Start a Private Practice Month: Hanna Morrell on systems to start a practice | POP 846

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Start a Private Practice Month: Hanna Morrell on systems to start a practice | POP 846

What is the key component to building any system? How can you structure and optimize your Google Ads for success? Where is the next best step for you to take?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about systems to start a practice with Hanna Morrell.

Podcast Sponsor: Pillars of Practice

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Over 20 FREE Downloadable resources and tools

8-minute expert videos on a variety of topics to help make your private practice stronger

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Meet Hanna Morrell

A photo of Hanna Morrell is captured. She is a holistic financial coach. Hanna is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Hanna is a holistic financial coach that teaches individuals and couples to trust themselves (and each other) with their finances. She does this through client-directed, customized coaching.

Visit Hanna’s website

FREEBIE: Download your copy of the system-building workbook!

In This Podcast

  • Just give it a go
  • Marketing systems
  • Systems can fit anywhere
  • Hanna’s advice to private practitioners

Just give it a go

Often what works well is just trying, and giving it a go.
You can think something through in a thousand different ways, but you won’t make any genuine progress until you put action to your thoughts and try something new.

Getting really good at experimenting and evaluating systems as I built them [helped me], with the understanding that I’m building this business to grow.

Hanna Morrell

Take small steps, track your progress, and evaluate these steps against the goals that you have that these actions are meant to bring you closer to.

Marketing systems

Hanna works with Google Ads, and it’s a constant process of experimentation.
She keeps a large spreadsheet and tracks all the data on it to assess what works, and what can be changed to maybe work better.

That’s why I like [to] purposefully treat everything I do in Google Ads as an experiment, because then it doesn’t hurt, right? And then it allows us to reiterate and change.

Hanna Morrell

Some things to keep in mind with Google Ads:

Treat it as an experiment and play around with it.
Run two kinds of ads: one deeply emotional, and one more straightforward.
People want to know that you hear them: write clear and honest copy that would meet them where they are at.

Write those ads as if you are looking over their shoulders and reading their diary entries. What are those things that are hurting them? That has been the best [strategy] for my Google Ads.

Hanna Morrell

Systems can fit anywhere

You can build a system into almost any part of your life.

The key component to building any system of routine, ritual, or anything like that is to evaluate the system itself, not [yourself].

Hanna Morrell

It is tough to adapt when you are constantly evaluating yourself as the source of the failure or the struggle, rather than looking at how the system can be adapted to where you are currently at.

Systems are what you use to build yourself (and anything else). So, rather than forcing yourself to meet a system, design the system to meet you, and make adjustments accordingly as you develop and grow.

The same applies to your business!

Hanna’s advice to private practitioners

It is okay to experiment! Try things, and evaluate that attempt, not yourself, because that is the best way to create systems that can change over time.

Sponsors mentioned in this episode:

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

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!

Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK] You can spend lots of time going on YouTube, reading people’s blogs, even listening to podcasts like this, but if you can find someone you trust and you understand what they’re teaching, they can save you time if you just follow them, if you dive into what they’re looking at teaching you. That’s why we put together, a totally free e-course to help you, whether you’re a solo practitioner or a group practitioner, to get the basic checklists and trainings that you need to rock out your private practice. Head on over to to get access to this free e-course. Again, that’s This is the Practice of The Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 846. Welcome, welcome, welcome. I am Joe Sanok, your host, and I hope you are doing amazing. We had a whole series of Ask the Experts over the last number of episodes. We had Pat Flynn, we had Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, John Lee Dumas. We had profit first discussions, all sorts of amazing experts, so if you missed those, feel free to go back, we had quite a few episodes there. Then this month we are talking all about starting a private practice. So this month, it’s all around starting a practice. We’re talking to friends of ours that have started practices in the last couple years, and just having them share their stories, having them just say, “Here’s what’s going on. Here’s what worked for me, here’s what didn’t work for me, here’s where I got confused.” Hopefully giving you some nuggets this month are all around starting a solo practice. [JOE] I am so excited to have Hanna Morrell here with us. Hanna is a holistic financial coach that helps individuals and couples trust themselves with their money. Hanna, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. So excited to hear about you starting your practice. [HANNA MORRELL] Hi, Joe. Thanks so much for having me. [JOE] Yeah, I’m really excited to hear about your practice and how the launch has gone. Where does it make sense to start in regards to your story and some things that you’ve learned? [HANNA] So I’m not a therapist or a counselor. I’m actually a coach, I’m a financial coach, as you mentioned, so my practice looks a little bit different but there are a lot of commonalities between like, what I think most of your audience is. I’m like, so I’m basically in the first three years of my solo practice. I developed my curriculum for a couple years and really didn’t count that as being in business and then began seeing clients about a year and a half into that. Really the two year big build for the curriculum, even though it’s never going to be done, that was most of the work was done there. So that was, we can mark that as maybe five or six years ago so I’ve been actively building the business for about three years. Prior to that, I was just sort of coasting, getting referrals, and just sort of going along to get along. That was also prior to the pandemic so I was trying desperately to build my business person to person, like in-person and did not understand the value of Zoom, which we all know now, is fantastic. The pandemic has really grown my businesses and since then I’ve had to change quite a little bit as I’ve been growing. I don’t know if that answered your question. [JOE] When you think about the starting phase, like really just getting going, getting your systems down, finding new clients, what were some things that you tried that you would say really worked well for you? [HANNA] I think the thing that I tried that worked well is trying. I know that sounds sort of like, that doesn’t sound like an answer, but getting really, really good at experimenting and evaluating systems as I built them with the understanding that I’m building this business to grow. Like I’m being intentional about what does this look like if I’m quadruple as busy as I am right now, even though that’s not a good thing. Like, what does it look like to have systems in place that means that I could eventually bring people on, or even a VA? So building systems with the future in mind and building systems that fit into my life as opposed to like expecting myself to fit into some cookie-cutter system or philosophy. [JOE] Were there things that you saw other counselors or coaches doing that you said, I definitely don’t want that doesn’t fit into my life system that I want? [HANNA] Yeah, and this is less for therapists and more for other coaches, have this philosophy that people just need to trust the process and just do what they basically tell them to do. I really, really have a hard time with that. I enjoy building bespoke budgeting systems and other kinds of financial systems with my clients and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. I am, there’s lots and lots of life coaches out there who will tell you like, show up, coachable, trust the process, all of that I think is an effort to protect the coach and not necessarily to meet the clients where they are. [JOE] Yeah. What else did you do at the beginning phases that you feel really grateful that you did that maybe even at the time you didn’t appreciate the path you were going down? [HANNA] Random note taking. I would say it was probably like one of my, I don’t keep a regular journal. I would love to be able to build that practice into my life. It’s just never quite worked that way but I have notebooks on notebooks on notebooks going back where I’ve been keeping notes or like writing down random stuff that pops into my head. So I’ve been able to go back in time quite a little bit and use those external memory devices because our brains can only keep so much and we can’t be expected to remember everything that we’ve ever thought. So I’ve found that like, having those, having historical, like what’s going on in Hanna’s head, June of 2018 has been fantastic. [JOE] Now, were there things that you tried and did that you would say that’s a waste of time, even if I learned something, I wish I hadn’t done that, things that you’d recommend against? [HANNA] Not really. I think because I approach hmm, lots of parts of my lives as an experiment, it’s like even a bad, even bad data coming back is still data. What I, I’m not too precious about that. I think that that’s probably, that’s not something that’s native to my personality. So I think I’ve developed over the years the ability to like just treat those “failures” or bad data coming back, treat that as an experiment and move on from there. That’s probably been my biggest, that’s been a struggle for me, just because my native personality isn’t