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with Julie Hanks, MSW, LCSW, BCD

4 Common Business Blunders of Newbie Private Practitioners

oops! mistake“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

When starting out in private practice, there’s a lot to know. A lot. The learning curve can be painfully steep, particularly in ways for which we received no official training (finances, hiring practices, etc.). And no matter how knowledgeable or skilled a clinician is, he/she will inevitably take a few wrong steps. And that’s okay!

We recently opened up a discussion on our Facebook page to get feedback about common business mistakes that therapists made when they were getting started in private practice. The responses were overwhelming; it seems many of you were eager to reflect on and share lessons that you learned the hard way! Though there were many answers given, a select few kept coming up that are worth addressing. Here are 4 common business mistakes to avoid when starting private practice:

4 Common Mistakes1) Taking Clients Who Are Not Ideal  

Building a clientele from scratch can be daunting, and if you’re desperate for business, it might be tempting to take just anyone. But agreeing to see someone who is not your ideal client can be a miserable experience for both you as a therapist and the individual who is paying for professional services. Instead, politely refer to a therapist who is a better fit, continue to market yourself using the REST strategy, and wait for the right clients to come along.

2) Not Hiring a Good Accountant

Many in our group regretted that they hadn’t taken on a CPA sooner to handle the finances, bookkeeping, and taxes (especially quarterly ones!). As so many in our Private Practice Toolbox group can attest, it’s a worthy investment. One woman explained how she had initially set up her LLC incorrectly and later had to pay thousands of dollars to fix her mistake and get her business running smoothly again. Moral of the story: hiring a skilled accountant may be a bit expensive, but it’s absolutely worth it!

3) Insufficient Infrastructure for Unexpected Growth  

For those new to the game, having an influx of clients might sound like a good thing, but the reality is quite different. Having too many clients can cause burnout, being short-staffed, and getting behind on administrative tasks. Don’t be afraid to refer potential clients to trusted and reputable colleagues. Making sure your practice is secure and stable will make it so that you can handle the growth over time.

4) Not Understanding Insurance Companies         

Insurance panels are notorious for being confusing and complicated. Enlist a seasoned friend or mentor in your local area to help you navigate the process. Don’t wait until you encounter a business emergency or financial crisis to understand all the ins and outs of insurance companies (such as understanding how client health benefits are different from behavioral health benefits). Become as versed and experienced in how to work with them as you possibly can so that you can avoid problems and get properly paid on time.

(I do hope that your goal is to eventually get off of insurance panels altogether and instead adopt a fee-for-service model. Click here to access my webinar about how to do so.)

What mistakes have YOU made that you would advise others against?

What did you learn from them?

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4 Common Business Blunders of Newbie Private Practitioners

Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW

Licensed therapist turned business consultant Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW has over 20 years in the mental health field & 12 years in private practice as owner of Hanks consults with therapists all over the world to build a fulfilling and profitable therapy business and attract cash-pay clients through technology and social media. Follow Julie on Twitter & Facebook.


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APA Reference
Hanks, D. (2015). 4 Common Business Blunders of Newbie Private Practitioners. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Mar 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Mar 2015
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