Dr. Marie Fang is Helping You Build Private Practice Skills | PoP 382

Share this content
Dr. Marie Fang is Helping You Build Private Practice Skills | PoP 382

Are you just starting a practice and have some unanswered questions? Within your own marketing, are you being consistent with your branding? Want to hear from someone who is passionate about helping others in private practice?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Dr. Marie Fang about building private practice skills, some things she did wrong at the start of her journey and what she learned that has now put her on this successful path.

Podcast Sponsor

TherapyNotes facilitates the workflow of mental health professionals through robust, secure, and streamlined software, accessible wherever and whenever you need it. With fully-integrated scheduling, notes, billing, electronic claims, and more, you’ll have more time for what matters most: your patients.

To get 2 free months of TherapyNotes click on www.therapynotes.com and enter the promo code: Joe

Meet Dr. Marie Fang

Dr. Marie Fang is a psychologist in San Jose, California. She splits her time between running a private practice focused on helping individuals navigate intersecting identities and her budding online business Private Practice Skills, which focuses on providing practical how-to’s to help therapists get their private practice off the ground.

Find out more about Marie on her website, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Dr. Marie Fang’s Story

Dr. Marie Fang started Private Practice Skills because she knows so many therapists with a dream to thrive in private practice who feel totally overwhelmed by not knowing where to start or who feel buried by the amount of work they put into it. Private Practice Skills is about teaching you the skills you need to start and grow your practice while doing it your own way.

In This Podcast


In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Dr. Marie Fang about building private practice skills, how she got started on this journey and what she is doing to keep the momentum.

Starting Out

When Dr. Marie started her private practice part-time, she started with a really cheap sublet for one day a week and committed to trying it out for 6 months. Along the way, there were lots of stumbling blocks and learnings.

Advice That Could Have Helped Early On

Trying to feel like I needed to do everything all at once on this little one day a week practice at the beginning versus you know, let me just kind of focus on one or two things which really were working for me…. If I could go back and do it again, I would do that differently as well.

  1. The mission statement of what you are about in your business
  2. Finding your niche
  3. Knowing strengths and weaknesses, do things that you love

Taking The Jump

If I’m wanting to push towards something new and I’m not feeling imposter syndrome, then I’m probably not really pushing.

Even though Dr. Marie had built her practice herself, there was still that mentality of ‘Was that kind of a fluke? And if I tried to do that again, I’ll never be able to replicate it. That must just have been an accident and some ideal clients just happened to show up on my doorstep and…’

She was really nervous and actually wasn’t confident at all that it was going to work.

A Few Things Done Wrong

  • Not having a strategy when creating video content
  • Not having a niche
  • Not checking views or conversions

Inspired to Teach People Private Practice Skills

I want to make the process of starting private practice less stressful for people and more accessible, and help people be more set up to succeed.

At 4am, whilst on holiday, Dr.Marie put her plan into action. She bought the domain and decided that she was going to teach people on her terms. This time around she did things a lot differently and started with a mission statement and then a niche. Starting with a YouTube channel as her chosen platform, things started slowly. After 3 months, things started to exponentially take off as YouTube figured out what her niche was and that people liked watching the videos for most of the video duration and kept recommending the content to people.

Tools and Strategies

  • Choose 1 font and at least 2 colors to maintain consistency across your brand
  • Use Canva for design work
  • Choose 3-5 different categories of posts that you do

Some of Dr. Marie’s Popular Videos

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK] Between writing notes, filing insurance claims and scheduling with clients, it can be hard to stay organized. That’s why I recommend Therapy Notes. Their easy to use platform lets you manage your practice securely and efficiently. Visit www.therapynotes.com to get two free months.
www.therapynotes.com and use promo code ‘Joe’ when you sign up for the free trial over at Therapy Notes.
This is The Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 382.
Welcome to The Practice of the Practice Podcast. I’m Joe Sanok, your host. There are so many things going on with Practice of the Practice right now. I know you might be in your summer slump, probably not if, you’re listening to this podcast. Because a lot of our folks don’t experience that summer slump, in fact, they have an uptick in their sessions. But we’ve got a lot going on! At the end of this month we’ve got Slow Down School, where we have between 15 and 30 people or so… I’d have to look at the numbers to know exactly how many have come in this year. It’s a small group retreat where we slow down for a couple of days, and hang out on the beaches of Northern Michigan, get massages, and then we work full tilt towards the business and big-picture ideas. So that’s at the end of July.
Right when this is live, I’m going to be on vacation with my family. And so, I’ll be slowing down before I come back and kill it. And then early August, I’m doing a mini- triathlon, which right at the moment scares the bejesus out of me. Even though I know some of you are like iron men and women and triathletes, and you can run and swim and bike. I have not been that kind of person… contrary to my bulging muscles. So that’s a goal of mine and also, it’s terrifying for me. So I’m pushing myself and then in October we’ve got Killin’It Camp coming up in Estes Park
I’m going to be out in San Diego actually, in September, I’m going to be at the New Media Expo as one of their Icons of Influence. I’m also speaking at the Minnesota Counseling Association in early October, so going to be a keynote in that. If you want to hang out, let’s do it. I’m going to be all over the country this fall and would love to hang out with you and meet up and connect with you.
I’m so excited about today’s guest, we have Marie Fang. I saw what she was doing on Instagram, which we’ll talk about, and she was doing an awesome job. And so, I reached out to her to see if she wanted to be on the podcast and she said yes, so without any further ado, here’s Marie.

