Talking Money with Eboni Harris
[The following is a transcript of my interview with Eboni Harris LPC LMFT for the Step it UP community.]
Hey, it’s Dr. Kate Walker and I’m really happy to bring to you Eboni Harris. I’m kind of bragging because she was one of my first associates, or interns we called it back in the day, and now she has become this amazing, wonderful superstar in Texas and probably nationwide. She’s got her own private practice, she has a podcast, Room for Relations, she’s a director, she’s co-founder of Melanin & Mental Health. I think she’s got a gazillion followers on Instagram and all of the things. Today we are going to be talking money with Eboni Harris!
Eboni: Hi, thank you for having me. I mention you anytime I do an interview. They’re like, how did you get started? I’m like, Kate Walker. Kate Walker.
Kate: So how did you go just from being a LPC/LMFT to you?
How Can a Beginner Make Money?
It all happened when I walked into an office in the Woodlands.
[Kate and Eboni laugh]
I was lucky enough to meet you randomly. Then, I thought I had talked to you but I hadn’t talked to you, but we ended up doing a quick interview and you brought me on. And I always knew I wanted to do private practice but I thought that was something you had to do agency work first and then move into private practice. But of course you really do train us and educate us on how to go ahead and start your private practice as soon as you’re fully licensed. So that was the start of this and I was like oh, okay, I don’t have to do agency work. I did some just to get my hours, but for the most part I’ve been in private practice since I first started seeing clients.
That really did push me probably a lot quicker to meet other goals because I wasn’t waiting five or ten years to get the experience before I started private practice and before I started doing other stuff. So I was in private practice for around six or seven years when I finally moved fully to Houston, because we were between the Woodlands and Houston, Texas. I fully moved to Houston and that’s when I saw a boom in my practice. After that, I started seeing more clients that look like me; 99% of my clients are Black, from the Black community, which I love working with my community.
How Can a Therapist Make Extra Money?
From there, I started using social media. I always kind of enjoyed it – because I feel like I’m an introvert, so I’ve always enjoyed being at a computer. A way for me to talk about my business without having to actually go out and talk to people was doing things such as building websites and online things. And so I was using social media a lot more back then and I actually met Eliza Boquin via social media. I was coming from a networking lunch and I posted on my SnapChat, hey, don’t be scared to meet new people, and she slid into my DMs. She was like, I want to do lunch!
So we met, and then from there we were discussing just the difficulty in finding Black and Latinx therapists, especially because clients, a lot of times while they do want help and they’re looking for an expert. They also sometimes just pick us because okay, you look like me, maybe you can relate to me a little more.
How Profitable is Private Practice?
That conversation continued to happen until we finally decided to do something about it. Then, Melanin & Mental Health was born. We were doing meet-ups, we have a directory, we have our merchandise, a podcast and our social media following is pretty good. Now my focus is typically just my private practice and Melanin & Mental Health. I do have the Room for Relations podcast, which is a sex and relationships podcast. It is paused, but all the 500 episodes that I did are still out there.
Kate: 500 episodes?!
Eboni: Yeah, we did a lot of episodes.
Kate: Now once I told you that I had subscribed to it and you were like, “oh no!”
[Laughing] Yes. The conversations, it’s me as a therapist friend, but I’m not in the therapist role. We’re talking about sex and relationships, beliefs, moves and such. Specifically within the Black community and our beliefs. It was something that I don’t want my supervisor to listen to it because I wasn’t sharing all of my business but we talked about sex and relationships. I had to see you weekly and I just didn’t want you to know what’s going on. It’s like telling your mom.
Part of the reason I paused is because I didn’t want to feel like there’s such a separation between like if my clients found it. Then it would be like like, oh, what did I say this week? Room for Relations will be a thing in the future and I want to revamp that. The episodes are still there, but I want to revamp it to be a lot more educational. It’ll definitely come back with a new iteration in the future. But, right now Melanin & Mental Health and my practice is what’s taking up most of my time.
How To Learn About Money
“So how did you learn about money?”
So I did a lot of work around this a few years ago because I was realizing that I was making money. I always felt like I didn’t have any money. Then, I did my taxes one year, and I was like, you made a nice little salary for yourself. Considering I was working for myself, I made money, and I didn’t know where it went. Then I started to do some work around, well, why do I always feel like I don’t have enough? What is going on there? What I realized is growing up, we didn’t talk about money, and if it was a conversation, it was always that it’s not enough, it was always, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” “You don’t know how much it costs.” “We can’t afford that.” It was always in the perspective of lack or scarcity.
So I realized that I’ve always just felt like I was behind when it came to that area of my life. I truly took some time to sit down and say, okay, if you’re making this amount of money, how much do I owe, how much are my bills? Why do I not have enough once I’m done with the end of the year? And so once I did that it kind of shifted my mindset.
How Can a Therapist Make 6 Figures?
There were no conversations around money with my family. When I worked for you and you were like, ‘the rate will be $140,’ and I was like, ‘what? Who’s paying that?!’ Even when I was looking for a therapist, I was like, I have to find the cheapest therapist, and now I pay $150 for my therapist. At the time, money kind of scared me I think because there was just no conversation.
