Let’s face it. When you went to graduate school, you learned how to be a clinician. Which is fantastic, and probably why you thought about starting a private practice. This is also fantastic, and can be one of the most rewarding and amazing career decisions you make – if you are adequately prepared that is. Because, let’s also face something else. When you went to graduate school, you only learned how to be a clinician, which is why outsourcing is a must.
Running a Practice is Running a Business
Running a private practice is, well, running a business. Which requires you to be more – much more – than a clinician. Unfortunately, graduate school did not teach you how to also be any of these:
- Administrative Assistant
- Social Media and Marketing Expert
- Website Designer
- Debt Collector
- Corporate Lawyer
Yet, having a private practice does require you, at times, to know and perform the functions of all of these professions at any given point in time. You may be reading this thinking that I cannot be serious. However, let’s look at what it actually requires to run a private practice. Because, in all honesty, you cannot simply come into your office see, your clients, and leave for the day. If that is all you wanted to do, then you would just work at an agency, hospital, or for someone else’s practice.
So, let’s look at why each of the professions above are mentioned, and why outsourcing is a must for your private practice.
Quite simply, unless you outsource one, you will have to learn the in’s and outs of your State’s and the Federal tax laws – especially if you decide to incorporate. Trying to understand what qualifies as a business expense, and how to do your personal vs business taxes might just become another full-time job. Due to tax laws constantly changing, there could be penalties for not filing correctly or not paying quarterly taxes on time. This is one “hat” you most definitely want to consider outsourcing.
While there is no doubt that being able to file paperwork, answer and return calls/emails, and schedule clients is something you could do, it is more a matter of if you have the time to do all of that amongst every other thing you will be doing. Whether you actually have an in-house assistant or a virtual, off-site assistant, think about this: if you spend 5 hours doing administrative work a week instead of seeing clients, you miss out on making 5 hours of your hourly rate. Hiring an assistant for 5 hours now frees up your time to see 5 more clients, and you have all of the administrative work done. Even though you are paying him/her, you still make more money than if you did not hire the assistant.
There are many rules about how to itemize and categorize expenses that – if not done correctly – can be problematic for your taxes. This could be something you want to take on, but, similarly to outsourcing to an administrative assistant, this may be one “hat” you want to opt-out of wearing in lieu of saving time and making more profit by doing so.
Social Media and Marketing Expert
While not a necessity to market yourself online, it is pretty rare these days to not have some social media presence. Understanding the nuances of SEO, FB algorithms, Google AdWords etc. takes a lot of time and work. Setting up Facebook pages, groups, Instagram accounts, Twitter, etc. can certainly be done by you, but having the time and ability to successfully create content and manage it can feel overwhelming if you’re also managing a full practice.
Another important aspect of social media and marketing is creating your own brand identity which can be difficult as you’re not a designer. While you certainly may have an eye and appreciation for design, it’s best to outsource your design work to a professional.
Similar to the above, designing and maintaining a website takes a lot of knowledge and skill that, well again, you just did not get anywhere in graduate school. However, it is almost a given these days that to have a successful practice, you do need to have a website. Potential clients have to be able to find you, and, most likely, they will be searching online for a therapist. Trying to do this one yourself will most likely cost you more time, effort, and frustration than just outsourcing someone to do it for you.
No, you did not get an MBA, but, owning a practice means you are a business owner. So, this one you cannot outsource. You can, however, get a coach or a mentor. Setting up a practice for success, and managing one well, does take dedication and time. There are major business decisions to be made that have absolutely nothing to do with being a clinician.
Some examples of decisions that will have to be made are:
- Will you incorporate? If so, what are the Federal and State requirements and fees? Where will you get the required paperwork and how will you file it?
- Will you rent or buy a building?
- Where will you set up the business banking and credit accounts?
- Will you use a Payroll company?
- Will you have medical or dental benefits? How about retirement accounts?
- Will you hire other clinicians? If so, how much will you pay them? Will they have benefits?
- Do you have enough malpractice insurance?
- Have you prepared all of your practice office policies and procedures for clients? How about consent and intake forms?
- How will you schedule clients? How much will you charge? Will you take insurance or only do private pay?
- What are your office hours?
Unfortunately, there will be those clients who run an unpaid balance. Spending time chasing them is not worth your time. Hiring an outside company that does this is probably in your best interest. The odds of actually collecting any of the debt is questionable, but always worth trying. Just make sure you mention using a debt collection agency in your polices and procedures paperwork so that clients know what will happen if they don’t pay.
There will be times when you come across a legal question in your practice. You did not go to Law School. Consulting with an attorney rather than spending hours researching laws and risking your business is just not worth it. Having an attorney look over any new hire contracts or help file trademark paperwork is just peace of mind.
You may be completely at ease with writing and not feel the need to outsource this to anyone. However, it is more about time and work-life balance at times. Having someone write the copy for your webpage, Facebook page, or for marketing materials can be of great relief. Especially if writing is not your strength.
So, where to find people to help with outsourcing? Fiverr and UpWork are two great sites where you can: post a specific job/task and freelancers will reach out to you. Or, you can browse freelancers based on your needs. Either way, you can see their reviews, ratings and examples of their work.
As mentioned above, having a private practice can be amazing. However, nobody can know how to do everything required to run one successfully. You simply cannot do it all, which is why outsourcing is a must.
Thank goodness there is help out there. Use it!
Cristina Castagnini, Ph.D., CEDS, is a licensed psychologist and is recognized as a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP). She graduated with honors, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from The University of California, Santa Cruz, her Master’s Degree in clinical psychology (with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy) from Pepperdine University, and her doctoral degree in counseling psychology at the University of Southern California. Find out more here.