light touch or not, bodywork can be intense. So, you can fill your practice with your favorite clients. But unless you're charging what your work is worth, you won't experience the financial peace of mind you deserve.

Value That Investment

The second big problem with undercharging? Many of your clients won't get the results they want. Whether we like it or not, people value what they invest in. If you have any question about that, just look at how fast or, more accurately, how slow people tend to heal when they're working through insurance.

Many years ago, my then-husband Roy came home from his practice one afternoon feeling tense, exhausted and frustrated. He said he had a couple clients that day who were on disability insurance. And he couldn't help but notice that week after week, and month after month, they were making almost no sustainable progress compared to his injured clients who paid out of pocket. Eventually, he saw such a huge disparity between the two groups — people on insurance and people who paid on their own — that in good conscience, he realized he had to stop taking insurance altogether. The result? His practice grew faster. He not only had more satisfied clients, but more satisfying clients. People who were far more invested in creating their own health and well-being. So even though it's counterintuitive, when you charge less, your clients invest less of themselves in the healing process. And they may even take you less seriously.

Money Stress = Therapy Stress

The third big problem that occurs when you undercharge for your services is simply this: Despite your best intentions, your negative feelings may leak into your sessions. When you're stressed out and anxious and tense about money, it's tough to put all those emotions aside and work to the best of your ability. You may be able to do it for awhile, but eventually you'll pass your internal stress threshold. And those feelings you're trying to stuff away? They'll come out in your sessions — or in some other area of your life — in the same way that your clients' symptoms come out in theirs.

Let me tell you about one of my clients, Mindy. She has a hands-on practice helping women who are in stress and pain feel whole again. And she came to me for coaching specifically because she was struggling with her fees. She was doing great work and getting rave reviews. And her practice was nearly full. But she began to notice that she was experiencing an unusual symptom after every session: a subtle yet unmistakable feeling of resentment.

Now fortunately, Mindy is a very aware woman. And she was able to trace that sensation of resentment directly to the fact that she knew she was delivering far more value in her sessions than her clients were paying for. And that felt out of balance to her. Now, in addition to being intelligent, Mindy's a woman of great integrity. And she realized that if she didn't correct this dynamic, she would eventually begin carrying her resentment into her sessions. And that wasn't okay with her.

In our work together, Mindy got very clear on the results her clients were enjoying because of her therapy. She also got crystal clear on her own sense of value and self-worth. And she chose healthy new fees that gave her a felt sense of balance and joy. And when she told her clients? Here's what they said: "It's about time." "Heck yeah, you're raising your rates. You should have done it a year ago!" "It wouldn't matter what you charged. I'd be there."

Mindy came away from that experience feeling whole, complete and powerful every time she stepped into a session. And her clients enjoyed the results. There's a saying I love: "If you want to be generous, it is good to be rich." If you want to be generous with your time, your energy and your resources, it is good to be rich. So embrace that truth. And practice saying this new money mantra out loud: "The more prosperous I am, the more generous I can be." Then look around and make note of every instance where that new belief might be true. Once you do? Give yourself a healthy raise. Your clients will thank you for it.

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