One of my NLP / Hypnosis students recently asked me for a step by step process or guide to building an NLP / hypnosis practice from scratch with no business experience.
Since I built my own practice from the ground up…several times…I thought I would share some of the pitfalls to avoid as well as some of the things that really worked well.
So here goes…starting with
My Number One Mistake in starting my hypnotherapy practice?
Paying a lot for a Yellow Pages ad that didn’t work.
I took out a pretty big ad in the Yellow Pages. BIG MISTAKE. I am still paying for that ad 5 years later! Did I get phone calls? Yes. did I get clients? A few. But they were not the kind of clients who understood the value of what I was offering. Mostly I got price shoppers. Ultimately the ad did not pay for itself much less create a profit. The problem with a yellow pages ad is that it’s in there for a year. There is no way to tweak it or change it. so if you put in ad in there that doesn’t pull, you are stuck with it.
In order to build a practice fast you do have to advertise. But here are some lessons I learned.
- Get a business phone line. It comes with a free business listing under Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy. That adds legitimacy to your business and conveys the message that you don’t need to advertise with a display ad because you are that good. Just be sure to resist the Yellow Pages sales pitch!
- The best places to advertise Smoking Cessation and Weight Loss for me was a local free paper that got delivered to everyone in specific, targeted communities. Choose a paper that goes to an affluent community! You need a pool of people who have enough money to pay for your services out of pocket. Once you have decided on the paper that fits your demographics a business card sized ad run week in and week out will work. It’s usually the cheapest. In my experience I found that it took at least 3 weeks before I got my first call. I also discovered that the calls slowed down or stopped between Thanksgiving and New Years. But the ad was being seen. The ad needs to be simple and focused on what you will do for your prospect not on you. I have a number of examples of ads I’ve used successfully. Let me know if you want to see them and I’ll find a way to post them on line. the other good thing about the local paper is that if it runs for three weeks with no responses, then you can change it. Big lesson: Change only one thing at a time. Keep track of your responses!
- One of the best places I’ve found over the years to advertise is Natural Awakenings Magazine. There is very likely one near you. It’s a free publication that are targeted to health conscious people. I find there may be less smokers reading this but this magazine is always available where people have nothing else to do. waiting rooms, or restaurants. Often when I’m eating alone I’ll grab this to read while I wait for my food. Thousands of other people do it too and you have their complete attention. (attention is extremely rare these days) I run my ad every single month and that qualifies me for a big discount. They also have a special section in the back for practitioners. That is where I would start. For less than $100 per month you can get the word out to a group of people who are more open to alternative health practices than the general public.
- Speaking of Natural Awakenings Magazine, one major practice building tip that costs only some time and a phone call is to call each of the other practitioners in the magazine and introduce yourself. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee so that you can get to know their business better in order to refer people to them. Make it all about them. If you sincerely want to learn about them, they will want to learn about you too. The more people you get to know the easier it will be to receive referrals. But you have to prime the pump.
- Go on line and search out holistic directories. Most of these are free or very cheap. Sign up! Usually there is an opportunity to up load your picture and your areas of specialty. These take a while to pay off but usually they are quite well optimized for the search engines.
- Business Networking Meetings and Chamber of Commerce groups: I found business networking meetings to be a big challenge at first. At the typical chamber of commerce group I would say “I’m a hypnotherapist” and people would go out of their way to avoid me for fear that I would “hypnotize them and make them quack like a duck.” So I started calling myself an NLP Practitioner and that was better received. Some people’s eyes would glaze over when I explained that NLP stood for Neuro Linguistic Programming. But business folks were more curious about NLP. If they had heard of it before, it was usually in conjunction with Tony Robbins and NLP sales techniques which business people liked.I have over the years had great success helping business owners get out of their own way and typically can help them double their income in a very short period of time. The point is, when with a business group you need to address their needs. They ALL want to make more money, spend more time with their family and deal with the grinding stress and uncertainty of being in business. Address those issues each time you introduce yourself and you will get clients. Now I basically say this at a business networking meeting: “Hi, My name is Mark Shepard and I help business people double their incomes…guaranteed.” Because of my past experience (one client quadrupled his income) I can say that with utter conviction.
