Thinking about starting an online therapy business? I would like to help.
Hi, I’m Linda from Awaken the Change. Back in 2007, I started my hypnotherapy, counselling and coaching business. About five years ago, I decided to help more clients by working online worldwide. Today I would like to offer therapists five tips for starting an online therapy business.
Since the COVID pandemic, many people have moved to online businesses because they had to or their businesses would not survive. Some therapists coped well, while others suffered from technophobia (fear of technology) and struggled to know how to attract more clients. As I started seeing clients online before the pandemic, I already had a head start and had time to observe the difficulties that some people are experiencing.
On reflection, I did a few things that worked well, so I have decided to share these with you. There is no claim that you will like online work or get many new clients, but I hope these five tips will help.
1. Write a business plan.
This sounds like hard work to therapists, but if you get things down on paper and work out the direction you want your company to go in and the type of clients that you want to work with, this will help. I have seen too many therapists who have a scattergun approach where they have a good idea to do something in their business, but they fail to plan it and then there waste time and money trying to attract all clients from all areas. I’m not saying that therapists can’t be generalists, but I feel it is important to have some focus on who you would like to help most.
Consider this. Start by asking yourself if you want to help children, adults or groups of people online and then include this in your plan. Think about the financial outlay, marketing to get your ideal client and the time you can put into your business development. I personally do some administration and marketing most days, but you need a starting plan.
Writing a business plan doesn’t need to be difficult. Many templates are available online, or you can develop something similar in a Word document.
2. Get a website
Therapists can still work with no website, but these days most established therapists have a website as this is one way that people find them.
A website can be one page or as many as you wish. If you can’t develop a website yourself, shop around and find a recommended website designer. Check if you can update the site yourself or if you need to rely on the web designer because you could incur costs in time and money.
Also, find out if a company’s website cost includes SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Remember you will need to write the copy or at least give the designer lots of tips. This means that you need to write to your clients’ needs.
Invest time(and often money) into your website as it will need good quality photographs and it will need updating regularly.
Again I recommend that you consider who your clients are so that you can choose the best social media sites to attract your clients.
You don’t need to use all social media platforms unless you wish to, as your ideal client probably won’t use all the social media sites either.
When you post on social media, decide what the purpose of the posts is. For example, you might want to post information, or you may want to advertise a course.
4. Risk assess
If you want a professional business, you must have insurance that covers risks. This must include working online if that is what you intend to do. Furthermore, if you want to connect with people worldwide, your insurance must cover this.
I believe risk assessment is also about protecting yourself and your clients by respecting confidentiality and ensuring that you meet all the requirements for GDPR.
Also, consider getting protection from online viruses by using virus checkers and firewalls.
Consider risks that might be related to working online. For example, you need to check the client’s identity as you don’t want to deal with a child without parental consent.
There may also be risks associated with the therapy you are providing online. For example, what happens if a counselling client becomes distressed when talking about a trauma? What would you do? How would you ensure that the client had support? One way to reduce risks is through good preparation, getting client information before starting and good assessments.
5. Get help.
This might be supervision, technical help or business coaching. This will require a financial outlay, but I have found that I need help to get on with the things I enjoy most, which is using my expertise to help clients.
Technical help is often an important requisite for therapists, as many are technophobes. You may also need to learn about different platforms, confidentiality and what to do if there are problems with connections.
Another important area to consider is supervision to discuss challenging cases and reflect on good practice and mentoring. Working online requires the development of good rapport and will often require more focus on the smaller aspects of voice, pace and upper body movements. Some therapy techniques will also require adaption.
Working online may mean that you need coaching to help you step by step to move into the new processes and build your business.
You will also need support from your family and partner, as many therapists now work from home and don’t need interruptions when working.
If you require more help, I offer supervision, mentoring and coaching for therapists online via Zoom.