As some of you know, my path with private practice has been a bit of a bumpy road. I started my first practice in Portland, OR and did all the things: Got a space, furnished it, and dealt with soundproofing; read the legislation on HIPAA countless times; set up secure phone, email, and practice management systems; built the website, wrote blog posts, engaged with social media; networked like a mother; cultivated relationships with potential referral sources within and outside the mental health field.
There were lots of things I did right but also so many things I f*cked up.
A year after starting, my partner got a job back in my beloved hometown of ATX and I readied myself to do the whole thing all over again.
Yes, starting over can be daunting, but truthfully, I was so thankful for the opportunity to correct course. There were so many aspects of that practice that weren’t working but I wasn’t sure how to fix it.
Through my wellness communities in Austin and Portland, I’ve realized that some of what I struggled with is so common and so avoidable. I’ve also become privy to some of the most common ways that we as helpers dig ourselves into a hole with our businesses.
Here are the top 3 mistakes I’ve either seen or experienced myself and why they can be so problematic:
1. Seeing Clients During _______ Time
Yet, time and time again, I see fellow wellness peeps seeing clients at the "wrong" time: during their prime blog writing time, or during a time when they’d really love to finally take that bellydance class, or when they’d rather be at happy hour with some friends, or whenever the client wants to meet despite the fact that they weren’t originally planning to offer client hours on Monday mornings. Because Mondays...
Being flexible is important. And, let’s be honest, when first starting out in private practice figuring out your ideal work times for various tasks may genuinely be an experiment.
However, a lot can suffer if you do not rein this in sooner rather than later. You may end up with too many odd breaks in your day. You may find it hard to get administrative tasks done because you’re trying to accomplish a mental feat at a time that is completely out of sync with your natural rhythm. This can stagnate your marketing efforts and therefore stagnate your business. Your social life or precious me time might evaporate into thin air. You might feel locked into this wonky schedule and not know how to transition out of for fear of losing clients.
Burnout may creep up on you impacting your quality of life as well as your relationships to your clients. Self care is fundamental to ethical practice and, to an extent, is dependent on dedicated time and space that is in sync with the way you work best.
Our September Work + Play will help you devise a schedule that empowers you to balance stability and flexibility to help you grow your practice in a sustainable manner. We will give you scripts to say to clients when they demand a different time slot. We will help you pinpoint when you should be checking facebook and email during the day and when you should be writing notes. We will talk about your monthly cycle and when your "networking" time of the month is. Anastasia McAteer will then lead us in a yoga practice with essential oils to further embody this sense of balance and ease.
2. Setting No Clear Fee
Without a system, our fees may swing among extremes like a pendulum.
One minute we feel strongly that we aren’t being accessible enough on the financial front. Or we feel fear that no one will pay us $125 for our services. So we take on a bunch of clients at the lowest fee spot.
Then we realize how little we can bring home after accounting for overhead and tighten everything up. We turn away a few clients due to their needing a sliding scale fee and insecurity seeps back in.
So, then we pick a number in the middle of those extremes and use that for a minute. In the background, we are working a lot and may not have enough bandwidth to ramp up marketing activities to appropriately attract our ideal niche clients who can also afford a higher fee.
The thing is - this is totally natural. Feeling insecure is natural. Not totally knowing where to land with fees is natural.
But it also can create some problems. For one, when starting in private practice we often come up with our fees by kinda making numbers up. We see someone else charging X and make some assumptions and charge the same thing or something else based on our feelings. But there’s no system or backbone behind it. No wonder our fees can become a moving target.
Additionally, clients can end up staying with us a long, long time. Consenting to see clients at a lower fee can present us with some ethical dilemmas down the road. Raise the fee with current clients or just new ones? Raise the fee with full fee clients, sliding fee clients or both? How?
Honestly, I’d rather avoid as many of those challenges as possible by not falling in that trap in the first place. Luckily, there is a way to sidestep insecurity and create a system that is in alignment with our charitable hearts while keeping us honest about the bottom line. We can teach you a method that will help you stay accountable to the big picture and flex in the here and now without putting you or your business in the financial red zone.
Our October Workshop is all about handling your money... plus we got a little fun thrown in...
3. Not Having A System for Business Money Management
There are so many questions. What do we need to do for our taxes? How do we pay ourselves? What kind of limits should we put on overhead costs? Is there a formula for this? F*ck, I didn’t get into this field to do math.
Let’s start with taxes. I’ve seen so many friends not know what can be written off or not come tax time. Not being sure what to do, piles of receipts collect in our work and home spaces. After a while we might not even be sure if those are business or personal receipts. Things get lost or were never accounted for the first place. It becomes a big clean-up project that we avoid while the fear of being audited by the IRS lurks in the background. Lamesies. (Tip: You need to set aside 1/4 to 1/3 of your income for taxes, and you will likely need to pay quarterly taxes.)
Additionally, I’ve seen many friends just take home whatever they made beyond their hard costs. Doing this sets us up for having a lot of financial catch up come tax time and establishes zero business savings.
Without business savings we inevitably end up drawing from personal funds in the future when needing more cash flow for, let’s say, a deposit on a new office space or professional development, let alone an emergency. This further blurs the lines between personal and business moneys making bookkeeping that much more complicated.
Paying ourselves doesn’t have to look like this. In our October Work + Play we will teach you a systematic approach to manage your biz moola so you can avoid headaches like this in the future. During the second half of the workshop, Laurel Kinney will help us discover new ways of looking at our wardrobe so we can stretch our dollar with style.
Registration for our Work + Play workshops are open! Space is limited so sign up today. We are delighted to teach you all our secrets and have a little fun in the process! Join us!