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How To Get Paid During Seasonal Slumps In Your Practice Coaching Session

How to Get Paid During Seasonal Slumps

“[If I did this plan, I would know] that I was taking care of myself, taking care of my business, and not relying on a credit card or something else to help me out, which is amazing that I was doing this all and moving money around and taking control over a situation that sometimes feels out of control.”

~Donna Peters

Meet Donna Peters

Donna went back to finish her undergrad when her youngest son went back to school. While finishing her bachelor’s degree, she volunteered at a domestic violence shelter on the days she was not in class. Social work was clearly her calling, as a wise woman pointed out, so she went to get her masters. She has enjoyed every minute and has never looked back. However, money had been an ongoing struggle until she found Money Skills For Therapists.

In This Episode…

Do you find yourself saving money but then feeling like a failure if you need to use that money? In this coaching session, Linzy and Donna dig into the way that our perspective on savings can really shape how we feel about using them to manage the ups and downs of our income, and they work through some actionable strategies that can make our money work for us.

Listen in to hear practical tips that can help reframe the way that you see the savings that you put aside each month. 

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Episode Transcript

Linzy [00:00:03] So thinking about this plan, if you were doing this, what would you know about yourself? 

Donna [00:00:07] That I was taking care of myself, taking care of my business and not relying on a credit card or something else to help me out, which is amazing that I was doing this all and moving money around and taking control over a situation that sometimes feels out of control. 

Linzy [00:00:28] Welcome to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast, where we answer this question. How can therapists and health practitioners go from money, shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them in both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills For Therapists. Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. So today’s podcast episode is with Donna Peters. Donna is a graduate of Money Skills For Therapists, and this is one of our coaching sessions. So Donna went back to school after her youngest started school himself and finished her her undergrad, which she had not done before. At the time, she was also volunteering at a domestic violence clinic, and one of the women there said to her, This is obviously your calling. You need to go into social work. So she went on to do her master’s in social work, and as she put it, she’s enjoyed every minute and has never looked back. She works for a group practice and does some online work and also is looking at moving more into private practice. So Donna and Is conversation today is around a very familiar pain point for those of us in private practice, which is weathering those slumps that happened the summer slump, when suddenly all of your clients are off having wonderful summer vacations and the December slump when they’re off with their families and suddenly your income hits the floor. We explore how to build a buffer in anticipation of this and plugging this into the system she already has. Notably in this episode, because most of Donna’s income is as an employee of a group practice, we’re exploring actually how she can work with this issue at home because she gets paid a paycheck from group practice. So if you’re in group practice, and if sometimes it feels like these private practice things don’t quite apply to you, this is going to absolutely apply to you because we had to figure out how to solve this problem for Donna, not in her private practice, but actually in her home finances to be able to weather these ups and downs. So here is my coaching session with Donna Peters. 

Linzy [00:02:38] All right, Donna, welcome, thank you for coming today. 

Donna [00:02:41] Thank you. Thanks for having me. 

Linzy [00:02:43] So Donna, you came on today that the question that you submitted is about basically weathering this summer slump, like that summer income drop. Can you tell me more about what’s going on with that? I have always noticed that July and August, the first weeks of August, really there is a huge drop in clients coming in. And then of course, when school starts, you get a huge influx of clients coming back. But it seems like this year there was a huge drop. And that was probably because everybody was like, yay, we’re free, we can go. But I was not expecting that big of a drop, where I really had to dip into my savings account to cover things. And I was – that’s very scary, when you start having to do that kind of stuff and it’s like, Well, how do I cushion myself for these type of situations, especially since I know another one’s coming up in December. 

Linzy [00:03:36] Yeah, there are all these like natural ups and downs in the season, and as you say, COVID is going inside and having fun for the first time, in a long time. 

Donna [00:03:44] Right. In a long time, but when you have a really good, steady income where you see all these different clients, all the sudden they’re like, I am going on vacation, I will see you and whenever. You don’t know if they are going to come back or not, because now they have all this freedom and they’re like, they’re using their coping skills that what they’ve been used to in the past. 

