What are some top tips for creating a group program? Are you considering starting a side hustle with an umbrella brand? Where is a good place to start with your ideas?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Marissa Lawton about starting a side gig, mindsets you have to change, and where you can start.
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Marissa is passionate about slow living and is actively cultivating more peace, ease, and joy in her life. She loves helping fellow therapists do the same by redefining the work they do. Her mission is to guide clinicians to repurpose and repackage their clinical skills into digital courses, group coaching programs, and membership sites.
In This Podcast
- Mindsets to change before starting a side hustle
- Do you have an ‘umbrella brand’?
- Where to start
- Starting a group program
Mindsets to change before starting a side hustle
Once you have decided to start a side hustle, you may be struggling with one of two mindsets, and it will be beneficial to you to change or release them because otherwise, you will stop before you even started:
- I don’t have an idea, how do I come up with one?
- I have so many ideas, how do I pick one?
Behind these two mindsets is the fear of failure. The one is afraid of starting because there seems to be nothing usable, and the other is thinking that narrowing down and committing to one would be a failure if that idea was the ‘wrong’ one.
Even just saying “how am I going to grow out of my position I’ve created for myself”, I think it’s so important for people to realize that you can change, you can do it different, it’s fine. (Joe Sanok)
Do you have an ‘umbrella brand’?
If you find yourself working with loads of ideas, access them and see if you can find a commonality between them all, discovering whether you have a potential “umbrella brand” or not.
On the other hand, if you do not have an umbrella brand, take your MVP: your most viable product and structure your marketing and any spin-off ideas, products, and services off of that main product.
Where to start
Start with the offer in mind:
Conceptualize your offer first, because this gives you a few things:
- The program type: course, coaching, e-book, and so forth,
- The person: who you are helping,
- The problem: what you are helping the person to understand, create or overcome,
- The promise: what you can offer them and give them at the end of their time spent with you.
- The price.
When we can have a conceptualization of those five areas, then it’s almost like the honey that draws the proverbial fly: if you know what you are starting with you can build the audience for that offer. (Marissa Lawton)
With promises, it is not like in therapy where promises are unethical, this is for your online content and it is helpful to your audience for you to explain how you are able to help them, and what they can expect from using your services.
Promises that do not work:
- You cannot guarantee them,
- You cannot prove them
These promises automatically break any trust that your client had with you, because they are insincere, and you can spot them from a mile away.
Promises that do work:
Explain what you do differently, what it does, and how it works
- This builds confidence and trust in your product because instead of glamorizing it, you are explaining exactly how it works and how it can serve your client.
The ideal outcome should be a biproduct of fulfilling that promise. (Marissa Lawton)
Next in starting a side hustle,
How high-touch do you want to be?
Being high-touch means that you are more involved with your clients, such as one-on-one coaching or therapy. Low-touch is more passive and less involved, such as publishing e-books or courses.
However, creating low-touch content often leads you into a high-volume space, where you spend a lot of time and energy creating content that will ultimately be passive.
Starting a group program
Group programs can be:
- Short: something quick and intensive like a sprint or bootcamp. These are usually four to six weeks long.
- Longer: three, six to even nine months.
A group program is a hybrid between group coaching, less structured, and a course, with more structure. There is a curriculum that anchors the group program; participants might get one lesson a week to go through on their own time and the lesson sets the tone for the weekly call.
What’s great about group programs is [that] they tend to be higher priced. So you’re kind of in a premium price category which means you don’t need to sell as many, so you definitely have touch there. You have the weekly touch point but that curriculum … keeps it … like you’re facilitating what they learned … you’re still holding space, but it is a lighter kind. (Marissa Lawton)
Books mentioned in this episode
- Ask Joe: How To Overcome Racial Disparities In Private Practice? | PoP 590
- Pillars of Practice
- Thursday Is The New Friday
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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.
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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 591.
Welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I am Joe Sanok your host here at Practice of the Practice world headquarters in Traverse City, Michigan. So glad you’re doing well. I hope you’re doing well. Maybe you’re not. If you’re not doing well then I hope you do weller. I am having a great summer. I don’t know about you, but I really tried to take time to slow down and be with friends and with my daughters. And I went recently on a standup paddleboard paddle down a river with my friend, Marty, Ph.D. J Marty Jewish, that’s his DJ name. He was our DJ at Slow Down School, rocking out some tunes for us, but then also he has his doctorate in like environmental studies. And he was recently on PBS News Hour and does all this really interesting work. So we had a fun time paddling the river and just enjoying just summertime.
So I hope you’re doing great. We’re doing all sorts of things with Practice of the Practice. 2021 is all about improving our systems. So we’re switching our email service provider, we’re leveling up there, we’re leveling up a bunch within Next Level Practice and we’ve brought in some great experts. We brought in Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman as one of our experts, John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, Lori Gottlieb in July. So we’re bringing in some really big experts for Next Level Practice. So that doesn’t open up again until November. So if you’re thinking you might want to be on that wait list, that’s over at practiceofthepractice.com/invite.
[JOE] I say all this, because when we slow down, we can do better work. Today we have Marissa Lawton. I’m so excited to have Marissa back in the show. Marissa is someone that every time I bring her on, it’s like, I talk about how she just came on the scene, like a firecracker where she did this summit and she just racked it out and went from nobody knowing who she was to just owning the space in so many ways. So today I’m really excited because we’re going to be talking about side hustles. We’re going to be talking about moving beyond just kind of like the one-on-one work. It’s a good kind of part too, to what Gordon and I just talked about last week. So without any further ado, Marissa, welcome to the show.
[MARISSA LAWTON] Hey Joe, I’m so glad to be here.
[JOE] Yes. I always love having you on the show or whenever we collaborate on things. I feel like you have so much great energy and just new ideas and you’re always doing something interesting.
[MARISSA] Oh, well, thank you. I do. I try and keep kind of a steady, like in the background and then do new fun things on top of that. It lets me kind of have that stability in my business, but it also lets me have play and things that are more exciting and fun.
[JOE] Yes. I think that’s really smart to kind of have the things that you know are working, keep those plates spinning, but then to really be able to like take risks in other areas that if it fails it fails, if not, it could be a really big win. I mean, for me, it was trying to get a book published and trying to get all sorts of different things. Every year I kind of have my big push towards something kind of bigger but I’m glad you have that same mindset.
[MARISSA] Yes. You’re talking about kind of slowing down in the summer and I feel like summertime is my season of play. You know, we’ve done some JVs together. We did that last summer, this summer I have kind of a workshop series going on that’s just really fun. And so it’s just things that I know revenue wise, of course they’re going to bring revenue, but it’s also just something that is just like, let’s go out there and see what we can do that’s different or new or fresh.
[JOE] Yes. How do you, I know a lot of people that are like you and I, we have lots of ideas and some people go after the shiny objects. How do you figure out what you’re going to work on? Because I know one thing that you really value is testing things and tweaking them. How do you figure out what big ideas you’re going to go after and which ones that you’re like, “Eh, I’m going to just let that simmer for a little bit.”
[MARISSA] That’s a fascinating question. Okay, so not getting too much into it, but family of origin, stuff like stability. I’ve already said that word once today. Stability is super important to me and that really comes from growing up with a single mom. So my first prerogative with my business was to get in an offer that was going to be that rock steady stable offer. And each round I run that I test it, I tweak it, I take feedback from the students and of course make improvements. So that’s kind of like a low grade, like ongoing all the time thing. And then as these new ideas come in. I literally keep a notebook. I got this idea from Elizabeth Gilbert. She wrote the book Big Magic. If you haven’t read it, it’s really fascinating.
But she basically talks about the fact that ideas have an energy and a life force you can get real with it if you want to, but ideas have an energy of their own. And they’ll kind of knock on your, tap you on the shoulder a little bit and if you don’t pay attention to them, they’ll move on. So what I’ve started doing is creating this notebook and it has tabs in it. The first tab is kind of like immediate ideas, things I want to act on within the next six months or so. And then I have kind of like a little bit down the road ideas one year, two year ideas and then I have a tab for like five-year ideas, tenure ideas. And I feel like that’s my way of saying, “I see you idea. I hear you knocking on my door. I hear you tapping on my shoulder. Now is not the time, but you’re interesting. So I’m going to put you in a place that gives you a home to live in, so to speak, but I’m not going to act on you right now.”
