Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Should I invest in my own business premises?

London Therapy Rooms EC2
As a therapist, should you work from home or hire a therapy room?
If you opt for the latter, which one should you choose?
To hire a room by the hour in an existing therapy centre?
Or to rent your own office space?
Or even to buy and sublet to other therapists. and how much should you spend?

The number of options and resulting questions can be mind boggling. Hopefully we can help you to make a more informed decision by discussing some of the pros and cons of each option.

The first and usually cheapest option is to work from home. In order to do this, you will need a designated space in your home, which is generally very affordable but could potentially be costly, if you need to renovate a room or build a garden house. There are many benefits to this first option. The big benefit is no ongoing rent expenses. This is a huge advantage, particularly if your business is still quite young. You also do not need to pay travel costs or parking. Being in full control of your environment is also comforting. You can ensure that you have all the equipment you need, that the environment is quiet and the bathrooms are clean. This is not always guaranteed in a rented space! However, there are some disadvantages to working from home. From surveying many clients, it appears that clients view working from home as less professional. Most clients would prefer to go to a more formal setting. Depending on your type of therapy, your clients might feel anxious. Visiting you in your home feels as though they are in your territory, which can heighten anxiety. Running your sessions from a more neutral environment, can enable clients to feel more comfortable. Most of your clients will be wonderful people. However, almost every therapist has had at least one client who has not respected the professional boundaries. This can range from stalker type behaviour to expecting their therapist to be on call 24/7. Working from home offers you less protection against this.

A second option is to visit clients in their homes. This has many advantages. There are big cost savings since you do not incur any costs, other than travel. Clients potentially feel more comfortable in their own home. It is also easier for disabled clients as they do not have to struggle with transport and unfamiliar places. One disadvantage is that you have to carry your equipment from place to place, which, depending on your therapy style, might be very inconvenient. If a lot of your day is spent travelling, you are limiting how many paid hours you can fit into a day. Often client's homes are not a good environment to for therapy. Potentially there are pets around who are keen to get involved or family members in other rooms and the client might be conscious of them listening in.

If you decide to rent a space there are a dazzling number of options available to you. One of the most common for holistic therapists, is to hire a room by the hour within an existing therapy centre. This allows you to minimise the risk, since you are only paying if you use the room. Generally the rooms are well suited to therapy and may have equipment and suitable furniture included. Usually these centres will also do some advertising on your behalf, which is great for generating new business. One of the disadvantages is that the hourly cost is often quite high and takes a big chunk out of your earnings. Also, you can be limited by when the room is available so might not be able to see your clients at times which suit them.

Once you have established a good client base, it might suit you to rent somewhere permanently. This is generally the most expensive option. It looks very professional to have your own designated space, which you can furnish to perfectly suit the needs of your clients. If you rent an office with a receptionist, this further adds to your professionalism and portrays you as an expert. You have full flexibility about when you see clients. It can also be nice to separate your home life and work life. The disadvantage of this option is that it is expensive, particularly if you want a nice office in a good location, with additional features such as parking, receptionists and a waiting room. It is also a the riskiest option. You still have to pay your rent whether or not you have enough clients, so in theory you could be making a loss.

Please do add your comments below. telling the community which type of premises you practice from and how that is working out for you.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Lessons from Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion

As business owners we need to know almost as much about sales and marketing as we do about our chosen therapy. Generally, therapists are brilliant at helping their clients but sometimes find the sales and marketing side of their business a little trickier.

There are a lot of wonderful resources available to help us with promoting our business. A classic book, highly regarded in entrepreneurial circles, is 'Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion' by Robert Cialdini.

In today's blog post we'll aim to summarise the messages in this book and give you practical advice on how these strategies can be applied specifically to a therapy business.

Lesson 1 - Reciprocation

Potential clients will be more likely to pay for treatment with you if they have first received something from you. As people, we like to feel that things are fair. For example, if someone gives you a present for your birthday, you would feel very uncomfortable if you did not reciprocate the favour when it was theirs. If we receive something, we are more likely to give something back and this also applies in business. To put this into practice, offer something small as a freebie to your potential clients, perhaps a free digital product or free introductory session. The people who take up your freebie offer are far more likely to become proper customers. You can offer this on your website, newsletters and social media pages.

