Online Services: to Charge or Not to Charge?

Updated: May 14, 2020

At the moment, many thousands of business owners are suddenly seeking ways to offer services online. If you can still benefit your clients that way, fair enough. If it means they can get something they need and your business can survive, everyone wins.

However, online provision isn’t possible for everyone. You can’t offer massage online, for example; you can’t do any kind of ‘hands-on’ technique remotely.

Both business owners and clients are losing income, struggling to pay mortgages and rent and can afford less and less. It’s a heart-breaking situation. Yet debates and even arguments are springing up around whether to charge for these new online services or not. Should you offer services for free; or is this wrong, both setting a dangerous precedent and devaluing your service for the long-term?

I totally appreciate both sides of the debate; but ultimately, this has got to be a matter for each individual’s conscience. I have been thinking deeply about this issue and personally I feel uncomfortable charging for a service that really can’t be categorised as essential, at a time when my students may be taking a pay drop of anything from 50% to 100%.

In any case, ITM Alexander Technique teaching actually comes under the ‘can’t offer online’ category. it just isn’t possible to teach actual Interactive Teaching Method lessons remotely. You know when people say, failing to do justice to some amazing event they’re trying to describe, “you had to be there?” This is certainly true of an ITM lesson. If I haven’t worked with someone already, how can I have a decent physical picture of them? Without seeing them physically walking into the room ‘in 3D’ and without getting my hands on them, how can I get a clear picture of what their customary movement protocols might be, that they might need help with? Not to mention the nuances of in-person conversation that Skype and Zoom chat can never truly match.

HOWEVER, it is still possible to study the Alexander Technique without in-person contact. So, this morning - just for students of whom I have prior personal knowledge - I conducted my first online Alexander Technique study session; taking a basic concept from our introductory lecture as a start-point for discussion. It did me a heap of good to prepare something simple but (hopefully) useful. You can never go back to basics too many times.

I also decided to offer this session free until such time as this pandemic crisis ends. It’s plain loyalty to my ‘customers’, for one thing. It’s no substitute for a lesson, for another.

Someone even showed up! I honestly hadn’t banked on it! I was all prepared to sit there like a Nellie No-Mates; but we had an enjoyable half hour of Alexander discussion. This is just how I like it: no big deal, long-winded seminars and webinars, just a gentle chat about an idea or two from Mr. Alexander and the opportunity to address any questions.

Another student, a private hospital nurse, had really wanted to join us but had just been called up to NHS service today. This was sobering and certainly put things into perspective. Nothing could possibly be as important as that. Yet another student has now emailed asking whether the session will happen again next week. So, it may continue, it may tail off – I’m content however it pans out. Once the Coronavirus crisis is over, if still desirable and working well, I may continue to offer online study sessions, but will then feel OK to start charging.

Whatever situation you are in - whether you are a business charging or not charging, or a client able or unable to pay, I hope you all can find ways that best suit your needs, so that you can not only survive this difficult time, but thrive, be happy and live your best life.