TTE 17: Creating a Professional Avatar to Find Your Ideal Private Practice Client
Who is your ideal client? Where do they socialize? What kind of networking do they do? What do they look like? How old are they? Kids? Married? Divorced?
These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself when growing your private practice.
In this episode of The Therapist Experience, Ron Gad and I discuss how to find and market to your ideal private practice client by creating a professional avatar.
In This Episode, You’ll Learn:
Best Marketing Move for Business
- Discovering and crafting a niche
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
Thanks to Ron for joining me this week. Until next time!
TranscriptClick here to read the Transcript
Ron: I can’t wait.
Perry: Alright, Ron. Glad to have you here. Ron Gad was born and raised in Los Angeles. At the age of 18 he left Southern California on what ended up being a multi-year life enriching adventure away from LA. During that time he noticed that his true gift was his ability to help individuals realize their desired potential. So Ron shifted his focus to counseling psychology. After completing his MA Summa Cum Laude at Pacifica Graduate Institute at Santa Barbara, California and acquiring his marriage and family therapist license Ron worked at various clinics, agencies, and residential and out-patient treatment facilities in his home town of Los Angeles. Today, Ron is a dissertation away from his doctorate in clinical psychology and an internship away from being eligible to license as a psychologyst in the state of California. He’s a topic expert and contributing writer for goodtherapy.org and has presented on theory and practice at the American Psychological Association, California Psychological Association, and various regional and local psychological and addiction based conferences. He founded Gad Therapy and Professional Consulting in order to help industry leaders, entrepreneurs, small-business owners and medical and mental health clinicians strengthen their senses of self, solidify their self-confidence, and move beyond their anxieties, excessive worries, and self-doubt that hold them back from maximizing their personal and professional goals. Ron, I gave a little overview of you there but why don’t you take a minute, fill in the gaps from that introduction and tell our audience a little bit more about you personally, and about your practice?
Ron: Yeah, great. Thanks for having me again, Perry. And I guess that introduction was mainly about my current life as a psychotherapist and professional consultant. And so much happened leading up to that that really brought me into this world. Mostly it was me realizing where my true passions lie. I started teaching English and then went into retail, manufacturing and designing jewelry, and sales, and traveled the world meeting lots of people, experiencing lots of things, making good money and business. But still realizing that there was a sense of emptiness almost. It’s like something was missing for me and that realization took me back to school and brought me back into the world of psychotherapy and academia. So here I am today.
Perry: What was your favorite place that you visited while exploring who Ron is?
Ron: That’s a tough question. Well, I have been to every state in the Union which I really value, because I spent a lot of time seeing the country and the different ways people live around this country, and God– I lived in Alaska for a while and that is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. So I liked that. And then I lived in Saint Thomas for a while, and you can’t really be living on an island and not at the beach.
Perry: What a contrast there, going from Alaska to Saint Thomas. Were you in Alaska through the winter as well?
Ron: I spent time there in the winter but for the most part I was there while the cruise ships were pulling into port, and my business is kind of focused on the travel industry and– So we were there May through September into October a little bit.
Perry: So what were your businesses?
Ron: I started working in retail, vacation destinations. So working with selling mainly jewelry but a little bit of vacation kind of memorabilia. Then I was working with cruise ships. I was in the Caribbean where cruise ships pulled into port, and Alaska where cruise ships pulled into port. And I realized that there was a certain mentality with vacationers and the way they travel, and the way they shop. And then I got into the marketing aspect of it. I left the retail side of things and worked with the cruise ships and the different cruise lines, and the stores in ports to market their product, to market their brand, and to introduce the people on the ships with what some of these different stores had to offer them.
Perry: Psychologists sure make great marketers, don’t they?
Ron: I think so. If you look at it through the lens of, these are just people with thoughts, and feelings, and desires, and emotions that travel with them wherever they go and through whatever they’re doing. It’s just a matter of being able to tap into that.
