For most of us, there’s lag time between networking our buns off and getting that first client.

By lag time, I mean a scary, panic-inducing, freak out span of time where you have to keep reminding yourself to chill out.

If you’re working full time still, you’re wondering if you’re ever going to be able to quit this agency job.

If you quit to devote all your time to your private practice, you may be raking yourself over the coals for this decision. I know, this part isn’t inspiring, but I’m laying it out there because 1) most of us go through it so you should expect it and use these tips to ease the fear, and 2) to validate those of you currently in this space. I promise it’s okay.

When we moved to Seattle, where I was a total unknown, I networked like crazy. I met 90 people in my first 90 days in the city. We moved there June 8, which was a Wednesday. My networking started the following Monday and two- or three-a-days weren’t uncommon.

I didn’t get my first call from a client until August 20. The only reason I remember that date is because it’s my birthday and I decided to take it as a sign that I was on the right path (I’m really good at finding signs that mean what I want them to). And, a couple of months later, I was full. See, my sign was real.

So we’re talking two and a half months of figuring out how to not lose it.

When we moved to Asheville, I had a harder time hitting the ground running. We had a toddler and the day cares had long waiting lists. Because I’d learned a lot from my Seattle experience, I started getting referrals within a few weeks and they trickled in, but not at the pace I would’ve liked. I was full about four months after I started networking, but because it was a trickle, rather than the flood I got in Seattle, I still had that scary feeling.

Manage Expectations

I give you these timelines to manage expectations. Very few people get referrals their first week. Very few people fill up in four months; I have a lot of experience, knew all the steps to take and I have a lot of joy in building, so please be easy on yourself if it takes more time.

Also, please be clear that I was on insurance panels as well. Getting full with private pay can take an average of two years and because of extenuating circumstances, we needed money faster than that.

So, here are some tips that worked for me during both start-ups:

1. Get the foundation of your practice settled. Have your paperwork exactly how you want it. Get to know your systems well. If you’re using an Electronic Health Record, play with the test clients until you know it backwards and forwards. Test out your credit card processor, online scheduler, learn how to bill insurance if you’re taking it.

2. Make sure your website is awesome. You don’t have to hire a pro, but you can if you’re paralyzed. While you have time, tweak your copy (the writing on your site). Make sure it’s speaking to your ideal clients. Here are some concrete steps to making sure your website 
stands out.

3. Make sure it’s easy to get in touch with you. No matter what system you’re using (phone, online scheduler, HIPAA compliant email, business cards) make sure someone in the throes of misery can easily figure out how to make an appointment.

4. Have fun. Some people will tell you to be in the office during all the hours you plan to work. There’s only so much website and paperwork tweaking a therapist can do before losing his or her mind. You have downtime! Go to the park, take a mid-day yoga class, go to a movie solo. I used to take these epic walks down to the beach with our dog. We’d walk for three or four hours sometimes just breathing in the salty air and practicing being present. Well, I was; he was just trying to pee on everything. If you’ve been in a 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, it’s going to feel like playing hooky. Good! Way to rebel, you wild child.

5. Meditate. Y’all know I can get a little woo woo, right? What, the signs thing didn’t give it away? I swear to you that meditation is what skyrocketed my practice in Seattle. As soon as I was consistent with meditation, the phone started to ring. And ring. Which reminds me…