Are you accepting credit cards or planning on doing so. This has been several years of trial and error and just when I thought I had it all figured out I learned something new. Let me share with you what I have learned.
All the different ways to have a merchant account:
Virtual terminal (online) – this usually means the card is not present and you are manually keying in a credit card or you have a shopping cart or purchase button on your website.
Mobile (phone, iPad/tablet or computer) – the Square, most merchant accounts will offer you a swiping device or PayPal type of accounts.
Telephone – with almost all of these you can call in a charge at usually a higher rate.
The state of California does not let you pass off the merchant fees to the customer. What you are allowed to do is offer a discount for paying by cash or check.
The most common credit cards are Visa and MasterCard. American Express recently sent me a notice that they were changing their fees to be the same as the fees for Visa and MasterCard.
There are two fee structures:
- The percentage rate you are charged for each transaction and a transaction fee.
- The merchant fees you are charge
- The flat fee programs like Square or PayPal
Costco is a good example:
On Site & In Store = 1.38% .19 each transaction (card swiped)
Online = 1.99% .25 each transaction
On-the-Go = 1.38% .19 each transaction (card swiped)
The cheapest rates you will get are for when you have the card present and swipe it. Costco does seem to have the cheapest rates. You pay $5.00 fee for your monthly statement and if you have the card present and swipe it you can have 1.38% rate and .19 per transaction.
I prefer to have the ability to place a purchase button on my website for workshops or groups. This is a virtual account. What I have learned is that if you want to swipe cards you should get a merchant account for that, you will get the best rates and fee structure. Then if you wanted to do virtual you can still log in and run credit cards, you can also use a card swiper (but you will be charged at your virtual account rate) and you can place purchase buttons or a shopping cart on your website.
Sounds clear but it gets more complicated.
There are 4 types of cards for the most part: (this is just an example)
- Basic Credit Card = Qualified Card @ a rate of 1.99%
- Rewards Card or Business Cards = mid qualified @ rate of 2.65%
- Corporate cards = non qualified @ 2.89%
- International Cards = I didn’t use this but I think the rate was over 3%
I understand why merchants often want to switch to square or PayPal where you are charged 2.75% as a flat fee. Fact checking the rate I see that Square is going to offer a chip reader. This may be the best way to go. What I still need to find out is can you swipe or chip the card as well as do online purchase buttons.
So far with all of the companies I have spoken with you would need a merchant account to use a card reader machine and a second account if you wanted it to be virtual. I can swipe cards with my virtual account but I will not benefit from the lower rates I get when the card is present. It all has to do with risk, they prefer you have the card present and now use a chip reader, second is card present and magnetic swipe and last is not having the card present and either manually keying in the charge or having them online with a shopping cart or purchase button.
Having the ability to log in and make the charges when I want to has been useful to me. I have many clients that will pay me at the end of the month and I can log in when it is convenient for me to run the charges. I like to do all my billing at one time. The marketing rule of thumb has been that the easier you make it for someone to sign up and pay for a workshop or group you increase your registration by 8%. I know if print out a form and plan to send a check or credit card information I might procrastinate and then not do it at all. So accepting credit cards has been helpful in my practice. Learning about the right merchant account has been a nightmare. A final example of the nightmare. When I was speaking with the account person, asking them to go over my account, I learned the rate charged could change by how much information I put on the form. I had noticed with Costco all they wanted was the card information and zip code. With the current service I use I put in credit card info as well as name, full address and email if the person wants an email receipt. I had no idea this made a difference apparently to MasterCard, Visa and American Express it does.
I hope that my research has been helpful and if I can help in any way developing your practice or accepting credit cards please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The couple came in and sat at far ends of the couch and I wondered what would come next. Andrea was the first to speak and it was with angry and dismissive tones. They had found me through her therapist and she wanted to know already if I would reduce their fee. I knew the angry and dismissive tones were meant for me as well as her husband. She continued on with why they were there. She felt she was there because he refused to go to therapy and he was a deceitful loser. He had created business after business and they had failed. He had also invested more money than he had told her about. Peter remained quiet as she continued and he seemed a bit afraid to speak up. She kept telling me how better educated she was and she should be the one working but they had a child who needed her at home and she was suppose to be the stay at home mom. Yet she couldn’t relax her vigilant stance, she had caught him in lies about the business and where he was. She wanted him to come clean and start to act in a responsible manner.
