A Therapist's Dilemma
Recently I was approached by a Homeopathic Dispensary to participate in a month of in store promotion. Therapists were invited to come in for 3 hours meet and greet the public and promote their work. "what a wonderful idea" I thought, "I'll definitely sign up for that". When I replied expressing my interest I asked how much the therapist would be paid and their reply was "our budget won't allow us to pay a fee".
Now, as a therapist, I see the wonderful opportunity this is to promote my practice and spread the word, however, as a business man, I see the cost and the dilemma. Do I work for free to promote the business, or do I let the opportunity go because I believe that my time and expertise is valuable? Recently while undergoing business training we were taught never to give of our time and services for free.
As a self-employed therapist I'm not in a position to give myself the time off from my practice and family to engage in any non-paying event, even as promotion. Although I could claim back the expenses against tax at the end of the year, I'm still at a loss for unpaid work time. If I'm not getting paid for work than I can't afford the costs. Every professional expects a professional fee for a professional service, that's how business works.
Doctors are reluctant to refer patients to us because they don't perceive us to be professionals. Doctors don't work for free and neither should we. Each and every one of us put ourselves through training at our own expense in the belief that, one day, we would provide a valuable service - and we do. Like every business man we should expect a fee for a service rendered, we will never be taken seriously until we do. Doctors demand a fee (even in a recession) for their expertise and we should also. Until we, as therapists, put a professional price on our work we will never get the professional recognition we deserve.
I'm aware that some of us are doing this work as a paying hobby, others have partners who carry them financially, those of us who are doing this as a business have to provide our own pay cheque. We all have homes therefore we all have bills, kid's education and clothing, healthcare (especially our own) and a holiday to pay for, the only way we can do this is to be paid for the service that we provide.
We have the wonderful privilege of having other people's health in our hands (literally) they turn to us for help, advice, relief and support and we should value our ability to be there for them and, like everything else of value, this should cost. A restaurateur friend of mine one time put up his prices after getting in a new fancy coffee machine, when I asked him why he increased his prices his reply was "somebody has to pay for it". In our case the somebody is the person or organisation who seeks to avail of our valuable time, expertise and services.
It is up to us to demand it for ourselves because no one is going to do it for us. The sooner we do it, the soomer we will be taken seriously.
I can see you feel very strongly about this.
For me, I have done quite a few free promotions, it helps to get me noticed, even if somebody doesn't book up immediately, they may do at some point in the future (just like I do with other people's services). More often than not it doesn't pay off but even if it doesn't I've met some good people, spread the word on holistic therapies, learnt something for myself as wel as doing what I love doing.
For my last promotion, I worked at a health food shop and had my massage chair set up by the entrance. I gave some free 5 min sessions, gave out my flyers and to-date I've had one email enquiry, interest in bookings but nothing actually booked, but it doesn't mean they never will.
I guess it comes down to personal circumstances at the end of the day. I've been stuck in limbo for the last 3-5 years wanting to do this brilliant work full-time and leaving full-time admin work which I've done all my life and am so unfulfilled with it all. Being single I can only rely on myself and so have to balance enough income versus enough clients so I take whatever I can get, whether I get paid £5 a taster session or a giving them for free, either way I benefit. I expect this is the story of many of us, trying to get the business so we can earn a living at it.
For me if I was really busy with promotional work (paid/unpaid) then I'd probably be more choosy but I'm not in that position at all so I'll take whatever comes my way.
Just thought I'd share that with you and wish you good luck with your business.
I can see your point of view, do I stick to it? Not always:( I look at it as advertising stint. Better to do something than not.
Must admit - won't do any more schools - can be waste of time. The last place I did made them pay for a missed class I was taking:)
There'll always be some one who'll do it - if YOU do - do it on YOUR terms:)
You highlight some interesting quandaries, Angelina.
And I, too, have been warned about underselling myself, so I can understand how you feel about actually doing something for nothing.
