Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship can be daunting. There are so many things that are required to start and build a private practice of your own. The majority of the work is diversifying and cultivating referral sources. As all good business owners will know, it involves understanding the landscape where you want to grow your private practice and ensuring you can track your progress.
The tricky thing to note here is that as a mental health clinician, you will have spent most of your time learning, growing, and improving your skills as a practitioner and not as an entrepreneur. Unlike individuals who have studied in fields that are more relevant such as business or marketing, you will be going in blind. This often means that clinicians end up learning through trial and error. As a business owner, these are probably some expensive headaches you would like to avoid. This article aims to provide you with some essential tips to avoid these simple errors.
Building a successful and profitable practice will not be achieved overnight. It's well known that starting a practice as a side hustle and then slowly giving it more and more time as it grows is a great way to become a business owner. This may mean you are working full time in your salaried role, using the income from the practice you have started to reinvest back into setting up. This helps build a client base slowly and enables you to work with clients who best match your practice's mission.
When we talk about investing in the practice, we refer to many different aspects of small business. Firstly you need to consider yourself, your mental wellbeing, and your education. Outside of the regulation supervision you do, it can be a good idea to get your own therapy. Burnout amongst mental health professionals is common and active steps need to be taken to safeguard against it. Another personal investment you can make might be to attend seminars and courses to stay up to date with new treatment methodology that will make you a better practitioner for a broader range of new patients.
We highly recommend investing in both marketing and a professional website. Marketing can be challenging to get right, but you should invest as little as $100 a month to source $4000 a year client when it works.
A great website creates a lasting first impression for a new client. It clearly communicates your work, your prices, and the best way to engage your services.
Besides marketing efforts, you'll need to have good practice software. Without it, you might manage initially, but as your sessions fill up, you won't realize your mistake until it's too late and you are completely overwhelmed. You want a practice management app that enables you to do everything in one place, efficiently, and for a low cost. We highly recommend Carepatron (click here to find out more).
Lastly, invest in the physical aspects of your group practice. Make it a lovely space your clients want to be. A place that you feel at ease in and that reflects the practice your want to be.
I know there's a lot listed here, so let's summarize the things you need to invest in:
1. Self-care - if you're broke, you won't be fixing anyone
2. Education - know what you're talking about
3. Marketing - you need clients full-stop
4. Software Platform - you need to be organized
5. YoursSpace - clients need to enjoy being there
As mentioned in the paragraph above, you need clients. Without them, you'll never have a successful private practice or therapy business. Depending on your area of specialization, the most effective referral sources are through other mental health professionals, health professionals, or self-referrals.
Referrals from other professionals are probably the easiest way to get new clients. The best way to make this happen is to network, meeting other professionals in your field through social media or seminars. Ensure your contact details and business cards are in doctors' practices, and even contact your competitor to give them your details so they can refer surplus clients.
It might seem daunting, but marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO) are an excellent way to source new clients. There are plenty of user-friendly webinars, podcasts, blogging, and LinkedIn sources that will help you rank at the top of a client's google search, leading to more self-referrals. Self-referrals can also be dependent on a professional website and a welcoming home page with contact details that are easily accessible. Make sure you have these things, and your practice is bound to get an abundance of referrals.
The last point leads us onto the topic of caseload. You must define your maximum caseload size. We would expect to start out with a private practice that you would gradually build the number of clients you see, and that's great. But what happens when all these efforts you are making to find new clients come to fruition? The last thing you want to do is tarnish your reputation by over-committing, not demonstrating best practice with your clients or in your practice methodology.
Think deeply about your availability, how much time you have ( this is where you need to think about investing in things like a software platform to make you as efficient and effective as possible), and how you want to spend that time? Each client will require face-to-face contact time, time to write up notes and assessments, and billing and invoicing. Monitor your time and stress closely, know when to put new clients onto a waitlist, and manage these expectations closely. The more planning you put into your practice methodology, the less of an issue this will be. Plan your practice as if it's going to have 20 potential clients all at once. That way, as you grow, you won't self-implode!
After reading about all this advice, it's easy to forget our healthcare clients. They are, in essence, the reason we do the work we do, and their needs should always be at the forefront of our minds. A good practitioner can build trust with a new client. They can create a safe space within their therapy practice and act as a vessel to help individuals on their journey through change. In providing your service at the highest possible standard, you are doing your client and your practice a service.
The journey to grow a successful private practice is not an easy one. The fact that you've been doing research is a significant step and getting to the end of this article is an even better one. In the words of my supervisor... go well!