Running your business: Efficiency tips for therapists
One of the challenges of becoming a hypnotherapist, for many people, is that you also have to become a business owner. And if you've not been self-employed before, it can be a steep learning curve! But even when you have an idea of what’s required, it can feel as if you spend so long-running your business, you have none left to see clients. So, here are my tips for making the best of your time and money, and keep your business growing.
Avoid being buried in paperwork
Being organised helps save time and often money in the long run. An acquaintance, who is also self-employed, dumps a plastic carrier bag full of receipts on his accountant’s desk about three weeks before the filing deadline and she has to do the rest. Since you pay your accountant by the hour this is not a cost-effective method of keeping your books and I am not convinced the results are all that accurate either. Learn from this - set time aside each week in your diary to do accounts and admin.
Find out what your statutory duties are and when the deadlines are. There are free resources around this topic and I’d encourage you to take advantage of them. Gov.uk, for example, runs free courses for the self-employed which cover a variety of areas like record-keeping, business structure, and (perhaps most importantly) what expenses you can claim. Many local councils offer similar help as well.
Keep your client records up to date as well, write up notes as soon as possible after a session so you still recall clearly what was said and they are easily found if you need them again in the future. There is no specific requirement for how much detail you need to include, but the CNHC recommend that your client records should be ‘legible, attributable and truly represent your interaction with the client’. That seems like sensible advice even if you aren’t registered with them.
Use reflective practise, don’t just do it
Reflective practice means that you look critically at your professional activities to understand why you made the decisions and choices that you did in working with clients.
A pro forma is usually the way to go, so you have a similar reflective approach to each client. Reflective practice can be carried out after each session, at regular intervals throughout therapy (say, every three sessions) or at the end of each set of sessions, whichever you feel is most useful.
- What happened with this client, including what both of you did and felt throughout the therapy.
- A critical evaluation of how well things went for both you and the client, and why you each made the choices and decisions you did.
- A critical evaluation of the outcome – was it as expected? What could you have done differently and what have you learned from working with this client?
This saves time and effort because you can look through your reflective practice notes for inspiration if you are stuck working with a new client, and it also helps you identify areas or skills that could benefit from some CPD.
Should you publish your prices?
There is a lot to be said for transparency, think how often you are put off by not finding the prices of a service on a website. However, therapy is not like buying a can of beans. Sometimes the price depends on the situation, and your personal preference has something to do with it. However, from an efficiency point of view, some of the arguments go like this:
- If you don’t publish prices, it avoids client seeing only a pounds and pence value to your therapy – they have to contact you for information, and you can tell them about the benefits they will get from working with you as well as the price.
- If you do publish prices, you might miss out on clients who are put off by price without considering the benefits, but it’s also true that those who do contact you are already prepared to pay what you ask.
I’d suggest that if you want lots of enquiries and you can confidently discuss money/fees, and you have a good conversion rate (most people sign up for therapy after contacting you) then leave the prices off your site. Talking to potential clients is a good use of your time because it brings in clients.
If you don’t feel comfortable ‘making sales’ or discussing money, then this will come across when you speak to clients. In this situation, especially if your conversion rate is low, dealing with enquiries about prices may not be the best use of your time. If this sounds like you, and/or you want to reduce the time you spend on the phone or answering emails, then put the prices up there for all to see.
Or try both at different times, and see how it works for you.
Word of mouth referrals
Many successful therapists will tell you that they get a significant number of clients via 'word of mouth' referrals, meaning that new clients are referred to them by previous ones. It’s a great system, as it means someone else is enthusiastically doing your marketing for you, for free, and studies show that 88% of us put our faith in word of mouth recommendations from people we know. This saves you time, energy and advertising costs.
Unfortunately, most people won’t refer new clients to you automatically, however happy they were with your service. You have to ask. I find the most elegant way of doing this is at the end of every successful course of therapy and giving the client 3-4 business cards; "One to keep, in case I can help you with anything else in the future, and the others to pass on to anyone you know who might benefit from working with me". It makes the point without pressuring the client and feels professional rather than pushy.
Recycle, recycle, recycle
It’s not just tin cans and plastic that can be recycled, sometimes your time and effort can be as well. For example, the best length for a healthcare-related blog or article is 1000-2000 words, which can take a lot of time and effort on your part, especially if you have to do some research.
However, you can make the best use of this by recycling the information in as many ways as possible. Here are just a few ideas.
- Create artwork for social media, each showing one key point from your blog.
- Re-format blog content into leaflets or handouts to give to clients.
- Combine several articles on related topics into a self-help ebook or workbook which you can sell or give away on your website.
I hope this has given you some ideas about running your business, and how to work smarter, rather than harder. If you'd like more information and guidance on setting up your private practice, my book, The Hypnotherapist’s Companion: a practical guide to practice, is available now in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.
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