How To Get Your First Client Part 1

I recently conducted a survey of my audience on Practice of the Practice. I found that 51% of people are either about to start a private practice or have just started a private practice. I remember when I first started how tough it was to figure it all out. Here are a few tips I learned along the way.


How To Get Your First Counseling Client?

So, today what I wanted to talk about is your very first client. A lot of what we’ve talked about has been more advanced things. When you have a practice that starts to plateau or those sorts of things. I recently got an email, it said, “All that you share is great and all, but what about my first client? Like I haven’t had a client yet. What I do?”

I’m assuming that you’ve already started. You’ve filed your LLC paperwork, you have a location — a location that hopefully, is one that you’re paying either by the session or as a percentage of what you bring in, not just going in and renting a space and hoping that it works.

I mean, very low risk that you have a counseling phone number, you’ve got your counseling website, you’ve got your counseling business cards — that you’ve got all that done. Now, what?

Let’s talk about some things that you can do to bring in that very first client.

I remember my first client. I received a referral from my therapist friend, Monica Lieser (who was in Podcast Episode 35). She actually gave me my very first client in private practice. I remember that day. I had been hustling and talking to people and networking and getting to know people.

When Nothing is Working

Nothing was working. It had been months and I was in a group practice. I thought to myself, “I don’t know what else I can do?” I wasn’t on insurances because I was a new graduate. I didn’t have those years of experience that you need in Michigan. The people that have called have insurance and want insurance and I didn’t know all about how to talk about private pay counseling and all that.

Monica, was seeing this couple and she referred the husband from that couple to me. For me, to be able to have that very first client and build that confidence was a key step. When I opened Mental Wellness Counseling, I still remember my first client that followed through with me. It’s such an awesome moment.

How to Improve Private Practice Marketing to Get the First Client

When you have no one,  what do you do? There’s a number of things that we’re going to talk about in kind of really big chunks.

So, the first big chunk is private practice marketing. How do you get your name out there? Now, I would say Psychology Today, in most communities is a really good resource because Psychology Today, when you google, almost any city, it’s the first or second thing that comes up: their therapist finder.

What Doesn’t Work in Setting Up a Counseling Private Practice

  • Letters: The letters where they say: “Hi! I’m new to the area. Or I just opened my practice.” From people I’ve talked to and from personal experience that really doesn’t work very well.
  • Nothing in Person: Lack of in-person appointments where you go meet with a doctor for 10 minutes, you go meet with a pastor and you meet with some lawyers. You meet with business people, just to shake to hands, introduce people — the kind of people that you want either as clients or you want referring to.

The Specific Private Practice Networking Strategy

Once you do that, you’re going to have an idea of the maybe 50 people that you go meet. That you figure, if you meet one person a day for 10 weeks, that’s 50 people over the business week. That’s like if you’re not seeing people you might as well be networking like it’s a full-time job.

You go shake hands, you meet people, and you talk to them.

From those 50 people, who are the 10 with whom felt you really connected?

Who were the people that you enjoyed talking to?

I think about who have been my biggest referrals?

My own doctor has been one of my biggest referrals. The pastor that married my wife and I — he, for a long time, was a big referral but he ended up moving to a different city so your referrals sometimes leave.

Then the rest are just kind of a handful of people that I tend to connect with here and there.

As you take these steps, you’ll begin to get the flow of referrals.

Handshake photo available from Shutterstock

How To Get Your First Client Part 1

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joseph Sanok

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC teaches consultants how to become better consultants through his website Joe also helps counselors with growing private practices through his website He also loves sailing and playing with his two daughters.


APA Reference
Sanok, J. (2015). How To Get Your First Client Part 1. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Nov 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Nov 2015
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