I have been lucky enough to get to chat to hundreds of therapists who are working online and face to face doing therapy and counselling sessions. They've inspired me in so many ways, as well as helping me understand the challenges they face. It's given me a lot of new insight into how best to help people building an online counselling business. In fact, the insights I've gathered have been so useful that I have put together an article here called 9 lessons from therapists working online.
These topics have repeatedly surfaced over the last 2 years. And since demand for your services is on the rise, and it’s such a key time to be in Private Practice, I am eager to share these with you.
This is what I have heard:
1. We need to care about how we present ourselves online.
Our work online is normal now, and there are some frustrations are starting to surface. Our profession has been established over many years in a Face-to-Face setting, often with a receptionist, a phone and a physical safe space. Things are working differently overall now. How we present ourselves, our experience, and skills, manage appointments and exchange communication all matter much more.
2. The tools we use are key to how well we function.
Computers were not an investment high on our list a few years ago, and webcams were a family gadget. This kit is can be expensive, but as necessary as a great comfy chair. Our computer is the closest thing we have to a landlord! It’s handling our whole business. And it’s actually capable of quite a lot. Out of date software / browsers / office tools will be unreliable and can let us down when we need them most, so all need attention.
3. Trying to do everything on social media is an impossible task.
Selfies and Blogging can take up so much time, and they are not the magic answer to a steady flow of new clients. It might not be something that we enjoy very much either. The lesson here is to find one, that you can manage well, and use it to great effect. Use it to present expertise, services and most of all to be accessible for appointments. [You can read our in-depth article on using social media here.]
4. Getting a discovery call with a potential client booked should be easy.
The people who are coming to us are not always word of mouth, don’t always know us by name. Now we are online, they can know us by reputation, which can even be international. Clients want an immediate connection when they have made their choice, a smooth process, to book the appointment they want. Getting setup to receive automatic discovery calls is an absolute winner. We set the opening hours, they can be short and controlled, provide a steady flow of new clients rather than a rollercoaster of boom and bust.
5. Integrate everything so it works well together.
‘I am flitting between systems all the time’. Notes/records/appointments/videos all in separate places is a recipe for time-stealing angst. Did I send that? Did they receive it? Did I update that? Did I password protect that? And the inevitable hours of catch up every week. Switching up the practice to the online world has happened, when all your information is on your screen, in one place, accessible anywhere – it’s something that can save hours, every day.
6. It's possible to scale our businesses while keeping things personal.
We are the caring profession, we know that our clients are often in a distressed, anxious state when they come to us. We have kept a ‘hands-on’ way of working to make sure that this standard is held. We’re learning that we can have this in a digital way. We can look professional and be personal. Hold some space for ourselves and provide the best possible care for our clients.
7. Define our niche, and focus on it.
This is one of the most common lessons, and we’re figuring out it works. Being specific helps the right sort of clients find us. Each message, each workflow can be tailored to our clientele. Being online is allowing us to find these niche groups to be in, to contribute to and to build a practice with.
8. Having a good reputation will make our businesses more profitable in the long run.
A reputation in an online world is more difficult. We haven’t completely cracked this yet. Eliciting feedback about services in some circumstances is not ethical and would not be appropriate. Our reputation is right now either on a social media channel, or within our Niche group. This is quite the critical thread to being profitable. Since it leads to higher charges, collaborations, sought after content, or just less marketing effort and time is money.
9. Choose our business partners carefully
Not everyone is right for you or your business. From website providers to marketing trainers through to your video call service provider. There are so many decisions to make, and these need to be evaluated regularly. But getting it right pays dividends for peace of mind and professionalism. Make a list of the things you want in a service provider, there are plenty to choose from.
There are opportunities but also challenges for therapists, counsellors and coaches working today in Private Practice, but there are some clear steps that can help you achieve success in a fulfilling way.
I think whether you are a therapist or coach, trainer, consultant, with an online business your goal is always the same. Get more clients, do it without burning out and losing your shirt. What's interesting to note is that there is no one size fits all for these businesses. There is always something new to learn about success, but when you can get a tapestry of advice and strategies from people who have been there before and either been really successful or really failed it makes sense to listen.
I hope that you have found this helpful, and that it served to inspire you as you move forward in your entrepreneurial journey. Online therapists are here to stay and will only lead to better care and education for those who need it.