Plus why Circles.so is a great place to start…
Online communities are one of the most talked about strategies for making a little extra money and reaching more people. With online limitations for most US based therapists, one way to extend your reach to people in need is through online communities.
Let’s start with the basics, what is an online community?
Typically online communities are groups of people who come together from across the globe with a thread of connection woven between them. It could be a group of needle pointers or a community of writers. It could be Moms with ADHD or couples interested in nurturing other couples on the edge of divorce.
The only requirement is a reason for the group to come together. From there, you can teach or coach on almost anything under the sun. What you can’t do is therapy. Online communities are not substitutions for group counseling. They are, however, wonderful ways to bring like-minded people together for a purpose.
As a therapist, your reach is limited by a few specific factors, your license and your time being the big ones. Both of which have a direct impact on your income. If you’re curious about how to increase your revenue, building an online community is one way to do it.
You can charge for membership, for an entry fee for your curriculum, or both. For most clients we work with, starting small is wise so you don’t get too overwhelmed by the tech or the process. But once you have it set up, adding new content, courses or offerings isn’t hard to do.
So why start an online community? There are 5 essential benefits to creating a community membership:
- Communities bring together people. When you can gather a community of people together around a set of interests, ideas or values and there is a deep interest in something common, ideas multiply as do accomplishments and goals.
- Communities support one another. With the Surgeon General stating that loneliness is as deadly as smoking, it’s critical that we find ways to bring people together. Online memberships offer easy ways for ambitious individuals to connect and offer support to one another. It’s a misnomer that as the creator of the community that you have to do all the work. In a well-crafted community, members support each other as well as thrive with your support.
- Communities are wonderful labs for exploring your professional ideas and seeing how they are received by others. Most of us don’t have enough time or resources to create study groups for every project we want to explore. But, when you have an engaged community, you can share the ideas you’re working on for early feedback so you create content that’s valuable and useful for your community. And, steer away from ideas that fall flat or are of little use to your members.
- And of course there’s revenue. Most memberships cost members a monthly or annual fee for participating so paying something is expected. This will help you with your overhead costs as you work on expanding your community and offerings over time.
- Finally, communities are safe spaces. Members can express themselves, share their experiences and speak openly without fear of judgment or intimidation. This vital aspect of a community is the foundation you need for your members to trust you and that trust is what leads others to join.
Now that you understand some of the value of creating an online community, where should you begin?
Therapy as a field has long been slow to entertain change, especially in consideration of state license laws and jurisdictions. That said now that the pandemic is over, even the APA has something to say about content creation. In summation, do it.
Just be sure to do your research, cite your sources and remain considerate of the line between therapy and education.
To start your community membership, you need to find your unifying principle and reason for people to come together online. Your online community can include video content, print content, images, courses, downloadable worksheets, checklists, graphs, and more.
The limit here is your imagination, but ideally you’re unifying your community under a topic or set of topics you’re an authority on and where there is a need for people to come together. Many memberships offer course content that’s curriculum driven. This can be a set of topics you teach in a specific order, or it can be a schedule you follow for zoom or online calls where you lecture or teach and then have open discussions.
Once you have your idea, the next step is to explore where you want your community to live and there are many choices to consider. To decide what’s right for you, you want to consider features, cost, on-boarding support, integration with anything you have previously built as well as how you intend to manage it in the future.
After exploring lots of online platforms, we settled on Circles.so (affiliate link, FYI) for a wide variety of reasons. Many of our clients are not comfortable with technology and yet they like and appreciate feeling like something is familiar to them even if it’s new.
In that department, Circles brings together many of the benefits of a “Facebook-like” experience without all of the tension people feel behind Facebook’s brand. It has an in-house “zoom-like” feature that you can use or integrate with zoom directly for online meetings. And it offers integration with Stripe for your paywall making it accessible for paying clients across most of the world.
But it wasn’t just the feature set that drew us in. Circles is the “new kid on the block” and there is an energy and passion to their team that no one else brought to the table. They have in house support with their premium membership and a thriving community of creators if you’re at the lower end of the scale.
The other big draw for our team was the look and feel. Learning a new platform is always an exercise in patience and tenacity, so we truly appreciated how easy it was to navigate and make our way around their lingo, layout and process.
And the cost is super reasonable. With their professional level available for $99 per month, we found everything we needed as a home for our first course and community.
So as you consider moving forward with your vision to bring your ideas and content into a community platform, think about the value of an online community membership. They are wonderful ways to bring like-minded people together for increased sharing, growth and learning.
And of course, it’s powerful for you to extend your reach to new faces and voices who need a safe space to grow.
If you need support exploring the business strategy behind your vision for an online community or need help getting yours set up, please reach out to chat.