Ask Joe: How to leave your job to start a private practice | PoP 652

Image of Joe Sanok is captured. On this therapist podcast, podcaster, consultant and author, talks about how to leave your job to start a private practice.

Are you looking to leave your job and start working as a therapist? What are the first steps to starting to work as a therapist? How do you transition financially from your previous job to your new therapy work?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about How to Leave Your Job to Start a Private Practice.

Podcast Sponsor: Pillars of Practice

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In This Podcast

  • Getting started
  • Start seeing people
  • You have left – now what?

Getting started

It will depend on your situation. If you have a partner who works full time and can support you, then often people will jump right in.

Or if you support yourself financially, some people prefer to start small and dip their toes in overtime.

Some basics include:

  • Getting the website up and running
  • Opening a profile on Psychology Today and other therapist platforms
  • Getting liability insurance
  • Filing for an LLC – this will depend on your state
  • Keeping your bank accounts separate

So you’re getting this infrastructure set up whether it is just a small side gig to try to eventually leave your full-time job or not. (Joe Sanok)

Start seeing people

Once you have your basics set up, you can start seeing people.

It could be private pay as a side-gig, or you can go the insurance route when you start to build traction.

Compare your current full-time job with your new work as a therapist.

Take your recent paystub and see:

  • The amount of money you would take home
  • Any benefits or retirement

Joe found that he needed to work 11 counseling sessions a week to make up the amount of money that he was earning from his previous job.

I would recommend living like you are only doing your full-time job for a while so that you can get some of those savings. (Joe Sanok)

You have left – now what?

Once you leave your previous job and start working full-time as a therapist it is normal to experience some stress about the big change.

Remember, you have all the freedom to make it work how you want it to be.

The biggest mindset [shift] I can recommend to you is that if you want to have 20 sessions a week and be working 20 sessions a week and put five into admin, work 20 sessions a week from the beginning. Be around other people that have done what you want to do. Make sure you are getting that solid learning from folks, the community, and that support. (Joe Sanok)

Your choices become your lifestyle, so start working for the number of hours that you want to be working for so that you can become accustomed to this new work expectation of yourself.

If you find yourself with an extra 10 or 15 hours in the beginning, use them to write blog posts, listen to podcasts, and put those extra hours into your practice.

Useful Links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK] This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 652.

I am Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I am so excited that you are here. We do this Ask Joe show every single week. You can submit your questions This is where I dive into all things private practice. A lot of our times we’re interviewing folks that are doing things outside of the world of private practice, so that we can learn from other industries and business and marketing and SEO and all these things it takes to start, grow, scale, and leave a private practice. But sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics to just have you ask your question and have me answer it.

One of the biggest questions that I get, and this is submitted anonymously, but I receive this so frequently from our Next Level Practice members from just people emailing me is how do you leave your job? How do you leave your job for private practice? So I want to walk through how I left my job, kind of that story and some of maybe the indicators that might help you. Now, everyone’s situation is a little bit different and I want to kind of point out some of those differences in the middle of this discussion.

So I had a full-time job, I was working as a foster care supervisor. Actually, we have to back up. Even before that I was working for community mental health in Kalamazoo, and I worked for Dr. Larry as a 1099 contractor. I’ve interviewed him several of times on the podcast. Actually, when I was in Kalamazoo recently ran into him when I was in Costco with my daughters and so, pretty awesome guy, had a mega practice, and he ended up selling it. But I was a 1099 contractor just doing the side gig thing. We had our split and then when I moved back to Traverse City in 2009 I was a foster care supervisor and then eventually worked at the community college, but just had this side gig counseling practice.

So for a lot of people that have a full-time job, having a side gig counseling practice can help you dip your toes in the water, pretty low risk, because you’re already making money. It might be one evening a week you choose to rent an office from someone or maybe you just do it online. I know my friend, Chris in Kalamazoo used to rent an office, but then during the pandemic switched completely online, just retrofitted his basement to look more like an office, had some good lighting and just started doing it online. So there’s a lot of ways to dip your toes in.

For most people I would say dipping your toes in is one of the best strategies. Now, if you have a partner that has a full-time income, provides health insurance, makes enough money that covers everything for you maybe you don’t want to dip your toes in. Maybe you want to go full tilt and just jump right in. That’s where your given situation is going to matter. So for me, I was the primary income earner. I was the one that was making the money for the family working at the college and when I was a foster care supervisor.

