How often do you feel guilty for charging for a service? Have you done things and not charged for them, because they were ‘easy’ jobs, or ‘only took a minute’? I have to confess that during my working life I would have done hundreds of procedures for free, or for a fraction of what they should have cost, and in the process lost my employee, and later myself once I started my own business, tens of thousands of dollars.
To be clear – there is a place for ‘freebees’, for rewarding a loyal client by doing a favour, or doing that little something extra that’s not about the money. This can help build lasting relationships with clients and make you feel like the caring kind human being that you try to be. But when the motivation for not charging properly stems from an inherent inability to recognise the value of what you do; that’s when we need a mental shift.
Recently I read a little story that helped me reframe my own thinking about this:
The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a cafe doodling on a napkin. When he had finished his meal he started getting up, leaving the napkin on the table. A fellow diner who recognised him and had watched him draw approached him and asked if they could have the napkin:
“I’d be happy to pay for it”. “Sure”, said Picasso, “I’ll take $5 000.” “5 000 dollars! But it only took you a few minutes to do it!” “No,” the master replied, “it’s taken me 60 years.”
And with that he crumpled the napkin, shoved it in his pocket and walked away.
It may not always feel like it, but your veterinary skill is an art. You started practicing it back when you could hardly walk, when you first figured out that your cat liked it’s ears rubbed just so. You started studying for it the moment you started to learn to read. You’ve learnt so much about animals and diseases and biology since the start of your degree that you’ve forgotten how little you once knew. In your years in practice you’ve fine tuned your instincts to the point that your subconscious tells you what to do before you even have to think about it.
That thing that takes you 2 minutes to do and requires almost no brain power is probably something that is impossible for your client. If they could do it they wouldn’t be in your clinic – you’ve just forgotten how hard it is. It’s a valuable skill.