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Do you want to rank in multiple states? Where do you find your referral sources to grow your network? Is your networking system working for you?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about whether you’re networking in the wrong places and how to do it efficiently with Ashley Comegys.
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Meet Ashley Comegys
Ashley Comegys, LCSW, is passionate about helping fellow moms feel confident about running their online therapy practices while having the energy and time to nurture their families. She believes that we don’t have to make a choice to sacrifice our careers or sacrifice our families. Building an online clinical practice can give you the time freedom and flexibility to be a mom without having to walk away from your passion for helping others.
Visit Ashley Comegys’ website, Raised to Empower, and connect on Facebook and Instagram.
FREEBIE: Comprehensive Connecting: Effective Scripts That Expand Your Networking Community & Actually Fill Your Online Practice
In This Podcast
- How to rank in multiple states
- Make a phone call!
- Keeping track of your network
- Ashley’s advice to private practitioners
How to rank in multiple states
1 – Have state-specific pages
2 – Have location-specific pages within the states
3 – Get your SEO optimized
If you aren’t able to [give] the time or put the time into [optimizing your SEO], having a team like Jessica’s [is] absolutely so beneficial, especially if you’re trying to rank in multiple states.
Do the basics, like adding keywords in your blog posts and connecting locations with Google My Business.
Don’t try to blanket-reach a state, and rather talking to clients within each specific location is more important and effective.
Make a phone call!
Making phone calls to network can feel like an introvert’s worst nightmare, but it is completely doable.
I want to challenge people to really think about it more so as relationship-building.
Take the pressure off of yourself – whether you’re calling someone or sending an email – that it doesn’t have to be a high-stakes moment.
You’re simply reaching out to fellow mental health practitioners and medical providers to build a network and help support one another.
Keeping track of your network
When you are networking, think about what your goal is. Is it to build relationships that will lead to conversions and referrals? A collaboration opportunity? A business friendship?
This will help how you track your networks.
Consider including the following on your network spreadsheet:
- Their contacts
- Their specialty
- How you connected with them
- The purpose of your starting a connection with them
- What their availability is to receive referrals
- Which clients they usually see
It only takes a couple [of] really good relationships [to build a strong referral source]. You may only have five people [that] you have a solid networking relationship with.
Ashley’s advice to private practitioners
When it comes to networking, it doesn’t need to be overcomplicated. Look for the low-hanging fruit: other therapists! And build connections with them on a human level because it’s a great, easy way of building your referral network.
Sponsors mentioned in this episode:
- Heard always has transparent pricing with no hidden fees. Sign up for a free, 15-min consult call today at joinheard.com/partners/joe
- Use promo code ‘JOE’ to get three free months to try out TherapyNotes, no strings attached
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
Check out these additional resources:
Meet Joe Sanok
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!
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This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 825.
I am Joe Sanok, your host and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. I remember when I was at 1099 when I first got started, I was working at Child and Family Psychological Services in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Dr. Larry Beer, he had like 40 or 50 clinicians and he’s recently sold the practice and been on the show a bunch of times. But just he has this like mega group practice and I’m applying for insurances to be on insurances because they were an insurance-based practice and I was newly licensed, so a lot of them, they wanted me to be two years post-full license. I finally got on a couple insurances and then I’m like, how do I network to have people come just from these two insurances I’m on? I remember this time I’m walking in the office and it just felt like I have no idea how to network.
So I just started talking with people that were in the office. I would just roam around this gigantic office and if someone’s door was open, I’d knock and be like, “Hey, I’m Joe, I’m the new therapist here. Just wanted to meet you.” Met a bunch of clinicians that way but networking for me at that time was so, it was just so hard to break the code. I would say I’m a social person. I’m a person that enjoys people. I enjoy chatting with people but when I first got started, it felt like there was a different weird pressure, which is why I’m so excited that we have Ashley Comegys here. Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with an online therapy practice that helps women with anxiety navigate life transitions such as motherhood, military life, grief and loss. She’s licensed in Louisiana, Florida, Colorado, and Hawaii, and works with clients from those states. She’s passionate about helping women and moms and is also building a new community called Village, which is a place for moms and women with online therapy practices to network and refer. Ashley, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. Really glad that you’re here with us today.
