Kat, what do you wish you knew when you were first starting your clinical business Sound Health? What are some of the best resources? What advice would you give?
“To give you a bit of a candid answer, I’m a bit of a person who tends to have anxiety. So when I was starting my private practice, I was so overwhelmed trying to figure out what to record and how to do it, what I “should” do to be a business, and everything. Months and months later someone told me something I wish I learned earlier: The single most important thing to focus on is getting your first paying client, and then to multiply it from there. All of the details about bookkeeping, filing your taxes, setting up systems, developing a website… those can come later! It’s okay that they’re not in place before you begin. If you don’t have revenue coming in, then it’s just a hobby, not a business. You have your revenue goals, such as how much you need to live off of, but only your real work will bring any financial results. As you continue, or especially before filing taxes, you’ll want an accountant who can help you set up bookkeeping software, and I highly recommend you find a good accountant, it is so worth it to avoid the extra work, uncertainty, and headaches. Ask your accountant to help you figure out your system so that you can work smarter instead of spinning around in circles – just go the experts. You’re going to get so many other opinions and resources while saving yourself so much valuable time by just reaching out to the experts. You need to be very resourceful. Being resourceful and reaching out for available resources is part of what makes someone successful. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! If there’s someone you look up to and admire, ask them for help! The worst that can happen is that they’re too busy and may have to say no, but who cares? Big deal! A lot of people will be there to help.
“There are so many good resources, and which resources you need depends on what kind of business you want to build! Our values in our company have to do with self-care and leadership, so that’s what I build everything around. That’s what I make every decision for the business based upon. So if you can find a mentor who shares similar values, then ask if they help you along. MusicTherapyBusiness.com is a program that I run on an annual basis; it’s called the 90-day activator and it’s really to help you get jumpstarted. It includes templates for contracts, checklists, and sorts of different things to help you with your private practice. I love the work of Rachel Rambach, just Google her because she has a couple of amazing websites, but rachelrambach.com is a good start. Jamie George might offer mentorship; I really admire her work, she’s just on fire. If you want billing to be part of your map for what you’re creating, then go to her and ask her for help. I would get to know different practices and find out what their values are, and find a mentor for supervision – which could count for CMTE credit hours, called “unapproved” CMTE hours, but you figure out how to make those supervision hours count. A final resource I want to bring up is the Therapy Business Blueprint by Kimberly Sena-Moore; It’s a nuts and bolts checklist and outline that is really helpful. It’s really well structured with all of this information about starting and growing your business. But… don’t forget to get those paying clients first!”
What are some of the most important to spend your money on when you’re first starting out?
“Most music therapy and other healthcare practices bootstrap; they’re not seeking outside investors, but investing their own capitol into the business. When I started out I had to sub-contract for other agencies on the side of building my own business for the first 2 or 3 years. I think by the end of year 3 I only worked 2 hours a month and the rest was directly through my own business by then. So if I had to do it all over again, I would probably do it the same way: Buy the minimum level of equipment that you’ll need. I focused my purchases on what I need for Alzheimer’s groups. I knew that I needed some sort of rattles for each individual in the group to hold on to. I wanted to work up my drum equipment, but I never got there until just a couple of years ago. I would drive up to REMO every other weekend where they have a warehouse full of used drums. I would scope out as many deals as I possibly could. There are people who buy things and then realize they don’t want them, which you can find on a closed Facebook group called Music Therapy – Buy, Sell, Trade. You can also keep your eye on Craig’s List and different places. Spend your money on an accountant and on equipment. Otherwise, you gotta spend money on gas and basic requirements. And there are marketing aspects you can spend money on, such as brochures, business cards, and and the list goes on, but you can get a lot of that very inexpensively by going to the internet! But remember that all of this is directed towards generating real clients. The direct way to generate revenue is actually connecting with people, giving presentations, offering your services, and literally saying, ‘I am looking to build my practice right now,’ and telling everybody you know that you are in this space of growth, and that they can help. ‘Oh you love my services over at this place? Great! So tell me, are you a member of a group where I can give a presentation for people who are like you?’ That’s gotta be your focus!”
How do you market yourself and your business?
“So I like the direction of this, because first you asked about resources, and now you’re asking about time. Time is your most valuable resource. Time might even be more valuable than money at the point of starting your business. The way you spend your time is important and valuable. What I have found to be the most successful way to market myself is by word-of-mouth. When I hear someone say, ‘Kat! Your session, it’s not even close to entertainers! There’s an obvious difference.’ And they’re regurgitating all of the education I’ve provided them. If I notice that they’re regurgitating the education I’ve given them, then I tell them how I appreciate that they’ve noticed and say, ‘I’m curious, since you’re in this position, maybe you have a family member or know any other families who may benefit form a service like this, or are you a member of any support group outside the setting I normally see you in?’ Offer yourself. Do presentations. Get in front of a group of decision makers, and make sure they make some decision before the end of your presentation. There’s gotta be a flow to your presentation. Be strategic and be smart. By the end of your presentation, you want to make sure everyone knows, ‘I’m building my private practice now!’ Maybe you give a little marketing freebie out or something, but also pass around your calendar and have them sign up for free 30-minute consultation within the next two weeks. There’s only so much you can cover in a group, so make sure they know that you want to meet again to dig in and get to know them and their situation on an individual basis, you want to help meet their individual needs. Whenever you have the opportunity to get in front of a group, you want to wow them, provide them with the neuroscience and research behind music therapy, engage them in something experiential and share real experiences, and get them excited – you have to have contagious excitement coming with you wherever you go, and it’s easy for us to do that because music therapy is our passion, our life calling. Word-of-mouth is an active process of selling music therapy. When you start out, you want to do events whenever you can, but over time you might eventual start weeding out which to do as you start learning which opportunities will turn into the most real clients. Collect data! How many people or what percentage from which presentations actually led to consultations? And then how many turned into paying clients?”
How has ethics played a role your work?
“Ethics pertains to the relationships within your work. So, ethics pertains to the relationships you have with your clients, your relationships with colleagues, and the relationship you have with the general public. When you’re considering ethical decision making, I highly recommend Cheryl Dileo’s book, which goes through this ten-step process of ethical decision making. Of course, we have a couple courses on MusictherapyEd.com too, which are really helpful: cultural ethics, and then a course on web ethics. Ethics plays a part in every aspect of your business. Don’t discriminate if a client can’t pay; If you cannot financially take them, you can make the ethical decision to refer that client to a different agency or organization. Instead of shutting them out, of course you always want to refer them to services that they do have access to! Depending on your state, there’s probably some health and human services available to help that sort of individual. Give them additional resources and point them in the right direction. It’s very important to maintain healthy relationships with your colleagues. Sometimes a colleague turns into a direct competitor, and maybe they’re in the same area, and maybe even serving the same population! There are a lot of examples of how music therapists in this situation maintain very healthy relationships. You don’t want to solicit places who already have music therapy services, so if you can build relationships with other music therapists and learn where they’re already working, you can cross those places off of your list and then discover everywhere else where you can reach out to!”