3 Ways to Avoid the Biggest Mistakes Private Practitioners Make

3 Ways to Avoid the Biggest Mistakes Private Practitioners Make

Want to avoid the common mistakes most clinicians make in private practice?  Wonder what those mistakes are?

When we first started in private practice over a decade ago, there weren’t a lot practice building resources at the time.  We were forced to learn everything the hard way and made a ton of mistakes along our journey growing our private practices to 6 figures in less than 2 years. 

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Adding a Stream of Income as a Therapist: Stories from the Trenches

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Multiple streams of income, adding an income stream, moving Beyond the Couch, podcasts, online courses, workshops, retreat, intensives, products, workbooks, trainings, certifications... it seems like every day as a therapist you are hearing about ways to expand beyond traditional psychotherapy. 

It can be mind opening, scary, confusing, and exciting to consider all the possibilities. We brought together an awesome group of therapists who have gone Beyond the Couch and added a stream of income to their private practices that goes beyond traditional 1:1 psychotherapy. 

Each of these amazing clinicians shares when and why they knew it was time to add a stream of income, what they wish they had known before they launched, their advice for others considering, and more! Hear real talk, real advice, real stories, money talk, and even a little casual swearing! (It was a great client testimonial that one of the panelists got that included a little colorful language!) 

Click the arrow and watch below today.



Aren't they amazing?! Leave a comment below with your favorite piece of advice!

Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!

Is your Money Story Impacting Your Private Practice?

Is your Money Story Impacting Your Private Practice?

As therapists, we LOVE to tend to love to see the big picture and help people find the path to ease in making deep changes in their life. Often, that shift happens when people become aware of what is driving them to repeat old patterns that don't serve their current life, circumstances, and goals. 

And yet, when you talk to therapists about private practice finances or the financial success of a business, it often gets boiled down to- am I attracting enough clients? As a business owner, you can have a full private practice, and still not make a profit!

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Creating a Successful Private Practice in 2017: People NEED You!

Creating a Successful Private Practice in 2017: People NEED You!

Do you believe that your community needs you in private practice? I do. Start to look around as you go about your day and you will see lots of people who could benefit from the work that you do. Or, you could dig into some of the data out in the world! And while non-profits and agencies can meet some of the need, a lot of people would benefit from private practice services. 

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Counselling jobs in 2015: Can (or should) you get a job?

The mental health field is in a time of transition. Like so many things in this world, the way we look at, and solve problems tend to go through cycles. Just talk to anyone who has been in ANY field for over a decade- and they will happily complain to you, I mean tell you about it! 

I truly believe that if you take the steps to become known- you can get paid as a mental health professional in 2015. Whether that means going the traditional job route, or developing your own position through private practice- you can do this. Our world is in desperate need of more qualified healers like you! 

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You are invited to the book club for Irvin D. Yalom's new book

You are invited to the book club for Irvin D. Yalom's new book

To be successful in private practice long-term, you need to strive to be an amazing therapist, No, you don't have to be perfect, but you need to want to be exemplary. I had the honor of reading a pre-release copy of Irvin D. Yalom's new book Creatures of a Day


This book is hands down the most clinically dense book I've ever read. The storytelling format is so incredibly reach, and really speaks to the feeling of what happens in psychotherapy. Yalom shared in our interview with him that each of these stories is meant to teach psychotherapists and psychiatrists alike powerful clinical lessons. 

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Creating your Vision for 2015

Vision is the creative glue that makes our imagined life become our real life. It gives guidance and direction, especially for our private practices.

Every year, we sit down with clinicians and go over their vision. Why are they in private practice? What do they want to create? What is the purpose?

It takes space to envision the future. But in that space, you can learn so much about yourself and where you need to realign what you are doing to what you desire. Start with your vision before you even sit down to do a business plan. 

If you would like to journey with us to create a vision for your practice, join us for our webinar. We do this only once a year and it is interactive. We will be asking you to close your eyes and go through some guided imagery, share and really dig into your dreams for 2015. 

