Live Consulting with Jason Wilkinson: I Just Started My Practice During COVID-19, What Should I Do Now? | PoP 528

Are you struggling to get your practice off the ground? How can you build your caseload while building your network? What mistake should you avoid when advertising online for the first time?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok does a live consulting call with Jason Wilkinson who started a private practice during COVID-19.

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Meet Jason Wilkinson

Jason Wilkinson lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids. He is the owner of a private mental health practice, Wellspace Counseling, located in Tualatin, Oregon.

You can find more information about Jason Wilkinson and his practice at www.wellspacepdx.com.

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In This Podcast

Summary

  • Try not to go too broad
  • Boost your chances with advertising

Try not to go too broad

If you are not sure where to specialize or what your end goal is, you may fall into the trap of going too broad and end up advertising unnecessarily or ineffectually.

By boosting posts, you get the same advertisements in front of the same people. However, by being specific about what you post, you can reach the clients you wish to have. Having a specifically targeted post for a limit of 10 days is better than a general post that runs constantly.

Boost your chances with advertising

  • If you spend money on an advert that runs monthly in a magazine or article, you can boost your chances of converting clients by making sure you have a good photo that stands out, and curate and examine your first two sentences – make them be totally client-focused.
  • To boost your SEO standing, make sure to use local standpoints in your advertising because Google picks up on local references when people search for and try to locate your business.
  • Consider connecting with other counselors in your area that do not share your specialty as this can help you expand your market through these other counselors referring potential clients out to you.

Really make it clear that you’re not trying to steal clients but you’re trying to enhance the therapy that they’re doing already. All those things build that collaborative approach and its other folks that have private pay clients that are then going to help you build your caseload as well. (Joe Sanok)

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Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK]: Taking care of employees has never been more important. For years, Gusto has been helping more than a hundred thousand small businesses run payroll, offer benefits, onboard new employees, and more. They call it the people platform. And it doesn’t just look nice. It works. Your payroll taxes are filed, deductions are calculated, and your team gets paid. You can even offer health insurance and 401ks. Get three months free after your first payroll when you go to www.gusto.com/Joe. That’s www.gusto.com/Joe.

This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 528.

Well, welcome, welcome, welcome. I am so excited to have all of you here today on the Practice of the Practice podcast. If you are a new listener welcome. So glad that you’re here. If you have been around for a while, really excited that you are here as well. I am doing this series with our folks from Next Level Practice where it’s live consulting. Today I’m really excited that we have Jason Wilkinson who lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids. And he is the owner of a private practice called WellSpace Counseling, located in Tualatin in Oregon. And Jason’s been involved with Next Level Practice and he and I were just chatting and I’m so excited to have you on the show today. Jason, how you doing?

[JASON WILKINSON…: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I am doing pretty well as well as can be said for 2020. So, I’m actually doing pretty well. Thanks.

[JOE]: That’s good to hear. Tell us a little bit about your practice, kind of where you’re at with your practice and then kind of what your question is that you want us to dive into today.

[JASON]: Yeah, well, there’s so many questions, but as far as my practice is concerned, started up WellSpace Counseling in July of 2020, just graduated in May with my master’s in counseling. So I’m pre-licensed and just kind of started rolling into this private practice really kind of working I guess if I, you know, my questions are all going to be about marketing because that has been the one thing where it’s been really challenging for me. And so that’s kind of where I’m at, but my practice focuses on young adults, couples dealing with anxiety, struggling in the relationship and communication; wanting to work on communication skills.

[JOE]: Wow. So, it’s hard enough to start a practice immediately after grad school. Like I don’t think that was even on my radar. I know that wasn’t on my radar to do that and I didn’t have the confidence to even think through that. And then, in the midst of a pandemic, you’re also like, “Hey, let’s do this.” So how did, how did you decide that that was a good idea in the middle of a pandemic, to launch this practice?

