075: Marie O’Sullivan, a therapist helping therapists with WordPress


About Marie O’Sullivan:

Marie O’Sullivan is a Web Designer and IT Trainer who specializes in working helping therapists and coaches to establish an online presence that allows them to connect with more clients and impact more lives. As an Accredited Counsellor and qualified Coach herself, she has a unique insight into designing a website that allows potential clients to feel like they have found the support they are craving.

Find Marie O’Sullivan: Marie O’Sullivan | Facebook | Instagram


Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
075: Marie O'Sullivan, a therapist helping therapists with WordPress
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Transcript

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community.

Angela:

Welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Amy:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela:

Our guest today as Marie O’Sullivan, joining us from Dublin, Ireland. She designs beautiful responsive websites for coaches and therapists. Welcome, Mary. We like to start off each episode by asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Amy:

I notice one of the thing that stood out for me is that you’re primarily doing websites for coaches and therapists. How did you get to that niche?

Marie:

Well, accidentally is the honest answer because I’m a therapist myself, so obviously, I know a lot of therapists. I had been working primarily as a therapist and I went to a business conference, met a couple of therapists and they were saying they had a website they weren’t that happy with. And I was saying, you know, I was really begging them, can I please do it for you? And then when the pandemic hit, there were a lot of therapists I know, so there was no website training when you do your therapy training or your coaching training so they had to really quickly get online. They wanted an online presence. It went from there.

Marie:

I suppose just the business advice is always pick a niche. So I said, well, this is one I know. And I suppose for therapist in particular, it’s a different way of working. You can’t be too salesy. It has to be done very carefully. I think they liked, then, that I got that there had to be kind of empathy and thinking about making this easy. Maybe the clients weren’t that techy either. So that’s how it came about.

Amy:

Are you only working on websites for coaches and therapists? Do you branch out from there or just do you really stay in your niche?

Marie:

Well, I have a lovely accountant I’ve been working with. I think it’s helpful to have a niche, but I always say I work with lovely people. Some therapists in a center nearby, they wanted to learn to blog. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do a blogging course for them,” and then I kind of said, “Okay, I’ll offer this out to other people,” so that’s where I met my lovely accountant. There’s a really nice dog trainer. She does behavior around the dogs. It’s, whoever wants to work with me, I’m very happy to work with them as well. And now some of them are creating their own courses and they were asking me about that. You’re probably getting the sense, I’m not someone with huge big plans. I go with the flow of it.

Amy:

You have created a blogging course. Can you tell us about what is included in that and who would take that?

Marie:

I suppose, broadly, it’s service-based business owners. I have been featured in the press myself, you see. I had won a competition. I had my little dog on my lap, no makeup on, and I saw a competition saying make a video. I talked about being a therapist and I won. So then I got to learn a lot about PR and then I got featured in different places. I had written a piece for the national press, I wrote CPD courses so I had all that background.

Marie:

The blogging was meant to be for therapists. The first time I ran it, it was specifically for therapists, but I just realized other people are going to want to learn this. I had done blogging courses, but the bit I got stuck on at the time was the tech. So I said, “People need to know what to write, but they need to know how do I do a meta description or what is a meta description?”

Angela:

So you had this experience yourself with getting in front of kind of an audience, if you will. You had this kind of 15 minutes of fame and you realized how to teach people to blog and expanded from teaching therapists to other kind of local business owners. I’m curious who the audience was for that next round.

Marie:

Well, the thing about me, Angela, I’m a total introvert, so it would have to stay very safe for me. I actually think that’s why I got people on the call because maybe they were scared to put themselves out there. It was kind of, “Oh, well, if this quiet person can do it, maybe I can too.”

Marie:

There was one Facebook group for business owners that I had been posting in, and I think I just said, “Sure, I’ll offer it to them, and maybe somebody will want to do it.” So I did a talk, and then they just came and joined me. So again, no grand plan. I think sometimes, like when I was in college, I learned German and I had never done German before that. So sometimes if you don’t realize that things mightn’t go your way, they tend to go your way because you’re not even thinking, “Oh, what if this doesn’t work?” You know?

