How to stay focused while growing your private practice

Mar 31, 2015 by

sproutsBuilding a private practice can feel like a bit of a jumble.

For most therapists, business-building is a new skill set.

And as any start-up will tell you, the first year or two in business is intense.

Often, there’s not a lot of money to be had, there’s a tremendous amount of work to do and infrastructure to set up, and when you’re doing it all by yourself?

For the first time?

Well, no wonder it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And distracted.

Before you know it, procrastination sets in and the to-do list just grows and grows.

(Or maybe that was just me—but I’m betting not.)

All is not lost! If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to tame your practice, take heart!

Let’s talk about a couple of simple steps you can return to, over and over, to help you stay focused as you grow your practice.

Plot & plan (your garden)

a vision for your practice

Let’s be honest, most people skip part or all of this step. I certainly did, at the beginning.

A lot of times, when we begin a new enterprise, we focus on taking action and jumping right in.

We get a couple of ideas of things that need to happen, and that list quickly balloons into a monstrous litany of to-dos.

Taking time to plot things out ahead of time will help you stay sane, I promise.

Set aside some time to get some perspective on how much things cost, how long things take, how much you need to learn to do (or pay someone else to do).

It’s about taking the big picture perspective on your resources, your vision, and your short- and long-term goals. Questions like…

Who are your ideal clients?

How much money do you need to save before diving into practice?

What kind of schedule do you want to keep?

Will you have an LLC, a sole proprietorship, or some other kind of business structure?

The good news is that even if you’ve skipped this step in the beginning, you can return to it at any time.

Figuring this out as you go along will cost you more—so try to plan ahead, learn, and consult with mentors to avoid making common mistakes.

Developing some sense of what you want (and why) will help you get it. You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

Pull & prune (the weeds) —

things you have outgrown

When I first started out as an intern six years ago, I had a sliding scale that started at $30 a session.

I no longer have a sliding scale and my fee is $125.

Needs change as you and your practice evolve. What worked for you last year may not work for you now.

So, it’s important to revisit your policies, your fees, your schedule, and your caseload from time to time. Are you heading in a direction that’s congruent with your plotting and planning?

There’s bound to be at least a couple of policies or habits in your practice you need to prune back or pull up by the roots completely.

Get rid of the things you don’t want—maybe offering that 8 am hour worked okay at the beginning, when you were happy to book a client at any time of day. And now it’s feeling like a major chore and you’re feeling resentful.

So you cut 8 am sessions from your schedule.

Perhaps when you started you worked with clients of all ages, and now you’re finding your passion is working with teens in particular.

So you slowly begin referring other clients out and design your website to reflect your newfound niche.

This phase is easiest once you’ve built up your practice some.

If you try to weed a garden too early, you may pull up handfuls of the very stuff you’re trying to grow—it can be hard to see the difference between weeds and worthy plants in the early stages.

So, wait until you’ve become a bit more established to try this step. It is easiest to trim something when there’s enough length to do so.

Prohibit (pumpkins)—

things that are lovely but inedible

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against pumpkins. They’re perfectly lovely vegetables.

(Turns out I write about them often.)  I even have an orange cat named Pumpkin, if that tells you anything.

But sometimes it happens.

Sometimes you look over and you realize your practice is full of pumpkins.

Pumpkins are bright and cheerful things, great for the front porch in October. But they’re terrible for a snack.

When you’re in business for yourself, one of your main goals is to have an enterprise that is self-sustaining. You need to put food on the table.

You want to feel excited and enlivened by your work—or what’s the point of taking on all the hard work and risk that comes with being an entrepreneur?

Pumpkins are business opportunities and ventures that look pretty but don’t feed you.

They’re things that you pick because they’re shiny and sought after and they just make so much sense! –except that they’re taking you away from your plotting and planning.

Sometimes pumpkins are somebody else’s great business idea or marketing plan.

It works great for them—it just doesn’t work for you.

This is why plotting and planning, pruning and weeding, are all so important to the process of growing your own practice with focus and resolve.

If you follow someone else’s dream or get misdirected following the coattails of a colleague’s good idea, you might end up with fields and fields of someone else’s favorite crop.

More help

Picking what stays and goes is a bit of an art form. I’ve written about it for my private clients many times. While these blog posts aren’t specific to building a practice, I think you will find them useful:

Does your life need a trim?

Are you watering your weeds?

Hairballs and wellness.

What to do with the stuff you’ve outgrown.

Good luck with your practice building!

Related Posts


Share This