[JASON]: Well, that’s really funny. Like, I’m not sure that it was a good idea. It’s just, it’s what I had to do. So there was something inside of me that was just saying like, I feel like I’ve taken the safe route so much in my life. And it was just one of those things where it’s, “If I’m going to do it, why not now? Just go ahead and do it.” And my wife was all on board and she is still my biggest supporter, and so we’re just kind of rolling with it and seeing what happens. But, it’s funny, like a year ago, I remember really vividly at night, we got the kids to bed and I’m sitting there with my wife and a year ago, I’m thinking, “There is no way that a private practice does not work out.”

It would take something colossal, like something completely unseen or unforeseeable, an economic collapse or something of that nature for it not to work out. And then March comes around and everything just kind of shuts down and here we are, but just really working hard and trying to make it happen. That’s kind of what it has been and going all in on it, wanting to give it my best shot has really been what it is. And at the end of it, it’s kind of like, “Well, I can go and work at an agency or a clinic and put in all this time and not get paid that well and put out all of this energy. And at the end of it two or three years after collecting my hours and getting my license then going and starting a private practice and just being kind of tired and having to figure it out then, or I can do it right now. And it may take me a little bit longer to get my license. It may take me a little bit longer to get my hours completed in order to get my license. But at the end of the of that three to five years or however long it takes I’ll then have a private practice that’s hopefully thriving and I’ll have my license and I’ll hopefully be in a better mental, emotional state when that happens.”

[JOE]: So, take us through some of your numbers. Like how many clients a week are you seeing and how many clients a week do you think you need to see? And like, do you hope this is a part-time gig, a full-time gig, eventually a group practice? Just walk us through where you’re at now and where you hope to go.

[JASON]: So, where I am at right now is I am seeing four to six clients a week. I want to get up to 20 to 24. It’s really where I want to get. I am all in on this. This is my full-time practice and really the long-term goal; would be to eventually get to a place where it’s group practice and I’m able to hire on more people and build it out. That would ultimately be the long-term goal and hopefully add in some consulting work and a few other things too.

[JOE]: Okay. And then, those four to six people, how did they find you?

[JASON]: So they found me either through really kind of my wife talking to different people in her job and so letting different people know that I’m starting a practice and then kind of word of mouth that way. A couple people found me through Psychology Today, but that’s one of those things that I wanted to ask you about because that has been really frustrating for me, I think in a lot of ways. So and then just, I think one was Therapy Den, that was somebody located me on, so really that’s kind of been it. Oh, and I —

[JOE]: So, word of mouth and directory sites?

[JASON]: Yeah. And a couple of people have found me recently through different therapists that I’ve networked with.

[JOE]: Okay, and then when you think about who you want to see moving forward, I know that when you first start, sometimes your specialty is different from who you want to see, like who, what kind of clients are really getting you excited?

[JASON]: I have really loved working with young adults. So, those 20 to 30-year-old, either college students, a lot of them are college students or young professionals, people that are early on in their career and kind of going through that transitional phase, but dealing with anxiety, self-esteem issues. “How do I manage all of these things when I’m new to a job?” And I actually really enjoy working with couples as well. So, I’d love to see more couples that are really kind of, they want more out of their relationship and even feel alone inside of their relationship, couples that are dealing with conflict. I really enjoy that. There’s something so great about if you are an individual, but you see yourself better together with this other person, then yeah, we want to make that work. So, we want you to be the best person that you can be. And if you think you’re best with this other person, your partner, your spouse, yeah, let’s figure that out. So, that’s really where I feel most passionate about.

[JOE]: Okay, and tell me about your website. What’s it like? Is it how you want it to be? What kind of SEO work are you doing, because I didn’t hear you say that people found you through your website? So, I want to hear a little bit about that.

[JASON]: Yeah, they haven’t found me through my website and that would be another one of those I think points where I’m trying to grow. So I just recently purchased, I would say in the last couple of weeks purchased the, I think it’s Top of Google from Jessica Tappana, the Simplified SEO consultant.

[JOE]: Oh yeah. She’s great.