I suppose the choice you have is whether to regard it for what it is - an advertising/publicity opportunity - for which you would normally expect to pay, or poor use of your valuable time, in which case you don't participate and treat the two or three clients you can see in the same period of time.
I don't think it's an unreasonable offer by the organisation, but neither is it something you should feel obliged to participate in - which you obviously don't.
As it happens, I participate in monthly taster sessions at a centre where I occasionally rent a practice studio.
The centre receives a nominal amount from each client; I receive nothing - but don't have to pay for the room for that period.
I do it because to actually give potential clients a taste of the treatments I offer is surely the best publicity I can give myself - and as it's not my substantive base, I need to increase my clientele there.
I may not get any more clients as a result - but then I often don't from other types of advertising or publicity.
But it's an opportunity, and that's how I regard it.
You may well be in a position where you don't need the publicity - in which case your stand is undoubtedly the correct one.
I think it depends on the individual's circumstances.
Hi Angela, I totally understand your issues about not working for free. If you did decide to do this promotion then find a way to make it really work for you. You could run a free prize draw to people, the prize doesn't have to be expensive. It could be a goody bag of some bath and body products or a gift voucher for them to have a treatment from you. By getting people's contact details you can send them your newsletter, more info about your servies, special offers plus it's a way of keeping you in their minds. You could look at those few houus as a marketing opportunity rather than the moeny you are losing at that moment. I hope this helps a bit.
Hi Angelina, I totally understand your issues about not working for free. If you did decide to do this promotion then find a way to make it really work for you. You could run a free prize draw to people, the prize doesn't have to be expensive. It could be a goody bag of some bath and body products or a gift voucher for them to have a treatment from you. By getting people's contact details you can send them your newsletter, more info about your servies, special offers plus it's a way of keeping you in their minds. You could look at those few houus as a marketing opportunity rather than the moeny you are losing at that moment. I hope this helps a bit.
Many thanks for your wonderful replies, I'm deeply grateful to you all for taking the time and trouble to reply.
Although I am not surprised by the replies, I am disappointed. I have been speaking to business people, journalists,professionals and some therapists and it is their opinion that we should charge for our services or refuse to work for free. They agree that we will not be taken seriously until we charge a proper fee every time we do some work.
The point of my article was to alert my fellow therapists to this very important issue and encourage you all to come on board and be comfortable with charging a fee.
We deserve to be paid, we deserve to be valued and we deserve to be taken seriously. Our work is vital, the world needs us and we should be recognised as the professionals that we are.
I have been following this thread with interest.
When I started out as an Aromatherapist many years ago, it felt fine to offer to complete promotions in my own time, but I only went where I felt welcome, so it never started on a 'commercial basis' - womens groups; tinnitus association etc. Nevertheless, I always received something 'in kind' - gift token etc. but I often accepted these on behalf of a chosen charity. So I planned my work schedule to allow this time as part of my 'stress management' and 'CPD' to a maximum of 3 hours per month. The amount of work I subsequently acquired was substantial, I have always worked on the basis that 'word of mouth' is the best promotion.
So maybe it is important to move from looking at this as unpaid work, but rather to a marketing investment opportunity of promotion without table overheads? However, the benefit of promotions is sometimes about the intrisic value of being able to have the wonderful opportunity to share your gift with others, who are not in a position to pay, might never have the opportunity otherwise to experience your skills. Over the years, you will be repaid three-fold. Something as simple as a ten-minute hand massage can mean the world to an aged person with bent and tender fingers. I moved to full-time Counselling after a car accident; I can't describe how much I miss the simple pleasure of being able to carry out a full deep massage on someone, to see their benefits. Not all rewards are made of gold. When I started, I had 2 other jobs to pay for my training loan and I don't regret a moment.
I'm not sure you will welcome this position, but I really felt as if I wanted to share this.