[JOE SANOK] Well today on The Practice of the Practice Podcast, we have Marie Fang. She’s a psychologist in San Jose, California, and she splits her time between running a private practice focused on helping individuals navigate intersecting identities and her budding online business Private Practice Skills which focuses on providing practical how to’s to help therapists get their private practice off the ground. Marie, welcome to The Practice of the Practice Podcast.

[MARIE FANG] Thank you so much for having me, it feels a little surreal. I’ve heard you say that to so many people so many times!

[JOE SANOK] It’s so funny because I reached out to you on Instagram, I was just watching your stuff… I kind of stalk private practices to see who is doing well and you are doing an amazing job! I reached out and then you said yeah, I’ll jump on the podcast. Little did I know that you had been listening for a bit.

[MARIE FANG] Oh, absolutely! I feel the same way, the other way around. I was like, someday I’m going have to reach out to Joe and see….

[JOE SANOK] Little did you know, whatever that Instagram post was….

[MARIE FANG] Thank you. Cool

[JOE SANOK] Take us back a little bit, you started your practice in 2012 and then you’ve been growing Your YouTube Channel and Instagram. And we’ll talk about kind of how that’s worked and advice from that, and then you’ve started consulting and helping people start practices. So, let’s go back to you started a practice, where were you at in 2012 that made you say you want to jump into private practice?

[MARIE FANG] You know, this is probably like the opposite story of most people. I don’t know, maybe there are people listening who can relate but I had just graduated with my doctorate. I had to move to a new city because of my husband’s job and I needed to get my hours done for my licensure and so I just needed anything really, that would get me there. And I never thought private practice would be in my future. I thought I would work at agencies or clinics, that type of thing. And, you know, long story short, this opportunity landed in my lap to work in a group private practice of independent practitioners and I took it because I wasn’t in a position to not take it.

[JOE SANOK] Yeah, you needed the hours.

[MARIE FANG] Yes, and then once I took it out, I thought there’s no going back now I’m stuck in private practice because I love it so much. I just didn’t anticipate how good of a fit it would be for me and also just having worked in agencies throughout grad school and realizing the differences were really significant in a way that I enjoyed. So that’s where I was at the time.

[JOE SANOK] Now when did you leave that group and kind of go do your own thing?

[MARIE FANG] There were some layers to that I also I was pre-license when I started there, but it is an independent group practice. So, once I got licensed, it was my own. You know, I was in charge of my own business but still kind of within that group, and I stayed on for like five years because I loved it so much. But I was also commuting like 50 miles to go there, so it was, I love it that much that I will drive 50 miles.

[JOE SANOK] And 50 miles in California is different than 50 miles in Michigan. We can just jump in in the car and drive through the woods and look for deer. It’s a totally different thing in California.

[MARIE FANG] I was commuting from San Jose to San Francisco.

[JOE SANOK] How long would that take on a typical day?

[MARIE FANG] Well, I kind of figured out how to game the system. But if I had a client at 10 am, and I wanted to show up 15 minutes early, it would have taken me like an hour and 45 minutes at least to get in. And then sometimes parking took like 20 minutes. So, I kind of figured out I would get into the office by 7 am, and then it only took me 45 minutes, or 50 minutes maybe. So that was kind of how I worked it out. But I did end up fully exiting at the end of 2017 just because I wanted to start having kids and I didn’t want to commute 50 miles with little ones at home. So that was kind of the hinting factor. I started my solo practice in San Jose in 2016. That kind of had its own journey where I did both at the same time for a little bit and then I just leaped full time into one.

[JOE SANOK] So you had kind of your own practice that you’re growing, while you kept the other one. I love when people kind of manage their risk by doing that, it could be a full-time job or part-time job and you know, why have unnecessary risk unless you know you can make that jump because of a partner, maybe you inherit some money… That’s one thing, but that’s not most people’s story. So, during that time, when you are launching this side private practice, what advice did you have? When did you know it was time to leave the group practice? What do you wish you would have done differently during that time? What were just things that happen that you’re like, what a sh-show?
I have no problem swearing, but I know some people listen to this with their kids.

