Ten Things You Need To Know About Setting Up Practice
Setting up in practice as a therapist for the first time, there’s a lot to think about. If you’ve never been self-employed before, it can be a bit overwhelming. Where should you start? What should you give priority to? The client work is really important, and it’s what you want to do, but it’s not the only thing you need to consider. Perhaps you’ve recently qualified, or you may be working towards accreditation. Whatever you circumstances or background, you need to start somewhere. Here’s a list of ten essential things you need to know to get you on your way.
- It’s a mind set
Probably the most important thing you need to know about setting up in practice is that it requires a different mind-set from the one you need to be with clients as a therapist. Setting up and running your own practice asks that you engage, not just with your clients, but also with your business; that you give thought and time to the needs of your practice, and taking action where it’s needed. In order to thrive, you’ll need to be able to move between working IN your practice (with clients) and working ON your practice (for example, marketing and promoting your practice). They can appear to be contradictory, but in reality they are complementary. You can read more about this subject here.
How much do you want to earn in your practice? This is an important question, especially if you are the only breadwinner, or have heavy financial commitments. Work out how much you will need to earn to breakeven, or to provide you with the income you need. One of the mistakes people often make when starting to practice for the first time is to see the per hour rate and imagine that will be their income, but of course there are expenses to be paid out as well.
Are you thinking about giving up your day job? Think carefully. For some, the transition from employed to self-employed can be a difficult one, and the reassurance of knowing an income will come in at the end of the month is an important support. For others, giving up the support of a regular salary gives them the impetus they need to get going on their own. Which of these sounds more like you?
- Your Ideal Client
Knowing what suits and doesn’t suit you in client work is important. As therapists we can become “heroic” on behalf of clients in pain, pushing ourselves to give, give, give. However, some clients leave us exhausted and drained, taking from our ability to serve others or look after ourselves. Some clients help us to grow, and some are just easy and enjoyable to be around. Try to strike a balance that provides enough challenge to keep the work fresh, but not so much that it overwhelms. Read more about your ideal client here.
- Potential Referrers
Do you know where your work might come from? If you immediately think doctors, great, but not all clients will approach their GPs with their problems. Try to keep an open mind and keep alert to opportunities that might otherwise not be visible.
You need to have a marketing plan to reach potential referrers and attract the clients you want. Learn to speak freely about your work to those you come into contact with in social and professional settings. Practise an elevator pitch so that when you meet with someone, you’re not tongue tied about what to say.
Get to know the detail of what your expenditure is going to be. This is important because your income can be quickly eroded by costs you hadn’t anticipated. Many people starting out make the mistake of not having some money set aside to carry them through the early lean period (and it happens to us all), and then scrimp on expenditure which could have helped them to get off the ground more easily, such as a focussed investment in promotion or marketing. Learn about the 3 stages of a therapy practice and plan accordingly.
- Supports & Backup
Before embarking on any endeavour, it’s good to know what backup and support you have. This can be an isolated profession, and qualifying as a therapist does not mean you can run a small business. Some have likened the process of starting up a practice to doing an intense personal development course. You will need some support to help you through, both on the practical issues, and for emotional and psychological support. If possible, work alongside someone else who’s setting up their practice, or ask your supervisor for support. I’d be glad to help you, contact me here for an appointment or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.
- Housekeeping Tasks
Be clear about the regular chores you need to do to manage and support your practice. Running a practice is not just about doing the client work, so whether it’s looking for new work or doing the bookkeeping, banking, cleaning the room, keeping your insurance and accreditations in place or how best to record and store your client notes, set aside the time to do them and give them the attention they deserve. There are some essential housekeeping tasks when setting up in practice for the first time. Read about them here.
- Your Strengths
Everyone has strengths, what are yours? These are what will keep you afloat and help you not just to survive, but also to thrive!! Maybe you’re really good at listening, or at organising, maybe you are optimistic or resilient, whatever you’re good at, make the most of it in your practice. Draw on them when you’re talking about your work to others, or preparing promotional material. Let them support you when you’re feeling tired or discouraged.
- Your Limits
This is a profession in which people can become ill and burnt out easily. Don’t over stretch yourself, especially on behalf of others. Learn what works for you to keep you in your best shape, emotionally and physically, psychologically and spiritually. Be prepared to say “no” when a situation is not healthy for you. However, Limits can also confine us if we let them. Be aware of when you might be using them as an excuse.
- Rules and Regulations
There are certain rules that need to be complied with in therapy practice. The obvious ones are child protection rules and accrediting body requirements. We also need to know about relevant legal requirements such as Registration of Names, health and safety, and tax laws. Get to know the important rules that govern your work.
Establishing and running your practice can be challenging, and it also brings us places we may never otherwise meet in ourselves. If you find it hard to engage with the business aspects of running your practice, perhaps I can help you find what gets in the way for you. Contact me here to make an appointment or to avail of a free 20 minute consultation.