It’s the right thing to wonder about. Starting your own therapy practice is a considerable business venture. Given the time, effort and risk involved, you should take this decision seriously.
As a private pay practitioner for 25 years, I thought I’d pass along some factors that, in my experience as as a licensed counselor and NLP practitioner, will make or break your success as a private pay therapist.
Before we get to that, let me suggest the things that will NOT make or break your success.
Your credentials. Of course, you must practice legally and skillfully. Beyond that, private pay clients don’t really care that you have a certain academic degree. In 25 years, only one of my clients has asked about my credentials.
In fact, at one point when I had a brick and mortar office, I took my counseling license and diploma off the wall just to see if people would wonder. Nope. And I even forgot to put them back up. The point is, you don’t need to put your creds front and center. You need them, to be sure. But don’t count on clients being impressed. Impressive credentials do NOT equal private pay therapy practice success. Don’t count on them to convert prospective clients into paying clients.
The nicest office. Forget the high overhead if it is stressful financially. Your office should be clean and feel safe and comfortable. That’s it. You don’t need to impress people with elaborate surroundings. They don’t care.
Your rates. Your rates should be competitive. And it makes sense to start with rates a little lower until your schedule is full. Then, scale up. Sliding scales make sense, too, under the right circumstances. However, some private practice therapists believe that they’ll get more clients if they offer bargain basement rates.
This is fallacy, in my opinion. People will surely pay you a competitive rate if they perceive your value. If they don’t perceive your value, then they won’t even take you up on an extreme bargain.
How quickly you work. Can you get results in one to three sessions? Great. But that isn’t necessary to have a successful private pay practice. Many very successful private pay therapists don’t promise such results. They have clients who spend years, on and off, doing their growth work.
Positioning yourself as a get-the-job-done-now practitioner is fine, but not necessary if you aren’t interested in short-term work.
Here Are 4 Indicators That You Are Set Up to Succeed as a Private Pay Therapist:
1. You get consistent referrals from existing clients.
This is the top indicator. If your existing clients are so impressed that they send you their friends and family, you’re onto something. Consistent referrals from clients proves that 1) you are getting impressive results with people, and 2) your clients trust you.
These kinds of referrals should be the lifeblood of your practice. If you’re in practice and you do not get any referrals from existing clients, it should be a red flag to consider.
2. You understand the dollar value that you offer.
No, it’s not all about the money. As practitioners, nothing is more important to us than helping people heal. When they do – and when they express their gratitude – nothing is quite so profound and humbling.
But, we need to make money, so we charge fees. What are people paying for? What’s are your clients trading their hard earned money for?
Is it your wisdom?
Is it your attention?
Is it just to have someone to talk to?
They are paying for results. That’s it.
This puts you in the position of needing to understand which results they want. You’ll do fine in private pay practice if you regularly meet or exceed your clients’ expectations.
What about people who don’t hold realistic expectations? Best to confront this up front, before they sign on.
3. You love business and marketing.
In private pay practice, you are running a revenue generating profit center. You’re in business and business principles fully apply. If you loathe to run your business like a business, this is another red flag.
If you don’t like to set business goals, crunch numbers, make projections, execute your plan and calculate your bottom line – red flag.
Here’s the point: Don’t start a therapy business if you don’t want to start a business.
You know how to sell yourself.
For me, the sales process begins the minute I pick up the phone to field a call from a prospective client. Yes, this is sales. You’re not selling widgets. You’re selling yourself. Your primary product is the experience of hope and healing you can give people.
So, I always try to give them an experience from the get-go. This means that I don’t always answer their questions directly. When appropriate, I give them an experience instead.
For example, when a prospective client asks me how I work with people, I never answer that question with boring information. I just start working, right now, over the phone.
Prospective client: So, how do you work with people?
Me: That depends. What are you wanting to accomplish through therapy?
Now, we’re talking headed in the right direction. I’ll spend a few minutes doing work with the prospective client – work that may offer the experience of hope. When the client has this experience, he or she is very likely to want more and decide that you are the one to work with.
Give people experiences of hope and healing. This is your main selling tool.
4. You love a challenge.
Starting and maintaining a private pay therapy practice is a never-ending challenge. And it’s a fun venture if you’re up for it. You’ve got to love the challenge of setting your goals and meeting them. With this comes the satisfaction of knowing that people are greatly benefitting from your healing art. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be in business.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net