How To Create Passive Income in Your Therapy Practice

Have you been thinking about adding passive income to your therapy practice?

The truth: “Passive income” is not really passive. It takes a lot of work, thought and creativity to build an offer that will meet a need and make you a good living.

Before we get any further, I’m going to get rid of the word “passive” and start talking about “scaled.” Using the word “scaled” will protect us from the fallacy that creating this kind of offer is easy.

In a little bit, I’ll walk you through an example of how you might create a scaled offer successfully.

Here are four principles to help you get started with creating a scaled (formerly known as passive) offer:

1. You can’t create crap and make money.

You can NOT create something crappy, put it up on your website, and make a lot of money.

Just 10 years ago, the bar was much lower. At that point, you may have been able to create an informational product in your niche that was basically just an ebook, call it a program, and make lots of money. Not now. The internet has expanded exponentially. Pretty much any information your potential client is searching for is free and available. They can find a youtube video or a set of articles about almost anything.

The way to make money online right now is to genuinely WANT to meet a need, experiment, work hard, and develop your offer until you’ve begun to meet that need.

This is good news for the therapist whose purpose is to serve. I think that’s you. You’re not trying to make a bunch of money quickly. Your standards for what you will provide online are as high as your standards for what you provide in your sessions.

When you’re focused on serving people well, you take the long view rather than trying to grab cash fast.

Look out 5 years from now and consider what kind of business you would like to be running. Imagine how your scaled offer could fit into this business. You’re going to create a high-quality offer that you want to be known for.

2. People pay for experiences, not information.

You have put in thousands of hours providing an experience: therapy. You might provide some psycho-education in your therapy sessions, but you don’t lecture for 50 minutes. You co-create an experience to facilitate growth and change. You’re going to bring some of those same skills into a scaled offer.

Focus on what you want your customer to be able to do or how you want them to feel by the end of the experience, then design an experience to make that possible.

Here are some examples of scaled offers that can be experiences:

  • Workshop
  • Group
  • Online course with community interaction and interaction with you.
  • Adding clinicians to your therapy practice.

If you choose to create a self-led online course, you’re going to have to provide a process for the client to walk through. You’re going to provide videos or audios in addition to written material. I recommend you also provide some kind of access to you, at the very least through a private Facebook group.

I’m a participant in an evergreen online course right now. I get on that Facebook group regularly and ask questions. If I couldn’t get access to the teacher, I’d be frustrated.

Now maybe you're wondering: "What if you want to write a book?"

The vast majority of us will not make our living from selling a book. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write one. Your book can help people, make more people aware of your work, and give you more prestige. Some of your readers might want to work with you directly or with a scaled offer. When you think of your book as a marketing tool rather than as a big money-maker, you can enjoy getting paid for your marketing.

3. The more specific your niche, the better you know your niche, and the more you care about the people in your niche, the more likely you can successfully scale a service.

Let’s look at 2 therapists.

Joe wants to create a self-led online premarital course so that he can make money while he sleeps. Here’s the problem: If you search “online premarital counseling program,” you’ll find fancy, in-depth programs with quizzes included, all for the whopping price of...FREE.

Sorry Joe, but your course is not super-likely to make a lot of money.

On the other hand, if you are providing premarital counseling for a group of couples or throuples who you care about and know are underserved, you might be able to create a scaled service for them.

Tanya wants to create a scaled offer for queer, engaged couples. She’s queer, works with queer couples, and knows exactly what’s already available and why those things aren’t the right fit for her clients. She’d like to create a new service that comes directly from her current work with queer couples.

Tanya, you’ve got a good possibility here.

4. If you start with a very small group of people, hands on, you will know how to scale up from there.

Start small and simple with the format of your scaled offer. Design it to meet a pressing need for the people you want to serve, and offer it to a small group of people you have hand selected or who have been referred by your colleagues. Give a ton of interaction with YOU the first time you offer it.

Look at what worked and what you want to change the next time.

You can grow this service over time so that you’re providing a great experience with a little bit less of you. If you start the offer in-person, you may be able to move it online in the future. If you’d rather start online, you can do that too. Video conferencing and online course platforms make online delivery easy.

What if you think about all of this and would rather just stay in your therapy room and NOT create a scaled offer?

There will always be a need for in-person therapy in your office. Scaled services are not for every therapist.

Ok, Annie. How would one actually start this “scaling” you speak of?

I’ll give you an example: Dee provides individual therapy to people who want help with their use of substances. She uses a harm reduction approach. She’s building her 1:1 practice and would also like to create a scaled service.

She could start with a 3-hour workshop that takes participants through a key part of her process and gives them a few of the most useful tools. She could design this workshop to be experiential and avoid throwing an overwhelming amount of information at them.

The first time Dee offers it, she might set the fee at $100, open it to 6 people, and schedule it for a Saturday. That’s small enough to have it in her office and inexpensive enough that many of her potential clients could easily afford it.

She would create a page on her website that explains what problem this workshop solves and what a participant will walk away with. As soon as they read this page, they’ll know whether it’s right for them. They can register and pay right then and there.

She would let all of her colleagues know that she’s got this workshop coming up, exactly who it’s for, and how it will help them

She’d announce this workshop on all of her listservs and social media platforms where appropriate. In those posts, she would name one or two things the participant will be able to understand or do by the end of the workshop. She would reach out to everyone she knows who might be in contact with her ideal participants.

And look at that. Dee just did a bunch of networking and put herself out there as an expert who has passion and knowledge about how to help people using a harm-reduction model.

She’s done a ton of marketing for her therapy practice even if she doesn’t fill the first workshop.

The maximum $600 she’ll get from this workshop is NOT the most important outcome.

The most important outcomes are: the visibility and building of her reputation, the networking, the huge amounts of feedback from participants, and the testimonials some of them provide.

The fact that she gets paid for all of that is awesome.

Dee is taking the long view, so she knows that the future iterations of this offer are when she will really get paid.

You've probably already figured out that growing your offer so that it can get to dozens or hundreds of people is a whole process. Yep, there's a lot to it, but don't let that stop you from getting started. You can get there, step-by-step.

If you’re thinking: “But what about those successful online courses I see that seem to enroll hundreds of students? Why can’t I just do that?” Listen. 

Those course facilitators started much smaller. They created an offer for a small number of participants, poured sweat into it, and grew it over time. That’s how this works.

If you want to scale up, you’re going to need some help. If I had tried to scale up my businesses without help, I’d still be scribbling on an envelope in a corner somewhere, perhaps drooling by now. I might be the right person to help you if you’re anything like Tanya or Dee (in the above examples). I help committed therapists bring their scaled offers to the people who need them, step-by-step. Start here.

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