Attract the Right Clients: How to Build a Client Network

January 13, 2022
7:00 - 9:00 p.m. ET

Join this live chat sponsored by SimplePractice to help you optimize your caseload. SLPs Piera Willner, Laurel Directo, and Jill Shook will answer your questions about how to build and grow your client list while developing a referral network that will keep you in business. They will provide you with helpful strategies, easy-to-implement tweaks, and guidelines on how to set the foundation for a referral network which can make a world of difference in getting clients connected to your services.

After this chat, presenters will discuss the following topics:

  • Garner at least ​three ideas for connecting with other professionals
  • Understand how to develop and nurture referral relationships
  • Learn how to utilize internet sources for building a caseload
  • Gain an understanding of how to increase your private pay clients, both pediatric and adult
  • Understand how credentialing with at least one insurance company can help you build your client list


  • Laurel Directo, MA, CF-SLP, Customer Specialist, SimplePractice
  • Jill Shook, MS, CCC-SLP, Jill Shook Therapy and Private Practice SLP
  • Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP, Clinical Specialist, SimplePractice

This free event is open to all ASHA members and non-members. It is not offered for PDHs, CMHs, or ASHA CEUs.

Following is the transcript from this text-based event (no audio or video).

Jennifer Fatemi, ASHA Moderator

Welcome everyone! We will be getting started shortly.

Before we begin taking questions, I would like to make a few administrative comments.

  • Please keep in mind that this is a web chat and, therefore, there is no audio or video.
  • Questions are typically posted one at a time, in the order they are received.
  • Upon formulating a response, panelists will post answers to your questions. Should you wish to ask a follow-up question to a previously posted question, please submit it as a new question rather than adding it to the comments box.
  • To ensure we get to as many questions as possible, we ask that you please begin typing them in now.

Please give a big Thank You to sponsor Simplepractice, SimplePractice™: Practice Management Software & EHR

Ok, it's officially time to start. Our panelists this evening are

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist and the Speech Language Pathology Clinical Specialist at SimplePractice. Piera received her Master’s in communication disorders and sciences from the University of Oregon. Throughout her career she has worked in private practice serving children and their families. She has experience in group practices, multidisciplinary clinical settings, and most recently, owned her own solo practice.

Laurel Directo, CF-SLP, Product Specialist at SimplePractice Laurel is a Clinical Fellow in Speech Language Pathology and Product Specialist at SimplePractice. She received her Master’s in Speech Pathology from Cal State Long Beach, with a focus on treating voice and swallowing disorders at an interdisciplinary voice center. She’s passionate about using technology to increase access to patient care and improve patient outcomes.

Thank you. I will now begin posting the questions.

Question 1: Submitted by Patrick M.

What pointers do you have to start creating awareness for my private practice?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Patrick, when I started my private practice, the first thing I did was email all my friends and family to help spread the word. I shared my website and encouraged them to share with their networks. It's also helpful to register with Google My Business. After that, reaching out to other practices in your area that have SLPs, occupational therapists, physical therapists, etc. is helpful because you want to create a referral network and let them know you are available. You can do a Google search and join Facebook groups, too.


Hi Patrick! Depending on the population you want to specialize in, I'd definitely recommend letting local schools and daycares know about your private practice. Piera created these amazing templates in case you want to work with a pediatric population in your practice:

I personally love working with adults so touching base with other disciplines, like occupational and physical therapists in your area, can help build awareness too. Katie Brown is another SLP who works mainly with adults, and she shares other helpful tips here:

Question 2: Submitted by Judy B.

Best method to help build relationships with other physicians and specialists?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Judy, When I started my practice, I rented space from Occupational Therapists and we were able to co-treat and refer to each other. I developed daily relationships with them. My association with them helped me connect with the pediatricians, preschools, private schools, and other professionals who were already in their networks.


Hi Judy! One method I'd recommend is to strategize the CEUs or conference you attend to ensure they include other specialists. There's many of these depending on what population you like to work with best, and the in-person (or online) networking can help build those early relationships to get your practice's name out there.

We do have these letter templates as well:

Question 3: Submitted by Laura

What social media is the best to attract clients? Is it worth paying for Facebook ads?


Hi Laura, this definitely depends on your client demographic. If you work with pediatric clients, I've seen Facebook groups are especially helpful for networking with other SLPs in your area who could refer clients on their waitlist to you. I've even heard an SLP mention that she attracts clients for caregiver training on TikTok!

This e-book has so many helpful tips if you're interested in social media marketing for your SLP practice! 

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Laura, SimplePractice also has an article titled 4 Common Marketing Myths in Private Practice There is some great advice specifically about buying ads.

Question 4: Submitted by Samantha F.

What is the best way to ask for feedback from clients to work on building up my reputation?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Samantha, Asking for testimonials after therapy is complete is a great way to build your reputation! You can ask them to share an uplifting story about how working with you has improved their communication or interactions with their child. You can also ask your colleagues who are familiar with your work to share about your skills. You want to make sure to share client testimonials anonymously.

Question 5: Submitted by Ellie F.

