Scheduling Writing Time
Claire: Lisa tells me that in addition to the Thriving Well Institute, your work with therapists and clients, and your speaking, you hold retreats and you offer pop-up dinners with your chef husband. With such a full plate, how did you make time to write a book? What are your secrets?
Megan: First, I set a deadline and mapped out the outline for my book. Then I set a goal of writing two chapters a week but didn’t write them in numerical order. I ranked each chapter’s difficulty level on my outline on a scale of 1-5. One being the most straightforward chapter to write and five being the hardest. Then, when I only had an hour or two, I would hop to one of the easy chapters and try to get as much done as possible. So when I had more time on weekends, I would tackle a level 5 chapter! Sometimes I find when I have less free time; I’m more productive because I know I can’t waste any time.
Deciding on a Project
Claire: You were first working on a different book: what made you shift gears to putting out Thriving as a Therapist first?
Megan: My original concept was to write a book for my psychotherapy client population and the general public. But I didn’t have a large platform then, so I put that idea on the back burner. In December 2019, I started my Facebook group for psychotherapists called “Thriving Therapists.” In just 3 1⁄2 years, we grew to 17,000 members. In 2022, I was one of 33 Facebook group admins in North America to win the Meta Community Accelerator Award, which came with grant funding to use for a project for our community. This is when I finally knew I had the platform, funding and support to write a book! So I pivoted and wrote a book on building and scaling our business as therapists so we can thrive in our personal and professional lives.
Writing for Your Audience
Claire: As a result, do you have any advice about choosing the audience for your book and deciding between more than one idea?
Megan: I think the platform matters quite a bit. Even if you have the most fantastic idea for a book, you have no platform and no one to pitch it to! The other concept I’ll add here is to listen to the audience in front of you. Sometimes we think we have a fantastic idea, but what your followers might want from you could be very different. I spent 3.5 years listening closely to what my community members needed most. Where were the gaps in their knowledge? Where were they feeling blocked or stuck? How could I write a resource guide to help them move through a process faster and easier?
Growing your Author Platform
Claire: You have grown a large Facebook community. Do you have some advice for our readers on having a highly engaged group on Facebook or other social media? What are some of the keys/secrets to your success?
Megan: I have a lot to share on this! There are many things to do to build a highly engaged community. I offer coaching on this if anyone needs more support and direction, but I can share some quick tips here.
1. Stay consistent. Post regularly and mix up the way you post things to your community. Show up on FB live videos that help boost your algorithm and authority.
2. Make sure you clearly understand who you’re building this group for; the more well-defined your niche, the better.
3. Listen to what your community asks for and build your products and services line around those areas of need. For example, I built a coaching business, six online courses, in-person events and international retreats for the therapists in my community and it’s easy for me to fill these offers having spent time developing and establishing such a highly engaged community.
4. Share generously! Give as much value as you can to your community. Then, answer their questions, share resources, try to make things easier or faster for them, and they’ll keep returning for more!
Filling Demand in Your Niche
Claire: How did your community of therapists influence your decisions about the book’s content, features, and other aspects?
Megan: I have developed a curriculum of online courses and a membership program for the therapists in my community. Over the years I’ve been running my group I had so much content that I thought it would be pretty simple to condense it into one affordable, easy-to-access resource. Also, I realized our industry has almost no books on this subject! We get so much training in grad school on clinical work but nearly zero on building, managing and scaling a business. So it was a no-brainer to create this book, knowing I was filling that demand for this information.
Joining a Writing Program
Claire: I know you did much of your writing in Lisa Tener’s Get Your Writing Done program. Can you share what you initially struggled with that led you to use that program? How did it help you complete your book?
Megan: Lisa’s program helped me block off time every week to work on my book. It helped me stay accountable to my deadline and write my two chapters a week. Knowing that sense of accountability and support was super helpful to me. I protected that weekly appointment fiercely and showed up to the group consistently. The way she facilitates her program also really helped me bring out my best writing! I felt clear, focused, energized and ready to engage in great writing sessions each week because she guided participants through the process to get prepared to write. I cannot say enough great things about Lisa and her program!
