Donald Trump is President. He beat a former First Lady, United States Senator, and Secretary of State with virtually no support from his own party. Regardless of your political views, I woke up afterwards thinking, “Anything is possible”. And, it reminded me that despite all of the reasons that I should NOT have opened a private practice (there were many), I did. Here are some of those doubts:
- I have only lived in Memphis for three months
- My knowledge about it is limited
- I just had twins two months ago
- My military spouse will be required to move again in three years
- I don’t have any money to open
The difference between success and failure often comes down to the willingness to try, and the belief in your vision, regardless of what anyone else says about it.
Do you have a dream of being in private practice? Are you afraid that you might be a colossal failure? Join the club, my friend! I have not met a person (yet) that has launched a private practice without any doubts about their future. I have met dozens of excellent therapists, that would probably have very successful practices, but are paralyzed by the fear of leaving the safety net of their agency position for the high wire of business ownership.
Private Practice Is Not For Everyone
And guess what? That’s totally fine. Don’t beat yourself up if you are not ready to open your own business. I will tell you that it takes more work than you expect, more confidence than you have, and pays less than you think. Now, there are some very successful private practice owners who are breaking the average social worker salary. It seems to be that they are typically running group practices, providing consulting services, doing training, or other public speaking events, in addition to their practice. That’s the biggest benefit of being in charge – there is literally no limit to what you can achieve. They are also the ones that are not afraid to put their ideas out there and see what kind of feedback they get.
Private practice also has no expectations, no performance evaluations, and no guarantee that anyone will want your services. It becomes easy to compare yourself to the success of private practice gurus (like Joe Sanok and Julie Hanks, and the Zynny me folks). You know what the difference is between them and me? They started earlier. And the difference between me and you? I started already.
The truth is that the fear of failure held me back from opening my practice sooner. I can still think about all the topics that I didn’t understand (insurance, billing, accounting, taxes, liability insurances, advertising, social media). Oh, how the list goes on.
Here is the ugly truth about private practice that one of my former bosses told me when I just starting managing one of her regional offices:
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it.”
Now, that seems to not make any sense. I knew there were plenty of things that I didn’t know. Didn’t you read my list? But think about that for a minute. In private practice, you don’t know that a problem will need to be solved until the problem presents itself. It doesn’t matter if I know how to do insurance billing unless I have a client with insurance that needs a bill. When that situation comes up, I have enough information to get help. I can call the number on the card and talk to a person and they will tell me what I need to do. Or, I can call a colleague and they will tell me what worked for them.
If you spend your time planning for a private practice, but not actually managing it, you might be preparing for all the wrong questions. The needs of the practice drive your learning curve. Watching my husband change my car’s flat tire does not at all prepare me for changing that same tire when I am stranded on the side of the road without him. You learn by doing. You learn by getting dirty, by sweating, and by feeling the rush of accomplishment.
Research shows that men apply for jobs that they are not qualified for more often than women do. Again, my point about Donald Trump. Women usually apply for jobs for which they are certain that they already know how to do. Social workers fall into that same trap – for a reason that I cannot explain. Because, by training, we are capable of working with any population and literally any problem imaginable.
I tell people that I got a degree in problem solving when I went to graduate school. That’s not because I know the answer to every problem, but because I know HOW to find the answer. Usually, the answer is ‘Try Something’! See if that works. If it does, take note of it and remember that you might need it in the future. If it doesn’t work, try something else. (And take note-that the same thing might actually still work in the future). The key is to do something.
As goes the Facebook slogan, “done is better than perfect”. And your private practice will never be perfect, but an imaginary one doesn’t make any money either. So, after this election, I have a renewed sense of taking my practice to another level. One my half-done list is a children’s book (written but not illustrated), an eBook, and an online parenting course. They are all half done because despite my successful private practice, the doubt remains. But today…today, anything is possible. Today, I am not inspired by the political beliefs of either party, but by the fact that people have the guts to put everything out there for what they believe in.
Now it’s time to get to work.
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.