So you are a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria and you are wondering how you can make money though your profession? You are not alone. In fact I can remember very vividly that all through my 4 years (or 5 because of ASUU) in the University that this was one question that we never stopped asking our lecturers and ourselves as student counsellors then.
Since counselling is not recognised in Nigeria, how can I make money as a counsellor? After much argument and discussions, there are only two profitable answers we usually find: 1. Get a job in a public school as a counsellor, and 2. Dump your counselling certificate and do whatever you find.
But this two answers never got me satisfied. I deeply was convinced that counsellors and counselling can still thrive in Nigeria and thanks to one of my lecturers, Dr Muhammed Shuaib (University of Ilorin) who kept on firing us to advocate for our profession instead of joining others in saying counselling is not recognised in Nigeria.
I have gone on to become a practising career counsellor and from my experience and study, I have outlined 10 ways you can make a living from your profession as a counsellor.
Why You Are Not Making Money As A Counselor or Therapist
Before I list the ways, I want you to know that the only reason why you aren’t making money as a counsellor or therapist is because nobody trusts you enough to pay you for your service. It’s not just you— that’s how it is for the entire profession and every other profession.
Counsellors are not recognised in Nigeria because people don’t trust that what we have to offer is worth paying for. It’s a trust issue. So once you can build trust among a good number of people through any platform, there are endless possibilities for making money. Your first assignment is to build trust for you in people!
How To Make Money As A Counsellor/Therapist in Nigeria
This list includes both online platforms and physical platforms in no order.
1. Sell online courses
You need to recognise that although people know they have problems, it is common that they don’t know what their problems are or what solutions they need. This is where online courses come to play. You need to identify a common problem people are facing that you’re an expert in and come up with an online course that provides the solution, then make people see that they have that problem and you have the solution.
Online courses are simply recorded video files where you help the audience move from a place of difficulty in a particular area to mastery. What I mean is simply teaching them to solve their problems through step by step videos.
For example, I am working on an online course that will help people overcome low self-esteem. It’s a 45 days course with several additional resources like ebooks, workbooks, audio files, an exclusive forum and so on. What I’m doing in this course is breaking down all the steps I will have taken the client through if they came to me for counselling.
The upside to creating an online course is that you only need to create it once and you can sell it to several people with the same issue. But to do this, you need to build an audience through social media, a blog, a YouTube channel or simply run Facebook or Google advertisements. You can learn the entire process of online course creation through free videos on YouTube.
2. Write a result-and-audience focused book
Writing a book is another way to make money as a counsellor or therapist. You can simply convert your knowledge or expertise into a book, just like the course, where the reader will be able to help themselves through challenges that would have required therapy. But to do well with your book, you shouldn’t just write a general book. Your book should be aimed at a specific audience and a specific problem.
This way it is easier to sell because the audience can see that they really need what the book is offering. For example, you can write a book titled Beauty, Class and Smiles: A Therapist’s Guide to Depression Among Teenage Girls. (I think I like this title. If you use it, remember to give me the credit, lol.)
You can even reach a wider audience with your book by publishing it on Amazon. Also if you don’t want to, you don’t need to make a physical book. You can make an ebook and sell too. I have sold a less than 50 pages ebook I wrote for ₦3000. If you can make people see that your book can help them, they will buy.
3. Start a YouTube channel
YouTube is gold, guys. No too much talk here: just pick a niche, let’s say low self-esteem again (that’s my speciality) and make high quality educational videos. YouTube will promote your channel for you and you begin to make money through advertisements once you reach 1000 subscribers and people watch you videos for 4000 hours.
It looks big but if you can dedicate the time to consistently make high quality videos that provide real value, you’d just sit back and watch your channel bring in millions, literally.
And with a YouTube channel you can sell your courses and books as we have seen above and even get people to book for one-on-one counselling sessions.
4. Result focused accountability group/challenges
This time we are going physical. You are part of some organisation currently. If you aren’t, you should join one. You can set up accountability groups in these organisations for a start. What an accountability group is, is to gather a group of people who have similar interests (issues, actually) in getting something you are an expert in.
In my case, I have overcome low self-esteem and I’m an expert in building self-esteem. So in my workplace or church, I can gather a group of 5 people who are struggling with the issue and convince them that I (not the accountability group) will help them become confident just like me.