quite like that. Like most human beings, I suffer from something called plan continuation bias. Are you familiar with this term? [JOE] Yeah, I am. [HANNA] We get stuck in like, this is the path I set out for myself and it can be perceived as stubbornness, but also like sticktuitiveness and I get trapped in that a lot. So I’ve had to work really consciously too, like adapt my way out of that and that’s been a lot of work. And I think that’s a normal human condition, that plan continuation bias, so, it’s not a — [JOE] I think one of the classic examples is someone goes to undergrad for pre-law, they get into the law school of their dreams or a year into law, and now they’re all in debt and they’re like, well, I might as well finish this degree and become a lawyer, even though they know I don’t want to be a lawyer. What am I doing? [HANNA] I don’t want to be a lawyer, yeah. There’s a myriad of pressures around us that sort of feed that plan continuation bias and once I realized it and worked it into the curriculum so I could teach it to my clients, of course that means that I have to inspect my, and examine myself or that too. It wasn’t, it was hard at the beginning, but now it’s much, much easier so I can, that’s the experimentation and the curiosity helps to counteract that. [JOE] Well, Hanna, I know you’re really good at systems and creating for yourself systems, but then also it’s the same thing you often are teaching your clients. Would you walk through maybe some of the essential systems that you implemented when you were starting your practice? [HANNA] Nobody’s going to like this, but notes like session notes has been something that I have adapted and changed many, many times. That has been, because I don’t like doing them, so that’s been a system that I have had to work on and develop so that I will do them. And willpower is not going to be the thing that pushes us through, like doing something we want to do, so building a system around notes has been really good. Marketing, I — [JOE] I want to pause you there, what does that system look like? [HANNA] Right now it looks like I have a, so I have a SuperNote. I don’t, I’m just going to plug SuperNote, I guess. I’m all digital for my notes, which means that I have everything that I need in a PDF that I’m just marking up for my clients. I have like my intake and then what we’ve talked about and then each session has its own. So I have like this 25 page PDF that I’m just marking up for each client. Did that make any sense at all? [JOE] Yeah. Well, even just finding those things that you do on a regular basis and creating a template for it. Like just today, so recently my director of details moved on to another job and so we don’t have somebody that yet is filling that spot. So I’m back to checking my email and keeping up with things, which has been good to see all the things coming in and really have a good sense of the pulse. But one thing I realized was how many times I’m going and looking for the Calendly link for a podcast interview sending people things. So I created a shortcut within my keyboard where if I spell ge, if I spell guest with two Gs, so it’s like GGUEST, then that automatically fills in that entire email, has the link there for me. Like, we’d love to have you on the podcast here’s the link to schedule, please make sure you email your headshot and bio to Miranda. Here’s her email. So to just not have to spend that extra 30 seconds, multiple times a day hunting around for it and maybe even screwing it up when we can have that super note or we can have that like shortcut. It’s so, I just love it. I feel like such a hacker. [HANNA] I know, isn’t it? It feels awesome, like, ooh, look at me. That’s the thing we can get locked down into our everyday kind of the grind. I need to get this done, I need to get that done and we don’t look for systems like that. It feels almost like, sometimes you’re going to be like, oh, I don’t have time to even go look for how to do a macro on my keyboard. But devoting sometime to practicing that sort of experiment, because the macro might not have worked. It might not have been what you wanted out of that, but you tried it. That’s the looking for other options is I think a skill that I think more entrepreneurs, especially in that looking for other options also helps to counteract that, this is just the way it is. This is, yeah, I got off topic. Go ahead. [JOE] No, that’s great. I wanted to just drill into what that looked like with your notes. So you were saying then the other thing system you have is around marketing. Tell us a little bit about that. [HANNA] At the moment most of my clients are coming from Google Ads. Google Ads has been, I’ve only been doing that for maybe a year, year and a half, has been a masterclass in experimentation. You’ve talked, I think some about AB testing and that a thing. Like I’m always constantly experimenting with my Google Ads. Like yesterday I just put up a brand new ad with a landing page, brand new ad, brand new landing page and I’m just experimenting with it. So yeah, Google Ads has been not just experimenting with the ads themselves, the landing pages, but then how I’m keeping track of all that data too. So I have like a massive spreadsheet now like, which looks so different than when I began a year and a half ago. But just being able to, again, not being too, I guess precious isn’t the right word, maybe, but like not being too sacred about, because what happens, especially with Google Ads, is we start the Google Ads, we run them for a little bit, spend maybe $200, nothing happens and we pack sand on it. So it’s really easy to do that with systems and domains of our lives that we’re not familiar with. That’s why like purposefully treating everything ideal in Google Ads as an experiment because then it doesn’t hurt and it allows us to iterate and change. [JOE] Yeah. Now when you’re running Google Ads, what are some things that for you learned right away as you were doing Google Ads that apply to people that are starting a practice? [HANNA] Ooh, okay, so this is my single biggest takeaway that I tell everybody who says Google Ads don’t work. At the beginning, pretty consistently, I ran two kinds of ads. One was a deeply emotional ad that would say things like our bills are piling up. Oh, we can’t seem to have a conversation about money or like, I don’t know what to do next, these really negatively emotional ads, which at the beginning I was like, nobody’s going to want to see that. [JOE] Now was that in the ad copy itself or was that in the landing page or both? [HANNA] Both. That