When it came time to write your website, you knew there was only one way to do it: complete and utter immersion.
With a bottomless mug of decaf Earl Grey and notes from your niching exercises, you enter your writing weekend with the same fierce devotion as Lesley Knope to Ann Perkins.
Breaks from writing came when your partner knocked on the door: “Babe, I love you, but even Brené Brown needed more than day-old popcorn when she wrote Braving The Wilderness.”
Your hard work paid off. Your friends, family, and colleagues LOVE your website and tell you so. Despite your fear, you shared your newbie website with a Facebook group and got great feedback.
Then why. the. heck. isn’t your phone ringing?
The thing is – your friends and family aren’t your clients. Your colleagues probably have no freakin’ clue what they’re doing either. And those peeps in your FB group? They probably don’t know you well enough to tell you what you REALLY need to hear.
Your copy is bleh. I mean, it’s not bad. It’s just like…unflavored oatmeal. Hearty and filling, but it doesn’t stand out.
Secretly, you want your website to be the Pop-Tarts of websites. Indulgent, engaging, and maybe with rainbow sprinkles. Picked off the shelf without hesitation or a second thought. (Take that, Quaker Oats! I will get my fiber ELSEWHERE, thankyouverymuch.)
But, Ari, – you say – my writing is GOOD. I can spin a metaphor like nobody’s business. I can alliterate the crap out of a sentence. My professors loved my papers.
Shouldn’t I apply the same formula in academic or creative writing to my website copy?
Great, I suck at writing. Is that what you’re telling me?
No, no, no! You are GREAT at writing. You’re just not great – YET – at writing copy that hooks your clients. That’s okay, no one taught you how. That’s why I’m writing this.
Since you have a gift for noticing the details about human behavior no one else does, as you read the rest of this blog, part of you will be like ‘Duh, of course!’
Aaaaaand, what is coming ahead is going to disrupt that clinical brain you spent years and years honing and training (and paying a sh*t ton of money for).
You’re gonna be like Neo in the Matrix after taking the red pill. You won’t be able to unsee all the ways your play-it-safe writing is making you appear bland to potential clients.
The good news: I’m gonna tell you how to fix it.
3 Play-It-Safe Writing Mistakes That Are *Actually* Hurting Your Business
Mistake #1: You’re focusing too hard on pleasing everyone.
Do you feel a bit censored when writing your About Me page? Does your home page feel more ho-hum than fun? If your name wasn’t on your site, would folx even be able to tell it was you who wrote it?
If you answered “ugh.yes.stop.” to any of these, you’re probably trying too hard to appeal to everyone on your website. You’re missing the clients who are desperately looking for someone to cut through the cliches and speak to what is happening inside their head. (*nudge* That’s you.)
Let’s give a real-life example where the strategy of ‘PLEASING EVERYONE’ falls flat:
It’s been a while since I was swiping right, but the experience is seared in my mind. No amount of EMDR can take away my repulsion for profile pics where the person only had on sunglasses (c’mon, I need to make sure you don’t have creepy eyes). Not to mention, I can’t forget the profiles stuffed with the generic one-liners that told me absolutely NOTHING about the person on the other end, let alone if they were even a good match for me.
Here are a few of my favorite gag-worthy one-liners:
I work hard, play hard. (But apparently, you didn’t bother to TRY HARD with your profile).
Living life to the fullest! (Ummmm…is your life too full for you to actually put thought into this?)
Living the dream! (Does this mean you’re asleep? Or AM I asleep? Because this profile feels like an ‘effin nightmare.)
C’mon…Who doesn’t love hate-swiping, right?
I mean, you love those profiles that are obviously not for you. It’s so comforting to know right from the start this person isn’t a good fit.
What a relief to learn they hated cats prior to memorizing the names of their favorite vegan restaurants, right?
The moral of the not-so-Cinderella story
When we’re afraid of offending others, we mask the best, rawest, most personable parts of us.
Your clients want to know you’re a real person.
They want to know what they read on your site will be as close as possible to who shows up in the room. They don’t want a generic-one-liner-clique-and-quotes therapist. (And they certainly want to make sure you don’t have creepy eyes, so include a good photo, too.)
15-min Fix: Think about one thing about you that either draws people in or pushes them away. You may have to ask a close friend or partner for this.
For example – I enjoy a well-placed f-bomb (hmmm, can you tell?). My good-fit therapy clients love they don’t have to censor themselves in session and can use real-life language. My bad-fit clients find the way I speak offensive and off-putting and it gets in the way of us connecting.
For the longest time, I hid this part of myself in my copy. I felt like a ‘good therapist’ didn’t use profanity on their website. I didn’t want to offend anyone. And while I don’t have f-bombs all over my private practice website, I’m a little less censored in my writing and I’ve found it brings in the clients I really love to work with.
