Offering a Sliding-Scale Model for Your Service Business

Use my template if this makes sense for you

Many service businesses are the lowest-risk path to entrepreneurship, self-employment, or a flexible side hustle:

  • You can begin from where you are — home.

  • You can begin with the skills you have.

  • You can begin with the amount of free time you have.

  • There are almost no start-up costs.

Super flexible, right?

If you want to extend that flexibility further, you may want to consider sliding-scale pricing. Sliding scale fees are prices that vary depending on how much a customer/client earns, what income bracket they fall into, or how much disposable income they have.

It’s technically a form of price discrimination, which is not as passive-aggressive as it may sound, i.e., it is not discriminating against rich people by giving poorer people lower rates. Price discrimination refers to businesses or service providers having different prices for the same goods or services for different markets. And, um, those of widely different income are different markets.

You’ll find sliding scale fees most often in healthcare, therapy, and counseling fields, where it’s used by some organizations in order to provide needed and valuable services to all regardless of their insurance coverage or ability to pay market rate.

I use a sliding-scale model specifically for my coaching services. Coaching at lower and variable rates goes against all the advice from the training program that certified me, fellow coaches, and online forums — and against the general professional courtesy you see all professional associations abide by. Because, basically, it is in any group’s best interest that all of its members charge similarly high rates. And I don’t disagree. It’s just not the complete story.

For your consideration, here is the scripting I use for my sliding-scale pricing:

“My coaching rates are sliding scale, from $50–$150 for a 45–50-minute session, based on your average annual income. For example, if you make $75K a year, the suggested rate is $75/session; if it’s $120K a year, the suggested rate is $120/session. You may adjust the rate up or down based on additional circumstances. No proof or explanation required, I trust clients to pick a fair rate for both of us given their financial picture. My main concerns are working with those who are coachable, and that those who are ready for coaching can work it into their budget.”

The average rate I make for a coaching session with this formula is $70/session. There are many $50 and $60 clients, and enough $90 and $100+ as well.

Feel free to use my template or adjust as needed for your service business. Drop me a response with questions or to let me know how it’s working for you!