In the past weeks, I have had two emails asking me advice. In both instances the Therapist is asking me how I would suggest handling friends and family as a client, especially when they sometimes pay less for the same work, and often do not show up for appointments on time.
I can certainly see how having family and friends as clients can be beneficial, but then you have to also consider the “dark side” if you have friends and family that really push the envelope and take special allowances because they “know you”. It can put you in a very difficult position indeed and finding a way to salvage the friendship while putting your foot down can be a daunting task.
If you find this is happening to you, and you can read the words above and identify completely, then you need to read below. You can have business and pleasure together, but there have to be some lines of delineation drawn. Once you have these parameters set up, then you should be able to either enjoy working on the friends and family that can respect your position or you can politely cull those who have questionable regard for your livelihood from the herd.
One thing you can do before entering into any kind of “friendly” client arrangement would be to make sure you are crystal clear in your expectations, and that you communicate this to your friend or family. Be sure you take the time to explain while you are so glad you have that person in your world, you also have a business to run. Set the ground rules up front about timeliness and cancellations, and set a fair price from the start. If you choose to discount, that is certainly your prerogative, but be sure you stand fast on this. Waffling is weakness, and it is bad business. While you are trying to dance around and save the feelings of a friend, you are spending time on something other than growing your business with full paying customers. Be concise and clear from the start and avoid this dilemma.
If you are already in a relationship with a “friendly” client that is wearing on you and you feel you are being taken advantage of, then it is high time for a face to face conversation among friends about your feelings. Honesty, regardless how painful, is always the best policy. Friends and family may not even be aware they are impinging on your professional livelihood, and may well be open to listening and working to make things better.
When you have these conversations, summon your courage and make the following points:
• You love that person.
• You want to speak with them about a difficult subject, but you hope the relationship is strong enough to be wholly honest.
• Massage is not a hobby for you, it is your career.
• Management of your time is paramount to you and to your practice. When the client runs late, you cannot adjust the remainder of your calendar to accommodate the single late client. You hold this rule with the rest of your clients, and you need to have the same hold true for them as well.
• Because you want them to benefit from massage and from the education you have obtained, you would like to set them up on a regular basis, and for this treatment your pricing will be _____________.
If after this conversation, the person is less than understanding of your point of view, and does not see it as a problem, then it may be time to make some hard choices and politely refer them to another therapist for treatment. I know that sounds hard to do, but in the long run, it may be best for you, your practice, and your peace of mind. Ultimately, it is up to you how lenient you wish to be with friends and family. You may be able to handle the issue with no troubles! But for others, it is not so easy. Taking some steps at the onset of the relationship can prevent an issue later, and being honest with yourself and your client about expectations and pricing can alleviate misunderstandings leading to angst on your part.
If you have faced situations similar to this, share with us how you worked things out. More people than you may realize find themselves in this boat, and could likely use some additional pointers and tips in how to hand it.
In the mean time, love your family, love your friends, and be sure to draw your lines clearly whenever the twain shall meet.