Angela:

I love that. Are you teaching them blogging from a content point of view, or a technical, or both? Of course, there’s the writing and the content and what’s going to be on the blog and how to write a blog post, but then there’s also having to put it into like WordPress or a platform. Are you teaching them how to use WordPress to blog?

Marie:

Yes, I am. Some of them, maybe somebody built the website for them, so they didn’t know, maybe there wasn’t a blog added to. As far as they could see, it wasn’t added to the menu. So it was things like, how do I set it up? If they came with a different system, then we worked with that. But what I love is that they now have the confidence to say, “Okay, so this is how I put in the text.” They’re using the blocks and they didn’t even know it was blocks. They can send you their photos. They have their author bio ready and they can just roll it out. I love that. I love to see people realizing WordPress isn’t that hard. I can do it myself.

Amy:

I would’ve assumed that what people primarily need to know in blogging is how to create their content. That’s the problem I always have with people is that they’re, you know, what do I write about? How do I write? I feel like the technical aspect would be easier, but maybe I’m wrong in my thought process.

Marie:

Well, I suppose the thing is the people I’m working with, they might have been in business for a long time, but not online. Like one lady, I loved it. She told me that last year, she didn’t really know how to attach an email and send it, and now she’s blogging. She’s well able to do it. So absolutely the content, but I think it’s just the group that came to me, that was the experience. And then I suppose I had in my head, exactly like you, the content. They absolutely do need the help with the content, but it was the fear of the tech was what I came across.You know?

Amy:

Is your course like one class? Are there multiple classes?

Marie:

It’s six weeks. There’s content up on the platform. Things like finding keywords, what can I blog about? Exactly what you talked about, theory. We were doing one live session every week, and that was really nice because it was like, oh, the teacher’s going to be looking for my homework. I better write a blog. And then I had a Facebook group, so I was trying to… Oh my God, I’ve actually just remembered. A couple of them ended up collaborating with each other, and we wrote a group blog and shared it in the Facebook group we were part of.

Marie:

I really wanted them to feel seen, so if they popped in a blog during the week, I’d make a little video giving feedback, but I’d always try and pick out, you did this so well. Some of them just write so beautifully because they are working, a lot of them in kind of a therapy or coaching space, so they really care about their clients. There’s a lovely drama teacher, and she was writing about trying to get her kids off to school and that fight to get out the door. So it’s really real, you know. It’s not, airy-fairy up in the sky. It’s not theoretical what she’s writing. She’s writing, “I know how hard it is. I get it.” So, beautiful.

Amy:

So it’s like a class that’s in real time. It’s not like the self-paced video class.

Marie:

Well, it’s both because I think you need both, so the videos are there. Someone saying, “I want to know how to do X, Y, Z,” so the videos are there, but I think the real time is so important because it’s connection as well. If we weren’t in a pandemic, maybe we’d be meeting friends more, so I think that was really important and the community, they’re supporting each other.

Angela:

I love it. Like a writing group.

Marie:

I definitely didn’t do it that way just because it was fun for me.

Angela:

Yeah. That sounds like such a great thing during the pandemic. I have a sister who’s in Holland. She had a writing group that met in person, but now they just meet once a month on Zoom. They have to send their stuff to each other in advance, and then they have their little Zoom. It’s been a great way to day connected.

Amy:

How frequently are you offering this course?

Marie:

Well, again, I’ve been going with the flow, so I did two rounds. I did two rounds, say, from July to Christmas, and then I have a wait list. That’s the way I do it. I like to keep it small because I think we’ve all done the course where there’s a thousand people and you just feel, “Well, my question didn’t get answered,” or “Do they even know I’m here?” So I like to keep it just small, supportive. I’ve never said it’s only for women, but that has been who have come to work with me.