was the ad copy, like the headlines on Google Ads. That’s where I was like in the descriptions getting really, really like pokey pokey emotional and then it’s competitor, so aiming at the same landing page was an ad, like LGBTQ plus friendly, evening hours, flexible schedule financial coaching. So a really like a basic ad. Can you guess which one performed better? [JOE] I’m going to guess from your tone of voice that the emotional one did. [HANNA] Oh yeah, but leaps and bounds. So then I, after like a little time I kicked off the one that was not performing and it added on an emotional ad but was positive, so it was aspirational. It was like all these positive, guess which one between the negative emotional and the positive emotional, guess what, which one performed better? [JOE] I would hope it’s the positive, but I’m leaning towards the negative because of our like primitive emotions and reptilian brain [HANNA] Yep, yep. People want to know that we hear them. If I’m saying something that is already going on in their head, then that’s already a connection. So that is the biggest thing that I would recommend if someone’s playing around with Google Ads, first to treat it as an experiment and playing around with. Second, don’t be afraid to get like super, super emotional. Really write those ads as if you are looking over their shoulders and reading their diary entries. Well, what are those things that are hurting them? That has been the best thing for my Google Ads besides having a way to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. [JOE] Yeah, that’s interesting. So a lot of times I’ve taught with just websites that if you’re saying anger management therapist to have images of the outcome of therapy of happy, peaceful people, happy, peaceful marriages because people already know that they hate their life, they hate their spouse, whatever it is. Would you say that overall, like just for that landing page the negative was helpful or would you say that you think even for the landing page, like the main your hero image on your main page, you should go on that negative emotional? [HANNA] I’ve played with that a little bit too. I’m not quite sure, I would say of course this is going to get repetitive, but try out both. So for the most part, I’ve been choosing my landing pages to be a nature scene, specifically a nature scene with a path because that sort of tracks with my philosophy on things. But I have found that when I do like a hero image of, let’s say a couple sitting on a couch, arms crossed, facing away from each other, that if I start with that at the top and like a headline that says something like, you’re just so freaking tired of trying or something like that, I need to get more positive as I come down the page. And I found that if I circle back to like, how much longer can you go on like this down at the bottom next to a call-to-action that doesn’t work as well as like a positive. So I’m basically, I’m moving them through and explaining doing whatever that landing page is supposed to do, explain my process, how to set up a session, whatever. That’s been my personal experience and I don’t want that to sound like, because that is different for everybody’s business. I work with a lot of couples, so there’s frequently, there’s like one person of that couple sure is doing the reaching out and the other person might be a little bit reluctant. Like I need to occasionally address that and like, how do you talk to your partner about seeking financial coaching if you can’t have a financial conversation. Frequently like my clients, the first time they have a financial conversation that isn’t stressful is when they’re talking to me the first time. So it’s how do you like get that person on board? I’ll address that a little bit. I got off track again. Sorry, Joe. [JOE] No, that’s not off track at all that, I mean, I love that path we went down. Well, before I move on to my next question, are there other systems you set up that you want to make sure that we cover before I move on to away from those systems? [HANNA] I think that probably if I’m sales-pitching for system building is that we can build systems into pretty much every single part of our lives. The key component to building any system or routine or ritual or anything like that is to evaluate the system itself, not us. So it is really hard to adapt if you’re like, oh geez, I was really bad at Google Ads. No, I’m evaluating Google Ads. We’re evaluating the trial, the experiment, the system, not ourselves. [JOE] Hmm, yeah, that makes sense. [PoP] We brought together all of our checklists, videos, and other free things in one spot so you don’t have to opt-in all over the place just to get another checklist. We’ve put it all together over at Whether you’re just getting started or have an established group therapy practice, we have a free e-course for you. As well, we have eight-minute experts, which are short eight-minute videos around specific topics completely free. So if you want to take your practice to the next level, head on over to to get access to our free e-courses. Again, that’s to get all of those free e-courses. [JOE SANOK] Now, how do you, when people come to you, differentiate between coaching and counseling? Because I think a lot of therapists are doing the reverse where they’re saying, I want to add coaching to my practice in addition to counseling. So they have both going on but they’re adding the coaching usually second to their counseling. I just like to hear how coaches speak about the differences. What do you say to people when they say, oh yeah, we can’t wait to do financial counseling with you and you’re like, wait a second, this is coaching. How do you talk through that? What forms do you have? How do you, what boundaries do you have in regards to coaching that might be different or similar to counseling? [HANNA] So I’m super sensitive to that because, and so like if somebody says this is Hanna, she’s the financial therapist, I’m like, actually I’m a coach. All right. So I’m really diligent about gently correcting that. I think that’s an important distinction. There’s a couple different ways I talk about it. You’re familiar with top down and bottom up? I don’t know if I should explain it. I don’t know, should we assume you’re — [JOE] I think you should. I don’t think we should, yeah, I don’t think we should assume everyone knows it though [HANNA] If you think about a ladder therapists, counselors are working bottom up on that ladder. Let’s say the bottom is like trauma. It’s the reason why we do those things, yeah, it’s