Getting the word out
The practicalities are organised and your branding and website are in place. Now you’ve got to let people know that you’re here, so that you can start accepting referrals.
There are two main referral streams in private practice: clients will either self-refer or be referred to you by their insurance company or employers. You’ll need to tap into each of these streams to start building your case load.
Attracting private clients
To attract private clients, you’ll need to put some time and effort into marketing your service to raise your profile.
There are many ways that you can do this from keyword targeted online ads to magazine articles, local flyering or maildrops.
If your budget is limited however, we’d recommend that you stick to the most direct options to begin with.
Most private clients find their therapist online. It’s therefore crucial that you put the work in to raise your online profile.
Advertising online in a way that is targeted to key search terms is one of the most direct and effective ways to reach prospective clients.
Join lots of directories
It’s important to cast as wide a net as possible, especially when you're first starting out. The more sites that you can feature on, the better.
Many directories offer a free trial period, so join them all and make sure you have a link to your website on each profile. Paying to boost your profile is also a wise investment and will help you to attract more referrals.
It can be a time-consuming process but is definitely worth the effort. It casts a wide net and will help with the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website.
Get on google
Target your adverts by location and key search terms to ensure that you only reach people who are looking for your services.
Getting the most out of your adverts can be a complex process, so do take some time to read up on how it all works and search for tips on how to interpret and improve their performance.
Think about the key messages that you want to convey and if you're offering a free or discounted consultation, make sure you let your clients know.
Boost your website SEO
Good SEO will help your website climb the search engine listings, so that clients searching for therapy in your area will be sure to find you.
Getting professional help with this is a sound investment, if you can afford it.
If this is outside of your budget at the moment however, you can find do-it-yourself SEO top tips here
Use social media wisely
Creating business profiles on the main social media channels, though far less direct, is still a good way of raising your online profile and can be great for networking with fellow professionals.
Add relevant content to let people know about who you are, how you work and any special offers you have available.
NB If you use social media personally, do make sure you've got your privacy settings right. Your clients will look you up on there.
Raising awareness of your service in the general population of your local area is a good long term strategy. It may not lead to immediate referrals but can ensure that when someone does need support, you are the therapist they think of.
Print adverts can be really useful in increasing your profile locally. Options include taking advertising space out in your local paper or magazine, creating poster adverts to be displayed in local shops and health centres or posting flyers door to door.
We'd usually recommend that you take this route once you are more established, as it is both a blanket, indirect approach and can be costly. Also, if you're new to print marketing get advice on this to ensure that you use the space effectively.
Top marketing tips
Effective marketing depends on you creating a consistent brand identity that clients can relate to, whilst clearly communicating your key messages to your target audience.
Remember that essentially what you're selling is a relationship and so be sure to express your personality throughout your marketing efforts.
The more in alignment your marketing is with who you are, he more likely it is that you'll attract clients your way who are a good fit with you.
What is your message?
Before putting your adverts together, consider what your key messages are by asking yourself the following:
1. What is it that you want clients to know about your service?
2. What are your unique selling points in comparison to other services in the area?
3. And out of these, what points do you think would be most attractive to potential clients?
As with your website, think carefully about the tone of the language and imagery that you use to ensure that it creates the right impression and is in keeping with your brand.
Provide a hook
The private counselling sector is competitive. If you can find a way to stand out, you'll be onto a winner.
Take a look at the other counselling services in your area to see where your niche might be, get a sense for costings and think about how you might be able to do things a bit differently.
Providing some kind of initial incentive to new clients can be a great way of differentiating yourself.
One of the major barriers to accessing private counselling is cost. Offering a reduced fee or even a free initial consultation or an introductory offer can be a great way to attract more clients.
As your caseload grows, an introductory offer can also be an effective way to fill the less in demand daytime slots.