I was thinking about when I got my first credit card. My mom did the best she could, but when I turned 18 she took me to the bank and got me a credit card. She was like when you’re in college, you’ll use this. It wasn’t you’ll use this and I’ll pay it off. It was just, you’ll use this if you need to buy something, so I was running it up. Then I had a whole debt free journey I went on just because I did have a lot of credit card bills. I didn’t know how to use these different tools. I’m in a completely different space now, which is amazing. That’s why I really enjoy talking about money, especially when it comes to personal and business expenses.
Kate: Well, and what’s coming to my mind, the amazing trips you would take. Like, you came to supervision once and you were like, ‘I just got this trip to Dubai.’
Eboni: Dubai. I went to Abu Dhabi in Dubai. It was like $99.
Kate: I was like, ‘how did you find this?’ And you were like, I don’t remember, and here it is, and I’m going. I was like, so you definitely figured this out. Do you want to talk to us about getting your financial life together and using your expertise to make money?”
How Do You Pay Yourself in Private Practice?
There are just three steps to make any changes in life. The first step is always to just assess. We always want something different but we don’t always know where we’re at in that moment. The first thing that I did was spend three months looking at my business expenses and my personal expenses. I did this when I went through my debt-free journey.
Then saying, how much money do I need to make a month to just cover that? That was like basic necessities, the credit card bills, and my expenses from my business. Once I got that number, it wasn’t as much as I thought. Then I realized I needed to see like ten clients at that point. I knew that if I saw ten clients a week and was mindful of how I’m spending money, I really do enough to pay all of my stuff and have money sitting in my business account. It wasn’t a lot of money, but there was money there, and there was money left over for me to be able to enjoy my life.
Every month I would go through every single thing I spend money on. Since I only use my credit card, my bank account card and my business card, I was like where is all this money going? I did that for three months, paying attention and watching my account. After, I decided to really look at my business expenses and my personal expenses. At this point they were all kind of muddled together. I knew I needed to separate the two. Next, I wanted to make sure I understood what my habits were and where I was spending the most money.
Creating Financial Goals As A Therapist
I asked myself, where do I want to go? What are my goals? Specifically, what are my income goals? What do I want to do with the money? Do I want to have savings? Investments? I was really learning about retirement. Sometimes when you’re in private practice you don’t think about the future, you’re like, I’m just going to work. I’ll still probably work, but I now have a retirement account also. I wanted to make sure I learned how to invest in myself now and in the future. Then, I really got clear on what my financial goals were. After I decided where I wanted to go, I kind of made a plan and a roadmap to get there. I knew I wanted to be debt-free, not have any credit card debt and I knew I wanted to build my savings. Those are the things I wanted to focus on.
How Can a Therapist Increase Their Fees?
The first thing I always tell therapists, because I know most therapists don’t do this, but raise your fees, because probably you’re not charging enough. I learned from Kate the formula to be able to say, what do you want to make? How many weeks are you going to work? How many clients do you need to see? And calculate your fees from there. When you do that, probably add $20 to $30 on to that once you’ve calculated that. Be honest about if you can get to your goals just by seeing clients. Do you need to add other streams of income? Because if you say, I need to make $120,000 a year to survive and enjoy my life, but that means I have to see 30 clients a week. If that’s not realistic for you, that means you have to think about other ways to make money.
For me, I never wanted to do a full five days a week seeing clients; that was never my goal. I know now my max is 20 but I struggle to tell people no sometimes. My max is 20, but really 15 is my sweet spot. That is where I want to be each week to feel comfortable. Then I will know I have enough money, and I will feel like I don’t have to limit myself. I was watching a Black financial expert, I think it was Boyce Watkins. But he said, I had to learn how to budget my money or to make more money. For me it was to make more money because I don’t want to have to limit myself. So I had to figure out, what does that look like? How many clients? Be realistic about what is sustainable.
Can a Therapist Have a Side Business?
Once I realized this is the number of clients I need to see, I knew there were other ways to make money as well. Early on I would do things, building websites for people, things like that. Then I realized, I need to start finding a way to make money where I don’t need to be in it all the time. Because again, it still leads to burnout. If you’re still working another 20 hours outside of your clients, you still can have burnout.
There were things in the beginning that I loved to do, but then I stopped. I stopped building websites, now I only build for myself. What I wanted to focus on were things that didn’t require my presence. With Melanin & Mental Health, we have a directory of Black and Latinx therapists. We also have merchandise that we sell, we do webinars, and events.
I’m going to give just three ideas. One is merchandise, and do drop shipping so that way you don’t have to package and send it out. There are websites that sell almost anything. Find out what you want to sell, if it’s t-shirts, mugs, totes or whatever, just find out what you want to sell. Then find a drop shipper, set it all up, they pay for it through you and the drop shipper sends it. You don’t have to do anything in between.
Digital products are also a good one. If you want to do e-books, journals, worksheets, guided meditations, webinar, then you sell it. Things like that that can just live on your website can kind of go. I also love this for clients that aren’t quite sure if they want to start therapy. Then they already kind of get resources and things but you still get money for it.