[MARIE FANG] There are so many things in there. I think there were a number of things I did right which you kind of said – the starting part-time, and I did super part-time. I found a really cheap sublet, one day a week at first. So, I’m seeing a full caseload in San Francisco, if this thing in San Jose totally tanks, I’m out like 150 bucks a month and I could just drop it, you know? I thought you know what, let me try this out for six months. If nothing happens, the worst-case scenario is I lost a few hundred dollars and the world will go on and maybe I’ll find something else. So, I think I did that part, right.
And then I also learned a lot of what not to do the first go around in the group practice because I still did do my own marketing and stuff like that. So, I did a lot of stumbling around from 2012 till 2015 probably. That’s when I could have used your podcast. So, I kind of got my marketing game on a little better, I knew what my niche was, I knew who to speak to get referrals more quickly. The things that I still really didn’t know was like my website was terrible. I’ve never heard of SEO at that point. The things that I knew to do were just because I heard people do it, like I didn’t know why starting a blog could be helpful… Social media was not on my radar at all. Those are some of the things that I did wrong. And then also, I think I’ve heard you share about this with different guests on your show as well, but trying to feel like I needed to do everything all at once on this like little one day a week practice at the beginning versus you know, let me just kind of focus on one or two things which really were working for me and not spreading myself too thin and some other areas that weren’t helping me. If I could go back and do it again, I would do that differently as well.

[JOE SANOK] So during that time, you said you oh you wish, you know, you had found Practice of the Practice. What were some things that if you could just go back and say ‘Listen, Marie, these are the three things that you need to do right now and just kind of set everything else aside. If you do these three things, it’s going to help you be more successful and grow quickly with the private practice.’

[MARIE FANG] I think that’s a great question. I hope it’s exactly three but if not, it’ll be okay.

[JOE SANOK] It’s okay. It’s prompt, I’m not necessarily dictating it.

[MARIE FANG] If I could boil it down to even just the one thing for a second, is really knowing who I am and if I could call it a mission statement of what I’m about in my business. And I think I knew what I was about, but I never made that the focus or kind of used that to drive my business. Because I think that’s really what has led to my success, this is what I’m about, these are the kinds of outcomes that I want to see in my client’s lives or in the world or whatever it might be. That would be my number one tip, and then the rest sort of flows from that.
Maybe number two would be finding my niche, which kind of tends to be natural, like, I don’t know, the dominoes of knowing what your mission statement is kind of make it easier to know what your niche is.
And then also just knowing what am I good at and what am I not good at and just don’t even bother with the stuff that I’m not good at as far as when it comes to marketing. So, it’s like if I’m not good at writing, and I drag my feet every time, maybe blogging isn’t the place to start and that’s totally fine. And maybe I’ll never do it and that’s fine too.

[JOE SANOK] I love that last one because I often say to my consulting clients or Next Level Practice, I say to people, you start with the things that you love. Like if you love Instagram, or you love Facebook or you love writing or video, whatever it is you love, do that full tilt. And then if that doesn’t work, you can always get into the stuff that you hate. But I’d rather see people start with, you know, what do I just already enjoy doing? Like in my free time? Do you like Instagram, do you like to write? What are those things that you just naturally like and do it way better and stronger than everyone else? And then you’ll stand out to those people that also like that. Because so many people I talk to, they’ll say, oh, I’ve never been on Instagram, but I know I need an Instagram and I’m never on Facebook, so I bet I should have a Facebook page… If you’re not on there, you’re going to attract a lot of people that like Instagram and like Facebook and you don’t like those things. So why would you want to attract those people? Do the stuff you like doing?

[MARIE FANG] Absolutely, yeah, that was a slow lesson for me to learn.

[JOE SANOK] I think it’s true for all of us, we all think that we have to do everything. Now when did you realize there’s something going on here with the private practice in San Jose, like ‘I need to kind of leave the group practice and like double down on this.’ What were some of the indicators that said, yeah, that chapter of driving and computing’s over, was it slow? Was it like, boom, it kind of hit you one day, when did you know?
[MARIE FANG] This is like full disclosure because it wasn’t a business decision per se, but it was around 2016. My husband and I started talking about when we wanted to have kids. We always knew we wanted to have kids, we’d always kind of talked about that timeline, and I had always just thought, like, yeah, I’ll just keep commuting 50 miles to go to work. And not that that’s an invalid choice, but as we were actually talking about it, I realized, I know myself, and there’s no way I’m going to feel comfortable making this commute if there’s another option available to me, so let me go explore. So that was kind of the kick-off of I would really love to work in the same city that I live in because I’d love to be able to just go home to my kids or you know, be a lot more available if I work the split shift or whatever it might be, it can be around kids more. So that was really the big motivating factor and not much else, to be honest.