You might want to say, Hi, my name is ___________ and I help people stop smoking, lose weight and increase their incomes.” the point is you want to keep it short and focused on the benefit to them. No one cares at that point about your certifications or experience. They assume you have that stuff. They want to try on the idea that you can help them.
- You need a simple website. At some point soon you need to learn about key words and search engine optimization, google ad words or you are going to have to find someone who can help you with that. WARNING! WARNING! There are tons of “web designers” who you will meet at business networking events who have no idea how to create a web site that actually sells your services. Many of them can make a pretty site but have no idea how to get you traffic. I have heard so many heartbreaking stories of new businesses spending a huge amount of money for a website that then does nothing. Luckily for me I didn’t have any money left after my yellow pages ad fiasco so I had to learn how to design my own simple web pages with microsoft front page. There are now a lot of even easier better ways to do that. I’m very impressed by GoDaddy.com and their “website tonight” program that anyone can use to create a simple site. This is an area that I could write a book about…So if you ahve any specific questions let me know. I can also refer you to some people who “get it” and can make a major difference in jump starting your practice building.
- Business cards. Your business card must do more than be pretty and have your name on it. It must sell what you do for your clients very clearly communicated. If you have to have your address on it put your contact info on the back. I lime using my business cards to make a special offer and invite prospects to my website. Warning! I have seen business people get really obsessive over their business card. This is something most people will throw away! I constantly tweak and tune my business card using Microsoft Publisher. then I just get a couple hundred of them printed at a time. If you want to see some of mine let me know and I’ll put up a pdf with some of the examples I’ve had success with over the years.
- Your e-mail signature. In pretty much all e-mail programs you cna have an outgoing signature. You should have a short description of what you do and the website people can go to in order to find out more.
- All of the above have very little to do with actually practicing hypnosis or NLP. The best thing you can do to build your practice is to practice. By that I mean, get out there and get some experience actually working with real people. One way I got people to at least consider giving me a try was by offering a free 1 hour consult. I used this time to learn more about them and to demonstrate a few of the fast NLP techniques that would enable them to experience immediate results. Most signed up for my BreakThrough Sessions. The ones that didn’t at least enabled me to practice my presentation and to learn more about their business and how I could help them.
So those are a few thoughts to start with. Building a hypnosis or NLP practice from scratch is a challenge. If it was the easiest thing in the world to do everyone would be doing it! The process of building your practice is one of the deepest and most truly transforming experiences you will ever have. You ahve to walk your talk. You will be tested. You will learn more than you ever learned in your hypnosis training or your NLP training.
I found that I had extremely unrealistic expectations of how long it would take to get it started. Luckily I was still doing a lot of school performances as a musician and storyteller. so I had some other streams of income. I found that private sessions were quite easy to work into my existing schedule.
In the beginning I charged $150 per hour. I got such tremendous results with many of my clients that it became clear to me that what I was offering had an extremely high value. One client increased his income from $25,000 to $190,000. I only worked with him for a total of 10 hours. Not a bad return on his investment. A number of my weight loss clients loss dramatic amounts of weight easily. Smokers typically were done in a single session. At this point I charge $500 per hour. I work with fewer people but the quality of the clients and the results we get has risen exponentially.
So the major piece of advice I have about starting your NLP / Hypnosis practice is this.
it’s a practice. It is a continual learning process. You will make what look like mistakes at the time. but remember, there are no mistakes there is no failure. There is only feedback.
The best thing I ever did to build my practice and long term income took me five years of struggle to discover…I’ll share that next time.
thanks for checking this out
Mark Shepard, NLPT
Certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, Hypnosis
Certified Master Trainer of Time Line Therapy(tm) Techniques