Start a blog. Instead of a website, or in addition to it, you can create a blog—short for "web log." Originally blogs were online personal journals, often with daily—or hourly, or up-to-the-minute—entries. They're inexpensive, easily updatable alternatives to websites. In fact, many therapists' websites are actually blogs, and no one can tell the difference just by looking at them. If you can send an e-mail or create a Word or WordPerfect document, you can create and maintain a blog.
Why would you want a blog instead of a website? For one thing, it's easier and requires less technical knowledge to update and change the content of a blog than that of a website—you can amend it, adding and deleting material at will. It enables you to create a virtual community on the spot. You can write articles, post them on your blog, and invite web visitors to comment or share their ideas. For example, if you specialize in working with clients battling cancer, you could write an article about how the diagnosis can impact those they love and post it on your blog. You can then invite readers to share their thoughts and feelings about the issue. When one therapist did this, someone wrote back about how distant some family members and friends became after they heard about the cancer. Others agreed and shared their experiences. Responses were anonymous and yet a support community was created. Her blog readers returned again and again to read others articles she posted and to share their feelings and experiences. The usefulness of blogs for getting your own name out on the web is obvious: as visitors who are interested in the topics you include return to the blog to see new articles and comment on them, they begin to feel it's one of their own familiar "places" online. Should they feel they need to consult a therapist, yours is the name that'll probably come to mind and the phone number they'll most likely call.
Setting up a blog takes some technical skill, but it isn't difficult. For those just starting out, I recommend the blogging service at TypePad.com. They have many templates to choose from and take you through the steps to create your own look and feel. Hosting a blog can cost between $9 and $15 a month. Again, if you don't want to set up your blog yourself, you can post it as a project on Elance.com and get some inexpensive bids (less than $100) for someone else to set it up for you. While the hosting costs of a website and a blog are comparable, the savings with a blog come in when you want to make changes or updates. Web designers can charge $50 to $100 per hour to update the content on your website, but after a blog is set up, you can make the changes yourself.
Vondie, an energetic young therapist in California, was a self-described "technophobe," but she was bright enough to see that technology would play a huge part in building her practice. She now has a blog, with articles of interest to her target market of young women and a list of upcoming events she's organizing. Young women are finding her on the Internet and subscribing to her newsletter. She's seen as an expert in her niche because of her blog postings, and is being interviewed for a TV show.
Join a Therapist-Locator Service. A third way to create a web presence is to subscribe to any of several online therapist-locator services, which are now considered the new "Internet yellow pages." How do they work? For a fee (between $9 to $30 a month), you can post information about yourself and your practice on these services. When people search the Internet for a therapist, say by going to Google and typing "therapist, Framingham, Massachusetts," these services will come up high in the rankings. Potential clients can enter their zip code or the problem they're having, and the therapists matching their entries will be displayed.