[JASON]: Yeah, it’s been really, really helpful. So, I’m working a lot right now trying to figure out keywords and I’m going through, and now building out my website. It’s going a little bit slower than I’d like, but I’m adding a page or adding more words to each page as I go along and trying to learn and grow there. I think I’m improving just based upon what I’m seeing with the analytics. I think I’m improving and starting to rank higher on certain things, but not quite there yet. It just depends on where I’m looking, but I’m typically on anywhere from the second to the eighth page of search results. So definitely got some work to do there.

[JOE]: Sure, sure. I mean, I would say that in the Next Level Practice teachable courses going through the blogging course, which I want to say is nine or 10 of those, have you gone through that already or is that on the to-do list?

[JASON]: I’ve already gone through it and it’s great. And it’s helped me so much in terms of my blogging but I still am, I’d say because I wasn’t understanding keywords or even how people search, I think I was still, I think that’s something that I’m just now really starting to grasp a little bit better. I wouldn’t say that my blogs have really hit the spot in terms of people finding them. So, I’ve been trying to use —

[JOE]: Let’s think through the, like young people. So you think about your average college student, post-college, early career person. For most of them, they’re probably not personally saying, “You know what, I think I really need some counseling right now.” Oftentimes it’s some adult parent guardian that says, “You know what, I think this could be helpful for you.” So I do think some blog posts around how to best support your 20 something or 20 things, 20 somethings won’t tell their parents or things that are really aimed at the parents and oftentimes the purse strings. I think that would really be helpful to take that angle and then thinking through what kind of media are those folks doing.

And so even if you did a webinar and you did some paid keywords in regards to like Facebook ads, a webinar that was for parents of 20 somethings, like how to best support your college student during the pandemic and you aim it just at Oregon parents that then could get you those people in front of you in a way that no other therapists really are doing right now. And it seems very novel for the middle of a pandemic that you’re doing this Zoom call, you’re doing these teachings. And even if you only had 20 people that showed up, you know, one or two of those are bound to become referral.

[JASON]: Yeah. So, then I’m curious about the AdWords part a little bit more, because I’ve tried to look into that, but it feels like that’s just another thing to have to learn on top of the mountain of other things. It feels like a greater risk, because I’m spending more money on something when I don’t have a lot of clients coming in and I don’t have a ton of income coming in. So, is there a way to really kind of know that these AdWords are going to hit or to have [crosstalk] [JOE]: So, in any marketing that you’re spending money on, you want to be able to look at what we call an AB test? So, AB tests would be that you’re doing two things at once to see which one’s working. So for example, we’re doing an AdBuy in counseling today with the ACA, but then we’re also going to be doing a similar amount of money with our Facebook ads and see which one makes us the most money and brings in the most kind of revenue. So, on a smaller scale, what’s nice is you can say, “I’m going to do this for a dollar a day. So I’m going to just have this ad running for Oregon parents that are through the ages of 45 to 55 and then I’m just going to test it out for a little bit just to make sure I understand it.”
A couple of things you do want to make sure that you do is you want to use what’s called Facebook pixels. And so, that’s going to be on some sort of thank you page. So, if someone registers for a Zoom call that it takes them to a thank you page that then that thank you page is pixelated. because they’re not yet clients. My understanding ethically, it’s okay to retarget them when they become clients. That’s when all of the HIPAA type things tend to kick in, of course, you’re going to want to consult your own attorney around all that. But really I think where people get in trouble is they try to go way too broad and they fall into all of Facebook’s ads. Like, “Oh, why don’t you just boost this post for another $25?” And it’s like, “Well, why wouldn’t I?” But then if you’re just boosting posts, all that’s doing is getting in front of more of your own audience.
Really, what we want is we want it to be super targeted where we say we want Oregon parents that are ages 45 to 55 ideally that have a household income above this amount and I’m going to spend five bucks a day for 10 days. Okay, great. That’s 50 bucks. So, if you do the ongoing ads and then you forget about it, that’s where people really get screwed over because they, you know, say $10 a day and that doesn’t sound like much for two weeks, but then they, instead of putting an end date on that ad, they don’t put an end date and then they don’t turn it off and Facebook charges you 10 bucks a day for the rest of your life.

[JASON]: Right. Right. Okay.