Lesson 2 - Commitment and consistency

A strange quirk in our nature, is that once we have made a statement about who we are or what we believe, we are very reluctant to change that, even if there is considerable evidence that our initial decision was incorrect. This could be because we want to save face, we don't want to appear hypocritical and we don't like uncertainty or conflict within ourselves. A good example of this is someone who makes a public commitment vs someone who only makes it in their own mind. Using weight loss as an example, a person who tells all their friends and colleagues that they are going to lose 3 stone and compete in a 10k run is far more likely to be successful than the person who just tells themselves they will do it. Again, we can use this as part of our marketing strategy. Run a free workshop for potential clients. Anyone who attends that workshop is making a public commitment that they are open minded about your specific type of therapy and the trust you as the therapist. Deliver great content in this workshop and at the end of the event, invite people to work with you in an one on one basis. An event of this type also utilises the rule of reciprocity.

Lesson 3 - Social Proof
When we make decisions we look for evidence that society agrees with our decisions. Would you go to a restaurant if everyone told you it was terrible? The rise of sites such as Tripadvisor show us how much we value social proof. The simple way to use social proof in your business, is to ask previous clients for testimonials. Once you have a collection of positive testimonials from your existing clients, you can quote them on your website, social media pages, newsletters etc.

Lesson 4 - Liking
This lesson is self-explanatory. A therapeutic relationship is a unique one. Potential customers will often feel vulnerable before they come to see you.  Before they will work with you, clients need to like and trust you. Social media is a great way to gain their like and trust. Just be yourself on social media. Engage with your audience. Talk about the things you are passionate about and believe in.

Lesson 5 - Authority
Building on the idea of trust, clients want to feel confident that you can help them with their issue. They want to see you as an expert in your field, an authority figure. There are lots of practical ways you can create this authority as a therapist. Write a book, being a published author (you can self-publish) creates a lot of kudos and presents you as an authority. Do a feature on local TV or radio. Or publish an article in an industry journal.

Lesson 6 - Scarcity
This rule is used in retail all the time,
"Sale ends tomorrow,"
"Only three left in stock."
Sales messages like these motivate customers to make a decision and buy the product. This marketing strategy has been around for a long time because it works. Apply these strategies to your own business. When you run a special offer, have a clear end date for it. Imply that you are very busy (even if you're not) and can only take on a limited number of new clients. This galvanizes people who are thinking about it to make a decision.

These very valuable business skills are described in far more detail in the original book, "Influence - The Power of Persuasion,' by Robert Cialdini.

You can purchase it from Amazon below.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Taking The First Step

A career as an alternative therapist is a dream job. You are your own boss, have the freedom to manage your own time, generally earn a better hourly salary than you do in employment and can do work you genuinely love.
Despite all the benefits of this type of career, many people hold back from taking that first step. For a lot of people it is a career they would like to do "one day."
There are many reasons why people hold back, for instance:

  • I am worried about giving up a regular salary
  • I don't know where to start
  • My friends and family will think it is a stupid idea
  • What if I'm no good at it?
  • I don't know anything about taxes and marketing
  • It all seems too daunting. 
The best advice we can give is to just start. Begin researching how to qualify in your chosen field. Or, if you are already qualified and are delaying setting up the business, just start marketing it. None of us have all the answers at the beginning. You learn as you go along.

You can easily work out aspects, such as keeping accounts and running Facebook adverts, as you progress. Everything does not have to be perfect on day one. There are a huge number of resources to teach you the skills you will need. Many people hold back from their ideal lifestyle because they are waiting for all the stars to be aligned. Well, that perfect time never happens to start now and adapt as your business develops.

Starting your own business feels like a big risk. However, as a therapist your risks are relatively low. You could continue to be employed part time while you build you client base. The overheads for a therapy business are low compared to other businesses such as shops, restaurants or manufacturing. Explore the risks and develop a contingency plan to deal with the, Don't let them hold you back unnecessarily.

As for the opinions of other people, the important thing is that it is your life. Whenever you make a big change in life, some people will be resistant to it. This resistance usually comes from a kind place, they are worried about the risks. There is a saying that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Take the first steps and then tell friends and family. Once you have started on the path you will usually find that people are more supportive. Explain to friends and family your reasons for wanting a lifestyle change. Accept that not everyone will understand, but that is OK.

Taking the first step is the most difficult. After that each obstacle you will encounter feels smaller.

You deserve to do work you are passionate about. Make that change in your life today.