Building an FI Client Base from $0 to $60: A Case Study
3/10/2016
Kate Conroy, GCFP
Thursday, March 10, 2016
by: Kate Conroy, GCFP

Section: Professional Develpment




For recently graduated practitioners, building a Functional Integration® (FI®) practice can be intimidating. Some of the daunting questions I had about brand recognition, delivering the work, client engagement and pricing were:
  • How could I interest people I knew in the Feldenkrais Method®?
  • Would I know what my clients needed and be able to help them improve?
  • Without an ATM® class client base, from where would I cull clients?
  • Having no established client base, e.g., massage or physical therapy, what should I charge? 
Six to eight months post graduation, I was able to answer these questions and build a part-time, at-home, practice that took my rate from $0 to $60. Here’s a progression of how it worked.
 
$0
In the final year of my training, lead trainer, David Zemach-Bersin, challenged us to give 100 free F.I.s before our practicum. I immediately set out to do as many as possible. It turned out that I was set up quite well for this. I have decades of well-developed relationships. Additionally, I go to arts and community-building events where I often meet new people.
 
Over the four years of training, I had engaged my friends and acquaintances with teasers about what I was studying: “The Feldenkrais Method. It’s a movement method geared toward injury prevention and injury recovery.” If someone showed interest or curiosity, I’d ask about her/his/their injuries, aches, and pains. Then, I’d get their email address and send them more info with an offer for a free session. Eventually this list became my core solicitations group and continued to evolve. Here’s a sample:

Offering available dates with times was KEY in getting appointments scheduled with minimal back-and-forth correspondence or phone calls. Also important was stating the expiration of the offer, which helped to build a sense of urgency to schedule a session.
 
Once I had given 75 sessions, I was eager and confident to charge for FI lessons. But, I kept giving the freebies to get to 100 or graduate, which ever came last. When I graduated I’d given 107 free lessons, which averaged nine sessions per month with about 32 different clients. Through that process I clarified my approach to the work and organized my systems for intake and treatment plans. My clients were showing improvement and giving me positive feedback. I started culling testimonials to be used on my soon-to-be-created website and continued to send my available schedules via regular emails.
 
$30
Deciding on my starting rate was difficult. I was eager to start making back tuition through the highest fees I could charge. Yet, I realized that many of my clients didn’t regularly indulge in things like massage or acupuncture, so wanted to settle in on a rate closer to a happy hour tab or a mani-pedi. Additionally, the low-cost Feldenkrais clinic in New York City charges $30 for F.I.s, so I decided that would be a good place for me to start and remain for the first six months post graduation.
 
Rather than state my rate as $30, however, I pitched it as 50% discount on a $60 rate. As with putting an expiration date on the rate, the discount framed the rate as temporary. This helped me build a base quickly, as people wanted to get in to try it out at the lower rates. Among my contacts “Feldenkrais” had weak brand recognition. And, although I could entice people to come for free to “relieve nagging aches and pains,” doing so with paying clients was harder with a method they didn’t yet know much or anything about. Regardless, I continued with the hooks and teasers when I met people, and added them to my email list.

To give people confidence in my legitimacy as a practitioner, I realized I needed a web presence and calling card. Having some previous experience with WordPress, I built a site in an afternoon. Keeping it simple was important to me: www.kateconroy.nyc. I also built a FB page https://www.facebook.com/kateconroynyc/ where I post the same information I’ve emailed.
 
Rather than have a cash business, I found it necessary to take debit and credit cards. To do that, I started up a Square account, which is a card swipe device that I can use via my phone or tablet with an app set up for the funds to go directly to my bank account. More info about Square can be found here: squareup.com/.
 
Although some of my free clients fell away once I started charging, I continued sending out emails to everyone on my solicitations group and posted available appointments on my web site. Clients who were seeing results and could start paying stuck with me. Some prospective clients from my early list waited to see me after graduation once I was charging, rather than take me up on freebies. Other new clients came to me via referral from my early freebies network.
 
In time, some of my enthusiastic clients started tipping me, which signaled that they valued my work and were experiencing improvement. It also demonstrated that my client base could afford $40 as much as they could afford $30. So, I used $40 as my next rate step after the 6-month deal of $30 sessions expired.
 
