Per Diem

Per Diem

time is money

[Tl:Dr: On what I charge, and why I charge it.]

Towards the end of his life, Picasso was charging around $2500 per minute for his work. And folks paid it. They knew that his work was worth it. Not (just) aesthetically. But commercially, too. A piece by Picasso would obviously fetch enormous sums at auction.

Now, I’m no Picasso, not even in my own field (organisational psychotherapy). And I don’t charge $2500 per minute for my work. Actually, I’m pretty sure Picasso didn’t have a per diem or per minutem rate in his head when he set his price for a piece.

But sometimes folks ask me for a per diem rate for my work. I guess it’s what they’re used to from “consultants”.

Aside: I run pell-mell away from that kind of label, and its implicit associations.

I guess my reluctance to talk per diem numbers also loses me work from time to time. I’d rather that than play the per diem game.

But recently, in line with making no more stupid punts, I’m resigned to being more open about what I charge. Of course I’d like to charge by outcomes. Or “value add”. I have offered a guarantee of value for some twenty years now. And I do a lot of work for free, too. It’s not like I want to be rich, or even that I see my income as some gauge of my personal worth as an individual. The work is by far the biggest reward, in itself. By which I mean the opportunity to work with others – yes, people – on things having meaningful purpose.

Yes, money affords us options. I’m acutely aware of how my stance limits my options. Never more so than now, in fact.

So for the record, my considered response to the question “what is your day rate” is now, for simplicity: “My daily rate is variable – generally from £400 to £1500 per diem (plus expenses) – mainly depending on how much I want to do a thing”.

At least this can serve to get the ball rolling.

Ultimately, the client is the judge of the worth of whatever I do. And, in psychotherapy in particular, the client is the deciding factor in the value of the outcome itself. Even more so than in, say, software development.

I remain, however, aware of the value of a healthy organisation over a sick one. And few organisations seem capable of healing themselves. Many folks baulk at the pay rates of CEOs for example, yet those closer to the reality of typical organisations understand just how much the CEO affects the health of his or her organisation, for good or ill.

Aside: Would I like to be a CEO again? Sometimes I think yes, and sometime no. I guess, like so many other opportunities that come along, it depends.


In case you’re wondering here’s a list of the factors involved in me setting my per diem rate:

  • How busy I want to be: I assume higher rates will limit the number of days I work.
  • Job satisfaction: I assume lower rates will increase the opportunities to work with engaged, curious clients, and enthusiastic people.
  • A clear brief: Clarity makes for a happier me, so “compensation” is less necessary
  • Suitable information, tools and equipment to do a good job: Nickel-and-diming on facilities means a higher rate to compensate for the unpleasantness.
  • Opportunities to be busy: I love what I do, at least, when I’m doing what I love, and am happy to take home less for that opportunity.
  • Feedback: Feedback helps me to improve. The more feedback I get (in a form that I can use) the happier I am and thus the lower the rate.
  • Humane relationships: When folks see me as a person, I’m happier, and so a lower rate is no biggie.
  • Growth: The chance to learn, grow and share (publicly) makes me happy, so again a lower rate works for me.
  • Appreciating my contribution.
  • Seeing others benefit.
  • A likeminded community – executives and workers both.
  • Making friends, and meaningful connections thereby.
  • Frank discussions about progress
  • Length of assignment: Longer assignments mean I spend less (unpaid) time looking for new work, and so lower my rates.
  • Travel. I dislike travelling, so raise my rate where much travel (either frequency or distance) is involved. Also, who gets to carry the cost of the time spent in travelling?

– Bob

  1. Great post as usual Bob and good on you for being up-front about rates. They seem very reasonable to me – getting you at £600 would be an amazing bargain!

    Interesting comment about Humane relationships – I would of thought that unless a company was really financially struggling they’d be offering you a higher rate as they’d value yourself and your work…

  2. “My daily rate is variable – … – generally depending on how much I want to do a thing”.
    There’s the truth of it for me, that and the clear assignment, got to agree with that too!

  3. Lone Scoot said:

    Most open, honest, sensible and reasoned…as always Bob

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