*This blog was last updated on 7/23/19
We both started our private practices on a shoestring budget. Actually, that isn't really true. We started with absolutely no budget. Why? Miranda wasn't planning to start a private practice, and had no idea what I was doing. She had just quit my full time, benefitted job with the county after having my infant- sort of out of the blue. Kelly was just trying to see if she could muster the passion again for her work after being burned out at her county job. It was more of a test.
Fact was, both of us needed to work. We were the “bread winners” and our families relied on our income.
So, Miranda did what she always did when she is completely lost- research! Kelly on the other hand researched someone to help her and that’s how we met! We did both spend money money in learning how to launch a cash-pay private practice- We also did a lot of things for absolutely no money out of our bank accounts to launch our private practice.
1. Build a website on a free platform. Miranda built my website initially on Google's free website builder and Kelly built her’s on free MAC program back in the day. While most free website builders have major limitations and aren't the end point- writing up your website on a free builder can be invaluable. Building your website gives you the opportunity to give voice to your passions and skill and it allows you to see your work in action. We both are kinesthetic learners, so later when we ended up paying for hosting and design services, we were both clearer of what we wanted. Some of our bootcampers start out on Squarespace which is $12/mo but you can always move to something like that later if you have no budget.
2. Free Trials of Paid Directories. We love a free trial. It gives you a chance to test what might work for your practice. It is a no brainer, in most cases, to list your practice for a free trial period. You definitely want stellar content and clarity in your messaging so you can target speaking to your ideal client. Make sure you put a time on your calendar to go and assess whether to keep or cancel the listing before you start getting charged. How do you know if you should keep it? You will get data usually from the directory but ultimately, you have to ask clients where they found you, Yes sometimes they are vague! If you get even one referral during the trial period- the return on investment is quite high. Look for free trial offerings through your EHR, such as Simple Practice, or through your insurance provider, such as CPH. You can also seek out trials via any professional organizations you have membership with, or ask a friend who might have a referral code!
3. Network on LinkedIn. You might be scratching your head on this one but Linkedin is still a professional meet up site that many of our bootcampers have learned to use to build new relationships with referral partners. You can target meeting other business owners in your area on Linkedin and turn those virtual connections into real life ones. Don't stay insulated to just other therapists and doctors. Think more broadly. Who else works with your ideal client? For example, you love working in the field of divorced families? Connect with accountants or family law attorneys in your area. While you are at it- make sure your LinkedIn profile clearly spells out what you do. Most people have an inaccurate view of psychotherapy. Even if someone has a good idea of what therapy is- there is a WIDE variety in the framework with which therapy is conceptualized and delivered. Make sure you can articulate what you do clearly.
4. Reignite relationships. You know more people than you realize. In your personal and professional life you come into contact with people every day. Call up people you know in your area to check in, find out how they are doing. Genuinely care about others. Tell them how you are doing- learn to talk comfortably about your business- and articulate verbally what you actually do. We recommend making a list of 100 people you know. Your barista, your doctors, friends, colleagues…When starting or relaunching a private practice- 10- 20 minute phone calls a week (less than 3 hours) can have a significant impact on getting new clients. Note: You don't have to be extroverted or business savvy to do this- you just have to be willing to have real conversations with people. If you don't want to use up your cell phone minutes (that would cost $)- grab a Google Voice number and use your computer to make phone calls for free!
5. Get a free business listing. Today, many people go straight to the Internet when looking for phone numbers or services. The first listing you want to get is your google business listing. You want to have pictures of your office, your staff and your building as well as keywords so you can be found easily on searches. We do recommend Yelp as well, not the paid services, but so you can show up on a search and as a bonus you will get notified if someone writes a review. (FYI people can write reviews without you having the listing. By owning the listing you can monitor reviews and have a plan on how to handle them.) There are many other business directories that are free. Even if you aren't ready to launch a website yet- get listed on free sites. It can be time consuming. In fact, even though this is free- consider going to a site like this one http://fiverr.com where there are people who will do this for you for $5. Skip a trip to Starbucks and save yourself hours of work that someone else can do better than you. Include your specialties.
6. Boost your SEO. Go to a site like www.quicksprout.com that does a free check of the findability of your website and see how you rate. Also known as search engine optimization- there are certain things you can do to make sure the robots at Google know who you are. It isn't about tricks or paying to be findable- it is about making sure Google knows where you are located, what you do, and your specialties, etc. Yes there are people who will upgrade your SEO for you, but we want you to do the basics making sure your website speaks to your ideal client and tells Google what you are really about.
7. Speak up! Make a plan to talk to your community at least 4 times per year. As you are doing that networking with people from LinkedIn, be on the look out to be of service through speaking to others. Talk to local business owners you know who have employees you might want to work with. Offer to do a free talk to their employees on a topic you are passionate about: stress reduction, relaxation, goal setting, dealing with difficult customers, etc. This can put you in the forefront of potential referral partners and provides a great service of education to your community. This can also look like being on podcasts - however, you want the podcast to reach your ideal client. We find speaking within your immediate community to be more effective to start if you have a brick and mortar practice. If you are virtual, virtual speaking opportunities might be a better fit.
8. Blog. Make a plan to "talk" online to your community at least 4 times per year. That means blog. Blogs have become a funny buzz word- but all they really are is you "talking" to your community in a written format. Sit down one morning and write out 4 talks you'd love to share- set them up so you can post them once per quarter. Want to grow faster? Consider monthly or even weekly blogging. Blogging gives visibility to your website and allows people to better get to know you. You can make an impact from blogging on your business and on the lives of your readers.
9. Use social media wisely. Too many therapists are using social media without a clear understanding of how it works to build your business and reputation. Instead of growing their business- they are stagnating because they are ignoring real relationships in the world! The two fastest ways social media can build your business: #1. The more people who share your website on social media- the cooler Google assumes you are- that makes your website more findable. #2. The more people you meet on social media and build real relationships with- by meeting by phone or in the real world- the bigger your real world reputation and referral base is. We believe you can make real connections online when you are intentional with your social media.
10. Get connected. Build real relationships with other specialists in private practice in your area. If you are private pay- meet with others who are private pay. If you take a certain insurance that you want more referrals of- look for other providers who take that insurance. Don't just send them a letter with business cards attached. Be bold- invite them to coffee, ask to stop by their office so you can get to know them and their office and make better referrals to them. Also look for complementary specialties. Kelly often cross referred with a play therapist who she referred kids to and that therapist often referred the moms to Kelly. They both knew what they loved working with and had great referrals for the people who needed a better fit clinician.
11. Have fun! Look for things that bring you joy and energy! There are a 1000 ways to build a beautiful private practice- look for things that best reflect who you truly are. You want what you put out into the world to be an accurate reflection of who you are and what you do so you attract clients who are looking for just that! You will find that as you go about your day, enjoying your life, you will naturally talk about your business. Do what you love and share your passions.
Bonus: We have been speaking more about increasing income and improving outcomes. We highly recommend whether you are starting out or have been doing this work for 30 years that you track your outcomes. Really look at what helps clients and stay attuned to how your clients are doing in their work with you. When you do good work, those clients will refer to you. This comes with time, but building a business that allows you to do your best work with clients is important.
Need more support for marketing your private practice? Check out our Business School Bootcamp, the largest online business training system for therapists.