Preventing Burnout in Private Practice

Building a private practice is not a short-term endeavor thus sustaining your energy is important for thriving in your business building adventure. We want to see you succeed. After all, owning your own business is meant to create more freedom and joy in your life.

However, look around you, and I am sure you will find some amount of burn out, cynicism and overwhelm, all of which are serious issues for mental health professionals. Past studies have shown that there has been little to address these issues for social workers and counselors, even though a majority of clinicians have experienced the burn out at one point or another.

Private practice owners are not immune. In fact for those struggling with burn out, others may not know because they are on their own in their offices without the support or accountability. This begs the question,  Why do we create businesses that contribute to these issues? And more importantly, how do we prevent it?

I would suggest some of our own frustrations in private practice come from us replicating what we learned in the non profit world and applying it to our for profit  private practice.  Reduced fees, working weekends and evenings – doing whatever it takes to get someone through the door can contribute to the burn out and resentment.  These are often habits that have to be undone with the therapists in our bootcamp.

What is worse, is when the private practice doesn’t sustain the livelihood of the clinician and thus when they encounter the stress of this work, they feel unable to afford what is needed to help them cope.

Before we get to the point that we need an intervention, what about focusing on prevention?

How can we ward off the burn out that can creep slowly into our lives?

Here are just a few quick tips of how to cope:

  • Create – When I put my paintbrush on the palette or sit down to play a song, my heart lightens. I find when energy is sucked dry, my creativity is the first thing to go. I feel stuck and unable to think through the options. Feeding my creative force gives me life and energy. Think about what creative things you do that keep enlivened.

  • Move – Yoga, walking, kick-boxing…the list is endless. Being present in our bodies is especially important for those of us that sit for a living. Moving awakens our mind and our spirit. It’s great for your health too!

  • Be still – meditation, prayer, and silence. Sometime we hear people’s stories all day with small gaps of space in between. Those in between times are key in building our energy for the next space for us to hold with our clients.

  • Grow – I love to read and not just all the stuff that is going to agree with me and make me feel comfortable. I want to read stuff that challenges me to think outside the box. Intellectual growth should never end.

  • Surround – Energy feeds off of other energy. When you are in a group of supportive beings that love on you and support you, your cup will overflow with that same love to give to others. I also enjoy reading inspiring stories of others. Those stories act as reflections of possibilities in my own life.

  • Talk – We listen but we also need to talk. Find someone to talk through all the stuff that sits in your mind all day and that you never have time to pay attention to. That stuff is important. I find some of my biggest business revelations have come from the digging into the most obscure places of my psyche. For some of you this means finding a coach, a mentor or a therapist.

  • Evaluate – Take an honest look at what could potentially lead you to burn out and ask yourself – is this necessary for my business to survive? For me to have an amazing life? If it isn’t necessary, then don’t do it. Some might evaluate and discover that private practice is not what is best for them. That’s ok. There are many ways to help people. But the sooner you can come to this realization, the sooner you can relieve yourself of the difficulties you are experiencing.

If anything, we need to learn to care for ourselves and each other.

The work we do is so valuable and we must treasure our craft – which means valuing ourselves.

We value you and our community. So please share. Do you have ways you prevent burn out? Post below and together we can support and encourage each other and create sustainability in our practices. 

11 Free Private Practice Marketing Strategies

free ways to start a private practice

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! 

I hope this inspires you today! Go forth and be awesome!

Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!

Therapists Need Vacations Too: Recharging So You Can Respond

Most therapists dream about more vacation time. Well, therapist or not, who would say no to more time for relaxation and recharging?

In the European Union, workers are mandated to receive at least 20 working days per year. In Australia, the minimum is 20 days of vacation + 10 public holidays paid. America is the one of the most “anti-vacation” nations in the developed world with employers not being required to give a single paid vacation day or holiday.

