I’ve touched on before some of the more important lessons I learned in starting my own private practice. One of the most important decisions you will make in your private practice journey is the office space that you choose.
Having the right space for your practice, the right landlord, favorable lease terms; these are all things that can make or break your private practice. I have listed some lessons I learned in searching for office space.
We’ve all heard the mantra in real estate: location, location, location. Picking out a space that is convenient for your existing and future clients is paramount to your private practice’s success. I found that it might be best to avoid potential office locations that seemed out of the way for my ideal clients, so I settled on an office building located in a convenient part of my town.
I also tried to put myself in the shoes of a potential client. What was the parking situation like? Was there dedicated parking for them? Were they going to have to rely on street parking? How accessible was this building? Was it on a one-way street, making traveling in the opposite direction an inconvenience? I felt like I had to do everything in my power to make coming into my office for counseling as easy as possible.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
It can be intimidating to sign a 3 or 4-year lease, with rent obligations in the tens of thousands of dollars overall. That’s why I felt it was important to always remain grounded and not pursue anything overly ambitious. If you are just starting out, it may be in your best interest to sublease space from a colleague or other mental health professional. Then once you have an established track record of financial success, you’ll be in a better position to judge what’s appropriate for you if you choose to get a space on your own.
Call the professionals
Just like we, as counselors, are experts in the field of mental health, there are experts out there who know real estate more than the rest of us. I didn’t know what terms in leases were standard and expected. And I didn’t know what types of things were negotiable and which were non-negotiable. I knew that I needed help and it was in my best interest to rely upon professionals.
My first step was to reach out to a local real estate agent who specialized in commercial real estate. He helped answer my questions, as well as save me time by searching for available spaces on my behalf. He also knew of things not contained in listings; things like troublesome landlords, problematic buildings, etc. The best part was, I had this professional working for me and I didn’t have to pay him anything, as his commission was paid by the landlord.
I had a lawyer review it to make sure I was protected once I had an office building I liked and the lease was delivered to me to inspect, So much of the lease seemed to be pages and pages of fine print. All in a different language I didn’t speak, making having a lawyer inspect it a no-brainer.
The process of starting and growing a private practice is filled with many tough decisions you need to make. Securing the right office space for yourself and your future practice is probably among one of the most important. But by being deliberate and thoughtful in your process, and by taking one step at a time, you can tackle it like any other task in your private practice journey.
Priscilla Hurd is a LPC and the owner of Magnolia Family Counseling, a Metairie counseling practice in Lousiana. She specializes in helping couples get their relationship back on track. When she is not working with couples, she enjoys spending time with family and rooting for the New Orleans Saints (who were robbed in the 2019 NFC Championship Game).