One of the inner blocks for self-employed people is charging money — or charging enough — for a service that they love providing.
One of the outer blocks is, of course, not having enough clients!
In this post, I’ll share a method that can help resolve both issues…
I call it the “tapering strategy” because you’ll be starting with a price that you’re very comfortable asking for (even if it’s zero) and gradually tapering up the price, and then tapering down the availability of your low-fee services.
The Basic Plan
First, determine how many client sessions per week you can happily sustain. Assuming you’d like a full-time income, let’s say 10 sessions per week. (Many full-time service providers have upwards of 20 sessions per week!)
Next, set up 2 appointment types in your scheduling tool, for example, AcuityScheduling (which is what I use), so that clients can schedule sessions with you:
- The first appointment type should be free (or reduced-fee, if you don’t want to do free sessions) and set the limit-per-week to 7 sessions. How to set appointment limits-per-week (“maximum appointments”) on Acuity.
- The second appointment type should be at a higher rate that feels like a bit of a stretch for you. For example, if your first session type was free, then your second session type might be $50 per session. Set the limit-per-week for this type to 3 sessions.
You would then embed both appointment types onto your “work with me” page so that when you send it to people, they have a choice of 2 rates.
In other words, if your week is fully booked with 7 free sessions, then people have to book for a future week or they will need to book one of your paid (or higher rate) sessions, if they want to work with you sooner.
If you’re a newbie, doing free sessions can be very helpful for gaining experience and confidence. Maybe you’ll even get some testimonials (client praise) or constructive feedback to improve your skills.
(If you need an idea to fill those free sessions: tell your friends and colleagues that they’ll get a free session for every person they refer to you, whether that person signs up for a paid OR free session.)
Over time, you will find yourself becoming more skilled and confident. Then, you’ll start feeling that doing so many free/reduced-fee sessions isn’t as enjoyable. At that point, you’ll simply taper down the availability of the free sessions from 7 to 3 per week… and at the same time, taper up the paid (or higher rate) sessions from 3 to 7, so that you’re still at your optimal 10 sessions per week.
After a few months, you can then raise your rates for both session types. For example, the free session appointment type will now be $50 per session (at 3 sessions per week), and the paid session type will now be $80 per session (at 7 sessions per week.)
A few more months later — or whenever you find yourself getting enough bookings — you can then further raise your rates: $50 goes to $80, and $80 goes to $120, etc.
Repeat this process until you’re fully booked at the rates you like!
Gentle 3-Year Plan
Let’s assume you are starting with no network and no audience. What you do have is your desire to provide the service and your belief that people will probably benefit if they work with you.
Month 9–12: Most weeks, you’re fully booked on free sessions and have at least 1 paid session per week. Some weeks, your paid sessions are filled! At this point, you’re probably earning between $200-$400 per month.
Month 13–15: You’ve tapered your availability so that you now, each week, you accept only 3 free sessions and 7 paid sessions, and most of your weekly paid sessions are getting filled. You’re earning around $1,000 per month.
Month 16–18: Your $50 sessions are usually full, so now you raise your rates — those $50 sessions are only available for 3 per week now, and your availability for 7 sessions per week are now at $80 per session. Your income is now around $1,500 monthly.
Month 19–21: Most of your $80 sessions fill up each week, so you move to the next step: those $80 sessions only have 3 openings each week, and your other 7 openings per week are now $120 per session. Your income is now around $2,500 per month.
Month 22–24: You are finding most of your weekly sessions booked, so you further raise your rate (for the 7 sessions per week) to $150 and your 3 sessions per week are at the reduced rate of $120. Your income now surpasses $3,000 per month.
(Each time, you give your regular clients a 3-month notice that you’ll soon be raising your rate, but that even so, you’ll still have a few reduced-fee (for them, current fee) openings each week. In other words, they actually get a 6-month notice before the rate completely goes away.)
Month 25–36: Over these months, you continue your netcaring and content — and provide increasingly more skillful service — such that your $150-per-session rate is now your normal for all 10 sessions per week, and you have a waiting list. Your income now surpasses $6,000 per month.
At this point, you might also want to start a Group Program, and then a while later, move towards teaching online courses!
I call this a “gentle 3-year plan” and I do believe it’s quite doable if you are consistent with taking action and making good use of your limited time.
This is exactly what I would do, if I were starting over with offering a service where I needed experience and credibility.
I hope you’ll give this method an honest try. Of course, feel free to modify the plan to your needs. Let me know how it goes for you!