Most solopreneurs in the healing and helping arts who sell intangibles like time, knowledge, and expertise instead of tangible products like toothpaste. That means our work is often difficult to photograph creatively. So we must be creative with written content. And that can be more difficult than writing a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation.
In fact, the first thing to do when writing for your website is to retrain your brain out of all the stuffy academic habits you learned in graduate school because out here in Cyberland those impersonal and overly formal habits can kill your business.
Your readers, in general, won't be literature professors. Most of them, like the rest of society, will read at about a 5th grade level, especially when stressed out. Your ideal clients may be highly educated, but if they are searching for psychotherapy, life coaching, or intuitive guidance, the way to reach them initially is by way of making an emotional connection.
And our emotions operate on an even less sophisticated than 5th grade level.
Let's back up a moment, though, and just briefly differentiate between the 4 main types of writing you'll need for your website:
This type of writing is very directive -- click here, subscribe now, download the form, etc. It is the most basic writing that simply tells the reader what you want them to do. Navigational writing includes how you name your pages, page tabs, and in its advanced form, how you write your meta tags and alt tags for good SEO.
If I've lost you with that last half sentence, look up my blogs on categories and tags, and on SEO.
There is a bit of strategy to this kind of writing. Basic tips are don't be overly clever, and don't be wishy washy. Be very clear. The idea is not to make the reader have to de-code or guess at your meaning.
Don't give them an out by waffling -- avoid phrases like, when you feel ready and are curious to learn more..... This kind of message is subliminally interpreted as: don't bother me now. Doesn't exactly encourage reader to become clients, does it?
Instead, use "call to action" phrases like, Call now and let's get started. That kind of phrase is a hopeful imperative. It is more likely to be subliminally interpreted as: I'm waiting to hear from you, I'm eager to help, I have faith in you, you can succeed.
Nuts and Bolts Writing
This is the type of information found on a contact or frequently asked questions page. It's just the important facts reader need to know to help them decide to call for an appointment. It's not about the work your do per se, but how to pay you, which insurances you can take, your inclement weather policies, where parking is, can't leave children in the waiting room, and so on.
This kind of writing doesn't really need a personal touch, nor much creativity. It does need to be clear and succinct. You don't need to over explain your rationale for your policies, but do use the FAQ page especially as the place to CYA for any anticipated disputes.
Personal Trust and Rapport Disclosure Writing
The about page is often difficult for psychotherapists who have been steeped in the blank slate approach to clinical work. You'll have to make a decision about the need for your privacy versus the need for attracting clients.
Most people make buying decisions on an emotional basis initially, then they gather facts and apply logic to rationally support their feelings. This applies as much to buying a new car as it does to deciding to engage in therapy, coaching or something more woo-woo.
Your about page has a very important job to do. It must begin the process of establishing trust and rapport between you and your potential client. While it's natural to think that listing all your stellar academic credentials will take care of that, the reality is that those facts alone are devoid of emotional connection.
Something more is needed -- an injection of warmth, empathy, and genuineness (if you had any Carl Rogers training, you'll recognize this as WEG -- sometimes spoken of as empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard). Your about page should be dripping with WEG.
If your website in general, and especially the about page comes off as uptight, closed off, and un-giving of yourself, you are setting a bad tone for what clients should expect from you.
My advice is to disclose some personal information that will help potential clients feel like they can trust you with their deepest shame, that you'll relate to their anxiety or depression, or understand your relationship dilemma and heartache. The paradox is that you can be specific emotionally without disclosing actual personal facts.
For example, you could say --
I didn't realize until I was in college studying psychology how much my family had undermined my self confidence, and how many areas of life were affected as a result. So I can understand your struggle to overcome anxiety, make friends, develop a close relationship, succeed in a career and more, because I've lived through those issues myself.
Notice that that kind of disclosure doesn't say you were abused, or that you might identify as ACOA. It doesn't say you were in counseling yourself for several years, or that you were glad for the psychotropic meds prescribed for you. It simply names a very common experience, then turns it around as identifying with the reader and a basis for rapport.
It's a mysterious bit of magic, but potential clients reading that kind of paragraph will subconsciously feel seen. They will instinctively trust you over the equally well qualified clinician who just lists her graduate school, her internship, and her extra credential in Linehan's DBT method.
