How to Stop ‘Shrek-ing’ Your Counselling, Therapy or Coaching Business From Sinking Into a Swamp With This One Tip

Remember the opening scene of Shrek?

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The classic ‘princess rescued’ fairy tale told in a wistful voice, with swooning background music all full of gilt-edged hope.

A traditional set-up for a ‘happy ever after’ …

… “Like that’s ever gonna happen!” shrieks Shrek.

Rrrrrip! Flush!

At times, getting your counselling, therapy or coaching business up and running can feel like this too, can’t it?

After the first flush of pulling your practice together it can feel easier to hide, to put-off things you know you should do to promote yourself and instead do anything to slow the flow of rejection, avoid the frustration of ‘why can’t I get clients’ and the gut-squelching feeling that you may not have what it takes to build your business or practice.

Here’s the truth.

I don’t know anyone running a business who hasn’t felt Shrek-like at one time or another.

I know I have.

Because this is about changing how you think around ‘being’ the person who not only can assist people with their problems (once they're your client), but also has the knack of connecting in a way that builds rapport (usually through your promotional materials) so they make contact with you - more about this later in the blog.

This is why I used Shrek as an analogy in this blog because it’s a story most adults can buy into today – the desire to hide when rejection feels too personal.

If you’re building a business – it’s about as personal as it gets because it’s ‘you’ putting ‘your reputation’ on the line. The old line of 'it's not personal - it's business' is bollocks. You're putting your name out there as someone who helps others. Safety nets are gone. It’s make or break time.

It's the same with your clients. They risk putting themselves out there to find help. They start with a major doubt that anyone can help. They feel their problem is different from any one else. So they need a lot of trust to be built before picking up the phone to make an appointment.

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In the same way, you may be feeling the 'risk' of putting yourself out there and showing up as 'you'. You may have bought into the old way of communicating with potential clients: via the 'I'm a professional - trust me' approach.

People want more than that these days. 

I know coaches, counsellors and therapists who put off (avoid) this inevitable stage in building a business by ‘doing yet another degree or course’, believing that more 'knowledge' will improve their chances of getting clients.

Believe me, it’s not about getting more qualifications or buying into the idea that if you’re 'the best' then people will naturally gravitate towards you.

It just doesn’t work that way.

You’ve probably seen people with no degree flooded with clients and someone with a PhD struggle to attract anyone.

So what’s the difference, and how can you get yourself out of a swamp and into that sweet spot where your talents are put to good use so you can work with people who need you?

It starts with one simple step: your message.

Often what appears as the simplest thing to do can become the most challenging.


Because most coaches and therapists promote who they are and how qualified they are.

This can be the worst thing to do as all it does is mystify and confuse potential clients. (Think of Donkey trying to make sense of Shrek's ‘Ogres are like onions’. It's about putting what you do in a context that clients can relate to.)

Recently, I was researching this idea and came across a UK directory for counsellors. Out of 29 counsellors and therapists (on the directory's first page), 24 began their bio with “I” or “My”.

They spoke about themselves, listed their qualifications and described ‘what they do’ with an alphabet soup of therapies they’ll use on the client.

Here’s an example of one:

I am a qualified Systemic Psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working in the NHS and in independent practice.
I work with individuals, couples and families and have a particular interest in working with children, young people and their families. 
As a systemic psychotherapist, my practice is based on a relational model of therapy and I use a range of different therapeutic methods (Psychodynamic, CBT, Solution Focused, Mindfulness, Narrative and EMDR) and weave these into an overarching systemic approach.

This is what I call ‘therapist speak’.

It's all about the therapist aiming to 'prove' they're good enough, smart enough and qualified enough.

It's all about them and is written without texture or intrigue for the potential client to find out more. 

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While having great qualifications are a major plus - most clients expect you to be qualified - that's why you're doing what you're doing.

Leading with your qualifications makes it 'all about you' - not all about the client.

Even the language used here appears 'theoretical' not practical, not relational, not personal.

Yes, it 'sounds' intelligent, but from a modern marketing perspective there's a yawning gap between qualifications and making a real and personal connection that encourages people to contact you.

Creating a compelling bio that speaks to prospective clients involves getting personal.

And this means digging into what the person is feeling, experiencing and saying to themselves. It means seeing the problem from the person’s perspective and coming alongside with empathy.

What this means is that you’re using all your amazing relational skills in the way you promote yourself instead of waiting for a person to be in your room to show your empathy and ability to connect.

What Could This Mean For Your Business?

I regularly receive emails from my business & marketing clients sharing their latest wins, so when it comes to getting media attention it's a great sign things are working. So when a client re-wrote her bio and within a week heard from a journalist wanting a quote to use in a story we were both pretty excited.

Her email read: “Check this out Barbara - I got interviewed!” 

Yes, she received her first media mention because her message resonated with a journalist writing an article.

How great would that be if you could do the same thing! Imagine others seeking you out because your message was real and spoke to people searching online for your services.

Imagine what it could do for your reputation, your credibility and for attracting more clients. Not to mention your confidence!!!

Imagine being 'newsworthy' - what could that do for your business????

Imagine being 'newsworthy' - what could that do for your business????

Don’t under-estimate the power of being in-print.

In my early years, that’s where most of my clients came from. As well as ... clients who paid up to 6-figure sums to work with me and their leadership team. Yes, it's powerful. And this is now what I help my own clients who want to build their business do as well.

So let's make this real.

Action Step: Look at your bio, or your ‘About You’ page on your website.

  • What does it say about the specific clients you’re aiming to attract that speaks directly to how they're feeling and what they're experiencing?
  • Are you writing the bio as if to one person or to a generic mass audience?
    • The art of communicating well in your writing is about imagining that you're writing to a real person - this is the skill in making your writing 'speak' to your 'ideal' client.
  • What about your bio would encourage those potential clients to say, “This person understands me and what I’m going through”. Or is your bio all about you, your degrees and your alphabet soup of therapies?

Next Up: I’d like to talk to you about ‘courage’ – because while upgrading your ‘About You’ page is one small step, what’s needed is the courage to get out of the swamp and onto the path that will lead you to discovering how to ‘be’ the person who potential clients want to work with. And this is all about the psychology of positioning.

PS If you’d like a professional perspective on where you may be ‘shrek-ing’ your business, organise a time to speak with me about what you’re aiming to achieve with your business.

Just to let you know there are only a few places left to work with me one-on-one.

If you know that getting personal coaching from someone who has been where you are now and knows how to help you un-Shrek your business, then let’s set up a time to talk. It’s personal. It’s confidential.

And during our time together you’ll gain amazing insights into what you could do now to move your business forward.

Don’t lose this opportunity before it’s gone. Click the link below now to organise your time.