Many therapists working in America are exposed to the idea that time off is a perk. So, it is no wonder that therapists don't always hold time off as something necessary. In fact, according to our private practice analysis survey, only 67% believe that therapists in private practice need regular vacations. That means that about a third of therapists don’t believe that taking time off is necessary!

But do therapists specifically need this time off?

Is it a necessity that therapists in private practice should plan for vacations when developing their business plan? Should therapists arrange their fees in such a way that they could take several weeks off each year? What would happen to a therapist's private practice if they started to consistently take vacation time? 

Why is vacation time important?

1. Compared to others around the globe, Americans get less time to spend to relax, de-stress and really focus on preserving their health. Is it any wonder that we have more health and stress related illness in the US? 

2. The field of mental health is a little different to other fields in that it demands certain things that sometimes simply can’t be fixed by a single weekend of good sleep.

What makes therapy different?

Therapists are dealing with emotional baggage and the emotional energy they give isn’t something they can just conjure up when they want to. The emotional connections and rapport that therapists form are obviously crucial, natural elements of what they do, but their energy to do so isn’t unlimited.

Many therapists emotionally invest with 20 people (or more) per week--that’s 20 sets of problems, emotions, and lives that they are accountable for every week! You are a therapist. You know how inspiring your work is. However, you also know how much it takes out of you. You have to be completely present to do great work!

So do therapists need vacations?

Yes! Absolutely! Therapists need to recharge and restore some of that emotional energy that they naturally have in order to be better clinicians to those who seek their help. And yes, this means taking extended periods off where you are not responsible for anybody else for several days in a row!

Where does this leave therapists? How can you make time to recharge those emotions so you can respond to the need around you?

The awesome thing is that if you are in private practice, you are in control of your paid days and your vacation days. Well, your entire business really! In private practice, it IS possible to fit in that vacation time.

Does your private practice allow you to have regular vacations?

Here are some elements that are crucial in creating your dream practice and unlocking that extra time you need to spend with you family, friends, and with yourself.

  • First you need to have a clear business plan developed. That plan should include a business savings account and vacation time.

  • Second, you need to be bringing in your ideal clients. These clients will be people who actually want to work with and will pay you for your worth.

  • You need to be able to convey your value during your initial phone contact so you are getting paid what you are worth.

  • You need to be great at what you do! And yes, having regular time off for vacations and trainings is part of what allows you to be great!

That being said, these elements are not as easy to implement as they are to write about!

The private practice analysis survey further revealed that:

  • A third of therapists don’t know how to market their practice.

  • 14% have the perfect number of clients coming in.

  • 13% have a business plan for their private practice.


Sara Wong

I am a Senior at the University of Washington from Perth, Western Australia studying International Studies with a focus on International Political Economy. I love coming into contact with other cultures and learning new languages especially since I think the world needs to explored--all of it! Music is one of my loves and the only thing one of the only things I will deli

Before You Have a Successful Therapy Practice, You Must Have This 1 Thing

So anyone reading this message probably knows how strongly we feel that business skills are essential to providing powerful therapy experiences long-term. We love to teach, to inspire, and to create community. 

And we have said it dozens (or maybe hundreds of times) in the past: You need a supportive community to be successful in private practice. We believe so strongly in the power of community to transform our clinical work, our financial outcomes, and our enjoyment in the work. 

And yet, Kelly and I were completely blown away by the power of community the last 12 days. Seriously. Blown. Away. (Not sure if we are being authentic- check out videos that therapists gave us permission to post at the very bottom of this post). 

We have gotten to spend intense time with over 50 incredible therapists from around the world. Yep, I said it around the GLOBE- and found that the same experiences, fears, stuck places, and passions translated across the state, the country, and everywhere.

I have watched what must be 30 videos in the past 24 hours that have brought me to tears. Not because they were sad, but to see the personal and professional progress that these therapists chose to make in just over a week is inspiring. 

What we taught was not as important as the community who took it in and applied it! Yep, I said it. While our teaching is amazing (in the words of our clients)- the community is so much more important. So, how do you find or create that powerful community for yourself? 

