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Do you want to be a Debt Counsellor Cont.

A big part of being a Debt Counsellor is not about doing debt counselling at all. It is about finding people to help.

Where Do You Find New Clients?

While millions of people are over indebted and need debt review, not many people are taking advantage of this provision of the National Credit Act.

Finding new clients is an ongoing challenge for debt counselling practices of all sizes.

At present (and over time) the number of new people coming into debt review each month has raged between 10 000 – 12 000 people.

These are split between the 1650 registered Debt Counsellors (2023). In theory, that’s 7 people per Debt Counsellor each month, and the reality is that most of these clients are making use of the +-20 largest practices in the country. Added to that as many as 20% drop out of the process in the first 60 days.

How Do You Find New clients?

Do not be fooled. Your practice consistently needs new clients to survive.

The current fee model forces you to take on more and more clients over time to stay financially viable. If you run out of money along the way, you will not be able to deliver the help that you have promised your clients. So, how do you find new clients?


Some of the largest debt counselling practices spend hundreds of thousands every month on advertising. They advertise on radio, social media, TV and more. They spend a lot and they do get clients.

If you want to get new clients, you may have to set aside a decent chunk of funds towards finding them. This may involve using funds you have saved up (at first), your aftercare fees or some of the restructuring fees. 

Advertising is by far one of the biggest expenses in my practice – Eugene Cilliers – PayPlan Solutions

Then you face the challenge of waiting for the clients to pay, and remember some of them may never pay, some may change their minds after the work is done and may suddenly stop paying even after months or years of the process working for them.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get reliable clients who will follow through with the process.

However, since many people are shy to discuss their debts and debt review with others, the number of such referrals is normally quite small. It is unwise to rely on this, as it is inconsistent and requires your clients to have sufficient knowledge of the process, and be happy to introduce others to you. Even then those new people may or may not decide the process is for them.

Leads From Others

Similar to word of mouth, is a good lead.

Some Debt Counsellors use outside companies, agents or company employees to find them suitable clients or people who are interested in talking about debt review. They may spend lots on getting such leads.

If that is a strategy that you think might work, then make sure the potential clients know what they are talking about and have given express permission for you to talk to them. These are requirements of the PoPI Act.

You never want to have unqualified people making unrealistic promises to people just to try get a commission. Even when you decide to make contact with such people, make sure that it is a qualified person who speaks to them and not just a random sales person. Bad leads, lead to bad clients. Those clients will seldom stick with the process and will cost you a lot of wasted time and effort.

The few practices that have really hurt the reputation of the industry have all been very good at “selling” clients their services. They have over promised, and then not allocated enough resources to actually do the wonderful job they promised. Avoid falling into this trap.

The Payment Distribution Agencies (PDAs) have, over the years, repeatedly told stories about how few (as little as 1 out of every 10 new debt counselling practices) have actually made it through their first year.

So, plan ahead for how you will find new clients, and beware of trying to compete online with the biggest practices who are already very well established and have significant budgets for advertising.

Building Your Brand

A clever name that is easily remembered is important but it will probably not make or break your practice.

Many Debt Counsellors like to use their personal name (for smaller practices) followed by Debt Counsellor or Debt Counselling. Easy.

Some practices kind of obscure the fact that they offer debt review by making the name more generic. This is a suitable option if you will be offering multiple services, not just debt review but don’t try trick clients. That will backfire.

‘don’t try trick clients. That will backfire’

As a bare minimum, you should look to have a decent online web presence and social media presence. Consumers will want to research you and you will want to use these platforms to educate your existing clients and convince potential clients that you are a legitimate practice.

Content is important but beware of over investing, as your website is there to reinforce your services not win you clients. If your entire strategy for getting new clients is having a website and a Facebook page, then you will soon be out of business.

You want a nice looking and consistent looking online presence, but you can spend way too much time and effort, if not careful. Be clear and informative and be sure to share your NCR Registration number (and even display your certification if practical or when asked).

Do not make use of the NCR’s logo without asking for express written permission, or you will get into trouble*. It is their logo, and not a stamp that you can use at will, even if registered with them.

The best way to build your brand is to make it stand for something, by consistently offering world class service that focuses on the client and their needs (and educating them about what those needs really should be).

Who will you hire to work for you and what’s it like to register with the NCR as a Debt Counsellor?

Continued in following article

*Don’t worry. We asked for permission (in writing)