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This article was part of the Goodie Bag for attendees at the Therapist Leadership Virtual Conference that I presented at in June, 2011. Download the accompanying TLC 2011 Writing & Broadcasting Resource List to get the list of technology products that you can use to get your message out.
Unfortunately, therapists, coaches and healing professionals are not known for their writing, except of course for the small groups that write academic papers in peer-reviewed journals. Academic writing and research plays an important part in the ongoing development of therapy. However, it rarely helps you build relationships with prospective clients or grow your practice.
An essential part of any effective marketing strategy is to write for your business. As a relationship therapist, writing is at the core of my therapy business and has helped me develop a full-time, thriving practice.
In this article, I take you through 10 steps for overcoming your fears of writing so you can broadcast your message to the world.
Before you even BEGIN to put fingers-to-keyboard, you need to work out who you’re writing for. This is a fundamental first step as it gives a focus to your writing and a purpose to what you’re doing.
When you establish WHO your ideal clients are, you then need to enter their world. Ask yourself what are their concerns, hopes, dreams, aspirations and longings? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine this. This exercise will then start to give you a flavor of what types of topics you can write about.
Writing tip: Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client and ask yourself: What are my concerns, worries, wants and needs? Then make a list of what this client would want in the way of information from you.
The business of therapy is one of serving people. For better or worse, we are in a helping profession that seeks to serve the wants and needs of people in distress and pain.
Once you have begun to establish your ideal client and you get a feel for their world, you then need to ask: What problems does my ideal client have and how can I provide solutions?
Now I know that most therapies help the client find THEIR solutions, and as a Gestalt therapist, I’m with you on that. However, you are privy to lots of training and information that can help someone BEGIN to find solutions to their problems. Once you take this approach, you may start to see what you can offer your prospective clients in terms of what they might want from you.
Writing tip: Reflect on the most common problems your niche market needs help with. Now make a list of the issues and problems where you can provide a solution. You have just started your writing ideas list.
People often ask me, “How did you learn so much about marketing?” and I have a silly, and simple answer: “I attended the University of Google.”
The Internet is a huge and incredible resource for educating yourself about how to write and what to write about. One of the first things I did when I was starting out in my writing journey was to subscribe to as many newsletters and blogs as I could about therapy, marketing and copywriting. Now I wasn’t about to become an Internet marketer, but I wanted to learn the correct style of writing online articles.
Not only did this give me lots of ideas about what to write about, but I also started to get a feel for the type of voice I wanted to develop, by reading and listening for the voices of others.
Writing tip: Use Google to research articles and to subscribe to blogs and newsletters in your niche area. Pay attention to the individual voices and start to think about the type of voice you want to cultivate.
Any therapist who says ‘I don’t know what to write about’, is either not working with any clients, or is ignoring what’s staring them in the face.
If you work with clients, you ALREADY have a wealth of ideas to begin writing about. Every day you are hearing about your clients’ struggles, pain, distress, challenges, disappointments, joys, hopes and dreams.
Not only that, but you also have your own life experiences and the particular challenges you have faced. As a relationship therapist, I often take notice of the challenges in my own relationship and use that as inspiration to start a new article or blog. I always protect my own AND my clients’ confidentiality, but it’s often a rich source of fodder for future writing.
Writing tip: At the end of every day in your practice, write down a list of the types of issues and struggles that you are working with. Add these to your ideas list.
5. Start your library of ideas.
So you’ve heard me mention an ‘ideas list’ a number of times. I want you to have more than a list. Consider creating a library of ideas.
What this means is you develop the habit of constantly writing down ideas for articles when they come to you. Whether you are in the line at the grocery store, watching your kids play sport, or even at the cinema, when an idea for an article comes to you, make sure you grab it and note it down.
The process of writing needs to be sitting down and perusing your library of ideas, NOT sitting down and wondering what to write about.
Writing tip: Capture ideas either on paper or on your Smartphone and file them to revisit at a later date. Make this a habit and you’ll find when you go to write, you’re already half-way there.