#1. Look for people who are committed to joy. 

I know this may sound strange on the surface. Unfortunately, I have been a part of listserves where people are critical, discouraging, rude, frustrated, frustrating, and more... I have watched some individuals have the same negative reactions for over a decade. I don't know if they are "happy" in real life. But, from everything they have put into the world- my guess is that they are burnt out and unhappy. Do you want to spend the next decade of your career hanging out with people who are committed to continuing this way? Me neither. 

#2. Look for people who have a clear vision. 

There are many people who let others sway their future and make decisions for them. Be around people who tap into their passion, focus it, and go for it. Why? Because those people make you smile. They inspire the crap out of you. They make you giddy from just being around them. We need more lightness in this profession. And, you will be challenged to tap into your own passion and make it a reality!

#3. Look for people who give, accept, and invite feedback. 

I've been in groups where people asked for help and then promptly rejected the help that was given. We have all been that person, where someone is desperately trying to convey something to you, but you just aren't taking it in. (That happened to me when presenting at a state-wide research competition. I finally "got it" like 3 hours later- doh!) It is wonderful to be around people who can beautifully provide and receive feedback in a way where everyone grows. Nobody feels less than, and everyone experiences transformation. Look for that, be that. 

#4. Look for people who have a similar vision.

When you are around people who have a clear vision that is completely opposite to your vision it can be wonderful.... or it can provide pressure or model things that don't make sense in your work. Being around very different visions, while maintaining your own integrity can be difficult. Find a place where there are at least a few people who have a similar vision that you can more closely relate to. It will help you as you try to filter out what makes most sense for you. 

What is the best part about creating a community as a therapist in private practice? It won't just inspire you personally, ward off burn-out, provide you with awesome referrals, friends for life... it will also motivate you to be an awesome therapist. You will have peers to consult with, call on, get feedback from, give feedback to- one of the most under-utilized and most important pieces of doing exemplary clinical work. Several of the people in our community noted that they felt their clients could sense their shift, sense their reclaimed passion and confidence. 

Think about this. Worst case? How is our work judged? By our peers. Do your peers know you deeply? Do you consult regularly? Do you have support on clinical AND business decisions? You need it! You deserve it. Go find it! 

Kelly and Miranda

Wondering how you can get involved in our community? We have free trainings about once per month. You can get signed up to do the free online website 101 for therapists, or the free private practice analysis online, and we will send you an invite to our next live event! 

Or, wondering whether community is really that awesome? Here are some videos recorded today about the impact of community in a few therapists lives: 

I asked some awesome mental health professionals to share how important community has been to them. By the way, we were very clear this wasn't a pitch or testimonial or pitch for Business School Bootcamp- they were just so excited lol! 

Nancy Rhine, MFT is a therapist working with older adults in San Anselmo, CA

"I feel more empowered... I am reclaiming my years of business experience that stopped when I moved into the field of psychotherapy practice... I love being part of this group."  

Molly Merson, MFT is a courageous therapist in Berkeley, CA

"Let's say all this information was in a book... I would have gotten to Chapter 1 and closed the book and gone and gotten some ice cream. Being a part of a community allowed me to absorb the information"

Check out Mercedes Stanley, MSW a parenting coach in Inglewood, CA

"I just feel like everyone is so supportive, encouraging, and empathetic to all of our learning processes. I feel like everyone has just been really supportive." 

