Episode 66: 30 Tips for 2023 for Therapists & Entrepreneurs
Have you been thinking about starting private practice but before you get started it seems like a million other things get in the way?
Do you feel overwhelmed with all the little things that come on the entrepreneurial journey?
Are you determined but stuck on where to start with private practice ownership?
Well, this episode is for you.
Top 3 reasons to listen to the entire episode:
- Get 30 tips to help mental health professionals create private practices.
- Learn how therapists can effectively use networking, marketing, and content creation to grow their practices.
- Learn how to avoid big business mistakes to have fewer roadblocks, reduce stress, and combat impostor syndrome.
If you're a therapist building a private practice using only what grad school taught you, you might feel especially overwhelmed. When you're studying to be a mental health professional in grad school, they don't necessarily teach you how to run a business.
It's true that building a business can be challenging, but it's not beyond reach, and this episode can help you find the place to start.
A Thanks to Our Sponsor!
I would also like to thank The Receptionist for iPad for sponsoring this episode.
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The software sends an immediate notification to the therapist when a client checks in, and can even ask if any patient information has changed since their last visit.
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PATRICK CASALE: Thanks, everyone for listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I'm your host, Patrick Casale. I am doing my first podcast since having throat surgery. And we're going to give this a go and see how this feels.
I wanted to talk a little bit about going into 2023 and a new year. And if you're listening, you're most likely in the mental health profession, or an entrepreneur, or you just like the podcast. And I think it's important to talk about the courage that it takes to start a private practice and go into private practice, especially, when you've started and you're struggling to stay afloat, or you're thinking about starting and you keep putting it off, or there's a lot of reasons why you can't get it done because there's so many variables and so many factors in our lives.
So, I wrote about a list in my Facebook group, All Things Private Practice Therapy, 30 things that I wish I had known, and things that I think it's important to talk about because we struggle so much to talk about the fact that the entrepreneurial journey is challenging. And I think it's important to just normalize that and also to offer you support, and advice, and feedback about going forward.
So, with that being said, I know that 99% of you have absolutely no business training, myself included. And I say this to hopefully normalize the struggles, not to put you down because I'm in the same boat. And that it's just like, you're trying to run your business for the first time and that's really hard to create policies, to enforce policies around marketing and networking, to make mistakes. I know we struggle so often with making mistakes. And we have to really give ourselves some compassion and some grace around this because it's kind of one of those things of like, what you don't know, you don't know. And that's okay. That's why there's so many private practice Facebook groups, Instagram accounts, podcasts, etc. And they all exist for a reason because we're not reinventing the wheel. Private practice is not a new concept.
At the end of the day, starting a business is actually quite simple. And it's probably the easiest part. Even though you're looking at a long laundry list of things to do like NPIs, CAQH, EIN, et cetera, et cetera, it seems intimidating until you check them off the list, and then it's like, oh, this was actually the easiest part of what I'm doing, why did I let this kind of prevent me from moving forward for so long? And what you decide to do today, you do not have to do forever. Your interest will change, your training will change, the people you enjoy helping will change, your niche will change over and over and over again, your energy levels will change, will change with the seasons.
And it's about enjoying the experience, thinking about these changes as different seasons within your career. I know mine has changed drastically from 2017 till now. You all hear me say this a lot, networking is crucial. Being able to network and connect with other providers in your area. And I know so many of you will say, "Well, I'm introverted, I really struggle with this, I don't want to put myself out there, you're open for feedback, you're open for rejection and it's vulnerable." It really is.
But you are all experts in connecting. You all know how to connect with other people. That's what you do for a living, that's what you're trained in. And you excel at it. And just thinking about networking as connection, that's all it is. Even if you're more introverted in nature, try and to get out into the community once a month, coffee, Zoom coffee, lunch, et cetera. But just meet with someone, try really hard to just say, one hour a month I'm going to do this thing because we are so much more likely to refer to someone that we've met and connected with instead of someone who's just throwing their name in a Facebook group, the comment thread over and over and over again. It's just the nature of people. We as human beings are so much more inclined to support people who we've heard of, talked to, connected with, met in person, met virtually, etc.
This is a big one. Let yourself make mistakes. You will learn from them, they are going to happen, you can change it the next time. If you don't like your cancellation policy, don't worry, you can change it, you can change it in real-time, you can change it in a live format. If you've messed up the spelling on your website, who cares? You can always edit a live document. It just needs to exist.
Being visible is better than being non-existent. This goes for shitty websites, terribly written Psych Today profiles that I may have made fun of or not. Mine were awful, but at least I could give potential referral sources a landing page link to say hey, here's my information to share. Make it easy for people to find you. If you don't have a website, or a Psych Today, or whatever the case may be because you're nervous about the perfectionistic tendencies coming out and it's saying, "It's not good enough yet." Well, then people can't find you.