Linzy [00:04:03] Right. Yeah. 

[00:04:03] They’re building those up again, so they might not be coming back. And so it’s like, Oh, OK, where where am I going to find all these new clients? How am I going to reinvest in all this? 

Linzy [00:04:15] Yes. So my my brain is kind of going two directions, so you tell me which one will be more helpful, first. One is the policy side of it, of how your practice is set up and the questions for you there. Or we can think about creating a financial buffer, which one would be more helpful for you? 

Donna [00:04:30] Probably the financial buffer because I think there’s still some COVID laws still in place where they don’t have to pay cancelation fees. I think those are still in place. 

Linzy [00:04:43] Because these are insurance based clients? 

Donna [00:04:45] Yes. 

Linzy [00:04:45] OK, let’s talk about the financial buffer side of it. So during the year, how are you managing your money? What is that looking like right now? How do you manage the money in your business?

Donna [00:04:56] What do is, I take 30 percent because I have a group practice that I’m still part of. And then I still have my telehealth, which I’m almost – I’m so proud of myself that I have whittled down to very few clients. So I’m not overworking, I’m not burnt out anymore. And what I do with that money is I automatically take 40 percent because I want to have a little bit more cushion for taxes after the end of the year. Because 30 percent is a great amount, but 40 will give me a little bit extra and I know I’m not touching that money whatsoever because that’s not my money. 

Linzy [00:05:33] Yes, OK. So that 30 percent you mentioned in your practice, is that what you’re paying to? The practice is what you mean or that’s what you’re Setting Aside Enough For Taxes? 

Donna [00:05:41] That’s what I’m setting aside for taxes. 

Linzy [00:05:43] Ok, great. 

Donna [00:05:43] I’d always call that one the telemedicine, the telemedicine part of the job. I just set that aside for my “just in case, emergency money,” I really – because there is not that much money coming in lately because of me scaling back. 

Linzy [00:05:57] OK, so from your group practice income, then you’re sending 30 percent of taxes, from your telemedicine, you’re basically using that as kind of like a little emergency fund. 

Donna [00:06:08] Yeah, telemedicine, I’m taking 30 percent off and then using the rest for set aside for just in case money. 

Linzy [00:06:13] OK. The rest of the remaining 70 percent is just in case money. 

Donna [00:06:16] Right. Because the group practice, is a W-2 company. So I don’t have to worry about taxes whatsoever. 

Linzy [00:06:21] OK, I see. Right. So with the group practice then, you are kind of being paid as an employee? 

Donna [00:06:27] Mhmm. 

Linzy [00:06:27] Yeah. So you’re not necessarily able to kind of manage how much you get paid. You get paid, whatever you’ve kind of earned in that period. 

Donna [00:06:34] Right. I get a percentage of what I earn. 

Linzy [00:06:37] OK. And so with that, if we were talking about a private practice, Donna, actually, you know what, with that, though you are, are you getting paid? It’s a W-2, so you’re getting paid right to your personal bank account. 

Donna [00:06:48] Mm hmm. 

Linzy [00:06:48] If that was your own practice, like if we were talking about you being out on your own, there be a different way of managing this right, which is kind of like you might make and have the money to pay yourself four thousand in a month, but you pay yourself like thirty five hundred. Right, that’s how we would manage it in practice. But I see how this would be extra painful because it’s kind of like you’re getting a paycheck and then suddenly your paycheck starts to really suck.

Donna [00:07:09] It does suck, bad. 

Linzy [00:07:11] Yeah, OK. So this is more actually about how you manage the money at home, in this case. So how do you manage money at home when it comes in the door? 

Donna [00:07:19] I have my own personal bills and I just take care of those. 

Linzy [00:07:23] Ok, you have your personal bills and then, is there any saving that happens? 

Donna [00:07:27] Yeah, that’s automatically taken out, I take that out at the very beginning of every paycheck. 

Linzy [00:07:32] OK, great. And what are you saving for? 

Donna [00:07:34] I have no idea. I just do it. 

