I have long advocated that as graduate educated mental health professionals we should take advantage of our entire skill set to make a living. We are not limited to assessment and psychotherapy, but over the course of my career I have earned money from conducting research, providing supervision, teaching, developing products, and writing.
I recently responded to an ad looking for a mental health professional to do some writing of website material for an organization. The task was not that difficult but I was limited in my time to be able to complete the writing deadline. So I asked a newly licensed psychologist that I knew if she would be interested in doing the main bulk of writing and I would serve in an editorial role. In doing this I offered her 85% of the consulting fee and I would keep 15% for my role. The task was to write ten 1-page papers related to different mental health topics according to a template provided by the client.
I then asked her this often difficult question for new professionals, “How much do you want to charge to do the writing?” I suggested that she think about it for a day. She then got back to me and said, “How about $400 for the ten papers. From my Internet search it seems like the going rate for writing is $40 per hour.”
I said, “Fine, I will ask for $800.”
The client wrote back an hour later and said please have the project completed within ten days.
The moral of the story is that it is important not to undersell yourself, undersell your services, and undersell the value of what you have to offer. You may offer to do work at a reduced fee because you find the work inherently interesting, want to learn a new area, want to get your foot in the door with a company or referral source, or because you have a value in offering “some” of your services at a reduced rate.
Another important issue is to make sure that you are not in a position of desperation for a piece of work (or for clients) and you will be in a better position to negotiate. In my book with Jeff Barnett, Financial Success in Mental Health Practice: Essential Tools and Strategies for Practitioners we have a list of “Twenty Principles of Private Practice Success.” Principle Number 13 reads as follows:
Private Practitioners Need to Become Comfortable With Negotiating From a
Position of Strength. If You Are Desperate For the Job or Income You Will
Negotiate From a Position of Weakness. Strength is Found in the Ability to Say
No Thank You and Walk Away.
In this writing project I asked for double what my colleague was going to ask for to complete the work. I was able to do so (and she benefitted from it) because the work would have “nice to get” but was not something “I had to get.”
Ask for your value and often ye shall get your value.