Is contracting with insurance companies a good idea to generate referrals?


Hi Ellie- this honestly depends on your location and target demographic for your practice. Every location is different and depending on your area, credentialing with insurance may be a good idea. Other areas, you might be able to start out private pay and stay private pay only, or contract with insurance if you want to.

Although Jill isn't here, she helped write this e-book that includes a detailed section about some factors to consider if you want to credential with insurance:

Question 6: Submitted by Darla

How do you combat negative comments from clients on review platforms and social media?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Darla, The best thing to do is to focus on all the positive feedback you receive and ignore the negative. Solicit positive reviews from your supporters. You may not disclose that a person who is mentioning you or practice is or is not a client. So if you feel the need to reply, it's best to have a standard and vague reply like, "My office strives to provide excellent client care" or "My services have been reviewed positively in other contexts."

Question 7: Submitted by Rebecca

I’ve read that becoming a member in my local chamber of commerce and then attend meetings to introduce myself face to face with the community can be helpful. Is this approach something that you know to be beneficial?


Hi Rebecca, integrating with the local community is always be beneficial! It's also helpful to know about other support groups in your community or other small businesses in your area. It might depend on what your vision is for your private practice, but this could be a great avenue for some unconventional referral sources for your practice, like a local Parkinson's disease support group or small daycares that operate around your area.

If you've honed down your ideal client or population that you want to work with, this could help you figure out other referral partners in your area.

Question 8: Submitted by Anne

How do you promote cash-paying adult clients when everyone has insurance now?


Hi Anne! This is definitely a tough one, as many adult clients are often Medicare beneficiaries. If you find that your area has a large number of insurance clients, one avenue could be to get licensed in another state and see adults via Telehealth. Another option I've seen SLPs do is to provide services that aren't covered by insurance, but still in the scope of a speech pathologist, like caregiver training for dementia clients.

Question 9: Submitted by Amy Z.

What are some ways to utilize my online presence to state what my practice does for clients and the community I am in?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Amy, A clean looking and professional website is a great way to communicate about your practice. Keep it simple and focus on communicating about your background and services on your website. At SimplePractice we have a professional website builder that you can learn about here:

Question 10: Submitted by Guest

What are some other specialists I can network with, besides PT and OTs?


Think about your ideal client, and the other specialists they'll need to see. Dietitians and lactation consultants can be a great referral source if you want to specialize in feeding. There's also singing teachers in your area that you can network with if you want to work in voice. Psychologists, counselors, and neuropsychologists that work with pediatric populations could be a great referral source too!

Question 11: Submitted by Guest

I’m overwhelmed by networking, what do you recommend as the best way to start?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Networking can be overwhelming. Do you have a friend, a relative, former co-worker, or an acquaintance who you think is particularly skilled at networking? Reach out to them and find out what they have done to build their skills. I've found it's helpful to role play with friends and family, too. As I mentioned in a response to another question, sending an email to friends and family about my practice was a great way to get the word out. I received emails back with networking ideas and people who might be interested in helping to spread the word about my practice. You are not alone in feeling that networking is overwhelming. Take small steps and ask for help along the way.

Question 12: Submitted by Guest

What’s the benefit of listing your appointment availability publicly? Does this help bring in clients?


Listing your appointment availability publicly, and especially the times you're available for free consultations, can help you grow your client base. This can help save you time from constantly answering emails or playing phone tag, so that you can build your practice and see more clients.

On SimplePractice, for example, you can easily include a free 15-minute consultation call with families to get potential clients. This also allows families to see the specialized services you offer- like a literacy evaluation- to get the care that they're looking for.

It definitely helps to allow clients to book an appointment immediately with you, if you're just starting out. If you're curious, here's more information on what this could look like:

Question 13: Submitted by Guest

I’ve been networking for a while and still I don’t have any clients. How long should it take to get a client?


If you're taking insurance, sometimes this can take awhile as doctors in the larger hospitals in your area will often refer to those in their own system first. Be patient with yourself as sometimes it can take a few months! It's definitely different depending on your practice goals and your geographic location, but you can always use the time to ensure you have the right systems in place in your practice to set yourself up for success.

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi, As with most things, it really depends. If you are private pay only, it could take a few months. It's always a good idea to have an alternative source of income as you are building your private pay caseload, so that you don't feel desperate and discouraged. Relationship building takes times. Each contact you make imagine you are planting seeds. It will take time for those seeds to develop and when they do, you will get very busy. It seems to happen all of a sudden. Take this time to set up all your systems so that you're ready for when those clients find you.

Additionally, you may want to evaluate what you've been doing in terms of networking and try something different. Try sending letters or emails to potential referral sources and follow up with a phone call. It's also helpful to reach out to practices similar to your own in your area to learn how they manage waitlists. Perhaps you can get on their referral list so clients don't have to wait for services.

Question 14: Submitted by Tiffany

Once we get beyond COVID. What are some in person networking ideas?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Tiffany, In the past, I found it helpful to schedule in services for preschools and daycares. Teachers love learning and being able to apply what they learn to their students. After in services, the teachers viewed me as an expert they could call on if they needed help with a student of theirs. I always brought developmental norms handouts and business cards.

