One way to sabotage your practice is to confuse cost savings with cost effectiveness. Some costs have to be incurred in order to run your practice. Some are optional. Some costs will generate income for you down the road, others will not. Some costs will bring other benefits, such as developing your skill base, or your confidence. Be aware of where you have choices, and choose not just the cheapest option, but the most cost effective.
Tag: client referrals
A useful source of work for many counsellors is Employee Assistance Program work (EAP). An EAP is a program of supports that an employer provides to employees as part of their employment contract. The supports offered usually include support for a range of work related issues (including performance), and other issues such as legal issues, family and life issues.
The idea is that an unhappy or troubled employee is unlikely to give of their best to the organisation, and therefore if the employer can assist in addressing issues at an early stage, it’s a win all round. Typically, these services are provided free of charge to the employee. Many large and medium sized employers provide such services, and also some smaller firms too.
- Consider getting your business card printed onto a magnet that can be attached to a filing cabinet or other metal surface. This is a great idea for giving to doctors and other likely referral sources.
- If you forget your card, don’t say you’ll send your details on. By the time they get it, they’ll have forgotten who you are. If you can, write your details on something to hand! You can follow it up later, preferably in person.
- Carry your cards with you wherever you go. Hand them out proudly and confidently. If you’re not proud of your card, get a new one. Shake the person’s hand, and make eye contact as you give them your card. Smile!
- At a social occasion, it may not be the best time or place to have a business discussion. Acknowledge that, and give your card, saying “We can’t really talk here, but I’d love to talk to you about this at a better time.” You can follow up by asking them when it would suit to call them, and ask if they have a card.
- When giving people your card, give three or four, they might pass them on to someone else. If you feel comfortable asking them to pass them on, do so.
- Keep a business card holder and cards in the room you work in, and in the waiting area if you have one. If you work in a centre, place a holder with your cards in all the public areas. You never know who might pick one up and give you a call.
- Take a pile of business cards to workshops and conferences. Give them to everyone you talk to.
- Include your cards in letters to prospective referrers eg doctors, who can them give them to patients when making a referral.
- Don’t print your mobile phone number on your card. Take a moment when giving a card to someone to write your number onto the card, it adds a personal touch.
- Hold onto business cards you’re given by others, even if you’re not interested in the services they offer. You may be asked by someone for a referral. They’re also a good example of different styles of design, which may help you when you’re redesigning yours.
- When you meet someone who might be a client, referral, or just someone whose work is interesting to you, give them your card and ask if they have one.
- Practice with a friend until you’re comfortable handing out and receiving business cards. It shows you’re at ease, which helps others feel at ease too.
- When someone gives you their card, take a good look at it, and ask a question or make a comment about the service they’re offering, about their design or business name. Acknowledge them by acknowledging their card.
- Give some cards to a client at the end of the first or last session. A client who has received a good experience with you is a great referral source.
- What I believe is ethical or moral to charge people who may be in pain,
- What I believe clients are willing or able to pay (Which may not be the same as what they are actually willing or able to pay),
- The extent to which I am influenced by the possible judgement (negative or positive) of my professional peers or colleagues,
- What I believe I am worth,
- My beliefs about success and wealth, and
- My willingness to receive.
Let’s look at these one at a time:
What I believe is ethical or moral to charge people who may be in pain: This is a difficult one, because we can leave our own needs aside in order to take care of the needs we see in others. Rather than go into the nitty gritty of the values (that’s a subject for another day!) perhaps we can make it easier by just separating these two parts: I need to earn a living, and I want to help people in pain. I can do both, but they don’t have to necessarily be the same people. So perhaps I can give generously of my time to those who can’t afford to pay, through some charity or volunteer work, and as a separate issue, can attract clients into my practice who can afford to pay. Does that help you with this dilemma? Leave a comment or question below.
What I believe clients are willing or able to pay (Which may not be the same as what they are actually willing or able to pay): Sometimes we can assume responsibility for our clients’ financial affairs. We don’t know how much clients can or will pay unless we ask. It may be more than we think. Surprisingly, clients may be put off by our fee being too low, as well as being too high. A client may decide that I don’t have sufficient skill or experience if I set my fee too low.