Linzy [00:07:35] OK. Well, that’s an interesting thing right there. So these would be the savings that you actually dipped into this summer?

Donna [00:07:43] Right. My savings, I dip into when – because I’ve been trying to start a private practice, but because of – during COVID and the telemedicine, that kind got huge. 

Linzy [00:07:53] Yes. 

Donna [00:07:54] I was never able to really start a private practice because the telemedicine component took up so much. 

Linzy [00:08:01] Yes. And are you still looking to eventually start a private practice? 

Donna [00:08:04] Yes. I’m still in the process of doing that, and that’s why I still have this overhead, of you know, simple practice, a phone – which I do get phone calls and I do get people who want to be part of my private practice. But if they have insurance, then I just move them over to the group practice. 

Linzy [00:08:21] OK. So coming back to this piece about, how do you manage these ups and downs? I am hearing that you already have a savings system at home, but it’s saving for savings. 

Donna [00:08:31] It’s that rainy day savings account that like, Oh, I have extra money I can use it for here. 

Linzy [00:08:36] Right, OK. So I’m curious, is the summer a rainy day? It feels like a rainy day because you just – it really does, because you don’t have the normal like, like a normal amount of money that you’re used to coming in. And all of a sudden it’s cut in half, you’re like, Whoa. 

Linzy [00:08:52] Mm-Hmm. Yeah, because what I would suggest Donna, is because you are getting paid a paycheck and there’s this W-2 situation, you are going have to manage that money at home. But the way to manage it would be to kind of squirrel away a little bit of those high times. So when the low times come, you’re like, I planned for this. Here’s my summer, my summer slump fund. 

Donna [00:09:13] Right. It still is like, I don’t want to touch my savings. 

Linzy [00:09:16] Yes. So tell me, tell me about that. Tell me about not wanting to touch your savings. 

Donna [00:09:20] Because it’s like that nest egg that it’s like, No, I don’t want to spend that money because I don’t – it’s kind of like, you know that plate that you put in your cabinet and say that I’m going to use that for a special occasion. Is that my special occasion plate? But I use my special occasion plate all time. But my money is a totally different story.

Linzy [00:09:40] Uh huh.. Right. So what would be the special occasion, that would warrant those savings being spent? 

Donna [00:09:46] I guess if I if I could not pay, I couldn’t pay for something like my rent or something like that. 

Linzy [00:09:53] OK. So it’s like emergency money. 

Donna [00:09:55] Mm hmm. 

Linzy [00:09:56] But this summer, is not an emergency because you see it coming. So I wonder, Donna, like what would it be like if every time you got paid, you squirreled away some money, planning for the summer? 

Donna [00:10:10] I see what you’re saying, that it’s just seeing in a different way, like this is not really an emergency. This is just, this part of the game. 

Linzy [00:10:21] It’s like, you know, and it sounds like based on the fact that you’re on insurance, like having a robust cancelation policy, which can help to offset this in private pay isn’t possible right now, potentially, that’s something to still look at. So you know that naturally, there’s going to be this decline, in especially July, kind of like a like a six week decline, like July into two weeks of August? 

Donna [00:10:40] That’s it, yeah. 

Linzy [00:10:40] And I will tell you, this happens like across the board in so many types of businesses, except for people who sell like, I don’t know, like beach inflatables. For the inside people, this is normal. So, yeah, so if you did expect this and if this was just a normal, neutral event, a normal low in the year, what would it look like? How would you be saving for it? 

Donna [00:11:00] By probably putting a little bit extra and the closer, it got to the summertime. So that I would know that, like if I was doing it in the springtime, like, OK, we need to pay a little bit extra, summer is coming up. But we don’t know what that summer is going to look like, if it’s going to be a really hot summer, then people are going to be out. 

Linzy [00:11:20] Yes. So based on your experience, how much does it tend to drop in the summer? 

Donna [00:11:24] I wasn’t expecting it to drop this much. I think that kind of threw me. 

Linzy [00:11:29] Because this was, did you say like a 50 percent drop? 

Donna [00:11:31] I almost want to take a 60-70 percent drop off. 