I'm going on six years in private practice. And every single year, I've changed things, and improved things, and made mistakes along the way. Probably the most important point, do things differently than grad school or agency jobs have told you to do them.
If you feel out of alignment with your content creation, your networking, your marketing, the clinical work that you're doing, it's probably because you're not acting in your authentic self. It kind of prevents us from going deeper, from really being real. And this prevents us from being ourselves. It makes everything feel disjointed and disconnected. I know it's really hard to tap into that authenticity. We've been told over and over and over again, this is how you do things, this is how you practice, this is what is not okay, this is what is okay.
Be yourselves. It is absolutely okay to work at a group practice instead of going out on your own. If you know that you don't want to handle the business side of private practice, go work at a group practice that has a good reputation.
And for some of you, you'll work at community mental health. It doesn't matter what your path is, everyone's path will be different. And there is room for all of us to choose our own path. It is absolutely okay for you to go into private practice or community mental health. Don't let your decisions be impacted by what everyone else says that you should do, have to do, shouldn't do.
Again, everyone's paths will be different. And there is room for everyone's journey. The same has to be said about insurance versus private pay, versus pay what you can. Do what works best for you and is in alignment with your values. Ask for support and guidance. Everyone will have something different to say. There is room for every single model.
If you want to open a private pay practice, it's going to take a lot longer than an insurance-based practice and that is okay. Niche down, network, have a solid marketing strategy, become the expert. Remember that I always say you cannot be the Applebee's of therapy. And I mean it. If someone's going to pay you out of pocket you have to specialize in what they're struggling in. And that doesn't mean EMDR, that doesn't mean, you know, TF-CBT. You have to get their struggle. You have to be able to say you understand it and you understand what they're going through and experiencing, and that you can support them. It is very hard to be a private pay practice successfully as a generalist.
Circling back to my last point, unless you live in a large or an area without a large number of providers, niching down is crucial. Your niche is usually a version of yourself. Your niche will change over time. It is okay to have more than one niche at a time. My niche went from men struggling with addiction and recovery to adults who never felt good enough having experienced attachment trauma, to high-achieving entrepreneurs who struggle with imposter syndrome and perfectionism. All of those are versions of me in different stages of my life. Your niche will change. It will change over and over and over again as your interests change. And that's okay. That's when you can rebrand.
Your niche is not as simple, as enough as I work with men or women, I work with anxiety, I do the EMDR. Those are not niches. You need to be specific, you need to really hone in on your client's pain points, their lived experiences. Stop speaking in DSM-5 clinical jargon in your marketing. Unless your target pop is clients as clients or therapists in medical professionals nobody else speaks like that. Instead of saying I work with trauma, anxiety, depression, describe what it's like to struggle with trauma, anxiety, and depression. Use real-life examples. Use real-life experiences. Instead of saying I specialize in anxiety, talk about what anxiety feels like for someone. How it shows up personally, professionally, how it shows up somatically in their body, like talk about it though. Don't talk about it like. "I specialize in trauma-informed care and I'll walk alongside you." Be really specific, use real-life references, use real-life examples.
Outsource when you're able to do so, outsource the things you don't want to do, that you don't want to learn how to do, hate doing, or don't have time to do it. Spending money on these things in the short term is scary, but it will open up time for you and energy, and now will lead to more money coming in because you'll be able to focus on the things that you actually love doing.
Surround yourself with mentors, colleagues, support systems, people who build you up and they don't bring you down. We all need connection. This field is fucking hard. It is also very, very isolating. So again, positive support systems, building those relationships. That's why networking is also important. Some of those people may turn into your positive support systems.
Be yourself. There's a ton of gatekeeping in this field, and the unethical flag is thrown around constantly. If you want to show off your tattoos, curse in your content, dye your hair, who cares. Relatability is accessibility, relatability is ethical, relatability and being able to show a client that you get their struggle is actually going to help that client seek out treatment and support instead of saying I don't think I can call anyone because nobody gets it. Or my therapist is going to judge me because A, B, and C.
HIPAA compliance is important. It's worth spending the $24 a month on Spruce Health to protect health information, to keep health information private. I know we want to like cut corners, and budget, and make it as affordable as possible. But again, think about the flip side, something happens, that lawsuit is a hell of a lot more money than $24 a month.
Get an accountant, get one early. Interview them the same way you'd interview a therapist. Make sure that whoever's managing your money and helping you with deductions and helping you with saving for taxes really understand small business ownership. But more importantly, there's someone that you can connect with, that you can communicate with, where you don't feel like you have to walk on eggshells to send an email, send a call, ask a question, really, really important.
