I have had a part-time counseling private practice since 2007. This was while maintaining a full-time job. My situation was such where my wife was in graduate school, we needed health insurance, and now we have a baby. Even though I could probably make even more if I did private practice full time, the risk of losing our house and food for my child just hasn’t been worth it. As well, the stress of not having a steady income has been worrisome, so I’ve always kept a full time job.
Here are a few things I have learned in the past years of private practice. If you are exploring the option, these tips might show you that it is not as hard as you think.
1. Pick a niche that is different from your full-time employer
If you work at a college, don’t focus on college students in your private practice. If you are a foster care supervisor, don’t focus on kids in foster care in your private practice. Do your best to avoid any perceived conflict of interest. This goes for clientele, marketing, and how you frame your full-time career.
2. Be open with your employer
It may be hard to believe, but your employer probably doesn’t want to replace you. It cost a large sum of money to replace a counselor compared to keeping one. Use this to your advantage. If you are open and honest about your private practice, it will go a long way.
For example, you may want to speak with your direct supervisor and say, “I am exploring launching a private practice to earn some extra income. I want you to know that I am going to be transparent about any perceived or actual conflicts of interest. I want you to know that when I am here, I am 100% here; I just want to try something new. Also, I don’t have plans to leave. If you have questions about it, please let me know, I want you to feel comfortable.” Summarize the conversation in an email afterwards so that you have something written.
3. Talk about times that would work for your full-time employer
Maybe you know that Tuesdays are slower or maybe Fridays at noon, things always slow down at your full-time job. Most private practice clients (in my experience in the Traverse City area) prefer sessions at 12:00 and 5:15 or later. This works great for your full-time schedule. Maybe you decide that you want to do a lunch appointment on Thursdays with evening options that day as well.
You may want to tell or ask your employer, “On Thursdays, I’d like to come in early because I hope to see some clients in my private practice at noon and I might come back early or late from my lunch hour.” Or maybe you could work through a lunch the day before.
Starting the conversation gets things moving. Once you test it out for a while, your full-time employer will get used to the idea of you going to your private practice at lunch or in the afternoon, while you make up the hours on other days.
4. Work out a rental agreement that helps you.
Whether it is a percentage or a flat fee, subleasing someone else’s office is a great option. For example, maybe ask another clinician, “I am thinking about launching a private practice. I will be doing my own billing, progress notes, etc. I was wondering if I could rent your office for part of one day per week? Since I am just starting out I could give you 20% of what comes in or $20 per session. What do you think?” Read my blog post about sharing an office.
For the clinician, they are making some added revenue. Maybe they already take that day off or you could plan around their schedule, do sessions on weekends, or on an evening they play golf each week. Use your creative mind, it will save you money and help reduce your liability.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor and limited licensed psychologist in Traverse City, MI. He owns Mental Wellness Counseling and is the Clinical Director of the therapeutic sailing program SAIL
Photo by Robert Scoble used with Creative Commons