[JOE SANOK] So often here we talked about starting with the life that you want, and then have your business and your big ideas reflect that. Because people will often start a project or podcast or private practice, whatever it is, and say, ‘I think the audience wants this. They want to have me do a webinar every Saturday morning’ and I say, ‘Well, do you want to do a webinar every Saturday morning? Don’t attract those people that you don’t want to attract.’
It’s funny because when I left my full-time job at the community college, it was the birth of Layken in 2014, I used the full Family Medical Leave Act to just work 20 hours a week that basically paid for health insurance, and then I could test it out to see if that extra 20 hours would actually make things better. And every month that I was part-time was like our best month ever with Practice of the Practice. And it’s amazing how those life changes kind of forced you to say, ‘Is this what I want? I have a kid on the way or a kid that was just born. Do I want to keep this 40 hour a week plus this side gig? Or could I actually push myself to try something new?’
So you’re having a child, you then just leave the practice or how did that turn out?

[MARIE FANG] Yeah, well, I mean, it’s funny because I had basically built the whole practice in San Francisco on my own. I had this really supportive community of therapists; a lot of these therapists have been in the field for 35 years. But also, the marketing strategies that worked in the 80s are totally different than today, right? They weren’t writing blogs. They’re still sending out like snail mail mailers….

[JOE SANOK] I remember, I was a 1099 in a place that sent out a snail mail newsletter and it’s like, does anyone even read that? How do you track the ROI on that?

[MARIE FANG] Yeah, so I appreciated it, but it wasn’t necessarily what was growing my practice, per se, so I had kind of learned some different things on my own there. Even though I had kind of built my practice, myself, there was still that mentality of like, ‘was that kind of a fluke’. And if I tried to do that again, I’ll never be able to replicate it. That must just like been an accident and some ideal clients just happened to show up on my doorstep and maybe word of mouth just kind of worked in my favor. That was part of it, but so I was really nervous. I actually wasn’t confident at all that it was going to work. I thought, okay, well I at least if it fails, I can make the $150 sublet investment per month and just let it fail then and confirm my suspicions. That’s kind of how I felt. So, I wasn’t necessarily decisive, like, I’m going to leave this practice. I was more like, let me just see what happens.
I did sort of take off in San Jose, it didn’t take too long before my one day a week filled up. And I was like, oh, this, this is doable. And so, it was probably within maybe six or eight months that I thought, you know, this is something to kind of start phasing out of. And I did it slowly because I love that practice so much, I didn’t want to leave either.
A lot of people have this story where it’s like they’re so fed up about, you know, all these things, they have to leave and that that’s very valid. But I think for me, it was also letting myself leave something so wonderful to do something that maybe was even better.

[JOE SANOK] Yeah, leaving the college to it was like, I got paid to sail all summer long. It’s an amazing job, but it just wasn’t where I was headed

[MARIE FANG] Absolutely, yeah. I held on for a bit and I don’t regret that. It wasn’t until the end of 2017 that I fully exited that practice. I phased out really slowly and then at the end, I’m doing one day a week in San Francisco and I loved it so much, it was hard to leave, but it was also the right choice. And so, I felt I felt freer to go ahead and start having kids.

[JOE SANOK] I like how you talked about that negative, I don’t even want to label it negative self-talk… I think it’s appropriately assessing the risk, like was this just a fluke that things took off there? Because it could have been. And, you know, we all have those times that we second guess what’s worked in the past. And I think that’s good that in a new situation like San Jose, to be a little more hyper-vigilant and say ‘Okay, I may need to work harder than I had to and maybe things are different.’ People will often hear someone like yourself or me that were at a certain point and they think it was just easy. You were confident the whole time and you just went after it and it happened. And the reality is, you know, of all the consultants I know and all of the practices I’ve worked with, there’s so much junk in our own brains that we bring to our business that it’s going to be rocky. And it’s just expected that that’s what business is. But you have to work through it and then you have to figure out what where’s that coming from. ‘Do I need to work on that with my own therapist or go through something else….’ And then be able to be stronger on the other side of those challenges.
I can speak first hand, I still have those things that come up like imposter syndrome, or who am I to be doing this, and it doesn’t go away. You just have to become a better version of yourself.

[MARIE FANG] Absolutely, I agree, I don’t think it’ll ever go away. I assume now that if I’m not feeling a little bit of that imposter syndrome, that I might have just gotten a little bit complacent.

[JOE SANOK] Yeah, you’re not pushing yourself enough, right?

[MARIE FANG] There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I’m wanting to push towards something new and I’m not feeling imposter syndrome, then I’m probably not really pushing. That’s been helpful learning.

[JOE SANOK] When did you start adding YouTube and Instagram and maybe other social media channels that I haven’t followed, but when did you start getting interested in social media channels?

