How do you build traction around the popular pages on your website to boost your overall SEO rankings? Do you want to hire a virtual assistant for only a few hours a week? How do you start training a virtual assistant to take over from you?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok does a Live Consulting with Jason Wilkinson: Should I Hire an Assistant?
Podcast Sponsor: Next Level Practice
Next Level Practice is an on-going support system for mental health clinicians, counselors, and coaches who want to start and scale their own private practice featuring HUNDREDS of trainings, LIVE calls with our experts, a robust resource library, an exclusive online community, and SO MUCH MORE!
Meet Jason Wilkinson
Jason is the owner of a private mental health practice, Wellspace Counseling, located in Tualatin, Oregon. He graduated from George Fox University with an MA in Marriage, Couples & Family Counseling and received an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. With nearly 20 years of experience working with adolescents, career-minded adults, and couples, he is passionate about people finding wholeness through counseling.
Jason Wilkinson lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids.
You can find more information about Jason Wilkinson and his practice at wellspacepdx.com.
In This Podcast
- Do more of what is working well
- Essentials for hiring an assistant
When you decide to level up your practice, keep growing what has been working for you thus far. If your networking, SEO, and marketing are doing well, keep doing it. Continue networking and getting your name out into the field.
In your calendar I would put something that repeats quarterly where you follow up with people from your [network] … you do want to stay top-of-mind. (Joe Sanok)
Dedicate a block of time every month to reconnect with your network. Avoid texting monthly to minimize a relationship turning sour, but seek to find the balance between time and texting so that you stay top-of-mind for them.
Do more of what is working well
Use Google Analytics to check which pages your clients spend the most time on, and boost the most popular ones.
Create smaller versions of popular themes that your clients enjoy, and which relate to your practice and tie them together. Create a digital and interest-based breadcrumb trail for your clients to follow to your website and social media platforms.
Look at what’s working and create more of that and start linking those together. (Joe Sanok)
Essentials for hiring an assistant
If you want to hire an assistant to help you with answering the phone, pay attention to how you respond to your client queries. Place the things that you say and would like your assistant to say on a Google Doc that they can easily refer to.
Pick the hours:
You do not need to hire a virtual assistant for 20-hour shifts. Sketch out the range and scope of work so that both you and your assistant know what a typical week may look like: For example,
- working five to ten hours a week,
- Completing tasks such as answering the phone, scheduling clients, and so forth
Being able to pay them as you go and say “this is a flexible position, it’s going to grow as the practice grows but for right now I know I can pay you for at least three hours a week” … there’s going to be people that want that flexibility. (Joe Sanok)
You can find people who prefer the working hour flexibility over a fixed job.
For virtual assistants, do not fret about location:
With current technology, you can have a virtual assistant in another state, or another country, who works for you. They can work in the time zone that you want them to work in.
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
- Find out more about Jason Wilkinson and his practice at wellspacepdx.com
- Connect with Wellspace Counseling on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Check out Group Practice Boss
Check out these additional resources:
- Live Consulting with Elizabeth Meyer: How to get interviewed on podcasts and build an email funnel | PoP 627
- Apply to work together
- Pillars of Practice
- Sign up for Next Level Practice — Next Level Practice opens November 8th, 2021
- Events – click on the event’s dropdown
- Sign up to join the free webinars and events here
- Podcast Launch School
- Practice of the Practice Podcast Network
- Free resources to help you start, grow, and scale
- Apply to work with us — decision-making matrix for your next steps
Meet Joe Sanok
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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Well, today we are continuing our live consulting series where I am checking back in with people that I consulted with earlier in the year to see what they did with that consulting, where they’re at, what new questions they have. Part of this is because Next Level Practice, on November 8th, we are opening the doors up for that, for our last cohort of 2020. So if you are interested in that, you can go over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite. You’ll read all about that membership community and all the awesome things going on there.
So today we have Jason Wilkinson who lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids. He’s the owner of Wellspace Counseling in Oregon. How do I pronounce the name of the town?
