The question of how to set professional fees is an old one. I’ve talked before about EasyJet pricing and referenced the way that we pay upfront for most forms of transport and holidays.  But we are not used to doing this when we are engaging someone to provide a personal service – such as hairdressing.

Nevertheless some entrepreneurial hairdressers do operate pricing policies that could be adapted by accountants. Many accountants already replicate the concept of a menu of services and extras – in the same way as these are set out whenever you visit a hairdresser.

Some hairdressers also offer special rates for senior citizens and other favoured categories of customer. I’d like to think this is sometimes simply due to a willingness to help people who cannot afford the hairdresser’s normal rates.  But even then these rates are generally only available at times that suit the hairdresser. And this will typically be when they aren’t otherwise expecting to be busy. If you want your hair cut during the busiest time of the week you’ll have to pay the normal rate.

By offering the special rate the hairdresser gets to move some of their trade to days/times that are less busy. They might not be able to get their normal rates but overall they generate more money than if they charged the same rate to everyone, every day of the week.

Do you offer special rates to new clients who are willing to let you do their accounts/tax during your quiet season?  I say ‘new’ clients as moving existing clients to a lower fee scale would reduce your income so may not have any appeal.

Another variation on this idea is to offer a ‘Stand-by’ service.  I saw a sign offering this facility outside a local hairdresser recently.  It said terms and conditions apply. But the inference was that if you were prepared to take your chances re how long you waited, you could have your hair done at half the usual price.

I suspect that plenty of accountants could offer a stand-by service. You would need to ensure that clients who opt for this appreciate the difference from your usual service. It won’t be much help if you already only service clients in the strict sequence in which you receive their paperwork. Turning this around, you could offer a premium service whereby clients can book in and pay extra for for a special speedy service at certain times of the year.

As I have long pointed out, there is no legal or other obligation to charge all clients on the same basis. Experiment and find what works for you.  I suspect that’s what hairdressers do. Why not accountants too?