[MARIE FANG] Yeah, that is interesting. I kind of had this like double life going on for a second, just in the sense that I had this YouTube channel started over 10 years ago that had nothing to do with my psychology world. It’s all private now, you can’t find it but I have this autoimmune disease called celiac disease. And when I was first diagnosed, no one had heard of it. Now people know about it. You eat gluten-free and it’s a wonderful thing that I can talk about being gluten-free and people know what I’m saying. But back when I was diagnosed, like no one knew what I was saying. They’re like ‘Do you mean you can’t have glucose?’ I started this YouTube channel when I was in grad school, teaching people about eating gluten-free and all of that, and I got really into it. I had no idea what I was doing and my videos were terrible, but I loved it. So, I had that going on for a while and then it got to a point in 2012 where I started in that private practice, I started having clients looking at my name and finding this YouTube channel. Which, you know, there’s not a big deal with it, except that it has absolutely nothing to do with my niche in private practice. So, I decided to take a shift and it’s all privatized, I can access all those videos, but you can’t find them anymore. It was sort of an interesting marketing strategy of removing parts of myself.
Once I started in San Jose, in my private practice I thought ‘Oh, you know, there’s not a ton of therapists doing video and I kind of want to try it.’ Again, it was an experiment I just posted videos, to a different YouTube channel, affiliated with my private practice, and at that point, I did a lot of things wrong. But I did it once a week for at least a year. It was a hodgepodge of quick tips to help you be your best self today, that was my little catchphrase and I really enjoyed making the videos but I wasn’t using any strategy. So, it wasn’t necessarily helping my business except that maybe some of the views, I don’t know if it boosted my SEO a little bit but who knows.

[JOE SANOK] What else did you do wrong? You said you did a bunch of things wrong.

[MARIE FANG] I did not have a niche or I thought that was a niche at the time, like quick tips to be your best self today… But that’s like everything, I just talked about everything, how to sleep well, how to say sorry, how to use I feel statements. Everything that has to do with self-care I would have these little videos. I had no niche so certain videos would get more views, but I didn’t have a subscriber following of people who are like ‘I want to watch all your videos.’ It’s like ‘I like that one video and you have seventy.’

[JOE SANOK] How did you judge success during that time? Was it views, was it conversions or you didn’t care?

[MARIE FANG] I think, well speaking of what I did wrong, I wasn’t even checking. I wasn’t like boom; I wonder if this is successful or not. I was just sort of like, ‘Oh, what video am I going to film this week?’ It was almost more like a hobby and there wasn’t a strategy of ‘Okay, Marie, how did this video do, is this is a success based on these metrics or not.’ I wasn’t even doing that.

[JOE SANOK] For years with our YouTube channel were just doing that. And then I heard Sunny Lenarduzi, she was on Pat Flynn, Smart Passive income. And so, I put Sam through the YouTube for Bosses course. She’s in that community and oh my gosh, it has helped so much to just say, okay, this month, this is going to be our goal. And then I have these crazy ideas like, by the time this goes live, the whole series will be live, but it’s Star Wars characters going to therapy. On May 4 we launched that, so that’s going to be in the past when this goes live. But we have Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, a Stormtrooper and Chewbacca all going to therapy with my friend Paul as the therapist and I played all the characters.
Most of it’s been business stuff that we cover on our YouTube channel, but this time it’s just fun and still connected to private practice. With Darth Vader, it’s right after the moment he discloses to Luke that he is his father, and he feels really bummed because he’s been building this family business and he wanted Luke to join and take on the Empire. But then he ended up cutting off his hand and it’s like this whole missing father kind of thing.
The shift for me was that are already people who have successful videos that have certain keywords that they’ve optimized for. Why don’t we be the second or third that’s recommended if someone’s kind of down that trail, rather than trying to just guess what people are going to search for?

[MARIE FANG] Absolutely, yeah, that’s so huge. I love that, I can’t wait to watch your series.

[JOE SANOK] I think my favorite one is the Stormtrooper one because it’s this guy named Jim but he starts out with his Stormtrooper number. He was supposed to be on the Death Star on the day the Death Star blew up and he’s having a lot of guilt because the anniversary is coming up. But his daughter was sick and he had all this sick time and comp time built up because of building the Death Star and being there. We tried to look at it like an actual accurate therapeutic lens, and they’re all done with this 1980s style grad school training video field. So yeah, awesome, totally random, but it was so fun to make with my friend Paul.

[MARIE FANG] Good, good, yes, I love that. And you touched on some things that kind of poke at, you know, we’re talking about what I did wrong. I think I learned some lessons before I started the Private Practice Skills side of things. But yeah, that keyword research is so huge, targeting things, I wish I knew about that. Well, for my website and for YouTube.

[JOE SANOK] Where did Instagram and the Private Practice Skills stuff start to creep in?

[MARIE FANG] Well, one thing I’ve always known I love and would want to pursue, like ‘maybe someday thing’ was I really love teaching. And I always thought of it in the conventional sort of university setting that I would teach, and so I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. Once I transitioned out of San Francisco, not having the commute and all that stuff, it freed up all this space in my schedule, I thought I’m going to apply to teach grad school, I think that’d be great.
I actually got to teach as an adjunct in the summer of 2018, a course for first-year MFT students. Similar to private practice, once I started, there was no going back. I’d have to keep doing this, I would come home to my husband every night and be like ‘I have to keep teaching. I can’t let this be my only class.’ And when the class ended and because it was adjunct, it’s not like you have this guaranteed next quarter. It scratched an itch for a second and then the class stopped and I thought, ‘Oh no, I have to do this.’

