Sowing the Seeds of a New Practice: Negotiating Rent

Sowing the Seeds of a New Practice

My wife and I had made the move across Tampa Bay. We now resided about as close to the Gulf of Mexico as you can get, without getting wet. I had received my registered intern number from the state of Florida and I had attended a few supervision sessions with my new supervisor. Which was mostly about listening to the other interns talk about their cases. This since I had yet to see a client of my own. I was ready to take the next steps necessary to start my new practice.

I had to decide where I was going to base my practice. Then, I could build a website around that address and have business cards made. My supervisor had offered her office space to me, for free, if I wanted to see clients there during her off hours. This was an outstanding opportunity, since I knew that office space was usually never free. The downside was that this left me with very limited hours to see clients. And, it required me to drive about 45 minutes, each way, to get to her office.

Since I was doing very little to make money at that point, I thought driving nearly an hour and a half for a session did not seem enjoyable. But, I was willing to do it. I knew I had that space as a backup plan and a place to start, if my clients would be willing to drive to her office. But, I still wanted to find something closer to where I was living now.

Putting The word Out

To start the search for local office space, I started by putting out some feelers on the “Beginning Counselors of Florida” Facebook page, asking if anyone knew of any available office space in my area. I got nothing back. Someone always had some available space, but it was always a far drive from where I lived. I did a Google search for therapists in my area. I then made a list of everyone around me within a 5 or 10 mile radius. Then, I went to each of their websites and looked for an email address or “Contact” page. I wanted to reach out to them and inquire about their practice, and if they had extra space they would be willing to rent.

I waited several days after sending emails to each of these local practices and finally got one response. The woman said she has a very small back office that she would be willing to rent if I was interested. I said I would love to come and see it and to meet her. And, we agreed on a day and time to meet.

Let’s Take a Look

The drive to my prospective office space was easy. And, I was able to get there in less than 15 minutes. I was happy to see that it was a nice looking building with other professional businesses in the adjacent suites and ample parking. I walked into the waiting area, which I thought looked comfortable, clean, tastefully furnished, and large enough for several clients. There was a radio playing some soft music and a water cooler for clients to get a drink if they wished. I was met shortly after arriving by Deb, the woman who owned the suite. And, she began showing me the rest of the space, including the office where I would be working.

The room I would be renting was awkwardly shaped. Kind of long and narrow with a couch along one long wall and a chair facing the end of the couch at the far end. My desire was to see couples. And, although so far I had only seen a few couples during my internship, I knew I wanted to be able to be in front of them when I worked with them. So this setup did not seem ideal. I might be able to squeeze a chair in front of the couch. But, I would certainly nearly be on top of the couple if I did this. I wasn’t excited about the shape of the room, but it did look very inviting in the way that it was furnished and decorated.

Negotiation Time

I wasn’t sure I would be happy in that space, but I liked the location and everything else I had seen. So I asked her how much it would be to rent that space. She said she could rent it by the day or by the week and gave me some numbers. My heart sank as I realized that if I were to rent, even by the day, I would be responsible for paying her a lot of money every week. This when I didn’t even have my first client. I was honest with her and told her I didn’t think I could do it. Mainly because it was going to take me some time to build up a case load. And, in the mean time, I would be paying for an empty office. 

As we talked about the options for payment, she mentioned that she would be willing to let me pay on a per session basis. Meaning, I don’t pay for the space unless I see a client. I knew that could work and was very grateful that she was willing to work with me that way. Deb also mentioned that I could use her office, which was huge and perfectly suited for seeing couples, when she wasn’t seeing clients. I was sold, and went ahead and signed an agreement that she had already made up laying out the terms of our agreement. I wasn’t committed to any kind of lease whatsoever. Furthermore, I was given the option to pay $40 to have my name professionally added to the front door, which I did immediately.

Looking Back With Gratitude

Looking back on this arrangement, I could not have been more fortunate. Not only has it worked out really well for me to pay by the session for my office space, but the intangibles that I could not have foreseen have been tremendous. I have gotten to know the other three women who rent office space from Deb. They, along with Deb, have been a great source of referrals for my young practice.

Also, I am mostly able to use Deb’s office to see my clients. This is because she doesn’t usually work evenings and that is when most of my couples have availability. Yes, there have been inconveniences at times. Including not being able to schedule sessions at certain times or certain days for various reasons. But, overall, I have been able to operate my practice as well as could be expected, considering what I have been paying for my space.

I know that, in the future, I will need to find my own office space. This as my practice continues to grow and I need to be able to schedule clients at any time of the day, or any day of the week. I also want to be able to do groups in the future. So will need a large enough space to allow for this. I’m hoping I will need to find that new space in the next year or so, if my growth allows for it. But, in the meantime, my current situation has been perfect for a fledgling practice.

 

Richard Tifft, M.A. is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern specializing in Marriage Counseling in Clearwater, FL. Richard started his practice right out of Grad school and has a passion for helping couples in distress rediscover their lost connection. Richard has been through all of the training required to be certified as an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist pending completion of supervision and licensure.

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