Ellie spoke to Jo Aldred on The Healthy Practice podcast recently about what she’d tell her startup self if she could go back in time!

You can listen to the conversation here:

Jo is a registered and accredited psychotherapist and an EMDR Therapist working in private practice in Brighton.

Jo gives us an overview of everything she’d tell her Start-Up Self. From finance to social media, she’s got it covered. 

Here’s the transcript of the insightful conversation with Jo:

Welcome to the Healthy Practice, Jo! Can you tell our listeners a bit about yourself before we start?

I’m Jo Aldred. I work full-time in my busy private practice in sunny Brighton. 

I’m a psychotherapist and an EMDR therapist, so I work across the lifespan and my areas of interest are trauma, stress, anxiety, and relational attachment.

Could you explain where people should invest their money, time, and energy when starting a new practice?

  1. Money

With money, it’s understanding your own mindset around money.

This will reflect how you see yourself as a business and service provider. It’s really important to look at that relationship to money. Identifying money blocks is also important.  

I’m from a working-class background. My mum worked two jobs, so I have a very strong work ethic, but there were blocks around scarcity for me – will this business be sustainable? Understanding how that showed up in how I presented to potential and existing clients was key for me, honing in on my professional self, as it were. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good headshot when setting up a private practice!

If you’re going to spend money anywhere, I recommend investing in a good headshot, since that will be displayed on your website, on your directories, and sometimes even in your email signature.

  1. Time

Time is money and precious, and often we are quite limited as to how much time we have. 

I would tell my startup self and anyone, either starting up or already in practice, that investing time in understanding Google and its analytics is well spent. Google is king whether we like it or not!

You should also look at your business end-to-end and find ways to streamline processes. Whether it is onboarding someone for the first time or how someone closes down their therapy, look at how you can streamline this.

  1. Energy

Energy is connected to time and money.

Invest in a good mentor or a supervisor, somebody who has walked the walk, talked the talk, has been doing it for a decade or even longer, and has a real curiosity about finding what aligns for you as a practitioner in your business. Having somebody who aligns with your vision and goals is really important. 

The other thing about energy is don’t underestimate the power of YouTube. 

You can learn so many things through YouTube and the help files that people have on their websites. They’re actually spending that time understanding some of those processes, so it’s an investment. They become baseline skills that you can build upon. 

Listen to podcasts, and get to know people in your area or your arena. When learning about business and getting yourself from that mindset, I’m a therapist, and I provide a service, and I’m also a business owner and run a practice. So being able to marry those two parts, to integrate those two parts of yourself, are crucial. 

What are some of the pitfalls that we can fall into when we begin a startup? What mistakes have you learned from?

It feels contradictory to say listening to others, but what I mean by that is unsolicited advice and what’s taken as ‘the way’ of setting up a practice.

When I first started out, I used social media, and I think that was a mistake because everyone around me told me to get on social media; create an audience – you’ll find clients that way.

My realisation was that I didn’t enjoy doing that. 

I spent a lot of time learning about algorithms and engagement, but it was too stressful, and I wasn’t enjoying it. As a result, I wasted time learning something I didn’t enjoy. All of this became grist for the mill.

This led me to think about my client’s journey to me. Who would I like to work with? Who do I work best with? Who gravitates towards me? When I thought about that journey again, if I’m going to my computer and searching for a therapist, what are the first things I’m going to look for?

I’m going to look at their photo. My first question is, ‘Can I sit in a room with this person?’ And then, I will read about how they will help me. What about this therapist makes me say, “Yes, okay.” 

An almost mental image of what therapy might be like was cultivated. For me, social media was a huge pitfall. Many people succeed through that, but I just wasn’t a good fit for it. 

I was also told not to expect to earn a living as a therapist. After six months of part-time work, I went full-time. Initially, I would say full-time was 15 clients a week, but now it’s a maximum of 20. But again, that’s over time, experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. 

Both points highlight the dangers of surrounding ourselves with people who don’t align with us. Being around people who are authentic and a little bit rebellious is important to me. 

We sit with clients and say, “Trust the process.” Clients know their process is their process, but we often forget that we’re also in a process, and that’s learning to be a business owner and all of the responsibilities that come with that.

Yet we often get impatient, asking ourselves, ‘Why do I not understand this SEO or this Google Analytics?’ Well, it’s a new language. I didn’t know what I was doing the first time I used it! We’ll inevitably make mistakes, but if we learn from them, there’s no wasted time.

What money advice would you give to your Startup Self?

Get creative. Building a practice isn’t one-size-fits-all. 

It doesn’t cost as much as you might think. I got creative by building my own website and profiles, and while I had to pay for the website initially, I learned all the SEO stuff by myself. Despite everyone saying, ‘Just get someone to do it.’ I was like, if I’m doing this for a while, I’d like to know how it works. 

Finding an hourly rental room was the next step. As a result, there was no upfront cost. It was great not having to worry about finding a deposit for an office or paying rent. 

Again, it’s about slowing down to speed up. When I reached a certain number of clients, I knew I wanted an office because it was more financially viable. 

