If you don’t have your own website yet, the time has come.
Gone are the days when a new clinician could hang out a shingle, buy a Yellow Pages listing, and be assured a steady stream of clients. If you want to reach new clients today, you need an online presence. Even if clients find you through referrals or word-of-mouth, they will still want to research you online before booking their first session.
Therapists-in-training – you’re not off the hook either! A great website helps you stand apart when applying for internship or practicum placements, and it also makes networking easier at conferences. As a student, your website doesn’t need to be complicated. Just add your CV, your professional interests and a contact form and you’re good to go.
Not tech-savvy or on a tight budget? Don’t worry. You can have a new website up and running in an afternoon, usually for less than $100 per year, without any advanced computer skills. Here’s how.
(Please note: by necessity, this is a very brief summary. If you want a more in-depth guide, check out my free online therapist marketing guide where I go into detail about how to launch and market a website.)
The Nuts & Bolts of a Website
If you want to publish a website you need three things: A domain name, a web host, and something called a “content management system.”
A domain name is the thing you type into the address bar at the top of your web browser – Time2Track.com is the domain name of the site that you’re on right now. A domain name is kind of like your street address. It tells computers where your website is located.
A web host is a company that runs the servers where your website will be hosted. If someone visits your website, your web host will send the web pages they request to them.
And a content management system is software that allows you to actually create your website, without needing to learn programming or HTML. A content management system makes it easy to design your pages to look the way you want, write content, and publish it in a format that web browsers can open.
You need all three of these things to make your website work. Here’s how you get them.
In order to get a domain name, you need to pay a company called a “domain name registrar.” A registrar handles all of the technical behind-the-scenes work, so all you need to do is pick a domain and pull out your credit card. I recommend NameCheap.com as a domain name registrar. They have good customer service and affordable prices.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy a domain name outright. Instead, you have to pay for each year that you want to maintain ownership of the domain. If you stop paying, then the domain name goes back on the market, and someone else can buy it. Fortunately, most domain names only cost about $10-$15 per year.
If someone else has already registered your desired domain name, you have to pick something else. There are lots of good options for your domain name, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
For students, the best domain name is usually YourName.com (for instance, I registered DanielWendler.com.) For professionals, I recommend YourName.com, DrYourName.com, or DrYourLastName.com. If none of those options work for you, I have more therapist domain name ideas on my site.
Web Hosts & Content Management Systems
I’ll talk about web hosts and content management systems together, because many companies offer both services as a bundle.
You have four good options here. They are in ascending order of both price and user-friendliness. In other words, the more you spend for your website, the easier it is to set it up and make it look good.
First, you can go with WordPress for your content management system. WordPress is free software, and it has a lot of features. It’s also extremely popular, so it’s easy to find advice on how to design a WordPress site.
The downside is that it takes more work to learn how to use it, and it can be hard to make a good looking website with WordPress if you don’t know what you’re doing. So you need to be willing to put in several hours to overcome the learning curve before you’ll have a nice website.
If you do use WordPress, the software itself is free, but you need to pay for web hosting. I recommend A Small Orange for WordPress web hosting – their cheapest option is just $35/year which is extremely affordable. The technicians at A Small Orange can install WordPress for you for free, but you will need to do all of the work to customize your site yourself.
Second, you can go with Weebly. Weebly offers their own custom website builder, and they host your website for you, too. Their basic plan is just $8 per month, and their websites do look pretty good after you’ve put some work into them.
You really can’t go wrong with Weebly, since it’s affordable and pretty easy to set up. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Weebly offers a free tier, so check it out and see how you like it.
A third option is Strikingly. Strikingly makes single-page websites that look great on both mobile devices and desktop computers. A Strikingly website is, well, striking – it stands out in a good way. And their design tools make it easy to have your website up and running quickly.
Strikingly is a little more expensive at $12 per month for their cheapest option (unless you pay for one or two years up front). Strikingly is also typically not a good option if you want to have tons of content on your website, since they put everything on a single page. But if you need a concise, elegant website, Strikingly is an excellent choice.
Like Weebly, Strikingly has a free tier, so try it out and see if you like it.
Brighter Vision & Therapy Sites
Brighter Vision and Therapy Sites both make websites for therapists, and both charge $59 per month for their base plan. They are much more expensive than the other options, but they offer the benefit of a pre-built website that doesn’t require very much work on your part.
My opinion is that Brighter Vision offers you more for your $59 (although they also charge a $100 setup fee). All Therapy Sites websites look fairly similar, but Brighter Vision has an actual designer work with you to customize your website so it’s unique to your practice. However, I haven’t used either service personally, so I recommend you check out both of them before making a decision.
Conclusion & Step by Step Guide
Ready to launch your website? Here’s a five step guide to get you started:
- Go to Namecheap and research domain names. Once you find a good one that is available, register it. Even if you’re not planning on starting a website right away, it’s good to register your domain so nobody else can take it.
- Choose a system for building your website. Brighter Vision or Therapy Sites are great if you want someone else to do all the work for you and don’t mind the cost. WordPress is great if you are tech savvy and willing to invest some hours into learning a new skill. Strikingly and Weebly are great for everyone else. If you’re not sure which to pick, start by building a free site in Strikingly or Weebly.
- Create your website, and then launch it for the world to see!
- Attract new visitors to your website. Teach yourself the basics of SEO, share your website with your friends and colleagues, and add it to your social media profiles. Try to do a little work to promote or improve your site every week, and over time your efforts will add up.
- Celebrate! You are now a website expert.
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