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5 Tips for Starting a Private Practice

I wasn’t always in private practice but I had a dream to become “my own boss”. So, I did!

Many of us start private practice at different points in our careers. I started mine after working in my profession as an “employee” for nearly 12 years. The transition was like any important life change; it took some planning, reflection, surviving uncertainty, and learning to overcome the worry that tends to come along with that.

Since I made my transition to private practice in 2012, I’ve coached many others wishing to do the same. I’ve worked with Therapists, Accountants, Lawyers, Medical Professionals, Social Workers, and Marketing Professionals, to name a few. While making the transition, many practitioners choose to begin part-time, while continuing to work their regular job (either full or part-time). This can be attractive to some for obvious financial reasons but also to allow continuation of healthcare benefits or other perks such as the remaining connected to colleagues. It can feel a bit lonely for some to go from working with a team to going solo.

I’ve also worked with practitioners who decided to move directly from full-time employment to private practice or to contract or free-lance work. This is when the most planning is needed. It takes time to build up clientele and the money does NOT start rolling in overnight. Contract work can act as a bit of a bridge between being a fulltime employee to entrepreneur. It can give you a taste of the uncertainty you’ll have to get good at managing before going “all in”. I always offer that it’s wise to have safety net of financial resources to meet your personal and professional needs for a minimum of one year if you can swing it to take some of the pressure off.

I’ve worked with clients who decided to launch their private practice after being notified of a layoff. They saw the situation as a blessing in disguise and lived off of their severance while they hustled.

I recommend getting some business/marketing training if you don’t already have this. You’ll now not only need to be an excellent practitioner, you’ll also need to be an excellent money manager, marketer, and all around business person. If you aren’t all of these things already, unless you have money to spend on hiring someone right away, you’ll need to get some at least some basic competency in these areas. You have to do this, clients will not magically find you if you don’t actively market your practice. Taxes won’t pay themselves either unfortunately. Also, maintain your connections with valued colleagues who might be a source of support and even referrals.

As I said, I moved into private practice as an accomplished professional in my field (if I do say so myself!). Your transition into private practice will also be impacted by where you are on the career timeline. If you’re a recent graduate, think about finding employment where you can gain experience first. This will also allow you to create a network of colleagues and professionals who might be able to send clients your way.

People consider private practice for many reasons and at different stages. Some go part-time in mid-career to try something new or later in life as part of their retirement plan to continue making a contribution to others and keep using their skills.

Here are 5 tips to get you started if you’re considering moving into private practice:

  1. Interview other private practitioners about their transition.

  2. Find a mentor, and business advisor to provide support and guidance during the transition and early stages of start-up.

  3. Put financial/business supports in place per #2 but also emotional supports. Get a coach and find a group of like-minded people to lean on. Seriously, don’t do this alone. During times of stress the self-doubt can get real. Really real. You can do this but you need support.

  4. Set a realistic timeline. It takes more time than you probably think to get a practice up and running to a point that will support you financially.

  5. Get some small business and marketing training if you do not have business experience.

Going into private practice has been one of the most rewarding and challenging things I’ve ever done. I don’t regret it for a second. If you have made the decision to take the leap into private practice yourself and you'd like to talk about working with me, click here to learn more! You can do it. Good luck!

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