Category Archives: Conferences

A private practice (in 5 easy steps)

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

Henry David Thoreau

Sounds to good to be true?  Maybe but read on.  If you’re looking for a blog about why you shouldn’t start a private practice, this isn’t it!  I’ve been in private practice my entire music therapy career (15 yrs) and I am here to say that it is very rewarding, but also very frustrating and challenging at times.  So what are some of the lessons I’ve learned – now that is something I can blog about!

1.  Things they don’t teach you in school

If you are considering private practice, be prepared for a steep learning curve!  You can’t possibly imagine what it means to be a) music therapist, b) secretary, c) promotions manager, d) accountant, e) researcher, f) innovator, all at the same time.  Perhaps that’s why they don’t teach it during your training to be a music therapist.  It also means that you can become burned-out very easily. 

Lesson One:  Get a mentor who is willing to help you through the hi’s and low’s of starting and maintaining your business.

2.  Be prepared for a time lapse between starting and “succeeding”

We all go into private practice thinking – “this is going to be the greatest private practice ever!”.  Then, inevitably, things take “longer than expected” to occur costing you time, energy (both physical and mental), and especially finances.  You will try to convince yourself that, “if I just do _________” my business will take off.  That is not to say that the opposite is true either, a “If I build it they will come and I have to do nothing” type of mentality.  A book called Rework, that I’ve discussed in a previous post, suggests that you not view your business as a “start-up” but rather, you should view it as a business.  Start-ups frequently come and go, but a business continues to evolve, building on each success along the way.

Lesson Two:  Expect to spend at least 8-12 months getting growing your business, measure “success” not just in $$$ terms, but also in terms of “Was I able to give my client my 100% attention and effort?” or “What have I done well, this week, based on feedback from clients?”

3.  Educate don’t flaggelate!

We can all learn ways to improve our business skills.  Indeed, there are literally thousands of books promising us that, “Just do _______” and your business will succeed.  However, reading all of those books will not make you a better business person.  Instead, focus on what you know best and be realistic about what you don’t know.

This might mean that you save and use your limited “extra” income to attend a national or regional music therapy conference rather than a local trade show.  Why?  Attending the trade show may give you exposure however it will also mean that most of your time will be spent explaining “What is music therapy?”, obtaining very few new clients in the process.   By attending a music therapy conference you will most likely come back refreshed, because everyone there understands what is meant by the term “music therapy”, and full of new ideas that you can use to improve or expand your business.  Use information sheets and business cards in your waiting room (if you decide to have one) to attract new clients using your existing clients as witnesses to the great services you provide.

If you already know that you hate working with figures and accounting, then maybe it is worth the money for you to hire an accountant, and prevent yourself from spending countless frustrating hours working on the business records yourself.    There are a thousand little details that must be taken into account when beginning, and a thousand more needed to maintain your financial records.   Indeed, setting up your business records incorrectly or missing a step can mean many, many hours spent later at tax time and possibly lead to fines or worse!

Lesson Three:  Choose your educational opportunities carefully and selectively, focusing on what you know best – music therapy.

4.  Don’t be a lone wolf.

Improving your business can be an all consuming affair, that isolates you from friends and family and things that you love to do.  eYes, you can dedicate more time to expanding your business when you are single without family or a spouse but that doesn’t mean you should.  Plan a little “down time” into a day full of back-to-back music therapy sessions.  Spend some of your hard earned cash to attend a musical concert or go to a favorite place that allows you to nuture your soul, rather than expend it.  Believe me, the time and money spent will be well worth it!

Likewise, don’t be afraid to “reach out and touch” other music therapists!  (e.g.  Consultation and Supervision Services by Key Changes Music Therapy) Aside from aforementioned conferences, the internet and technology allow us to communicate with a huge base of support and experience.  There are many music therapists that have stood where you are now.  Connect with fellow music therapists on services such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Use Skype (or another similar service) to talk to a colleague rather than racking up huge phone bills.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on software either – use low or free alternatives to commercial programs such as Microsoft office (e.g.  OpenOffice or Google Docs).  Follow and comment on the postings of other music therapists’ blogs and/or begin your own blog using a tool like WordPress, a FREE and customizable way to communicate and share with colleagues and potential clients.  By doing so, you will develop your own followers who “seek you out” rather than “you seeking them out”!