Hi Joe. Thanks for having me.
Yes, yes. I always love hearing when therapists create things outside of just their regular practice, but I want to start with tell us a little bit about your practice. You’re licensed in four states. Tell us a little bit about just building your practice and how that got going.
Yes, so I’ve actually been doing online therapy since 2015 partly because my husband, he’s in the Coast Guard and we got stationed in Hawaii and I was having a hard time finding a job and so started working on my own and then helped create a group practice. Then as we moved again with the Coast Guard, realized that starting and stopping a brick and mortar practice every couple years is not really efficient or cost-effective and went completely online and solo the start of 2019. I don’t usually recommend people collecting licenses, but as a military family we move around frequently and so that’s how I’ve been able to add additional licenses to different states.
Yes, we have a huge Coast Guard base here in Traverse City and so like, I think there’s four coasty families in our neighborhood and we always hope that they retire and just stay in the neighborhood rather than move on. But yes, I mean that’s got to be hard to be moving. How often do you have to move often for the Coast Guard?
It depends but typically every three years is our turnaround. This last move, last summer was the first time I had my online practice still up and running. It was great because I didn’t have to worry about finding a job with the move or starting and stopping something. I actually had to take time off from work because my practice was so full, which was just a nice change from the way it had been before. You know how so many other military spouses have to do with like, your career is secondary, unfortunately. It was really nice that I didn’t have to worry about like, where’s my income going to come from? I could just keep doing it.
From an SEO standpoint how do you try to rank in multiple states?
Well, I have the amazing support of Jessica Tappana’s team.
From Simplified SEO, yep. That was something that pretty early on in my solo practice I had started to do some SEO myself and I’m like, nope, this is something I’m outsourcing and it has been invaluable to be able to do that. But there’s some key things you can have on your website of having state specific pages and also location specific pages within those states of like certain cities or towns that your ideal client may reside in. But absolutely getting it optimized you definitely could do it on your own, but it’s a lot of work. So if you aren’t able to do the time or put the time into it definitely having a team like Jessica’s absolutely is so beneficial, especially if you’re trying to rank in multiple states.
Yes, yes. Now, so if you didn’t hire Jessica from what you understand of what they do, it sounds like page specific around the state, around specific areas, any other strategies that you’ve picked up on that they’re doing for you?
Yes, definitely like I said, specific to that state, but then also specific to locations in that state. For example, I’m licensed in Florida and one of my specialties is working with military spouses and so using keywords around like certain bases in Florida. We’re really close to McDill Air Force Base, so using that as a keyword when I’m blogging and writing about my client experience saying if you’re struggling to connect with your community and your station at McDill Air Force Base, that right there is a way of getting that location specific keyword in. It’s more than just writing it on the page. You have to get it optimized through Google console and so forth. But not just talking to the whole state, but really talking to that ideal client that is in specific locations is so important.
Any other things around, say networking when you think about being in multiple states?
Yes, so I think networking in general I feel like can get a bad rap or it can feel really intimidating. I think there used to be this idea of, and there probably still is, but when you think of networking of like going to these networking events and everybody’s got their name tag on, you’re just handing out business cards. That could still be a thing, but it may not be the most effective, or I’m going to say it’s probably not the most effective or efficient use of your time and resources especially if you have, have an online practice. I think nowadays people are so much more remote. Whether you are just completely online like my practice is, or you have a hybrid model you it’s easier to connect with someone through something like a Zoom coffee chat or even reaching out for that initial contact via email to schedule that coffee chat.