Ok. So one of the biggest obstacles therapists often face with writing for their business is the years and years of training they do to become qualified. I know you wrote for most of your training, in fact, some of you are probably pretty damn great at it. So listen closely: You need to unlearn EVERYTHING you learned about writing in graduate school.
Yup. You heard me right. If you write in the wonderful prose of academia, you will repel clients faster than you can hold onto them.
Writing for your prospective clients has almost nothing to do with how you wrote at university. Most the rules don’t apply, and you definitely need to lose any psychobabble that you use to have case consultations with your peers.
Online writing is casual, informal, warm and very easy to read. In fact, it’s just like having a conversation with a friend. You might even have noticed the casual style I ‘m using and how easy it is to digest. This is your voice that you will need to develop. It may be in the early stages, but start by reading lots of other blogs and articles so you can get a feel for it. Once you do, your prospective clients will feel deeply connected to who you are as a person and what you have to offer in your therapy.
Writing tip: Keep your writing style informal, warm and conversational. Take note of the NEW grammatical rules of informal writing and UNLEARN your academic writing style.
I know you’re scared. Trust me, I was there. It IS scary putting your voice out there. Actually, I was closer to feeling terrified. Terrified I would be judged by my peers and exposed as a fraud that didn’t know anything about therapy! (My inner critic was VERY big).
But listen, in the end you can do all the reading, research and information gathering you want, but unless you just sit down and eventually write something, you’re not going to develop your voice or be able to broadcast it.
Writing tip: Take a deep breath, stay focused on your goal and start writing. Imagine your ideal client reading your article and feeling some relief from their pain. Use this as inspiration to get your voice out there and start having people hear your message.
In the end, once you’ve established your ideal client, you understand their problems, you have some ideas about the solution, you’ve collected lots of ideas, you’ve sat with your fear and started to write anyway, then you need to keep writing.
Don’t give up!
Your voice will only develop through practice and the only way to practice is to keep writing. One of the ways I work well is to schedule specific times during the week for writing. I turn off all distractions and write for 1 hour. Sometimes my writing is truly awful, sometimes it’s ok and occasionally I impress even myself. But more importantly, I develop the habit and practice of writing, making it a ritual during the week. (And one that I now thoroughly enjoy.)
Writing tip: Look at your calendar for the next week. Schedule one-hour periods for writing throughout the week (as your schedule permits) and stick to it. (No excuses!). Turn off email, phones, social media accounts and lock your door. Then write, write, and write!
So your voice is developing and you’re pretty chuffed with how you’re going.
Now it’s time to keep going. Don’t rest on your laurels. You need to keep writing to develop your voice and help it grow.
If you are feeling more and more comfortable in your writing, then it may be time to step out of your comfort zone. Write a controversial post, reveal more of yourself (within your own boundaries) or take on bigger issues.
My experience has been the more ‘human’ I am, the greater the response I have from readers. I certainly don’t reveal aspects of my personal life that I’m not comfortable with many people knowing, but I do inject some of my own personality and humor into my writing.
Your prospective clients want to know you are real, human and have a personality. These aspects are critical for establishing a relationship that may develop into a therapeutic one.
Writing tip: Continue to write in a regular fashion, take more writing risks over time and don’t be afraid to reveal your personality.
There are many ways you can use technology to broadcast your message. You can write for a blog, publish an email newsletter, write short articles for article directories, broadcast on social media or write tips cards for your clients and marketing. The possibilities are endless.
Remember, when you write an article, that doesn’t have to be the end of it. Your article can be re-purposed. This means that you can work it into a number of different articles, maybe create an audio or video version. You might use the article as inspiration for an e-book or home study course. Don’t limit yourself to just the article itself. Think outside the box and consider all the possibilities for this article.
Writing tip: Once you have completed your article, write a list of all the other ways you can re-purpose this article to maximize it’s usage. Then add the re-purposing ideas to your marketing schedule and plan.
What has been your experience of fear and writing? Let us know how you have overcome your fears and what technology you use to broadcast your voice to the world. Leave your comments below.