Lesson FourIsolating yourself is a recipe for disaster.  You need the support of friends and colleagues to suceed.

5.  Accept that you will make mistakes and face disappointments.

Even the most seasoned, most knowledgeable, business tycoon will make a mistake sooner or later.  Just ask Microsoft!  Beginning a business, as an unseasoned veteran, will mean that mistakes will not only happen, they will happen more quickly!  You are going to make mistakes!  Likewise, you are going to face disappointments, some of which are out of your control (e.g.  Sad News for EMT) .  However, just like the stock market, where individuals know that some of the best investment opportunities come when the market is crashing, view your business as a long-term venture.  That way, a mistake made or disappointment experienced can be viewed as a “bump in the road” rather than the “only bridge over the valley collapsing”.

Lesson Five:  I repeat – You are going to be mistakes!  Face them, learn from them, and move on!

Finally, to continue the “Too good to be true” analogy, keep reading and I’ll include some FREE business advice  (from some music therapists that have been there! )

Free advice (in no particular order)

How to use your fear – Key Changes Music Therapy

Building Your Personal Brand – Listen, Learn, Music

Silencing Your Inner Critic – Mundana Music Therapy

Introduction to Conga Technique and Play – Music Therapy Drumming (To work out those frustrations after a hard day at work!)

The Therapy Business Blueprint (eBook) – Music Therapy Maven

Music Therapist for the Music Therapist – Music Therapy Musings

Music Therapy and Advocacy (Podcast) – Music Therapy Research Blog

And of course, don’t forget to follow MusicTherapy365

SPECIAL NOTE:  My apologies in advance to fellow music therapy colleagues and music therapy bloggers who weren’t mentioned in this article or “Free advice” section.

Feel free to leave your comments and business ideas.  I’d love to hear them!

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Filed under Business Tools, Conferences, Music Therapy, Organizations, PR/Advertising

Twitter and the power of social networking

I recently attended a blended conference (both onsite and online) called MoodleMoot Canada 2011.  Actually, I attended two of four days of the conference, and followed along on Twitter during the days that I was not able to attend.  It was my first opportunity to use Twitter as a source of information and be a contributor of information.  Similar efforts have taken place during recent music therapy conferences, both national and regional in the U.S. and during the Online Conference for Music Therapy (OCMT2011).  In fact, it seems like TweetUps (a meeting of individuals on Twitter at a conference) have become increasingly popular.

That’s great but how does it affect me?

1.  You should join Twitter and begin exploring

Twitter is a “microblogging” format.  Basically it means that you can provide small insights or announcements.  (Generally, on Twitter, you are limited to 140 characters).  I personally use Twitter to share professional developments, make professional announcements and share resources that I have found that I believe might be of interest.

2.  What should my username be?

You can make your username anything you wish but remember, you are trying to attract followers.  Some people use their name (e.g.  @RachelleNorman, @michelleerfurt or @KnightMTBC), some people use their business name (@listnlearnmusic) and some people use a pseudynym (@victimorious)

3.  Another use of Twitter – getting feedback or seeking out “experts” on a particular issue that you are facing.

As a recent blog posting highlights, you can send a “shoutout” to either your own followers or Twitter users in general to get an answer to a question, or make a business related announcement.   When you do so, expect quick feedback.

4.  Posting conference updates/presentation highlights.

Like I said, I was able to attend 2 of 4 days of MoodleMoot Canada 2011.  Still, it turns out that I was one of the most active Twitter users, resulting in a place on the top 10 individuals “tweeting” about insights that I was having.  How do I do this? – using a “hashtag”.  Whenever you see a “#” sign, it means that someone has created/is marking a way of following a particular subject or idea (e.g.  To follow tweets by music therapists you might use the hashag #musictherapy).  It is now routine for conference to post an “official” hashtag, that conference attendees can use to post updates (e.g.  #mootca11 or #ocmt2011).

