Are you a therapist or life coach in private practice wanting to get clients?
Chances are, yes. We always want to get clients. I’m here to tell you, this insatiable desire for more money, more business, more clients never stops. Because even when we reach the goal we thought we had, we raise the bar. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out and have 0 clients or you are full and trying to grow. When we have 0 clients we look at people who are full and think “I wish I had that problem” and when we are full we look at people who have waiting lists or charge twice as much and think “I wish I had that problem.” Make friends with your “it’s-never-enough-mindset”, it is here to stay. It may take different shapes and forms but in essence wanting more has the same nature. Therefore the solution is the same.
So take a deep breath, settle in and get ready for some practical advice and a little bit of tough love.
The evolution of How we get clients
There is a process to getting clients that unfolds slower than we would like but there are ways to speed it up if you work smarter not harder. It is so important to understand and accept this process and allow it to develop without frustration, impatience or discouragement. Sure, having your own business can be stressful, especially since income is so unpredictable. But…
You can focus on how stressful it is and get stuck, discouraged, afraid and cranky or…you can realize that nothing ever happens without the right causes and conditions.
You are not there YET. But you will be. Just like a beautiful garden needs good soil, fertilizer, good seed and conducive weather conditions, so does your business. One of the most important conditions for a successful business is clarity about who you are and who you want to work with.
Get Clients With Clarity
I worked for agencies for 7 years after my Master’s before owning my own business. And even then I still maintained a full-time job, seeing clients on the side. So it would only follow that when I started in business I would bring my past with me. I knew I needed to have a specialty (so do you!) and the only way to niche myself then was based on previous knowledge and experience.
While there may be limitations to this approach, this is generally a good place to start to get clients quickly. Do what you know, don’t reinvent the wheel. If you have zero prior experience do what professional training taught you. It will change and evolve. Trust me. I came from the substance abuse treatment world and so I first had a very broad addiction specialty. But because of this, I started seeing more and more people with behavior addictions, especially sexual addiction. Sometimes those people didn’t have an addiction problem at all, more so a relationship and intimacy problem. So that led to more professional training in couples and sex therapy work.
Fast forward 7 years later, I see more couples than people who have a substance abuse problem.
Clients have a way of showing you what they want, you only need a place to start and then the courage to follow them.
Clarify Who You Are
To understand who you are now, you have to get clear about where you are coming from. As a therapist or coach, you are the business. Therapists and coaches use themselves as a tool to help people on their journey. Your education matters, your work experience matters, your style, personality and approach makes you unique in a saturated market.
Getting clarity about who you are and what you want to niche in can be very exciting. If you start with your knowledge and expertise you will feel more confident, capable and have more success with clients. You will retain them longer, feel more job satisfaction as they are getting results and get raving reviews for excellent service. You can then add to it or change it accordingly.
Clarify What You Do Best
Within your area of specialization, there is something you do best. It’s OK if you don’t know this yet. You will. For example, I learned that I was best at helping people see the big picture and consider the problem they were coming in with as a symptom of a greater issue.
This broadened the scope of their solution.
I would often use the tree metaphor to help my clients see that their drinking, or porn habit, or overeating, or shopping sprees were the fruit on the tree. Their thinking, mindset and behavioral patterns were the trunk. The irrational beliefs, past trauma and attachment issues were often the root. Of course, this model had variations but the concept was the same: big picture life problem versus fruit picking.
Same with couples. It’s not just about the cheating and the porn, it’s about emotional safety, relationship power imbalances, sexual immaturity and communication.
If you know anything about the addiction field you know that we pick at the fruit until it is eradicated, bruised and thrown away. We shame people for their addictive behaviors without acknowledging the function they serve. And we fail to teach skills to tackle issues in the tree trunk and root areas.
So clients came to me because I understood something everyone else they had worked with didn’t.
By looking at the big picture I could help them completely change their life, one step at a time, one skill at a time, from the unseen to what was visibly in front of them. “Transform your life from the inside out, one change at a time” is now my tagline and mission statement.
To get clients quickly Stop reading and try this now!
Come up with your slogan similar to mine above that you can say in 7-10 words (or less). Here are some completely unrelated (but fun) tagline ideas.
Can you see the power of developing a niche?
Isn’t this awesomely exciting, super-duper easy? And worth spending some time thinking about, right?
It practically does the marketing for you. When you are clear about who you are, your message is clear, consistent and inspiring. Your clients are confident in you, they trust that you can help them and they benefit immensely from a relationship with you.
Clarify your style
Your personal style, approach, your values and beliefs, what you stand for and what you stand against will also help you build an authentic brand that has the potential not only to attract clients but to put you in a front of mind position in your market (when they think of their problem, they think of you as the solution.)
People come to see you for who you are, not just for what you know.
Once a client I had been seeing for a while told me there had been a turning point for him in our previous session. I asked him what it was and he said he had made a joke and I laughed.
Who you are as a person and what your coaching or counseling style is determines your brand. That’s right! You have to stop thinking of yourself as just a tiny, little you and start thinking about building your personal brand, which you can then grow to be as big as you want it to be. For example, for years I did something on my Psychology Today profile and my website that very few people were doing. I had a clear statement about my personality and style and a paragraph on why I became a therapist (we ask our clients to share and give so much of themselves, it’s only fair!)
Are you more warm or more logical? Or somewhere in between?
Are you super-professional (suit, heels and all) or more down-to-earth and approachable?
What do you stand for? What do you stand against?
Why did you become a therapist or coach?
What do you value about the work? What are you passionate about?
The Evolution of a business relationship
Since we’re talking about how to get clients, we kind of have to include them in the conversation, don’t you think? Clients need to get to know us so they can like, trust and buy from us. There is an evolution to a business relationship. You can’t go from “hi” to “love me” in an instant. We need to step back and think about what we are asking our clients to do and understand how hard it can be. In any other situation going from “Hello” to “Commit to seeing me weekly for a while, tell me all your secrets and pay me good money” would be considered assault!
Does that make sense?
This is why you have to give first.
We have to give of our knowledge, wisdom and self. Our direction should be to work towards building a trusting, long-lasting relationship that can truly transform someone’s life for the better.
I believe that’s a privilege. And I am honored to walk alongside someone week after week, year after year.
You don’t want to get clients. You want to change lives. To receive an unprompted email 3 years after you have terminated with someone telling you how much the work you did together changed their life, how grateful they are and how they would recommend you in a heartbeat. And for you to remember exactly what this client was struggling with and take a moment to honor their story.
Do you know what that customer lifetime value is?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of how to get clients blog series where I talk about how to get clarity around the clients you want to work with…
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Until next time, be awesome and get clear.