It is amazing that all over the world the pattern is the same when we start our therapy or coaching businesses.
We have lots of worry and lots of hope. We all do the same things, largely because that’s what we see others doing. We have a place to work from, insurance, our qualifications, and usually a website and cards or flyers.
Often armed for the most part only with blind hope we set out, swinging wildly from ‘what if it fails, do people want my help, what will people think?’ to ‘I want to make a difference, I know this works and helps, there are so many people suffering!’
We put cards out, post on Facebook, or leave flyers around town. Then the anxious waiting starts. We make sure the phone is switched on, check our email way too often, and think about the difference we’re going to make.
We’ve seen the benefits of what we do. We are so enthused from our training and the great people we were on that journey with. The future is full of opportunity. Let me at it!
That 1st call is as much terror as joy for many. A client! it’s real! We book them in and we can hardly settle. It’s a reality, I’m doing it!
While it’s great to have a client or two, the actual reality soon starts to bite. We’re seeing money go out faster than it comes in. We’re not using the skills we spent so much time, money, and energy developing as much as we had hoped.
There’s more waiting. 'I hope people want what I'm offering', 'I hope I'm not putting people off with my fee', 'Surely people will see the need for the amazing thing I'm doing?'.
The worry usually grows.'Where’s the word of mouth I expected?'
This is where we start to second guess the dream. ‘Should I take the day job so I can pay the mortgage?’,’Do I need to retrain in a different skill set?’, ‘Should I just give up?’
The tragedy is that some stop very early on. In asking the question of therapists in the USA, UK, Australia, Ireland, Spain. Italy, Egypt, Norway, India, and other countries, the numbers tell the same sad story.
Seven out of ten of us who qualify give up in the 1st year.
For some that’s settling for 1-2 clients a week while working a regular job which isn’t what we want to do in life, just to make money. For most it’s total abandonment of what we wanted to do.
We tell ourselves, ‘I’ll get back to it’, ‘The time’s not right’, ‘I’m still on the path, just taking a longer road.’ the longer we leave it the less likely we are to restart.
We feel bad, perhaps like a failure, or that life is unfair. That feeling is the biggest saboteur we will ever meet.
It is not a big step for us to then start to think along the lines of - ‘the problem is me.’ We train in new skills thinking ‘Maybe people will want this’. We think, ‘I’m not good enough to really help people’ and we hold back. And a host of other bad feelings drag down our motivation and determination.
We end up avoiding the one thing that makes all the difference: Putting our message out to the world.
Word of mouth only spreads when we’ve seen clients, and then only slowly for the vast majority. No one can come for help if we’re hiding. We need to let a lot of people know what issues we help, where we are, and also how to get our message to reach the person who’s ready to take action.
Often we end up trained in many, many skills and therapy types and still find we’re empty. Lots of skills no one knows you have, are just as useless as one skill-set no one knows you have.
It’s not you. it’s not the right or wrong skills, it’s not how good you are at helping. It’s all about how many understand what you help with and how they can find you.
We can always help people right from the start. If we let ourselves see clients, we get more experience and become even better. No one is the best when they start. Experience gives us expertise. We have to get out there and help people now, in order to be better later on. Waiting to be better and not working in order to be better, is guaranteed failure.
If you want to be successful, you have to make it happen by stepping up and telling the world what you do.
That is easier than it ever has been. We have more options with the internet, social media, newspapers, texts, etc.
However, getting the word out is something we’re not trained in when we’re learning to be therapists and coaches. We don’t know what to do and, most importantly, how to do it.
I’ve seen national advertising campaigns worth £500,000 in the UK achieve a grand total of zero clients, for example. We need to get the message right, as well as out there.
Sadly rather than deal with that uncertainty, most therapists settle for seeing the odd client and for being poor. So many scrape by and fall into a rut of tolerable unhappiness. Things aren’t bad enough to force them to act so they stay stagnant.
We keep telling ourselves we’re therapists, that we are following that path, but we’re usually ignoring the reality that this isn’t what we dedicated so much effort, time, and money to becoming skilled in, the first place.