Amy:

I have had all kinds of ideas for courses, but I just assume that nobody’s going to sign up for them, so I’ve never actually followed through, but then you’ve created this course and you’re getting people to sign up, so maybe I ought to think about it.

Angela:

Amy, I think people would come to your course because I did set up courses too. People do come. It’s quite amazing. You set the date, you put the word out, and you have people sign up. It’s kind of like crazy, but you have so much to offer. I would sign up for your course no matter what it was, but hint, hint, especially if it was on automation.

Marie:

I’m with Angela on that one, Amy. I think go for it.

Amy:

Okay. What is the word press community like in Dublin? I mean like pre-pandemic and then post-pandemic?

Marie:

There’s the meet up. I don’t know that many in the community because… Introvert. I definitely have to make more of an effort, but there’s a Facebook group that’s really helpful and it’s nice. People pop in questions and it’s a seems to me like developers and designers, they’re very supportive. They share what they know. I think when you’re in this space, you just, you love it. And there’s somebody, you know, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I know a booking too. I know a scheduler that can do that.” You know? You want to help. So my experience has been really good, but I think I could definitely put myself out more and get connected with more people.

Angela:

How did you get into becoming a counselor yourself, and how long have you been doing that?

Amy:

And are you still doing that? Are you only doing websites now?

Marie:

No, I’m still doing that. It’s a very strange mix. How did I get into it? I was working in a school and I got this kind of special job, a special role. It was a designated disadvantaged area. They wanted someone to work with families and they called it the Friendly Faces School. There was a toddler group. I don’t know if that phrase translates. Like younger than kindergarten and classes and courses for parents. And then I just realized sometimes I was coming across issues that… I was a primary and elementary school teacher. I was not trained to help with those issues, so I did a one week counseling course, and then I said, “Oh, I have a mortgage. I can’t possibly keep doing this,” and eight years later I did a degree, a master’s, hundreds of voluntary hours, so that’s how I got into it.

Marie:

I also had a really bad burn-out myself six years ago, really, really bad. And then I suppose, I have to say, okay, well, how do I want my life to be? Do you want to be this burned out husk? What do you want? So I got a little dog and I really wanted to work from home. But with the counseling, I was going out to centers in the dark, in the rain. So with the pandemic, then, obviously, I was in the pandemic just as much as clients, but I suppose the way working changed.

Marie:

It was phone calls and some Zoom calls. And then I just realized, I actually really like doing both and the way I see it, if I build a website for a therapist or a coach, or if I help them to get their work there, if it’s blogging or a course, but then I’m indirectly helping more people. I’m impacting more people than I could anyway. I just feel so lucky and I’m so grateful for the internet.

Angela:

That is such an amazing viewpoint. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it’s so true. Let me ask you some questions about therapist websites versus regular websites. What would you say makes them different, and what makes a good one?

Marie:

They need to know, when can I expect an answer or what time do you work? What happens if I leave a voicemail? What if this therapist rings me back and I’m in the supermarket? Just things that, I suppose, for another business, it doesn’t matter if the dentist rings you and you’re in the supermarket, you know? You have to think kind of where the client might be at the time. And then photos of the therapist are really important. I’ve noticed sometimes therapists might put pictures of someone looking very sad because they’re trying to reflect how the client might be feeling. What we found is maybe instead of that, to have an image of a sunflower or something, maybe the standing stone, something that kind of gives that sense of peace where the person’s going to get to.

Marie:

Not too much writing because the client could be feeling very overwhelmed. Just having to make it really easy to find and just being aware that… I know myself, when I went through burnout, I was up all night Googling, but maybe I didn’t have the concentration to read a big wall of text, you know? So I needed things to be simple. It needed be easy, and I needed to feel that I was going to get what I needed.

Angela:

You also mentioned earlier, just not having to be so markety. You don’t want to turn people off. It’s too much salesmanship kind of thing going on.