But that having a relationship with people across state lines I think is really important depending on who your ideal client is and the location that you’re at. So let’s say again, using the military example if you work, let’s say like I was licensed in Hawaii, I still am and I work with a lot of military families there and a lot of times they will, PCs or move to a base in Texas or South Carolina and I’m not licensed there, but I want to help make sure they have a relationship with a new counselor or therapist as they’re making this life transition. I may reach out to someone in that area or in that state if it’s online that I know specializes in military families or whatever that client is experiencing. That way there is that easy transition for them in that across state lines. So thinking about, if I am going to have to network across state lines, where does it make sense to do that and what type of therapist or other clinician would it make sense to try to build that connection with?
Now for people that I often hear, well, I’m an introvert, like I can’t just like be this networking master, what would you say to people that say that?
No, I think it’s true. I was thinking about it recently how many of us avoid talking on the phone anymore. The idea of like having to make a phone call and speak with someone can be intimidating. Even if we are extroverted, we’d rather send an email or a text and I’m like that too. But that reminding, I think for someone who is more introverted, just being mindful of it’s okay if you’re introverted. It doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing and it also doesn’t mean that you have to go around and shake hands and make all these cold calls. I think that’s what a lot of people think networking is. I would challenge people to really think about it more so as relationship building.
I think a lot of times there is this idea of, all right, if I’m starting my practice that physician’s offices are where I need to go. I need to go drop by my business cards and let them know I have this practice open and that is definitely intimidating, that like you’re just cold-calling these offices. But I don’t know that that’s necessarily, again, the most efficient use of your time and or resources. So giving yourself permission to say, okay, how do I feel most comfortable reaching out to somebody? I would encourage you if that is more of your personality, the introvert starting with another therapist. I think that’s this low-hanging fruit that we don’t tap into enough, but reaching out to another provider and sending an email saying, hey, I know we are licensed in the same state, or we work in the same community. Either I’ve started my practice or I’m in practice and I would love to just connect with you to learn about more what you’re doing and what I’m doing and see how if you’re, you have more clients than you can handle right now I’m open for referrals and how I can refer to you. Taking that pressure that it doesn’t have to be this picking up the phone call or just showing up. Starting with that initial email is okay and just taking the pressure off you that it doesn’t have to be this high stakes thing that I think we put the pressure on ourselves for networking to be.
How do you keep track of it all? Do you have a spreadsheet or what would you recommend people do to keep track of who they’ve networked with, if they say they, I don’t know, like curling or have a daughter? Do you have a way that you keep track of all that or is it just you’re friend building or whatever you remember you remember?
Yes, I mean, I think, again, I think if you are networking to, or if you are, when you are networking, because that you need to network again, really thinking about what is my goal in this. Is it building those relationships that yes, like it is a friendship, but is it more so about that referral source? Is it more so about having collaboration opportunities or being able to refer to one another? I think that will help a little bit with how you want to track that. So yes, having a spreadsheet where you can put in the person and what maybe their specialty is. Let’s say you’re saying I want to track or I want to network for the purpose of referring out and having people refer to me. So yes, keeping an easy spreadsheet or a notes app on your phone of who you talked with and what they do, who they serve and do they have availability to receive referrals or are they referring out.
But I think also too, that can feel intimidating I think if you’re starting out too, or if you’re like, I don’t want to have a caseload of beyond let’s say 15 or even 20. So having a referral network of 40 people is probably not necessary. That like, it only takes a couple really good relationships that you may have five people that you have a really solid networking relationship with. So you may not need a full spreadsheet. You may just know like, these are the people that I tend to easily refer to but having some spreadsheet to track that if that’s helpful for you and keeping those markers in your practice is definitely a great tool to utilize.
Now for you, when would you say your own networking has been most effective? Are there any stories that for you really stand out as, oh, this just captures all of this in this case study?
