Growing a Business with $0 on Paid Ads Thanks to Podcasting with Julia Smith

Profits Through Podcasting: Turn Listeners Into Customers
Profits Through Podcasting: Turn Listeners Into Customers
Growing a Business with $0 on Paid Ads Thanks to Podcasting with Julia Smith

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC is a registered Counselling Therapist who owns a group private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She has skillfully combined her therapy background with her passion for podcasting, creating a platform to empower and connect Canadian therapists. Julia has grown her podcast, Fearless Practice, organically without relying on paid advertising.

Hear all about how Julia’s dedication for helping therapists and creating podcasts intertwine to provide her with extra income. She shares how to create a successful brand and community within the podcasting world, all while maintaining a fulfilling balance between business and personal satisfaction.

Today’s episode includes:

  • Julia’s initial motivations for starting the Fearless Practice podcast
  • Why focusing on trust-building is superior to paid advertising.
  • The benefits of personal storytelling on podcasts compared with prescriptive advice.
  • Strategies Julia uses for work/life balance.
  • How Julia generates additional revenue through sponsorships and affiliate marketing.
  • How Julia’s podcast contributes to her SEO and organic client acquisition.
  • Why creating geographically specific content has been optimal for Julia’s brand and audience.
  • How Instagram plays a role in networking and guest booking.
  • How the podcast has helped Julia build a community and connect with other therapists.

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Julia’s private practice website:

Fearless Practice:

Julia on Instagram:

Fearless Practice on Apple Podcasts:

View Unedited Episode Transcript

So welcome, Julia . You have to be one of the most consistent podcasters that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I’m definitely going to be asking about your systems and your processes to stay organized, but let’s just begin with a brief history of your podcast, fearless practice.

Cause you’re now well past the a hundred episode point. You’ve got quite a library of content built up on your website. What were your original reasons or goals for actually starting the podcast? Or did you have any?

It’s all thanks to you that I have reached the hundred plus. I would not have been able to do this by myself. So I’m, I’m really grateful to you, Joel.

I guess I started just to see what it would be like. Obviously, I wanted to sell some products and I know that having a podcast really helps to get people to hear your voice, uh, for people to hear what you’re about. But also, I wanted to share my story, and I wanted to empower other Canadian counsellors to start and grow private practices, and that it can be easy to do. So, yeah, was a passion, a love part, as well as a capitalist part, too, of why I started.

Well, you know, we can combine those things. It’s difficult to say, just do this all for, for no money. So finding a way to combine that passion of yours with some revenue, there’s nothing wrong with that. So that’s cool. Now you do a mix of solo and interview episodes. How has that been working for you?

Do you find one type more? Or less work to produce. Do you enjoy that time to share thoughts on your own?

Recently you and I have been talking behind the scenes just about my podcast. Now that it’s in year three, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why. I do this podcast and why do I continue to do it? And a part of it is that I like sharing my story and that feels really good it’s almost like an open journal of this is where i’m at and I’m going to share that with the world and hopefully people resonate with it and we can build community and connection And so I really love doing those solo podcasts just talking about where I am But what I’ve been finding is sometimes in the past I’ve done podcasts of like 10 steps to doing blah blah blah blah blah And those ones don’t have as much heart in it so I’m starting to lean away from telling people what to do on the and more about My own journey and what I’m learning as well as doing the interviews, which I love talking to other Canadian counselors and learning about how they started how they’re growing and building a really huge Canadian community of therapists

That’s, that’s really fun to, , just hear their stories so yeah, those are the three things that I’ve done in the past, but yeah, going forward, it’s just going to be a little bit more personal about my journey

So before we get into the business side of things, I just want to make clear here, so you do have your own professional practice that you’re actively working in. And maybe we can call this, I guess, a secondary business. This is where you are helping the other therapists start and grow their own private practices. That’s what the fearless practice podcast is for, right?

Yes, that’s correct. I have a group private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s completely online, and that is my main focus. I’m a therapist at heart, and so that’s, uh, where I put a lot of my energy. But I also want to help other Canadian therapists to start and grow private practices, because, ugh, it’s been like eight years now or something.

When I started, there was no Canadian consultant. So I had to get all my information from the States, which a lot of that is really helpful. Uh, but some of it, the nuances of Canadian private practice, like, they couldn’t help me with that. Plus, if I wanted to see a consultant in the States, it’s going to be a 30 percent exchange rate.