Track and separate your personal versus business expenses. Even if this is just a simple spreadsheet at first, you don't have to have QuickBooks Online, you don't have to have Wave, it doesn't matter, but track it. You have to have a way to have a checks and balances system. You also have to know what's coming in versus what's coming out. Try to put away 25% for taxes. I hate the tax word, I know we all do, try.
I know you're going to be struggling when you're opening your business or if you've just opened you're like just barely staying afloat, nothing worse than an unwanted huge tax surprise bill at the end of the year. Again, that's why an accountant is important, that's why asking these questions are important. Making sure that this is something that you're prioritizing.
And again, just put that money in a separate account, put it in a separate business account so that you have access to pay the taxes whether you're doing it quarterly or at the end of the year. But there are lots of resources out there, it doesn't have to be as scary as you think.
Don't overthink your business name. We all do it. I did it forever. And if I could go back in time, I'd change my group practice name from Resilient Mind Counseling to something shorter and simpler. But don't overthink it. If something's not grabbing you just go with something easy that no one else has. Check the Secretary of State in your area or in your state to make sure nobody else has that name used already. And just make it easy on yourself. Make it easy on your clients. Make it easy on your customers. The shorter and simpler, the easier the business name is to spell because nothing is worse than telling a client on the phone, "Yeah, email me at [email protected]" And, "Right, wait, how do I spell that?" Spelling it all out. You know, it could have been [email protected] or whatever the case may be. So anyway, simple, easy, straight to the point.
If you want you know, search for business names in your area. If you live in Asheville, North Carolina search Asheville therapy. Does somebody already have that name? If not, I mean, make it that, buy that domain name online, make it something like that where people are actually searching for the term. Nobody's searching for Resilient Mind Counseling until you have a reputation built up. You know, it's not as if that's a Google search that people are actually doing. Until it's actually a thing that people know about as well.
This is a big one for me. And I've had to step into this but using fear as a gas pedal and not a brake, embracing fear. It should be scary when we're doing something new when we're stepping out of our comfort zones when we're growing, when we want to take a risk. If it wasn't scary, it'd be a big concern. Use fear as a compass and a roadmap. It tells you that you are on the right track. It doesn't mean you have to jump in headfirst. But just stepping into it and embracing it. Fear does not have to be a negative emotion.
Choose your platforms and just purchase. This goes back to the protectionism taking over convincing you you need to try a thousand electronic medical record systems before actually subscribing to one. It's just another way preventing you from taking action. Try one or two, choose the one that makes sense. Just do it because at the end of the day, the more comfortable you are with your systems, the easier the onboarding process will be for your clients when they call, so you're not stumbling over, "Oh, this is what you do, then you do this, then you do this. Oops, I forgot I have to tell you about A, B, and C.
If you have money to invest, invest into SEO, or search engine optimization. I've done plenty of podcasts on the topic, web design, coaching, and marketing. Those are the things that I would really heavily invest in when you can and you're not going to be able to do it right away. When I started off my website was made by someone who was starting a portfolio doing websites for $100 and it was pretty bad. But six years later, things have changed.
Trust the process, not unlike the Philadelphia 76ers, just trust the process. Trust your resources, trust the people in your corner, trust the people you are asking advice for and just trust that if you lean into this experience and this new journey it is going to work out. And that doesn't mean it's going to be without bumps in the road and ebbs and flows because that is the business process, but just try hard to lean into that.
And my new personal motto, doubt yourself, do it anyway because I think I believe that wholeheartedly as someone who struggles with imposter syndrome, and perfectionism, and self-doubt, and all that shit, doubt yourself, do it anyway. And surround yourself with people who can bring that out of you, coaches, mentors, colleagues, supervisors, friend groups. Like, put your ideas out to the world. Don't let them keep you back. Don't let your ideas live inside your head and never take action because you are so needed. Our profession is so valuable. People are struggling all the time. And this is really the time to start to make that happen for yourself.
I really hope that these were helpful. If they are like, download, subscribe, and share. The All Things Private Practice Podcast comes out every Sunday morning with guest interviews from the industry talking about normalizing fear of failure, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, etc. And if you are a therapist or in the helping community and mental health professional, join the All Things Private Practice Facebook group, not the Grey's Anatomy one.
And I am glad to be back. It's taking a lot out of me just to do this podcast right now but happy to start doing this again. Appreciate everyone listening, appreciate all the downloads, the subscribes, the shares, the Spotify top fives that this podcast made this year, which feels pretty incredible. I could not do that without all of your support. So, continue to support each other. Let's continue to grow together and I will see you next Sunday.
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