Perry: I agree entirely. That’s what business is, and the intersection of marketing with it. So Ron, let’s take a step back though. You’ve been an entrepreneur your entire life. Since you started travelling the world at 18. And I think many entrepreneurs listening to this show can definitely relate to that. It’s a call, being an entrepreneur. Often entrepreneurs were entrepreneurs in high school, or even elementary school in one form or another. I know I most certainly was. But let’s go back to a point in your career as a mental health professional though and let’s go back to a point where you could have called it quits. Where you were just as low as you could possibly be in your journey in private practice and you were just ready to throw in the towel. And then more importantly, can you share with us how you overcame that adversity and powered through that to continue building your successful business?
Ron: Well, I think all of that for me, and I think for most people, really revolves around succumbing to expectations. And some are societal expectations and some are personal expectations. But for me, as I went through things, as I started my work as practitioner, as a clinician. And I got this sense that I wasn’t living up to my own expectations. I really started worrying and fell into a bit of self-doubt that I just moved from one industry that I liked and kind of was able to succeed in but didn’t really connect with emotionally and intellectually just to another. And it was about getting past those expectations. The expectations from society that, oh well, if you’re a therapist you need to work in community mental health. You need to take insurance, you need to cater to the type of individuals who really need clinical help but can’t afford to pay anything for it. And you need to work 40 hours a week doing it. And when I was living through, what I call, those societal expectations I really started doubting that this was something that I wanted to do, that would bring me happiness, and that would bring me my own version of success. So I had to kind of dig down and figure what were the expectations of others and what were my visions of success, and how can I lend it too. And for me it was just making that decision.
Perry: And Ron, what is your vision of success?
Ron: Hahaha. Well, that changes every day, I think.
Perry: Hahaha. An ever-moving target.
Perry: What is that target for you today?
Ron: Today I think it’s about being able to manage my life in a way that isn’t overwhelming. To build my private practice in a way that doesn’t stress me out. To be able to manage the fact that I’m still working on my PHD and I have to do my dissertation and get some internship hours done. The fact that I have two and a half year old toddler and a wife, and we’re expecting another child. And to embrace all of those things and not be overwhelmed by any one of those. If I’m able to do that– On the days that I’m able to do that I feel successful.
Perry: It’s an ongoing struggle. I know exactly what you mean. When my first son was born struggling through that I experienced those same exact struggles. Trying to separate work and life, and be with my son more but knowing that I still needed to work and build a business, it’s a very challenging push-pull feeling that you’re in. But if you keep striving towards making that work, you most certainly can. And it seems like you are well on that path.
Ron: Yeah. I think especially for clinicians, for therapists who really have this altruistic sense of their worth. They need to sacrifice themselves in order to help the other. But what I came to realize is that if the work is truly only in service of the other and not with the self in mind, then I and others are inevitably withholding their true passion. And if you do that there’s no way you can really help somebody else. I mean, truly, deeply help somebody else.
Perry: I agree wholeheartedly. So Ron, you’ve come such a long way from there. You have a sense and a vision of what your practice should be and how you want to help people. So having that clear sense of self-indirection must really help guide you in a lot of your business decisions. So one thing I’d love for you to share with our audience is what your current session rate is to see clients? How long of a session that is? And share with us your journey to that rate?
Ron: I hold a 45 minute session and I charge 180 dollars, and I pretty much started there right away. I think that for me it was about making the numbers work, and being able to make financially what I needed to make in order to live the life that I needed to live, and to get through the process that I was getting through at the time. I don’t take insurance, I’ve never taken insurance. I thought about it at the beginning but the stipulations that they instill and the reimbursements rate that they offer to me it was kind of insulting almost. And I believed that there is value in extending oneself emotionally, physically, and monetarily. And I didn’t think that I could be happy dealing with insurance policies and panel. But I went at it a slightly different way. I figured that I had about 12 to 15 hours at the time that I was willing to see clients in private practice. And I donated five of those hours, I delegated five of those hours to be sliding scale slots. And within those sliding scales, within those five slots I figured I’d be able to pave my monthly business expenses. So I was okay going down for those five slots because I figured I’d be able to help some people that couldn’t afford the 180. I’d fill them probably a little bit quicker, which I did, and I paid all my expenses. And I did that in the first month. So I was in the black after the first month just because of those five sliding scale slots.