[JOE] That makes a lot of sense. I love that idea of just, “I’m going to pause you right now and just let it be there,” but to say I see you, but not now because I think it’s important to capture those ideas in the moment. Because I mean, I remember Seinfeld had one where he had a dream in the middle of the night. it was this funny joke and he didn’t it down and the whole episode, he’s trying to like remember the joke. That happens where we have these ideas that if we don’t write them down they are just kind of go. Like I remember in the middle of the night, I woke up and had this idea of creating an Instagram graphic type of thing around starting a practice. And that’s the most pinned pin we have on Pinterest.
I think it’s been repinned like 700,000 times or something crazy like that. But it’s like if I hadn’t got up and wrote that down on a random sheet of paper and then like made sense of it the next day, like it would have just came and went. And I mean, my life may not have been much different, but that was an opportunity I would have missed. So I love that idea of just dropping it into a note pad or a different place. For me, I have a notes section on my phone that is just ideas. So I’ll just put it in there just to capture it somewhere, unless it applies to something. So like Killin’It Camp, you know I’ll have ideas all the time of funny or interesting things we can do there. So I’ll just drop it in the Trello board and then Dana and I will talk through like, what do we actually want to do and what’s just Joe’s ridiculous ideas we’re going to throw out?
[MARISSA] Yes. And I think like I need to personally have a little bit more structure because if I just had kind of a list of running ideas, I’d be like, wait, what was I talking about here and it wouldn’t have enough context. So I liked the way that like breaking it out by, for me chronologically or for like timeframe wise, but even with topics or whatever, like you’re talking Killin’It Camp and this is for Slow Down School and this is for the book or this is for whatever. Having some structure around it can give it a little bit more structure.
[JOE] Yes. Like even as I was writing the book, I had a Trello board and whenever I had story ideas or case studies that was in a list, and then if I ran across research or maybe an article somewhere that I might be able to pull from that went into kind of like a research and news section and then each chapter had its own like chapter list. And then I knew what each chapter’s focus was. So I was like, I need five to seven main kind of hooks within each chapter. So it just helped where if I saw something in the news, I could just drop that into the Trello board and then go to it when I needed to. I didn’t even have to really like dive into it at that moment.
[MARISSA] Yes. What it’s making me think about is this word has so much controversy or whatever around it, but this idea of balance. Because if we were always in a flow state, flowing from idea to idea and just kind of following along, that’d be wonderful. However, would we actually ever finish anything? So it’s kind of like this balance, so to speak between allowing this new idea to come in, but not letting it act as necessarily a distraction from getting done, the thing that needs to be done in the moment.
[JOE] Yes. Now I know you help a ton of people with their side hustle and coming up with new ideas and all of that. I love talking to people that have a very kind of clear specialty because you get to notice not just what people should do, but also things that get in the way of kind of doing things. So I’d love to hear, when people are doing side hustles, they’re thinking I don’t want to just do counseling. Maybe I don’t even want a group practice, but I do want to do something on the side. What are a couple maybe mindsets people need to get rid of or take care of before they even jump into a side hustle or starting?
[MARISSA] Well, I think this conversation that we’ve been having already is one of them. People come and say one of two things, I don’t have an idea at all and I don’t know how to come up with one. Or I have so many ideas. How do I pick one? And often what’s behind that sometimes is fear of failure. It’s like, well, if I decide on something, then that means I’ve committed to it. What if it doesn’t work? And then from the other standpoint, well, how do I rule out all these other ideas because what if the one I choose doesn’t work? How do I narrow down on a focus? And it’s really just being apprehensive or fully unafraid of something not working and putting the time, effort, energy into it and it “flopping.”