Does this sound familiar? In my years of working with couples in private practice as well as in addiction treatment programs I found this similar theme of “They need to change”. I think the hardest part of couples work is often the discrepancy in the emotional growth or availability of each person in the relationship. I will often use the word compassion, how do you find it for yourself and for your mate. With compassion we can find the tolerance and understanding we need to form a collaborative working relationship. Though its not always easy to find. We have to wade through resentments, hurt, disappointments, expectations and lost dreams. I believe it is an ongoing process we need to adapt since our relationships are always growing and changing. In my own relationships and working with couples I know that communication is a big part of finding that working team. Not just what we say but how we hear it. I have found success with letting people know how I need to be heard this moment.
Some suggestions of how to let the listener know how to listen:
- I need you to help me problem solve.
- I need you to let me vent and just be here.
- I need you to comfort me as I tell you this story.
- I need you to tell me it will all be ok.
- I need you to understand my anger and support me.
I used to believe that if we could communicate all would be ok. I have learned through the years its a great place to start but is not always effective. I may need to find another friend or support to talk with because my partner is not able to listen. We all have times when we can’t hear or are frustrated by the topic. It’s important to let the other person know whether now is a good time or they can’t hear the topic. Is this about something of major importance or is this about an argument with a friend, if its about something that is dramatically altering your life I would hope that your partner can listen to you. If not then the problem needs more attention, like couples therapy then this simple exercise. The couple I describe above could not listen or find compassion and their relationship ended in divorce. Many couples that I have treated have been able to learn to listen, communicate and find compassion and rebuild their relationships.
Like any life change it takes work and curiosity.
Licia Ginne, MFT
It is amazing how Kaiser continues to neglect their mental health programs. For years they have neglected their programs and nobody seemed to care. Now the State has levied the heaviest fines it has every handed out and Kaiser still seems to look down their nose at their mental health programs. They refuse to staff their programs and provide the quality of care they should. Instead it is all about the profit and the executives seem more interested in their profits than in quality of care.
This talk by Zak Ebrahim shows how one can change deeply held beliefs when they get challenged within relationships.Whether those relationships are watching Jon Stewart on the Daily Show or meeting people who are different and hold different beliefs in the real world.
As a psychotherapist I often hear “can anybody really change”. As I watch growth happen with those I work with and I see their faces soften as compassion and empathy for themselves and others start to challenge the self-criticism and fear of others, I am moved. It is hard to see it within ourselves and helps to have that mirrored back to us. We start to see the change in how we operate in the world and how our world changes.
Over time change does take place and we often don’t know it. As Zak Ebrahim says in his talk he had gotten to know a Jewish man before he knew he was Jewish and realized that his beliefs had been based upon the dogma that his father had preached. That maybe he wasn’t the same as his father, I am sure he can find traits of his father in himself but he doesn’t have to embrace the hate. But as he says in the end “I am not my Father”. Change is possible and his talk for me was deeply moving and powerful.
It wasn’t until I was out of town, and the small town I was in had hit and miss WI-FI and cellular coverage that I went into technology withdrawal. I didn’t realize how much I relied upon these tools. I had planned on my vacation to make several business calls and to follow up on some projects but the irregularity of the service made the task frustrating and not worth it. I had experienced this before where I had gone on vacations and left all the technology behind this time I was not prepared and it woke me up to the limits of technology in how I practice and market my psychotherapy practice.
I am embarrassed to admit this but since I have left Los Angeles and now live in Santa Cruz, CA I am bit surprised at the amount of people who don’t use computers (compulsively). I think the surprise is more related to feeling of Silicon Valley being just over the hill. I have been talking with a old high school buddy and her last computer crashed a while back and she is waiting to gather the funds to purchase a new one. I have been offering some advice and trying to help her out on how to purchase a computer. But I am really not talking about the financial aspects I am talking about people who already have a computer but don’t use it very often. My recent trip to Mendicino, CA also shed some light on what happens to me when my iphone and ipad can’t get access to anything! I started to go through technology withdrawal, I missed having what we so fondly call the answer machine. Watching a movie ever wonder who that actor is or what other movies they were in, quick reach for the phone, ipad or computer and straight to www.IMDB.com for the answer. Last night I wasn’t sure if I could freeze roasted chili peppers another quick google to find the answer.
