Instead of freaking out
Each Monday, my assistant, Eunice, sends me an update. It includes the number of clients seen during the week, the number of calls and emails, and the number of new clients that scheduled.
This week, Eunice ended her e-mail with “It was a weird week”.
Not only did the practice receive far fewer e-mails and schedule less clients than average, I was also in another country. Sipping a Bahama Mama in Mexico at that moment, to be exact.
5 years ago, my stomach would have dropped. “Oh no, what happened?”. I would have told me husband that the practice wasn’t panning out, I would have reworked my website, I might have dropped my fees. I would assume someone must have given me a bad review. I would have put that Bahama Mama down and freaked the fuck out.
What did I do this time? I thanked Eunice, put my phone down, and sipped my Bahama Mama as I cheered on my husband in an ultra cheesy basketball tournament in the pool (he made it to the semi-finals, btw).
Slow periods are the norm. As long as they are not the norm.
I knew what I wish I knew years ago. Slow periods are normal. Some people attribute it to the summer. I don’t. Because sometimes there are slow periods in November or February. They happen randomly.
Sometimes it is because of summer vacations, sometimes it is because your clients all started with you around the same time so they’re moving on at around the same time. Sometimes it could be because Venus is in Mars Retrograde with a moon sign on fire (I made that up. I know nothing of astrology).
When you forget the norm, you might make some mistakes
Sometimes, we forget that the slow period is normal. And in our panic, we make some big errors. We sign up for expensive marketing packages that we don’t really need. We rework our websites. We drop our fees. We look for side gigs that turn into full time gigs so we cannot focus on our practices.
Instead, use the slow time to do things that are truly effective rather than reactive.
5 Things You Can Do During Slow Moments in Your Private Practice
- Seriously. Take the time to rest. Use the slow period to sleep in, reorganize your closet, grab lunches with your friends, play with a bubble mower in the front yard for 2 hours (yes, I have a toddler. Yes we did do that this week). You will be a better clinician and business owner for it.
- Lean into what is working
- I often see therapists reinvent the wheel during their slow periods. They jump into starting an instagram account, they decide to abandon ship on their newsletter and start handing out business cards at the circus (okay, that one didn’t actually happen but close enough). Instead of trying something new, double down on what you are already good at. Does your blog get high viewership? Great, use your freed up time to prepare blog posts for the next several months, research how to increase that viewership even more, send out some old posts in a newsletter.
- It can be tough to keep a busy practice organized. Slow periods allow you to catch up. You can clean up your mailbox, catch up on notes, follow up with that old colleague. You can make sure your paperwork is up to date and that your bookkeeping looks good.
- Take time to consider what IS working in your practice and how it fits into your five or ten year plan. You might consider whether you are headed in the right direction, what you hope to be doing during this time next year, etc.
- Take your CEU’s
- I don’t know about you, but I hate taking time away from my clients to spend 12 hours in a CEU. I LOVE CEU’s but it can be challenging to step away from the office for hours at a time. Use the slow period to learn something new in your field.
What else do you do during the slow moments? How do you manage the anxiety by being responsive rather than reactive?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a therapist and private practice consultant that helps therapists get clear on their business, structures, and marketing so that they can make money and do good work.