I get this question a lot. Like, a lot a lot. The concept of a website sounds great but if you’re not super-comfortable with technology it can be so daunting. I’ve had clinicians in the Abundance Practice-Building Group who have written AMAZING website copy (the words on your website), the kind that makes me want to schedule with them as I edit it. And then it just sits there offline and unread by potential clients because the website stuff is so unknown. I’ve also had group members not write copy simply because they knew the next step was the website.
Truth #1: You do not have to have a website to fill your caseload. As long as you don’t mind building very very slowly. MUCH much much much MUCH slower than if you had one. If you have all the time in the world and it’s more of a hobby practice than yes, you can bypass the website.
Let’s look at it through a client’s eyes: Client gets 3 referrals from the referral source. Clinicians 1 & 2 have a website. Clinician 3 doesn’t. Client checks out Clinicians 1 & 2’s website and gets a feel for them. Clinician 3 is just a name on a page with a phone number. Unless the referral source really sold Clinician 3, it’s likely that the client will go with Clinician 1 or 2. So you’re reliant on referral sources who likely have to give 3 referrals ethically to say, “Here are three referrals but I think you’d be a best fit for Clinician 3. She doesn’t have a website but she’s really amazing. I don’t know if she takes your insurance or what her fees are or if she has availability so you’d have to call and ask.” And you’d need that to happen at least 35 times if you want around 20 clients since not all of them are going to stick and some are going to opt for the folks with websites because they hate the phone.
Let’s take this out of context for a second. Now that my daughter is in a toddler bed, we’re considering getting a little clock for her room that changes color when it’s okay to leave her room. Our friends recommended a specific clock so I hopped on Amazon and read the reviews. Even though our closest parent-friends said, “This is great; it works for us,” I still read many of the hundreds of reviews.
Now, if my daughter needed a therapist, you bet your buttons I’d be reading everything I could about my options. In the absence of reviews (y’all know you can’t ask your clients for testimonials, right?), I’d listen to friends’ recommendations and I’d be trolling the website of every child therapist I could find. Not online? I’m not choosing you. I want to vet someone online before I call them up and ask my questions or schedule.
Truth #2: Building a website yourself will be frustrating. You won’t be able to do some of the things you envision. You will lose yourself in formatting, even with the easy-to-build sites. Maybe because those sites won’t allow you to format them yourself and you keep trying to find a way. Maybe because there’s too much freedom and you aren’t a graphic designer. Even if you have your copy, pictures, quotes already picked out, the plugging them in will piss you off at some point.
Truth #3: Paying someone else to build a website will be frustrating. You will have deadlines from your web designer or developer that may feel unreasonable. You will make deadlines for your web designer or developer that might not get met. You won’t know how to put into words what you’re looking for and your inability to draw beyond the stick figure will make it difficult for you to show him/her. You might hate their initial design and not know how to say that, especially if it’s a friend or family member. You may think a little tweak looks easy but actually requires hours of recoding for them.
Truth #4: Being in business means stretching yourself, being uncomfortable, and figuring it out. It means being a stronger person than you were last month, every month. It means taking these kinds of challenges and meeting them head-on. You will have new and different challenges all the time. It’s like parenting. Just when you figure out how to deal with one struggle, a new one sprouts up. Don’t let that stop you. Just keep learning. It’s EXACTLY what we’re encouraging our clients to do. We don’t say, “I’m so sorry setting boundaries with your mom is so hard. Maybe you should just give up.” We find ins to make it doable, we teach skills, we work through the blocks.
Truth #5: Many of the therapists who have been in practice 30 years don’t have websites. True, but they’ve had 30 years to make a name for themselves, to churn out clients who refer to them who churn out clients who refer to them and 30 years of referral sources seeing how awesome they are. It’s a different world for clinicians coming into private practice now. We have to do things differently.
Maybe you’re saying,”But I don’t have a website yet and I’m getting referrals.” Awesome! Imagine how many more you can get when people don’t write you off for not having one.
To simplify (and for the skimmers just reading the bold text) Yes! You need a website. Absolutely, without a doubt!
One of my favorite quotes is by LinkedIn’s Founder, Reid Hoffman: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” It’s ok to turn out an ugly website until you either have the funds or the skills to make it more professional. Have great copy that you put time and effort into and clients will come.
My original Abundance website was so not awesome. I don’t want you guys to see it, but I’m going to prove it to you right here. I used one of the template website companies and did my best. I’m very aesthetically-inspired, but you’d never know it from that site. Truth is, I’m not a graphic designer. First, I decided to learn WordPress myself because I kept hearing that WordPress was where it was at. Between my counseling clients, my consulting groups, individual consultation appointments, marketing both businesses, and my real Life, learning WordPress had me somewhere between wanting to smash everything in sight and having good cry into my keyboard on any given day.
So, I hired someone to do my new site for me with the money I’d made from the groups I’d been running. Because my copy was good, when my site was imperfect I still got consulting clients. Now that both my site and my copy are on point, I get even more consulting clients and I don’t have website shame, which actually is a thing.
My therapy site? It’s on SquareSpace and I took all the Search Engine Optimization (SEO… being found on Google) I could off of it (meta tags, etc) and all the blog entries down to DECREASE my referrals. I still get referrals every week (word-of-mouth + compelling website = referrals) but can’t take new folks on so I refer out like a mofo.
If I was working on building a practice and had the cash, I’d hire one of the web designers especially attuned to therapists’ needs who will build in some SEO. Isn’t it cool that WE’RE the niche for some web designers?
Company who does web design for therapists: Brighter Vision makes some great sites.
Paying someone not an option and you’re NOT tech savvy? Buy a domain name on Go Daddy and build a site on SquareSpace. Just be really clear that with SquareSpace you can’t alter the templates. Just enter your own words or pictures. When you have enough financial reserves to pay someone to build your website, reassess then.
Your turn: How did you choose to do your website? What did you learn about yourself in the process? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. Thanks to Natalia for this question. Though it comes up in group all the time, someone saying “hey, will you write about this?” helped me realize I should!
Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.