[JASON WILKINSON] It’s Tualatin. That’s where my practice is.
[JOE] Tualatin. Awesome, Tualatin where he provides individual and marriage counseling to help others reach their goals of mental and emotional wellness. Welcome, Jason, how you doing?
[JASON] I’m doing really well, Joe. Thanks for having me on today.
[JOE] Well, let’s go back to kind of where you were at when we chatted earlier in the year and then we’ll talk about what you implemented and then kind of where you’re at now. So where were you at when you first, when we consulted earlier in the year?
[JASON] So I was somewhere in that four to six clients a week range and really trying to work on SEO, work on blogging, work on getting more clients, building up a strong referral base, is where I was at before. Now I’m in that 14 to 16. I’ve gotten as many as 18 clients a week. So really have had some great growth. I’ve done a lot of work with Whitney Owens the masterclass and that was great. She’s been fantastic, as well as the group that I have, the NLP group and put a lot of work in. So it’s been great.
[JOE] Now, what would you say maybe are like the three or five building blocks of things that you really focused on, I mean, to go from three or four clients to see 16 to 18 clients. Because that’s a huge jump in a short period of time.
[JASON] Yes, let’s see. I would say the biggest thing was working on myself and trying to be patient because that’s the hardest part. So really just trying to manage myself, my own expectations and keep going. Because there’s so much there where you can start feeling down about yourself, start feeling down about your practice and wondering why things aren’t going as fast as you would like. But to keep moving forward has been really important. For me, what has worked the most has probably been just personal networking with other therapists. That has helped out a lot. I think my blogging has started paying off more where I’m getting more people coming to my website. Something happened where following our last podcast together and then just the continued work. I got better with the SEO stuff. Taking Jessica Tappan’s top of Google class and everything has been really helpful. And then all the stuff on Teachable from NLP has been really helpful. So just a lot of personal networking, a lot of SEO work and blogging.
[JOE] So when you network, what are, like a couple things, how does that look for you?
[JASON] Up here in Portland, Oregon, we have been pretty slow at reopening and so for me it’s been a lot less face to face work, a lot less than what I would originally have liked. It’s been a lot of emails, a lot of emails, some phone calls, reaching out, getting to know people, trying to set up coffees with people when I can in. And then outside of that, when not able to, it’s been a lot of Zoom calls or Google Meets trying to get to know people. So just reaching out seeing what people need, seeing how, basically what is it that I can offer. “Hey, let me hear your story, the story of your practice and tell me what are some of the things that you’re seeing or experiencing in your practice.” So a lot of that.
[JOE] Man, well, congratulations, I mean, to go up 400% in such a short period of time is incredible. So where right now, do you feel stuck or where you want to kind of take the live consulting today?
[JASON] So I am currently in that 14 to 16 range and again, I’ve gotten up to 18 but I really want to solidify that and actually continue to grow. So my ideal right now is to be somewhere in that 20 to 24 range with a continually strong referral base. So I’m really working to build that up. I’m wondering, just kind of what thoughts you might have in terms of continued work with SEO. Like what’s my next steps, I guess, to get to that next level? Should I be thinking about a virtual assistant? Should I be thinking about investing more in SEO? Should I just continue to work on building up those strong person to person referrals, network? Where would you put your time and energy?
[JOE] Right now, when you’re working 16 clinical hours a week, because you want to be at, you said 22 to 25 somewhere in there?
[JASON] Yes, somewhere in there, that 20, 24 range.
[JOE] Okay. So are you right now working 24 hours a week at least?
[JASON] Oh yes. Okay, not in front of clients all the time, but certainly.
[JOE] Yes, because some people they’ll be at 16 and be, well it’s summer. I’m not going to put any extra effort into the practice. So I would say the first kind of mindset is if you want to be at, say 24 clients a week, knowing that it’s going to take two to four hours in addition to that, you will be working 28 to 30 hours a week right now. So really dedicate that as if you have that many clients and so then as you add clients, you’ll just do less of that extra work. So I would start with that from just a scheduling standpoint. Then, I mean, we want to start with kind of the low hanging fruit what’s already working. So because the SEO and the networking is working so well, I’d say we’d really want to optimize that. So first with the network side of it, how are you keeping track of who you’ve talked to, what you’ve talked about. Are you keeping track of that in any way right now?
