Practice Building

Branding - How You Craft The Message of Who You Are

I wanted to go a little deeper into the concept of branding as a therapist, based on some of the questions I got last week.

There is actually a lot of debate about what is branding and what is marketing. A brand is really a living relationship between your business and consumers. A brand could say that they are the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had, but you could think it’s garbage coffee. Consumers decides if the brand’s message is true or not. Chris Do, who is a genius at helping creative entrepreneurs, says, “Marketing is what you say you are, Branding is what they say you are.”

I love this idea, and yet I do look at branding a little differently than he does (he knows a kajillion more things than I do about this, so decide for yourself!). I think of branding as crafting the message of who you are, and marketing as selling the message of who you are. While acknowledging that your end product needs be true and quality, or the brand will die. Once you have clarity on your message, it makes creating a website, logo, business cards, etc. so much easier, because you know what you’re trying to convey. So how do you craft the message of who you are as a therapist?

This is a very big question, and we won’t solve this in one blog post. There are brilliant professionals like Fabian Geyrhalter whose sole focus is helping entrepreneurs and companies get clarity on this answer (Fabian also has a very cool podcast called Hitting The Mark that I love, if you want to geek out on how creative companies brand themselves).

Here are the questions I would recommend you start out asking yourself as you’re thinking about your brand.

1) What do I think therapy is? What do I believe creates change?

Every therapy model subscribes to some sort of theory of change. Are you a CBT die-hard, and believe in thought changes and repeating positive thinking patterns? Do you love EMDR and BrainSpotting and think we need a neurological element stimulated for change? Do you see the benefit of DBT and people coaching themselves with hands-on worksheets? Many people who read this blog likely favor the Experiential approach and helping people experience something different in the room.

2) What does it feel like to work with me?

Are you calm and deep? Brisk and intellectual? Funny and jokey? Are you good at cheerleading, or do you take a more objective approach? Are you caring, or more distant? Do you swear a lot? There are clients who need your style, whatever it is, and who need what you do specifically. There are such fun and cool ways to express your personality through website words and visual design, social media, and writing. It’s one of my favorite things about the power of websites.

3) What population do I love working with, and think I’m the best with?

Ooooooo, this is often a very hard question for therapists, because what we’re really getting to is niche-ing. Many therapists do not like the idea of niche-ing to only see one type of client. Let me bring this alive for you in an example:

Therapist Website Example 1

I work with anxiety, depression, LGBTQ individuals, trauma, ADHD, and I see children, teens, adults, couples and families. I am trained in EFT, EMDR, DBT, and currently training in Trauma-Focused CBT.

Therapist Website Example 2

My mission is to help teens with ADHD feel confident navigating the world and embracing what makes them unique. Our culture is not set up to always celebrate the ADHD mind, and teens often take a big self-esteem hit when they don’t fit easily in the box. We will develop strategies for when they need to be in the box, and also find times when not fitting in the box is a huge advantage!

So, if you were a teen or parents of a teen with ADHD, which therapist would you choose?

Many therapists appreciate some variety of clients, and we can fear we will only see one type of client if we niche. We also know that one client can easily present with anxiety, depression, ADHD, relationship issues, and so on. However, every practice builder I’ve ever heard says that even though they have a specialized niche, it’s still only 60% of their caseload, because there’s always word of mouth referrals and “can you see my friend” referrals, etc.

If you’re struggling with the idea of niche-ing, or anything else in this post, comment below and let the community help you out! Do you know any therapists who you feel are crushing the branding game? Share their websites below!

You Guys, We Need to Talk About Your Websites and Headshots

Ok my lovely therapists, we need to have a talk.

It’s about your websites

… and headshots

Don’t worry! I am not trying to criticize or make anyone feel ashamed. I am coming to you with the genuine desire to help your business grow and help your current clients feel confident about sending your info to their friends.

I completely get that we’re therapists, so we’re not walking around with wads of cash falling out of our pockets, and technology can be intimidating. We spend our time learning the delicate inner workings of the human PSYCHE, who’s got time to learn technology? But we need it, we’re being tragically left behind. Our websites look like they were made in 2009 and our headshots look like a photo a friend took on a hike one day when our hair looked kind of nice. Don’t even get me started on the Psychology Today headshots … we can do better than this.

I’ve outlined some steps below that hopefully give you a place to start, and will link to some real website examples at the end plus some great resources along the way.

Websites

I know that the world of navigating websites and technology can be super overwhelming. Often times someone put up a website 10 years ago and was so relieved to get it over with that they have barely looked at it since then. Do you really need a great website? No, you’ll probably still get clients and referrals. But if you want more clients or you want a professional presence in your community, a modern and attractive website helps.

