When it came time to write your website, you knew there was only one way to do it: complete and utter immersion.
Armed with a bottomless mug of decaf Earl Grey and notes from your niching exercises, you enter your writing weekend with the same fierce devotion as Lesley Knope to Ann Perkins.
Breaks from writing came when your partner knocked on the door: “Babe, I love you, but even Brené Brown needed more than day-old popcorn when she wrote Braving The Wilderness.”
Your hard work paid off. Your friends, family, and colleagues LOVE your website and tell you so. Despite your fear, you shared your newbie website with a Facebook group and got great feedback.
Then why. the. heck. isn’t your phone ringing?
The thing is – your friends and family aren’t your clients. Your colleagues probably have no freakin’ clue what they’re doing either. And those peeps in your FB group? They probably don’t know you well enough to tell you what you REALLY need to hear.
Your copy is bleh. I mean, it’s not bad. It’s just like…unflavored oatmeal. Hearty and filling, but it doesn’t stand out.
Secretly, you want your website to be the Pop-Tarts of websites. Indulgent, engaging, and maybe with rainbow sprinkles. Picked off the shelf without hesitation or a second thought. (Fuck off, Quaker Oats! I will get my fiber ELSEWHERE, thankyouverymuch.)
But, Ari, – you say – my writing is GOOD. I can spin a metaphor like nobody’s business. I can alliterate the shit out of a sentence. My professors loved my papers.
Shouldn’t I apply the same formula in academic or creative writing to my website copy?
Great, I suck at writing. Is that what you’re telling me?
No, no, no! You are GREAT at writing. You’re just not great – YET – at writing copy that hooks your clients. That’s okay, no one taught you how. That’s why I’m writing this.
Since you have a gift for noticing the details about human behavior no one else does, as you read the rest of this blog, part of you will be like ‘Duh, of course!’
Aaaaaand, what is coming ahead is going to disrupt that clinical brain that you spent years and years honing and training (and paying a shit ton of money for).
You’re gonna be like Neo in the Matrix after taking the red pill. You won’t be able to unsee all the ways your play-it-safe writing is making you appear bland to potential clients.
The good news is I’m gonna tell you how to fix it.
Without further ado. (Becuase I know now you’re just thinking about Pop-Tarts).
3 Play-It-Safe Writing Mistakes That Are Actually Hurting Your Business
Mistake #1: You’re focusing too hard on pleasing everyone.
Be honest with yourself…Do you feel a bit censored when writing your About Me page? Does your home page feel more ho-hum than fun? If your name wasn’t on your site, would folx even be able to tell that it was YOU who wrote it?
If you answered “ugh.yes.stop.” to any of these, you’re probably trying too hard to appeal to everyone on your website – and therefore missing the potential clients that are desperately looking for someone to relate to. (Spoiler alert: that’s you.)
Let’s give a real-life example where the strategy of ‘keep it PC’ falls flat: online dating.
It’s been a while since I was in the online dating world, but the experience is seared in my mind. No amount of EMDR can take away my repulsion for profile pics where the person only had on sunglasses (c’mon, I need to make sure you don’t have creepy eyes). Not to mention, I can’t forget (or forgive) the profiles stuffed with the generic one-liners that told me absolutely NOTHING about the person on the other end, let alone if they were even a good match for me. (To be clear, I make the same mistakes, mkay?)
Here are a few of my favorite gag-worthy profile one-liners:
I work hard, play hard. (But apparently, you didn’t bother to TRY HARD with your profile).
Living life to the fullest! (Ummmm…is your life too full for you to actually put thought into this?)
Living the dream! (Does this mean you’re asleep? Or AM I asleep? Because this profile feels like an ‘effin nightmare.)
C’mon…Who doesn’t love hate-swiping, right?
I mean, you kinda love those profiles that are so OBVIOUSLY not for you. It’s so comforting to know – right from the start – this person isn’t a good fit. What a relief that you learned they hated cats prior to getting invested in memorizing the names of their favorite vegan restaurants.
The moral of the not-so-Cinderella story
When we’re afraid of offending others, we mask the best, rawest, most personable parts of us.
Your clients want to know you’re a real person. They want to know that what they read on your site will be as close as possible to who shows up in the room. They don’t want a generic one-liner therapist. (And they certainly want to make sure you don’t have creepy eyes, so include a good photo, too.)
15-min Fix: Think about one thing about you that either draws people in or pushes them away. You may have to ask a close friend or partner for this.
For example – I enjoy a well-placed f-bomb (hmmm, can you tell?). My good-fit clients (especially my older teens) love that they don’t have to censor themselves in session and can use real-life language. My bad-fit clients find the way I speak offensive and off-putting and it gets in the way of us connecting. (True story.)
For the longest time, I hid this part of myself in my copy. I felt like that a ‘good therapist’ doesn’t use profanity on their website. I didn’t want to offend anyone. And while I don’t have f-bombs all over my private practice website, I’m a little less censored in my writing and I’ve found that it brings in the clients that I really love to work with.