[JASON] Yes. I started creating, I have an Excel sheet that I’ve been working through and working on. And that’s kind of how I’ve been keeping track of those networking appointments who I’ve met with, how often I’ve reached out and when it’s time to stop reaching out to certain people. So the Excel sheet is how I’ve been doing it.
[JOE] Okay. So I would, in your calendar put something that kind of repeats maybe quarterly where you follow up with people from that sheet. So you don’t really want to, if you’ve connected with someone you don’t want to be every month following up with them. That’s just annoying, but you do want to stay top of mind. So if you have their cell phone, maybe you sit down on the first Monday of every quarter and you kind of text 25 different people like one at a time, just, “Hey, how you doing? Hope your practice is going well.” Just to stay top of mind. So things like that can be really effective.
I think also then following up with people and saying like, “Do you have any other connections of people that you think I should know or meet?” Because if you’ve met with say 20 people, if all 20 of them gave you two, you’re now at 60 some people that in your community. So just looking for those people locally. And I would just keep doing what you’ve been doing around networking, but just kind of look at maximizing it and getting quality over quantity. Because it sounds like you’ve kind of cast a pretty wide net. I’d seek to go a little bit deeper with some of the people that maybe you feel like you’ve really connected with.
When you really look at it, I mean that 80/20 rule is so true where 20% of the people that are referral sources are probably going to send you 80% of the clients. So there may be one pastor that sends you a client a month and there might be another therapist that sends you a client a month and then the rest of them just never really connect with you. So you want to kind of figure out who are those top tier referrals. Then how are you finding new potential referrals? Are you kind of out there finding people? Take me through that process?
[JASON] Right now I would say I’m not out there trying to find people. So in my mind I’ve been thinking about like, what would it look like to put on workshops for people in the area? How would I, so for example, in my mind, I’m thinking through, my ideal client is likely from the church. So how would I go ahead and get together, what would be helpful to get a group of pastors together and talk through how would I go ahead of with connecting them or drawing them in; really trying to think through work through that, because I love to work with couples. I love to work with young adults. I’m really trying to put an emphasis into those two areas.
[JOE] Do you feel like the pastors that you’re connected with understand kind of the limits of their counseling abilities and the value of kind of referring out outside of the church?
[JASON] Probably not. I wouldn’t say that’s, I used to participate in ministry vocationally before becoming a therapist and I would say, yes, that’s probably not a strength of most pastors.
[JOE] Yes. And I think, and rightfully so some of them want to kind of keep it in-house, but I do think that educating pastors on liability without making it too fearful but just so that they understand like what your training is and how you want to match your values to the values they’re teaching. There’s a lot of skepticism, I think a lot of times in the church and so the more that you can build that trust or even co-present with another pastor that can go a long way.
[JASON] That’s great.
[JOE] So let’s talk SEO. So right now what’s your monthly blogging? How are you doing SEO on your own? It sounds like some things are really working well there, but maybe we can optimize some of the stuff you’re already doing.
[JASON] I was doing blogging every week. So having my practice just start in July of 2020, so I just actually celebrated my year which is pretty fun. So I was blogging every week and I’ve got something like 48 blog posts. I recently, I would say over the last month or two months have started doing every other week so that I could put more emphasis into trying to network more, put less time into that blogging, more time into the personal networking. But the blogging, yes, I would say I’m blogging every other week. I’ve really tried to focus in more on couples with my blogging, so trying to come up with more ideas, more things that would be helpful for couples, trying to put in key words.
[JOE] Have you looked at your Google Analytics to see what your top five pages are that people land on?
[JASON] I have, but I haven’t recently. I haven’t in the last week or so.