You have two options - either pay someone to build it for you, or build one yourself. It does take some time to learn how to do this stuff, but time is the price you’re paying versus money. If you would prefer to spend money, there are tons of great website designers, from solo designers trying to make a living, to giant companies built to design the website of your dreams.

Pay For Help

Humble Design Studio - if you’re looking for great quality but can’t spend tons of cash. She is offering so much value for very low cost.

Marks and Maker - if you’re ready to start taking your practice to the next level, and need some really on-point branding and strategy help, Melinda is your person. She works really well with people who are struggling to find clarity and direction with their branding. Super responsive and smart.

Nothing Design Studio or RADCAT Design - Oooo, look at you! Are you wanting to write a book or get known as a speaker? You’re ready for the big big dogs.

Creative Lady Directory - a great directory in you are looking for anything from logos to graphics to websites to knowing how those high profile instagram accounts got so dang good looking


If you pick build your own, and want to DIY some website action, here are some guides:

Platform

You will pick a website host and platform. Likely many of you are using Wordpress or GoDaddy because they’re on the cheaper side. I think Squarespace is far and away the best choice for a build-your-own website. They have a gorgeous platform, easy to learn, and it’s very well organized. Their templates to choose from are modern and lovely. They are only slightly more expensive, around $18/month.

The way to think about a build-your-own website is like being at a restaurant. You can choose something off the menu, and maybe ask them to tweak it a little, but you can’t edit everything. Like if you’re at an Italian restaurant, you can’t order sushi. I can make this heading blue, and this heading green, but I can’t make 5 different color headings. If you pay a web builder, it’s like hiring a private chef. You can have anything you want, but it will cost more.

Domain

A domain name is your website name. Like this site is www.becomingatherapist.org. You can buy a domain name from Squarespace SO easily, it’s like buying candy. If you bought a domain off of GoDaddy, or something similar, you can transfer the domain to a new web platform. I’m going to be honest, this is a pain in the ass. It’s possible, but I hate doing it. So just prepare for that. A domain off of a cheap website like GoDaddy is $8/year, at Squarespace it’s $20/year. Buy the more expensive option!!! It’s only $20/year for your SANITY.

Some people fear that if they get a new website and domain name, no one will find them easily. Here’s the harsh reality - unless you have a banging website, no one is finding you anyway. Just get the new domain. If you love your current domain name, just set aside some time and patience to figure this out, or pay someone to do it.

Content

I could spend a week talking about website content. There are several different approaches. Some take a polished, professional approach. Some take a more casual approach. I like a casual approach because that’s more who I am. Whatever your approach, it’s a good idea to write in client language, meaning words that will make sense to them. Here are words clients don’t use: interpersonal, relational, psychodynamic. I would even argue that clients don’t use words like healing, journey, path, embrace, or emotional intimacy when they are starting out on their healing emotional intimacy journey. They just know they’re frantic and upset.

Clients are looking at websites to see if you get them, not so that they can get you. Repeat this to yourself. I don’t think any of my clients even care about my education background or why I use EFT. They don’t care that I love dogs and the outdoors. They just want to know if I understand their pain and anger and confusion. An exception to this is if your pain journey relates to their pain journey. I’ve seen people artfully describe some of their own history in a professional way, so clients can connect with them.

Where this conversation really goes is towards branding and marketing, which are topics so deep and wide that there are hundreds of books written on each. It depends how far into this world you want to go. Your visuals and written content on your website are essentially communicating your branding. This is the point where some of you might be feeling really overwhelmed. DON’T PANIC.

I happen to be totally fascinated by branding and marketing so I spend a lot of free time learning about it. But you’ll do just fine if you couldn’t care less about all that stuff and just build a basic, attractive website.

Headshots

I’ve been relatively chill and flexible up to this point, right? Here is where I get demanding - you need to have an updated, professionally done, high-resolution photo on your website. Your headshot should be updated every 2-5 years. It drives me crazy when I see pictures that were clearly not taken by a professional, or are low-resolution (WHYYY?????). To me it just sends the message - I don’t care about this. Oh wait, you’re a relaxed free-spirit who doesn’t want to look like a stuffy attorney? You still need a professional photo! You can TOTALLY get a picture that captures your free-spirit - and it will look like you put some thought into it. I particularly love Katie K. May’s photos on her website The Group Guru. I also think she’s doing some badass therapy stuff, but besides this point. She’s got cool purple hair! She’s got tattoos! She likes crystals! And she’s got some really nicely done images to show that.