[JOE]: And I think that just Psychology Today, you had mentioned that too, like if you look at that, what $29 a month or so, so if you look at that and say, “Okay, we’re spending a little over $300 a year for Psychology Today.” Now, depending on what you charge per session, if you have one person come at a hundred bucks a session and they come three times basically you need to get one new client a year from Psychology Today to help yourself pay yourself back for that investment. And that’s how we want to kind of look at return on investment, is, “I’m going to be able to pay myself back for this.” And so, if you go a year without getting anyone from Psychology Today, and they never convert, you know, you get a bunch of phone calls, but no one actually comes in, a year or two and you might say, “Is this $29 a month really worth it versus, okay, I get one a month from psych today. That’s awesome. That’s a great investment. That’s trading nickels for dimes.” And that’s the mindset that isn’t taught in grad school that we want to kind of think about the advertising side of it, of what we’re paying for to really help us amplify things so that you’re getting those new clients outside of just your own time going to say networking or doing blogging.

[JASON]: Right. Right. Yeah, I think my frustration that I’ve had so far with Psychology Today is that, I’ve gotten like, I want to say six phone calls from Psychology Today in the six months that I’ve been doing it while I’ve got friends who are just similar to me in terms of where they’re at in their practice that are getting five to six phone calls a week. So, for me, it’s like, “Okay, I know that this is happening. I know that people need help and are looking and are in similar, you know, they’re looking, I’m cash pay, have to be just where I’m at in my practice.” And so, I know people are willing to pay cash, but there’s a huge difference in terms of what we’re seeing from Psychology Today. So, it makes me think, “Am I doing something wrong? Do I need to do something different?”

[JOE]: Well, I mean the common things, at least that I see, I don’t have your psych today in front of me right now, but I would definitely say if your photo isn’t awesome, get an awesome photo. A good half to two thirds of the photos on psych today, look like they’re from Facebook where they cropped out their spouse.

[JASON]: Right.

[JOE]: This is probably not you. I imagine you have it better than that, but make sure you have a really good photo, make sure it’s color and then really look at your first two sentences. Like have it be very client focused. “I help these types of people.” And then, you know, because you’re online and you know, who knows how long it’s going to be before anyone can do anything in person, if you’re in a really competitive zip code you may want to submit for a different zip code with Psychology Today and work with them to be in a less populated area.
So, like I know that my brother, he lives in Newport on the coast and he’s talked about friends that were looking for marriage therapists and it’s near impossible to find a really good marriage therapist over there. But there’s no reason now with online counseling that someone couldn’t be focusing on some of those smaller areas or adding additional zip codes. You’d have to coordinate with Psychology Today on how best to do that, but then you can also optimize throughout your website so that if someone’s searching, you know, in Newport or in Coos Bay or somewhere else in Oregon, that they are able to find you in a way that’s different from other therapists, for sure.
So even having pages about different locations within the state that are optimized for that, and Jessica can help you. She has a whole course on that, that will kind of help you with that too. But we also, we interviewed her for one of our Ask the Experts. So, if you haven’t watched that in Next Level Practice, she’ll talk through like how to optimize those pages for different area codes.

[JASON]: Oh, okay. Yeah. So, it’s basically building out a page for specific areas? Is that?

[JOE]: Yeah, and the people I follow that I’ve interviewed for the podcast say that really SEO, what Google is looking for is local references. And so, making sure that you’re tying in, you know, local boardwalks or different things that are local to that area. So, if you’re going to focus on Newport, which I know Newport you’re going to want to talk about walking down the Bay front and then you imagine you get in a fight and you’re right in front of this restaurant and you name the restaurant and then you realize these things and you go for a drive along the one-on-one. And so, you’re adding in some local things to kind of sketch out the problem while also saying I’m a therapist that can help you through this.

[JASON]: Okay. That’s helpful. So, it’s really kind of like building out the story.

[JOE]: Yeah, I think for the SEO side of it. And I mean, the customer then sees that, but you don’t want to go on to, I mean, you’re talking a paragraph or two. I mean, no one’s going to read like your whole soliloquy about you know, getting in a fight in Newport, Oregon.

[JASON]: Right. Okay. So, keep the short story short? That’s good.