Marie:

Yeah. I think just being human, not saying, you know, I have a master’s in this, a degree in that, I’m accredited by blah, blah. You can say it further down, but the about me page, it just needs to be very, “I get it. Life is hard. It can be tough, but just because this is where you are now, you’re not always going be there.”

Angela:

So it’s like you’re speaking to the customer, and I think that’s something that Amy and I both have had that experience when we work with clients are people who have the website often want to say all about themselves. Here’s my services. Here’s what I have to offer, rather than speaking to the need and in the perspective of the client and what they’re looking for.

Angela:

It’s a shift of thinking that I’ve had to work with clients even just with regular businesses with, it’s like, yeah, great. You can do all these things, but you really need to speak to the person and interpret all of this in terms of their need and answering their questions and all of that. It sounds like that maybe comes a little more intuitively to the counselor websites because you kind of have to.

Marie:

But the thing is as well, I think every industry has its jargon, but sometimes it can feel scary not to say I’m trained to use 59 different types of therapy, you know? And it’s like, okay, great. But how does that help the person? It can be like industry specific, I suppose, that we think, oh, I have to put up all these big, long terms that maybe the lay person doesn’t know when I’m talking about.

Angela:

Yeah. We call that the bubble language.

Amy:

One of the things I always try and tell my clients is that the website’s about you, but it’s not for you. They need to be speaking about themselves but to their client and not to their competition, which is a big mistake, I think.

Marie:

Oh, yeah. That’s it. We all down the hole of “Oh, God. They have that on their website,” and we can kind of lose ourselves a bit. That’s really good, Amy. Yeah. I agree.

Amy:

Well, yeah. People will want to compete with their competitors rather than addressing the actual needs of the customer, the client. And I will tell them. Probably people coming to like your therapy website don’t care if you’ve got animations, or if you have music or whatever. They have a problem and you have a solution. What’s that solution?

Marie:

Yeah, absolutely.

Angela:

Yeah. And also that too much focus on pleasing Google. I have a lot of people trying to write all their content, do all their content, for Google and I’m like, “Well, Google’s important, but they’re not the ones you have to convert.” The bots are not converting visitors.

Marie:

Especially with therapy. A Lot of them get the word-of-mouth referrals anyway, you know? That’s the way it goes. A lot of therapists they’re really busy at the moment as you can imagine, so it’s not such a big thing. It’s nice to be found, absolutely, online, but it’s not always the way. It could be that I say, “Oh, well I went to Marie. She’s really good. Here’s your website. Why don’t you get a sense of her to see if she sounds right for you?” You know?

Angela:

I think that’s something I have to talk to clients a lot about who want to play this SEO game. I’m like, is that even how people find you. Maybe that’s not so relevant, and making that, like you said, that first contact happen easier, like how’s the content form formatted? Where’s the phone number? Making the logistics of, of that more easy rather than writing pages of content.

Amy:

A lot of the times what I have to convince people. They’ll be like, “Well, I don’t need a website because all my business is referral. I have a contractor that does work on my house right now, and I keep telling him, “You do need a website even though it is referral because when people get referred to you, they’re going to go look and research you first, and right now you have nothing.” So even if they’re not getting there by search or through organic methods, they’ll still go there to learn more about you, even if it’s referral. And that’s why having that online presence is so important.

Marie:

I think that could be the mistake, that they think, “Oh, I have this website,” and they never do anything with this. You go to the [inaudible 00:24:43] and it says 2015. So there can be like, absolutely what you were saying, that maybe like, “Oh I don’t need one,” but then, “Oh, I have one and it’s not doing its job.” Well, you also have to do something. Have you told people about it?

Angela:

Yeah.

Amy:

Yeah. Have you gone to any word camps or any conferences? I know you’re an introvert. Okay.