So it’s a lot more expensive. So way back then, I was like, when I get to a point where I’m successful, I’m going to do this for Canadian counsellors. So that’s how Fearless Practice started. And yeah, it’s always been a side hustle for me of just helping other Canadian counsellors get autonomy, not feel like they have to Work 40 plus hours in a job that they don’t like or where they’re not being treated right to know that there are other options out there.

In private practice is one of those options.

Right. Yeah, it’s a great point as Canadian businesses online, there’s a bit of a niche there, whether it’s just someone who just wants to work with someone a little closer to home, or like you’re saying here, where there’s a whole lot of detail that’s different between something in Canada versus the U.S. and there’s no one to help. So you saw an opportunity there. That makes sense.

So you’ve alluded to a bit of it. We heard a bit about in the intro as well, but what specifically the fearless practice business does, but let’s kind of wrap it up here specifically just a little more about who is this exactly for and not just that, but more so what exactly is your offer?

Like, what are you selling? Just kind of give us that all in one place here.

Sure. Well, the first thing that I offer is just a free six month e course on how to start an online Canadian private practice. And I really wanted to do that because I know when you’re starting off, don’t have a lot of money. And I don’t think that should be a barrier to starting a private practice.

So anybody can just join online. And it’s a six month paced out e course on how to start a private practice, and it gives you everything you need to know. And then, if you don’t want to wait the six months, you can pay 19 bucks and just get the workbook right away. Uh, so both are extremely affordable, and again, it’s just everything that you need to know in order to start a private practice.

So I really like offering that, it’s accessible for anybody, any therapist, that wants to start private practice. And then I also offer scripts, private practice paperwork, and one on one consulting as well

Okay. So yeah, there’s something I wanted to touch on here, because sometimes we see people with any kind of practice, look to transition out of that to Because they just, they want to grow the business bigger and they can’t really go past trading their time for money and practicing within the business.

Now, I was going to ask you if that was what you had your sights on when you thought about starting fearless practice, but you already kind of alluded to it. It’s more of just to help people. And even by offering that, that free course upfront, that’s a big thing. So did that cross your mind at all? Or you’re really content in, in working that practice and that’s what you’re going to focus on and this will remain a side hustle.

I think at the beginning there was maybe that idea of like, oh, maybe I won’t have to work by the hour. But as I’ve continued to grow, and learn more about what brings me joy in life, I know that diversity does. So like, definitely I love being a therapist. I never want to stop being a therapist. I love helping people.

But obviously that takes a chunk of time out of my work week And my fees reflect how much that time is worth But then I also love helping Canadian counsellors And so having the fearless practice podcast and offering those things to Canadian counsellors And doing the one on one consulting is another way that I can help But also it’s completely different than therapy.

 I also really love, the background tech, SEO, uh, systems optimization. So I definitely make time in my work week just to learn about that, do backend things on my website, just things that I really enjoy doing that maybe, I could hire somebody else to do. But I love learning about it, so that’s what I’m gonna spend my time doing.

That’s a great perspective. Yeah. I mean, I think sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on this whole thing too. Like it has to go a certain way. You  have to go and start a coaching business and do seven or eight figures. But your priority is just doing things that you enjoy and having the business serve you in life or the businesses rather, so that’s great to see.

I, I really believe in, I think it’s called the hedonic treadmill. Like, yes, you need money to live and there’s a certain amount, I think like a couple of years ago, probably a long time ago now, it was like $80,000 is what you needed as a Canadian in order to feel pretty good about your life and any other money that you make on top of that, it’s not really going to bring you more joy.

And as I’ve grown in my private practice and stuff, I have realized that, yeah. Money’s great and it can definitely help with, health. It can help with not having to work as much. It can help with luxury and comfort, but it’s not the end all and be all. I think a lot of times people really need to figure out what do they value in their life?

What brings them joy and passion and making sure that you are doing those things in your life. I’m a therapist, I’ve heard it like, money is not going to bring you happiness. So making sure that you have your priorities straight is really important.

Absolutely. Yeah. That’s one of the things I think a lot of us entrepreneurs value is freedom. And then if you find yourself swept up in just working 16 hour days for freedom, and you got to make sure that you’re setting that time aside to actually go live the life that you’re trying to do.