The extent to which I am influenced by the possible judgement (negative or positive) of my professional peers or colleagues: This is a sneaky one! What will they think of me if I charge that! Ask yourself how you’d feel if you learned that a colleague was charging significantly more or less than you. Most of us don’t like to get too far out of line with the herd, and become quite uncomfortable if we appear to be too different.
What I believe I am worth: Personally, I find this an interesting one. Pat O’Bryan (The Portable Empire) tells a joke about musicians, that they spend $50,000 on equipment, and drive in their $500 truck to earn $50 for a gig. Training as a counsellor or psychotherapist costs somewhere between €15,000 and €30,000 depending on the route you take, and many continue to add more training after they qualify. And yet, we still believe we’re not worth, not good enough, or not deserving of a fair fee for our service. What needs to happen in order for us to be good enough?
My beliefs about success and wealth: Our beliefs about wealth and success are often so ingrained that we treat them as fact. The term “filthy rich” suggests that money is dirty. “Money is the root of all evil” suggests that to have money will bring evil into your world, or that you too are evil. “Health is better than wealth” suggests that we can’t have both. And so on.
My willingness to receive: How much goodness can I let in to my life? How much abundance? At what stage do you begin to feel that your receiving more means that someone else receives less? And then (speaking for myself) there’s the fear that if I get used to allowing this in, that I might get dependent on it, and then if it’s gone, or runs out, or dries up, where will I be?
If you struggle to allow yourself to receive adequate pay for the work you do, I can help you to sort through some of these issues and find a more supportive framework for yourself. Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation, or browse my services here.
Recently, I wrote about the numbers you needed to work on in order to replace your day job with a life as a self-employed therapist. As I said then, in looking at trading a full-time employment position for a full or part time self-employed position, the questions are far more complex than working out the numbers. The number crunching is the easy part. Making the choices, and dealing with the “yes but…” and the “I can’t because…” is the harder part.
So let’s look at some of the limiting factors that may be getting in the way of earning enough as a self-employed therapist. What do you think they are? In general, when I ask this question, the answer is one of the following: Read more
The technological age has brought many changes, and not all of them are positive. Relationships changing with the advent of mobile phones, social media and instant information. The old ways are dying out, I hear people say, we aren’t talking any more, we pay more attention to virtual friends than real ones. In other words, the threats are obvious.
And all this is true. These changes often challenge us in ways we wish we didn’t have to face.
However, technology can also be an opportunity. If you’re reading this, you have the skills to use this wonderful world of innovation to your advantage.
Apart from the obvious emails and websites, technology has so much to offer the willing practitioner, and many of the resources available online are either free or come at a very modest cost. But many people get frightened away and don’t know where to start. A really neat trick I learned many years ago, that applies to this (or indeed any other problem) is summed up in this riddle:
A: A bite at a time!
Take it slowly, one step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose just one of the ideas below and allow yourself to play around a little with it. Here are some of the great ways that technology can help you with your practice:
Marketing Your Practice: There are lots of people online that will help you to solve just about any problem you might have. For example, on Fiverr.com, for $5 you can get someone to design a brochure, a flyer, a business card, write a blog post, or set up a basic website.
Online learning: There are plenty of opportunities for learning online, many of them free. There are podcasts, webinars, and demonstrations galore. Just Google the subject you’re interested in, and see what comes up. For example, I’m interested in EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping.) Each year, in Spring, there is a week-long summit of free presentations by well-known experienced EFT practitioners, sharing information and demonstrations of how to use EFT in many different ways.
Bookkeeping: You can use online accounting software to write up your books and records. This is available for a small monthly fee, and when the year-end comes around, you can use the records to prepare your financial statements or send the records to your accountant to do it for you.
Online banking: You can use online banking to pay bills and transfer money (all the major banks provide this facility). Regular payees (such as landlords, credit cards etc) can be set up and paid directly from your computer, without cheques or going to the bank.
Time management: There are dozens of systems for helping you to organise yourself, and save time. These include calendars, online to-do schedules, and reminders.