Perry: That’s great. And not only that, you get to give back to the community in a way. People who can’t afford the 180 can work with you still, and reap the benefits of psychotherapy because there are certainly people out there who need help but can’t afford a higher session rate. Would you agree?
Ron: Oh, I think that’s so true. But as clinicians I think that it’s important that we remember that there are people who need help that also can’t afford that session fee. We shouldn’t lock ourselves into it. For me it was, once I had those five slots covered and I knew that my bills were covered I could hold firm to my 180, which I still think is actually kind of low in Los Angeles, but I’m happy with it where I am right now and what I need it to. And I can just hold out for the right client, the one that I really enjoy working with. The one that can afford that session rate. And I didn’t have to worry about filling hours just to pay the bills.
Perry: Perfect. Ron, one thing that you mentioned already and something that you’re very adept at is marketing. But so many of our listeners here really struggle with marketing their practice and marketing their business, but there’s really no way that you can grow a thriving practice without marketing it. One thing I would love for you to share with our audience is what do you feel like was the single best marketing move you made for your business and why do you think it worked so well for you?
Ron: Huh, oddly enough I think this is the easiest of the answers and probably the strangest way to get there but for me it was personal therapy because it was about figuring out really who I am, what I need, what my path is. And once I was able to figure that out within that process, I was able to realize a niche, and within that I was able to realize how to blog, and what circles to network in, how to make my digital presence represent my true self. But it all started with personal therapy. I think it was Eddie in maybe session 9 or 10 that really talked about this and as much as he did, I still didn’t feel like it was enough. I mean, I can’t stress how important I think, especially for clinicians, personal therapy is. And being true to yourself and understanding who you are and who you want to be. And for me that was it. That was my marketing move was knowing who I am, getting closer to who I want to be and then nicheing down from there. So
Perry: Can you elaborate more on what your niche is? I think we actually skipped that question earlier, which is a pretty crucial question. Share with us more about what your niche is and your journey to that, and the inward journey that you discovered?
Ron: Well, I work with individuals. I work with professionals, small-business professionals, clinical and mental health and medical professionals who are just a little bit shy within their own vision of success. They think they’re on the right track, some of them are actually successful in the eyes of the outside world but they still feel a sense of emptiness and like something is missing inside. I try and work with those individuals to connect their personal visions of success with their world around them. And be accepting to that reality, to their own reality of success. And really I think it’s all through a personal endeavor. Part of my work is professional consulting. It’s how to get to where an individual wants to be financially and in relationships and in their vision of success. And most of that comes internally. There’s so many professional consultants out there that do ex’s and oh’s, that do spreadsheets, and this is how you market, and this is what you need to do. And that’s important because you do need to follow certain steps to be able to accomplish goals. But if you bypass the personal, if you don’t include your family history, your personal relationships over the years, the way you’ve succeeded in the past, the way you failed in the past. And if you don’t bring that in then I don’t think that you would ever truly be happy with who you are and where you are and feel a genuine sense of success. So I work with people to get to that point.
Perry: Knowing what your niche is, you mentioned before that once you knew what your niche was you were able to go into and find the right groups to network in, and then I would imagine finding these groups allows you to get word of mouth referrals, is that accurate?
Ron: Correct, yeah.
Perry: So, how did you then discover those group? If someone’s listening to this episode right now and they’re on that journey to– They’re more of a generalist and they’re listening to this, they listen to The Therapist Experience and they realize, every single person on this show– Just about every person on this show has niched down and specialized in something. I’ve done this personal journey. I’ve done what Ron did to make his own discovery and I know my specialty but I don’t know where to go next. Where did you go and find these groups to then network in and get those word of mouth referrals flowing in?