The truth is that we need two critical things to change this cycle. One is a decision to look at the realities and notice what isn’t working. The second is dedication to solving the problems we see there.
If the problem is lack of confidence, we need to look at how we can build our confidence in what we do – perhaps reading over our testimonials, recalling the happy clients who changed, remembering what drew us to this type of vocation in the first place, whatever that might be for each of us. But, we have to face it and do something to change it.
If it’s how to get the message out and how to make it connect with people who need help that’s a skill set that can be learned too.
If it’s the money side, talk to an accountant or business coach.
Whatever we need to overcome, there are people who have been there and who can help us. Inaction is not only hurting us and our families, but also the people who don’t get help because our message doesn't reach them.
Think I’m exaggerating on that last point?
I lived all my life until I was 37, with severe anxiety and depression. The therapist who got me over that at 37 was trained by the same person and in the same method as a local therapist just 20 minutes from the house I grew up in. That therapist was there and ready but I never knew. No one did. That therapist was always struggling but didn’t put their message out. If they’d somehow managed to reach me as a teenager, this life would have been a lot more fun much earlier. We hold people back when we don’t reach out to those suffering. Most people don’t know help is available.
There’s good news in that though. Most people don’t understand the experience they’re having and as such are not actively looking for help. That’s where I was for decades, and where 19 out of every 20 clients I see are at.
This gives us a way to succeed while making a win for the person suffering and for ourselves.
Pick three problems you help people with. Talk about how it feels to have the problem. This lets those experiencing it, but who don't understand it, recognise what you help with.
Talk less about qualifications, modalities and systems until you’ve clearly spelled out the problems for them. Once they know you can help they will be interested in qualifications and categories of help, but not before.
Stay on the topic of those three issues for a few months so people can see you’re consistent and so they have multiple opportunities to see that you understand their issues enough to be talking about them often. This is massive.
Get that message out to the world. Use newspapers (25 to 1 ROI when I’ve used them well), Facebook (up to 122 to 1 ROI using video or 80 to 1 in text and image posts), talk to community groups. Put out flyers that talk about the problems and lead to hope. Everything can work when the psychology of connection is right. Some work better than others, but getting your message out is vital.
We can’t hold back from getting the word out without hurting ourselves and leaving people in suffering. Focus on the win for the client and allow yourself to have a win too.
Post weekly on Facebook, or on Linkedin if you’re offering a service to businesses. Write up the same article and send it to newspapers. Negotiate for editorials. Spend a little and see what works best, then keep going.
Think of your business as a tool that lets you help more people. Use the business to facilitate your help. Treat this as a profession – be professional. Be prepared to spend a little money to get the word out and charge enough to allow you to keep going.
Look at how much you have spent on your qualifications. Look at how much of an income you want to earn as a therapist. Now, isn't it worth some investment in telling people where you are and what you help?
Not charging enough to let us remain therapists is guaranteeing unhappiness, burn-out, and in the long term a different job where we’re not helping people.
It can’t be all 100% giving. Thankfully therapists are generally about the help and this is great. However, we need balance. There has to be enough coming back in in terms of job satisfaction and money to keep us going.
In helping thousands of therapists around the world, I get a lot of feedback. One point that’s consistent is that there are more than enough clients once we know how to reach them.
If we’re not busy there are only 2 reasons: Either we don’t want them on some level (fear, lack of confidence etc.) or we don’t know how to find them (lack of marketing skills).
These are things we can face, challenge, learn, and develop.
It starts with a decision to be honest and face the uncomfortable. Notice what feels uncomfortable. Write down what that is. Now start building a plan to deal with that aspect of being a successful therapist or coach.
Isn’t that what you’d advise a client to do if they came with a problem?
Every best wish for ever growing success!
Have a great week!
A happily booked out therapist.
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John Prendergast is an award-winning Success Coach and and Psycho-Trauma Anxiety Therapist.
He is also the Founder of Therapy and Coaching Success that specialises in helping Therapists, Coaches and other Wellness Practitioners, connect with those in need, build their diaries and earn the income they need.
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