Hello again - Natalia here!
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
Everyone has their own definitions of a weekend, early hours, late hours, ideal work hours, play hours and rest hours. We all have different ideal work times for client-based work and administrative or marketing work.
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
Raise your hand if you feel like managing business money can be SO challenging...yeah, we get it.
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!
When Natalia and I sat down and started talking about our Private Practice experience, we heard ourselves saying the same things. It was both really reassuring to hear someone else saying "I had that problem, too!" and really really annoying.
I mean, how many of us have to experience the same problem before we work together to solve it?!?!
And that, my friends, is just what we want to do.
Today, I want to share with you one of the biggest problems we faced when starting private practice.
Time is Money, and they are both damn hard to manage.
Let me see if any of this sounds familiar...
A client calls. "I can see you at 4pm Wednesday and 6pm on Thursday," you say. "Oh, man, I can only come at 7pm on Thursday," the client says. Well, I mean, I guess I could stay an extra hour... I do need the clients... and the money, you think. "Okay, I can make that work," you say.
Or this one...
Your client texts you, "I'm not feeling great so I'm not going to make it in this week. See you next week." It's only 10 hours before the session, but this is only their second late cancellation, and they aren't feeling good... so I can let it go...
Or my most common mistake I made at the beginning...
A client calls. You talk. You're a great fit. You say, "I charge $120 an hour, but I do have a sliding scale available if clients need it." The client-to-be says, "Oh, money is tight, I think I do need the sliding scale. How does that work?"
Here's the thing... both money and time are energy that we give and take from people around us. As wellness professionals we are givers. We love to help. We take care of people. Somewhere along the line we got the idea that means a one-way flow of our energy outward. That's a sure-fire way to achieve burnout, an empty pocketbook, and resentment. Believe me... I've been there...
What I learned is that with a couple scripts in your pocket you can handle phone calls like a boss, and stick to your schedule or your fee while STILL landing those clients.
Natalia and I have developed two workshops just on scheduling and money to help you get super-crazy-clear on how to get clients, make money, and keep a schedule that doesn't make you crazy.
This is my soul work, people. I can't tell you how happy I am to help support happy wellness professionals. What I know is that with just a little time set aside to work on this, you will create more time and space in your life.
Our registration for these workshops are about to open!! I am sooo excited! Sign up for our newsletter above to be the first to know about how to sign up to get our Early Bird Pricing!!!
I am so super duper excited to team up with the fabulous Natalia Amari to provide some scrumptious business development goodies...
We met like so many meet these days: online.
We didn’t google each other.
We didn’t find each other on Psychology Today.
We didn’t email each other.
We met on Instagram.
Those of you following me now I LOVE Instagram as a way to connect with your audience and where you can let your authentic you shine. I saw Natalia's pretty pictures, inspiring and heartfelt captions, and knew this was a gal who "got" Instagram.
But let’s be real - neither of us started out this way!
According to Natalia, when she first started out in private practice she felt incredibly insecure. She found herself bending in every direction. She thought, "Isn’t that what you have to do to 'make it work'?” Her schedule was all over the place and she took on too much. She didn’t have the tools to know how to make informed decisions about money. And, Natalia’s blogging and social media efforts lacked authenticity because of insecurity.
When I started, I was on Facebook because you "should be." I posted funny comics because "people like funny comics." I tried to be informative because I thought that would position me as "knowledgeable." I spent a lot of time on "shoulds" and none of it had to do with who I was, what I liked, or what I wanted.
Clearly, we learned a lot from our beginnings.
At our first little coffee date at Austin Java, we clicked. Most notably, we discovered that each of us wasn't afraid of trial and error. And, we valued cooperation over competition. We both believe that there is more than enough business to go around - even in a saturated market such as Austin, Texas.
As we talked it became clear that we are both motivated to help other therapists and wellness professionals avoid the trial and error failings and insecurities that we went through because there is a better way: learn from those who have been there!
We believe wellness professionals will prosper when working together, as a community.
We believe that there are simple strategies that can have a big impact on a fledgling practice.
And we believe we can have fun in the process!
And, voila! Here we are: we are creating something for you, my friend, to help you have fun, find your community, and learn from our mistakes. Natalia's bringing her energy and creativity and Sarah's bringing her nurturing spirit and we are going to hook you up, friend.
We'll be unveiling our exciting news in the next week, so stay tuned!!!
Sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch, or follow us on Instagram!!
I've met a lot of frustrated supervisors.
As a supervisor myself, I know there is a lot to be frustrated about! You get your training, add that "S" to your credentials, and expect to get to mold new therapists and teach them the treasures of the job. You've probably been excited to enter in to this period of your practice!
And then... crickets...
Okay, so I poked around on the website for the Texas Department of Health Services, and do you know what I learned?
The Stats Are Surprising
There are 337 listed supervisors in Austin.
There are 347 listed interns listed in Austin.
That means that there is almost one supervisor for every listed intern! In other words, supervisors nearly outnumber interns. Not a good ratio! Being a supervisor in Austin is highly competitive.
But you don't really want just any supervisee. You want a good supervisee, who will follow rules, be ethical, and is open to feedback. RIght? Finding a supervisee that is a good fit is no easy matter.
There is Hope!
Before we get all doomsdayish... what this really means is that supervisors need to be mindful of how they market their skills and their supervision.
Here are the most important ways a supervisor should market:
Word of Mouth
Most supervisees find their supervisor via word of mouth. It is very important that you stay on the radar of others in the field. This could mean that you reach out to your colleagues every few months by email to let them know you supervise. ("Every few months?!" you are saying to me. Yes. People are busy. And they forget things. Even wonderful things like you supervising. Unless you remind them, you will slip off their radar. So, yes, an email in front of them every month or so is a great way to stay on their minds.)
Most supervisees google their potential supervisor before calling. They are scoping you out. They want to see what you look like, how you talk, what you "feel" like, and what your rates are before making that first call.
Which leads to...
Your website is your gateway. Your website needs to have an awesome "about me" page that describes who you are AS A SUPERVISOR and what you are like so that a good match is made before the phone even rings. The page you have for clients DOES NOT COUNT. Potential supervisees want to know how you approach supervision, which may or may not be the same as how you are in therapy.
Check out our About Me help video if you are feeling stuck.
Consider using a Supervisee-match service. Thank goodness for technology. Services like "Find My Supervisor" help connect supervisees and supervisors based on licensure and location. For a small fee, you can be listed to get better visibility and access to potential interns.
Whatever path you choose for advertising yourself, know that the key is being authentic and true to your voice. When you communicate who you are, a great match can happen.