So, you want to start a private practice. Or at least you think you do. You’re dreaming about your gorgeous office while watching and reading a million free resources about how to get your first client. You have debated niche, insurance, and location and you’re going to get started. Really.
Well, maybe next month.
Or it’s better to start in the fall. Or maybe the beginning of next year.
You see what we’re saying here.
Let’s figure out what’s keeping you from launching that amazing practice you’ve been imagining.
To get the ball rolling, here are some of the reasons (read: excuses) you may be giving yourself to wait. We’ve heard these a lot. You’re not alone.
Excuse #1: I can’t go out networking or even tell anyone that I’m starting a private practice until I have cards, a website, a fully loaded electronic health record, a clear niche, an office location, the perfect hairdo, and some snazzy new business clothes.
So many people want to wait until everything is all business-y and perfect before they even let people know that they are considering starting a private practice. And that just doesn’t work.
First off – you need to talk to people to find office space (and well… good luck finding your therapy home if you’re searching for real estate in stealth mode). Secondly – it really doesn’t make sense to wait. Oftentimes, people start worrying about this flood of clients they’re going to have if they let people know that they’re putting up a shingle. This usually does NOT happen. It can take months before you get an influx. Besides, let’s be honest – if you got some juicy, full-fee client referrals this week, are you really saying you couldn’t get your stuff together to see them next week?
To start seeing clients in private practice NEXT WEEK, you only need these things:
- The ability to practice independently
- Liability insurance (which you can purchase online in about 10 minutes)
- An electronic health record with prepopulated treatment forms and a streamlined way to chart
- A place to see the clients (and probably a business license for the city you’re practicing in)
- A separate business bank account for the money you receive from these clients
That’s it. There are a couple things that will take a bit of time (office space, business license), but if you need to do it, there are folks who rent space by the hour who would love to help you out for a couple of weeks while you get those other pieces together.
You don’t need a website to see clients. That is designed to get clients. You don’t need business cards to see clients, that is for keeping in touch when you’re networking.
Most of the things you need, you can get done within a few hours. And most of us work best on deadlines. So why not let people know what you’re up to? It provides you with support and people who are rooting for you (and may refer to you). Get a head start if you can. Don’t wait to launch yourself. Jump in.
Excuse #2: I need to make my website (or online profile) perfect before I publish it.
We’re not saying that any website is better than no website. There are definitely some websites and profiles that are not sufficient to publish. HOWEVER, an imperfect website is better than no website. People cannot find you online when you have nothing up. There have been referrals that we’ve wanted to give to our colleagues and COULD NOT DO SO because the person we wanted to refer to had NO contact information anywhere. This person lost referrals because we couldn’t find him online when we needed the information. He was waiting for just the right copy, or picture, or video – and lost referrals in the meantime.
Get your online profiles to “good enough” and then hit publish. You will want to change them in a few months anyway. Especially at the beginning, you’re finding your voice and you’re refining your niche. Don’t wait to have “perfection” or you’ll never get your website up and you might just feel stuck with it. See your website and online profiles as dynamic and changeable, so you can get on with the business of advertising your practice.
Excuse #3: I put up my online profile. That’s enough, right?
Nope. Sitting at home (or in your office or at a coffee shop) and waiting for people to call based on an online profile is not sufficient. There may be some areas where you can start getting referrals, but the best referrals are warm referrals. These are referrals from people (professionals or clients) who have worked with you and who are letting others know about you. Don’t solely rely on the online profile. Add networking, some active marketing, and other activities to make sure you’re taking charge of who is calling you.
Excuse #4: If I can’t do #ALLTHETHINGS, I won’t do any.
The problem with reading all the free resources for therapists is that you get a ton of advice (and practical solutions, mind you) for how to market your practice. It is overwhelming and not specific to you and your situation. Free things are cool, but they do require you to prioritize and make choices when you may not know how to do so. This is not going to be an overt plug for coaching (although we do offer it and think it can be extremely helpful *wink, wink*), this is instead a plea to do fewer things, better.
There are a million ideas for marketing (newsletter, speaking engagements, social media, google AdWords, online profiles, websites, SEO, podcasting, blogging, networking, being involved in your professional organization, niching, etc. etc.). You CANNOT do them all at once. Look at what fits you best and try those one or two things out for a bit. For example – do you like spending time with your colleagues? Network. If you hate people (except your clients, of course) – do online marketing like SEO and Google AdWords. Don’t let a gigantic to do list keep you from trying any specific strategies to market your practice. All of these things work for someone, you just need to figure out which ones work for you (and that you can sustain). Start with one– do it full out, see if it works, and then adjust.
Excuse #5: I just need ONE more certification before I start my practice – I think 27 is the right number. RIGHT?!?!?
We want you to have sufficient expertise and continue to grow. For certain, make sure that you know how you’d like to clinically treat your clients before you charge them a whole bunch of money. HOWEVER, do not let your additional clinical training keep you from starting your private practice. Continuing education is a life-long process, so you can always raise your fees when you get a new certification. You can always add new certifications or specialties to your marketing. Remember – your website will be updated, you don’t need everything squared away just to get started. And the more you treat clients in your community, the more you’ll receive word of mouth and get more clients. Please don’t wait to help people (and develop a reputation for helping people) until you have 27 certifications.
Excuse #6: I have been told to only take ideal clients, so I’m going to turn everyone away until that perfect client comes.
So this is something that a number of coaches and consultants tell you. Make sure that you only take ideal clients. Don’t waste time and energy on the wrong client. Now, there is some truth to this. We can twist ourselves into pretzels when we take clients we don’t work with as well (and they always seem to be the clients who also got us to slide lower than we usually do on fee scale).
However, if you want to get your practice started, you need clients. Period. One of our #moderntherapists has a wonderful blog about this: Who Your Ideal Client is NOT (by Jo Muirhead). We need to make sure we are not cutting clients out of our practice unnecessarily when we need to start making a living at our practice.
Another concern that can happen if you consistently exclude specific groups of clients (besides NO income) is that you could be discriminating (we talked about this in a recent podcast episode). This is poor practice and, potentially, illegal or unethical. Refusing to see people can be discrimination, so please be thoughtful and careful on how you decide how you’ll be making those choices.
Make sure you know who you work with best and focus your attention on those people, but don’t turn away clients who you can help, especially when you are first starting. Grow your income and you’re your reputation in the best possible way, by word of mouth from your clients.
Excuse #7: I know I should have a private practice, but I keep not doing it.
If you’re happy working for someone else (or think you could be, given you find the right position), you don’t need to start your own private practice. Or beat yourself up for not starting a private practice. Before you jump in, take a look at the Launch Your Helping Business Success Checklist we’ve got (Katie made it for her consulting business awhile back) and see if you get excited reading it, or just overwhelmed. Now, it is overwhelming – no doubt about it. But if you’re not excited about any piece of this list, maybe you don’t need to worry about private practice right now. You can do your thing and gain more skills, keep helping people in the way you’re helping people. That’s okay. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you have to have a specific career path.
So what do you think? What is keeping you from starting (or growing) your private practice? Join us in The Modern Therapists Facebook Group and let us know your thoughts!