Whatever your polarizing trait is (profanity, parts work, or annoying alliteration) make sure it’s included in your writing so you can repel the folx who aren’t a good fit, but REALLY draw in those clients who connect with You. (Yes, capital Y.)
Mistake #2: Your language is WAY too formal
Since grade school, it’s been drilled into us the “right” and “wrong” way to write. We spent our education learning how to turn our casual speech into something presentable and academic.
Then, in grad school, we learned all these fancy clinical terms so we can talk with other therapists about what’s happening for our clients in a way that makes us sound important. These words? They are jargon.
You know who doesn’t jive with your jargon? YOUR CLIENTS.
You’ve been unconsciously writing your website copy for other therapists, not your ACTUAL clients.
Let me really hit this point home with some imaginary conversations between your ideal client and their BFF.
“I’d really like to have unconditional positive regard with an outspoken, yet nurturing therapist as I express myself creatively so I can learn how my childhood wounds are reenacted in my current relationships, thus increasing the satisfaction in my marriage.”
– No Client Ever
How about this:
“I keep messing up my relationships. What’s wrong with me? I need a therapist who isn’t just gonna nod and take notes – someone who will call me out, but not cut me down.”
-The Client Who Needs You But Doesn’t Even Know It Yet
15-min Fix: Have someone who isn’t part of the clinical/healing community read your website.
Have them highlight any word they don’t know the exact definition of or that feels snooty, distant, or academic. Then, de-jargon your website. Replace those words with every day speech, or even casual slang. But only use words you would actually say.
Mistake #3: You’re hiding what your clients *REALLY* want to know about you.
You’ve spent YEARS getting letters behind your name. Countless hours working towards your clinical goals: EMDR certification, PACT training, becoming an RPT, and beyond.
Ready for a truth bomb?
Your clients don’t care about those acronyms or the letters behind your name.
They don’t. I haven’t met one person (who isn’t a therapist) who knows exactly what LPC credential stands for. Today, I was actually called a Licensed “Personal” Counselor. I kid you not.
Okay, there is one exception…
Parents may be a bit more curious about credentials and training. Hell, they don’t want to just leave their kid in a room with anyone. You might also find credentials matter if you see therapists in your practice. Ultimately, they will tell you they just want someone who will help them or their kid feel better. Period.
Imagine you’re on your lunch break at Chipotle. There’s a small fishbowl next to the register inviting you to drop your business card in. There is a drawing every Friday – and YOU. COULD. WIN. You grab your ginormous burrito (that will serve as two meals, you tell yourself) and drop in your business card.
Weeks later, you get a call. You won! But it’s not the prize you thought. The ‘prize’ is a personalized wood engraving that is going in the waiting room of your office. It is going to be nailed there for-EV-er. Even longer than straws in a landfill.
The catch? The engraver can only put one sentence that summarizes You and your work with therapy clients.
Well, shoot…what would you write?
Unless you have worked diligently with someone on branding, niching, and beyond – you probably can’t answer this off the top of our head. By default, you might use clinical (aka non-human) jargon.
The best way I have found to dial down my true message to clients is to pay attention to the little soundbites (4-7 words) that come up often in session, especially the ones that bring relief to my clients’ face.
These soundbites don’t have to be slangy or entirely informal, although they can be. Some of mine: “You’re not crazy.” “You’re not an asshole, you’re setting a boundary.” and “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
The engraver has been waiting for you to reply to them for weeks now as you have NO CLUE what you want to be put on this plaque that will outlast human civilization.
If you’re still stumped, try this exercise below.
15-min Fix: Think about some things you say frequently in session or any big ‘ah-has’ your clients have had.
What values do you lean against when working with a challenging client? What beliefs come forth when you are sitting with a client deep in grief? What have been YOUR soul-wrenching lessons that arise being with other people in their pain?
I have a feeling your answers will be real, human, and in non-clinical terms. TRUST THAT.
Whatever you unearth in these reflections, infuse that voice, values, and belief into your copy.
Bonus: Take a look at your about page. Does it read like a glorified resume? Then it’s time to infuse some YOU into your copy.
Above all, I want you to remember:
- Don’t fret if you make these mistakes. You’re a good writer. It’s just no one taught you how to write for your business.
- You don’t have to re-write everything. (I’m sure your partner doesn’t want to endure another weekend of unwashed hair-and-same-pants-for-three-days.) Little tweaks in your writing will have a big impact on making your website copy stand out.
- When you put more of YOU into your website, clients will immediately connect with you and know you’re the right therapist for them.