Ron: Well, I created what they call a avatar, a professional avatar. I took this idea of who I work with, I went through all my favorite clients and all the clients that I didn’t like working with, and all of my challenges. Positive and negative challenges within my clinical work. And I tried to figure out who would I ideally like to fill– If I’m going to have 20 sessions a week, who would I want to sit with for all 20 of them. And I created this one avatar. This is the person that I want to work with. And then I figured where does she or he eat, where do they shop, where do these people socialize? Where do they market, what kind of networking groups do the go to, if they do? All through. There’s a great list of categories that you want to fill out for your target avatar. And once you have that person in mind that’s the person you always address. When you’re writing a blog, when you’re writing a marketing– When you’re creating a marketing flier, or a handout, or something that you’re going to post on Facebook or even finding a Facebook group to join, let’s say. I had to figure out which group was my avatar a member of, and what networking groups was my avatar a member of? So I thought about B&I, well, I guess my avatar might go to B&I but I think he or she is more likely to be in these therapist networking groups because I work with so many therapists. So in a room filled with therapists I’m more likely to connect with one who might want to utilize my services.
Perry: That is such gold there, Ron. Making that ideal client profile or a professional avatar, that allows you to understand who you want to target. So if you’re working with women over the age of 40 who are recently divorced or widowed for example, or head of household. Where are they hanging out, what kinds of careers do they have? What groups are they a member of? Where do they socialize, if they are on Twitter or what social media tools they use? Are they on social media? What kinds of people do they follow and listen to? And really digging in and figuring out who that person is allows you to craft your messaging to attract them in.
Ron: And it makes it so much less daunting when you create this one person. Because when you’re trying to find– To follow up on your example, if you’re trying to target every over 40 year old woman and every recently divorced person, it is so difficult to really focus on how can I get to my ideal client. Even though they fall within that realm. They’re more specifics that matter. And when you’re able to just give her a hairstyle and a hair color, and what she wears, and what her name is, and now every time you do something, and every time you set out to attract a client, she’s the one in your head. It makes it like you’re just talking to her. You’re sitting across the table and you’re saying, “Hey, this is what I do and this is who you are. And I think that we can help each other out.”
Perry: I completely agree. Could you imagine if Brighter Vision, instead of being the worldwide leader in therapist website design, we’re the worldwide leader in small-business website design, where would we go? You can’t be everything and anything to everyone. Figure out who you like to work with, we love working with therapists. Our product works so well with mental health professionals. So here we are, we’re having this chat. Our ideal client is– Part of it is somebody who’s looking to grow their practice and they want to invest in a website. So here we are having this chat on The Therapist Experience to help educate people on who– A lot of our listeners are Brighter Vision clients but there’s a percentage of them that are not. And those that are listening to this show and want to grow their practice and be educated from it, well, they’re hearing about us every single week and they’re learning so much. And hopefully for all of you guys listening to this, hopefully, when you’re ready to make a decision on website you come to Brighter Vision. It just makes your marketing decisions, it makes your pitch. It makes your 60 seconds elevator pitch so much easier, so much more concise, and as you said, far less daunting.
Ron: Yeah, and it’s bidirectional. You know, when you have this bigger scheme and to use your example just websites for small-business professionals, you’re just on a soapbox kind of preaching out there to anybody who’s a small business professional come this way. When you niche down and you’re able to focus on a professional avatar, and you create therapist who can really benefit from your websites, then you’re able to have a discussion that goes two ways, and you’re able to help each other. And I truly believe that as well. When I’m in a clinical setting, if I expect change only to happen to the person sitting across from me, then I think that I’m sadly mistaken. There are two people in that room, three or more if you’re doing couples or families or groups, and everybody in that room has to change. Everybody in that discussion has to grow. When you’re marketing, when you’re networking, and when you’re conducting therapy.
Perry: I agree wholeheartedly. You got such a diverse business background so I think this answer is going to come pretty naturally to you, but you went to school to become a mental health professional. Not to get your MBA. You sort of got your MBA through working with the cruise ships and learning about marketing and advertising but you didn’t get your MBA from a school. And I’m sure it was in your blood that you always knew you’re going to open your own private practice. One thing I love for our audience to know is what’s the one thing that you wish you would have learned in school about starting your own private practice?