How To Make More Money As A Therapist
Then the last is a digital product but I feel like it’s a lot more involved. You can make significant money because you can charge a lot more money for a course. I have my Relationship Reset course. It was created because in my first four or five of my therapy sessions, I tend to say the same thing over and over and over again. Then I was like, how can I package this so people can kind of come in and learn all this stuff without me just having to say it over and over? I knew I wanted to focus my practice on deeper work. Instead of spending a month or two trying to teach people what’s healthy. That’s how I ended up coming up with this course.
Once they do the course and they’re like okay, I get that, now I need to figure out what the blocks are and how to get past that. Then they can do therapy. I mean, of course they can do therapy before, but I just like the idea of not having to tell them over and over and over the same stuff.
When you have other strands of income, that is less pressure for you to have a high number of clients. If you have all of these other streams, then you’ll feel comfortable because you will know that you have other ways to make money.
“I love that. And so I’m going to poke at it though because it sounds to me like you were getting a little bored with those first sessions. So by packaging it into something clients could download, it helped that too.”
How Can I Create A Brand?
While I enjoy the fact that – and this is something I learned from you, while I enjoy that most clients come in and their minds are blown, they’re like, oh my god! That’s great. But it felt repetitive. I knew that if I keep doing this over and over and I have to do this for the next 10, 15 years, it’s going to take a while too. Then, I had a client tell me early on, she was like, I just hate that it takes so long to get to the deep stuff. And I was like oh yeah, that does make sense, I get that. But at that point, I was like, I know what I’m saying in this part, the rest of it I might not be as confident.
Now that I have more confidence in the actual work that I’m able to do, that part can be packaged and given to them. That way when they come they already kind of have that information and we can just get straight into it. I’m like, okay, let’s start working on these blockages, let’s start working on these beliefs that are causing the issues. So yes, and boredom is another reason for burnout, right? You’re saying the same thing over and over again.
How Do You Overcome Financial Mistakes?
Kate: What’s a money mistake you found and had to fix?
I think the first was paying myself as it came in. As I made money, I would spend money. There was no separation of business and personal. If I don’t have clients this week and I don’t have money sitting in my business account, how do I pay myself? So what I do now is pay myself once a month. I put my weekly salary, which is the same every single week, into a savings account. Then I pay myself on the first of the month. That way, the money is coming. I’ve learned it helps in budgeting as well. This way, I have a set amount, just like if I had a W2 job. Versus this week I made $1,000, next week I made $2,000, next week I made $200, you know what I mean? For me, it doesn’t work well.
That was the first thing I did, was to not take the money as it comes in, but actually separate it. I had a friend, who works in finance and was like, “You are a line item in your business, so you need to add it to that.” When I do my business budget, when I do my expenses, I am one of the expenses. That helps me conceptualize how much money needs to come in and that includes my salary. I feel like the biggest one was as money was coming in, I was spending it. Then I was confused as to why I didn’t have any left at the end of the year.
Kate: I love it. So what would you leave viewers with? What would be just a good money lesson you’d like to leave us with?
Does Money Affect Mental Health?
Taking care of your finances and your budget is a form of self-care. I believe that self-care is taking care of your past, present, and future. Past typically means therapy, present is doing activities that bring you joy now, and future means taking care of your future self. This includes budgeting, finances, things like that. I love that when I’m looking at my income or when I’m planning my month out. By doing this, this is me making sure that this month I won’t be as stressed, right? This is me taking care of myself in two weeks, three weeks. I think when you learn to kind of shift your mindset and when you learn how to budget and use money as a tool, then it really can help you as far as your own stress levels and increasing your self-care.
Kate: I’m so proud of you.
Eboni: Thank you.
Kate: Well, thank you Eboni so much for sharing your words of wisdom about money. know it’s funny because when I reached out I was like, you can talk to me about so many things, and we just kind of picked money. I will probably be knocking on your door again just so you can talk to us about multiple streams of income, talk to us again about your course, you don’t do any coaching right now, but you have other things going on.
Talking Money with Eboni Harris
The course is the biggest thing. It is at my website, EboniHarris.com, and it’s a course focused on understanding what is healthy when it comes to relationships. It includes what you need to work on personally , how to communicate, how to understand the blocks and the parts of you that pop up that make it difficult for you to talk to your partner or creates defensiveness and all of that. It’s really to help you get an overall understanding of a healthy relationship.
That way if you come to me or go to another therapist, you already have a really good baseline of understanding. Such as, this is the stuff and I understand where I’m bringing my fault or where I’m bringing my issues into this relationship. It helps not automatically going in and thinking it’s the other person, because that’s what we typically do, right? It really helps you – the course.
This is why I say it’s for couples and individuals. When it is an individual journey, but I like that if it’s a couple, I can give them homework to be able to do together. It really is about you understanding more about yourself so that you can be healthier in your relationship. The biggest thing, and of course, Melanin & Mental Health, if you want to support us trying to get more Black and Brown therapists and more Black and Brown people in therapy, then that’s the place to go.
Thank you for joining and talking money with Eboni Harris.
Blog post by Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC/LMFT Supervisor
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