In our last blog post, we covered the initial steps of your client’s journey from the first contact to the first session. We weighed various contact methods, what you and the client need to know, and whether to offer discovery calls. You can read that blog post here if you missed it!
In the second part of this blog post, we’ll look into the essential tools and workflows you’ll need to onboard your client and start working with them.
All-In-One Tools & Electronic Health Records (EHR)
While some therapists may prefer to use an Electronic Health Record (EHR), we’ve found that most of our members prefer to mix and match different tools for scheduling, payments, etc. to meet their needs, and that’s what we’ve focused on in this blog post.
Certain EHR systems may have limitations for working across time zones and accepting payments across borders. Or you may be unable to access them if you are traveling outside of the country where your business is registered. Be sure to consider your own business needs if you’re exploring an all-in-one tool.
Your Client’s Journey: Tools to Help With Scheduling
First of all, your clients will need to know how to schedule their initial session – and it should be as quick and easy as possible.
We recommend investing in a scheduling system to help save you a lot of time instead of emailing back and forth with potential clients. It helps to streamline and automate the process, freeing up your time and preventing confusion about time zones.
Acuity is a popular online scheduling tool that does away with the back-and-forth of emails. You can have 1-1 and group meetings, set buffer times between events, and even cap the number of meetings per day. The Pro plans provide features such as notifications and reminders via email or text to assist with no-shows and integrations with Stripe and PayPal for accepting payment at the time of booking. Its time zone detection is another essential feature, displaying your availability in your invitee’s time zone.
Calendly is a very similar platform to Acuity, offering much of the same functionality. We have used it as clients in the past and have found it very easy to navigate as well.
Your Client’s Journey: Tools for Getting Paid
Next, you’ll need to know how your clients will pay you!
Providing a way for our clients to securely pay for our services is one of the first things an online therapist needs to consider, and even more so when working internationally and with multiple currencies.
You’ll also want to ask yourself what your payment policy is. Do you ask for payments before sessions (we recommend this when working online), do you invoice your clients at the end of the month, or do you have a different policy?
Even if you’ve been using a platform for some time, it’s always a good idea to review the available options every so often to ensure that you’re using the best solution to fit your needs.
Here are the most common payment options for online businesses:
- Paypal: Most people are familiar with this payment gateway. If you use it for your business, make sure you have a business PayPal account rather than a personal account. PayPal fees vary depending on location and have gone up recently, making it a less competitive way to take payments (but it is still very convenient). Make sure you do your research, so you know what you’ll pay beforehand!
- Stripe: Similar to PayPal, Stripe is a credit card payment gateway. Depending on your location in the world, fees can be more competitive than those for PayPal.
- Wise (formerly Transferwise): Rather than a credit card payment gateway, Wise is an online money transfer service that operates using bank-to-bank transfers. Since Wise moves money between countries by using two local transfers instead of one international transfer, it has vastly lower transaction costs. While Wise is wonderful for saving money, it should be noted that the client sending the money has to pay the fee, so depending on your business setup, this might be an issue.
Before signing up for any of these tools, keep in mind that you’ll need to make sure they comply with the patient privacy and data protection laws in the location your business is registered.
Your Client’s Journey: Tools for Conducting Client Sessions
As location independent therapists, many of us conduct our sessions via video chat. Finding a platform that’s reliable, works for you, and is easy for your clients to use is crucial.
- Zoom: This is the video conferencing tool of choice in the LIT Community. The free plan is limited to 40 minutes for 1:1 sessions, so you’ll need to invest in the paid plan. But it’s low-cost, efficient, and reliable as a tool for client sessions. With options to record, screen share, and remotely control another attendee’s computer, and with desktop and mobile versions of the app, it can be a good option. As with all applications, be sure to explore the privacy and security settings before use. For example, we recommend enabling the “waiting room” feature for meetings using your generic “Personal ID meeting room” to ensure only those you admit to the call are able to be present.
- Doxy.me – Billed as a secure telemedicine solution, Doxy.me doesn’t require a download to use, making things simple for you and your clients. The free plan is compliant with a variety of requirements, such as HIPAA, PIPEDA/PHIPA, and GDPR, which is an important feature in today’s digital climate.
Create & Share Your Cancellation Policy
It’s essential to have a clear cancellation policy and communicate it to your clients up-front (even before they cancel). Don’t forget you’re running a business and need to set up boundaries and value your own time so others do too.
So, what will your cancelation policy be, and how will you make sure that your clients know about it? Here are some of the ways our LIT Community members handle cancellations and things they take into consideration when creating their policy:
- Allow cancellations up to 48 hours in advance. Beyond that, they charge the client 50% of the session fee, and the client needs to get in touch to reschedule.
- Only allow cancellations up to 48 hours, but reschedule the meeting rather than charge for the missed session.
- Others have found that allowing cancellations up to 24 hours before allows for more flexibility – both for themselves and for their clients.
- Decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on factors such as how well they know the client, how reliable the client normally is, and their financial circumstances.
- Taking payment up-front can keep clients accountable and make them less likely to cancel their sessions.
- You can set up a system that can automatically take payments if you get no-shows.
- Consider any expenses you’ll need to cover and whether you’ll be out of pocket – for example, if you rent office space for your meetings.
You’ll need to decide what cancellation policy makes sense for you and share it with your clients right from the beginning. You should include it in the contract they sign so they know their responsibilities up-front. You may also want to mention it in the first session so they aren’t caught off guard if they need to cancel a session.
A Final Step – Document Your Workflows
Once you have your client journey set up and you’re happy with it, make sure to take time to document your workflows. That’s essential if you forget a step in the process or decide to hire a virtual assistant to outsource some of the work (so you can focus on what you do best). The more you document your workflows, the smoother things will run in your business.
By now, you should have a good idea of what your client’s journey will look like from the first contact to the first session. Do you feel confident about setting up the onboarding process for new clients now? Let us know if you have any questions, you can share them in the comments section below.
And if you need more support in setting up your online business (or if you’re ready to take it to the next level), the LIT Community could be just what you need. It’s our dedicated community for location independent therapists around the world, where we offer support, accountability, inspiration, and connection.
Find out more here and sign up for our waitlist to hear all the latest. You’ll be the first to know when we’ll next open the doors!