Updated: Sep 10
"How do you figure out how much to charge for each session?"
This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked as a business coach for physical therapy private practice owners. It was one of the questions I had at the beginning too and there are often a lot of emotions mixed up in the question as well. When you're first getting started, especially as someone who has never really dealt with the financial aspects of therapy services before, it can be weird to try to figure out your pricing. It can be hard to believe in yourself and believe that your services are worth that amount (whatever "that" amount might be), plus having to actually ask someone to pay you is a whole other piece to this process.
You might be worried they'll judge you for the price (is it too high? too low?) or that whoever you're speaking with will not be able to afford it or see the value in what you have to offer. You're probably worried, scared, fearful, anxious, nervous, doubtful... all the things. What does this sound like? Imposter syndrome. Check out my post here to learn 4 key steps to kick imposter syndrome to the curb. On a different note, I know for me, whenever my emotions start to take over my thoughts, the one thing that always keeps me grounded are the numbers. Numbers won't lie, and they can be the concrete foundation you need to see to show yourself why you need to price your services a certain way.
How To Determine Your Cash Based Physical Therapy Rate
In this blog post, we are going to talk about the top 4 mistakes I've made when I've priced services, how to go about determining your own numbers, and some common FAQs. Let's get started.
The Top 4 Mistakes With Pricing Cash Based Therapy Services
"What's the average that people charge? I'll just do that."
Where most practice owners start when they go to price their services is looking into what the average is. Potential practice owners want to know "What is the average cash based physical therapy salary?" There's nothing wrong with looking into it I don't think, the problem is when you solely price your services based on what other people are doing. It's totally normal to want to do what other people are doing (we humans like to fit in with the group), but your business is unique and you are unique, so what works for one cash based physical therapy practice may or may not work for you. You need to look at your own business plan and life to see what is going to work best.
But I know despite us knowing this, some people still want to know what others are doing. In September 2021, I polled my Facebook group of practice owners just curious as to what people are charging. 62 people responded, and here's the distribution of different price points per session/appointment:
"What's the average in this location? I'll just do that."
Average is average. First of all, there's nothing average about you offering a highly personalized, high touch healthcare service. You are in the business of premium service, which demands a premium price point. Also, the average price may or may not help support you and your family...so basically, the average doesn't matter.
"What do you think people will pay? I'll just do that."
Here's the thing... people will pay $5,000 for a new TV, $1,000 for a new phone, but $29/mon for a gym membership is too much. They'll pay $300 for jeans but a $300 anniversary dinner with their partner of 10 years is too expensive. People pay and don't pay for all kinds of things. It's all about perceived value to the buyer and if the offer will help them get something they want. Of course, everyone's values are different, so honestly, you can't guess what people will pay until you start putting the offer out there.
I made a huge mistake when I first started when I said my visit price was going to be $150 and I let someone else tell me "I don't think people are going to pay that" and I dropped my price down. This also came from a person who told me to my face he didn't understand what it is that I did as a PT, despite many of our conversations about it. So just because one person doesn't value what you do, doesn't mean no one will. Check out my post here on mindset to help you find and keep clients - pricing is not the priority.
"I want to be affordable...it'll be easier this way."
But what is affordable? $100 might be affordable or even cheap to some while it's extremely expensive to others. Perceived value is different for everyone, and the only person whose feelings you really have control over are your own.
As you can see here, most people are charging somewhere between $100-199 per session, which is pretty comparable to other health service based businesses, like massage. And this is great and all, but let me ask you this — do you want to be known as the cheapest in town? Or do you want to be known as the best?
In the book "The 1 Page Marketing Plan" (arguably my favorite business book I've ever read), the author talks about how there are 3 pillars that a business can be known for, and you have to choose one to stake your marketing on: Price, Quality, or Convenience. The author, Allan Dib, states "Can you absolutely guarantee that everything you sell will be priced lower than all your competitors, including the behemoths like Costco and Walmart? Unlikely. There'll always be someone willing to go out of business faster than you. I suggest you not play that game...truth be told, you probably don't want to . By charging higher prices, you attract a better quality client."
Would you rather make more money, support yourself and your family, and work with higher quality clients, OR make less money, work more hours, barely scrape by, and work with clients who ghost you?
Plus, one of the hardest things I had to learn when it comes to pricing is that if I'm not able to make enough money to take care of myself, I can't take care of others. I will be forever stressed about money, my bills, looking for new clients over and over and over again resenting my business instead of leading from a place of service, care, compassion, and abundance. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
How to determine the pricing for your services
Now that we have talked through some of the mistakes I've made and seen other practice owners make, let's talk about how to actually go about determining your own prices.
First, you're going to figure out what your monthly take home income goal is. I used to base this off of "what do I need in order to just get by every month?" and guess where that kept me ... in a state of just getting by 👎
Now, I base my pricing off of where I want to be — what do I need in order to be super comfortable and not have panic dreams at night about money? What do I need in order to support myself, my family, save, and invest? Or whatever it is that you want to do with your money. If you aim for that goal, you'll get to your financial goals a lot quicker than the goal of just getting by.
Second, and potentially more important, we need to consider how much time you have. In a service based business, you're going to start off having both "income time" (time where you're directly earning money & working IN the business) and "non income time" (time where you're doing things to work ON the business). Because you have a finite amount of "income time" (because you still need to be doing admin, documentation, marketing, etc), the money you earn for that time needs to support you through the "non income time".
The reason I bring this up is because lots of new practice owners I speak with will tell me they're totally down to treat 30+ patients a week (which sounds like nothing compared to some 50+ patients per day clinics), however we sometimes forget that 1) we are getting into this business so that our business fits around our life, instead of the business becoming your life and 2) it's ok to not work yourself into the ground and it's ok to enjoy the work you do. So think about how much time you actually want to be working. Weird to think about what you actually want, right?
For me, if I see a patient once a week, that's roughly 60 minutes (usually more like 75) and I probably spent 5-10 minutes planning. I typically spend 10-15 minutes per week updating their home exercise program and maybe 10 minutes finishing their note for the week (sometimes less). Then with responding to messages, that's maybe another 10 minutes, but if I do research for the client, that might add on another 20-30 minutes. So just for 1 patient visit per week, that's at least 2 hours per week I'm dedicating to that client, and that doesn't even include drive time if it's a mobile patient.
For every 60 minute appointment you have, we are looking at about 2-3 hours of work per week. Then you also have to take into consideration other admin tasks and marketing to keep the business humming along. It's important to lay out what our time might look like on a weekly basis, because too many time I've gotten into a situation where I have more clients than I can really handle on my own and still continue to market and do admin, so I want you to get ahead of that for yourself as soon as possible.
Third, you're going to do the math and magic to figure out between your financial goals and time you have, what your average price per session needs to be in order to hit your goals and maintain your time boundaries. Of course you can figure that out on your own, but if you'd like a copy of the spreadsheet calculator I made to figure that out, just click here! In the YouTube video at the beginning of this blog post, I go over how to use the calculator.
Click the link here to follow along with a video tutorial on how to make a copy of the spreadsheet calculator.
Here's a screenshot of what is in the calculator:
Of course, eventually in business, you'll want to graduate bit by bit away from trading time for money and potentially start basing the price on outcome, however, I found this method to help a lot with conceptualizing what it will really take to meet your goals based on objective information and it also gives me a little more confidence when I go to sell services, because I know what it will take for me to support myself and therefore, be the best PT and coach I can be.