A Guide to Your First Year of Private Practice

private practice 2I couldn’t get on any insurance panels. So I started a private pay, private practice. Three years earlier, I had filed my PLLC paperwork. From 2006 to 2009, I worked as a 1099 for another private practice in Kalamazoo.

Then I moved three hours away.

We were back in Traverse City, MI, our hometown, and we knew it was where we were landing. Again, I got the private practice going as a side gig to my full-time job. It was a way to make extra money to pay off debt, save for a house, and go on nice vacations. But I still couldn’t get on insurance panels.

Starting a Private Practice is Really Tough

When I first launched Mental Wellness Counseling, in Traverse City, MI, it took me a while to get my first client. It was actually really disheartening. I was ready to give up and just do a traditional agency job. The hardest parts of starting a private practice often are right before huge breakthroughs.

Here’s an infographic that walks you through your first year of starting a private practice:


Building a Website When Starting a Private Practice

When I first was starting a private practice, website building would take me days to complete. I had to learn everything.

Website building takes time, do I even want to learn how to create a website for private practice?

Options for Website Building

Let’s talk about the three main ways that you can create a website for your private practice:

  1. Build it yourself.
  2. Lease a website.
  3. Have one created custom for you.

How to Build a Website

There are distinct benefits and challenges to each of these options. When you build it yourself, it’s entirely based on your own learning curve, ability to implement, and comfort level. Here’s an article about how to build a website that you’ll find useful. This takes the most time, but is the cheapest.

Hosting is usually around $5/month and the domain is around $10/year. If you upgrade to a Premium WordPress Theme, you might spend an extra $50, but it is not necessary. Also, resources like WP Curve can provide support for WordPress Based website for around $99/month, for this cost you should probably go with one of the other options.

Total Cost: $70 per year

How to Lease a Website

Websites like TherapySites and Brighter Vision give a website for a monthly fee. Dr. Grohol has a great article talking about Brighter Vision. Both are $49-$59 per month. I think Brighter Vision has better design and is optimized for SEO better. Also, their support is always working on improving things. The one thing to remember is that you are leasing the website, so if you ever leave, you’ll have to start over.

Total Cost: $588 to $708 per year

How to get a Website Made

Website designers can cost thousands of dollars. But, once the initial investment is completed, all you have is the domain and hosting costs.

I prefer when a web designer allows me to have my own hosting, so it is easier to have other designers work on the website. My Traverse City web designer is Legendary Lion. They’ve helped with all my websites. Depending on the scope of your website, it can usually be completed within a month or so.

Total Cost: $1,000 to $5,000 one time cost plus annual hosting/URL of $70

The Basics of Building a Website

Hosting is the foundation where your data is kept. Think of it like the foundation of your house. It’s the information. I use Bluehost because you can have multiple domains. It usually runs around $5 per month.

The domain is the address for your counseling private practice website. The URL for my private practice consulting blog (this one) is It’s like the address for a house. I use Namecheap for my domains, they are around $10 per year. .

Website Design is the look for the website. I use WordPress to design all of my websites. When looking at website building, you want to have an easy-to-use format. It’s like the decoration for the house.

Starting a Private Practice Marketing Plan

After the website is going, you’ll want to create a marketing plan.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to work quickly and get things done, then to get hung up on creating the perfect website, marketing plan, or direction. Change as you go!

When you are first starting a private practice, tell everyone you know that you’re launching a private practice soon. Website building is just part of the process. You can always have “Coming Soon” with an e-mail opt-in form on your website. Here are some things to focus on as soon as the second week of private practice.

When I first was starting a private practice, marketing was not my main focus. I missed out on a ton of opportunity because of that. Think about this: I’m currently making around $13,000 per month (as of April 2015) through seeing 10 to 15 clients per week and my consulting work. If you haven’t checked out my Monthly Income Reports, I report how I make money, and how you can make more money.

If I could have done effective private practice marketing when I first started a private practice in 2006, I could be months ahead of where I’m at currently. This is actually something I discuss frequently with my private practice consulting clients. If I had worked with a private practice consultant, I could figure out my return on investment based on how much income I am making.

Every month that I am seeing more clients is added income. Thus, if I wasted six months on the front end, that really is now costing me $4,000 a month x 6 months = $24,000. What a huge waste of time and money!

Here are some tips on what you can do during the first month of private practice to make sure your marketing is working!

Why an Email List Matters

People want to be in the know. Even if your website isn’t finished, you should be collecting emails. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, principals, parents, therapists: they all want to know who to refer to. You can be at the top of their list right when you open your doors if you collect emails to keep people up-to-date. I use Aweber to automate this.

Here’s an article about what to send to your list: The best e-newsletter.

Private Practice Marketing with a Logo

To build a business reputation takes time, but a quick visual is so necessary! I used to think I could do it myself until I recently had someone join me. Holy cow! It has saved me so much time.

Honestly, I can now focus on the parts of my counseling private practice that I love, rather than all of the things that it takes to begin starting a private practice!

Here’s a podcast about How to Get More Done

The Hidden Story of Starting a Private Practice

When you are active in starting and growing a private practice, it’s really hard to take your time. I found its very frustrating when I would listen to a business podcast, read a book, or hear a speaker. I thought I had to implement it all at once. In fact, it is the person that thinks through decisions, then acts, then adjusts, then acts, that makes the most progress over time.

Here’s a quick video about how to start a private practice in a day for $200.


Take your time, do some website building, and begin with some marketing. This is only the beginning of your private practice birth…and let me know if you get stuck!

Photo courtesy of Rayner Media on flickr 

A Guide to Your First Year of Private Practice Joe also helps counselors with growing private practices through his website He also loves sailing and playing with his two daughters.


APA Reference
Sanok, J. (2015). A Guide to Your First Year of Private Practice. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Apr 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Apr 2015
Published on All rights reserved.