Alex Carling, Counselling In Hull
Tell me a little about you & your family, what your business is, and the inspiration behind getting started…
Hi, I’m Alex Carling and I run a private practice, Counselling In Hull. In my family there is myself, my partner, our 3 year old girl and 3 legged cat; we’re expecting baby number 2 in July. I’m a psychotherapist in private practice and have been since 2012 though it was when my daughter was born, that I decided to go full-time private practice and drop my employed job working at a Women’s Aid refuge. Initially, when I found out that my maternity leave wouldn’t be a full package as you can only claim from one of your jobs, I decided I wouldn’t go back to private practice as it felt too vulnerable (anticipating needing time off with a little one). However when she was born, I hated the idea of not having any flexibility over when I worked. I wanted to be available and being self-employed made that possible.
Private practice was a natural progression from serving my volunteering period (served at Survivors Hull & East Yorkshire) during my training days, I was enjoying it so I decided to get a website made (Counselling In Hull) and that’s where it all started.
How did you make the leap from idea on paper to reality with your business idea?
My counselling business has developed since I left my employed job, I’m still exploring it… I’ve been encouraged to find my niche but I’m reluctant to give any of it up as I really do thrive on the work. When at the refuge I worked with children, when I went into private practice I only wanted to work with adults; then I missed my work with children. Now I work with adults, children, couples and families. I also offer therapeutic parenting and I run a free Facebook group for parents and carers, facilitating them to develop their own confidence in supporting their children’s self-esteem and wellbeing.
The leap really was leaving my employed role and learning business from scratch; how to market myself, how to think outside the box and what I needed to keep growing. Initially, I wasn’t even able to pay my bills, but luckily I still had savings left from maternity leave so was OK until the work became more consistent. I invested in a new website and a business coaching membership.
How did you get your first sale or client?
I’d say it was my blogging. My first website ranked pretty well and I blogged regularly. With my job, when someone gets in touch, they rarely decide not to work with you, I think it takes that much energy to pick up the phone or send the email, they’re already committed.
What ‘lucky breaks’ or helping hands have you had along the way that have really boosted your progress?
Learning how to get featured in publications has been helpful as it adds to credibility, being consistently present also helped – I was approached by a social worker from our regional adoption service One Adoption as she had joined my free group, she asked me to apply to be on their service list offering counselling and since, I speak at their events and offer adoptive parents therapeutic parenting and work with adopted children too.
Social media relationships have been useful, learning how important it is to build relationships means I get asked to comment for articles and asked to speak at their events.
A huge support for me has been the business coaching membership I belong to. The members are very supportive with lots of varied experience – there’s never been something I’ve needed and not found help with.
What do you LOVE about your business and working for yourself?
I love being able to create what I want to offer i.e. psychotherapy, therapeutic parenting and free online content (blogs, lives and videos). I love the clients I work with, I love how they challenge me, I love to see them grow and validate themselves for it.
I love that I have found a model that works i.e. cancellation policy and consultation prepayment to confirm appointment so I am no longer vulnerable to inconsistencies. I love that I can rearrange clients if I’m struggling with childcare and I can (when not too busy) be flexible for clients too. I love that I have no time limit to my work, my client sets the limit – I’m there until they’re ready; this was an aspect I found difficult when I was employed.
The sense of achievement and pride is something I’ve not felt this way before. Everything I set my mind to is created by me and up to me – when it comes off, it feels phenomenal. When I first went fully solo, my partner would ask how long I was going to keep doing it until I looked for something else (because I was really struggling financially), but I knew I could make it work; and I have! I have no capacity to take on new clients, I am public speaking, training. And thriving (personally and professionally).
What’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do since setting up on your own?
Haha, where to start. Keep going when it looks financially dire, putting myself out there and confront imposter syndrome, keep going during the first 3 months of pregnancy, invest in my business and believe that it would pay off, ask for help, believe in my own ability and push my limits.
Who is your support network that you simply couldn’t manage without?
Business Coaching Membership, my supervision group, my partner, my childminder (for making me feel emotionally safe, because she’s awesome), friends and family.
What exciting plans do you have for your business over the next 6-12 months that you’d like to share?
I’m planning to develop my online services and events in my local area. Psychotherapy is a gift to ourselves but it comes at a financial cost not everyone has the luxury of. My online and events services aim to make therapeutic information and contact more accessible to those that can’t afford 1:1 therapy.
I also plan to run training groups for parents and carers & write a book (I’m optimistic about my time off on maternity leave, if not too much so!).
Do you work for yourself?
Drop me a message if you’d like a free 30-min clarity call to get a handle on how to grow your own purposeful, profitable ideas into a business that both FEELS good and DOES good: