When I was diagnosed with the chronic condition fibromyalgia I knew it was time to re-think my career as a therapist. I’d worked for many years in agencies and finally secured a job with a leading healthcare provider, however the demands were taking a toll on my health.
It was time to consider how I could make private practise work for me. I knew I was a good counsellor, but advertising and promoting the counselling service was a whole new skillset. Initially marketing was trial and error; some things worked and others fell flat. Eventually I was able to get a promotions plan in place that worked and I’ve established my counselling and therapy business.
So how does a therapist build a successful practise? What are the secrets? There is no magic formula but with a bit of hard work you can promote your practise and get referrals:
1. Have a good website to promote your counselling services
There are many counsellor websites out there. They range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Be wary of companies offering outdated web template designs, it is not the 1970’s so yin yang and rainbow themes are best left in the past. Go for something that looks clean and professional. I have been very happy with Therapy Webgenie which is the leading provider of websites for therapists, clinics and retreats.
Low-cost website builders like Wix can also be a good option if funds are tight, but avoid the free versions – it’s never a good idea to have external adverts on a therapy site or a suffixed domain, like wix.com/yoursite – it never looks professional. Similarly please don’t use pictures from your last holiday (yes really I have seen this on therapist websites) you need a good head and shoulders professional looking shot.
For most therapy businesses ‘you’ are are the business, so make sure that you have a photograph or yourself on the website! Even better make a welcoming video – nothing is better for building trust and ease when people are building up to getting in touch. Video doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated: smartphones these days take amazing quality videos, that you can save to Youtube and then embed on your website in minutes.
While not everyone will find you via the website, almost everyone will check you out there before getting in touch. They are looking for reassurance. So make sure that you list your qualifications and accreditations and that you provide some social proof in the form of client case studies and testimonials.
Now that you have a great website, make sure that it can be found! Register with Google My Business to get your site, literally, on the map – the one that comes up on the left of the screen when you search for local services. Google My Business also includes a business profile, that you can control, and space for reviews etc. Registering is free and will also improve your ranking in Google search.
2. Link up with local partners
Counsellors spend a lot of time networking with other counsellors. Whilst this is great it’s not going to necessarily help you get referrals in your local area. Form links with local businesses who work with people, Twitter is a great way to start getting to know business owners in your area. Some businesses which it could be useful to link up with could be local nutritionists, osteopaths, reflexologists or other professionals which cannot provide counselling. The link up can be of mutual benefit, you can refer to them and they can refer to you.
3. Consider your unique selling point
There are tons of counsellors in the UK; what makes you different? What is your specialism? Bear in mind your audience may not be au fait with models of counselling but they will know if you are able to treat their problem. For example whilst I work with a wide range of issues I am also a specific addictions and LBGT therapist.
Make sure that you list your specialisms on your website at the very least. If you have the time and inclination you could go further and establish yourself as an expert in that area, by blogging, podcasting or writing articles for the local or specialist press. If you are promoting or launching an interesting or unusual service make sure that you put together a press release and circulate it widely using a service like PR web.
4. Spend your advertising budget wisely
Since I set up I’ve had countless calls from businesses who want to sell me advertising. Consider the cost and the real benefits to your practise before taking this out. A local reputable newspaper which is actually read is going to be far more valuable than junk mail which I know in my house goes straight into the bin. If you are getting business cards and off-line media printed, shop around don’t go for something that’s free if it’s poor quality. Most printers are happy to send out sample packs, take your time and get it looking good.
5. Enjoy what you do!
You’ve worked hard to get accredited. Now it’s up to you to market your skills, enthusiasm is infectious!