UPDATE (06/28/18): When we created this video, Grasshopper was $12/month but now their cheapest plan is $29. Also, Grasshopper will not sign a BAA so if you want a fully HIPAA compliant and secure platform for phones and texting Spruce is a great option!
UPDATE (12/15/16): After creating this video and article, several people have informed me of the prices of the LLC/PLLC in their state. Because of the difference in costs of the LLC/PLLC, that portion may raise your costs above $200, but you can still do it in one day! Also, although LegalZoom is good, I now think that Swyft File is even better, cheaper, and has better customer service.
When I wondered about how to start a private practice, it took forever! First I had to figure out what to do (which was a ton of time) then I had to actually do it. There were people that gave advice, but it was so confusing. Maybe it was because there aren’t as many resources out there, but it seemed like such a huge endeavor to start a private practice!
THE SHORT VERSION
How to start a private practice in one day
Find a location for the private practice
Rent a space or sublease on a per session or per day basis so that you reduce your overhead. Find out when other counselors are not using the office and use those days so that it helps them make extra money and you have limited liability.
File private practice PLLC Legal Paperwork
This takes about 15-20 minutes and will be around $49 + state fees, depending on your state. My best friend just did this in Michigan for around $99 through Swyft File. He had the LLC within a week.
PRIVATE PRACTICE LEGAL COST: $99
Get a private practice phone line
You already have a cell phone and phone systems are usually $500-$1,000 plus $25-$40 per line per month. I use Grasshopper, because it gives a custom phone line that uses the cellphone for only $12/month. The phone calls ring your cell phone and then go to your private practice voicemail. It can ring multiple phones too.
PRIVATE PRACTICE PHONE COST:
$12/MONTH Now $29 per month
Start a counseling website
When launching a website you want one that is responsive, meaning it changes based on the device being used. Also, you want to be able to adapt and change it over time when technology changes, without losing content or have to hire a web developer. Bluehost gives you that control, helps you rank higher in Google, and doesn’t cost $60 per month like some Therapy Website companies.
PRIVATE PRACTICE WEBSITE COST: $5 PER MONTH
Business Cards for Private Practice
There are tons of cheap options for business cards. I used to use them, but honestly, a business card is often one of the first impressions that someone has of you and your private practice. Having a unique or thicker business card helps you stand out. I’ve used MOO for a few years and honestly every single person says, “These are so cool, where did you get these business cards?”
PRIVATE PRACTICE BUSINESS CARD COST: $25 or so for the first round
THE LONG VERSION
Definitely, download my 28-step checklist on how to start a counseling private practice.
Start a private practice step 1: Find a location
Don’t rent right away.
What I mean by that, is don’t get into some 3-5 year lease with monthly payments before you even have clients. Instead, work with an established private practice to sublease space when they don’t use it. I’m sure there a are counselors in private practice that don’t use their offices every night and weekend.
How to ask about subleasing or renting by the hour for a private practice
Here’s how the conversation about renting a private practice space might go:
“Hi, this is Joe Sanok, I’m opening Mental Wellness Counseling in the next few weeks, may I speak with Dr. Thomas?”
“This is Dr. Thomas.”
“Hey Dr. Thomas, I’ve looked through your website and it looks like your space is in an area of town that I’m looking to rent. I’m exploring ways to initially start a private practice with lower start-up by subleasing or renting by the hour. I’m wondering if there are times that you don’t use your office that you would be interested in discussing me renting?”
Often times it takes some follow up meetings and realistically you won’t be able to get this confirmed in one day, but sometimes you get lucky!
Tips for renting when starting a private practice
- Be very respectful: This is their private practice space. Understand that many private practice owners prefer to be in charge of their own space, private practice, and environment. That’s why they went into private practice!
- Get to know the counselor: Find things in common. Do some research, do they like golf, sailing, or hiking? Find ways to connect emotionally.
- 20% of income: Shoot for your bottom-line cost to be less than 20% of your income. That means that if you charge $80 per session, try to pay around $16 per session. You’ll want to figure out the sliding fee within this as well. If you do 10 sessions at $80 per session in a month, that is $800 income. Try to have rent be 20% of the costs for your private practice, or $160.
- Be crazy-flexible: If they only have Tuesday before 11:00 am, Thursday evenings and the weekend free, take it! It will teach you to work within a schedule with clients. Also, your clients will think you are really busy to have such limited hours.
Tip 2 For Starting A Private Practice: File PLLC Legal Paperwork
First, I’m not a lawyer or attorney, so make sure you look at your state’s rules, regulations, and expected paperwork. What is an LLC? An LLC (Limited Liability Company) is a structure for a private practice (or any company for that matter). It separates your own assets from that of the company, making it harder for someone to sue you personally, go after your personal assets (home, retirement, money) if they win a lawsuit. Also, you can then have a bank account and use the name with the full legal protection. You can also file a DBA (doing business as) but it does not have the same legal protection.
Tip 3 For Starting A Private Practice: Best phone system
I used to be with a traditional carrier, but every time I wanted to add a line to the voicemail it was $15 per voicemail. Then, when we were moving the cost of phones was around $900 for 6 phones. That didn’t even include other monthly fees! Here’s an awesome video about how it works!
Tip 4 For Starting A Private Practice: Best website for counseling private practices
Launching a website is essential for any business, but with website development costs, it’s hard to know where to spend your money. Bluehost offers hosting (where the info is stored) and the ability to purchase your URL (the www.____.com thingy). Also, by installing WordPress you’ll have great control for ranking higher in Google.
Once you get hosting going (around $5/month) and get your URL, here is the first in the walk-throughs of how to install WordPress.
Tip 5 For Starting A Private Practice: Create private practice business cards that help you stand out
Lastly, business cards are your very first impression-maker. Don’t skimp! A private practice business card should be sturdy, unique, and represent you! Get something cool, fresh, hip, and amazing, people will make the assumption that your private practice is edgy, able to handle new and complex situations and stays up on technology. Check these things out!
Costs for starting a private practice
Private practice telephone: $12/month
Private practice website: $5/month, but 1 year has to be paid at once. $60
Private practice business cards: $25+ depending on what you choose
TOTAL Cost for starting a private practice: $196
I use every single one of these products, that is why I became an affiliate with each of them. I want you to know:
1. I love and use all of these products
2. I am an affiliate, which means that I get some money for referring you to these companies (Check out my monthly income reports, where I tell you exactly how much I make so you see my full transparency)
3. If you need any support with these products, just let me know, I’d be glad to help!
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
Joe Sanok is keynote and TEDx speaker, business consultant, and podcaster. Joe has the #1 podcast for counselors, The Practice of the Practice Podcast. Joe is also a writer for PsychCentral, has been featured on the Huffington Post, Forbes, GOOD Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Entrepreneur on Fire, and Yahoo News. He is the author of five books and has been named the Therapist Resource top podcast, consultant, and blogger.