Steal these ideas! A Behind-the-Scenes Look at how I got my first clients
This fall, I’ve officially had my own practice for 15 years. Whoa! That’s such a HUGE landmark, sometimes I can’t even believe it.
I think one of the things that keeps it so fresh for me, and why I love doing the coaching and mentoring work that I’m doing right now, is that I have an internal time-machine and can remember every.single.thing I was going through as I was starting out on my own.
At first, I was just so happy to not be working in a spa any longer that I was constantly smiling! Look at me! I’ve got my own business! Even though I was struggling at first — not having the confidence that I would one day — slowly, gradually, my practice began to fill.
I was able to build a reputation for doing excellent CranioSacral Therapy — and earn fans and repeat clients — one session at a time.
And it did not happen overnight. It happened one client at a time — really connecting, being of service, and getting the business support I needed.
Now that I’m mentoring and coaching other therapists, one of the biggest questions I hear is, “How did you find clients way back in the beginning? Back when nobody knew who you were?”
Well, first of all, I did a TON of stuff that I read about online that didn’t work. I’m talking total bombs.
So today, I’m going to take you behind the scenes and share with you exactly what I did to spread the word and find those first clients.
Emails, emails, and more emails.
I emailed every single person in my contacts (friends, family, former colleagues, etc.) to let them know about my new business. I kept it short and sweet. Something like:
“Hey there! I’m over-the-moon thrilled to let you know about the latest chapter in my life.
I’ve officially become an entrepreneur and have opened my own bodywork practice! I specialize in something called CranioSacral Therapy (which is a light-touch bodywork that’s wonderful for just about everyone). I’m passionate about working with and helping people who are suffering from anxiety, migraines or headaches, or who are recovering from trauma.
If you think I could be of service to anyone you know, I would LOVE it if you shared my email information with them. I would love to talk with them! And if you’d like to come in to give it a try, I’d be delighted to offer you a complimentary 30-minute session so you can get a sense of what CST is like. Just hit reply and we’ll get you all set up. One way or another, I’m so excited to share my news with you, and I appreciate you celebrating with me!”
The emails got the ball rolling.
2. Complimentary 30-minute sessions.
I printed out small cards offering free 30-minute CST sessions. I gave them out to as many people as I could think of. I was new to our town when I opened my practice, so I didn’t know many of my neighbors. Instead, I gave them out to people I had a connection with — women in a creativity seminar I was a part of, members of a book club I attended, the sales associate from Talbot’s that was so nice to me.
I made it a goal to give at least one out every day (to the librarian when I checked out a book, to the cashier at the grocery store…) and people started to book their free sessions.
My conversion rate was about 20-25%. For every 20 freebies I gave out, 4-5 people would make appointments with me. But the bigger results came from after the sessions. Out of the folks who came in to try CST, a whopping 50-60% came back for more sessions. And even those who didn’t return often recommended me to their friends and family.
I started building my client base.
3. Connecting with other therapists.
I also began reaching out to other therapists in the area. I used snail mail and sent out letters introducing myself and my work. (There’s a template of that letter here.)
I heard back from about 10% of the people I wrote to, and we connected by having lunch, a cup of tea, or by giving them a 30-minute CST freebie. Even though I only heard back from about 1-in-10 people I contacted, I made some connections that have lasted over a decade, and those therapists began referring people to me who they thought would benefit from CST.
(And because of my experience from that, I ALWAYS respond when therapists reach out to me. Spreading that positive energy and good karma around!)
4. Consistently sending my email newsletter.
From the beginning, I had an email list that people could sign up for to get my (then) monthly newsletter. At first, the list consisted of about 5 contacts (and 3 of them were me, testing the system with my different email addresses!) but I was adamant about being consistent. Every month, I sent folks a newsletter from my heart — talking about things I was learning, breakthroughs in CST, and offering links and ideas for my readers to become healthy and whole again.
What I started to notice was that every time I sent out a newsletter, someone I hadn’t seen for awhile would contact me for a session. Though it wasn’t my intention, the newsletter served as a reminder to folks that I was here and I was ready to be of service to them. My consistency also positioned me as a solid, dependable therapist, rather than some kind of fly-by-night person who wouldn’t be around in a couple of months.
5. Really good work.
I knew that being of service to my clients was the #1 most important thing. I always focused on having strong, predictable boundaries (like being on time and getting back to people immediately) and doing the best work I could do.
It wasn’t long before people started telling their friends and family about me, and my appointment book started to fill. Without a doubt, referrals and word-of-mouth marketing is the fastest way to grow your bodywork business. Once my clients become raving fans, they started to do my marketing for me.
Put on your Big Girl Pants.
So that’s how I spread the word and got my first clients to come in and check out CranioSacral Therapy. I didn’t do chair massages. I didn’t do health fairs. I didn’t buy Facebook ads. Mostly, I just connected on a real level with as many people as I could. That kickstarted it all.
If you’re just starting out and are looking for your first clients, you’ve got to put yourself out there. After all, if know one knows about you, you’re not going to magically manifest clients! Announcing your new practice on Instagram a couple of times is not going to do it. You’ve really got to step into your power and connect with people.
And if you’re discouraged because you’ve been trying really hard to get new clients and it doesn’t seem to be working, I’ve got a challenge for you: sit down and make a list of everything you’ve really done to connect with people.
Have you handed out a card for a freebie session every.single.day, or did you hand out a couple and then chicken out? Did you send an email to one practitioner in your town and then give up because you never heard back?
I bet when you sit down and really look at what you’ve been doing, you might see that you can put yourself out there more. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. I know it’s uncomfortable. But I encourage you to put on your big girl pants and pull ‘em on up.
Because the people you can serve are just waiting for you to get over your fears.
I’m holding you in my heart and I encourage you to just get out there and do it. I know you can!
If you're struggling to fill your practice, I want you to know that you're not alone. I invite you to join me and a wonderful group of like-minded bodywork therapists for the upcoming Masterclass: How to Grow Your Bodywork Business Without Constantly Hustling for New Clients.
This 100% free training takes place on Tuesday, September 10 or Wednesday, September 11, and you can save your spot by registering here. The masterclass is a ton of fun, and will give you the foundation you need so that you stop spinning your wheels and start creating a practice that you love. I’d love to have you join us. Sign up here!