In your first months of starting a private practice or launching one out of a plateau, there are so many tools that will help. Everything I write about is through the lens of what I wish I had when I first launched my Traverse City counseling private practice back in 2009. Every single one of these tips, articles, or tools has been essential to growing my private practice.
Learn a ton about marketing
Before starting a private practice, I knew nothing about marketing. Or so I thought.
I was in three different bands in college. It was mostly because I wanted to travel, make some side money, and meet ladies. It was never about the music…we it was sort of about the music. I wanted to make good music, but I wasn’t that great. My brother was very good at marketing (and still is).
At every show, we’d make significantly more off of the merchandise, CDs, t-shirts, buttons, and posters, than we made off of the actual show. We opened once for a Judas Priest cover band in a biker bar. We were paid $25 and 20 bratwurst. But that was on top of a second show we had planned. We had enough to get to Texas, where we had a few other shows.
Through that experience I learned about promoting and engaging fans. Gaining clients in a private practice is much more than just getting people in the door. Your brand, your private practice, and you all need to reflect the essence of what you are offering. It’s hard to figure out, if you’re not learning from people much smarter than yourself. Here are books that have really helped me.
Build a social media presence
I am definitely still growing in this area. Social media can be a huge waste of time if not done correctly. I continue to grow in my presence online. It’s really hard to figure out what types of things to post, how often to post, and is it worth the time to post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever comes out next.
With that said, millions of people (if not billions) are on each of these platforms. I’ve found that starting with what makes sense is a great way to get things going. If you primarily serve moms, then you should be on Pinterest. If you have a younger audience that are professionals, Twitter should be where you start. If you aren’t sure, then start with Facebook.
I recently read, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World and it’s amazing the simple strategies that can get you going! Also, here’s an article about How to create highly shareable posts.
Keep your rent and expenses low
Every year I have made a profit. Maybe it’s because I’m a cheapskate, or some might say I’m smart, others might say a mixture. The single biggest cost in starting a private practice will be rent. So how do you keep rent low? There are three different approaches that have worked well for myself or other counselors in private practice.
Negotiate Rent as a Percent: This is what I have done. My rental agreement is that I pay 20% of my income for myself and counselors in my practice up to a specified amount. The specified amount is above market value. That way, when I have a really good month, the landlord gets more and if I have to leave or have a down month they get less. This strategy is great in a market where rentals are saturated.
Sub-lease from another counselor in private practice: When first starting a private practice, rent from another counselor in private practice. Most full-time counselors work 25-30 hours per week at most. That means that some nights and weekends are free for use. Offering another counselor $10 per session or $100 for the month is a great way to keep costs down.
Partner or sublease your office: If you’ve already started renting or if you’re about to find a place, having another person or two can help reduce rent costs. Here’s a walk though about how to set up Google Calendar for office sharing.
Before starting a private practice, find a guru
The last piece of starting a private practice is to find a guru. Counselors love helping people, it’s why most of us went into the field of counseling! It’s also flattering to have someone want to pick your brain. Here are a few ideas on how to find a counseling private practice guru:
Take a private practice business owner out for breakfast or lunch and pick their brain.
Listen to a private practice podcast to learn from counseling experts.
Hire a private practice consultant, just make sure they can explain the ROI (return-on-investment) of your time and money
Subscribe to a member’s only newsletter that will walk you through starting a private practice, step-by-step.
Find ways to partner with other counselors.
Talk with your own doctor about why they refer.
Build your website (here’s an article I wrote about starting a website)
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
Joe Sanok is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice that are starting a private practice. He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.
Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.
To link to Joe’s Google+ .
Photo by Robert S. Donovan