Make Money with Consultations
The value of Consultation Time
I got a piece of advice from my grandfather. He ran his own photography business years ago and when I started my practice he told me this:
Charge what your worth, and be worth it.
Price is an important part of our marketing and branding plans. Unfortunately, many therapists feel the need to charge less than they are worth or discount themselves for the sake of getting clients. I’ve already discussed why you don’t need to worry about competing for clients in this post. Today, I want to talk about how to make money with you consultation and assessment.
For many of us, seeing new patients pans out like so:
We schedule the appointment (or they schedule online) and we tell them we have paperwork for them to fill out and please arrive 10-15 minutes before their scheduled time to handle it. The day comes and we’re waiting for them to arrive. BEST CASE SCENARIO they arrive 15 minutes early, fill out their paperwork, tell us they have a pain in their shoulder that came from a specific incident and we start on time. What happens more frequently is they arrive 5 minutes early, finish their paperwork 10 minutes after the scheduled time, and meanderingly discuss 3 different areas that have been hurting off and on without clear indication of what caused the pains. By the time we review what we’ll being doing during the session, brief them on getting undressed and on the table, and get out of the room we’re starting 20-30 minutes after scheduled time and are going to be either cutting their session short to the point of making it useless or eating up our turnover period between them and our next patient.
We end up frustrated and mad at our patients. We start skimping on the assessment so we can hurry them onto the table and then we don’t get important details until we’re halfway through the session (or three sessions in).
The responsibility of the business owner/manager (and being self-employed makes you both) is that you don’t wait for problems to arise. You solve them before they become an issue. So how do we fix the problem of new clients arriving late?
We schedule the consultation time with their first appointment.
The New Patient Appointment
I had a specific service for my new patients and it was their only option: the New Patient Session. It ran up to 90 minutes; the first 30 minutes was Consultation & Assessment and then we had 60 minutes for massage to do a full body workover with specific attention on their problem areas. This way I had all of the information from the very beginning. Our 30 minutes included:
- Filling out paperwork: I had a health background form and had additional assessment forms based on their condition.
- Reviewing my policies and procedures: I had a one-page (front and back) document with a review of scheduling, communication, and cancellation policies. Including my right to cancel sessions at anytime if a patient was deemed to be acting inappropriately. I would summarize each section for them verbally and have them sign it. I’ve found when you just give someone a policies and procedures form they don’t read it. Then they get mad at you for charging them for late cancellations or no-shows.
- Postural Assessment: My medical training included postural assessment and I cannot overstate the importance of educating yourself in this. Understanding postural deviations and how they impact muscular health is an invaluable tool for uncovering the root of problems as well as providing self-care work for your clients that will create lasting change in their condition.
- Verbal Consultation: Interviewing skills are very important for the medically minded therapist. Being able to direct a conversation to glean specific details about their history and condition saves a great deal of time during the consultation itself as well as during your session. We discussed patient communication in detail here for getting quantitative details about their pain/condition. Which allows you to easily track progress over time.
Get Paid for Your Time
As you can imagine, there were definitely sessions where we finished the consultation early but most of the time we used that whole 30-minute block. As massage therapists, some of us feel squeamish about charging for time where we aren’t actually doing massages. People don’t pay us to massage them, they pay us to be educated and help them resolve/manage their problems. I was able to uncover so much helpful information during the course of my 30-minute period. Details that saved us time during session because I wasn’t chasing down the wrong muscles.
Not only that but patient education was a big part of the assessment and consultation. When I learned relevant details I made sure the patient understood how these pieces fit into their condition. Whether that was an over pronated foot contributing to their chronic low back pain or how a car accident from 10 years ago was still causing their migraines. Chronic conditions are frequently the result of little bad habits that we grind into big problems over the decades.
I say all that to say this: your consultation and assessment are valuable! Do not give it away for free and never cut it short because you didn’t schedule time for it. You sell your time and expertise, not massages. I charged an extra $15 for the 30-minute consultation on top of the hour massage. Meaning the New Client Massage was a single service costing $90. Most people new to massage end up overwhelmed trying to figure out what they need; selling a service specifically targeted to my first time patients made it simple. People like simple.
Get Referrals by Offering More
The most satisfying thing came when new patients started coming because I provided in-depth consultations and assessments. Patients who had been to seem me would go back to their friends and coworkers and rave about this therapist in town who ‘actually spent time talking to you and trying to figure out what was going on’. People loved that I listened, that I dug deeper, and that I gave them information they could use to really make a change in their life. If you’re branding yourself as medically oriented, these people expectyou to run things differently than Massage Envy or the local day spa. People just don’t like surprises. Tell them in advance how long things will take, explain the importance, and offer value. Most likely, you’ll be the only massage therapist in town that does it. Remember, this is time and information you need to offer the level of care you’re promoting. Don’t leave that to chance. People refer business to those that they know, like, and trust. Establishing yourself as a professional (you’re no longer flustered and rushing through the beginning of the patient relationship), an expert (you know what information to look for and can educate your patient about their own condition), and providing results through efficient work (by gaining all the details upfront) you easily fill that criteria.
Will people pay for consultation time with Massage Therapists? Yes, if you make it valuable for them and explain how it helps them to take that time up front. When you use assessment skills (thorough exploration of history and current condition, as well as postural and orthopedic assessment) you are pinpointing the problem site before starting the massage. Many people argue massage is too expensive to be a cash-based part of the medical system. While massage is not cheap it is very much worth it’s cost. To make it an easier expense for your patients it is vital you take this time before the first session to understand their condition. Patients with acute problems may need visits once if not twice a week for the first month of care. This allows you to get to the root of the problem faster so you patient spends less money on massage.
How do I charge for my consultation time? Three Steps:
- Schedule it as a service, or part of the initial service
- Charge for it
- Be able to explain it’s importance