The SER-AMTA conference gave me the opportunity to be a part of a panel discussion about the topic of private practice. The whole idea of this session came from the mind of Natalie Mullis. (Thanks for inviting me to participate, Natalie!)
I love panel presentations because they encourage interaction between audience and presenter. Sure there are many different types of presentation styles out there but anything that encourages a back and forth conversation always has my interest. Frankly, these open source events – where the audience generates the topics and guides the discussions – are something we need to have more of in all American music therapy conferences.
There were a couple of vocalized ‘ah-ha’ moments from the audience after a couple of my comments so I figure if those folks found it interesting you might too. So, here goes….
(Full disclosure: This write up is most likely not the word-for-word answer I gave during the presentation but, c’est la vie.)
Q: What are some ways that you advertise your business? Are there techniques you do NOT recommend doing?
A: I’ve found the best way to advertise is to use avenues that the people in your area use. For example: The citizens in my beautiful and small beach town in Florida love the newspaper. Everyone reads it and if you are in the paper people remember you. So I submit press releases to my local newspaper whenever I can. (Find some of the press releases I’ve written here and here.) I find that when I’m networking in the community people frequently come up to me and say “Oh, I’ve heard about you!”… That’s because I was talking to them through their preferred way to get information.
Every client and job that I have ever had was through networking. I have never placed a paid ad in a paper or sent out bulk mailings. I highly recommend making networking your top priority to market your business. Find some examples of how networking worked for me here and here.
Q: What is a music therapy elevator speech and do I need to have one?
A: A music therapy elevator speech is the 30 second speech you give when someone asks you “What is music therapy?”. I talked about this with Kimberly Moore and Rachel Rambach on our podcast earlier in the year. We learned that we all have different ways of delivering our speeches and they all seem to work. Here’s the podcast episode.
Q: Do you feel obligated to do certain things?
A: Sometimes, but if my gut says “don’t do it”, I don’t. Instead, I negotiate until my gut gives me the ok. For example: There have been times when I have one specific client to visit in a Skilled Nursing Facility. But when I walk on the unit the folks working there get really excited and want to do a music group. I want to help them out and I don’t blame staff for suggesting a group (truthfully, if the tables were turned, I would do the same thing). But, my number one concern is to work with my specific client and fulfill my contract with my employer (which doesn’t happen to be the SNF). Sometimes, the specific client benefits more from 1:1 sessions rather than a group. So, when this is the case, I offer to share 1-3 songs with the group (with that client present) then have a private session with the client. My gut, the individual client and the facility is ok with that and I walk away without any feeling of obligation. There’s nothing wrong with negotiating.
Q: What are some pros and cons of being in private practice?
A: For me the biggest pro is that private practice allows me to follow my professional mission in the most direct way. When you work for a company, the company’s mission is your mission. I used to work for Florida Hospital whose mission is to “Extend the healing ministry of Christ”. I think it’s a great mission and I really enjoyed working there. My professional mission is to help people with music. Sometimes I would participate in department meetings, which were great but didn’t always deal directly with helping people with music because, after all, that’s not the mission of the hospital. And, it was during those times where I would want to be doing my mission instead.
I am my own con. When you’re the boss, you’re the boss! Everything that happens is up to you and there are times where I think too much and am too emotionally involved with the business process. For example: I may have a doubt about a business decision… then when plan A doesn’t exactly work I move to plan B… then plan B didn’t work either so I move to plan C… then I wonder if I really know what I’m doing… then I think it would be easier to just work for someone again… Get the picture?