[JOE SANOK] You probably got paid 500 bucks to teach it.

[MARIE FANG] Oh my gosh, yeah, the pay was quite low but I think I would have done it for free. I just love it so much. Not that I would have done it for free, but I love it that much that I would still enjoy it if I did it for free. I enjoyed it so much, and then it unlocked something and it was maybe for the next month or so…. I think it was within a month after the class ended, I’d had several nights in a row where I was having trouble sleeping, which is just not my typical MO. Something was bugging me and I couldn’t pinpoint it. Then I just woke up one morning at 4 am, my husband and I were on vacation.

[JOE SANOK] Its always when you slow down that it creeps in.

[MARIE fang] True, it is so true, I completely agree. And so, we’re on vacation, and I’m not sleeping, and I feel almost stressed but not quite stressed. Just like there’s this nervous energy and I wake up at 4 am and the whole thing for Private Practice Skills just downloads in my head. And I’ve got to get up and write this down or else it’s going to go away. So, I got up at 4 am and my husband asks what’s wrong? I’m getting on my computer, I’m buying the domain name, it was just instantaneous. I don’t have to teach on somebody else’s terms. It’s like getting started in private practice, right? I don’t have to do therapy on somebody else’s terms either, so I’m going to do this.
I didn’t have the full business strategy at 4 am that morning downloaded in my brain, but it was just like, I’m going to do this. And similar to launching the solo practice in San Jose, I’m going to invest dollar wise something very small. I’m going to start a website and a couple of things that’ll cost me a little bit, but not a lot. And I’m going to just start using strategy to teach people and see if it works. And if it doesn’t catch on, then cool. It’ll be a fun little experiment which I can learn from.
My initial strategy was to just post weekly YouTube videos… I always say just pick one thing. So I’m going to pick YouTube as my channel, not literally, but my format that I’m going to focus on and not do anything else initially and just try to solve people’s problems in private practice. And the reason why I thought of private practice was that when I taught this class, the graduate students were always asking me about private practice. They’re like ‘You’re our first professor who’s ever been in private practice. And there’s such a stigma or we’re not allowed to talk about it, can we ask you?’ And I was thinking ‘Oh my gosh, that happened to me in grad school as well.’ So that’s what inspired teaching people about private practice, just adding tools and skills to people’s belt that I didn’t have when I got started.

[JOE SANOK] How did you judge success with that YouTube channel?

[MARIE FANG] This time I went about it totally differently. Starting with my mission statement, what do I want to make happen? I want to make the process of starting private practice less stressful for people and more accessible, and help people be more set up to succeed. Because I’ve seen so many people launch into private practice with no strategy and after six months or a year, they stop because it hasn’t succeeded. And so that’s just such a huge stress. I want to help people avoid that if they have the right strategy and all of that, and get the how to’s, then maybe they could succeed. So that was the mission statement.
And then the niche flows automatically from there. I’m speaking to therapists who are maybe thinking about getting started in private practice someday or maybe they’re just getting started right now or they’ve started but they’re having some troubles. And so, what are the problems that people in that position might be facing. That was something I did do at 4 am that morning, I made a list of all the problems that came to mind and it was just flowing from me. I think I made a list of 50 things just right off the bat and I thought I can help people with this. And then each of those problems was a video topic. So, I would just say how can I help people solve this question of how to market your private practice through this means or whatever it might be.
I just assumed no one would find me on YouTube for a while, which is what happened, because it’s YouTube. I learned about the YouTube algorithm where it’s not about how many views you get, but for the views that you do have, how long do those people watch that video? And that’s what YouTube’s looking for, to see if they want to recommend you to more people. So even if I get one view, did that person watch my three-minute video for 10 seconds? Or did they watch it for two and a half minutes? And if they watch it for two and a half minutes, that’s really great. And YouTube sees that and it’s going to put it in front of two people next time, right? It’s kind of that slow build, but after about three months it did start to kind of exponentially take off. I think YouTube figured out what my niche was and that people liked watching my videos for most of the video duration and kept recommending my content to people. Between that and keyword targeting, it’s just exponentially grown since then. The success that I measure is through do you get kind of engaged followers, do people leave comments, do they send me messages and ask questions? I love it when people find me on YouTube first and then they go to Instagram, and then they send me a direct message and they say ‘Oh my gosh, like your videos have changed how I’m doing private practice.’