With kind regards, Pam
Terrific comment from Pamela, which says vividly what I was trying to portray - that there is a difference between promoting your business (whether through advertising word or practical deed) and selling yourself too cheaply. I wholeheartedly concur with your sentiments. I'm not sure the tangible benefits are always as great as yours have been, but the principle in itself is worth pursuing in my opinion.
OK, if I was doing massages for some old sick, or invalided people I would have absolutely no probelem whatsoever doing this because the benefits would be enormous to both them and me. However, in this instance, it is a shop giving therapists 3 hours to promote their work, during the lunch time slot, to people who have lots of disposable income and therefore the treatments are aimed at them.
In the case of this promotion the only one who benefits is the shop because if the therapist does their job properly they will convince the people they meet that such a product is great and, while they are in the shop, naturally they will buy, which benefits the shop and the therapist gets nothing. I've done these type of promos before and they do not bring in either clients or students (not in Ireland where I work anyway). In this instance all the therapist gets is a "goodie bag". As I am unable to use the products the goodie bag will contain I don't see why I should expend my valuable energy (which could be put to better use elsewhere) just so that the shop can benefit. I am a cancer survivor so I have to be extremely discerning in the products that I use, even "alternative" products, and in the way I use my time and energy.
I've been in the business for 15 years and I've promoted myself every which way and nothing works enough to justify the energy, time and effort that I put into it. The people who this promo is aimed at are well able to pay for treatments and in my experience the only people who value their treatment and therapist are the ones that pay full price, these are the ones who come and stay and turn into "regulars".
Of course, like you all, I'm willing to help the needy and I do put myself out to do so but this promo is not aimed at the needy this is aimed at the people with money and when these people want a therapist they will either consult the Golden Pages or Google to find a suitable therapist, that's were my regulars come from.
What I'm seeing in this instance is shops seeking to take advantage of kind hearted therapists who are more than willing to work for nothing so that the shop can benefit.
Think about it people, think about it. I know I'm not wrong!
Great discussion going on here! I think Angelina has a good point that we must value our time and charge for it. Like any profession, that doesn't stop us doing the odd free session for a charity/community group if we feel it's a good cause.
On the other hand our team wont do freebies for commercial organisations unless it's a spectacular marketing opportunity or we can do a decent contra deal. We often get asked but we've been established for 12 years & learned quickly that these are usually incredibly hard work & don't generate enough business or PR benefits to pay for our time.
THANK YOU. You've made me smile today. At last someone who thinks like me. Thank you for your support. And thank you to all who have contributed to this discussion it has been facinating for me to see the replies.
I agree with you Angelina and also Pamela:)) If you don't like the situation Angelina - don't do it - simples:)) I do sort of treat my 'stints' as advertising myself and I do agree that you rarely get many clients from school fetes/pamper evenings:)
I do an event for our University and in the past not had many clients until this year, wwere I've had more that the previous years - well done for me:) I know that the people appreciate my treatments and enjoy themselves, AND so do I:))
Just have to try every way we can to promote the benefits of our treatments:))
What an interesting discussion - basically the addage 'there is nothing free in this world' is true. As a minimum, you need to give commitment and effort to generate even word of mouth referrals. On Dragons Den I recently heard a man say he paid £4-5000 PER MONTH on Google adwords with NO guarantee of a single client, just creating an opportunity for people to see his site top of the search list.
Certainly, I would not encourage anyone to work for nothing. I advise carefully considering each opportunity to establish if you would be 'creating profile and presence' or 'generating prospects'.
If creating profile and presence, you are helping all of us to encourage people to take up therapies - but do not expect to get clients directly for your efforts. This is what the above 'shop pronmotion' and other 'events' work is about if you aren't getting paid.
'Generating Prospects' is much much harder and is what happens when you particpate in, say, voucher schemes where you get a payment from the redeeming client, the client gets something 'extra' for having the voucher. The voucher provider pays for the marketing and production of the voucher - and that costs thousands in most cases.