Linzy [00:11:35] Ok, huge drop. 

Donna [00:11:38] It was a huge drop. 

Linzy [00:11:38] Ok, so being concrete about it, how much money would you have needed to have to kind of just cover you for these six weeks? 

Donna [00:11:44] Probably to feel comfortable, about two thousand. 

Linzy [00:11:47] OK, so it’d be having two thousand dollars saved. 

Donna [00:11:49] Mm-Hmm. 

Linzy [00:11:50] And so those two thousand dollars like I’m hearing, there would be this, one plan could be you save for it kind of as it’s coming, like in the spring, do you mean? Winter or spring? 

Donna [00:11:58] Well, adding a little bit more in the spring just to make it a little bit bigger or make the pot a little bit bigger. 

Linzy [00:12:03] Yeah, I mean, another way you could look at it, Donna is kind of with your paychecks. What is the paycheck amount that’s like, that’s enough? And that covers for my home and that gives me that extra. And there’s kind of extra on top of it and putting away that extra. Right. So if you know that you need twenty five hundred dollars a month to cover your bills and be healthy and you get a paycheck for twenty nine hundred, you automatically put that four hundred into your summer fund. 

Donna [00:12:27] That makes sense. I never thought of it like that. 

Linzy [00:12:29] Because then, rather than potentially having to like squeak away those savings on a tougher month, you’re kind of like, you’re taking the fat off the top. 

Donna [00:12:36] Yeah, that makes more. 

Linzy [00:12:38] How did that feel for you? Do you think emotionally, if you did that? 

Donna [00:12:40] I think I would feel much better about it emotionally. It’s still, it’s like I hate using my savings account. I think I was just taught, don’t touch your savings, whatever you do, don’t touch your savings. That savings is supposed to be there. 

Linzy [00:12:51] OK, so what if this wasn’t a savings account? 

Donna [00:12:54] And just a checking account? 

Linzy [00:12:56] Or it’s a savings account that holds your summer fund? 

Donna [00:12:58] Yeah, that I would probably use that, only in the summer, then. 

Linzy [00:13:01] Because what I’m hearing is there’s a specific story about savings. Can you tell me a little bit more about that story, about savings? 

Donna [00:13:09] It was just like 20 – I can’t believe this – 27 years ago, when I got married, my husband and I really sat down and talked about what we wanted to do with our money. And one of them was -because my family was not very good with money and his was, was that we’re going to do this with our savings and savings is not to be touched. And so I’ve always had that, and ever since I had a job where I was like, I always had this savings account and I would, if I needed the money, then like, this is an emergency, I need to pay this bill, that I put in there. But as soon as I had enough money, I’d put it back right back in. 

Linzy [00:13:42] And is there like a certain number you try to keep your savings at? Or is it just, whatever it’s at? 

Donna [00:13:47] Wherever it’s at. As long as – I should take that back, as long as it’s not under like a certain amount, a certain amount makes me kind of go, Oh God. 

Linzy [00:13:56] So, there’s a minimum you want to see. Can you tell me what that number is that you want to see? 

Donna [00:14:00] The minimum amount or the minimum amount is like five hundred dollars where I’m like, Oh, this hurts. 

Linzy [00:14:06] Yeah. OK. So you always want to see it above five hundred. And then if you take money out, you put the money back in? 

Donna [00:14:13] I always put the money back in. 

Linzy [00:14:14] OK. So I’m hearing that that’s kind of a rule that you and your husband established. 

Donna [00:14:21] Mm hmm. 

Linzy [00:14:21] I’m wondering, is there any cost to that rule? 

Donna [00:14:25] Emotionally for myself because I’ll beat myself up, if I take it out or if it gets lower, I’ll beat myself up like nobody’s business. 

Linzy [00:14:32] OK? Because what does it mean about you, if you took money from it? 

Donna [00:14:36] I think it means that I’ve wasted away money. 

