As I work my butt off to get DYP off the ground, the experience of starting up a new project reminds me of what I’m coming to see as a fundamental truth of running any business I’m personally invested in:
Marketing = vulnerability.
It was hitting extra close to home for me this past week as I prepped for a professional headshot appointment on Saturday. Most of the prep is mental. I got headshots around this time last year, and didn’t think enough about what I wanted to communicate in them. I think it definitely showed in the pics I got back. I didn’t want to make the same mistake this time. BUT that meant I needed to spend a lot of time thinking about something I find quite unpleasant: being seen.
How I want people to see me. What parts of myself I want to highlight. And—scariest of all—what parts of me might show through that I’m not so excited about (or that other people might not be so excited about).
Some of us are better able to power through this barrier than others. I can certainly muster that grit-your-teeth-and-do-the-damn-thing energy at times (or else I wouldn’t be writing you this email). But it can be exhausting, especially when the returns aren’t immediately visible.
And that’s often how it feels when it comes to private practice marketing. We want to believe it’s enough to have tea with colleagues and respond to listserv referral requests from the privacy of our phone screens, and yet… the phone doesn’t ring. For weeks. And more weeks. And when it does, it’s all too often someone who can barely pay us and/or who doesn’t seem like a great fit for our practice. (And maybe you’re taking them anyway.)
Truth: “marketing” is a dirty word to most therapists.
It seems any business jargon risks giving us hives:
- Sales funnels
But the sinister, capitalistic connotations of these words obscure the reality:
Marketing is simply about telling the world what we do.
It’s saying, “Here I am! I do this thing that I think people would find valuable and really benefit from!”
(I’m imagining someone jumping up and down in a crowd and maniacally waving they hands in the air as they say this, as though they just spotted their best friend from college 100 feet away.)
People can’t find you, and won’t refer to you, if they don’t know who you are and what you’re amazing at.
And it’s scary to own what we’re amazing at. (Maybe we’re not even totally sure what it is.) Acknowledging the value and importance of our work—not therapy in general, but the work each of us individually, uniquely does—can come up against massive psychological blocks in us.
Oh, and guess what? Those blocks, for most of us, are deeply rooted in patriarchy and systemic oppression.
I don’t know about you, but those words tend to light a fire in me.
FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
If you’re the same way, USE that fire. Get loud. Push back against that asshole voice in your head that tells you to stay small and quiet, to just accept what you’re given because you don’t have anything special to offer anyway. (I know, it’s got lots of fancy, compelling arguments that twist your social justice values around to disempower you. Don’t fall for them! More on this later…)
People WANT to know you. They want to bask in the glow of the bright light inside you that you’ve been hiding away.
So let yourself shine. Get cozy with the knowledge that you do have something special to offer. And for cripe’s sake, stop keeping it all to yourself! The world needs what you’ve got to share.