by Clinton Power

As many of you are probably aware, most counsellors and therapists who are members of ACA or PACFA are now able to apply for a provider number from Medibank Private, one of the biggest health funds in Australia. Hopefully it will be a stepping stone for all health funds to follow.

It has got me thinking, I’m not sure if this is the panacea for struggling practices that many of my colleagues are hoping for.

I still think there are many things that we can focus on to build our private practices that do not rely on rebates from Medicare or health funds. Don’t get me wrong, when I get my provider number, I will be marketing that very clearly in my materials to prospective new clients. However, I have worked to build my own practice without a reliance on any rebates and have been able to build a full practice by following a few of the strategies below.

Here are a few of my top tips to build your private practice….rebate free!

Client-Friendly Website

Without a doubt, we now know the internet is not going away and having a professional, easy-to-navigate counselling website is critical to any therapist in the 21st Century.

People used to say a website is the modern-day business card. I think it is much more than that. It needs to be the hub of all your marketing efforts.

Here are some keys questions to ask about your therapy website:

  • Is it easy to navigate and do the pages link from one to the other?
  • Does it project the professional image I want prospective clients to see?
  • Is it attractive and pleasing to the eye, without being too busy?
  • Can clients access online bookings through my website?
  • Can clients contact me easily?
  • Will clients understand who I work with and what I do?
  • Is it niche focused? (this is essential in almost all cases!)
  • Does it filter out the clients I DON’T want to work with?

If you are answering no to some of these questions, then you will have an idea of where you need to start in terms of creating a user-friendly and client-attracting website.

Client-Friendly Copy

It still dismays me that therapists still have websites that are therapist-focused instead of client-focused!

If your website says “Welcome to my counselling website”, or “I have been working as a counsellor for…” then you are in trouble!

Here’s the bottom line, and I’m going to be brutal; clients don’t care about you! What they care about is if you can help them with their pain and suffering. So your copy needs to reflect this.

Make sure your pages of your counselling website connect with the pain or distress the client is in. When they come to your website, they are looking for a solution and hope. Before you suggest a solution, start by letting them know, with empathy (yes! this can be done through your copy!), that you understand their pain and connect with their suffering.

Keep the list of degrees and qualifications for the ‘about me’ page. Then if they want to read about your 5 degrees and 40 years of experience, you can impress them on that page; NOT your home page.

Write Free Articles

Overcoming your fears of writing is one of the quickest ways you can not only establish yourself as a perceived expert in your niche, but also really help the rankings of your website.

Many therapists think they don’t have a lot to write about, but I say, if you are working with clients every day, you will have a mountain of material to write about. Now I am not talking about breaking client confidentiality, but think about the struggles, difficulties and types of issues your clients are going through, and then use that as inspiration for article topics.

I also encourage you to keep an ideas diary, so that you can jot down any article ideas when you think of them and come back to them later.

There are hundreds of article directories on the internet that you can submit your articles to. Start with www.ezinearticles.com and go from there.

Also, make sure you always have a short bio at the end linking back to your website or free product.

Regular Community Networking

So I love computers and the internet, so I admit I am biased in my advice in that regard. However, I also know the value of community networking and any sound marketing plan will include a diversified strategy of internet and community marketing.

Make yourself accountable by setting yourself a goal of having a coffee with at least one colleague a week or fortnight. If you attend a networking event, set yourself a goal of chatting to at least 2 new therapists you haven’t met before.

Hey, this is a lonely profession, so it can feel great to connect with other therapists and colleagues and to build your community of people who know about what you do.

Do you think health fund rebates will make a difference to your practice? Let us know your thoughts about this by adding comments in the box below.