What It Really Takes to Grow a Practice

I recently did a survey of almost 50 coaches and therapists to get a pulse on what they struggle with the most when it comes to building their private practice.  And do you know what they wrote again and again? 

“I work and work and work and work and WORK. I write blogs, I post on Facebook, and I tweak my website… it’s nonstop, I’m never done… And NOTHING is happening.  How do I know what to do, what to stop doing, and what’s really going to return on investment?”

I feel you, my friends. When I first started establishing my private coaching practice, I felt like a hamster on a wheel.  I once spent almost $1200 on ads to run a very time-consuming challenge that yielded me exactly zero clients. Zero.

As I look back at it, that’s not a huge surprise. (Hindsight is 20/20, right?)  While I knew that I was using the internet as a tool, I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant … a tool for what? 

This is where people get stumped. When I ask them, “How exactly will your boosted post get you closer to a client?”, it’s usually not at all clear.

That sums up why we feel like we “work and work and work and WORK,” but don’t get results. Sure, we’re very busy doing things, but we don’t know why. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there.” 

In this post, I want to offer a very simple model that will help you articulate exactly how what you are doing is going to help you get a client. This model will become the Great Filter through which all potential tasks, campaigns, and efforts around building your practice will go. If it fits, great: Do it!  If you discover it’s not inside the model, you have to let it go. Why? Because in the beginning, building a practice requires one thing only: clients. If it’s not helping you get them, it’s not helping at all.

So, what does it take to sign a new client?

Your potential client has to know you exist, they have to believe in you, and you have to make them an offer.

Piercing the Veil of Ignorance: How to Get People to Know that you Exist

The first step is both the hardest and the most frustrating: How are we going to let people know that we exist?  I call this the veil of ignorance, because there are so many people standing JUST OVER THERE who badly need your help. They’re calling out “help me, help me!” and you’re over here saying “I can help you, I can help you,” but they can’t see you, because they are trapped behind the veil of ignorance. 

It’s your job to pierce that veil. 

And really, we are talking about capturing just a tiny iota of attention. You can do this in any number of ways—through social media, referral networks, cold outreach. The thing I want you to remember, though, is that this is the just first step.

Many of the coaches and therapists I talk with are spending all of their time getting that iota of attention but aren’t focusing on deepening the relationship over time.

And that’s a real shame because it’s relationship building that is your superpower!

RELATED: How to Tackle Self-Promotion Without Feeling Like a Fraud

Building Connection: Your Superpower…

Some people will meet you and be ready to work with you immediately because they are the type who can go deep, fast. But that’s not everybody. Other people will meet you, watch you for a few years, and THEN feel ready to make the leap. That’s okay! Both (and everything in between) are fine.

Your job is always to bring people in—pierce the veil—and then continuously offer chances to come closer, to get to know you better. The key to not feeling pushy and weird about doing that is to be grateful for people at wherever they are.  And over time, by offering them blogs to read and exercises to try, and the chance to speak with you you will be building the relationship. And because of that, whenever they ARE ready, they will know that the door is open.

And then you make offers.

The truth is, you need to be making offers to people all the time. The people who are ready will say yes, the people who are watching will keep watching. Your job is not to judge them, but to keep welcoming people into further relationship with you. 

There are lots of strategies that will move people into deeper connection. Some examples are:

  • Having a website that speaks of their challenges in language that they understand
  • Giving them a quick win through an exercise you’ve created that has been put on your website and shared on social media
  • Creating content that you put back in front of them again and again on social media

The Number One Strategy to Build Relationship: Time with you

No matter how you bring people closer to you, you should always be driving to the one-on-one call, especially in the beginning. That’s because it’s the one-on-one connection that creates the relationship and solidifies trust—and it’s trust that creates clients.


SIDEBAR: Sometimes my clients will say, “Some people won’t want to get on a call!” and to them, I say, “Then they probably aren’t the best candidate for coaching and therapy!” And that’s FINE.
We aren’t in the business of making people coachable or ready for therapy. We are in the business of finding people who are coachable or ready, guiding them to believe in us, and offering them our help. 

Be Their Sign From the Universe

I know you don’t want to. I know you feel like “if they need help, they’ll ask.” But for the sake of your practice, you MUST offer your services to people!

No one is going to just ask you to help them.

Ok, they might. BUT YOU CAN’T COUNT ON  IT.

Most people are waiting for a sign from the universe. 

YOU must be that sign.

You need to be the person standing in front of them at a networking event who helps people with exactly their problem, the person who’s offering targeted calls in their social media feed to discuss the problem they’re suffering with!  The person who somehow makes them believe that they can truly improve and feel better, who then asks, “Do you want to talk about it with me?” <— that’s YOU.

While it’s great when you are recommended by someone people already trust—maybe their doctor, their lawyer or their personal trainer—always and everywhere, YOU must be the most enthusiastic sign holder for your practice.   And that means making offers.

RELATED: How You Are Cursed By Your Understanding

The Great Filter Returns!

Now, we come full circle. If you don’t see exactly how your marketing efforts are going to pierce the veil, create relationships, and pave the way for offers, you need to stop doing them.

Remember the Great Filter? Put it to work. Ask yourself: Does your new marketing plan seems like a powerful, high leverage and efficient way to:

  • Get the eyeballs you need?
  • Create authentic relationships?
  • Give you a chance to make an offer?

Yes?  Great! Do it.

If it feels unclear or random in any way, recalibrate your time and your efforts.

Things get so much better when you know WHY you are doing something. You may discover that you are making yourself crazy doing something that doesn’t work, simply because you’ve heard from someone on the internet that it’s a way to engage with people. (Twelve times a day of third-party content on Twitter, anyone?)

You may also discover that you have a trove of people who believe in you that you simply haven’t offered anything to, and they’re just sitting there, receptive and open, while you focus your energy elsewhere.

You can fix this.

And, as always, I’d love to help! Check out the Build Your Practice Accelerator, a brand new class this summer to help you build your practice!

The Build Your Practice Accelerator: Grow your private practice

About the Author Amanda

Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.

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