[JOE] Yes. Or I think people also think if I commit to one thing, I have to be stuck with that forever. I can never change my specialty or anything. Just last week when I was talking to Gordon he and I were talking about how he’s kind of known for the whole Google and being good at Google and all the docs and all that. But then he’s added this whole kind of money mindset thing and it’s different, but it’s similar. So it’s like, we can change. The way that I ran practice the practice five years ago when I was doing a lot of the mastermind groups or a lot of the one-on-one consulting, I just don’t do that anymore. That’s mostly Whitney and that’s mostly Alison that are doing most of that. So even just saying like, how am I going to grow out of my position I’ve created for myself, I think that’s so important for people to realize you can change. You can do a different. It’s fine.
[MARISSA] Yes, and we were almost, we were talking about this before we hit record, but a pivot can be a complete 180 degree turn. It can be really fast or a pivot can be gradual. And if you have multiple ideas, we might be able to sit down and say, is there a common thread or a common theme between these ideas, because maybe you have what I like to term as an umbrella brand. If we think of Nike, they’ve got running shoes, they’ve got athletic apparel, they’ve got apps for iPhone and Android. They’ve got, their brand is just do it, just get active. But there’s lots of different ways that they fulfill that brand. Perhaps that’s also what you have. So sometimes there’s common threads between all your ideas or if you just want to start out of like, here’s my MVP, my most viable product, the thing that I can take to market the fastest, I know it’s not what I’m going to do long-term but hey, it’s going to bring me revenue and it’s going to bring me impact quickly. And I know I’ll pivot down the road. Then we can do that too. You know, there’s nothing set in stone.
[JOE] So where should people start? If they want to start an e-course or a member community, or they want to do some sort of side hustle, what are a couple of things that they should start with?
[MARISSA] Yes. So I always like to start with the offer in mind, which I know differs a little bit than your idea, Joe, of kind of building an audience first and then going and asking them what they want. But I think if you build the offer, not build the offer first, conceptualize the offer first. We don’t build it until we’ve sold it, but if we conceptualize the offer first, it gives us a few things. The elements of the offer are the program type. So course versus group coaching versus eBook, whatever. The person, the problem, the promise and the price. And when we can have a conceptualization of those five areas, then it’s almost like the honey that draws the proverbial fly. If you know what you’re starting with, you can build the audience for that offer.
So those are the five things I really like people to reflect on. Who do you want to help? What problem do you want to help them with? What can you actually make a promise on? This gets a little tricky because in therapy, we don’t make promises. It’s unethical to make guarantees. We would never do that with what we’re doing inside the therapy room, but with our online offers, we do want to have a promise of result. So speaking of these mindset shifts that you mentioned earlier, that’s one that we need to evaluate as well as how can I make a promise attach a promise to my work in this new arena.
[JOE] Yes. So talk a little bit more about like what that promise would look like. What are examples of promises that maybe some of your students have created or you’ve created?
[MARISSA] Yes. I want to start with promises that don’t work first, because I think that gives a better picture and then I’ll talk about promises that do work. So the first thing that comes to mind is like a skincare company or like a wrinkle cream or diet, culture, weight loss. They do this a lot where it’s like “look 10 years younger in 24 hours,” “lose 15 pounds in two days” or whatever. These outrageous claims, those are the types of promises that we don’t want. A, you can’t guarantee them. You can’t prove them. They’re just those outlandish claims. Everyone can spot them a mile away of like, yes, right. So those types of promises automatically discredit any trust that your customers or potential customers would have with you.
But what we can promise, we want to look at two things. We want to look at the results and how we deliver that result. So running with the sprinkle cream. This wrinkle cream deposits the ingredients to the third layer of skin whereas other wrinkle creams only go to the second layer of skin. So this is what we do differently. We go to the third layer of skin and at the third layer, it stays in longer, it evaporates less quickly. So therefore it moisturizes you better. So we look at what it does and how it works. Now let’s translate this into like a e-course for therapists so it makes a little bit more sense. One of my students, she is starting a program for career women to learn how to online date, to use online dating apps. That outlandish claim type of promise would be meet the woman or the partner of your dreams, fall in love, have a 70-year marriage, never fight, soulmate-soulmate, that kind of stuff.
