- What is it worth to find someone who can save your life?
- What is it worth to find someone who can provide quality to a life that has little or no quality because of health problems?
- What is it worth to find someone who can save you tens of thousands of dollars, or to prevent you from going bankrupt?
- What is it worth to find someone who can alleviate your fear, and provide peace of mind?
I can tell you what it’s worth based on what I read in the press, in the APHA Forum, in my email and based on feedback from many of you:
On the high end, it’s worth about $350 an hour.
But on the low end, every day, many of you behave as if it’s worth is $0. Nothing. Zero. Nada. Zip.
And in most cases, you don’t realize that is what you are doing.
Why do I say that?
- Because many of you offer your services for free, and are then surprised that someone won’t pay you for more work.
- Because advocates volunteer to help people every day when those people say that they think an advocate is “too expensive” even when they have the means.
- Because too many of you are willing to accept too little money for your work, which actually devalues our entire profession.
Ouch. Let’s look at each of these points more carefully.
We’ll begin with a reminder that what you charge someone to do the work the work they need is as more about the VALUE of what you bring as it is to the price you charge. That’s why I led this post with the value questions. What IS it worth to work with someone who can save your life, or your life savings? When potential clients understand that your value proposition is that important, they are ready and willing to pay you. We know this because it happens every day for those advocates who are willing to hold true to their pricing.
And yet – so many of you are offering free assessments. Or provide free transportation. Or you are volunteering to help someone for free or reduced prices because you feel sorry for them, and because they tell you your services are too expensive. Or you aren’t charging them for all the work you do. Or you are afraid of giving them an estimate for services that truly represents the amount of work it will require.
But how does one find a balance behind “too expensive” and life or quality-of-life saving?
I’m not going to answer that here – but there are answers for helping potential clients understand that you are worth paying for – and paying top dollar for. We actually addressed that in last week’s APHA Expert Call-in, “Managing Potential Client Phone Conversations So They’ll Sign a Contract with You“. (APHA Members can listen to the podcast and find the resources by logging in to their dashboards, then clicking on that link.)
In The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook, there is a thorough discussion of how to set your prices, and how to discuss them with potential clients. The “setting your prices” part is important because it’s a combination of doing the math and assessing the value of your work.
That combination is understood universally by anyone who ever pays for anything. Whether you are buying a candy bar or a new car, spending a couple of hours with your hairdresser, or working with an advocate to weather a healthcare storm – the price/cost of something ISN’T about what it cost to make it and sell it – it’s about the value TO YOU of the purchase.
If YOU, the advocate, look at your time and skills as something that doesn’t cost you anything (after all, it’s only TIME), then you are sorely mistaken. Your time is the only thing you have to sell. Your expertise comes from years or decades of experience and education. So when you turn around and “sell” your time – for nothing! for free! – you are devaluing everything you have done to that point.
Further, you are devaluing what every other advocate has learned or experienced to that point, because you are, in essence, saying that what advocates bring to the table in time and expertise has no value – is worthless.
I know – harsh.
Then, finally, there is ECON 101 concept of “opportunity cost is opportunity lost.” That is, time cannot be recovered. So if you waste an hour, you have wasted what that hour could have produced for you. If you spend an hour volunteering, or charging less than your work is worth, then you also lose what that same hour could have produced if you had been paid $150 or $350 an hour, or if you had been marketing your services for the potential client who will pay you that much. The cost to you is the difference – the lost opportunity.
It’s certainly not, “Well gee, it doesn’t cost me anything, so it’s OK to give someone the answer for free.” Too many of those lost opportunities will put you – PLUS all the other advocates who have value priced their services and charge clients fairly – out of business.
I hope I have made the case for understanding the value of what you, as a private advocate, bring to clients. I hope I have also made you look at how you are currently delivering your services and charging clients as not just a question of how you grow your own business, but how it affects the advocacy practices of others, too.
When you help potential clients understand the value of your work, and charge accordingly, it will compel them to pay top dollar for your services. When you accomplish that balance, it will be win-win-win – not just for you and your client, but for our patient advocacy profession, too.
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