How to Earn a Living as a Hypnotherapist
Copyright © Donald Robertson, 2010. All rights reserved.
As it’s nearly the New Year, here are some random thoughts for those starting up in practice as a novice hypnotherapist…
I’ve been doing hypnotherapy since around 1996, although my interest in and use of self-hypnosis and related techniques goes back to my school days. I’ve been training hypnotherapists for about a decade and have had many conversations over the years with different therapists about how they make a living.
Many novice hypnotherapists find it difficult at first. People often don’t consider that hypnotherapists, unlike many other types of psychological therapist, are very rarely employed by anyone else. They are virtually always self-employed. That makes a huge difference because it’s well-known that starting up in any form of self-employment is a major challenge and most new small businesses don’t last more than a year or two. As it happens, starting private practice as a hypnotherapist is particularly easy compared to other forms of self-employment, for the following reasons,
- There is definitely a market for hypnotherapy that exceeds the supply of competent therapists
- The cost of training is relatively low compared to other businesses
- Business start-up costs are relatively negligible, although they may run into several thousand pounds, that’s much less than most other businesses
- You can work from home
- You have an enormous amount of flexibility with regard to where and when you work, and with whom
- There are many different types of service and product that hypnotherapists can offer
- Overheads are relatively low
- Payment is usually made per session, which prevents the cash flow problems encountered in many other businesses
One thing that’s particularly clear to me from my experience as a trainer over the years is that people who have a background in running a small business, or who are familiar with marketing or PR, very often tend to succeed very quickly as therapists, even if they’re not the most experienced, knowledgeable or skilled practitioners. Some very good therapists attract very few clients because they don’t know how to run a business and manage their own practice succesfully. The mistakes they make typically seem very basic, though, from a business perspective, and easily resolved.
Hypnotherapists have often asked me for advice about building their practice. However, the best advice is usually very simple. The main thing is probably, as you might guess: attitude. If you’re confident and optimistic, you’re more likely to seize opportunities that arise and make the most of them. Procrastination or half-heartedness can be lethal to a new business. Having clear goals, being focused on them and believing in yourself is crucial.
Consider ways to clarify your goals and build your confidence, therefore, as these things can be improved in a number of ways. For example, seeking out the best training available, being confident in your grasp of the subject, and getting the best supervisor that you can find will help you feel on top of your subject and confident in your practice. There’s some disagreement about this but my advice would be: Don’t be afraid to specialise. Picking a common problem (phobias, smoking, confidence, etc.) to specialise in is a good idea at the start of your career. It’s easier to focus on reading and taking additional training in a specific area and that’s a good way to build your confidence. You can attract many clients through “word of mouth” but this can take time to develop, is easier in some areas (like a small town) than others (such as central London), and depending on the issues you work with, e.g., smokers tend to make more word of mouth referrals than socially-anxious clients, etc. You can encourage word-of-mouth referrals in several ways, e.g., by giving clients a leaflet listing the other issues you can help with and suggesting they might want to pass it on to anyone else they know who might want your help.
Your website will probably be the main source of business. However, in virtually every case, where a therapist has told me they’re struggling to attract clients, there are obvious problems with their website, their main source of business. For example,
- They don’t have a website at all
- Their website is generally very poorly designed
- They’ve done nothing to promote their website or optimise it for searches
- They’ve done nothing to personalise their website, by adding their own details, photograph, video or audio recordings, welcome message or signature, etc.
- They’ve not made it easy enough for clients to contact them, e.g., they don’t have contact forms, a voicemail or answering service, or don’t respond to emails or phone messages
- Their website is “bare bones” with no articles or content
- They don’t explain what problems they specialise in working with or what their approach consists in
- They don’t provide details of their clinic, location, opening hours, etc.
- They use too much jargon, vague language, or too many key words, so it’s not clear to clients what they actually offer
- They combine hypnotherapy with other services, such as New Age or esoteric remedies, which are inevitably off-putting to clients who don’t believe in them
- They are only members or registrants of one organisation, or don’t mention any professional registration – the more registers you join the more link back to your website
- There are too many empty pages or dead links on their site
- Their site seems inactive, the most recent posts are dated a long time ago, which creates the appearance to clients that they’ve stopped trading
The best initial advice is simply to do a “competitor analysis”. Most hypnotherapists haven’t looked properly at what other hypnotherapists in their area are doing. Look at their websites in particular and compare them to your own. Look at their fees and the way they describe their services, etc. Imagine that a prospective client is looking at 2-3 other therapists’ websites side-by-side with your own. Why should they contact you rather than someone else? Consider asking other people to make the same comparison and provide feedback on your site.
Anyway, I hope those brief comments help. Feel free to email me or the College if you want more advice on becoming a hypnotherapist or adding to your training, etc.
There are many more things that you should consider but these are probably the most common initial points that I’ve found myself making to people who are starting up a new practice. If you’ve got any advice for other therapists, post your comments below.
Good luck for the New Year,
Principal of The UK College