I’d plan to spend $100 - $300 on some photos depending where you live. The hard part is that you won’t know if you like them beforehand. So it is a little gamble. If you google or look on instagram for photographers in your area, you can generally get an idea of what styles you like. I knew I didn’t want anything cheezy or soft-focused-maternity-style, so I found someone whose photos I loved even though he didn’t have much portrait stuff on his page, and reached out.

Ok, I will concede - if you are totally broke and queasy at the idea of spending money on this, get a friend with an iPhone who can take a photo in Portrait mode, and see how those turn out. It might be fine. But if you run your own practice and are making a living, this is a worthy investment.

I know I’m asking you to take in a lot with this. I’ve been learning about website building and branding for a long time now, so pace yourself. My hope is that this post helps you get started, and help it feel more do-able.

Here are some websites to check out:

www.wesleyannelittle.com - this is mine. I’m doing a total website overhaul and re-brand in a couple weeks, but I still love this version. When I designed this, I wanted it to convey the words: Happy, Approachable, Inclusive

www.georgfaller.com - I designed and built this website. I think this is an example of a more professional tone. The words I thought of were Professional, Dynamic, Expert

www.suntiasmith.com - I’m obsessed with her main photo (called a Banner Image in the website world). It’s joyful, beautiful, professional, and seems totally welcoming.

www.wilkmazz.com - This is an example of when you pay the big bucks for something truly exceptional. Also a great example of how to write content and how to brand. I saw this website and immediately wanted to hire them. Why aren’t all lawyers doing this??


If all this feels overwhelming, but you also feel a tug that says you want to get clearer on how to present and brand yourself, I’ve got an offer for you. I’m going to offer a free 50 minute consultation for any reader who wants some website and branding guidance, or any other questions you want to ask me on this topic. Just email me and the first person to email me back (and wants this) will win!

Give me some feedback - is this helpful? Did I totally overwhelm you? Is there anything you want to know more about on this topic? Comment below!


Marketing - The Roller Coaster Ride of Fear

I don’t know about you guys, but the “summer slump” of clients and referrals dropping off has hit me like a ton of bricks. Something I didn’t prepare for with switching to couples work was that couples don’t always stay with you the same way individual clients do. And when I look at my schedule for the week, I hear crickets. (for more on the summer slump, check out Laura Long's blog post here.)

One of the unique aspects to the work of being a therapist is that we’ve got to get clients in the door. So unless you work for a place that funnels clients into you, we can’t just do therapy, we also have to learn how to market. And if you’re new-er to couples work, like I am, you might also be learning how to market to a totally new population. I know some EFT therapists who are just killing it in the client numbers department and have a three-month waitlist without having to do much marketing, and to those of you I say – I am really jealous. Also, congratulations. Also, tell me all your secrets.

Marketing is something I work really hard for. I have religiously read every blog post Allison Puryear has written, and I follow a lot of therapist practice builders to learn about how to market myself as a therapist. I’ve paid for some private marketing coaching sessions. I can definitely feel that I’ve come a long way in embracing niche-ing myself and being ok with the idea of marketing as an act of service. However, I’m always amazed that each time I have to up the ante with marketing, it feels like a new mountain to climb.

This summer panic is a good motivator for marketing. Despite all the marketing I have done, like networking with other therapists, building a cool website, doing some interviews and podcasts around town, putting myself on Yelp (terrifying and weird, who knows if that will do anything), it’s still not enough to get a steady client load. To work that hard and feel like it’s not enough is demoralizing, but I can’t sit in my little demoralized heap at the bottom of the mountain for long because I have to get some more clients. So up the mountain we go.

Starting out from grad school, I imagined being a therapist like being a wise Buddha. I would sit, serene and understanding, while clients would tumble into my office magically from the universe, relieved to have found a non-judgmental space and we would do beautiful work together. I never realized how much getting clients in the door would be about how hard I could hustle. It has caused me to confront parts of myself that I would really rather not, like, how much everyone’s opinion of me matters.

I was listening to the great Tiffany McLain on Annie Shuessler’s podcast Therapist Clubhouse, and Tiffany said something like, “Therapists need to stop staying in their comfort zone and just networking with other therapists, they need to start networking with their potential clients.” When I heard that I was like …… Ooooooooo. Right. No, that terrifies me and I don’t want to do that. Because what that actually means is putting yourself out there publicly as a specialist in what you do. When I hide behind my website and other therapists, I’m presenting myself as a specialist but in a much less exposed way. If a client is already looking for a couples therapist, then they will stumble upon my website, or their therapist might make a referral. It’s sort of like the therapy version of going to Match.com. You want to date, you want to check out what’s out there, and you expect to find someone who has put their profile up.

