One of my favourite times, as a teacher of the Diploma of Counselling, is when students are nearing completion of their course and they start thinking about their future. Their excitement is palpable as they think of running their private practice and working for themselves. But, they are also daunted by the idea of "selling themselves" to find clients, and I'm often asked how they can market their services without feeling sleazy or pushy.
Take, Lydia for example, when she first started working with me she was newly qualified and both excited and terrified. She had a massive fear of sales and worried about how she would find clients. She had no idea what to do to market her services.
Launching and operating a successful counselling practice can be challenging, especially if you don’t have an abundance of clients. It would be easy for new counsellors or therapists to think there are already so many qualified professionals out there who are known, "why would anyone want to work with me?"
If this is you, take heart. When you know the best methods for attracting more clients to your practice, you will discover that it is possible to showcase your unique skills and talents, set yourself apart from the competition and enjoy a steady stream of just the sort of people you love to work with asking to work with you. Without feeling sleazy or pushy.
To get you started, here are five top strategies for how to get counselling clients and grow your counseling practice.
An online presence means having resources available on the internet to let people know you exist. This includes, but is not exclusive to, having a website. There are many ways to create an online presence.
The goal is to let people know you exist and showcase your knowledge and expertise in a way that will be easy for your audience to consume. You need to show people that you know what you're talking about and give them content they consider to be useful and valuable.
To do this, you first need to be clear about who your best-fit clients are, and what sort of people they are. What do they like to do in their spare time? What interests them? and so on. Once you have the answer to these questions you can identify where they are likely to "hang out" on the internet.
This means leveraging social media platforms, creating your own profile on that platform, and start making posts that will appeal to your ideal audience. Remember that social media is a visual platform and so you must include images that your audience will be able to relate to.
Once you have started posting content on social media, Facebook, Linkedin Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, and Youtube you need to find a way to start a conversation with people who are likely to be interested in your services.
Creating a professional, user-friendly website should be a top priority for counselling professionals. Your website serves as the digital hub of your business, and it’s where clients will come to learn more about you and determine whether or not they want to work with you.
Make sure your website provides clear information and a straightforward way for people to connect with you. One of the most effective ways to do this is to create a gift that you can offer in exchange for an email address. Collecting the email address of potential clients is important. This means you can engage them in a conversation, albeit electronic at this point.
Sidenote: It's critical that you are mindful of how you use the email addresses you collect. Your focus must always be on sending content that will be thought of as highly valuable, interesting, and maybe even entertaining. This is what is known as email marketing.
It is not effective to only send promotions asking your subscribers to book a session with you or buy something - that falls into the category of pushy and sleazy and you don't want that. You want to be thought of as a useful resource, someone they can turn to when they need help or are ready to take the next step and work with a counsellor.
Optimizing your website for S.E.O (Search Engine Optimisation) is vital. This means your website will be found when people search for terms that are relevant to your business. For example, if someone searches on Google for "ways to reduce anxiety" and you are a counsellor that helps people cope with anxiety and depression, you will want your website to appear in the search results.
The words entered when people make searches are called keywords. In the example above "ways to reduce anxiety" is the keyword.
You need to incorporate relevant keywords in key areas on your website; such as titles, headings, blog posts, and images. This will improve your visibility among search engine users, which can result in more clients coming directly to your site through organic searches.
Organic searches are where you do not have to pay the search engines for the search. The goal is to craft your website in such a way that it will rank among the top 10 search results when people enter keywords that are relevant to your site.
The alternative to this is paid search - where you create an advert and pay the search engines every time someone clicks on your ad.
Crafting your website in such a way that it appears in organic search results will build your online presence. The more times people see your website and name in search results the stronger your presence will be.
Social media is an effective way for counselling professionals to reach potential clients. When used in the right way, it can help you increase engagement and visibility, build relationships with prospects, and ultimately drive more leads to your website.
Before using social media to attract new clients, narrow down which platforms are likely to have the audience you are targeting. Do some research into different platforms and figure out where potential users may be hanging out online so you can post useful content that will reach them.
For example, if your ideal audience is gen Z, then Tik Tok and Instagram are likely to be good platforms to use.
When starting out, it's important not to spread yourself too thin. Focus on one social media platform at a time, then as you build your presence there, add in another. Ideally, you want omnipresence on the internet - in other words, having profiles on many social media platforms that your audience uses. To do this, you will need to regularly post on several platforms at the same time. But be aware that takes a lot of work, and may be best left until your business is at the point where you can afford to engage help such as a virtual assistant.
Sidenote: It is possible to use social media to find clients without the use of a website, to find out how to do this, ask me: Click the orange button on this page to reserve some time with me.
Local doctor's offices, gym owners, corporate wellness programs, and health clinics may be willing to refer clients to you if the entities have a need for counseling services in their area. Make sure to do your research beforehand and always ask permission before listing your contact information. Maintain relationships with referral sources by periodically providing them with updates about the types of services you offer and thanking them for any referrals they provide.
It may also be possible to have your business card displayed on public notice boards in GP surgeries, school notice boards, etc. Always ask permission before pinning your card to the board, and consider creating a colourful flyer highlighting a benefit from your service to draw attention to your business.
Creating promotional materials, such as business cards and brochures, is an effective way to spread the word about your practice in your local area. Consider voluntarily presenting at local events like job fairs or health expos.
Networking with established professionals can also be beneficial and may even lead to referrals. Consider joining your local chamber of business and/or professional organisations such as the National Counselling Organisation, in Australia, the A.C.A (Australian Counselling Association) has local chapters in each state you can join and network with fellow counsellors. Be alert for opportunities to "cross-promote". For example, if you are a counsellor specialising in relationships and you meet financial counsellors, there may be opportunities for you to refer your clients to them and vice versa, as clients with relationship problems, particularly if they are seeking a divorce, are likely to need financial advice and support as well. Such relationships are known as joint ventures and can be a highly profitable way to find clients.
Research local societies that your best-fit clients are likely to join. Offer to speak at one of their events to showcase who you are and the benefits people get from counselling with you. For example, if your ideal clients are likely to have an interest in gardening, and there is a local horticultural society that meets regularly and invites guest speakers. You can offer to speak on a topic relevant to gardening but links to counselling, for example, many people garden as a way to de-stress. If you are a counsellor who provides stress management services there is an obvious fit.
A powerful strategy is to reach out to potential clients yourself by offering free consultations to determine if you two would make a good fit for counseling services. You can do this once you have established your value through the other methods outlined on this page.
Volunteering your counseling services in the community is a great way to show who you are and what you can offer. Consider collaborating with local organisations, businesses, or nonprofits to provide a specialised workshop or series of classes related to mental health topics. This can help increase visibility for your practice and establish you as an expert in the field.
Additionally, volunteering is a great way to make new connections with potential clients or partners that could benefit from your services.
The ideas outlined here are just the start but will give you a way to get started finding clients for your counselling practice.
It is most effective to use a combination of both online methods and offline methods, and you have a range of these noted here.
If you want to use the internet to find and attract clients, you need to start by first positioning yourself as an expert in your field. To help with this, I've created a free guide you can download below. This checklist shows the steps you need to take to get yourself known online and be seen as a counsellor people can trust.
To build credibility for your services and counselling you need first to be seen as an expert in your field.
Your ideal clients need to know who you are and what you do.
Download this free checklist to reveal simple ways you can stand out online to attract clients to your service.
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