Today I was thinking about what it takes to get clients, and this joke my mom used to tell came to mind–have you ever heard it?
At 5 minutes to midnight, a man is down on his hands and knees on the sidewalk under a street lamp, looking for something and frantically running his hand over the pavement.
A policeman comes along and asks him what’s up.
The man says he dropped his keys–but the policeman doesn’t even have to bend over to see there’s nothing on the ground… so he asks, “You lost them here?”
“No, I lost them in that dark alley over there.”
“Then why are you looking here?”
“Because it’s easier to look where the light is.”
“Where the light is” is where we’re all looking when we try to get clients.
“Where the light is” is what we can see easily—what we already see, what we see without thinking about what might be important or different or useful to see.
For decades, when I needed more clients, I turned to what I knew—advanced training in my modality.
It was logical and it was the obvious choice, because it fit totally with the belief I held—that not having enough clients was directly related to not being a good enough practitioner.
What I couldn’t see was that it wasn’t true.
I know now that the skills it takes to work with clients are not the skills it takes to get clients to work with… but it was going to be long, long years before I figured it out. In the meantime, that mistaken belief ravaged my self-worth and brought me to the point of thinking I must have no value at all to the people I thought I was here to help.
Are you like me?
In the odd moments when I thought maybe there was something else I needed to know—something that wasn’t being taught in training programs—it never occurred to me to get help.
Like a lot of hands-on practitioners, I was sure I could figure it out all on my own—the same way I had figured out so many things before I became a hands-on practitioner.
Being so good at teaching myself to do things that I didn’t need help was a major point of pride.
And it was almost the end of of my practice.
Herein lies a great irony…
It never would have crossed my mind to offer hands-on work to clients without going to a training program—despite the fact that I was drawn to my work like a moth to flame.
Yet, I thought that I would figure out how to “market my practice” on my own—even though I was repelled by nearly every aspect of what I thought it would take.
You might wonder what I was thinking, but the truth is that I didn’t realize until much later that all of this was due to holding onto another series of mistaken notions that I completely embedded in my belief system—that I would have to learn how to “sell,” get more involved with money, become someone I hated in order to get enough clients to live as I wanted to live.
Years of struggle proved me wrong about what it takes to get clients
And it’s not just my own struggle I’m talking about—so many of my client have experience the same thing:
Like me, they had great training.
Like me, they had desire.
Like me, they were great at learning on their own.
Like me, they had no idea what they really needed to do to get clients.
Like me, they were overwhelmed by all the possibilities, so they either did nothing, or did everything—well, sort-of. Half-heartedly, really.
And like me, they were looking under a street lamp for answers that lay elsewhere—directing their attention at what they already knew, instead of getting the help they needed to look in the places that otherwise weren’t ever going to show up on their radar.
We’re just like our clients
What’s really ironic is that as a hands-on practitioner, you already know exactly this same thing in a different context: Almost none of your clients would figure out how to get the help they need on their own—without you. One of the most important reasons your clients need you is that they are not aware of what they need to pay attention to, in order to get the results they want.
Having the intention to learn is essential, but intention doesn’t get you very far if you don’t know where to focus.
I know you already have the innate strengths you need to build your practice. I’m not making that up or trying to make you believe there’s something super-special about you.
I know it’s true because everyone has those skills as latent possibility.
It’s a matter of unearthing them so that you can develop them according to who you are, what feels right to you, what feels good, what feels like you.
When you do that, you’ll find that you can build exactly the practice you want, without feeling icky, or salesy or manipulative. You can do in a way that leaves you feeling natural and authentic… and as if you’ve just encountered your highest self, doing what you’re here to do in the easiest way possible.
And I know that you very well might think that you can do that on your own.
But statistics are against you.
The numbers are revealing…
The numbers show that more than 80% of hands-on practitioners are not aware of the precise skills and strengths they need to develop in order to get clients or build a sustainable practice.
That means that no matter how good you are at teaching yourself how to do anything, you are not likely to be able to teach yourself how to build your practice because you aren’t looking in the right place. For example, how many of these things do you focus on?
- Developing the perfect website, fliers, logo and business cards.
- Getting referrals from other hands-on practitioners.
- Taking more training, getting more credentials.
- Convincing people they need your work.
- Creating a legal structure or a business model beyond what serves your need.
- Trying to figure out how to talk about your modality so people don’t glaze over.
From the standpoint of getting clients, not one of these is a high-level concern if you are just starting out or don’t have a practice that’s big enough to sustain you.
Even more important, here are some of the critical things you may be ignoring:
- Getting past the obstacles that stop you from becoming the practitioner who has the practice you want and is able to get clients whenever you need them.
- Finding out how to talk to clients so that you can help them understand why they should commit to working with you.
- Turning a high percentage of the people who call you into committed clients who come for at least 10 sessions.
- Developing ONE introductory talk you can give over and over to build your reputation as an expert and get your phone ringing.
- Doing the inner work that’s necessary for YOU to believe you ARE an expert.
- Becoming a competent self-employed person who shows up consistently to work on your business and knows what to do when you get there.
- Learning how to get great referrals from your current clients.
- Dealing with your money issues and learning to talk about money with clients, so that it doesn’t scare the pants off you.
- Discovering and developing your natural strengths so that you can use them to build the life you want, instead of apologizing for them and sticking them under a basket so no one can see them.
What does it take to beat the odds?
It’s easy enough to see the qualitative difference between these two lists. The truth is that if you want a practice that sustains you, you have to build a business. And because you have a high level of consciousness, the only business that will make you happy is one that makes you feel whole and keeps you in integrity. That means that in order to grow your business, you have to grow yourself.
As I’ve already said, you can learn everything you need to know as long as you know you need to learn it.
The problem for most of us is that we don’t really know what’s in our way, so start by taking stock of what you believe about the state of your practice. To begin, answer this question:
I’d like to get more clients, and I can’t do it because _________.
Now turn your “reason” into the thing you’d like to do, and fill in the blank again. For example…
- I’d like to get more clients, and I can’t do it because I’m overwhelmed.
- I’d like to be not overwhelmed about getting more clients, and I can’t do that because ______.
Keep on doing that until you get to the deep reason you’ve never realized was connected with this problem. You’ll know you’re there because you’ll feel a shift inside yourself as you recognize a deep truth and when you try to go further, nothing more comes up.
When you get to that point, you’ll have a starting place for getting the practice you want. Then it’s possible to get whatever targeted help you need—and that will enable you to avoid the years of frustration I encountered by looking under the circle of light I was standing in—instead in the place where the answers lay waiting for me.
I blog to help you think new thoughts about getting the practice you want.
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