How I Built A Full-Time Practice In A Year With No Money
by Kristin Rivas
Just months after I was trained and certified as a hypnotist, I made a cross-country move to start a new life and start building my own hypnotherapy practice. The Pacific Northwest seemed like an inviting place for alternative therapies.
I had no money, little support network, no business or marketing knowledge and only 3 friends in Seattle. This is the story of how I went from that beginning to running a full-time practice in a year.
I Was Young & Didn’t Have A Network
I made the move to Seattle as a 23 year-old single woman, knowing 3 people in the entire city, without a car or business plan, on a shoestring budget. “Shoestring budget” would be an exaggeration — I was broke. I was driven by sheer passion and guided by instinct. I had experienced a total life-saving transformation because of hypnosis (watch me tell my story at Tedx Rainier, here) and I couldn’t wait to share and help recreate my experience with others. Seattle seemed like just the kind of place that would be open to the services I had to offer.
As I look back on it, I realize how my situation made starting out easier for me, as well as why my family and friends were so concerned. Luckily, my ignorance of how hard it could be or how long building a practice might take, worked in my favor. Since I didn’t know better, I was free from the fear of failure and just did what made sense to me. Because hypnosis had worked so well for me, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that what I was doing was valuable and worth sharing with others.
I started seeing clients within the first month. Within 6 months I had a part-time practice, and by the next year I was already seeing clients full-time (mostly due to word-of-mouth referrals).
And that leads me to my first point.
How did I do it? How did I get the ball rolling building a practice?
1) I wasn’t shy.
I told anybody and everybody what I did for a living and about my own personal experience with hypnosis. The funny thing is that I never was the initiator; people practically begged me to talk to them about these things. When you meet someone, usually the first 2 questions they ask you are “What’s your name?” and “What do you do for a living?”. For me, add “Why did you move here?”. I took advantage of these opportunities to talk about hypnosis and my story every time, regardless of what I thought the other person might think or how they’d react.
Whenever I would answer, “I’m a hypnotherapist.” or “To build my own hypnotherapy practice.” the follow-up question was always “Wow, how did you get into that profession?” or “Does that really work?” Either way, it was an opening. I talked about how hypnosis helped me stop having seizures and got me out of a wheelchair with just one session. Often, they would beg for details and ask what issues hypnosis could help with, and the results I’d gotten with clients.
2) Give out and gather contact info.
Always have business cards with you and get a potential client’s contact information (phone, email or Facebook) if you can. Following up works! It’s a good idea to have a reason to contact these potential clients. I’d offer to send them an article on hypnosis (and how it could help them with their particular issue) or a link to my Tedx talk or web site.
I’d never try to “sell” hypnosis or myself. You don’t have to sell yourself as a hypnotist. Many people are naturally curious about hypnosis, even if they are skeptical at first. When you have a range of personal or second-hand experiences, articles, books or videos to share on the subject, hypnosis really sells itself. Be approachable, personable and willing to share, whenever a conversation leads to the opportunity to talk about your work. The majority of my early clients were people I had met on a bus, in a grocery store, waiting in line for some appointment, or their friends, family or co-workers.
3) Cultivate evangelists.
One of the three people I already knew when I moved to Seattle was a bartender. He was a good friend and a fellow hypnotist whom I’d met at a stage hypnosis training in Las Vegas. He knew my personal story and the success I’d had in working with clients, particularly in helping women overcome trauma. He really believed in me and my ability to help others. So whenever a customer would share his or her woes over a drink, he was happy to send them my way. He did a great job at setting their expectations. That made it easy to get great results with them. The other two people I knew in Seattle were a couple I’d known since college. They had seen my personal transformation with hypnosis, so they never hesitated to share about me and how I could be of help to whomever they met.
4) Build on success — cultivate referrals.
A few of my early clients were people who came to see me for smoking cessation. For every successful smoking cessation client, I would typically see three co-workers, friends or family members. Particularly good evangelists include hairdressers, nurses and people in other service industries. Basically, people who connect with a wide range of individuals and are good at spreading the word built my practice for me. And it didn’t cost a cent!
Think of it this way — you are much more likely to take the word of a friend, your hairdresser or even a stranger you meet over an anonymous site you find on the Internet. One of my hypnosis mentors says that getting effective results with clients is not as much about how suggestible they are as how credible you are to them. Think about how doctors, police officers or best selling authors or other experts inherently command authority or compliance. A personal recommendation is an instant status/credibility booster. Word-of-mouth referrals are the most powerful, contagious and cost effective way to go!
5) Target service industries.
If I was to start building a practice all over again, these are the first group of people I would target to get my practice rolling. If they’re friendly, outgoing and connect with a large number of people daily — I’d make it a priority to work with them. They are better at marketing and advertising your business than any other option, including paid ads.
I know all this sounds simple. It is. But that’s different than easy. Building a practice takes a consistent effort, over time. It’s a bit like pushing a car. The first part is the hardest. But the first clients can lead to more clients. And eventually, you’ve seen enough clients to reach critical mass. If you’ve seen one or two hundred clients, it’s easy to send out an email and ask them if there’s anything else you can help them with and fill a good part of your calendar that way.
Get to it!
PS: Keith here. I thought I’d bring you Kristin’s story on how she built her practice in a year. I know what sometimes happens when I post stories like this. Some people start making excuses. They say they can’t do what she did because they aren’t young (as if being young is an advantage for a hypnotherapist). They say it won’t work because of the demographics in their area, or because they don’t share Kristin’s experience of having had a near-miraculous experience in her first hypnosis session. It is true, your experience is not exactly like Kristin’s. But you can use the principles she used to help build your own practice. Use your strengths as she used hers.
PPS: It’s worth checking out the story of her miraculous transformation with hypnosis. The Life-Changing Power Of Words. It’s about how she went from having multiple seizures a day and being in a wheelchair to becoming symptom-free after just one session of hypnosis.