Marie:

Just online, unfortunately, but I really, definitely, will go once that opportunity comes again. Absolutely. I did a web design course online this year and it was so nice. We had the nicest lecturer ever, and it just brings back that love for it, then, when someone really loves what they do. So even though it was online, it was a nice small class. It was really fun to do, but I’d love to meet real life humans.

Amy:

Yeah. That’s what I miss about since the pandemic is really not being able to connect with any of my WordPress friends in real life. My kids make fun of me because they’re like, “You’re making friends with strangers on the internet,” and I’m like, “Kind of, but they’re not really strangers any more.” These are people I know. I’ve spent time with. I’ve stayed at their houses, and I miss my internet friends.

Marie:

Again, we are so lucky that at least we can connect this way, and hopefully very soon you’ll be back doing those things.

Angela:

Yeah. Well when we do, fingers crossed, knock on wood. I think those in-person connections, I have a hard time. I’m kind of part introvert, like 50/50. I’m very split. So when I teach a class, I am just spent after teaching, and I also was teaching a six-week class. It was one day a week for six weeks. It was a full day, and after that six week period, I would be like, “I never want to do this again. I am just exhausted from being on one day a week like that.”

Angela:

When I go to conferences, it’s a similar thing. I go, and at the end I just cry because it just takes it all out of me. But, at the same time, the connections that I’ve made at those conference have been key and so pivotal and so important.

Angela:

So I have to find my way to conference that doesn’t destroy me at the end of it, but it’s because you meet these people and then when you encounter them online like on Twitter. Mostly it would be on Twitter. It’s like, “Oh yes, we sat and we had Mexican food and I know you.” You feel like you’re friends because you’ve seen each other in person and drank a margarita next to each other or whatever it is.

Angela:

It’s like there’s this close knit… I felt like I couldn’t Twitter before because I tweet and never get any responses, likes, no followers, nothing. It wasn’t until I really started meeting people at the word camps that then that people knew me then. And then, “Oh, hey,” Just one person I met at a conference in salt lake. It was like, we are connected now. That was years and years ago, in 2014, and that connection’s just so alive. And then we found we share the same interest in Japan, and so that just keeps being this thread over eight years. I think it is really magical. So when it does happen, Marie, even though you’re an introvert, you’ll find the way to take care of yourself in it. You will make new friends and it’ll be really wonderful for you.

Amy:

Yeah. I’m looking forward to that part of my life coming back. I think as moms, when you have kids, you develop all these friendships with other moms who have kids the same age. And now as mine are teenagers and I’ve got one heading to college next year and then another heading to college in another year, these friendships I’ve developed that are more based around my work and interest are going to be much more important. I mean, I’m not going to not have my mom friends anymore, but it’s like a different season of life.

Angela:

Yeah. And sometimes even with the mom friends, once the kids start to grow apart at a certain age, you lose them too. It’s like, our kids aren’t friends any more, so we’re really friends any more. We’re just kind of more separated, but I have to say the WordPress community, we are weirdly friendly. We’re like aggressively friendly. We’re there for each other. It’s like family. It’s a fascinating sociological phenomenon in WordPress, so I do hope you get to, to feel that in Ireland. I hope someday we can be in Ireland feeling it with you.

Marie:

Well, that would be amazing.

Amy:

It’s just traveling around the world.

Angela:

What are things like in Ireland with COVID right now?

Marie:

Interesting times. Isn’t that the curse? That we get… may you live in interesting times. Let’s just say the festive season was not so festive. Playing it by year, I think, is all we can say. We just have to see how this goes.

Angela:

Yeah. Yeah. I miss travel. Well, it’s been wonderful having you on the podcast today. Before we go can you tell everyone where they can find you online?

Marie:

Yeah. I’m [inaudible 00:31:00]. It depends what way you pronounce it. So either “thee” or “the” marieosullivan.com.

Angela:

All right. Thank you.

Marie:

Thank you both so much. I really enjoyed it. It was lovely, lovely, to speak to you both.

Amy:

You too.

Speaker 1:

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