How to earn a living as a hypnotherapist

How to Earn a Living as a Hypnotherapist

Donald Robertson
Donald Robertson

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,

Donald Robertson

Donald Robertson

Principal of The UK College

  1. Adam Eason

    Don, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    I agree greatly with the point you make about attitude. I encounter many hypnotherapists around the UK who are determined to blame outside influences on their poor levels business:

    – Recession.
    – Too many hypnotherapists in their area.
    – Not enough good PR about hypnotherapy.
    – Opposition from Doctors and conventional medical agencies.

    These are things which you’ll never hear the busy hypnotherapist citing because they really are not an issue. They certainly should not be either.

    All the hypnotherapists that that are thriving that I encounter, are thriving in the same economic climate, are all in busy locations where many other hypnotherapists also work and yet they do not allow anything other than a progressive attitude to colour their approach and their business.

    I think those with the right attitude tend to be the ones that will be approached, that will be an appealing proposition to the public and will find more opportunities presenting themselves.

    I once gave a free talk to a business networking community in WInchester. It rained, and a seemingly measly two people turned up to the meeting, in a cold room above a pub. Initially this may seem quite demoralising. the organiser apologised and asked me if I’d like to leave and head home. I insisted that i still talk. I delivered the talk as if I were speaking to 500 people, with the same vigour and verve and enthusiasm for the subject that I always have. Doing all I could to ensure my captive audience of two were entertained and interested.

    One of the people in the audience came to see me as a client. He enjoyed it so much that he attended my self-hypnosis seminar. His dentist was so impressed with his approach to his dental appointments using his self-hypnosis that his dentist and wife attended my self-hypnosis seminar too.

    The dentist sent me over 20 clients and course delegates over the years, of whom several also went on to attend my diploma and buy audio programmes from my website. many of them also referred others.

    The attitude created all of that business which ensued.

    A very happy New Year to you Don, Adam.

  2. Sophie Fletcher

    Great article Don. When I started out I put lots of energy into marketing and my website, but as I got busy I took my eye of the marketing ball and became a bit complacent. Then I began to get quiet again.

    One of the biggest lessons that I learned from this was that it’s very easy to sit back when you begin to get busy and think everything will come through word of mouth, but stick at the marketing even if you don’t think you need to. When you are busy and self-employed your time is limited, well mine is anyway, so to keep it constant I started scheduling time once a week to drop leaflets, newsletters, do a talk, write articles.

    When starting out as well, get in touch with your local business link which runs lots of free and discounted courses on how to set up a website, marketing, book keeping etc. I found these invaluable as a start up and they really saved me time in the long run.

    Running your own business is never easy at the beginning whatever it is but the most successful people I know, are those who like Adam says, really believe in what they do and work hard to prove it .

    Happy New Year to you and Mandy,


  3. Carolyn Potter

    Great article Donald. New therapists should really take note of all those comments especially about websites. They are all really useful and valid. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a website, it just has to be honest and reflect who you are and what you do. The people who are attacted to what you put out will probably be the ones who respond best to your style anyway.
    One of the most valuable things I read at the start of my work as a therapist was a book called Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale. It doesn’t have much to do with hypnosis, but it’s message was clear. If you engage your reader you will get them on your side. They don’t really want to read screeds about all your wonderful qualifications and the skills you possess, they are more interested in how those skills can help them. i.e ‘What’s in it for me?’ After reading this book, I redrafted everything on my website, and the response rate went up enormously.
    Somebody also said to me that it takes two years to become properly established as a therapist. I am sure there are many who will buck this trend, but after the two year mark, I did find that things started to take off more. At that stage people will have seen your adverts several times etc, and you acquire the reputation of being ‘well established’.
    Continued sucess to you Donald, and to all new therapists out there, and hopefully 2011 will be a good year for us all.

  4. Nicola Whitehead

    Thanks Donald for a great article and everyone else for your helpful comments. I’ll be leaving my (as it turns out less safe than I thought) job to become a full-time therapist in a couple of months so your advice is very gratefully received.

    I would certainly agree with the comments about business skills and can wholeheartedly recommend Business Link. Their seminars are entirely free and range from basic business skills (financial stuff, marketing etc) to more detailed subjects such as website optimisation and copywriting. At times it felt like information overload but it was well worth the effort to put their advice into practice and I feel in a much better position as a result.

    I’d also agree with the comments about attitude. Having been made redundant I was feeling a bit less confident than usual and doubted my ability to start all over again, but after a severe self-talking-to I changed my attitude and got my first client, all in the same week!

    So, I wish you all a happy New Year and hope that after following all your good advice, by this time next year I’ll be running a thriving hypnotherapy business!


  5. UK College of Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy

    Wow! Thanks for all the comments. Over 100 people read this post within a few hours of it being put online. I agree with all your points so far. As Adam’s comment suggests, it’s strange to hear people, with an air of self-confidence, blaming their lack of business on the recession, etc. About three times this year, I’ve listened to people telling me all the reasons why “business is obviously down for everyone” in the therapy field. Then five minutes later I’ll be talking to a newly-qualified therapist in the same region whose phone is ringing off the hook.


  6. Dr. Bryan Knight

    Excellent advice, Donald. You continue to impress me with your knowledge and refreshing viewpoints about hypnotherapy itself and the development of our businesses. You are so young to be so wise.

    An additional comment — do not follow the unfortunate example of a well-known British hypnotherapist who not only stole an American colleague’s website content, but presents her testimonials as his own.

    I underscore your suggestion that hypnotherapists specialise. This makes website effectiveness and ranking much easier plus you attract targeted clients, always more productive than offering a smorgasbord of services.

    And charge what you’re worth :-)

  7. Dr. Michael G Millett

    Hi Don,
    It`s nice to have come across you again and your blog here. I remember we conversed many years ago by email – several times in fact.
    I too enjoyed reading your article here and have subscribed to your RSS Feed. Wishing you well and continued success with the UK College of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy.
    Kind Regrads, Michael [Elevated Therapy International]

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