Practitioner, Healer, or Coach? Here's the Number That Actually Determines How To Get Fully Booked Out (And It Has Nothing to Do With Your Pricing)
Over a year ago I built software to help wellness practitioners run their businesses. There were three intentions:
Make the booking, scheduling, and payment process easier and more streamlined for practitioners and facilitators to run themselves. I used to be a practitioner myself, and I know how challenging this can be.
Create systems that make it easier for clients to work with practitioners. As a client and consumer, nothing is more annoying than wanting to give someone your money and not being able to because they don't have organized systems.
Bring more sessions and appointments online, to increase geographic and socioeconomic access. Online work = less overhead, which means practitioners can pass along savings to their clients — which makes wellness more equitable!
I've now been running this software for over a year, and we serve hundreds of practitioners. It's pretty amazing, and it's also pretty educational. Because here's the thing: I see a lot of data.
As a self-proclaimed nerd, THIS IS MY FUCKING JAM. I love seeing trends and patterns through numbers — especially when the numbers teach me something I wasn't expecting.
I knew going into this that I was going to learn a lot, and I was particularly excited to see what set apart practitioners who had thriving businesses that ran like clockwork vs. practitioners who struggled to book clients month after month.
My Hypothesis: The Highest Performing Practitioners Would Fit This Criteria
Of course, I had my guesses as to which types of practitioners would be more successful and which would struggle. Having a hypothesis is key to understanding data, because you have to have an idea of which trends you're paying attention to. I figured that the practitioners who pocketed the highest revenue on the Holisticism platform would have a couple of things in common:
A unique offering — something highly specific beyond 'nutrition services' or 'intuitive readings'
Special skills that no one else could replicate, like intuitive gifts or ability to read complicated lab findings
A strong social following (at least 10k followers) with high engagement
Offerings that were either priced very affordably (under $100) OR at a higher price-point (over $300) — one or the other
The Results That Shocked Me
Here's the thing — I was wrong on all counts.
The practitioners who made most money month over month didn't fit this mold at ALL! Some of them had unique offerings, but many didn't fit into a specific 'niche.' They often had the same certifications or abilities as thousands of other people. Most of the time their social follower count didn't even break the 1k mark. (By the way, those influencer healers that seem like they're killin' it on social media? Many of them never booked more than a few appointments a month — if that. Just a reminder that Instagram is just a highlight reel.)
And when it came to pricing their appointments, they were all over the map — some were competitively priced, some were in the pocket of what's considered 'industry standard,' and a select few were extremely high. Most of the time high-performing practitioners only had a few offerings, but their price points were staggered.
These superstars all looked totally different from my hypothesis, and totally different from each other.
In fact, they only had one thing in common: They had crazy-high retention rates.
Client retention is the ability to keep clients coming back to you over a period of time — hopefully, the length of time that your business exists. Clients who don't come back are called 'defective clients,' which I find to be a very rude term BUT OK FINE. Basically, those are clients who come see you once and then you never hear from them again.
Practitioners who had high client retention rates made way more money than those focused on getting new clients. In fact, they rarely added new clients month over month, yet they were able to make thousands in revenue each fiscal quarter. That's because client retention is way more lucrative than finding new clients — which is why Holisticism's software is meant to support current clients, not focus on client acquisition.
A high retention rate matters because it says a lot about you as a practitioner. If you're not able to get clients to come back over and over again, that's not a client problem ... that's a You problem. Low retention rates could be an indicator of a few things like poor customer service, ineffective sessions or products, or maybe something more ephemeral — maybe you just don't jive with a client. That's OK sometimes. But if you're not getting along with EVERYONE you work with, and your goal is to sustain yourself and possibly your family through a service-based business, then you've got a problem.
So right now you might be reading this with a pit in your stomach. "OMG. What's my retention rate? Am I bad at what I do? Do people like me? What's even the point of trying to do this whole healer/coach/facilitator thing ANYWAY?!?!"
Easy there, tiger. Hold on a sec. First, just because your retention rate might be low now doesn't mean it can't improve in the future. And before we take any next steps, we need to calculate what your current retention rate.
How to Calculate Your Retention Rate
The formula is really simple:
The number of clients who return / The number of clients you see = retention rate
I would suggest starting with clients per year as your measurement. So, let's say you see ~10 clients a month (120/a year) and ~3 of those clients are return clients (36/a year).
36/120 = 30% retention rate
30% isn't bad! But consider this: Practitioners who were considered highly successful had a retention rate of >60%. That means that far more than half their working hours were already booked at the start of the month — and that it was pretty easy for them to be 'fully booked out' by mid-month.
Increasing Retention Rate Is Relatively Easy
OK, so now that you've got a goal in mind, what do you need to do to improve your client retention rates? It's actually not as difficult as you'd imagine, and it definitely doesn't require being techy or 'business-minded.'
Improve your customer service. This is a no-brainer, but people come back to practitioners who treat them well. Think about why you go to that coffee shop you love that's a tiny bit out of your way instead of the Starbucks on the corner — sure, the coffee might be marginally better, but you likely keep going to your local spot because you feel better when you walk in there. And you feel better because of the atmosphere and customer service that the team provides.
Offerings that solve a problem. Your clients pay you to solve a problem for them, whether it's telling them about their future relationship or clearing the negative energy from their body. Do you actually do that ... and do you do it well? Think: What problem do people pay me to solve?
Ease for clients. If you've already got Holisticism's software, than you've made it 10x easier for your clients to work with you again. All they need to do is go to your special link, hit the BOOK button, and poof — their next appointment is booked. If you have a complicated system of Instagram DM'ing and emailing and Paypal and phone calls in order to SIMPLY HAVE SOMEONE PAY YOU you are LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE! Make it easy for people to give you money. That's it. Keep this in mind the next time you almost buy something and then change your mind — did the shopping experience prevent you from purchasing?
Shift your mindset. If you're reading this and you're like, "Yeah, yeah, I get it, but I just want my clients to flow to me naturally and organically," I hear you. You're allowed to think in that way, and if that's working for you, please keep doing that! But I would challenge any practitioner who tells me this with this: If you actually trust the Universe to bring you the right clients, then why are you putting endless roadblocks in their way once they DO find you? Why are you making it so difficult for people to enjoy your light? Why are you afraid to be seen? Because that, my friends, is the work of the modern healer. Being seen.
Increasing Retention Rate Isn't For Everyone
That being said, not everyone thrives from working on improving their retention rate.
If you're a practitioner who considers your work a hobby or side project, and you don't need to make more than 'fun money' off of it, then you probably don't need to focus on improving your client retention.
If you prefer to have a combination of light months and heavy months of client work, you don't need to work on client retention.
If you can spend at least $500-1,000 every month on Facebook or Instagram ads to attract new potential clients, you don't need to focus on client retention. (Keep in mind that the average cost to 'acquire' a new client from Facebook or Instagram — meaning they see ads from you and then buy an appointment or session with you — is ~$200. So in order to make money, you need to get paid more than $200 per session.)
If you prefer not to build deeper, long-term relationships with clients — which, by the way, is totally fine! — then you don't need to focus on client retention.
I was surprised and excited by what I learned this year about running a thriving business as a practitioner or service provider — especially because the superstars didn't look at all the way I assumed they would.
The data proved to me that actually, running a client-based business is a lot easier than the world makes it out to be. It's not actually necessary to acquire a million new clients every month — although that's a perfectly viable option for many, especially those who love to make content! But by focusing on clients and increasing retention rates, practitioners can actually save time and make more money in the short- and longterm ... which, as a perennially tired Projector, seems a lot easier to me.