That’s that outlandish promise that that isn’t going to actually be deliverable on her end and is going to discredit her products. But what we can promise is what she will do and the result of that. I will teach you how to identify red flags on potential partners dating profiles. That’s what we are going to do. That’s how it works. The result of identifying those red flags means that you will date higher quality partners. Now could that result in the 70 years soulmate marriage? Absolutely but we don’t go straight to that ideal outcome type dream promise. We look at what we’re actually doing and what is the result of if somebody does that. That’s what we can get, can be a promise that we can stand behind that we could guarantee.
[JOE] Hmm, I like that. I almost want you to like go through all my Next Level Practice stuff and tell me what I’m doing wrong. Like, I’m just going to hire Marissa to go through my stuff. No because I think that it’s, so when you use the wrinkle cream example yes, that sounds way better to just say kind of what it does, how it works to educate the client or the customer compared to, you know we always hear, “Oh, tell me the outcome, tell me the outcome,” but then it’s like, well, yes, but we also need to think through like, why is it that way and how does it work that way? It’s a good way to kind of break it down.
[MARISSA] The ideal outcome should be a by-product of fulfilling that promise. So if someone comes to work with me to do a side hustle, the by-product, the ideal outcome is a lighter lifestyle, more leisure, more fun, like less heavy work than a caseload. Those are ideal outcomes of, I will teach you how to build an online offer, how to market it and how to sell it. That’s what I promise to teach you to do. Once you learn to do that and fill your offers, the by-product is the lighter lifestyle.
[JOE] Wow. So, okay, so someone figures out kind of what they want to do using those five different. What are a few other things then that can take them down that road of starting their side hustle?
[MARISSA] Yes. The next thing that you want to think about, and this really kind of is involved with step one type of program, but how high touch do you want to be? Typically when I talk with therapists, they already work in a very high touch capacity. They’re one-to-one with people either virtually or now, perhaps back in office with people and they’re like directly exchanging not only time, but energy and emotional output with people. So they have very high touch work. So most of the time they’re like, “Oh, I want an extremely low touch offer, an eBook, a completely passive thing maybe a course that I can charge a little bit more for, but I don’t even want to be involved with the students.” But what they don’t think about is low touch automatically puts you in a high volume category. So if you’re selling an eBook for 30 bucks, you got to sell a heck of a lot of eBooks to make any decent revenue.
So you exchange touch in your program for marketing, you exchange high touch for marketing time. So if you like to do that marketing stuff and that feels fun and exciting for you, something fresh, something new, and you don’t want to necessarily hold space or have conversations with people in your programs, that’s awesome. But a lot of times clinicians are like, “Oh, well, I don’t like the marketing piece either.” And I’m like, “Okay. So we have to do, we have to pick an offer that falls somewhere in the middle, that brings you good enough revenue with not needing a huge audience and not needing a huge endeavor into marketing.” And typically that is a group program.
[JOE] So like what would that look like for most clinicians that are starting a group program?
[MARISSA] Group programs can be short, something like an intensive, a sprint, a boot camp. These are group programs that are usually around like four weeks, sometimes six weeks. But usually if you’re using that sprint kind of language, you’re in even a shorter duration, couple of weeks, maybe four. What makes a group program different is it’s a hybrid between group coaching and a course. So in a group program, there’s still a curriculum that anchors that group program. They might get one lesson a week to go through on their own time and then that curriculum, that lesson sets the tone then for the weekly call. Group coaching would be like group therapy. Let’s all just sit down and let’s talk and see where it goes and that has a lot less structure. A course would be just the curriculums and maybe you’d have like a Facebook group with the course or you might have like a monthly call.
So a group program combines those things. You’re meeting typically weekly, but there is a curriculum that anchors those meetings. You can have those intensives, those sprints short duration. You can have a three month or four month. My group program is nine months. I know, somebody I know in this space, they’re launching a 12-month, year long group program. So they can vary in duration, but it’s really that fact that there’s a curriculum anchoring it and then there’s also more frequent meetings. What’s great about group programs is they tend to be higher priced.