Check out Lanie Smith, providing passionate Art Therapy in Phoenix, AZ

Check out Gretchen Kubacky, health psychologist in West Los Angeles, CA

p.s. Want to make sure you are on the list to find out the nitty gritty details for our next Business School Bootcamp? Get on the list here

Single Best Thing You Can Start Today To Have a Successful E-book or Product Launch (Even If You Aren’t Launching for 5 Years)

Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S is a successful and whole hearted therapist who cares deeply about her clients, colleagues, and the people in her life. She recently launched an amazing e-workbook that contains 31 of her top therapy exercises and activities for clients, couples and group therapy called, "

The Creative Clinician: Exercises and Activities for Clients and Group Therapy


Within 72 hours she had sold over 100 copies 

Now,I have talked to enough therapists who have launched e-books, products,and workbooks to know this is

not the norm-

many e-books sit on the virtual shelf and people are lucky if 20 or 30 people buy them ever


. We are going to be interviewing Mari and outlining the specific steps Mari took to make this launch a success on our

free webinar this Thursday, March 13th

at 10 AM PST, but I want to highlight a few things that made her e-book launch a success in today’s practice building article.

Networking, Relationships, and Reputation.

Many years ago CAMFT had a listserve. It was a lively place with a LOT of discussion. The listserve had enlightening conversations that were healthy and supportive. It also had more down and dirty arguments than I care to count. As a pre-licensed person I joined the listserve to share the free online study group I had developed for licensing exams in order to support other pre-licensed therapists.

At the time, I had no idea what I was doing. I was one of the younger people on the listserve and pre-licensed. I had no way to know that this would be the start of building my professional reputation, as well as learning to love (and hate) networking, and that my time on this listserve would allow me to make a great friend, Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S.

You see, Mari and I connected before either of us had licenses or certifications after our names, before we had successful businesses, or books. We were just two women, new to the world of therapy, living in different cities, who only knew one another through the listserve. However, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they write, by the way they respond when great things are said, and by the way they respond when not so nice things are said. You can especially see someone’s true colors when something nasty is said.

Mari and I were both kindred spirits - people who believe that the way you treat people is important, and that who you connect with says a lot about you. So...what does any of this have to do with a successful e-book launch?

You see, Mari didn’t just stick a book on her website and have over 100 people magically buy it in 72 hours. As part of being a great clinician, she had spent years developing her specialization, investing in professional trainings and relationships, networking, connecting, speaking, extending, consulting, supervising and teaching. And for many years, giving and supporting others from a place of encouragement, at no financial gain to her business. These activities had led to her being visible, seen, and her development of an excellent reputation.

If you want to be successful long-term, both on the couch and off, your reputation matters.

Here are 5 ways you can build or enhance your reputation online and offline:

#1. Really Connect.

Networking is all about authentically connecting. Initial contacts should never be about “selling” yourself to another person. One solid relationship made is more powerful than 20 surface conversations. Start building a list of people who you really know, that know you today.

#2. Be Authentic.

People aren’t sure how to connect with you if they can’t know you. That doesn’t mean you have to be unprofessional. Example: I am pretty sure I got a great speaking gig based on reaching out to someone at a conference who had the same horrible hotel experience I was having (ask me about it sometime it is a pretty funny story after the fact!). I made sure to follow-up and let her know that I had contacted management and that they had made some adjustments to our bill - and let her know she could do the same. I contacted her on a personal matter because I cared, that is who I am.  

#3. Be Giving.

In the example above, the women didn’t suggest I speak at her organization just because I did something nice for her. But, it did give us another way to get to know one another and have fun! When you are giving and nice, nice people tend to respond in kind. This is just a funny happenstance story. If you are looking to make the magic happen - then always make contacts about the other person. Be self-less in networking and see how far it takes you!

#4. Be Nice No Matter What.

Guess what, when you are networking people will be neutral, negative, and downright nasty from time to time. I believe in being nice no matter what. That doesn’t mean I don’t speak my mind - but I do so in a way that is focused on being nice, respectful, and really trying to hear the other’s point of view- no matter what.

#5. Be Awesome.

No matter how nice you are, if you aren’t good at what you do, it is hard to create and maintain a great clinical reputation. And guess what, it is hard to be good at, and be known for, 10 different things. Focus in on what you are really passionate about, and let people know about that passion.

I couldn’t possibly put everything Mari did in an article. I am sure even if I tried to, you would have a lot of questions!