Writing the Book You Wish You Could Have Read
Claire: Thriving as a Therapist explains every step in the process of building a private practice and growing your business as a therapist so thoroughly. This is a perfect example of ‘writing the book you wish you could have read.’ Would you say that your journey trying to navigate growing a business after college impacted how you wrote and structured this book?
Megan: 1000% yes! This is the book I wish I could have read when I was pregnant, broke and completely lost trying to build a practice after grad school! That was such a painful time in my life. I was desperate to build a practice and didn’t even know how to make a business card!? I wanted to simplify the entire process and help therapists build thriving practices.
Ultimately, my goal is to increase access to outpatient mental health care. If I can make an impact on helping therapists learn how to build a practice, they will serve more clients in their communities in need too, and together we’re making a difference!
The second part of this book helps therapists move beyond a full caseload of 1:1 clients and branch out into coaching, speaking, retreats, groups, workshops, trainings and more. So many therapists think (and I did too for a long time) that true success meant your caseload was full. Unfortunately, though, the intense nature of our work can sometimes lead to burnout in our field. I wanted to go beyond the idea of filling your caseload and helping therapists learn how they can monetize their expertise and education to truly thrive.
Owning Your Worth
Claire: In the book, you share a story about turning down an offer to join a project that could have sold for 4-6 million dollars, which led to the realization that you could be trying to make the same amount of money by growing your own business. I love how you described that experience as “the shattering of [your] own glass ceiling.” That same confidence can be applied to authors rethinking their writing’s worth when negotiating with publishers. Can you share a little more about this mindset?
Megan: Shifting into abundance is challenging at times. But ultimately, it’s essential to own the entirety of our worth, meaning it’s not just the book you’re negotiating the value on. It’s so much more! It’s your lived experience, education, knowledge, wisdom, research, and perhaps platform building and sweat equity to put your book into print. So when you consider the collective of what you’re bringing to the table, I hope you place the appropriate value on what you’re selling.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
Claire: You describe yourself as both an entrepreneur and a therapist; what advice would you give our readers on reimagining themselves as both writers/professionals and entrepreneurs? How does that change in attitude affect the growth of their business?
Megan: Writers seeking to get their work out into the world can sometimes do this without an entrepreneurial mindset, but it helps to merge these two identities (writer and entrepreneur). Entrepreneurs have a healthy amount of risk tolerance. They can bounce back from things and pivot quickly; they’re very observant of the environment around them and keen on gaps in service and they nurture their creativity and use it to build new solutions to existing problems. So I talk a lot about this in my book and discuss how to keep my innovative ideas fresh by seeking opportunities for creativity, rest and play.
To answer your second part of this question, a writer who embraces an entrepreneurial mindset will likely be eager to grow their platform, design a better book launch, and get their books into the hands of more people – thereby increasing their impact and income.
Claire: You chose to self-publish Thriving as a Therapist, and it’s your first book. Were you surprised at any point in your publishing journey? Any unforeseen challenges or pleasantly smooth aspects to self-publishing you weren’t expecting?
Megan: Very surprised! I thought writing the book was the biggest challenge. And it indeed was the biggest mountain to climb, but there are tons of details in the self-publishing process that I never knew about or even considered. So I’m grateful to be working with Tamara Monosoff in this process. She has made this extensive and complicated process, smooth, organized and straightforward for me.
Claire: You have so many different projects you’re involved in; I’m sure you have plenty of other book ideas. Maybe even a cookbook! If you were to write another book, would you choose to self-publish again? Is there anything you would do differently?
Megan: One day, I would love to secure a real publishing deal and not self-publish. I want to enter a national platform and do a speaking circuit for my book. But until that opportunity becomes a reality, I would absolutely consider self-publishing again!
About the Author
Megan Gunnell, LMSW, founder of the Thriving Well Institute, LLC, and admin of the Thriving Therapists Facebook Community is a therapist, group practice owner, international retreat leader, course creator, author, speaker and entrepreneur who is on a mission to increase access to outpatient mental health care and protect the therapists who serve those clients. She was selected as one of only 33 Facebook community admins in North America for the Meta Community Accelerator Award for leadership and community engagement. A recovering perfectionist, she is recklessly brave and unafraid of most challenges. Visit www.thrivingwellinstitute.com for more.