Tips to deal with financial insecurity

Financial insecurity as counsellor is not a great feeling, and not good for your overall confidence, either. Here are some tips to deal with the insecurity that has to do with client payments for your services:

  1. Be clear about your payment and non-attendance policy. Ideally, this includes what you are going to do, who you are going to contact, and when.
  2. State fees upfront on either on your website, in an email, or have them pinned up at your office or in the waiting room. When clients ring to enquire, mention your fees in the phone call.
  3. Have different payment options; I use cash, credit card (through Stripe (in my invoices) or Square (through my phone and Square Reader), or bank transfer, and that works for me. You decide on your own best practice.
  4. You can choose to take upfront payment (online booking systems often allow that), or offer a discount for multiple prepaid sessions. I’ve done the latter; I don’t do the former, but that’s purely personal choice.
  5. There are many good invoicing and bookkeeping & tax systems; Halaxy, Powerdiary, Hnry, Xero, you name it. Do you due diligence and pick the right one for you. I went with Billcue, mainly because of its simplicity and pricing. Still like it!
  6. If you invoice, send your invoice ASAP after each session.
  7. Should you need to “chase” a client, consider creating an “admin@…” email, so emails re payments don’t come “directly” from you, which could affect the therapeutic relationship. You could even outsource this through a VA or a bookkeeper.
  8. Create automatic email reminders to clients in software re overdue payments.
  9. Create payment plans for people who need it. Sometimes life gets tough, and there is nothing wrong with being human, and allowing people to “catch up”.
  10. Normally, though: don’t book further sessions with clients who are behind. Only take a booking again once their account has cleared.
  11. When working with EAP providers: pay close attention to their payment terms, and hold them to those! I had to chase one EAP provider after 6 months of promised but no payment. Not fun.
  12. Create templates for your emails, so it doesn’t feel “personal” every time you need to write one.
  13. Consider engaging a debt collector; I have done so twice, successfully. It’s generally a last resort, though. You’ll probably lose that client!
  14. Try not to write invoices off. It’s so easy to do (“ah, just forget about it”), but it’s not self-honouring. On the other hand: don’t flog a dead horse. You want to be fairly certain your actions will lead to success
  15. State; don’t ASK for payment. State that you ARE taking payment. Say something along the lines of:
  •       “Let’s just process the payment for today’s session.”
  •       “I’ll take cash or card; whichever is most convenient for you.”
  •       “That’s $125 for today’s session, thanks.”
  •       “I’m happy to take a few sessions’ payment, so you have some credit.”

I hope that helps you with the few times you find yourself in a sticky situation, financially. Let me know what you think!

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