So you’re in a kind of a premium price category, which means you don’t need to sell as many. So you definitely have touch there. You have like a weekly touchpoint, but I think that curriculum again keeps it. So it’s more like you’re answering questions or it’s more like you’re facilitating what they learned in the teaching, rather than, of course, we wouldn’t want to be doing anything like therapy or going too deep in those calls. So what I call this is like, you’re still holding space, but it’s a lighter kind of space. It’s a different kind of feeling than you get when you’re one-on-one in therapy.
[JOE] Yes. Oh, I love how you’re breaking it down for us. I think so many people like don’t even see the opportunity of what they understand and what they know and just how, there’s so many people in the world that want to know what your brain knows. So it’s awesome to encourage therapists to think differently. Marissa, the last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[MARISSA] Ooh, I think just exactly what you were saying. There’s potential outside of the therapy room. We’ve gone to grad school with a hyper intensive focus on one type of career. We then got licensure hours focusing again on one type of career and the therapy industry, as much as I am pro mental health, we do tend to get boxed in, especially then if we work in an agency after that. I feel like private practice is the first time we start to spread our wings and step out of that box a little bit, but your clinician identity doesn’t have to be boxed in. You have more knowledge, more experience, more expertise, more familiarity with like humanness than 90% of the people on this planet. You can do anything you want with that.
[JOE] Hmm. That’s awesome. So awesome. So Marissa, if people want to connect with you, if they want to follow your work, what’s the best way for people to connect?
[MARISSA] Yes. So talking about what these programs could look like, I have a free quiz, super easy, marissalawton.com/quiz. It’s 10 questions and it’ll pop out with an answer like digital course or group program or eBook, and it’ll start guiding you on which type of offer is the right fit for you.
[JOE] Oh, that’s so awesome. Well, Marissa, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[MARISSA] Thanks for having me. These are always the best.
[JOE] So if you could have a side hustle, what would you do? If you could build some passive income or some semi-active income or just not have it reliant on your therapy practice or sitting in the chair, and there’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing wrong with doing that work, but we want to diversify our income. We want to look at it differently. We want to be able to grow and scale and influence beyond maybe what we’ve already done. Think deeply about what Marissa just taught you about some of those ways that you can think about your idea. You can test it out and give it a whirl. And you can always shift it and change it later on.
Both Marissa and I are people that we get things going and then we stretch ourselves. We push ourselves to try something bigger to just go beyond what maybe we thought our potential was. Honestly I never thought I would get a traditionally published book, especially with Harper Collins. Maybe that’s my own internal mindset, my own fear or lacking, or who knows where that comes from. But to now have done that and to now be promoting that and doing so many things with it, it’s opened doors that I never would have had without having pushed myself in that way. So you can do the same. I’m just an average Joe hanging out in Northern Michigan and you can go do big things also.
So also don’t forget to go by Thursday is the New Friday. When you buy five of them, you get your Killin’It Camp ticket totally for free. You have to pay for your own lodging and food and airline, but you get the ticket for free. You’re going to get to hang out with us. We have some amazing sponsors this year as well. We’ve got some really killer surprises that we’re going to be surprising you with. So the way that you do that is go to wherever you buy your books, wherever you pre-order those, it can be your local bookstore. They can do it ahead of time. You can do it on Amazon. It has to be pre-ordered because the New York Times bestseller status is based on, especially that first week of sales and we’re trying to get New York Times best seller status, and you can be a part of that.
So you buy your five books and we also have lots of extra bonuses if you buy 10 books or 25 books. If you get the 25, I’m doing a half day pre-con, that is with me out in Colorado and the people that do that, we’re going to hang out for the morning together. So you then go over to thursdayisthenewfriday.com, just submit your receipt there, your name, email, easy-peasy. So again all those details are at thursdayisthenewfriday.com to get that free Killin’It Camp ticket.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day and I’ll talk to you soon.
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 regards 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.