diagnosis, it’s medicine right there at the bottom. Coaches are working from the top and the top is cognitive behavioral. So I actually love when my clients are also seeing a therapist because the work goes so much smoother, so therapists are working bottom up and I’m working top down. So I’m not diagnosing, I’m not treating and the past does come up and I don’t like ever tell anybody, no, save that for your therapist. But I’m pretty like, when it comes into like, Hanna, what do you think is wrong with me? That’s not my domain. I’m pretty clear about where my boundaries are. I exist sort of between like three or four different like domains that are heavily regulated and I’m not because I’m just a coach, but like if we’re pushing too close to therapy, if we’re getting too deep. One of the indicators I have for that is if our work isn’t going anywhere, like if we have, if we’re continuing to have the same conversation over and over again, it might be time. There’s some underlying things that I can’t see because I don’t not trained for that you might need to seek out some therapy and then I help people with that. Like I don’t just say, go see therapy come back whenever, then we talk about like what to look for because finding a therapist that you jive with is hard. Same with on the other end of the spectrum with financial services, which I don’t refer to very much. Like I know when I’m pushed past my, when I’m getting close to my threshold over there too, because I came from financial services, but same with like a tax professional. Like there’s all these little domains that my bubble touches that I’m pretty diligent about making sure that I keep what’s, but therapy is one of those sensitive ones because it’s, I firmly believe that pretty much everybody, every single one of my clients could do what we’re doing by themselves. It’s just going to take a lot longer. So I’m taking 20 years’ worth of hard work to have somebody change their relationship with money and I’m shrinking it down to six months. So I’m building on what my client already has. Therapy is medicine and sometimes you can’t fix that on your own. Sometimes you have to seek out therapy to fix or to heal or to resolve. So I like, that’s one of the ways that I differentiate between the two. Did that answer your question six different ways and not at all? [JOE] Yeah, no, that was great. I think that each person has to look at their own code of ethics and their own state licensure, but then also probably consult their own attorney if they’re adding it and they’re a therapist. But then talking to other coaches, I have lots of friends that are coaches and some have gone through full-on coaching certification programs, others haven’t. To just see how they think through that I think it’s helpful. Instead of therapists just throwing out coaches and saying, no coaches don’t have a place like we’re intimidated by them or whatever, to really think through like what is it that they offer, how do they offer it differently? In the same way that a chiropractor can help in a lot of ways what your general physician may do, having a coach as a niche person can help you focus on your money or on other things in a different way. [HANNA] Yeah, I love that. [JOE] So if you were to go back and give yourself some advice that would’ve helped you start and grow your solo practice faster what would you go back and say to yourself? [HANNA] Hmm, slow down, would it be my first thing. To not be afraid of the experimentation because for a very long time, a trial, an experiment, like an attempt at something that came back as a “failure,” I was internalizing that. So to like, give myself some grace to really appreciate like, this is going to take a couple go rounds. Being able to scenario-train, like what’s the worst possible thing that could go wrong and being able to think through contingencies is a superpower. I’ve always had that, but it gets lost sometimes under that sense of desperation and failure and time scarcity. So that’s what I would say, look girl, you need to slow down. It’s okay, this is an experiment. That would be my best advice to myself just five years ago. [JOE] The last question I always ask is, if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know? [HANNA] I love this question. I would want them to know that it’s okay to experiment. I’ve been using that word a lot. I’m trying to like brainwash the listeners. Like it’s okay to try things and evaluate that attempt not yourself. That is the best and maybe the only way to build systems that change over time. We are never going to build one system that’s going to last all the way through the development of our businesses. What got you to where you are now is not going to be the thing that gets you onto whatever your next level is. So for folks who are just starting their practice, being really nimble with those systems and changing them and being intentional about that is, like I just said, like that’s a superpower. [JOE] Awesome. If people want to connect with you, I know you also have a download for them as well, how can they connect with you and get that download? [HANNA] They can go to my website, it’s yourworthcoach, Y-O-U-R, not y o u r e, your, as in Your Worth. Coach. They can just go to forward slash [JOE] and I’ll have a download ready for them there. It’ll be on system building and they can contact me right through there. [JOE] Awesome. Well, Hanna, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast. [HANNA] Yay, thank you, Joe. [JOE] Go take some action. We covered a lot of ground. This month we’re going to be covering all sorts of folks that have started a practice. So if you’re starting a solo practice we have a totally free tool for you over at Pillars of Practice is our free e-course. For years we had individual downloads checklists, things like that, little videos that each time you had to give us your email and finally we put it all together, all those checklists, all those videos, all those trainings all in one spot in Teachable and is where you can grab that. It’s going to take you right to that page and it’ll ask you if you have a solo practice or if you have a group practice because we have some tools for people that have group practices there. That’s where you can go get some extra help in between these podcasts. Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day. I’ll talk to you soon. Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the producers, the publishers, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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