Linzy [00:14:39] You’re wasting money, right. So with this Donna, like what I’m wondering is it seems like it’s a bit of a bind, right? It’s like you have this mechanism and you are saving and you do save, but then you’re not allowed to touch or use it. And if you do have to use it, then it’s like, it’s a failure, you’re wasting the money. 

Donna [00:14:57] Right. 

Linzy [00:14:58] How else could you possibly think about savings? 

Donna [00:15:00] That it’s there for very specific reasons. You know like if I plan to buy a pair of shoes or something fancy and I put it aside just for that. And I would say just for that. 

Linzy [00:15:13] Right. So like earmarking it for specific things? And what would it be like, do you think to save money for like a pair of shoes? And then when you have that money, you be able to buy the pair of shoes. What would that be like emotionally? 

Donna [00:15:24] I’d be fine with that. Yeah. As long as it doesn’t go to a certain amount, then I’m OK. 

Linzy [00:15:29] Right. OK, so there’s still that minimum. And we all have those numbers, right? And they’re just kind of random numbers, usually. And sometimes those numbers can creep up, too. I will say, like the where we have the last of the year, is also very stressful. Thinking about this summer slump. What if, rather than it being savings, you had like a specific account that’s for the summer slope?

Donna [00:15:47] I could do that and I could do that for just like slump month. 

Linzy [00:15:51] Right because there’s December as well. 

Donna [00:15:53] Right. 

Linzy [00:15:53] But for those low months. Because as I say Donna, like if this was just within your private practice and when you are in your own solo practice transition, where you know you’re going to be, you could manage this differently. Like what I would advise and what I teach in the course right, is like if you have those high months and you make more, you still pay yourself that same normal, reliable paycheck. And then that means on the low months, there’s extra money there to pay yourself. Because you’re that W-2, you don’t have the ability to do that. You can’t make them pay you less, you know, on a higher month. But you can, you can mimic that at home. 

Donna [00:16:20] Right. 

Linzy [00:16:20] Where you are consciously putting away money for the normal things that you know are going to happen. And thinking about it practically, how would you do that? Do you have a separate bank account? Would you just keep track of Post-it Notes somewhere? How would you know that money is for your slump months? 

Donna [00:16:35] I definitely would open a different account and just put it in there. It’s easier for me to transfer it that way. 

Linzy [00:16:42] Yes, OK. And I’m hearing two thousand dollars for the summer. 

Donna [00:16:46] Mm hmm. 

Linzy [00:16:47] And then what about for December? How much would you need in there for December? 

Donna [00:16:50] Probably not as much, hopefully not as much. 

Linzy [00:16:53] Yes, because it’s like a quiet couple of weeks rather than six weeks. 

Donna [00:16:57] Right. And plus I would be taking time off at that time, too.

Linzy [00:17:00] True, yes. And so maybe for December, something like $700 or something? 

Donna [00:17:06] Probably, something like that. 

Linzy [00:17:08] So that means over the course of the year, you would be putting like twenty seven hundred dollars into this account and taking it out when you need it? 

Donna [00:17:14] Right. 

Linzy [00:17:15] So thinking about this plan, if you were doing this, what would you know about yourself? 

Donna [00:17:20] That I was taking care of myself, taking care of my business and not relying on a credit card or something else to help me out, which is amazing that I was doing this all and moving money around and taking control over a situation that sometimes feels out of control. 

Linzy [00:17:37] Mm hmm. Right. So this would be you proactively taking care of this situation. 

Donna [00:17:43] And taking control over it. 

Linzy [00:17:44] And taking control. Yeah. Is there anything about this that could be tricky or that you anticipate might not work? 

Donna [00:17:51] No, I don’t think so. I think it’s just, it’s always being in the mindset of I’m going to work on my money time and getting that money time in and looking at all your cookies. I like to call them my little cookies. Looking at all my cookies, including my cookie jars. 

Linzy [00:18:07] So cute. 

Donna [00:18:08] So as long as I can – I have this cookie, I can move this cookie over here and I can do that. 

Linzy [00:18:15] Right, OK. And so you’ll have a a slow cookie jar. 

Donna [00:18:19] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:18:19] And then when you need it, you take the cookies out. 