$40
For many weeks before removing the 50% discount, I reminded my clients through emails that the deal would expire at the end of the year. For established clients paying $30, I offered pre-purchase sessions at $40. This way, if they could pre-pay their sessions, they’d only have a $10 step up on rate. I pre-sold almost thirty sessions at the end of 2015 for sessions I’d be giving in 2016. It was validating to know they wanted to continue with the work enough to pre-pay for sessions.

For some loyal friends and family who could not afford the full $60 rate, or pay a chunk for pre-pays, I established a $40 Friends and Family rate. Then, after getting tips on the $40 rate, I recognized that the next rate step would be affordable too.
 
$60
My clients’ confidence in my abilities to apply the Method to their recovery is personally more rewarding than the fees, but let’s be real, time is such that I couldn’t continue to do it for free. By watching tipping and testimonials, I’ve taken cues on how I’m doing as a practitioner and what my clients are able to pay. Among my queer community of artists and activists, I’ve steadily grown brand recognition for the Feldenkrais Method. About eight months post-graduation, through both the website and referral, I was getting new customers paying the full rate of $60. I give $10 off a session for existing clients referring a new client.
 
I expect to continue to grow my practice gradually with re-evaluations in approach and rates every six months. I evaluate my numbers of sessions and gross revenue goals weekly and monthly and share that info with a trusted friend who is supportive and encouraging.
 
With formulas programmed in an Excel/Google Sheet, I’m able to quickly tally my goals and progress:

With once or twice monthly emails that link to my available appointments web page, I drive a regular flow of website traffic. I’ve seen new clients come in and older ones fall off. Although I miss my earliest clients, I’m delighted to continue to meet new people and share the wonders of the Feldenkrais Method with them.
 
Here’s a Summary Timeline:
  1. Year 4 of training: 100 free sessions
  2. 1-5 months post graduation, 50% discount ($30 per session)
  3. 6 months+ post graduation, pre-pay and friends and family at $40
  4. 8 months+ post graduation, full rate $60 per session
The plan outlined above is not the one I started with, but the one it evolved into. I’ve improvised in developing my practice over the last eighteen to twenty some months. I let the Method lead me on making decisions, even about appointment schedules, keeping to what is intentional but also easy and comfortable for my clients and me. In my previous careers, I focused on getting the biggest budgets for projects serving corporate clients. Now I consider how little I can charge to keep my practice accessible for the clients I’d most like most to serve. Rather than targeting clients “with money,” I target the people I care most about. Together we’re building my practice in an organic and community-minded way.
 
An approach that I feel also feel good about is that I offer specials that reflect my politics. For instance, during Black History Month I offered discounts to activists working in the Black Lives Movement.  For President’s Day, I offered discounts to presidents of non-profit organizations.

My practice has not included giving many ATM lessons, since affordable space is scarce in New York City. At this point, I enjoy the one-to-one rapport with FI lessons; an ATM practice might not come for some time. Meanwhile, I haven’t yet quit my day job, mainly because I’m enjoying its fixed salary, medical insurance, and other benefits. Having an employer and supportive spouse to help secure shelter, food, and other necessities has been key to building my at-home practice with little to no financial stress.
 
Eventually, I will figure out how to replace my day job with more Feldenkrais sessions. For now, I juggle a day job, Feldenkrais practice, and an arts and activism practice. Maybe I’ll work on an FI lesson for jugglers next! smiley

Kate Conroy, GCFP, is based in New York City. Hailing from Portland, Oregon she was introduced to the Method as a youngster; rediscovering the method many years later in New York where she trained. She is a trainer of LGBTQ allyship workshops and consultant for outreach programs to marginalized communities. She is also an artist committed to social practice and arts activism. www.kateconroy.nyc
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Comments (6)
Stacey
4/17/2016 8:09:00 PM
This is the most CONCRETE information I have seen regarding setting up a practice; I find our profession to be very "subjective" oriented which is not always helpful. Thanks so much.


Stacy
3/21/2016 11:09:56 AM
Excellent job, thank you for sharing your process and building a brand name for Feldenkrais!


Helena Berger-Heppner
3/20/2016 4:31:33 PM
This was extremely useful and encouraging. I IMMEANASLY appreciated your sharing the detailed plan for accomplishment.


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