Attending parent and leading groups can also be ways to get your business name out there. For awhile when I was starting out, I had an arrangement with an indoor playspace where I would go weekly to answer any parent and caregiver questions about speech and language development. For years after, I would receive referrals from that activity and relationship.


In addition to preschools and daycares, there's also ALFs, local support groups for aphasia, stroke, Parkinson's, and head/neck cancer. Local non-profits can also be helpful if you're looking to work with a certain population as well!

Question 15: Submitted by Tiffany

Are older clients more profitable caseloads than pediatrics?


Not necessarily, I've generally seen it's more dependent on the rate in your area, rather than if you're working with pediatrics or adults. If you're curious, though, ASHA posts the Medicare fee schedule every year here:

Question 16: Submitted by Guest

Where can I network with other SLPs to refer client cases in which I’m not specialized?


SLP Facebook groups are full of great resources and other SLPs in your area that you can connect with! Some Facebook groups are created by state or local area. ASHA also has a directory where you can search by expertise and language as well.

SimplePractice members also have a community forum for any members to post and search for referrals.

Question 17: Submitted by Tiffany

How do I find the most trusted insurance company to work with?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi Tiffany, The best way to find out about which insurance company is most trusted and reliable in your area is to find other SLPs who bill insurance in your area and state. This is a common question that comes up in SLP Facebook groups.

Question 18: Submitted by Guest

Do you send your evaluation report or plan of care to referring physicians, even if your clients are private pay only?


Yes! Referral relationships don't always need to be fostered in person. Your evaluation report represents your skill as a clinician, and can help promote that physician sending more clients over or telling their colleagues about your services as well. Even if you don't get to meet that referring physician in person, it's always good practice to keep in touch with them and in the loop to foster a good relationship.

Question 19: Submitted by Anne

What are some viable ways to reach adult clients?


I've seen a few viable ways-

      1. Network closely with other rehab professionals in your area. For example, you can find a PT clinic and start voice groups there to start off. You can also reach out to athletic trainers in your area and provide an inservice on concussion or mild TBI.
      2. Get credentialed with Medicare. This is completely up to you, but often times the adult clients looking for our services are
      3. Attend additional trainings and certifications to specialize. These will often include a network of other professionals or even a directory where adult clients can find your practice.

Question 20: Submitted by Guest

How often do you connect with other specialists you get referrals from?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

As with most things, it depends. When I share a client with another specialist we might consult on a weekly or monthly basis. There have been times when I've connected with another specialist after each session. For specialists who refer to me but we aren't currently sharing any clients, I like to check in on a quarterly basis.

Question 21: Submitted by Anne

Is the Certified Brain Injury Specialist training worthwhile to increase adult case-load?


I've definitely seen this one up there for SLPs who specialize in cognitive communication in their private practice. These can help set you apart from other clinicians in your area, or even encourage other private practices to send those referrals over to you.

Question 22: Submitted by Guest

What marketing materials do you recommend distributing?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi, I recommend having a business card that is easily readable and shares all your contact information. A brochure or postcard are also helpful as you can go into more depth about what services you offer and what is unique about your practice. Some referrals might find it helpful to have a handout or checklist that outlines what makes a good referral. Make it easy for them to choose you when they wonder if a referral would be appropriate.

Question 23: Submitted by Guest

Would it be helpful to specialize in a particular area or to offer general speech-language therapy? I worry if I specialize, I’ll be limiting the number of clients I can work with.


Yes! Many SLPs go into private practice because they want to specialize, and have something they're passionate about treating.

Specializing doesn't always have to limit the number of clients you work with. Our field has a huge need for bilingual providers, so that's definitely a specialization you'll want to highlight so that other SLPs can refer to you too!

It's completely up to you how you want to define your niche, or even if you want to specialize. I've worked with SLPs who specialize in cognitive communication but work with pediatrics and adults. Others specialize in voice because they're able to find some great ENTs in their area to network with.

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

Hi, I started as a general pediatric practice. Because I was private pay only, I wanted to make sure I could build a caseload before I specialized. Once I was full and some of my clients were graduating, I began to seek out clients within a particular specialization. At the time, I was renting space from occupational therapists so working with autistic children became my speciality and my caseload grew. Over time my practice became known for working with that population.

Question 24: Submitted by Guest

How do you continue building relationships with your network?

Piera Willner, MS, CCC-SLP

These are strategies that have worked well for me:

      1. Schedule relationship building into your calendar to stay connected.
      2. Send an email, pick up the phone, or set up an appointment to meet for tea or coffee.
      3. Send a postcard with practice updates.

Do you have continuing education you'd like to share or a resource you think your network would also enjoy? Make a point of reaching out and sharing.

Jennifer Fatemi, ASHA Moderator

I am afraid we are out of time. Thank you all so much for your great questions and comments and thank you, panelists, for your time and great information!

Goodnight everyone!

ASHA Corporate Partners