You’ve decided to take the plunge into private practice. Your dreams of being your own boss and giving the big middle finger to The Man have finally won over, and you’re starting to picture yourself sitting in a swanky office with a calendar full of motivated clients.
Fast-forward to reality: You’re sitting at your laptop well into the night, frantically Googling things like, How do I start a private practice, What is an LLC, intake paperwork for therapists, how to get on insurance panels, and how to build a website.
Then it hits you.
You have no clue what the hell you’re doing.
You’re completely overwhelmed by all of the things that need to happen before you can even step foot inside of your imaginary swanky office. Not only that, but you don’t even know where to start.
So you do what most new business owners do: You dive head-first into what I call the minutiae of building a practice, praying thinking that you’re making headway. You spend the next 3 weeks brainstorming a name for your practice, followed by another 2 weeks of doodling potential logo designs for your business card on a piece of paper, and then you buy a domain name and frantically begin to put website pages together.
You don’t look like the cool, calm, and confident therapist you imagined when you began fantasizing about private practice, do you?
Many of us get caught up in the false belief that spending money on random marketing efforts will get us more clients. The truth is, these efforts are fueled by fear: The fear of opening a private practice to the sound of crickets, the fear that we won’t make it. The fear that if we build it, they won’t come.
The fear of failure.
I’ve been there. I ditched my agency job back in 2013 and decided that I was going to make it in private practice. I’ve made many mistakes along the way, and what I found is that there’s a huge difference between advice and good advice regarding how to build a successful private practice. Today I’m going to share the top things that I see therapists waste their valuable time and money on when trying to build and market their private practices so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
Any marketing 101 class will spend a lot of time explaining the importance of brand recognition. A few examples of successful brand recognition would be Apple, Kleenex, and Coke. You know what these products are just by their names or logos. Many industries rely on brand recognition as part of their marketing strategy, so it’s only natural that therapists starting a private practice would want to follow suit and name their practices something eye-catching or creative…
There’s only one problem. A big problem.
You want potential clients to know your NAME. You want former clients who find themselves in need of therapy again to think back on your NAME. If your business name is something like “New Leaf Counseling” (which, by the way, I Googled and found over 1 million results!), how are clients going to remember the most important aspect of your business – YOU? I hate to break it to you, but we are not as memorable to our clients as we would like to believe. Using your name for your practice ensures that clients will remember you. So use your name. It might not be sexy, but when a former client recommends you to her friend, would you rather her say something like, “I went to this place off Main Street, something about a leaf…I can’t remember the therapists’s name, but she was awesome!” or something like, “Go see Sarah! Her practice is over on Main Street…I can’t remember the name of her practice, but Sarah is so great!”
If you want a fun name for your practice, that’s fine: Just pick it and move on. It’s just that I get emails from people all the time who’ve put off doing everything that they actually need to do to get their practices up and running all because they haven’t nailed down a practice name yet. Whether you use your actual name or a more creative business name, just pick one and move on. You’ve already spent too much time overanalyzing this, and it’s time to do other (read: more important) shit.
Solution: Pick a practice name and move on. Your clients don’t care about the name of your practice – they just care that you can help them. Your business name will NOT make or break your practice, so just decide already.
Whenever I tell a therapist who is starting their private practice that they don’t need business cards, they look at me as if I just told them that they should do therapy naked (did you know that’s actually a thing? Some girl is doing it in NYC. *Shockingly,* she’s not a licensed therapist. I digress). Let me ask you something: What do you normally do when someone hands you a business card? You probably take a look at it, admire its cool design, and then – even if you have every intention of using the information on that card – you cram it in your purse. After about 15 of those bad boys start taking up precious real estate, you take all of them out and throw them in the garbage. Vistaprint is making a killing off of selling hopeful entrepreneurs garbage cards. I know business cards make us feel like our practices are “official,” but they are just the minutiae that we waste time and money on when we could be doing so many other things that will bring real value to our practices.
Brochures are just business cards on steroids that you give to potential referral sources. So what normal people do with business cards, businesses do with brochures. Sure, they look pretty, but your potential referral sources are going to take one look at them and then either throw them away or toss them haphazardly in their waiting room. And, what are the chances that your ideal client just so happens to have a doctor’s appointment at that exact office, sits down next to your brochure, flips through it, and goes, “wow, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for!”? Brochures are what I consider to be the epitome of practice-building minutiae. They make you feel accomplished, but all they do is distract you from what really matters. Don’t believe me? How many companies have you chosen to do business with based solely on information you found in a brochure? Bingo.
Solution: Forego the business cards and brochures entirely. They are a waste of time, money, and don’t actually propel you forward. Instead, invest time working on your website – this is where people will go to learn more about your services.
When therapists feel like they’re floundering, they sometimes get sucked into the false belief that the more things they do and the more tactics they try, the more successful their practices will become. So they spend $500/month on Google Adwords, $250 on a small-time Facebook marketing campaign, and create 6 different social media profiles for their practices.
Every time I criticize pay-per-click advertising or social media advertising, I get a few people who are like, “Laura I spend $500/month on Google Adwords and I’ve gotten a few clients from it, so it must work.” Or they’re like, “I got a client once because of something I posted on Instagram, so that’s free advertising!” I’m not saying that expensive marketing or social media advertising doesn’t work at all. What I AM saying is that it’s usually not worth the time and money it requires. When it comes to anything related to my business, I consider Return on Investment, or ROI. Sure, I can pay $6k/year on Google Adwords, but if I ultimately get $5k in revenue generated from them, then I actually LOST money! ROI is a gamechanger because it helps you determine where to focus your time and energy. Yes, using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is essentially free, but when you add up all of the time you spend keeping them up to date and then realize that every hour has a dollar amount attached to it, suddenly taking time posting inspirational quotes to MAYBE bring in 1 or 2 clients just isn’t worth it.
Solution: Before you jump into doing 100 different things all at once to try and market your practice, take a step back and think about ROI. What things have you done so far in your practice that have given you the greatest ROI? If you’re still stuck trying to figure this out, I’m here to help you.
Every new therapist I’ve worked with who was just starting their private practice told me that they needed to come up with a list of every possible referral source and either cold-call them or drop in to hand them marketing materials (you know, like business cards and brochures). This is one of those things that make therapists feel like they’re doing something productive, when really it’s just a huge waste of time.
Let me be clear: Forming close connections with potential referral sources is a very good thing. Randomly calling every doctor’s office within a 20-mile radius and showing up at their offices unannounced is not. See the difference?
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. You’re a busy doctor with 35+ patients to see today. You have 5 minutes to breathe and go to the bathroom when your nurse comes up to you and says, “Hi Doctor. Some therapist called you wanting to talk about their practice.” What would you do? Probably nothing. So the therapist wasted their life calling a doctor who isn’t going to call back. It’s not that the doctor doesn’t care. It’s that he or she simply doesn’t have the time to talk to you.
Solution: This, my friends, is the reason I became a coach to other therapists. I am determined to debunk the myth that we have to focus on marketing efforts that only waste our valuable time and hard-earned money.
I want to help you break through the noise and successfully market your private practice using a system that works and allows you to be true to yourself. I’m committed to helping you navigate this journey and learn the EXACT steps to take to build your badass therapy practice without losing you sanity in the process.
I’d love to have you join my mailing list – it can be found at the bottom of this page. I’ll also continue to send you gold nuggets that will help you organize your practice, streamline your business systems, and build your badass therapy practice.