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As a small business owner, many people don’t realize that I am constantly researching, reading, and reviewing others’ work in my industry. I’m continually seeking ways to improve and become better at what I do – I also love finding new professionals to connect and converse with.
While running the Immigration Evaluation Institute, I know that to deliver the best quality work I can, I can’t exist in a silo. I enjoy reaching out to others to hear about their experiences doing this work, how they’re doing it successfully, and seeing what ideas I haven’t yet tapped into that I can bring back to my work and this community.
We can all learn from each other in essential and encouraging ways, and comparison can be healthy in this regard.
There is one area where I draw the line, though, and recently I had to take some deep breaths when I came across another immigration therapist advertising their fees in a way that just didn’t sit well with me.
This individual was promoting the price of their work (which, as an aside, was almost four times less than what I charge for immigration evaluations) along with the sentiment that they were charging a lower fee as they didn’t want to take advantage of immigrants.
They made some additional comments about those who do charge more and how by charging less, they are seeking to value diversity.
As you can imagine, this put my hackles up!
The fees we choose to set for ourselves are based on so many different factors – what one person decides to charge is not an indication of their lack of value for diversity or that they’re trying to take advantage of others.
To paint such a black-and-white picture of fee structuring is inaccurate and doesn’t acknowledge the differences in the financial needs of others.
My bottom line: Charge what you want but do not put others down if their fee structures differ from yours.
5 Questions to Ask When Setting Your Fees
Setting fees is a tricky topic and one I get asked about a lot, so I decided this would be an excellent opportunity to open out this discussion a little more.
Determining the ‘value’ of your work involves lots of different factors, as I mentioned. I live in one of the most expensive cities with a significantly higher cost of living than many other places. This is a choice I have made, but it also influences my financial decisions – including my fees.
I came across a great post from a fellow therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin who runs Mind Money Balance. Lindsay has dedicated her career to helping others as a financial therapist, including helping professionals in the industry get better at setting fees and managing the financial aspects of private practice.
Lindsay sets out five questions that we should ask when setting our fees that can help ensure you’re creating a fee structure that supports your financial needs:
Many other factors impact how much you should charge (for any service, not just immigration evaluations). These include:
- Your professional qualifications.
- Years of experience.
- The time and energy put into maintaining professional development and professional practice.
- The hours of relationship building with your community and network.
- The success rate of your work.
- The time spent per client on an evaluation.
You might choose to factor these in or only stick to what Lindsay suggests above to create a realistic baseline for yourself.
3 Things to Avoid When Setting Your Fees
When you start to drill down into it, determining our fees is more complicated than just picking a number and thinking, ‘that will do!’.
It’s also why saying you charge a specific amount based on moral values (such as not ‘taking advantage’ or ‘valuing diversity) doesn’t account for everything else that goes into how someone needs to live financially stable.
When looking to set your fees, some things are best to be avoided. My top three are:
- Comparisons to others: These won’t tell you the complete picture behind why someone has chosen a certain fee – which means it might not work for you. Use the questions above and work out a price that works for you.
- Setting a low fee ‘to start with’: There’s no need to charge a low fee when starting. A low fee could actually send the wrong message, with people thinking your work is low-quality or not as effective as others who charge more. I know this is rarely true – start as you mean to go on. But if you choose to start with a lower fee, be clear that it’s only for a set amount of time, set a deadline to raise your fees, and stick to it!
- Apologizing for your fees: If you’ve done your work and landed on a fee that meets your needs and requirements, you have nothing to apologize for. There is so much you offer within a fee, and many clients will want to work with you for what you offer as a unique professional who can meet their needs.
Don’t Undervalue Yourself
One of my biggest goals for the Immigration Evaluation Institute is to create an environment free from judgment and comparison. It’s where we can come together to celebrate our work and talk through challenges.
The conversation around fees and fee structures is one that we could probably talk more about and share our experiences on how we’ve got it wrong – and got it right.
Many people have different comfort levels when talking about money and finances; there is nothing wrong with that.
But if you feel like you’d want to talk about this a bit more – whether practically or just to get something off your chest! I’m always here to talk and share this journey with you.
I’m Cecilia Racine, and I teach therapists how to help immigrants through my online courses. As a bilingual immigrant myself, I know the unique perspective that these clients are experiencing. I’ve conducted over 500 evaluations and work with dozens of lawyers in various states. Immigrants are my passion, I believe they add to the fabric of our country.
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