Donna [00:18:21] I can take my cookies. 

Linzy [00:18:22] So coming to the end of our time together, what are you taking away? 

Donna [00:18:27] That I actually do have more control over this than I actually really thought. 

Linzy [00:18:30] Hmm. Right. 

Donna [00:18:31] It’s so anxiety based feelings and all of this stuff because you’re like, I’m doing it wrong. I know I’m doing it wrong, and just having somebody else say, Well, think about it differently. 

Linzy [00:18:42] And I mean, even with the summer, you know, something that you may want to consider is, do you want to be taking time off in the summer or just taking more downtime in the summer, knowing your clients will be around? 

Donna [00:18:51] And that’s what I have been doing, I’ve been doing my CEUs. I’ve been taking some really great time just to recover from COVID burnout and removing a whole bunch of clients. 

Linzy [00:19:03] So there’s also opportunity in this downtime, and especially if the anxiety was removed, I wonder how much more opportunity it would feel like.

Donna [00:19:09] Right. Yeah. I don’t know if you remember, I was the one that went from 52 to clients. I was seeing 52 clients in a week. 

Linzy [00:19:15] I do  remember that, that was very memorable. Yes. 

Donna [00:19:18] Yes. And now I’ve got it down to twenty five.

Linzy [00:19:22] Which is a huge reduction. And like, I’m sure, was no small feat. 

Donna [00:19:26] I think that’s another component to it is like when you have all this huge influx of money and then all the sudden it goes “woosh”. 

Linzy [00:19:33] Yes and something, Donna. Maybe a coaching session for some other time would be about getting your private practice really, really rolling right and commanding those fees that you know that people are willing to pay you for the work that you do. 

Donna [00:19:45] Yeah, I’m slowly working on it, I’m getting paneled, I’m working on all that. So I’m getting there. 

Linzy [00:19:51] Yeah, great. Well, thank you so much, Donna, for joining me today. 

Donna [00:19:53] Thank you so much for having me today. 

[00:20:08] Something that really sticks out to me in my session with Donna is just how powerful the names or categories that we can put on money, can be. So even though she already had a system in place where she was automatically saving, because those savings were kind of vague or emergency savings, it was really hard for her emotionally to be dipping into them. But just by realigning the way that she was thinking about it and recognizing she already had the system and the tools set up. But it’s recognizing that actually she does need specific money for the summer slump. How relieving that was and how it removes the emotional weight of having to use that money, just by saying, this is a normal thing that happens every year. Every year my clients go away and I have less sessions at these times a year, so I’m building it into my system. I’m naming that my slump of money and suddenly there’s no difficulty with taking that money, right? Suddenly, it doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong or you’re stealing from somewhere else. It’s money that you’ve intentionally set aside from a problem that you know is going to come up every year, which makes it no longer a problem, when we have that intention and we have that solution already in place. Sometimes it’s those little tweaks that we can make and also noticing our intention around it, noticing we’re already doing so many things around money that can really shift how we feel about our money and how we feel about ourselves in relation to money. By taking that time to be with what we’re already doing and tweak and tune up the things that we’re already doing to suit our needs. If you want to hear more from me, you can check me out on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts. We share free, practical and emotion focused money content on there all the time. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, I know I always say this, but it’s because I mean it. I would love it if you would take a couple of minutes to review it on Apple Podcasts. That is the best way for people to find the podcast. Thanks so much for listening today. 

Picture of Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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Are you feeling stuck when it comes to planning for retirement? Linzy sits down with listener Genevieve Strange, a psychologist who transitioned to private practice three years ago. Despite her successful career shift, Genevieve faces a common challenge many of us encounter: she is feeling stuck around contributing to her retirement fund.

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Overcoming Self-Worth Challenges in Setting Your Fees Episode Cover Image

Have you ever struggled with setting your rates or felt uneasy talking about money? In today’s Feelings & Finances episode, Diane is asking for advice on feeling confident in setting and raising our fees, especially when insurance reimbursements dictate our earnings, and how to make money a more normalized topic in our professional and personal lives.

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