Yeah, exactly. And also if you’re outsourcing everything, are you feeling fulfilled? Like, are there things that you’re outsourcing that you actually really enjoy and love doing? And maybe not outsourcing those things might make your life feel more fulfilling.

Well on that note, a final question here in this business section. What does your team look like? They’re not just with the practice itself, but the fearless practice business. Is it just you? Do you have someone else helping you with some things?

Yeah, well, I have your team that basically does everything after the podcast is recorded. All the things that I outsource, I don’t want to do.

I want to talk, connect, record it, and then let other people handle making it sound lovely. I also have my virtual assistant who works with both Yoast Practice and my private practice, and so she does all of the emails and all of the admin, with both of those businesses.

And then there’s me that just kind of oversees and streamlines everything and makes sure that both of the businesses are running smoothly. I do have an associate, in my private practice, but she does counseling.

With the assistant, how was that process in terms of finding the right fit for that? Was it a challenge or was it really simple to find someone that, that meshed well with everything you’re doing?

I think it’s a, it’s a process. I’ve had a couple of assistants. One of them, my first assistant was there for, Almost four years and was amazing, but then decided to move on to bigger, better things. then I found this assistant who is also amazing and she really wants to grow as a virtual assistant too.

So that’s really exciting, to help her build her own business and she’s wonderful as well. And I think the key to finding a good assistant is interviewing them. Um, asking. Good questions, a little bit of gut instinct, but you know, sometimes you just don’t know until you hire somebody if they’re going to be a good fit or not.

And sometimes when that does happen and it’s not working out, getting out as soon as possible and just letting it go and finding another person can be really helpful too.

Great. Okay. So we’ve got a good understanding of your business. Let’s talk about your podcast and the business and how those two come together. Podcasts are definitely a great trust building tool, not to mention, they give you great content for your website, for SEO, great social media content.

Are you finding the podcast bringing any clients to you directly that you’re aware of? If it’s hard to connect, that’s fine. But is it that or is it more? So it’s just a piece in your overall marketing strategy, and you still have to find ways to get people to discover the podcast.

I can definitely say because I had fearless practice. It started before I started the podcast for a couple of years. And as soon as I started that podcast, I definitely got a lot more traction and a lot more Canadian therapists reaching out. So definitely having that podcast was key in building an audience and building customers and clients.

So far I have yet to actually pay for any type of, uh, marketing for fearless practice. It’s something that I’m considering. I’m, I’m really interested right now in learning more about paid ads. But for the most part, I’m doing backend work with SEO, um, doing a weekly podcast and making sure that it’s getting posted to my website weekly.

is really helpful with Google to know that it’s an active website. Niching to being a Canadian consultant definitely helps, if somebody’s in Canada and searching for, how to build a private practice that my website is coming up. Yeah, there, there’s lots of things that I’m doing that I’m not paying for ads yet, but there have been discussions about, wouldn’t that be cool to see? Maybe, maybe I can reach another level if I started to do paid ads.

Mm hmm. For sure. And we know you have some some guests on here sometimes. Where are those people coming from? Are they  coming to you? Are You reaching  out to them? How do you find them?

So, so far I have an Instagram handle fearlesspractice.Ca And that is where I’m finding them. I reach out to people that are following me on Instagram and ask them if they want to be a part of the podcast. I really like doing it that way because I know that they’re already interested in what I do.

They already know about Fearless Practice and it’s really great just like Hey, you want to join? It’s it’s casual and the rate of success of getting people on through that has been really really good

That’s a very interesting idea. I’m not surprised that it works well, but I am curious. Do you know, how are these people finding your Instagram in the first place? Because yeah, if they’re already on there following you, it seems like it’s a given. They’re gonna say yes, but how do they get there?

I you tell me I don’t know I I guess again, like i’m posting Weekly, so it’s an active instagram account the niching to Canadian consulting, so Canadian therapists, I assume, are getting, it suggested to them. Doing interviews with other Canadian counsellors is a great way for people to find out about you because interviewing another Canadian therapist, they’re going to usually promote the podcast and they know other Canadian therapists, so they’ll hear the podcast and then potentially follow me on Instagram.

I think that has been really helpful just as the network and community grows. That’s definitely not why I interview people, but it’s a bonus.

 That’s a great thing, especially with a niche like yours because yeah, a lot of those people’s followers are gonna be the exact type of people that you would want to know and maybe could benefit from  working with you.