Yes, so I’ll give you the wrong way, first that I did that, how I learned differently. I think back to when I first was starting out in both, like when I first started out in Hawaii and then when I left the group and started on my own in 2019, that I fell into that idea of you’ve just got to get all the business cards and get all the brochures and if you just hand them out. If you just leave them like with the front office at the doctor’s office, that’s how you’re going to get your referrals, that this idea of networking is just handing your things out. Both times when I did that approach, that wasn’t really how I got referrals. It was money spent and time then spent on going to these places or getting these things printed up and not that it wasn’t useful to agree, but it wasn’t like the rate of return wasn’t as great as it should have been given the amount of time and energy.
The idea of networking as just handing out your business card is not really where the referrals I think are going to come from. With networking I think we need to think about it in more of this relationship building. So when I started to take the approach, right, that it’s not just about handing my things out, but that it is about getting to know whether it is a fellow, like another colleague, another medical provider or what I call like a community stakeholder and building that relationship of who they are, what they’re doing, and sharing about what you are doing, that’s, I think, where more of the referrals come from.
For me, when I was living in New Orleans was, I still specialize in working, working with postpartum moms and so having a connection with a local lactation consultant was really beneficial. She and I got to know each other and, in my work, I may need to refer somebody to a lactation consultant. She is a lot of times the front line of seeing women right after having a baby and can tell you may be struggling and so I spent the time to get to know her. We had a Zoom coffee chat, we had a lunch together and it helped to create this relationship where when one, either her client was struggling or mine, we were able to refer to one another very easily. So when I look at, okay, who are the people that are referring to me, it’s not the person that found a business card at a doctor’s office, or it’s not the doctor’s office necessarily, it’s that person that I have that relationship with, whether it’s the coach on my son’s soccer team because he knows that I work with moms or whether it’s for somebody else, it’s the social worker or counselor at their kid’s school because they know that they work with children. Or if it’s the neurologist that you have specifically sought out because they work with traumatic brain injuries and that’s the population you seek not just casting this net to all doctors. Really building that relationship of who you are and what you do is so vital to having that relationship to receive referrals in networking.
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Now tell me a little bit about Village. When did the idea come up and like what were some of your first steps to start to build something outside of your practice?
Yes, I’ve been working to help support women and mom clinicians in building their online practices since the start of 2020 right before the pandemic hit. One of the things as I’ve worked with people that I saw was these is two struggles or two problems where a lot of us are saying, I am so full, I don’t have any more room to see any more clients and I’m still getting all these calls. Then there’s other clinicians who are saying, I don’t have any, I don’t have referrals, like, I need clients. So it felt like there has to be a way for us to help each other out in this. A lot of times you’ll see in different Facebook groups, people will say, okay, I’m looking for a therapist that is licensed in Colorado that works with addictions and has openings. You put that out there and hope that Unicorn finds that exact post and it’s like, there has to be an easier way for us to connect with each other to find referrals to have people refer to us and for us to refer out.
So that’s really what started this idea of Village that it’s this place for us to come together as women, as moms and support each other. I’ve created this, it’s a directory, it’s not a client facing directory, but it’s more for therapists where you’re able to list your practice and identify who you serve, the states are licensed in, if you’re willing to help cover for maternity or family leave, if you have current openings or not, a bunch of other data points. Then as a member, you are able to then search, so if you’re looking for that provider who’s licensed in Colorado and sees addictions, you’re able to find that exact person and if they have openings. It’s an easy way to refer out but then for those who also are trying to still build their caseload, being able to identify those providers that are licensed in the states, you’re licensed and reaching out to them and saying, “Hey, I see that your practice is full. I’m accepting new clients. I’d love to chat with you a little bit more about the work I’m doing so that way hopefully I can help you out with taking that overflow.” So it’s helping each other in community because I think a lot of times there can be this sense of competition even amongst therapists of, oh, I’m afraid you’re going to take too many clients or too many referrals away from me, but there really is enough need to go around. So this is a way of trying to help support both sides of that.