I will only be a facilitator of the group where we do activities together and bring the course which we should take for each gathering and share my materials with them. To convince them, I will make them see how getting free from low self-esteem will make great impact on their lives but they would pay a little subscription fee to be part of the group.
I will start small and since I’m sure I can really deliver on my promise of helping them get free from low self-esteem, as they become part of the group I can increase the subscription fee with time and extend the group to other members.
The basic skill you need here is the ability of convince people and the expertise to deliver on your promise. You can spice the group with games, food, visitations and so on. It’s just some form of dynamic group counselling.
5. Partner with organizations and schools to create specific results for them
Here again what you need is high level expertise in your field and the ability to convince people. You can go to organisations and pitch the management on some staff training programmes that will help the staff perform better on their jobs. Or pitch schools on student workshops that will help them get better grades.
At the beginning, you can offer to do it for free so they can see how good you are and how your service can truly benefit their organisation or school and with time you will build your portfolio/ reputation and begin to charge fees and extend to other organisations. But if you are a good salesperson, you can begin charging fees from the very first date.
Just don’t forget that the only reason why no one is paying you is because they don’t trust you. Until you start making good money from your profession, you are in the business of building trust and not counselling yet.
6. Host paid conferences
This is more of the established side. Ideally, you need to start from the smaller platforms like we identified in No 1 – 5 above before people can take you seriously and give you their money to speak to them. But hosting paid conferences is another way of making money as a counsellor.
Recently I saw an advertisement of a WhatsApp class where a coach was to teach people how to build their confidence and they were to pay just ₦1000 to join. It looks small but if she gets just 50 people, that’s ₦50,000 from a 6 hours class split into 3 days (2 hours per day).
This is a great idea seeing that the only thing you need is mobile data subscription and a smartphone. You can organise this type of classes on different topics once per month and you have a full-time job already with just 6 hours of your time. And your potential income has no limit depending on how many people you can reach monthly.
7. Teach intending counsellors
I got this idea from an Indian counsellor friend I recently met through Facebook. He organises online classes for people who want to be counsellors but cannot go to school to study it for some reason or the other or counselors who want increase their skills. Yes, he does not give certifications but there are a whole lot of people who admire being counsellors and can pay to get the skills even if they aren’t certified. My sister is one of them.
Again this is hinged on how good you are as a counsellor. You can’t teach what you don’t know yourself. Personally, 75% of the things I know about counselling, I didn’t learn from the University. So you need to commit to developing yourself.
8. Start a podcast
Starting a podcast works the same way like starting a YouTube channel just that this time it deals with audio and not videos and there’s no automatic promotion of you videos like it works with YouTube. If you are a great speaker that don’t do well on camera, you can take the podcast route. But I’d suggest you make YouTube your first choice.
9. Pitch parents with specific results for their kids
Apply the same steps in point 5 but instead of pitching schools and organisations, this time you pitch parents. You can find a teenager giving their parent some tough time and promise the parent to modify the child’s behaviour within a certain time frame. It can be improving academic performance too.
If you are confident in your ability and you can convince the parents to give you a try, people will open their purses for you. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver and make sure you deliver. If you don’t, you are making them doubt you even more and trust is gold.
10. Start a private counselling centre
Rent an office space, put up a big signpost in front of the office, create a conducive environment and someone will walk in. As much as we say counselling is not recognised in Nigeria, there are people who will jump on counselling if they find one. You can ask pastors.
Week after week I see people troop to pastors, not just for prayers but for counselling. If those pastors who are quasi counsellors still get people coming to them, what makes you think they won’t come to you? If one person tries you and you deliver, they will tell others.
Remember you are in the business of building trust for now.
Bonus: Apply as a school guidance counsellor
Okay, we are back here! As much as I said I didn’t like the option of being a school counsellor, it is still an option and it is worth it if you know your job. Being in a school gives you free access to clients and if you are passionate about your job, working as a school counsellor will give you a viable environment.
Just don’t be like my secondary school counsellors whose jobs were to collate CA scores, prepare termly results and sign expulsion letters. Be innovative and solve real problems.
Being a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria is not a death trap, there are several ways you can make money and this list is not exhaustive. Just make sure you can really deliver as a counsellor and don’t just be a counsellor by title. If people are sure you can deliver, they will pay you. People are in desperate need of solutions. Remember: if you can make them trust you, you can take their money. To improve your skills, here are the
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.