[JOE] Okay. I mean, I would go back to those five pages the top ones, because that’s where most people are landing and just go through them and make sure that it’s very clear how to contact you and what your process is and who you’re helping. Because I did this early on in Practice of the Practice and it was, all the pages I thought it would be. And then there was this one blog post that I didn’t even know was ranking really high in Google for how to name a counseling private practice. It was number one for that search term and just accidentally. So when you find pages that are doing really well, I forgot who said it, they said when you find a unicorn make many unicorns. So if it’s this one blog post about couples and affairs, then make more blog posts about couples and affairs. Look at that from every single angle.
If it’s a blog post about date night that seems to be in the top five, like make more date night ones. So really look at what’s working and create more of that and then start linking those together. Then make sure your copy is all about that, like looking to have date night and connect even more? Well, we could do some counseling sessions that will help you enhance your relationship. So I’d start there. I would also look at how is your SEO treating you? It sounds like you’re doing a great job, but just making sure that those meta descriptions are strong. It sounds like if you went through Jessica’s course, I’m sure it’s going to be strong overall, but just doing your own kind of work at it. But I think you’re at the point where it’s worth starting to evaluate bringing on some virtual assistance, bringing on some team members so that you can just spend that time being able to actually work on the clinical work or expanding the practice beyond the nitty gritty blog writing and creating things like that.
[JASON] So then bringing on a VA is a possibility?
[JOE] So, I mean, it could be with the SEO, it could be that you hire Jessica’s team at Simplified SEO. They’re a great team. We use them with Practice of the Practice. They’ve got all sorts of plans. So that might be worth it for you. It might be worth it to have a virtual assistant that does some like phone answering, but then you also say, “Hey, will you reach out to these 10 pastors this week to try to schedule a time for us to connect? You just want to start to slowly start to take off hats so that you can do what you’re doing best and then have everything else just be automated.
[JASON] I like the sound of that.
[JOE] I mean, and the other side of it is, honestly, you’re at the spot that you could start to add clinicians to your practice. So even if they were only there for two or three sessions a week, if they’re say seeing a child and then you’re seeing the couple, that’s going to improve your caseload too, because there may be people that say I really want to work with a middle aged woman. I don’t want to work with you, Jason. And instead of referring that person out or there might be specialties that are kind of ancillary to what you’re doing, just adding in a couple clinicians even super part-time then makes it appear that you’re a larger group of practice even if they’re only doing an evening a week.
[NEXT LEVEL PRACTICE] I am so excited about cohort number 17 of Next Level Practice. Next Level Practice is the program for you from the moment you say to yourself, I want to start a practice all way until you’re ready to make your first hire. It is the program for solo practitioners. So if you’re ready to level up this year, our next cohort opens on November 8th. It’s only open for a few days. So you’re going to want to go over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite so that you can dive right in. When you go over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite, you’ll see all the testimonials from people that have leveled up in insane ways.
Take Christie Pennison, who says, “The Practice of the Practice podcast and the Next Level Practice community has helped me grow faster than I ever thought possible. From being able to move back to my hometown, start a practice from scratch and grow into a group practice in a little under a year, I have learned so much from all the guests and from Joe. I couldn’t be where I am today without you all.”
Or take Jason Wilkinson who says, “Six months into launching my private practice, I was seeing four to six clients a week. I was frustrated, tired and feeling like I was grasping at straws on how to market. Next Level Practice provided a supportive community, expert consultants to ask questions of and marketing strategies to help me grow my practice into one that I love. If you are looking for knowledge, accountability, and support, I strongly encourage you to take the leap into Next Level Practice. You will be glad you did.”
Or take Page who says, “I’m a part-time clinician. I went from zero clients a month to 30 plus clients a month in six months.”
So we’re seeing huge results from people and there’s tons more testimonials over at practicewithpractice.com/invite. You’re going to get access to over 30 e-courses that will walk you through how to start and grow your practice. You’re going to get us to experts every single month like myself and other folks we bring in. As well you get a small group, accountability partners. It really is the inclusive program to help you get to the next level. So to join Next Level Practice in this final cohort of 2021 head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite. Again, that’s practice of practice.com/invite. For only $99 a month, you will get access to all of this and lock in that price forever.