Getting creative with money was definitely the key. Basically, I wasn’t going to follow these routes if they weren’t aligned with where I wanted to go. 

When I first started out, I had a very limited budget. I’ve not yet met a therapist in this space who’s gone to a bank and had a loan or a business loan to set up a private practice. I’m sure there are people out there, but I wasn’t one of them! 

When it comes to where you spend your money, I definitely pat myself on the back and say, “You know, supervision has been a great return on investment,” because it allowed me to see somebody who was further along in this journey and say, “Okay, it’s okay that I want to get there and that you’re willing to walk with me as I learn.”

What are your thoughts on using social media in private practice?

I think it works for some therapists. It wasn’t something that I enjoyed doing, so I didn’t do it. I think it’s great if you want to build an audience.

Therapy, for me, is fundamentally about relationships, and I find it hard to convey what it’s like to be in a relationship with me through a reel or a meme.

It can be useful and good, but there is a line between privacy and publicity for me. My opinion is that social media is one of those machines that are about seduction. In putting ourselves out there, we’re enticing and inviting the client to contact us. 

Instagram, in particular, can be quite seductive. In my opinion, practitioners have a responsibility to ensure that what they put out is accurate and not harmful, and so much within the mental health wellness space is inaccurate or misleading that I do not wish to contribute to it. 

I think there’s something quite unethical about it. Have I considered my ethics of using this to ‘promote myself?’ For me, the ethics just sit a bit uneasily with me. Again, that’s just my opinion.

Do you think you can run a successful practice without social media?

Yes, I believe you can. I have an Instagram account, but I haven’t posted in about two and a half years. Most of my referrals were coming through Google and directories, so social media didn’t seem like a good return on my time and energy. 

I’ve been fully booked for six years now. When people go to look for a therapist, they don’t go to Instagram, they go to Google or they go to a directory. So for me, it’s thinking about what journey my client will take to find me.

Are there any processes you’ve found that have simplified things for you? 

I started by looking at where my areas of friction were. 

Invoicing is something I find tedious to do, but it is necessary. To get paid, I need to bill people. Keeping money out of the therapy room is also important since I do not want to spend too much time chasing people. Whenever people come to therapy with me, it’s all about them, not the money side, so I don’t discuss it.

WriteUpp was where I eventually landed because it had everything I needed in one place. I can access it anywhere. I can do invoicing whether I’m in the office or not. It’s so simple, with a payment button at the bottom of the invoice. Just click that button, pay me, and it gets registered in the system. I don’t need to chase it unless it’s flagged as late. 

I have less admin to do, and it keeps me focused; I use the dashboard on WriteUpp regarding my KPIs. These help me answer questions like, ‘Is this where I want to be?’, ‘Am I able to offer myself at a price that feels right to me so that I can invest in CPD, supervision, books, and courses?’

To do that, I have to balance my costs, which are sometimes quite high, and my income.

Do you believe having the right mindset is important in ensuring a successful practice that meets your goals and ethics? 

Yes. Understanding your current mindset around money and business is crucial. Our negative beliefs or cognitions about money shape our perception of the world. Understanding how our perception is influenced and then changing means holding the boundary of the therapy contract; I provide the service and you pay me. 

But if we don’t have that mindset of being a therapist and a business owner, then sometimes it’s not sustainable, and we can’t afford to be one. To run a successful practice, you must have the right mindset. 

Again, use supervision to challenge that mindset. If your supervisor doesn’t challenge your mindset around money, or you notice that they’re a little bit wobbly on the boundaries around business, or they don’t want to talk about it in supervision, then I would check in and ask, “Is this going to be supportive of me now and in the future?” Again, it’s another relationship to manage. 

Do you offer clinical supervision services to others? 

I don’t, but I’m considering it! My practice is very busy, and I am also doing EMDR, so I’m taking a bit of a break. 

But supervision is my next step since my experience in the arena is primarily about providing the best service to clients. We need to maintain the standards we offer.

I’ve got two EMDR consultants that challenge my mindset around my worth and what I’m offering. I want to be able to offer that to other practitioners, too, at some point. 

What’s the final message you’d like to tell practitioners just starting up? 

The final message to practitioners would be to feel the fear and do it anyway. 

It’s scary starting out in practice. It’s vulnerable. I felt like crying the first time I put anything out on the internet. I felt so raw at being seen, but I’m leaning into that fear and going, okay, I will do it. It’s an experiment. I’m going to get curious about what happens.

Jo is a registered and accredited psychotherapist and an EMDR Therapist based in Brighton.

You can learn more about Jo at https://kemptowncounselling.co.uk/ and she also runs https://www.emdrtherapybrighton.co.uk/.

Listen to The Healthy Practice Podcast

The Healthy Practice podcast guides you through the common problems of starting your own practice.

We aim to help you take control of other aspects of practice management – including work-life balance, marketing, finances, & more – by offering insights & tips from practitioners who have mastered the early stages of private practice.

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Ellie is a content writer and podcaster creating research-led and relevant content in the SaaS and healthcare space. Ellie writes a mental health blog, loves books and tea, and is a dedicated dog mum to Stan & Sully. Ellie's pronouns are she/her.