Social Work is not a high-paid profession; we all know this and we didn’t get into this field because we want to become rich. But, if we can’t be comfortable taking care of our own financial commitments, we won’t be in the position to give ourselves fully to our clients when they need us, whether we’re providing case management, intensive counselling/therapy, or community advocacy.
The answer is for Social Workers to diversify their income streams. This is something lawyers, doctors, and other professionals learned years ago but that Social Workers are still struggling with. It sometimes seems antithetical to our mission to make money for ourselves – but there are ways to generate revenue while also providing value to our clients.
With the new year almost upon us, here are 10 ways you can diversify your income in 2019:
1. Open a Private Practice
The classic private practice is still an option. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) can bill Medicare in all 50 states. For those who decide not to take insurance or to take self-pay clients, you can often charge north of $100 an hour for counselling or therapy – especially if you have a well-developed niche like working with bereavement, with men or with those who have HIV/AIDS.
To save money when starting out you may choose to use a home office, or even to see clients virtually via Skype. This can make therapy more accessible to your clients, but make sure you check with your licensing board first to avoid any issues with confidentiality.
2. Start Writing
It’s been said we all have a book inside of us, and you may too. But you don’t have to write a full book to make money with your writing. Launching a blog and monetizing it using Google Adsense or the Amazon Affiliate program can help you build your professional brand and demonstrate your expertise while generating you money for every click on your ads.
To get started, you can create a blog using the free WordPress.com platform, and then consider seeking out technical assistance to move your blog to its own domain and hosting to help you expand your audience.
3. Join a Speakers Bureau
A Speakers Bureau is an organization keeping a roster of speakers on contract so you can deliver keynote speeches or other talks for a fee. The Speakers Bureau helps connect the client and the speaker (yourself) together and negotiates a speaking fee you get paid. The Speakers Bureau takes a cut in exchange for the representation and you get the promotion.
If you don’t have the popularity, name recognition, or specific niche skills to join a Speakers Bureau yet, do some networking and reach out to conferences and other organizations proactively to get yourself some initial speaking engagements. If you’re lucky, some new business will come via word-of-mouth.
4. Create Mobile Phone Apps
This is the most technical of the answers here – but surprisingly not as difficult as you might think. Social Workers have a wealth of knowledge on mental health which they can apply towards creating apps that don’t exist yet to help people.
These can be targeted at professionals in the field, for example:
- An app allowing you to complete risk assessments on a tablet and allows the information to be exported
- A Social Worker’s Legal Reference with information on the laws relevant to child protection, suicide intervention and other laws relevant to Social Work in your state
- A digital study guide helping social workers in training prepare for their licensure exam
Or targeted at clients:
- A guided meditation app which helps clients calm down when they feel stressed
- A digital crisis plan clients can complete and then refer to when they’re having trouble coping
- A guide to local resources in your community like crisis lines, mental health agencies, and hospitals
These are highly complex topics. You can read up on the Swift programming language (used for Apple devices) or the Java programming language (for Android devices) or join up with a skilled programmer who lacks your specialized mental health knowledge.
5. Develop a Subscription Service
A subscription service is one way to help current or future clients to receive support. By paying you a small monthly fee, they can get check-ins with you on a regular basis between appointments. If they’re struggling, you can help connect them to crisis lines or other supports. For people who haven’t yet become clients, this may offer them an opportunity to build a relationship with you as they consider whether to book an appointment.
6. Launch an Online Course
Social Workers have skills in many areas which they can turn into online courses to teach others. For example, successful online courses have been launched teaching people how to have better relationships with their spouses or children, how to avoid getting angry or upset, and how to stay cool under pressure in a challenging workplace.
Providers like Udemy can help you build your course in exchange for a small fee taken out of each purchase.
7. Teach at Night
Universities and colleges frequently hire Masters or Doctoral-level Social Workers to teach classes as an Adjunct Professor. This can help you generate revenue but also to give back to the next generation and share what you’ve learned during the course of your practice.
8. Train Other Professionals
In addition to teaching in a school environment, you can make money by becoming an instructor for training programs. For $500 you can get certified to teach the Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Course in suicide, while for $2,500 you can get Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) Training-for-Trainers (T4T) certified.
As a trainer, you can make between several hundred and several thousand dollars in a weekend leading a training course on a subject which you’re passionate about.
9. Become a Consultant
If you have an area of specialized knowledge such as program evaluation, fundraising, or experience building a nonprofit from the ground up then you may choose to become a nonprofit consultant. By helping clients avoid the same pitfalls you may have experienced yourself, you give them a great return on their investment.
Consultants also facilitate Strategic Planning sessions or Board of Directors Training and this may be an option for yourself as well.
10. Build a Video Library
If you don’t like to write but you do want to get your message out there – consider building a video library on YouTube. These videos, when you have a high-enough following, can be monetized and you’ll get ad revenue before each video plays.
There are a lot of ways Social Workers and other helping professions can use their experience and training to help others while also diversifying your own revenue and helping to build your personal brand. It’s important that you focus on the elements that make the most sense for your passions and level of technical expertise but also which makes sense with your desired client-base. Good luck!