Going directly to the clients who don’t yet know they want you feels like bounding into a Starbucks on Monday morning and saying, “ANNOUNCEMENT everyone! I’m available for DAting!!” and staring back at the perturbed, blank faces of people who just wanted to get their coffee and go to work like a normal person.

Can I share a list of my next-level marketing ideas and then the fear-thoughts that come up when I think of them?

  •  I’ll pitch doing a Relationship Advice Column for my local online newsletter – every therapist will think you’re a hack and the clients you’ve had that didn’t like you will see it and think you’re a fraud
  •  I’ll do a little workshop on understanding your partner – every therapist will think you’re a hack and the clients you’ve had that didn’t like you will see it and think you’re a fraud
  • I’ll do Google AdWords and pay $$$ to get my name out there more – people will see it and think you’re desperate, also, how much money have you already spent on your business??
  • I’ll try online counseling and market a new angle – you are scared of something that different in the sea of all the different things you're already trying to learn

Basically it all comes down to fear of what my community will think of me. Of course. It’s amazing how hidden of a job being a therapist is. So few people see our work, so few people hear about our work, our own family members can’t hear about an awesome session we had or the client we’re really worried about. And marketing is this really glaring step out of the shadows. The more we market, the more we have to expose ourselves, and the more we have to have an opinion about the work we do. So here I go to try and climb this marketing mountain again, and just being able to share my fears with you guys helps. Thank you!

 

Therapist, Marketer, Small Business Owner, Human - An Embarrassing Story

We wear a lot of hats as a therapist. We are therapists, marketers, web designers, accountants, and office bathroom cleaners. Today I want to share with you about a cringe-worthy thing that happened to me last week when I was wearing my marketing hat.

So part of the deal of building a client base, for most of us, is that we need to network. I actually love the networking meetings, because I really like meeting other therapists in my area and having a strong referral base for my clients. I also want to be seen as a trustworthy clinician for people to send their couples to me. So it’s not uncommon for me to be meeting therapists a couple times a month.

These meetings are nothing to be afraid of. You meet, chit chat about each other’s work, and leave knowing another therapist who you can add to your resource list.  

Last week I set up a networking meeting with a therapist in town I hadn’t met before. The meeting was fine, typical career talk. Towards the end of the meeting he asked, “Do you have kids?” Which is a question I get often since I’m 34. I used my standard reply, which is a polite, “no.” Then he asked, “Oh, are you planning on having them?” Which I also get asked often, because it surprises people a little to hear me say I don't have kids. To which I replied politely, “no.” This is usually the moment people sense that this might be a sensitive topic, but it can also pique curiosity since it’s an unusual answer. Then he asked, in a therapist way, “Can I ask, when did you know that this would be the case for you?” and I BURST into tears.

Me driving home from the meeting

Me driving home from the meeting

You know the kind of crying that’s kind of elegant, where your eyes get a little teary but you’re in control of yourself? Like Audrey Hepburn crying? This was not that. This was like, the door won’t close no matter how hard you’re pulling on it. The flood is happening! I could not pull the tears back in. The thoughts flashing through my head at that moment were: “you look incompetent! He’s going to think you can’t handle your stuff as a therapist! He’s never going to refer anyone to you EVER! He’s going to tell EVERY THERAPIST IN TOWN you are too emotional to be a good therapist!!!!” In these moments, I imagine there is an intercom button that goes out to all therapists in town, “Attention, therapists: Wesley Little cries in professional meetings, she will definitely not handle her stuff with clients.”

 

Uggghhhhhh, being human.

This painful vulnerability made me think of how much we have to risk in Core Skills when we show tapes of our work. It’s SO VULNERABLE to show yourself fumbling through EFT to a room full of your peers, who you hope would refer to you at some point. And this room of fellow EFT-ers are your tribe, the people you hope want you in the tribe as well. I think that fear of rejection can be so alive for us, that people will see us and reject us. Sometimes we even get teary in Core Skills, when we feel embarrassed or overly exposed about sharing our work with our peers.

So we’re therapists, we’re marketers, but we’re also human. We can’t be perfect all the time. Sometimes we’re going to have a fight with our partner at a restaurant, or show an awful tape of our work, or cry in meetings. It sucks, it feels terrible, but what’s the alternative? All we get is to be human. I trust as I’m writing this that you feel compassion for me. We’ve all had moments where our human selves are front and center. I know we’ve all had moments where we honk loudly at someone who cuts us off in traffic and then fear we just honked at a client.

So my hope for you today is to love your human self. That human self is essential to your therapist self! And that human self deserves some comforting. There’s a lot of held breath around being perfect as a therapist/human, and we just can’t be. We can still do great work with our imperfect selves.