Ron: I guess I wish they would have just been more honest about the fact that I would have to figure it out on my own. The ex’s and oh’s, they’re just that. It’s technical jargon that we need to know to graduate, to license, but at the end of the day it’s an individual, going out there, creating his or her environment that’s there to help others. And if you’re true to that part of self. If you bring yourself into it, then the business comes easy. It’s not work if you’re really in it. And I think that the clinical world is so much more than just community mental health or working in treatment facilities or even private practice. There’s so much that an individual in this profession can do. And if you’re able to tap into what drives you, what motivates you, what really excites you, then the business part will come so easy. And I just wish there was more self in the academic schooling.
Perry: Even knowing that if you want to go into private practice, right?
Ron: Right, anything. Knowing that that’s what excites me. And being true to self because I think– There’s this book that Irvin Yalom wrote, ‘The Gift of Therapy’. And he talked about this interaction with the client of his that he thought that all these interventions that he was doing and his modality, and all his years of schooling and clinical practice prowess is what really god this client to value his services, and the time with him. And what he realized that in a conversation with her was that it was about the way that he was as a person. Was the fact that when she got a haircut he said, “Hey, nice haircut.” Or just related to her on a personal level. And those are things that just take the profession beyond ex’s and oh’s, and beyond the school, and really turn it into what truly makes it a desirable business for someone. When they can be themselves and be happy, and connect with others. Then that’s what they’ll get. And I think the reality is with the way the industry is set and the way the academic scheduling is done is that when you get out of school, if you really want to succeed as a small business owner, there’s some work you have to do. There are some programs that are made to help people like us wrap our head around the business aspect of it. And even with almost 20 years of business experience I still went to Kelly and Miranda and went to ZynnMe and did a program with them that helped me understand the business side of therapy and private practice, and that’s value.
Perry: Was that their business school bootcamp?
Ron: Business school bootcamp.
Perry: Oh yeah. And we’ll definitely have links to that in the show notes. We’ve mentioned that the number of times here. That’s just such a wonderful program for therapists to get a sense of how to grow their business, really focus on their business. And we wholeheartedly endorse that program. And again, we’ll have links to that in this week’s show notes which everyone can find at brightervision.com/session17. Alright Ron, now we’re going to move into the final part of our interview. The part we like to refer to as Brighter Insights. And what I really love about this part of the show is we get to distill down your advice and your guidance into short little snippets and sound bites that our audience can use to motivate and inspire them throughout their week. Are you ready?
Ron: Yes, let’s do it.
Perry: What or whom inspired you to become a mental health professional?
Ron: Wow. Well, I think the simple answer is there was a therapist that I was seeing who asked me what my vision of success was. That was the starting point for me. And I had to look deep into that and then explore that further, and the more I looked into that, the more I realized that what I was doing and why I was doing it was not everything that I needed it to be. And realized just because you’re doing something, just because you’re good at it and just because you like it, doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it and you don’t have to be– Good enough isn’t necessarily good enough. And once I realized that it was time to transfer on.
Perry: What is it that you do to clear your head and get a fresh start in your day?
Ron: I like to jog in the morning. I get up in the five o’clock hour. I actually hate getting up early. I’m not a morning person at all.
Perry: But you get up at five AM, huh? Well, you’ve got a kid so…
Ron: But I enjoy the solitude of it. I am an introvert as most, I think, clinicians tend to be. And with a toddler and a dog and a wife and millions of people that are in LA, it’s nice to have some time before anybody else gets up. So I go out, I listen to an audio book that I usually get from audible.com and something that is not business related. So I take this hour and I listen to podcasts or fiction books that don’t bring my mind back to business because that’s a time that I want to focus on nothing. Haha.
Perry: What are some tools that you’ve used to leverage the power of technology in your private practice so that technology is no longer a hurdle but instead an asset for you?