You can elect to do events work as a 'paid activity' and if you do this you are doing both the above.
Be aware though that most large charities pay handsomly to events companies to organise their large events. If the events company get paid, so too should you. Large events may have lots of footfall but how many of those people actually live within a 10 mile radius of where you are based and how many are there for an event entirely not related specifically to promoting therapies to the public ?.
On the other hand, if it is a small, locally organised event you may opt to give your time to the charity instead of making a donation. It is called 'goodwill', and you should accept that it may not generate any paying clients directly but will probably help with profile building for our industry and there is always the chance that people live closer to where you are based and might tell others about you and the treatment sooomeone (they probably won't remmeber who you are) donated to the charity event attendees.
You can also elect to accept vouchers which do not give ANY payment to you on redemption - in this case, believe me, you are doing yourself NO favours as few Free voucher redeemers ever return as paying clients. You are just working for nothing for a marketing company who is paid by the client being promoted to enlist your skills to work for no payment to promote HIS/HER business.
The only thing of which you can be certain is this - if you sit at home doing nothing to promote your business - you are very unlikely to generate enough clients to make a living. but working for nothing won't generate a living either!
And therein lies the dilemma.
Well said Gillian, I have learned a lot of what you say the hard way:( When I trained,we didn't have the 'business' training that therapists get today:( You are right in saying 'do nothing, get nothing, it's just hard to work out what to do and when:)
Can I point others on this thread to 'Rant & Rave' also:))
Ps Over here in Berks there is massive amount of Beauty & Complementary therapists all competing for the same clients:(
I am becoming aware that business training is being built into therapy courses these days and there are more and more business courses being "geared" towards therapists. I'm delighted this is the case, however, the "problem" (for want of a better word) is that as more and more therapists become business savvy less and less of them will be prepared to work for free because they are being trained not to. This will shake up the business, upset all the organisations and make it harder for therapists to be abused.
I think this is a good thing for all concerned. I wonder if the money that is now being spent on marketing will go towards actually "employing" therapists and therefore improving the whole system for everyone. How can we get this to happen I wonder?
Instead of competing on price and back-biting and bad mouthing competitors, I believe that Therapists should be open and honest about what they do. The first thing every new therapist seems to be doing is contacting everyone who is a potential competitor, trying to find out what they charge and then trying to undercut.
This approach, coupled with 'FREEBIES' has led clients not only to undervalue what we do, but also to distrust us. After all, how can the same person charge £26 for one treatment and £32 for another?. And a different type of practitioner charge completely different prices for what seems to be the same thing. It is our time that is our most valuable asset not the name given to the technique we employ.
Taking a leaf from Osteopathy/Chiropractic for example, if you go to one, they don't tell you it is £32 for Back Osteopathy and £42 for Leg Osteopathy. They have a set fee for the initial visit (£48 round here) and then a lesser fee (£36) thereafter. Often, people go, have a treatment and only after that do they enquire about the price.
I have noticed that here in the NOrth West, osteopaths and chiropractors charge based on a session fee (ie time - usually approximately 20 minute sessions for repeat visits) which seem to average £32-36. For 30 minute initial visits - you pay for the additional consultation time at between £40-£48.
This means that if they have only 2 clients, that means they can earn in excess of £60 per hour and with 3, up to £100. No wonder they can afford to buy premises and rent out space to complementary therapists.
I wholeheartedly agree. Therapists have to wise up and get comfortable with charging. Until we do we will continue to be exploited.
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I've been phoned and asked what I charge and I'm sure it's other therapists. I also do not agree with money off vouchers - sounds like a Supermarket we all know!!
My husband said: therapists don't behave like professional businesses - so what can we expect :(
Can I put in here:-
PLEASE support your local therapist co ordinator. They all work very hard to run the group for your benefit. The benefits are:
Representation to the CThA for your questions and complaints!