Well, that’s a catchy title isn’t it. Locum fees are a hot topic throughout the profession at the moment. Whether you are a vet contemplating what you can charge for your services or a practice who may be lamenting some of the fees that re being advised and set by veterinary professionals.
 
Times are certainly good if you are a locum but as more of us turn to it and competition increases for work, fees will be more stringently looked at and practices will have more choice for who to help their practice. 
 
Sadly, if you are expecting me to tell you what you should be charging as an individual then we need to have a more detailed conversation. But as a little taster, the UK average at the moment is around £300 for a 10 hour day (excluding VAT).
 
What I would beg of all of you as independent professionals is to be responsible: look after your clients and they will look after you. Don’t overcharge, but also value yourself and your skills enough. If you get your pricing right, and your clinical skills are there then you will never want for work!
 
What factors comprise your rate as a locum? 
Your fee isn’t just a reflection of your clinical skills, although this makes up a large chunk of it. 
1.     Skillset/Experience
2.     Location
3.     Accommodation
4.     VAT registration 
5.     Insurances-you pay your own
6.     Holiday pay-you don’t get any, so need to include that into your estimations
7.     Sick pay-again you don’t get any, you may need income protection to make sure you are covered too. See our blog on the topic here
8.     The nature of the work-are there antisocial hours?
9.     Expenses-food and travel etc.
10.  Pension contributions
 
Not all of these things are things that our clients should pay for-after all, it is our choice to locum. However, we need to factor all of these in to our fee.
 
Justify your Fees with Good Performance
Whilst we are generally told that an employed vet should generate x5 their package worth as annual turnover, sadly we can’t control the through flow to the practice when we work there but we can do is to make the most of every consult that we see and operation that we perform. 
Charge accurately, book revisits, play by the practice rules: if you don’t agree with them, talk to them and worst case scenario don’t work there. Sorry to be blunt, but the fact is they run a business and our job as service providers is to look out for them! 
Don’t give away freebies. Have you considered that maybe it isn’t long before locums get invoiced by practices for the fees that they don’t charge out as lost revenue or they remove this from your payment? 
Don’t be a tool: be amiable, be a breath of fresh air and engage and encourage the team. You never know what is going on in people’s lives, so simply being nice could make all the difference to the team.
 
Experience and Skillset
Not all experience is time related. Experience is ability, so don’t let yourself be defined by how long you have been qualified. 
What matters is YOU! If you are a clinically capable vet or nurse then of course you would expect a higher fee than someone who is less capable. 
As always, we don’t recommend full time locum work until you are able to deal with most things that come through the door, especially in sole charge setting (we all still get the odd surprise that we have never seen so you don’t need to have seen everything). 
How does your skillset compare to others in the area-use what they charge as a guideline, but take not that some greatly overvalue themselves and others will undervalue themselves.  
 
Where you are based
Shock horror, like most things in life, there is regional variation in what people charge. However, unlike what you may imagine, it is inversely related to the most affluent areas. 
So, for instance, rates in London and Bristol are on average lower than in the Northwest and Midlands. Why, you might ask. Plain and simple supply and demand-there are more vets and nurses here relative to more isolated places. 
Don’t get me wrong, you can’t rock up to the outer Hebrides and demand £400 a day just because you are the only vet on an island, there has to be a degree of sensibility and considering what your clients can afford to pay you too. 
 
What can you offer? 
Remembering that as a locum you are a service provider and your client is that practice, what can you offer them? Are you a capable surgeon? Are you a whizz in the consult room? Can you look after the persons business interests and their clients? 
BE HONEST!!! If you prefer not to operate then be honest with a place: you could prove an invaluable asset to that team. After all, if you are a competent consulting vet then you will alleviate some of the stress and tension on the full time staff who can maybe have a day to do some admin or focus on their op skills. Just don’t look for sole charge work if you aren’t up to a high surgical standard, or simply don’t enjoy it: remember an emergency can come in at any time! 
The more you can offer then the more you are worth from a financial basis-that’s not a mercenary view, it’s just plain simple business sense. I am sure this isn’t news to you, but having heard of people charging £400+ a day (10 hours) and unable to offer a comprehensive service to their clients, consider that as the marketplace becomes more populated with other locums, you may price yourself out of work! 
 
VAT
This is very simple: YOU CAN ONLY CHARGE VAT IF YOUARE VAT REGISTERED! 
You have to register if you are turning over £85,000 annually or more (for most of us this isn’t necessary but may be a savvy business move. The practice can claim this VAT back in their accounts. VAT is charged at 20%. So if you charge £300 a day then your invoice would be for £360 (120%). If this doesn’t make sense of you need more info get in touch
Remember, if you go through an agency, they will mostly charge VAT on top of your rate and their fee too! 
 
Do I charge hourly or daily?
This doesn’t actually matter as for the mathematically estute amongst you, you will be able to break it down into both to suit you and/or your client. For the most part, it is just down to personal choice.
 
Do I charge more at weekends? 
Possibly a very taboo aspect of charging, but when broken down, it really doesn’t need to be. 
There are a lot of weekend shifts available. Whether they are considered anti-social hours is surely down to personal perspective-they may suit you and your needs perfectly, in which case they are totally sociable.
Is your skillset different at a weekend to that during the week? 
There is obviously no difference in our ability as clinicians, but the difference is if we CHOOSE to work these hours. Essentially it is up to you, some people will increase their rate of a weekend if they don’t ‘need’ the work, others may decide that they can actually do with the money and charge a normal rate. 
This is perfectly ok-a practice will be happy as long as you are capable of looking after their clients and business over those shifts, and if two candidates have the same skills and one is cheaper than the other then I think we know who they may choose….!
 
Do you charge for travel? 
Again, this is personal choice. I don’t charge a travel because I incorporate those costs into my day rate and claim my mileage as a business expense.
If you are using your own vehicle for house calls, farm visits etc then it is worth considering this. Remember to record your mileage and charge appropriately if you do: 45p per mile is considered standard.
 
I need accommodation…who pays? 
Again, as with everything, these things are up for discussion with the practice. Some practices have excellent accommodation available on site (others have less habitable spaces for you to put your head down), and some will pay for you to have an allowance for accommodation like AirBnB). I can also recommend connecting with the VetBnB facebook page. Most of the time, practices will cover accommodation costs but may ask you to reduce your daily fee slightly. The other alternative is that you pay for accommodation yourself as it is a business expense and incorporate that into your fee. 
 
Reflection
It isn’t rocket science really is it? Charge fairly and you will always have work, take the mick and you won’t. 
If you look after your clients, generally speaking they will look after you. We are part of a small profession, reputations spread and
 practices talk. Whether you make a good or a bad reputation for yourself, well that my friends is up to you…!
 
When booking any work we absolutely recommend having a service agreement with terms agreed with the practice in advance, this means that both parties know the score and are ok with the arrangements. 
If you want to have access to a copy please do registerand ask for a copy of our service agreement
 
If you want any more topics covered or need any help then please do let us know and we will happily get more info out there for us all to benefit from. 
 
Have a great week and #vethappy.