Ron: Well, I think it is realizing that other people are better than me at most things. And I try to utilize them. Brighter Vision, for example, for my website, Simple Practice for my billing, my notes, and my accounting. Zynnyme we already mentioned. Podcasts, The Therapist Experience, The Practice of The Practice, all those things help me. Those are all technological components that help me grow. And by knowing that other people have mastered them, right? I worked with Rachel Tschanz who made my website at Brighter Vision, and it was easy because she knew how to do all the hard stuff. I just had to let her know what was in my head and let her do the hard work. And for me that’s how I utilize technology. By letting somebody else who’s mastered it, do it.
Perry: Let the experts handle all the technical stuff, you handle your business and seeing clients, right?
Ron: Yeah. Know how they can benefit you but don’t get held up. Remember, if you’re charging 180 an hour, 150 or 100, or even 50 an hour, and you’re spending 3, 4, 5, 6 hours trying to fiddle with how to make your website. I mean, you’re just wasting time and money.
Perry: Yup, I agree entirely. You just lost a lot of money there. What’s a quote that you hold near and dear? Something that has helped formulate your perspective on life or has inspired and motivated you throughout your life?
Ron: Well, I’ve got two so you’ll have to indulge me a little bit with this one. But in the business sense I like Raymond Hull’s and he said, “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” And then, of course, on a more psychotherapeutic note I like this quote that came from a play, Freud’s Last Session. And Freud, I don’t think he ever said this in real life, but in the play he said, “Things are simple only when you choose not to examine them.”
Perry: Hahaha. That’s great. Ron, if you could recommend one book to our audience, what would that book be and why?
Ron: Again, I have a hard time with only one but I’ll say this. Michael Port wrote a book called ‘Book Yourself Solid’. Which was really catered to people in the service helping professions, and small-business owners, and really helped me understand what I was going after and what I needed to do to get what I was going after. And that is a specific book that I really recommend to anyone who’s opening their own private practice or small business, but on a more general note I like to suggest to everyone to go back and read a book that impacted them when they were in school. I’m talking like high school or elementary school. For me it was ‘The Great Gatsby’. And when I realized that all these characters in that book were trying to figure out who they were and who the other person was, to me that’s my whole world and that’s my whole life. And that means something to me. But I think that if everyone goes back and finds an old book and says, “God, why did I love that book so much?” And then read it, reread it, and then really explore connections to those characters and connections to the themes and the symbols within the book. I think it would really open their eyes to how they got to where they are today.
Perry: Alright, Ron. Last question for you and it’s my absolute favorite of the show. So if you could move to a new city tomorrow and you didn’t know anybody there, and all that you had with you was your computer and 100 dollars to start a new private practice, what is it that you would do on your very first day?
Ron: Well, I think that you’d need a website and business cards, and maybe even a website over– For sure a website over business cards. Both, if you can manage it. And I think what’s even more important than that is to find a therapist, to find someone who can help in the area. Help you explore your passions and your directions. Because with that as someone you can go deep with and explore your sense of self, that’s how you can really create a successful business. And then of course a website because that’s how people could know who you want them to know you are.
Perry: That’s kind of important there too, is it? Haha.
Perry: Well Ron, where can our listeners find you to connect and learn more about you?
Ron: I am at gadtherapy.com and you can certainly email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perry: Fantastic. And of course, we will have all this information in this week’s show notes at brightervision.com/session17. Ron, thank you so much for being so generous with your time, your expertise, and your knowledge.
Ron: I had a great time.
Perry: I had a great time with you too Ron. Thank you so much from the Therapist Experience you have shared.
Ron: Thank you.
Perry: And everybody listening thank you so much for tuning in today. If you have a question for us please email us at email@example.com, and of course, if you’re ready to launch a website and start getting your ideal clients into your practice come on over to Brighter Vision and drop us a line. We are the worldwide leader in custom therapist website design. For less than two dollars a day you’ll get a website that’s as unique as your practice. Unlimited technical support and complementary search engine optimization so people who are searching for you will actually find you online. Head on over to brightervision.com and drop us a line and we’ll be back in touch with you within one business day. Thank you again so much for listening everybody, that does it for today, and we will see you next week.