Being your own boss can be life-changing, and starting your own private practice is one of the most rewarding career choices that one can make. If you do your research and start prepared, you can make the change with full confidence that you’re making the right decision.
Before taking on the challenge of owning a private practice, there are 10 important things you need to know:
1. You Need Capital
You’ll need capital to start your practice. Owning a business is not an inexpensive undertaking, and you may take a few months (even a year) before you start turning a profit.
Whether you need a bank loan or have your own savings to tap into, ensure that you have a solid plan for investing the capital. The last thing you want is for your practice to be in the red due to unnecessary expenses.
Before you decide to open your practice, we suggest that you chat with a financial adviser who’ll help you consider if it’s the best financial move for your circumstances and how to plan so your practice has the best chance of succeeding.
2. A Good Business Plan Will Go a Long Way
Whatever you do, don’t walk unprepared into practice management. Inexperience can cause one to feel like a fish out of water when facing the reality of running a business.
Therefore, take your time and compile a comprehensive business plan, highlighting what’s necessary, including your 5-year budget, vision, and mission, and a detailed explanation of your business.
If business management is not your strong suit, you can hire a professional to help you with the plan. You can learn from the example created, and you’ll have a solid plan should you need to seek investors.
Alternatively, you can research business plan templates online and give it a go. Take your time with writing and research, and ensure that you are realistic about your predictions.
3. Charge Appropriate Fees
When starting a new practice, you may feel the pressure to under-price yourself in order to stand out. That’s simply not necessary. Your practice will stand out because of professionalism or your approach, not because of the fees you charge.
Just because your practice is just starting doesn’t mean that you must charge low fees, especially if you have the experience to charge more, as low prices will be detrimental to your profit margins.
There are two main things to look at when determining your fee structure:
- Analyse your predicted income vs. expenditure in a detailed budget in your business plan.
- Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats). Here, you can examine what your competitors charge and where you want to align yourself on the scale. Remember that your direct competitors are private practices within a close radius.
4. Prioritise Marketing & Branding
You can have the world’s most beautiful practice and offer the best service, but you won’t get the clients you need if no one knows about it. And if you’re not the biggest fan of the humblebrag, you may need to start practicing in the mirror.
Your clients are drowning in information in the social media age, so you need a way to get your practice in front of those in need of your services.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping your marketing strategy targeted and personal, especially if you live in a close-knit community. Word-of-mouth marketing is very effective if you’re starting out and only have a small budget. The approach includes the local notice board, advertising in the school newsletter and community papers, and a good old flyer drop (check the regulations in your area or community regarding these).
Word-of-mouth marketing includes social media strategy too! If SEO and paid social media are foreign concepts, it’s worth looking into hiring a social media and marketing manager.
Furthermore, consider PR, something that smaller practices often neglect. Contact your local newspapers and radio stations. Some may even offer a free feature or an interview, which is always a great way to market your business.
5. Use Practice Management Software
A practice management system like Power Diary is the easiest way to give your business a professional edge and reduce your admin costs.
What’s more, your most important documents and records are stored securely online, and your records are accessible from anywhere.
6. Find the Right Space
Your practice needs the right premises to cater to the needs of your clients. If you live on a large property, you may be able to convert a space in your home. That way, not only can you be close to the family, but you’ll save on rental, and you may be able to claim against your taxes. Just be sure to review your local laws before starting a practice at home.
Otherwise, consider your new space carefully before committing to rental and think about:
- Convenience and parking
- Nearest public transport
- The condition of the building
- If there’s room to expand
7. Cover Your Legal Bases
When starting your practice, there are legal considerations to be accounted for, and not being aware of these can get you into hot water.
Make sure you research the following:
- Tax laws in your country so you can stay financially compliant.
- Business licenses, whether you’re practicing from your residence or a new premises.
- Zoning codes that determine the types of buildings used for business and other details like signage placement.
- Ethical and legal qualifications, which are the licenses you need to run a practice. You should always authenticate the qualifications of future staff you hire.
- Malpractice and liability insurance as you don’t want to get caught with hefty costs because you ignored these. You could get discounted insurance by joining organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA).
- You’ll need to register your business and determine the structure you want. This will impact your legal protection if sued and the taxes you pay. You may want to chat with an attorney and accountant to determine the business structures available to set up your practice.
8. There’s No Harm in Starting Slow
To save on costs and free up time for alternative income, you may want to start your new practice part-time. You could rent a shared office space per hour or use an area in your home.
Starting slow can help you build up your own capital and save for when it’s time to expand. Once again, explore this option for your business plan and weigh up all your financial options.
9. Experience is Important
If you’re newly qualified, proceed with caution. While you have knowledge from your years of study, nothing beats experience. And the best way to gain experience is by learning from those who have it.
The last thing you’ll want to do is exhaust your finances without the experience to carry out a business long term. It’s often best to first spend a few years working for others, take an interest in the business management side, and then start on your own.
To save financially in the long run, you can consider taking online courses on business or practice management.
10. Confidence is Key
Most importantly, believe in yourself. If you’re not confident, you’re unlikely to have the drive to push your practice in the direction it needs to go.
How you talk about your business and yourself as a business owner will significantly impact its success. If you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re doing, no one else will.
You might not wake up every morning feeling on top of the world, but on days like that (and we all have them), you can fall back on the old adage ‘fake it ’til you make it.’
While starting a private practice can feel scary, starting small and building your way towards your end goal is key. If you’ve walked through the ten steps above and feel like now’s your time to start a private practice, we wish you good luck on your new adventure!