My #1 Business Mistake (Don’t Do What I Did!)

by Kimberly on June 16, 2011 · 9 comments

Part of learning to become a good therapist is learning how to self-evaluate. What worked during a session? What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work? What would you do differently next time?

These same skills are important for business owners. We need to evaluate our programs, services, and marketing plans. Did that brochure work and attract new leads? How was the title of that sales page–did it attract more clicks? Are people re-registering for this new program? So I didn’t meet my goals of getting 5 people to sign up at the end of my talk–why not?

I’ve had a lot of time this year to think through what went well with my clinical business in Colorado, what didn’t go so well…and why.

One of my major frustrations at the time was that I wasn’t getting enough new clients. I felt I was working SO hard booking speaking engagements, setting up workshops, and creating brochures. But my business wasn’t growing like I felt it should.

In hindsight, I realize my mistake: I was thinking like a general practitioner and not like a specialist.

What’s the difference? As a “general practitioner MT,” I was taking any client who came my way. I booked speaking engagements with any group I could. The wording on my brochures and website was broad, so that almost any clinical population was covered. I figured that, since music therapy could work “from cradle-to-grave,” why not offer all that myself? One of my big fears was that if I focused on a particular population, I’d be turning people away.

In contrast, as a “specialist MT,” I would have specialized working with a particular clinical population (or, better yet, a particular problem. But that’s for another post). This is a mindset shift more than anything. But if I had made this shift in thinking a couple years ago, I could have brought more focus and more business to my practice.

I could have been clearer in how I talked about the services I offered. People reading my marketing materials would have an easier time understanding how I could help them. Instead of talking to a rehab groups, parent support groups, and medical teams…I would just have one area and do that workshop really, really well. No need to tailor a bazillion talks for a bazillion different types of groups!

At this point in my career, there’s not much for me to do about this. Except share it with you, of course! :) But rest assured, when I’m ready to re-open my clinical practice, I’ll be doing it with my specialist hat on.

P.S. I admit that I didn’t reach this “ah-ha” moment on my own. I heard it from Dr. Laura Dessauer, an art therapist in Florida who last summer started the International Association for Therapists in Private Practice. I haven’t talked about this group a whole lot, but there’s a wealth of knowledge provided through the calls and forums. If you’re a therapist in private practice…it’s worth checking out!


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