When it comes to marketing, it feels like everyone makes it look so easy.
Self-promotion or having to “sell yourself” makes you feel like a fish out of water – and just as slimy as one, too.
In an ideal world, your work speaks for itself.
In the *real* world, your clients need to be able to find you.
Enter: Marketing your private practice or business.
The dreaded M-word, amiright?
Let’s get this straight. Marketing, in and of itself, is not as mysterious or hard as we think it is.
Yes, we might feel overwhelmed with all the different social media algorithms and automation software. We struggle with imposter syndrome in writing our website copy. But there are reputable strategies to get you in front of your ideal clients.
The hardest part about marketing – especially for sensitive, introverted, or perfectionistic therapists – is allowing oneself to be seen.
Marketing and being seen are not the same thing.
Marketing is the action. The strategy. The who, what, how. Marketing is what you do, create, and share with others.
Being seen is what *happens* when you market. It’s receptive. It’s putting yourself out there and having no control over what others think, feel, say, or do with your creation.
Warning: If you avoid doing the inner-work around the discomfort of being seen, a few things can happen:
- The overwhelm of being seen becomes unbearable, so you unconsciously sabotage your marketing efforts, and, as a result, your business. You believe: “See, I wasn’t cut out for private practice anyway.” (NOT true.)
- You don’t get serious about marketing until you’re desperate, resulting in putting yourself out there in a way that doesn’t feel authentic, empowered, or genuine.
- You market inconsistently, resulting in scarcity mindset when business is slow, and overwhelm when you get lots of calls.
- You try out different marketing personas, hoping each time *this* is what makes you feel more comfortable being seen. Unfortunately, you sacrifice having a consistent brand voice or brand personality, resulting in clients or colleagues being unsure who you are or what you stand for.
- You don’t pace yourself to honor your introverted, sensitive nature. Each marketing push follows with exhaustion, shame, or overwhelm. You’ll end up believing you’re too sensitive or introverted to do this full time.
- It triggers your money trauma or money shame. You are so uncomfortable being seen that you’re afraid to value your work. This shows up in how you set your fees or manage your money. This undermines the sustainability of your business and can lead to resentment and burnout.
I know exactly what this feels like
Despite the infamous family story of my show-stealing clarinet solo in 1994, I don’t crave being the center of attention.
In this deeply personal post, I share the #1 hardest lesson I learned while growing my business. Even as I figured out how to market, blog, and set my fees, I wasn’t prepared for how exposed and unsure I felt with putting myself out there.
Even worse, I felt so alone because it felt like no one was talking about it.
If you want to feel MORE COMFORTABLE BEING SEEN – so that you can market your practice CONFIDENTLY – CONSIDER THESE STRATEGIES:
Below are strategies that have proven to be helpful to therapists, coaches, and healers as they start, grow, and uplevel their private practice.
These techniques are also useful to those expanding *beyond the office* and scaling into larger work, such as courses, membership sites, or group coaching programs – which often require a higher (and more vulnerable) level of online visibility than a brick-and-mortar private practice.
Ready? Let’s do this.
1) The do-or-die technique (Disclaimer: Not for everyone)
When I left my agency job to build my practice full-time, I gave myself 6 months to get full before returning to a 9-5 type gig. I was so determined to never work for anyone again that I forced myself to put myself out there. I was willing to hustle for myself so I didn’t have to hustle for someone else.
Consider this the Rip Off the Bandaid Approach. Just do it. Publish your website even though it’s imperfect. Do a Facebook live even though you can’t stand seeing yourself in a camera. Attend that networking event even though you don’t have an office, business cards, or a clear niche. Keep in mind the undesirable outcome (in my case, returning to agency work) to move you out of your comfort zone.
2) Practice makes (Im)Perfect – Gradual exposure
There is a fine line between pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone and flooding ourselves with so much exposure that we shut down and shame-spiral.
There is beauty in staying in your comfort zone and gradually increasing your tolerance to being seen – especially as a Highly Sensitive Person. This approach might take longer, but it will make being self-employed more sustainable, enjoyable, and consistent.
3) Focus on your strengths
With marketing, sometimes we feel like we must do a little bit of everything. It’s the “throw-it-out-there-and-see-what-sticks” approach. Talk about exhausting! Not to mention, ineffective.
Figure out what you do best and do that well. Do you love writing? Then consider blogging, opt-in creation, or email marketing. Do you have an easier time speaking than writing? Consider presentations, a YouTube Channel or IG/FB lives. Do you have money to invest in social media ads or SEO? Consider it money well spent if you hire the right people. Do you love organizing events? Host an open house or networking events around your niche.
How does this help with being seen? When we play to our strengths, we are more likely to come across as relaxed, open, and knowledgable. Potential clients or colleagues see the most authentic you. Plus, it’s easier to tolerate being seen when we feel we did something well (and had fun along the way.)
4) Create Support and accountability
If you’re an obliger, sometimes you need support systems to hold you accountable. This is where a coach, biz bestie, or mastermind group comes in handy. They can help assess if how you’re presenting yourself in your marketing is aligned with how they know you as a person.
Plus, after you do your first Facebook Live, you have someone to talk you through the vulnerability hangover, and remind you no one noticed how often you said ‘um’ and ‘like’. (True story.)
5) Find folks who remind you who you are
When you first start trying different marketing approaches, it can feel like you’re losing yourself. Thus, you need folks in your corner that love you, adore you and SEE you. These can be our partners, kids, pets, or dear friends. Their job is NOT to offer tips or constructive feedback. They aren’t helping you with business strategy. They are there to remind you *who you truly are* between the networking events, blog posts, and Facebook Lives.
6) Intentionally craft your brand personality and brand voice
One of my biggest realizations that helped with being seen was understanding that I was to approach marketing as a persona. An authentic extension or expression of me, but it’s not who I am at my core. I took the time to hone a brand personality (a.k.a your business persona) that was infused with my business values. I especially focused on crafting my brand voice since writing was my main vehicle for marketing.
7) Learn to be okay with being disliked
The only thing worse than crickets are the haters.
When this happens, it’s easy to spiral into negativity. Not everyone has to like you, your practice, or how you put yourself out there. What you put out into the world is an expression of you, but it isn’t *you* at your core. (Psst: this is where those peeps in Tip #5 come in super handy.)
Not everyone is going to love your brand personality or connect with your brand voice – and that’s actually what you want.
If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
8) Radical acceptance
Let’s be honest. Being seen can get easier, but it may never get *easy*. Especially if we are sensitive and heart-driven professionals who care deeply about our clients and obsess over every detail of our business.
If being seen is hard for you – that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.
This is where some good ol’ radical acceptance can come in. Being seen is hard AF. We will never be perfect at it. It’s just the nature of the beast. Learning to accept this is just part of being in business helps take away our shame and self-judgment.
I’m gonna get real with you here.
Marketing has gotten easier over the years as I’ve worked on both my mindset and my skillset. I try to make the process as fun and as genuine as possible. I realized that I don’t have to *love* marketing – but I do it so I can do the work I love as a therapist, coach, and copywriter.
If I’m being fully transparent with you, I don’t think I’ll ever become a person who finds it ‘easy’ to be seen.
I still overthink every little thing I put out there. I’ll probably always have a vulnerability hangover after each intense marketing push or networking meeting. It’s just how I’m built as a sensitive, deep-feeling person.
And I’m 100% okay with that. I chose this path of entrepreneurship knowing being seen may be hard for me. It brings up some old wounds that I’m still working on healing. But I choose it anyway because I know being in business for myself will bring me the most meaning and fulfillment in my life.
I suspect that’s why you have chosen this path, too.