Working for yourself is an overwhelming possibility.
There are so many potential elements to consider when starting a private practice that it stops many of us in our tracks. We freeze, putting off taking the leap for weeks or months or years, until we find that we’ve been in nonprofit work far longer than we hoped to be. Or, we jump in without any plan or intention, accepting anyone and anything in the name of filling our practice. That’s no good either, and a quick recipe for hating our private practice and regretting making the move in the first place.
I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t have to be quite so daunting. By exploring the four areas below, we identify the shape of the practice we want to create, and can kick things off with a practice that serves us – the first time around.
“Niching down” is a virtue gets tossed around the time in private practice, and with good reason. A healthy, pinpointed niche is basically the cornerstone of our practice! Having a niche serves both the clinician and the client. As clinicians, we benefit by having an area of passion and expertise, and can then focus their time, energy, and training to that end. We work with a population that truly interests us, and feel competent serving our clients. Most importantly, we like our clients (we know how crucial this is), because we chose to work with them in particular.
Clients benefit from niched therapists, as well! They have the benefit of selecting a therapist that is trained specifically for the challenge they want to address. They have a better chance of finding a good fit off the bat, because the clinician is an expert of their area of concern.
When considering niche, take the time to consider other elements of your ideal population as well: age, individual/couple/family/group, etc. The better you can specify your ideal client, the more likely they are to find you and schedule an appointment!
We have a lot of choices in terms of how we wish to serve – even more so after COVID, when Telehealth became a major form of delivery. In-office, online, walk-and-talk therapy, working with animals – what kind of work resonates most with you?
But delivery isn’t just about office versus online – it’s also about our preferences, and how we do our best work. Do you work best at 8AM, or at 8PM? Do you like to chunk your client meetings and have the rest of the day free, or space out sessions with breaks in between? Do you love bulking up and seeing eight clients in a day, or perform best only treating two individuals daily? Do you like the structure of a planned group, or the spontaneity of an insight-oriented individual session? All of it is needed, and knowing how we do our best work results in better client outcomes and more fulfilling practices.
Thinking about charging a lower fee to fill up your practice quickly? I encourage you to reconsider.
Knowing how and where to set your fee is going to set the stage for whether or not you create a sustainable practice. Truly, it’s that important. The question of how to earn money in private practice is rife with potential landmines – seeing too many/the wrong clients for us, working with insurance companies that don’t compensate well, and keeping us burnt out and overworked even after we’ve left the nonprofit world. Seriously, I could go on about the importance of setting the right fee for a very long time….
But rather than do that, I’ll just say the following: If you’re thinking about starting a private practice, you have both an Undergraduate and a Master’s degree, at minimum. You have thousands of hours of supervised experience, and have passed a test for licensure. You complete CEU’s regularly. You likely have paid handsomely with your personal time, energy, and money for the privilege of doing what you do.
You have more than earned the right to a career that monetarily supports your wants and needs. Consider this when setting your fee.
BRANDING & MARKETING
Huh? How does this fit into the crucial four?
Let me explain. Up to this point, I’ve honed in on ways that you can tailor your practice to be exactly how you’d like it to be, in terms of who you serve and how you are serving. But if you have an empty practice, it doesn’t matter how intentional your planning process has been.
I know this one is weird to consider. After all, we didn’t go to business school, and we aren’t business people. We’re helpers and empaths. But, if we’re going to be successful in our own businesses, we need to accept that we are also entrepreneurs. How we present to our audience, in this case our potential clients, matters. It draws people to us, and fills up our empty slots. Without it, we don’t have any practice to idealize at all!
If I had a single tip on approaching branding and marketing, it’d be this: Allow yourself to stand out of the crowd by being yourself. As helping professionals, we are trained to give a backseat to our personalities – our personal lives are not part of the therapeutic relationship. I’m not suggesting that we broadcast our private lives to our clients, but I DO recommend allowing them to see our personalities shining through on our websites and in our profiles. Clients want to have relationships with a human being, after all, and potential clients are looking for someone who’s a great fit. That could be someone with a sharp sense of humor, or a particular affiliation, or a potty mouth. And if you don’t show them that’s who you are, they can’t know that you’re who they’re looking for.
So those are my big four – niche, delivery, fees, and branding/marketing. If you have a handle on those areas, you’ll be miles ahead of the game as you kick off your private practice.
Want to know more? Reach out! I currently have room for a few individuals seeking coaching to start their ideal private practice. I’d be happy to talk with you to see if we’re a good fit to work together! Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a brief phone consult.
Take Good Care,