Yes, I mean, that idea that there’s a limited supply of therapy clients is, I mean, I just plain ridiculous. When I hear people say that, I’m like I’ve equated it for years to sushi. If you look at sushi 20, 25 years ago in Northern Michigan, for example, there was one place that was a Chinese restaurant that just had sushi at the end of it, and it was probably pretty gross. Based on that, you’d say, yes, there’s not enough room for more sushi in Northern Michigan. But then it’s like, as people tasted good sushi and good restaurants opened up and people understood it better like there’s plenty of room for lots of sushi in Northern Michigan. So as people understand mental health and they understand that they can get help there’s more and more people that want it and it becomes destigmatized.
So yes, that idea of let’s just hunker down and not support each other I think is an older way of thinking. When I was moving to Northern Michigan or moving back to Northern Michigan, I emailed probably five or six therapists and said, “I’m planning to move here. Any tips?” Like all the emails were super negative, just like, you shouldn’t move here, don’t move here, there’s enough therapists already. It’s like, I should have printed them off and like kept them and framed them, because people just so mean about it. With Village, how does it work? Do people have to pay for it or do they get free profiles or how are the different levels?
Yes. The exciting part is that I think at the time this is recorded or is going out live that Village not only just has this ability to have this networking community in this directory but also a way for us to support one another and gain additional training and education. So yes, it’s a, there’s a monthly membership to it and we have monthly networking events that are for the larger community. We also have specialty niches where we do maybe it’s this month we’re doing providers who are addiction specialists or that are just licensed in this state or are maybe serving the military population and helping to build that referral network. Then there’s also the opportunity to have hot seat coaching around your practice or around your, whether it’s networking or marketing or just building your practice. Then also guest experts to help share and encourage us in the work that we’re doing.
Because again, I think there can be this idea of like gatekeeping of I don’t want to share too much information because I then you’re going to take my information. I don’t want to, want to take sure of my clients, because then you’re going to take my clients. But that again, like the idea of village is we need this community, we need to come together, especially in private practice, it can be lonely. So rather than putting up our fences to keep each other out, how can we come together and empower one another so that, again, it’s not this like the sushi analogy like you said that there’s not enough sushi to go around, but really being able to support one another. So yes, there’s a membership fee for that and lots of awesome opportunities for connection and networking and continuing to add trainings and events to that as well.
Wow. Ashley, 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?
Probably what I want them to know is when it comes to networking, you probably are thinking about it the wrong way. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated to really look for what I say is the low-hanging fruit. What I would identify probably as some of the lowest-hanging fruit is other therapists. Whether they’re next door to you in the office or across town or across the country, being able to connect with them just on a human level is a great way of building that referral network. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or overly intimidating.
Such great advice. If people want to connect with you, if they want to connect with Village, what’s the best place for them to reach out?
Yep. If they’re interested to learn more about Village, they can go to bit.ly/villagetherapist. We also have a free guide that is called Comprehensive Connecting, that has effective scripts to help open that door for networking, whether it is with other providers, medical professionals, or community stakeholders. They can grab that free download at bit.ly/compconnecting and they can get that free guide.
Awesome. We’ll have those links in the show notes as well. Ashley, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast.
It was my pleasure. It was great talking with you today, Joe.
I just love how innovative therapists are. Sure, I mean, I’m sure lots of people are innovative, but therapists finding problems, things that they’re passionate about, and then creating solutions that genuinely help the therapy world and also build some multiple streams of income. It’s super awesome to just hear these types of stories of growing something that really wasn’t there before.
Also we couldn’t do this show without sponsors, like Brighter Vision. Brighter Vision will help you, with your website. If your existing website needs a refresh or maybe you’re a new therapist building a website for the first time, Brighter Vision’s the perfect solution. You get unlimited tech support, you can make sure your website’s always up to date, professional search engine optimization to make sure you rank high, all of that’s included at no additional cost. Sign up for a new website during their Cyber Monday sale and get $20 a month off your first year of new website services on our Grow or Flourish plans. To take advantage of this amazing deal, just head on over to brightervision.com/joe. Again, that’s brightervision.com/joe.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day. We’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music.
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