[JOE SANOK] I love how practical they are, I have it right here. Your most popular ones are private practice office design, start-up costs of a part-time private practice, marketing your private practice, using a DBA, accepting credit cards… It’s just like how do I do this, when you don’t know how to do it, it just feels so overwhelming. But when you know how, it’s so easy, and you forget that there are just these little things that people get stuck on and then they feel frustrated and they give up on private practice when in reality, they’re an amazing clinician that should be in private practice. It’s so cool to see these videos, and we’ll have Sam embed a bunch of them into the show notes, but I just searched your name plus Private Practice Skills and it came up. I’m excited to see how that continues to grow.
I found you on Instagram, talk a little bit about Instagram because I think that’s one that a lot of people want to use. They see some value in it, but also, you can get sucked into it and not track any ROI, especially for private practice. Tell us about Instagram, tell us about your work on there, what’s working, what’s not working, Instagram stories and all of that?

[MARIE FANG] It’s such an interesting topic to me. And I’ve had this kind of love-hate relationship with Instagram versus YouTube. I just love it, it’s like a hobby, I would do it even if no one there was no business strategy to it. But Instagram, it’s kind of this up and down thing. When I first started the Instagram account with Private Practice Skills I had basically zero strategy. Whatever YouTube videos I was posting that week, in the same editor, I would make a little 30 or 50-second clip of it and just post it on Instagram and just about it. It’s just sitting there and if someone finds it, great, I wasn’t really investing in it because like I said, the one thing I was investing in at first was just the weekly YouTube video, and making sure that was hopefully great content. That was how I was doing it first, and some people started finding me which is great, through Instagram. I just used that same strategy of posting these little video clips and I wasn’t necessarily doing it a whole lot but then some other therapists on Instagram, some other female therapists, started reaching out to me and saying, ‘Hey, we really like your videos, we want to make videos like that for our private practice, how do you do that?’
I started connecting with other therapists through Instagram, which actually I think Instagram is such a great place to connect with therapists out of anywhere on social media. So, they started reaching out to me and they had these awesome Instagram marketing strategies with thousands and 10s of thousands of followers and I was thinking what are they doing? ‘What do you guys do? I’ll tell you about my videos, what are you guys doing on Instagram?’ And so, there are different strategies to use, and I realized that all the same kind of branding stuff applies here. If I just throw up a video on there and hope that someone finds it, that’s not how it works the same way that if you just put some text on a website and hope someone finds your private practice, it’s probably not going to happen.
But you can use some strategy to see what kind of hashtags the people are using that are looking for me? How can I make my page look more visually appealing because that’s what Instagram is sort of like, a magazine almost? When you look at someone’s feed to see does it look pretty… I have mixed feelings about that, but there’s that and then also, I think, the stories, where it’s people really want to connect with who you are outside of just having this business or I’m going to help you with private practice or whatever it is. I’m moving right now and I’m pregnant and so this is me doing that right now. That’s what you’re going to find on my Instagram stories.

[JOE SANOK] Congratulations.

[MARIE FANG] Thank you. Yes, the plan has finally come full circle.

[JOE SANOK] Well, one thing I’ve noticed about your YouTube and your Instagram that separates people that are just testing it and people that really are kind of doing it right, is that you can tell that it’s yours because of the branding the thumbnails, the font you use, it’s consistent. I’m just scrolling through your Instagram, there’s a bunch of videos in a row of you with like the same background, it looks like you did it on different days, but you consistently did it in that same spot there. It’s maybe a blurry flower background or something like that. Or even just how like your video on Ghosted or Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work or Grounded Hope, they’re all using the same font, they all feel consistent.
What are some of the tools that you use, whether it’s for YouTube or Instagram, that give that consistency and branding? Here’s how I do my thumbnails; here’s how I make sure that it looks the same kind of throughout Instagram. What are those practical tools people can use to get that look without having to invest in a full-on designer?

[MARIE FANG] Oh, yeah, that’s such an interesting question. Speaking of imposter syndrome, I really don’t feel like an expert at all on that. I think you might actually be on my other Instagram page, my Dr. Marie Fang page because some of the titles you named… That one actually has some pretty terrible branding.

[JOE SANOK] Which one do you want me to go?

[MARIE FANG] Private Practice Skills is the handle for Instagram I’ve been focusing on for now. As a branding, I mean, some of it is really simple things like if you can stick with the same fonts and colors.

[JOE SANOK] That’s the way the first saw. Even here your quotes, they use the same font and it has a very consistent feel. But you’re right, yes this is definitely your better work.

[MARIE FANG] That one actually has a strategy.

[JOE SANOK] Skills, like things that have helped you with branding, the thumbnails, that practical side of it.