Whatever your polarizing trait is – (profanity, parts work, or annoying alliteration) make sure that it’s included in your writing so that you can repel the folx that aren’t a good fit, But REALLY draw in those clients that connect with You. (Yes, you with a capital Y.)
Mistake #2: Your language is WAAAAAY too formal.
Since grade school, it’s been drilled into us the “right” and “wrong” way to write. We spent our education learning how to turn our casual speech into something “presentable” and academic.
Then, in grad school, we learned all these fancy clinical terms so we can talk with other therapists about what’s happening for our clients in a way that makes us sound important.
Don’t get me wrong – I love jargon. I love any chance that I can to use them. Here I’ll show you… Countertransference. Emotional regulation. Psychodynamic. Resourcing. Poly Vagal. Rapid Cycling.
You know who doesn’t give a crap about these terms? YOUR CLIENTS.
You’ve been unconsciously writing your website copy for other therapists, not your ACTUAL clients.
Let me really hit this point home with some imaginary conversations between your ideal client and their BFF.
“I’d really like to have unconditional positive regard with an outspoken, yet nurturing therapist as I express myself creatively so I can learn how my childhood wounds are reenacted in my current relationships, thus increasing the satisfaction in my marriage.”
– No Client Ever
How about this:
“I keep fucking up my relationships. What’s wrong with me? I need a therapist who isn’t just gonna nod and take notes – someone who will call me out, but not cut me down.”
-The Client Who Needs You But Doesn’t Even Know It Yet
15-min Fix: Have someone who isn’t part of the clinical/healing community read your website.
Have them highlight any word that they don’t know the exact definition of or that feels snooty, distant, or academic. Use that as a guide to de-jargon your website. Replace those words with something less formal – or even slang! But only use words you would actually say.
See what happens – I think you’ll be surprised.
Mistake #3: You’re hiding what your clients *REALLY* want to know about you.
You’ve spent YEARS getting letters behind your name. Countless hours working towards your clinical goals: EMDR certification, PACT training, becoming an RPT, and beyond.
Ready for a truth bomb?
Your clients don’t care about those acronyms or the letters behind your name.
They don’t. I haven’t met one person (who isn’t a therapist) who knows exactly what LPC credential stands for. Today, I was actually called a Licensed Personal Counselor. I kid you not.
Okay, there is one exception…
Parents may be a bit more curious about credentials and training – hell, they don’t want to just leave their kid in a room with anyone. You might also find this if you see therapists in your practice. But, ultimately, they will tell you they just want someone who will help them or their kid feel better. Period.
Imagine you’re on your lunch break (I said imagine, okay?) at Chipotle. There’s a small fishbowl next to the register inviting you to drop your business card in. There is a drawing every Friday – and YOU. COULD. WIN. You grab your ginormous burrito (that will serve as two meals, you tell yourself) and drop in your business card.
Weeks later, you get a call. You won! But it’s not the prize you thought. The ‘prize’ is a personalized wood engraving that is going in the waiting room of your office. It is going to be nailed there for-EV-er. Even longer than straws in a landfill.
The catch? The engraver can only put one sentence that summarizes You and your work with therapy clients.
Well, shoot…what would you write?
Unless you have worked diligently with someone on branding, niching, and beyond – you probably can’t really answer this off the top of our head. And you would probably, by default, use clinical (aka non-human) jargon.
The best way I have found to dial down my true message to clients is to pay attention to the little soundbites (sentences that are 4-7 words) that come up often in session, especially the ones that I can see a visible relief on their face.
These soundbites don’t have to be slangy or entirely informal, although they can be. My soundbites – because I do take a more casual tone at times – are: “You’re not crazy.” “You’re not an asshole, you’re setting a boundary.” and “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
The engraver has been waiting for you to reply to them for weeks now as you have NO CLUE what you want to be put on this plaque that will outlast human civilization. If you’re still stumped, try this exercise below and get that (metaphorical) wood craved with confidence.
15-min Fix: Think about some things that you say frequently in session or any big ‘ah-has’ your clients have had.
What values do you lean against when working with a challenging client? What beliefs come forth when you are sitting with a client deep in grief? What have been YOUR soul-lessons that arise being with other people in their pain? I have a feeling that the answers to these questions will be real, human, and in non-clinical terms. TRUST THAT. Whatever you unearth in these reflections, infuse that voice, values, and belief into your copy.
Bonus: Take a look at your about page. Be honest – does it read like a glorified resume? Then it’s time to infuse some YOU into your copy.
Above all, I want you to remember:
- Don’t fret if you make these mistakes – you’re a good writer. It’s just no one taught you how to write for marketing purposes!
- You don’t have to re-write everything. (I’m sure your partner doesn’t want to endure another weekend of unwashed hair-and-same-pants-for-three-days.)
- Little tweaks in your writing will have a big impact on making your website copy stand out.
- When you put more of YOU into your website, clients will immediately connect with you and know you’re the right therapist for them.
I wanna help bring more of YOU into your writing…
so that you have a practice filled with clients you *love* working with…
that don’t even hesitate to pay your full fee.