Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Being self-employed has its ups and downs.....I'm my own boss, which I love....I can take time out when I'm not feeling great, which I need......but I do pack in a lot of hours in the evenings and weekends updating websites, office work, marketing, looking after 8 birds of prey, all behind the scenes stuff that takes so much of my time!!!! AND all I want to do is go out there with my birds or be with people in nature connecting them back to themselves and the world around them.
One of the hardest things to do is to set a price on your time when you're self-employed. How do you equate an hours work and charge people for that hour when you may have spent several hours either side of that client time, in preparation and note making. Its really hard.
So during lockdown I sat and worked everything out meticulously, starting with the Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) side with my birds of prey. I've been working with birds of prey for 20 years now - teaching people, rehabilitation work, running courses, experiences, pest control......I have a wealth of experience when working with the birds. In order for me to work with the public with my birds I have to pay yearly for Public Liability, and because I have volunteers I pay Employers Liability too (!!), plus have insurance on some (can't afford all) of the birds. Then there is the contentious 'Animal Activities Licence' that has to paid every three years....that cost me just under £400!! Then I have to take into account the monthly food bill for the birds, water bill (they have fresh water every day), disinfectant costs (avian disinfectant only), equipment costs, and any veterinary costs that may arise throughout that year. I also have to bring in the amount of hours I spend every day making sure the birds are cleaned, looked after, and flown 6 days per week - most of which I do whether I have people to see or not, taking 4-5 hours out of my day (6 days per week).
Also with the AAT side I bring in my 30 years experience of Animism (shamanic seeing), as well as the past 10 years my studies into psychology, animism and trauma. I've spent thousands of pounds on courses to help clients understand themselves better, as well as having a depth of personal experience that is there for clients too....an understanding of where they are coming from and where they need to go forward.
So putting my costs down on paper and trying to get an ideal hourly rate astounded me.......looking at £300 - £400 per hour!! Great exercise in showing me that my £40 for an hour and half for a child was ridiculously cheap, in fact embarrassingly so.
Let me give you an example of a typical day when I have one client booked for AAT with the Birds -
day starts at 6am - prepare food for the birds
7am - walk dog
8am - clean blocks in mews and replenish water in baths; clean through aviaries and refill water in baths.
8.30/9am - weigh all birds and box in van or place outside in mews if not needed; make sure paperwork is on board for client
10am - open sacred space on site ready for client; check all boxes to make sure birds are okay.
11-12.30pm - 1.5 hour session with client - bringing in animism, psychology and therapy all together.
1pm - close sacred space; drive home; all birds into mews areas and check birds are all okay; wash up pots etc., from feeding; clean travel boxes.
2 - 3pm - write up detailed notes of session and email client if I feel they need something extra.
rest of day spent working on marketing, healing sessions at home, preparing workshop notes, etc.
So just looking at the above you get the idea that when you have animals involved the simple act of charging for that session needs to bring in the time you spend either side in preparation and completion of the session.
Most of my therapy colleagues will understand this too......for my shamanic healing work (1-1), I also have the same problem. No animals involved there but the client cost must cover my expertise, preparation and completion times added on, cleaning of therapy room before and after, and heating costs too. So for a 1.5-2 hour therapy session at my home I will spend 45mins before you arrive opening sacred space and tuning into what medicine you need for that session; similarly at the end I spend over an hour cleansing the space, closing sacred space and then writing up your notes. So a 1.5-2 hour session that you pay for has to cover the extra 2-3 hours I put in to actually give you a service.
As a self-employed person I do not take any holidays, I do not get paid when I'm off sick, and when someone cancels last minute I lose out - even though I have a policy that sessions must be paid (I've tried to implement but people don't pay).
Over the years I have always given something back to the community - have worked voluntarily for charities and local community projects for free. Doing free work however doesn't put food on the table or help pay the bills.
During lockdown I received no financial help from the Government, and used the last of my savings to make sure my birds had food, and I had a roof over my head. Times have been really tough, enough to make me think I should perhaps sell everything and become employed!!! But I'm not employable!!! After a car accident in my early 20s I developed an illness that restricts what I can do.....hence the need to stay self-employed. I also have a real need and passion to help people, to teach people to connect back to Mother Earth. My birds have helped me so much in the last 20 years that there is no way I am going to change what I do now.....but I need to value what I give.
Over the 30 plus years, I have been working, I have spent a lot of time and money studying, advancing my knowledge, all to come together as 'my tool-kit' to help myself and in turn help you. My prices for my shamanic work and the AAT now reflect what I can offer. Prices for the Forest Bathing/Therapy will go up at the end of September once I finish my qualification for this. If you can not afford the price being quoted then please give me a call, I will offer concessions. And please don't be offended if I ask you to prove you are on benefits, etc.,......I have had people come to me in the past who turn up in new cars, have the newest phones, etc., and say they can't afford £40 for their child to have a therapy session, and I didn't check their reasoning. It hurts when you then get home and that £40 will put enough fuel in the van but has to last for the next 2 weeks.
Please honour the self-employed out there. We work bloody hard and long, long hours to provide a service, that for some is our passion, our path that we are so passionate about and need to do....we just need to learn to value what we do in terms of monetary exchange, and get you to understand in the process.
Thank you for reading,