Yeah, and make friends with. I’ve, I’ve met so many awesome Canadian therapists. It’s, been great.

Mm-Hmm. . Along the way, since you started the podcast, you said it, it clearly brought you some momentum. Was there anything that you learned that you had to change or optimize about either the podcast or the business or both to help get more of a benefit out of that,

No, it’s been, because it’s been streamlined so well from the beginning, it’s been running fairly smoothly. So nothing that I needed to change, but more, I guess I did have to adjust my time. I didn’t realize how much time it was going to take. And now, as you and I’ve been talking in the background, I’m really trying to pull back from all the time I, I love to edit.

I love control. I love making sure that everything’s balanced 100 percent and as you said, we’re working on making it just 97 percent and that means like two hours less a week. Great. So I guess I, I’m learning more now of like what to let go of, but for the most part, yeah, we started off with a system and that system has worked.

So it’s, it’s been great.

Something interesting about your podcast is you’re generating a little extra revenue through sponsorships and affiliates, some people it’s, one or the other, like they’re either selling their own stuff or  they are sponsorship based so you’re  doing a bit of both. Can you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at that and how that’s going for you?

Sure. Well before the podcast, I wrote an article in 2017 called 15 steps to starting a Canadian private practice. Not thinking it would go anywhere. But then over the years I guess it’s just kind of blown up and on there. There’s a lot of affiliate links of what I suggest people use so that’s how the affiliate Started and then I Yeah realized like oh wow.

I’m making some money from this not a lot like nothing significant, but enough that It made me start to think about Sponsorships and other affiliates and I guess now, like, with affiliates, it’s a little tricky. I’m finding that as companies grow, shift, change, the income that you can make from affiliates is, not predictable, and that’s why I love sponsorship money because the people that sponsor my podcast, it’s.

It’s a yearly amount that they give me, and they get certain things for that year because they’re my sponsor, and I know how much I’m getting paid, and they know what they’re getting, and it’s very copacetic.

Yeah. I mean, that’s a risk when you do say, have your own business that you’re promoting and then have a sponsor. There’s always a risk that it kind of detracts from your message, but I think the way that you’ve been able to do it, it’s very complimentary. I don’t think you have that issue  of taking away because it’s,  a completely  separate thing, but useful to your audience.

So I think you’re doing that well. And this is probably a case where I do, uh, I give it a stamp of approval. Whereas most times I would steer people away from doing something like that, but it helps you as well. More income is always good and it can allow you to do what you mentioned earlier, like give more away for free and help other therapists for free, which is your goal.

Yeah, exactly. And honestly, the sponsorship money that I’m now getting because the podcast is doing so well is paying for the podcast, which is great because at the beginning it was an out of pocket expense that I could definitely not afford to do in the long term. So Luckily, it has worked out, that sponsorship pays for the podcast and then I can make a little bit of money on the things that I sell, the consulting, and some of the affiliate money.

Well, it’s great. I congratulate you on hitting the first hundred episodes. Hopefully you’ve got many more to come. You’re always working ahead, which is great. And do you have any thoughts on that? Because some people, no matter how much time you give them, they always end up just down to the wire late submitting, but you are always multiple episodes ahead.

How do you do that? Or is it just a personality trait?

I love your take on my business because I’m just like, you know, in my own little apartment, doing my thing, not knowing like what other people are doing. So I just assume that this is what you do. I need to be at least one or two weeks, at least two, ideally three weeks ahead of time because of the system. to be down to the wire, that would be too anxiety provoking for me. That would not be fun and that would be really uncomfortable.

So, yeah, for me it’s more of, how stressed do you want to be doing this? You don’t want to be stressed. So, be at least two weeks ahead of time and then you can just enjoy the ride a lot more.

Right. I wanted to get that from you personally, because I wanted to share that with other people. Cause I’ve, I’ve encountered this where, you know, people say, well, five days is

too long for turnaround time. And I said, well, why don’t you take everything that you do and shift it five days earlier and then just work on that schedule, but some, you know, some people it’s just not possible.

So you’re an inspiration and a model client.

What I found really helpful is doing two episodes in one day because then that compounds and makes it so that you can have like a month of recording in two weeks done and then you can take two weeks off. There should be no excuse for getting it done two weeks ahead of time.

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