5.  This sounds great, but I want to follow more than one topic/area of interest?

It’s true – the Twitter website is a poor excuse for an interface.  It is VERY “clunky” and not very user-friendly.  The good news – you can use Twitter feed aggregators (software that allows you to follow multiple Twitter feeds).  One of the best, and the one that I use is called Tweetdeck.  Actually, Tweetdeck has recently been purchased by Twitter itself, so maybe their website/interface will be improving shortly.  They are many others (e.g.  Hootsuite) – just Google “Twitter feed aggregators”

6.  What is a “retweet (RT)?

A “retweet” is the reposting, either word-for-word or edited, of a previous “tweet” (post) by someone else.  This can be a way to further your message, or have a new business development shared with a wider audience because something that someone retweets is shared with your network of followers AND the their network of followers.

7.  Can I send private messages to one or more of my followers?

Yes you can!  As long as that person is following you, you can use the format “D: _______” rather than “@_______” to send a private message to one or more individuals.  Another way of more publicly sharing with a group of individuals involves the use of a Twitter tool called “Tweetchat“.  This tool allows you to follow 1 hashtag and carry on a conversation/chat with individuals also following that hashtag.  I also recently discovered another Twitter tool called GroupTweet.  (The use of GroupTweet is well described on their website).

8.  I’m a conference organizer – is there a way to employ Twitter to engage participants?

YES, YES, and YES!  First, set up a conference #hashtag and publicize its’ existence on any literature, website, blog posts, etc. at least 2 weeks prior to the conference and encourage Twitter users to use it throughout the conference.  This allows for a consistent identity/brand and helps to prevent misdirection of tweets.  Secondly, use Tweetchat or GroupTweet to follow “What is being said/posted”.  At the MoodleMoot Canada conference, individuals tweets were highlighted during presentations on a large screen using another Twitter tool called Visible Tweets.  You can also store any tweets about the conference, for later review, using a tool called TwapperKeeper.  Finally, after the conference is over, you can present summaries of posts using tools like Twitter SteamGraphs.

Are you on Twitter right now.  Feel free to send me a message @JLisaMT.  Are you joining Twitter (after reading this article) but not sure where to start/find followers? – send a message to @JLisaMT and I will be happy to share your username/account name with people in my Twitter network.

See you on Twitter!

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Filed under Business Tools, Clinicial Skills, Conferences, PR/Advertising, Web 2.0 Tools

Welcome to my new blogging site!

I am beginning a new journey under the banner of MusicTherapy365.  This doesn’t mean that you will get a post everyday, simply that music therapy is an aspect of my life I cannot ignore, on a daily basis.

Who Am I?

My name is John Lawrence.  I am a music therapist and educator from Canada where I have been in private practice for the past 15 years.  My professional interests include:  Music therapy (MT) with geriatric clients and persons with Alzheimer’s type dementia, Neurological Music Therapy (NMT) and the historical and developing world of MT.  As an educator, I am interested in Online learning, Web. 2.0 and 3.0, Hybrid educational environments, Open software and open platforms, and social networking communities such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

What do I expect to achieve by blogging?

I’m very glad that you asked!  As I indicated above, “I am interested in the historical and developing world of music therapy“.  I am also a lifelong learner who likes to share what I have found.  I am hoping that my blog will allow you to better connect with, and understand the world of music therapy.  I also hope that it will become a valuable resource for current and aspiring music therapists as I share technological and innovative solutions for clinical and business issues that arise from time to time.

What are my credentials?

These days, anyone can start a blog and write about anything that interests them.  That said, I do have some specific qualifications that provide justification for this new endeavour.  I have been a music therapist in private practice for the past 15 years after obtaining a Master’s of Music Therapy degree from Temple University.  I have been instructing an “Introduction to Music Therapy” course at several post-secondary institutions and have found that I relish the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills as a teacher.  I have chaired, and will be chairing, the organizing committee for the Online Conference for Music Therapy (OCMT).  If those mean nothing to you as credentials, then I will simply say – I’m a bit of a rebel from Edmonton, AB CANADA who likes to “stir things up”!

That’s it for now – stay tuned for further blog postings.  If you need to reach me in the meantime, here are some possibilities:

John Lawrence MMT, MTA
Edmonton, AB
CANADA
 
E-mail:  jlmt@telus.net
Alternative E-mail:  john.lawrence@capitalcare.net
Facebook:  John Lawrence
Twitter:  @JLisaMT
LinkedIn:  John Lawrence MMT, MTA
 
 

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Filed under Books and Resources, Business Tools, Clinicial Skills, Conferences, Introductions, Music Therapy, Organizations, Pedagogy