So for me it was just, okay, let’s just see how this goes and so some of the very basics were just getting up the website, getting up Psychology Today, getting my insurance and just a liability insurance, filing for my LLC. So a couple just things that can help with that, if you go to, that will redirect you to swift filing. That’s where we’ve recommended for years that people file their LLC. Now there are states like California that an LLC is not appropriate. I am not an attorney or an accountant, so make sure you can sell your own. Just speaking from my own point of view here. But in most states in most situations filing an LLC or a PLLC, the P just means professional.

Like in Michigan if you have a license, you have to have a PLLC. So you want to file that. You want to keep your bank accounts separate. So you’re getting this infrastructure set up, whether or not it’s just a small side gig to try to eventually leave your full-time job or not. Now once you get all those basics set up, and we have a whole, if you are getting started, we have a whole checklist of things you can get, totally free, your 28 step checklist for starting a practice. If you want to dig in a little deeper and get some free e-courses, you can go to

We have a free e-course that has videos. It has all of our downloads we have offered in regards to starting a practice. So is a great resource to help you get started totally free. You will get emails from us that are about how to start a practice. We walk you through that process. So you get all those basics kind of set up and then you just start seeing people. It could be private pay. I would say when you have it as a side gig, it makes sense to keep your expenses low and be able to charge what you want and not have to deal with insurances.

So in most communities having five people that are private pay really is game changer for most folks. Even if you’re charging a hundred bucks a session, you see five people a week, that’s $500 a week, two grand extra month. For most people that’s an extra paycheck. So you then kind of made your overall income up by 50%. And then if you take off maybe your taxes and some of your expenses maybe you’re at $1,500 a month, but that’s still a chunk of change for just working a handful of hours each week.
[PILLARS OF PRACTICE] We brought together all of our checklists videos and other free things in one spot so you don’t have to opt in all over the place just to get another checklist. We’ve put it all together Whether you’re just getting started or have an established group therapy practice, we have a free e-course for you. As well we have eight-minute experts, which are short eight-minute videos around specific topics completely free. So if you want to take your practice to the next level, head on over to to get access to our free e-courses again. That’s to get all of those free e-courses.
[JOE SANOK] So you’re going to want to be able to know your break even point for if you leave, want to leave your job. So actually over on Practice of the Practice we have a how to leave your job calculator. If you just go search “how to leave your job calculator” over there, we’ll put it also in the show notes, but if you want to just bounce over there it’s something that I put together for myself when I was deciding to leave my job. So you take your recent pay stub, you put it in the amount of money that you took home, you put in any benefits and how much those would cost. Are they giving you retirement? Because you want to be able to compare apples to apples.

I remember when I ran this I needed to have 11 sessions a week to make up the amount I was making at the community college, 11 sessions. This still stands out in my head because I think I was at seven or eight sessions. So it was a lot less scary. Now if you’ve allowed lifestyle to creep in, so you’ve got your full-time job money and then now you’ve had this extra $2,000 a month and you’re living that way, that means that you need to replace not just your full-time job, but then also the private practice you’ve been doing. So that makes it little more tough. So I would recommend live, like you’re only doing your full-time job for a while so that you can get some of those savings.

So a couple things that, for me, made it helpful, it was knowing at the time my partner said that she would go back to work if things didn’t work out. So having that kind of backup plan. We also had six months of live living expenses. So our mortgage, for the cars, all the things it took to run a family, we had six months of that saved up. So I think at the time that was about 10 grand and then I also had six months of expenses for the office. So I had six months of rent saved up. I had six months of what it takes to run the website. For me, that was always important and still is important because if we have in March of 2020 and April, 2020, when things really were uncertain around COVID, we could position ourselves with Practice of the Practice differently than someone that maybe was paycheck to paycheck or month to month because we had that savings.

So we didn’t make decisions that were based on, oh my gosh, we got an keep money coming in. It was no, what’s in the best interest of our clients? And actually most of our Next Level Practice people, Group Practice Boss people, 2020 was their best year ever. So we weren’t backed into a corner financially. To me that’s important that we always come from a position of taking the right clients, putting them in the right programs, making sure that if someone does a pre-consulting call with me and they’re not a fit for me, if I’m really tight on money, I don’t want to take people on that aren’t going to get the most out of their time with me. That just doesn’t feel ethical.

So I want to create supports that I can make those solid ethical decisions in the future by making sure that I have some savings. So for you that may be three months. It may be six months. Just know that you have a little bit of a buffer as a family and then also as a business. So then after that, and at this point you’d want to really know your numbers. How many sessions a week do you need to be at? What kind of momentum do you need? What kind of savings do you have? I would, at that point start having a conversation with that supervisor at your job.

