Posted on June 13, 2017
I've heard that many new counselors would appreciate direction or feedback on the kinds of mistakes made by counselors that affect their ability to attract clients to their private practice. I have helped counselors advertise their private practices since 1999, and I have come to recognize many of the mistakes that counselors make trying to obtain new clients.
I started this process by sending a counselor an email and followed with a voice mail message. A few days later the counselor responded with a voice mail saying that she was sorry but she doesn't check her email very often. This brings me to mistake one.
Ignore new client referrals long enough and they will go away. Counselors need to return calls and emails from potential clients promptly - before the competition does. Counseling is a competitive business, believe it or not. Potential clients often contact several counselors at once. Most often, the first counselor the cient talks with (if it's a good match of counselor and client concern) is the counselor who gets the new client. Please promptly return potential customer voice mails and Counseling Washington email referrals, and any other referral calls and emails you are receiving. When we send you client referrals don't ignore them and let them get away. As the old saying goes, "You snooze, You Lose!"
You have business cards, telephone, an office AND you wait for clients to show up at your door. In today's world of digital technology it's just not enough to hope that clients will come, word-of-mouth is a start, but probably not enough to sustain your practice. Consider listing your services in online counselor directories, claim your Yelp account or create one, and get your business information listed, establish a LinkedIn and a Facebook account for your business and post there as often as possible. Get a good web site up and running describing you and your services. Consider speaking in public settings such as schools or community centers. (As a side note here, Counseling Washington is developing a new web page to highlight counselors from our site who are willing to present to organizations. If you would like to be included on this page, please send us an email with the topics you present and a couple of sentences of description as well as your preferred contact information, and we will add you to the page. Contact Us here.)
You don’t network with others in the industry and make your specialties known in the industry. Referrals come from many sources, including others who do basically what you do. Join your local counseling associations and network with other counselors in your area, let them know your specializations. Many client referrals come from other counselors who may feel you are better to handle a specific issue depending upon your areas of specialty.
You are afraid to disclose a niche specialty for fear you will miss counseling opportunities. With online search engines being far more sophisticated than the past, consumers are able to not only find a counselor more easily but they can find one who specializes in the area of their concern/problem. Analogy: if you are a Cardiologist would you not say so or would you simply list MD?
Overcharging for your services. New counselors who are comparing themselves to long-time established counselors may need to consider that the longer you are in practice the more you will probably be able to charge. Who is your new client really going to be? Do they make Microsoft salaries or are they more average-paid folks. Don’t forget that you must meet your clinical hour requirement and overcharging might make that very difficult, reducing the number of clients you are able to attract. Set your rate competitively and plan to grow rates over time.
(Counseling Associates only)
Counselor disclosure form – you neglect to tell the client that under Washington State law you are supervised by a fully licensed counselor and provide the client with the steps to resolve any issues. Always be sure to provide every new client with your Counselor disclosure form clearly indicating your Washington State Approved Supervisor. For an example of a disclosure form click here and scroll down the page to where we have links of Forms Used by Supervising Counselors.
Not using a professional photograph of yourself on directories whether online or in print. This is not a photo for your friend or local dating site. Selfies are, well, selfies. Cropping your partners' arm out of the photo is not the look you want for consumers, nor is the office party photo you were captured in last year. Get a professional photo taken and use it online for directory services as well as your own web site. In fact, consider a different photo for different online directories and/or your website – Why? Because it’s a lot easier to know what is most effective by showing new clients the various photos you have out there and having them tell you which one they saw rather than asking if they remember which website they saw you on.
Not updating directories and listings that you may have in the marketplace – have you moved? Have a new number? Added an area of specialty? Added new insurance acceptance? Every time your circumstances change you need to update your directory listings, so keep a good list of where you can find yourself online and frequently check to be sure all is up to date.
Using the same exact language in all your online listings is a big no-no!!! Google penalizes duplicate content when it comes to search results. Don’t use the same textual language in different directories. There are many ways to say essentially the same thing, so get creative and be sure your listings online have different words to find you by.
Not considering or offering any kind of group therapy sessions as a means for new clients as well as additional income. Therapy groups are a great resource for longer term new clients, many of whom may start in a group and later move to private counseling.
Floyd Else, MA, LMHC
Counseling Washington WebMaster