I am currently helping ICP the psychoanalytic institute I belong to strengthen their live streaming program. Now what this means is I helped to find a knowledgeable technician who could evaluate what we need and how to improve our sound quality. The institute offers many of its workshops to long distance participants over a program www. zoom.us, it is actually a very good program for an inexpensive price if you are looking to do live streaming You can use it free but for only 45 minutes at a time, great way to test it out. If you want more information about contemporary psychoanalysis and the programs they offer go to www.icpla.edu and on the events page you can join their email list and you will be notified of all the programs and most come with continuing education credits. Working on this project always adds to my knowledge of computers and live streaming, Chris Killen has been helping us and he sent me over a short article on the first things to do when you open a computer, some great tips. I want to offer it to you here. http://lifehacker.com/the-important-things-you-should-do-when-you-get-a-new-c-1559946098
Also if you’d like to contact Chris for a consult here is his information:
AMA Pro Racing/Fanschoice.tv
Now how does this all tie into psychotherapy. I promised I would keep you informed of my progress as I continue to grow my psychotherapy practice here in Santa Cruz, and finding technology is as helpful as I’d like. I’ve also known marketing is not one tool its the use of many tools. Like all my consulting clients I too complain there is never enough time to get it all done and patience is required. Every city has its own rhythm and Santa Cruz has always danced to its own drummer. So as I have done over the years is to find the middle ground where I feel comfortable. It’s what I teach those that I work with on practice development. You have to push the boundary of comfort for yourself and for me that boundary is I tend to get a bit shy in groups and its hard for me to introduce myself where I don’t know anyone. So I have signed up to speak at the Santa Cruz CAMFT Chapter on Friday, September 12, 2014 on the clinical aspects of working with all types of addictions. I have found the Santa Cruz Psychoanalytic and Psychotherapy Society and look forward to attending and meeting more people. Building a network is so important and slowly I begin to create the network that I need, for people to know my work and me to know theirs. The process is slow and takes a support team, when it gets disappointing it helps to have someone offer support to get you back out there. The biggest lesson I learned is to make sure you are in a supportive environment where you feel comfortable. Now its finding that network.
This project is amazing and when Jackie O’Shaughnessy says more to herself then the interviewer why, all the time lost feeling never enough. It hits so hard at the point that we waste so much time not feeling good enough. How many times have you looked back and said if only I could feel now about myself when I was younger. This is just one in the series of short video’s and well worth the time.
I have been consulting with private practice practitioners for over 7 years and what I find most common is the struggle to think of a healthcare practice as also a business. We are in the helping service and feel we must help others before we help ourselves. Most of us came into the world of therapy because we had been helped by it and wanted to help others. We all went through long and costly years of school, but most of us never had a class or internship that taught the business of psychotherapy. We struggle with networking, knowing our value, how to set our fee and whether or not to be on managed care or insurance panels. I think most of us just followed the mentors we trusted. Our caseloads can be enough to handle without having to try and do the paperwork, insurance billing, collecting and marketing.
Major first step start to think of yourself as a small business owner and that means thinking about how much you make, how much you want to make and what it costs to run your practice. Running a practice includes your office, phones, etc. but also your marketing budget, which frightens many of us. Your investment in your therapy practice is an investment in yourself. I have made it my business to learn how to do things with as small an investment as possible. The initial outlay may seem overwhelming but there are ways to do things on the less expensive side and remember this is an investment that over the years will keep giving you a return on your dollar. I work with people with all kinds of budgets but what I have found is if I have to spend money to make something look professional it is worth the investment because it represents me in the world. You can have a designer create a website from $500 – $15,000. You can use wordpress and get templates but I have always found even with templates it helps to have a professional do some final tweaking so it looks professional. You can manage the costs by doing as much of the work as you can.
Some of the people I talk with seem afraid of marketing. Most often you are marketing and don’t even know it. When I opened my first office, I shared space with a friend of mine, neither one of us had any clients but we had a lovely office all ready to go. It was a risk and we knew we needed to take the risks to get started. There are lots of ways to get going that minimize the costs and risks, like renting space part-time. I think many of us have a hard time networking and feel uncomfortable attending group events. Think about your school or training programs and start networking with the people you met there. Wherever you are in your career start networking, start developing a referral network. Let people know where you are, what you specialize in and how you can help people. I’ve spent time, money and energy going to school, interned for next to nothing, studied for my license and now I have to go out and sell myself?
Well, the brief answer is yes
The longer answer – You are not selling goods. You are investing in yourself and I will not hide the unpleasant truth you are selling your expertise, skills and experience. The good news is it can be done with creativity, beauty, grace and a tremendous amount of professionalism and ethics.
Licia Ginne, MFT
I loved this talk and felt inspired by her and wanted to share it with you. I was hoping I could place it directly on my site, but it’s too big a file for my website. What I love about this is her thinking about how we need to embrace our experience and not it see it as something we need to get rid of but more that our body is giving us information. Kelly McGonigal – How to make stress your friend