I started my private practice on a shoestring budget. Actually, that isn't really true. I started with absolutely no budget. Why? I wasn't planning to start a private practice, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had just quit my full time, benefitted job with the county after having my infant- sort of out of the blue.
Our financial plan included me going back to work. I had just take off several months of work, the vacation and sick time were used up... there was no buffer...
So, I did what I always do when I am completely lost- I started researching! While I did spend money in learning how to launch a cash-pay private practice- here are things I was able to do for absolutely no money out of my bank account to my launch my private practice:
1. Build a website on a free platform. I built my website initially on Google's free website builder. While most free website builders have major limitations and aren't the end point- writing up my website on a free builder was invaluable for me. It helped me find my voice in a new way- and allowed me to see my work in action. I am a kinesthetic learner- so even later when I purchased web design services- it was nice to have a clear idea of what I wanted.
2. Take advantage of free trials of paid Internet directories. It is a no brainer, in most cases, to list your practice for a free trial period. Make sure you put a time on your calendar to go and assess whether to keep it- or to cancel before you start getting charged. How do you know if you should keep it? You have to ask clients where they found you- and yes sometimes they are vague! If you get even one referral during the trial period- the return on investment is quite high. Here is free 6 month Psychology Today listing link.
3. Meet new business owners on LinkedIn in your geographical area. Don't stay insulated to just other therapists and doctors. Think more broadly. 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. Call up people you know in your area to check in, find out how they are doing. Tell them how you are doing- learn to talk comfortably about your business- and articulate verbally what you actually do. 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. Make sure your business is listed on free directories. Today, many people go straight to the Internet when looking for phone numbers or services. 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. 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.
7. Make a plan to talk to your community at least 4 times per year. 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.
8. 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.
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.
10. 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.
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!
Need more support for marketing your private practice? Check out our Business School Bootcamp, the largest online business training system for therapists.