Concerned about the risks of going online? You’re right to be concerned. There are risks, and there are also solutions to those risks. One solution is not to engage with the technology at all, and that is indeed a valid choice. However, there are so many wonderful resources out there that could get you more clients, and save you time or money. It would be a pity not to give them a try! Another choice is to use technology the same way you would any other tool, with awareness. You don’t drive your car recklessly, and the same applies to going online. Be safe, and have fun!
If you’d like to know more about how you could use technology to enhance your practice, contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation.
Are you scared by how quickly the world is changing? Are you tyrannised by your email inbox? Daunted by the idea of online banking? Terrified of the idea of online counselling? Or are you addicted to non-stop information? You’re not alone!
The pace of change is staggering. Do you realise that it’s only twenty years since we started using the internet? That it’s only thirty years since personal computers were introduced? When I left school, many homes didn’t have a phone, let alone one for each member of the household, that they could watch TV on! News was something that came on at certain times of the day, now it’s a constant stream.
What’s the Solution? Well, technology is here to stay, and has a lot to offer the counsellor in private practice, so can you find a way of handling it that works well for you? Here are a few ideas:
Set Appropriate Boundaries
No-one needs to be available 24/7, no matter what the circumstances. Choose times in each day when you are not checking your email or voice messages, when it’s a technology free time. This might be first thing in the morning, meal times, when you’re relaxing, and not just when you’re seeing clients.
Separate The Wheat From The Chaff
Be discerning about what you read and what you listen to. The sky won’t fall in if you don’t turn on the radio when you get into your car, and listening to some soothing music will do more your stress and overwhelm than an update on the crisis in Syria. Catch up on the news once a day, or even once a week.
Weed Out What’s Not Important Or What Wastes Time
If you’re inbox is anything like mine, most of what comes in is neither important nor time sensitive. However, looking to see what’s in there and make that judgement takes time and energy. I solved this problem by having several email addresses. One of these is for stuff that is “nice-to-know” but which is of little importance. So I can happily go for days or weeks without checking it.
Switch it off
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” as the old saying goes. I know, you fully intend not to check your messages, but just in case…switch it off. If you’re a social media fan, or even a horrified observer, or an information junkie of any sort, this one is for you!
Tomorrow, I’ll continue this theme, by looking at ways you can begin to engage more with what technology has to offer the counsellor or therapist in private practice.
In the meantime, if you are struggling with technology overwhelm, contact me for a free 20 minute consultation here.
Referrals are probably the most common way that therapists and counsellors get new clients. Many of them come through personal recommendations, from colleagues, friends, existing or former clients, or through other professionals, such as doctors.
Sometimes more formal arrangements are in place, where referrals are made in return for a fee or other consideration. Typically, you find this as part of a room rental agreement in a therapy or mixed discipline centre, or as part of a membership or directory based service.
The fee for the referral can be a once-off contribution, a one-time contribution per client referred, or a regular payment based on the sessions attended by the client (with perhaps a time limit.) The purpose of the fee is usually to recognise that the referrer is giving something of value to the therapist (ie paid work.) The referrer may have invested in the establishment and reputation of the centre or directory, and may continue to promote it through advertising or marketing.
The advantage to the therapist is that she doesn’t have to do all that promotional work herself, although, depending on the flow of referrals, a single source or client referrals may not be sufficient. It’s also wise to continue to generate referrals on a personal basis, in case for whatever reason the flow through that source dries up, or you move on.
Check out what it’s going to cost you for the referrals and what you can reasonably expect to get in return. Here are some ideas to think about:
- Are you guaranteed a certain number of referrals?
- If you make a once-off payment per client, how does it work if the client doesn’t stay? Do you get a refund?
- If there’s no guaranteed number of referrals, check with other existing users to see what their experience has been like
- Ask what promotion is being done by the centre or directory
- If you can, get a sense of the quality of referrals. Are the clients assessed before being referred?
- Can you specify the criteria for referral to you?
- Check out the situation about “ownership” of the client. In the event that you decide to move on, are there any restrictions on the client moving with you?
- In looking at the cost, consider it in terms of the value you will receive. If you get a client that stays for a while, the referral fee will probably be a very small proportion of what you can expect to earn.