I started my private practice on the side. At first it was to pay off student loan debt. Then it was to save up for a vacation. Then I started to see that the income was approaching my full-time job.
Many counselors venture out and start their own practice for the benefits and fulfillment that come from earning on their own. However, starting a business is never easy. Many people who have undergone the transformation from being an employee to an employer find it to be difficult and taxing.
Although they get to enjoy a wider scope of authority and decision-making, there are a lot of responsibilities and tasks that need to be done for it to work. This may be one of the toughest challenges that a business novice will ever encounter in his or her professional life.
When moving from working for a practice to starting your own practice, there are many benefits.
Here are some benefits to consider:
Being Your Own Boss
For some people, working under someone’s command doesn’t sit well with them. They want to enjoy their own freedom. To do this, they have to be the boss. If this describes you, venturing into private practice may be the next step for you. Also, the personal autonomy is often substantial. For example, today I went and got my teeth cleaned, got a haircut, and I’m starting work at 11:00.
A Pay Raise
People study for years to earn their Master’s or Doctorate degrees and then take exams to obtain their license. However, working as a licensed professional in the social services field doesn’t really pay that much unless you get to be promoted to a supervisor or a manager.
In fact, each year you work somewhere, you often make less, because the cost of health insurance and inflation does not keep up with what you are getting as a raise.
Since salaries work as positive reinforcement, people that feel they don’t receive the monetary reward that they deserve tend to get discouraged. One solution then for them is to shift to starting their own private practice.
Many people feel that they are restricted as an employee because they have to follow their company’s policies in addition to those of their profession ethics and laws. These people feel a better sense of fulfillment working under their own rules. In creating a practice, it’s important to think about a few things regarding your practice culture:
- Will you have other clinicians working at your practice?
- What do you want your culture to be?
- What do you value and how do you demonstrate that in your practice? Are you creative, practical, focused? Make sure that comes through in your practice!
Doing More as a Professional
Since working in a private practice gives you a wider range of tasks, people who opt to be in this business have a better chance of doing more as a professional. As the business owner, you have to handle marketing, business structure, accounting, as well as counseling. There may be something you wanted to do in the old company which was not possible. Being in private practice gives you access to do what you want to improve your professional services.
Expand Professional Learning
The best way for someone to learn is to make mistakes. I have found that trying approaches and testing them, is the best way to grow, learn, and discover what works. I’ve also found many new approaches through this process. The best way to learn is to stand on your own.
With all of the benefits that private practice offers, you might be thinking of trying to start your own practice. However, there are some issues that come with starting a new business that you should consider
Here are some of the common issues that come along with your new practice:
Experience and Skills
A private practice is a business venture that requires experience and skills for it to work. Financial capital can start a business, but it’s the skills and experience that keep it running. Taking on little to no debt is really a wise decision. It is important to have a good idea of what running a private practice means before starting one. Honest self-assessment and awareness are essential, otherwise you may fall behind when something unexpected happens.
This can take a variety of forms, such as starting a practice as a side project while transitioning out of your full-time work.
Being the owner of your own business means that you have to make it run yourself. At the start of the business venture, you might not have a lot of human resource for maintenance, payroll, finance, marketing, and other departments.
Thus, you have to manage everything and anything by yourself to keep your private practice running. Even when you have employees to take care of certain tasks, you still have to manage them and make sure they are on task. Many people find the idea of private practice tempting as it generates much income and fulfillment, but they find the responsibilities overwhelming.
Being wise in business is important. You have to understand which months or seasons have the most clients and which have less to estimate the budgeting and staffing during that season and to avoid letting your employees work unnecessarily. Here’s a great video walk-through on how to use Google Trends to discover keywords that are trending and how to use those in your practice:
Advertisement is also very important to any practice. Knowing how to tell people about your business can ensure a steady flow of customers and income. It is important to do a few different things:
- Follow People: There are a ton of great consultants giving away free information. For example, Kelly and Miranda over at ZynnyMe have a free Mini-Bootcamp on how to grow a private practice.
- Attend Conferences: I frequently attend conferences webinars, and other things that will speed up my solutions. Attending conferences, like The Most Awesome Conference or your own professional organization conferences can help you learn some of the basics and advanced skills needed to grow.
- Listen to Podcasts: There are so many great podcasts out there that are totally free. The Selling the Couch Podcast and Practice of the Practice podcasts all help you learn quicker, while you are driving, walking, or exercising.
- Accountability: Find a friend, coach, or consultant that will keep you accountable toward your goals.
Although you have a lot more income in private practice than as an employee, you still have to save to pay taxes for your business. Make sure you work with an accountant to set up a way to set aside taxes and pay them quarterly.
Being in private practice means working alone and, as a result, the possibility of feeling isolated from other professionals in your field. So make sure you find people to connect with and to form a network.
Private practice is an amazing journey, but make sure you plan how to do it best so you will thrive!
Starting a business image available from Shutterstock