Now this can be all over the board. For some people this is a very safe conversation. That’s how it was for me, where my boss Lisa, over at the community college, she is an amazing woman. She’s one of my favorite bosses of all time. She let me be flexible. If I had a seven 30 session in the morning and I came in at 8.30 or 9.00, I could make up that time if I wanted to work through lunch to then go do sessions at 3.30, I could do that. She knew I was doing private practice all the way through. That may not be the case with you. That may not be a safe conversation for you and your supervisor to have, but especially now where people are really looking for folks that can do the work.

You are in a position of power as a worker and as an employee because employers want good quality people and they’re very hard to find right now. So for you, it may be a situation where you then say here, here are the things that I would love for my ideal position. Maybe it’s that you don’t get the healthcare anymore, the retirement and maybe they just pay you hourly. So it makes it a little bit easier to ease into private practice. So that’s what I did. When my second daughter was born, I used the full family medical leave act.

So I was working 20 hours a week at the college, which was covering basically my health insurance and then was trying private practice. Every month was better than the month before, was better than the month before, and by April of 2015 I went to Lisa, my boss and I said I would like to continue to work 20 hours a week but I would like to have my full-time salary for me to come back. She just laughed. I mean, we had a good enough relationship that I said, I at least wanted to give you a chance to reject me.

In that process I helped with some of the hiring and actually one of my best friends, Paul, I didn’t know him at the time ended up taking my position and through that process of just getting to know him and handing off into that counseling world he became, he and his wife became some of my very best friends in the entire world. So then comes the scariness of you’ve left your full-time job. You have your private practice. You have all this freedom. The biggest mindset I could recommend to you is that if you want to have 20 sessions a week and be working 20 sessions a week, and then maybe put five into admin, work that 25 hours a week from the beginning. Be around other people that have done what you want to do. Make sure you’re getting that solid learning from folks in that community and that support because there’s so many people that have done this.

If you just, say you have 10 sessions a week and you want to be at 20, if you just work at that 10 and then you go grocery shopping and all, that becomes your lifestyle. It doesn’t become the way that you’re working. So you want to be working the number of hours that eventually you want to be working. So that means that if you have 10 or 15 extra hours, write those blog posts, do that SEO, listen to podcasts, dive in and figure out how to make the very best possible connections in your community so that you can get those strong referral sources.

And maybe it’s joining Next Level Practice. Usually a good third of our folks are starting practices so that they can leave their full-time job. And to just not be confused and to know that there’s people that have done it and to be in small groups with six to eight people that are brainstorming, how are you leaving your job, how are you doing it, what’s working, it’s amazing to see how fast people work. We do have a cohort coming up, I think it’s in March. So to be on that wait list, you can go over to You’ll get all the information about that when we’re ready to launch that so that you can get in that next cohort.

So if you’re leaving your job or wanting to leave your job in 2022 that would be a great resource for you. Going through all of the Pillars of Practice, going through all of our blog posts, spend that time doing those things. It’s really not as hard as you think. My friend Taylor, who I walk with at least once a week said to me people much dumber than you have been successful in running a small business. That really stuck with me. Not to insult other people, but to say there’s a lot of people that don’t know up from down, that haven’t done higher education, they haven’t taken the time to learn some basics. They don’t know, maybe even how to figure out some problems they’re still successful in running their own businesses.

So just thinking you’re a highly educated person, you know how to solve problems and to figure things out and you are going to be able to do an amazing job in private practice if you do it right.

So that is my Ask Joe for today, make sure you submit Ask Joe’s over at, so you can submit your questions there. We’re going to continue doing this while the questions keep coming in. We have over the holidays and end the year, had a little bit of a trickle more than the gush that we had of questions. So we would love for you to put your question. I’ll probably answer it sooner than later if you put it in there. So again, that’s

Today our sponsor is is our site that is aimed at helping you, totally for free, to know how to get to that next level. So there’s two different tracks that you can go on again, totally free. One is the starting a practice track and one is, if you already have an established practice, like growing a practice. So we have these eight-minute expert videos in there where it’s eight minutes, I set the timer, ask experts that I know just rapid fire questions. We have all sorts of downloads and checklists and just infographics that are going to help you move forward faster in your private practice.

So thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. We’ll talk to you soon. Have a nice day

Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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