[JOE]: Yeah, I mean and I would look at places like whether it’s Newport or other small towns throughout Oregon to connect with those counselors that clearly don’t help couples or clearly, you know, you look at their Psychology Today and you say, “Oh my gosh, these people aren’t helping couples and they’re not helping 20 somethings. That’s who I help.” To do zoom calls throughout the state, you would probably get a ton more referrals than just focusing locally.

[JASON]: Right. Okay. That makes a lot of sense too. Just expanding the market.

[JOE]: Yeah, I mean, your license covers the whole state and, you know, before the pandemic, it was super hard to get people to make those kinds of referrals non-locally but now’s the time to do it. And then to get a really, if someone say refers one of their couples, and maybe they’re seeing someone individually, but they know the couple needs to see you to then get a release to be able to give updates to that other therapist so that you can coordinate services. And then they see, “Wow, Jason was really awesome on this case. I’m going to refer other people to them because that was so easy and our individual outcomes were amazing from his couple’s work.” And to really make it clear that you’re not trying to steal clients, but you’re trying to enhance the therapy that they’re doing already. All those things build that collaborative approach. And it’s other folks that are private pay, that have private pay clients that are then going to help you build your caseload as well.

[JASON]: Right. So do you just send the emails to therapists and just make that happen? Kind of like a cold call email.

[JOE]: Yeah, I mean, I would do an email or you can do a phone call, just leave them a message, whichever you feel most comfortable with. And it’s a numbers game. Don’t feel rejected if people don’t respond. When you think about how many therapists don’t even respond to people that are doing an inquiry around working with them, it’s crazy. So, I would guess that out of every 20 emails, you might get five responses and of those five responses, you might get one or two meetings. And just realize that there’s just a lot of counselors that don’t have those basic systems of having someone check their email or check their voicemail down and you know, they’re not looking to network and don’t take it as any sort of thing. Just say, “Hey, you know, I’m, I opened my practice in July. I’m helping these types of people and would love to connect with you and hear about your practice and see if we could do any cross referring.”

[JASON]: Okay. Yeah, that sounds great.

[JOE]: Jason, we’ve got just a couple more minutes left. Are there any final questions you want to make sure that we hit on before we wrap this up?

[JASON]: Uh, gosh, no. You know, I think we’ve covered so much and my head is kind of spinning and I feel like I got some good things to go ahead and work on.

[JOE]: Oh, well, awesome. Well, I really appreciate you being a part of Next Level Practice and it’s so smart at the early stages that you jumped in. I think so many people wait until they’ve tried it on their own and they try to bootstrap it and realize how much time they’ve lost through that.

[JASON]: Yeah. Well, thanks so much. It really has been really, really helpful for me in the stage that I’m in just to kind of get an idea of what other people do. And the community part is really one of the strongest parts. Teachable is great and everything, but really kind of getting to know other people that are in similar situations or even just a couple steps ahead has been a real bonus. So, it’s been a lot of fun.

[JOE]: Oh, that’s awesome. It’s so good to hear. And now we have Dana as our accountability coach, who’s also jumping in and helping people stay accountable and kind of amping up that community even more. So, if you are listening and you’re thinking, “Wow, I want to be like, Jason. I want to grow this practice. I want to get to that next level.” If you are interested in Next Level Practice, we have another cohort that’s opening soon. Head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite. You’ll get an invite and all the details about that next cohort so that you can join Jason and other folks just like all that I’ve been doing these consulting calls with thanks so much for letting us into your ears and into your brain. Jason, have a great day.

[JASON]: You too. Thanks so much, Joe, take care.

[JOE]: One last thing before we say goodbye. if you have not checked out Gusto and you want help with your payroll, your benefits, onboarding, and HR tools all in one place, if you want to automatically file and pay all of your state local and federal payroll taxes, they have simple time tracking and time off requests and more. Head on over to gusto.com/Joe. Again, that’s gusto.com/joe. You’re going to get three months to check out Gusto. It is an amazing solution that I use for my own payroll. You’ve got to check it out over at gusto.com/joe.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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