Writing a Compelling Marketing Pitch
Now we come to the most important kind of writing for your website -- the niche marketing pitch.
There is a structure to this kind of writing:
name the experiences and feelings bringing readers to your website
name the problems such experiences are causing
talk a bit about probable objections to getting help for the problems
point out the costs of not getting help
give assurance that counseling or your specific methods will work
mention what clients need to contribute -- effort, honesty, consistency, etc
state a strong call to action
give a hopeful or strongly motivating reinforcement
A marketing pitch is a conversation between yourself and a specific, although imagined, ideal client. It starts with mirroring.
That is, by naming right away the experiences and feelings that are causing your visitors to be searching for a service like yours, you are holding up the therapeutic mirror on what they are currently going through. Be specific and direct in framing this part of the conversation. It's like saying out loud what the reader is thinking -- only you are doing that in writing.
1. For example:
No matter how positive you try to be, every day seems to be an exhausting marathon in keeping worries, guilt, and depressing thoughts at bay. Before you know it, you're irritable with co-workers, blaming your spouse, and withdrawing from your friends. You feel desperate for a change, but overwhelmed and don't know where to start.
It's thing kind of rich description that lets readers feel like you already know their despair. As a result, they are instinctively compelled to keep reading, to find out what else you know about their life.
So the next thing you want to write is a description of the problems that are caused by the experiences and feelings.
2. For example:
Maybe you've tried avoiding the people who make you frustrated, but that just makes them annoyed with you, and becomes a vicious cycle that gets your boss's attention and prompts your kids to act out even more.
3. Now take on objections to getting help, like this:
You know counseling would help you gain perspective, develop new coping skills, and learn how to communicate differently so that your needs get met, but you just can't see where you'd get the time. And you're not sure it's covered by your insurance.
You're building awareness and motivation now with this formula, so next you tie in more costs of not getting help. This is where you can throw in some facts or stats, if you must.
4. For example:
Procrastinating isn't going to help, and it could cause even more problems. You might not know that emotional stress, including from relationships that aren't working and feelings that are constantly being suppressed, will take a physical toll on the body. You'll be more susceptible to viruses and infections. Stress related illnesses are the number one reason for missed work and doctor's visits. And when you are feeling physical depleted and sick, it's nearly impossible to think as clearly as you need to for problem solving your situation.
Time now for some encouraging reassurance.
5. For example:
What I want you to know is that in your first appointment with me, you will get some helpful steps you can take right away to start taming worries or guilt, and changing perspective. As in all of our sessions, I'll want to hear what's currently going on, and when necessary, we'll look at any habit patterns or core beliefs you might have picked up that could be keeping you stuck. I'll be listening for how to help you find the map that can get you through the land of frustration as quickly as possible.
Yes, that kind of paragraph has nothing to do with explaining psychodynamic principles or DBT techniques or whatever clinical approach you have. And obviously you'd craft such a paragraph to fit your own way of working. The objective is to give the potential client a glimpse of what their experience with you will be like, and what they will get out of it that makes therapy worth the cost and effort.
Next it's good in the pitch to talk about what you'll require of them. Don't get scared of framing this as a guarantee. In marketing speak, that will be more powerful than framing it as a required commitment.
6. For example:
I can guarantee you that by meeting consistently every week, doing your best to follow any homework or suggestions I give you, and by giving me your unvarnished honesty, that you will likely begin to feel a difference in your daily life.
Note that you aren't guaranteeing what that difference will be, just that there will be one if those conditions are met by the client. That puts the responsibility on them.
And then it's time to sink the hook. Write a short call to action. Tell the reader exactly what you want them to do, and when.
7. Example: Click here to schedule your first appointment.
Then add a hopeful or strongly motivating reinforcement:
You can do this. I can help.
The life you want starts with this one phone call.
Weekend and evening appointments to fit into your calendar.
Nothing changes by waiting.
You deserve happiness.
You CAN make life better.
Now that you've got the formula, write a different marketing pitch for each niche page on your website. What that means is, if you specialize in women at midlife with anxiety, that's one pitch, and if you also specialize in teens with eating disorders, that's a different pitch.
Let me know if you need more tips on the variety in these writing styles.