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I came across an interesting article on the www the other day, and I wanted to make a point of this topic. It relates to homeopathic practice, and I recommend you read the article if you have the time!

Why friends don’t pay and clients can’t be “friends”

For free… really?

The article title already gives it away, one issue that we all, as practitioners, have or have had sometime in our career. I mean, how often have you given an advice or a recommendation for a prescription to a friend or acquaintance? Be honest! I confess, I did, frequently! I figured for a long time that sharing such ‘tiny tips’ would demonstrate to the other person my competence, my willingness to help, and would as a consequence potentially yield me with a future client. It never did! But, I was often told “Gosh, how can you give your gained knowledge and experience away like this, for free?”. Good question?

I have worked hard to acquire my knowledge, it was a costly time of study, why should I give my information away for free? Especially if there is no gain from it …There is a fundamental problem with this… Agreed?

Stingy is in!

In todays time, with the flooding of the market with cheap goods, and cheap copies of quality products, imported via the Asian economies, our society has changed. We have become ‘stingy’, … but did this pay off? OK, hands up, who has not fallen for the super duper bargain in the ‘cheap-deal’ shops or the ‘SALE’ stores? I have, but in all honesty, I never really made a bargain. Frequently the object purchased at such stores, had only a very narrow life-span, and was of a bad quality. In the end I paid more, to buy a new one, of a better quality. Am I the only one with this experience?… What has this taught us? That what is cheap, is often of a lesser quality, requires earlier replacement, and as a consequence costs us more. Coined to our homeopathic practice, giving advice for free or cheaply, reduces the perceived value and quality of what we do, subconsciously. People expect a lesser quality if the payment for a service is cheap or at no charge. The service we offer is not appreciated as much, and its value not recognized.

Why can we & must we charge our price?

Because we are worth it! Our education was costly, we practice continued professional development, we spend a lot of time in the therapeutic relationship with our patients, therefore our services can be paid for appropriately! But what about those small tips and recommendations to friends? Charge friends? I would say, keep the distance, don’t treat friends, and that for various reasons. This strategy is difficult to maintain, I know, I’ve been there! For the same reasons that clients cannot be our friends. There is a boundary issue! Friends know so much more about us than we should ever be inclined to share with our clients. This is not what you want in the therapeutic relationship! Patients come and see us for their health troubles, they want to share their pains, ills, vulnerabilities. We are the ‘healthy’ practitioner that can ‘handle’ their issues! We do not have these ‘weaknesses’, and if we do, they do not want to know about it! On the other hand, if friends do know, how does it fit in if they ask us, “why did this not work for you?”, or “Great advice, why are you not keeping to it?”. There is also less of a distance between us and our patient within which we, as the practitioner, can be empathic, unprejudiced and nonjudgmental!

To discount or not to discount

Even if it feels awkward to charge friends, we should do so if we cannot decline treating them. Yet, what about a discount? Friends may expect to be treated, at least, at a discount? And for other clients, should we not offer incentives, such as discounts, to attract new clients? From my experience with a different professional hat on, in the tourism industry, I would say: Do never give a discount! Have your pricing scheme and stick to it! Giving a discount makes people think you desperately need their money, and this changes the dynamic. People start disrespecting boundaries, because they think you need them and their money. Giving a discount signals that you want to keep the client, this equates for many, that you are needing them as client. It’s very simple: We are offering a service for which we should get paid our fixed prices. Full-stop!.

Keep it in the treatment room

Finally, what should we do when bumping into a patient on the school run, or at the grocers, and they start talking ‘case’? We gave this patient an appointment and they received their treatment, we got paid. We are not indebted to this patient… just because they paid once. Keep those boundaries! Tell them to call during working hours, or, if need be, to schedule an appointment… and… charge for it!; … maybe not if the question is minor, like “what time to best take the remedy” or another ‘generalized’ question, but certainly for questions that require you to get your notes and consult the books!

On another note

‘Boundaries’ is also why I am not too keen to be working in my home! That environment is not neutral. I have in the past found this to disturb the patient/practitioner dynamic. The patients see how I live, question things they may see, and ‘know’ things about my environment and consequently about me. At one time, before my homeopathic career, a person being round to the house had seen a foreign bank-note pinned to a board in the entrance. I had at the time received this for a friends currency collector son, from a far travelled friend. Not worth more than a few pennies… but the talk across town, by the next morning, was that I must be rich as ****, because in my place the walls were ‘wallpapered’ with bank-notes. What shall I say… I’d like to avoid situations that potentially could arouse misunderstandings with patients, and definitely such misapprehensions that have nothing to do with my work!

I agree with the above mentioned article Why friends don’t pay and clients can’t be “friends” We are service providers! There is a distance, has to be a distance, between us and our clients! I know that in practice this is at times very difficult to exercise. Maintaining a distance while being in a therapeutic relationship is not easy, and boundaries can occasionally get blurred. Yet, cases need to be managed, and patients need to get managed! Successful management keeps us and our practice healthy! Mutual respect and boundaries are key elements, and the maintenance of a payment scheme, and sticking to it, can help build a clientele, and a striving homeopathic practice! It is our quality that attracts clients, not the discount! Stick to it!

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