[MARIE FANG] Yes, yes. I think it really is rooted still and the non-skill part of you know, what is it that I’m really about here? What am I trying to communicate with my audience and then from there, there are the strategies that you can use. Sticking with fonts, even just picking one or two colors. I know you’ve mentioned Canva on your podcast before, I use Canva for a lot of these things and you can even just copy and paste some of the same thumbnails from Canva and just type something new. That’s basically what I do for all those things, so it also makes life easier.
One of the biggest tips that I found helpful in Instagram strategy was having three to five categories of posts that you do. So rather than just every post being a video, for example, which I had been doing initially, maybe I have one of my categories is How To video clips. But I have another category for inspirational quotes, and then I have another category for when I put up a blog post. I’ll put up an image that is on brand and then there will be pictures of me where I share in the caption a little more vulnerably. So that’s a category for trying to connect with people because I’m not just this random and not like a guru that knows everything, I’m just me. So those are my four categories and then I just cycle through, it kind of creates this little checkerboard feed. But that just ends up being my main strategy and it also gives me a schedule to go by so that every week I have four posts going up, and it’s one in each of these categories. That really helps people know what to expect. When you look at the page, it looks consistent, because each category has a different type of image that goes with it. It also just makes it really easy for me to plan what I’m doing because I just stick with those categories. It’s a win all around, I think, hopefully, that was a helpful answer to your question.

[JOE SANOK] That’s super helpful. What I like about it is that you try things, see if they work for you. Most of us are not going to become full-on Instagram experts and influencers but we can still say I want to use Instagram as a way to feed into whatever project I’m working on. I’m going to do my best. It doesn’t take this huge team of people to do this. I just was talking to one of the individuals in our mastermind group for our big ideas that just started, and she was quoted 1400 bucks a month for someone to manage her social media. And I’m like, wow, that’s great that someone’s making money doing that, but I’m like, I can show you how to do that with just automated tools or have someone like one of the Sam’s that we have working for us, do that way cheaper. And not that it’s not worth it at a certain point, but you need to really be able to say it what am I getting $5,000 in business for that, it should be at least in a five to 10 to one ratio.
So, tell me where you hope Private Practice Skills goes from here. Where are you headed? What should we expect to come out of it?

[MARIE FANG] Well, right now I’m working on an e-course, which is kind of like the whole strategy…. And that’s something I can talk about in and of itself. But, you know, starting your marketing before you actually have something that you’re selling, I think is so important. And that’s true in private practice, as well. But I’m launching an e-course, and I’m in the content creation phase. It’s halfway done, and then, of course, I planned to launch it by now, but then I’m pregnant and we’re moving and so you know, such is life. But the hope is that I could launch it this summer, so we’ll see. You can see it when this podcast comes out if it’s launched.

[JOE SANOK] What’s the biggest pain that the e-course is helping solve?

[MARIE FANG] It was all about just launching your private practice. It’s not just limited to people who haven’t yet started a private practice, but it kind of walks you through each piece, starting with a marketing strategy, and then going into budgeting and expenses and then just the very practical how to, like how do I launch this practice? Are you going to need to go get a business license and all this…? And, so the hope is that after you go through the course, that you could already have started a private practice with clients coming in on some consistent basis, and that you could do it without feeling totally overwhelmed, and just do it in little bite-sized pieces as you go.

[JOE SANOK] That’s so cool! Well, Marie, the last question I always ask is, if every private practice owner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?

[MARIE FANG] I assumed you might ask that because I’ve heard you asked that so many times, and I think the piece of information that sticks with me, at least, that’s been most valuable for me, is always coming back to my personal mission statement – what is it that I care most about? Or why am I doing this? Maybe some of it is that I want to earn some income but there always has to be a deeper why when you have your own business beyond just, I want to earn some income. And when you can tap into that, it always makes the rest of the process less anxiety provoking and it can be a lot easier to make the decisions that you need to make in your business and in your life really. So that’s always what I try to come back to myself, I try to remind people to do the same because I know for me, when I come away from that I just get really anxious. What am I doing and I don’t know what to do next?

[JOE SANOK] That’s so awesome. Thanks so much for being on the show today. If people want to connect with your work and follow what you’re doing, what you’re teaching, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

[MARIE FANG] I’m in lots of places on the internet, but you can probably find the main hub through my website at www.privatepracticeskills.com. I do really enjoy using Instagram at this point, so my handle there’s also @privatepracticeskills. Those are probably the two easiest ways to find me.

[JOE SANOK] Awesome. Well Marie, thank you so much for being on The Practice of the Practice Podcast.

[MARIE FANG] Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed this.

[JOE SANOK] I just love Marie’s story of how she has started getting these Private Practice Skills together and what she’s doing. Really excited to see what continues to work for her as she helps serve people that are in private practice. If you’re looking for some tools that will help you save time, www.therapynotes.com is awesome, use promo code Joe to get two months free. We also have a ton of resources over at www.practiceofthepractice.com/resources. We have free downloads, we have e-books, we have checklists, all these things that are totally free for you, to help support you in starting growing and scaling and private practice and also your big ideas. So looking forward to helping you out. We’ve got some shows where I’m doing some solo shows coming up, answering some of the most common questions, so make sure you don’t miss out throughout the rest of July. Thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain have an awesome week.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It’s given with the understanding that neither the hosts, the publisher or the guests are entering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you need a professional you should find one. Thanks to the band Silence Is Sexy for your intro music. We love it.