[JOE] When it comes to the group practice idea, how does that sit with you?
[JASON] That’s ultimately where I want to get to and right now as I think about it, it feels daunting. It feels like I don’t have, I feel like my referral base isn’t strong enough yet to bring somebody in to do that kind of thing. Being able to find that person, clients to fill out some of their schedule, whatever that might be feels daunting.
[JOE] I think that’s a very common mindset for people that they think that they to have to have all these phone calls coming in. That person is going to bring in their own circle of influence. They’re going to know people, they’re going to know churches, they’re going to know pastors that you don’t even know. So it’s going to add credibility where maybe you thought, oh, I have to have all these referrals for that person. Their own circle of influence is going to bring in some people too. So like I remember one of my hires, she worked full-time at community mental health, and then she just wanted to work Saturday mornings mostly with teens. I was like, great. There’s lots of people that want to come in on the weekend. I don’t want to be here on the weekend. Let’s do it.
So her first Saturday she had four clients and they were all people that knew of her from the community. They weren’t anyone that I had referred. So that’s when I really clicked like, oh my gosh, Sarah has her whole own network of people that I don’t even know. So you’re really at a point that I think that you could start exploring that. I know this is airing in November, but we’re not recording it then.
In September of 2021, Whitney and Alison are doing Group Practice Launch, and they’re doing that every six months where it’s a cohort of people that are going from not having a group practice to their first hire over six months. So that might be asking Whitney about since you already are connected to her. Because it takes all the guessing out of it because it’s people that have already done that.
[JOE] So when it comes to a virtual assistant or outsourcing, what for you makes you nervous about that, that you need some coaching around?
[JASON] When it comes to getting a virtual assistant, I think it’s mainly coaching that virtual assistant up. That’s probably the biggest thing, that and affordability because I feel like I’m still trying to build up my practice, still wanting to make sure that I don’t have, I mean I’m in a good spot, but the resources are limited. So how do I spread those around? What’s the best way for me to use that?
[JOE] Well, what are the biggest pains in your butt right now? What are things that you’re like if I didn’t have to do that, that would be awesome.
[JASON] Definitely the phone calls. Not that I’m overloaded with phone calls, but if it was just one of those things where I could take the add off my list, that would be great. I loved actually your suggestion of having them reach out to other people. I would love to take that off of my plate and have them try to schedule appointments or meetings, lunches, coffees for me. That would be awesome.
[JOE] So I think part of it is when we’re doing everything, it’s all kind of in our head and we don’t pay attention to the nuance of how we answer questions, how we do things. So phase one is going to just be you kind of starting to pay attention to how you talk about things. So say someone was answering your phones and they’re like, do you take insurance? How do you answer that question? Are you faith-based? How do you answer that question? Everyone has their own way of answering those questions. So I would just start to pay attention and take notes on it in a Google document that you can eventually share with a VA, because knowing what you’re doing and how you sound and how it’s your voice, that’s what you want.
You want this person to just represent you. So start paying attention to it, writing it down. Then from there a lot of people think, oh, I have to hire someone 20 hours a week for them to want to work with me. That’s just not true. I mean, there’s lots of people that are like for $18 an hour or $20 an an hour, if I get paid for when I’m on the phone and then have a certain number of guaranteed hours per week to just kind of sketch out the range, it could be looking for someone five to 10 hours a week that will do the following tasks. From this time to this time the phone will be redirected to your phone or maybe use a phone system where it can ring to your as the therapist, but also to theirs.
Being able to then pay them as you go and say this is a flexible position, it’s one that is going to grow as the practice grows but right now I know that I can pay you at least three hours a week. It’s probably going to grow to 10 hours a week over the next couple months. There’s going to be people that want that flexibility. There’s lots of people that will say no, I definitely need a guaranteed job, a guaranteed income. So it can be a super fit for some people that really are just needing that flexibility. I mean, you think about a stay-at-home parent who between naps and stuff could do a little bit of time, but they really don’t want to have to be on call all day long.
Maybe it’s within two hours of a phone call coming in that, that they get returned Monday through Friday. Ideally you answer the phone every time, but you know what, this is a flexible job. I get that part of it is me being flexible on my side. So you can really create the position you want and then just use, put it on the Facebook Jobs posts and you’ll probably get a lot of qualified candidates. I wouldn’t even worry about if the people are local because with kind of virtual technology for a long time, Mental Wellness Counseling, a person, she lived in Texas and she would answer the phone, “Hello, Mental Wellness Counseling.” She thought that the restaurant across the street from our office was a Mexican food restaurant, but it was Italian.
So do want to like check in with your people. So I would say, you know Zoe’s newer to the team. Anything that is feedback and they’re like, oh, she said it was a Mexican restaurant and that got us really confused. And I was like, oh, she’s actually based in Texas and people actually found it entertaining. They’re like, we thought we were going to get to meet Zoe and it’s like, no, she’s in Houston. So I wouldn’t even worry about having to be someone locally. Just make sure that they’ll work in the time zone that you want them to work in.
[JASON] Okay. That’s great.
[JOE] Man, I’m just thinking like the progress you made since we talked last and thinking about six months from now, like where you’re going to be. If you go implement this stuff, it’s going to be awesome.
[JASON] I’m super excited about it. It has been, it’s funny, it feels like, oh, it hasn’t gone as fast as I’ve wanted it to, or it’s not where I thought I was going to be when I first launched it. Then at the same time, I have to step back and remind myself like no I’m doing pretty well with where I’m at and with how things have grown. And of course I can’t, like the NLP community, the help I’ve gotten from Whitney in the mastermind group has been so valuable, just in helping me to avoid landmines, to help me think creatively, for me to be accountable and to keep working and putting in that effort to show up has just been immense. So it’s really been awesome.
[JOE] That’s so awesome. We’re investing a lot in 2021 in upgrading a lot of our systems within Next Level Practice and Group Practice Boss and all that. We’re upgrading into this program, this community called Circle. So it’s similar to Facebook groups only just like way better. So it’s going to be nice for when people level up into say Group Practice Launch, or Group Practice Boss, because they can level up within the whole same system. They don’t have to join any new Facebook groups or things like that. So we’re doing that. We brought on Dana as our accountability coach. She’s running a bunch of the groups and it’s just so cool to see all these people just getting killer results within it.
[JASON] Well, I think it’s been pretty noticeable too, just from where I sit, how much effort and energy you have been putting into and how much resources have been going to Next Level Practice and everything. It’s been great. It’s been fun watching that kind of grow too.
[JOE] Yes, and just even like bringing in bigger experts like John Lee Dumas and pat Flynn and like Lori Gotlieb and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. I mean, just for me to personally connect with these people on a different level than just being on a podcast, I mean, it’s crazy. Because like John Lee Dumas invited to go out to dinner with him when we met at Podcast Movement. Like that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t brought him in as like an expert. I’m like, holy cow, like this was for my community, but I’m reaping the benefits too. So it’s awesome.
[JASON] It’s great.
[JOE] Well, Jason, thanks so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast. If people want to see your website or connect with you, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
[JASON] They can find me on Instagram at Wellspace PDX and then my website is www.wellspacepdx.com.
Well, if you want to level up like Jason has, if you want to continue to grow, if you’re a solo practitioner who wants to get to that six figure years, Next Level Practice is for you. That cohort opens on November 8th. So you can head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite to request your invite. If you are past that six figures or you’re starting to add people to your practice, Group Practice Boss is the place for you. So just let us know. We’re happy to help you get involved in any of those communities. Our kind of new tagline with Practice of the Practice s that we have a membership community for every phase of practice. We are much stronger when we work together as a team, to not have to reinvent the wheel, to be in small groups together and to get that expert knowledge. So any of those different communities you can learn more about over at practiceofthepractice.com.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day.
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. This 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.