My insecurities from my first year in private practice

Mar 1, 2014 by

burdenI had a serious blast from the past yesterday.  I was cleaning up my home office.  And I came across a couple of old binders.

I started sorting through them and found one full of old notes from my first year in business.

My practice, Labyrinth Healing, turns three this month.  And I couldn’t be prouder of it– and I guess of me, too.

But this hard-won sense of pride and safety also gives me the ability to be vulnerable with you.

And there are some things I think I need to share with you.

First year in business:  what was it like?

burn outSo let me tell you: that first year in business was rough, you guys.

I had very few clients, at the beginning.  So, I was unable to do the work I most loved as often as I wanted.

Instead, I had to learn how to build and market a business, things I knew nothing about.

I had about a million things on my to-do list.

I struggled to prioritize them, like everyone was telling me to do.


All of my projects felt massive—here were a couple of examples of things I had to do:

+ “Build a website and learn WordPress”

+ “Develop new client forms and paperwork”

+ “Attend networking events and build business relationships”

+ “Design a logo—or research and hire someone to do it for me”

+ “Figure out who my ideal client is”

+ “Get business cards designed and printed”

… Needless to say, I was completely swamped.

A hopeful message

ants workingThis post isn’t meant to discourage you.

It’s to help you take heart.  I want you to know that those of us with flourishing businesses now did not always have them.

That we had a roster of clients in the low single digits at one time.

(Everything has to start somewhere.)

That there times when we had more expenses than we had earnings.

(Typical for new businesses.)



That we had to practice saying our fees out loud without turning bright red. 

(Setting sustainable fees will keep you in business over the long haul.)

Building a successful private practice is possible, but it takes a lot of work, knowhow, patience, emotional support, and money.

Today’s post isn’t about the logistics of building a practice.  That’s a whole other post—a whole other website, even.

For today, it’s just about joining with you in those moments of uncertainty and insecurity.

It’s about looking inside our own minds and hearts to see the barriers there that keep us from success.

So I’m going to share a little exercise with you that I completed a few months into my first year of business.

Let me know if any of these things sound familiar to you.

My affirmations

SONY DSCSo one of the things I experimented with in the early days was affirmations.

I needed to have a clear picture of what I wanted, so I knew how to ask for it. 

You can’t hit a target if you don’t know what it looks like, right?

So, this was my affirmation, in the first few months of private practice:

“I easily attract an abundance of clients”

I had sheet after sheet of this statement written, in tidy columns, day after day.

GavelOn one page, I had done a sort of call and response thing, where I wrote the affirmation and then wrote down whatever sort of response emerged in my mind.

Here are some of the things I was thinking:

Yeah, good luck with that.

Maybe if you had a website.  (Fair enough, having a website has helped my practice grow.)

Not if your fee is too high.

Who says you get to be happy?

Maybe if you accept insurance.

No way it will work.  Back to MHMR.  (My old job.)

$100 is too much.

You are not cut out for this.

Not if you are casual and wear jeans.  (Pleased to report I still wear jeans to work, no one has complained or fired me  on account of my pants so far.)



If you’re the bargain basement special.  (Not true, I charge $110 an hour.)

Nice try.


Yikes!  This is the kind of stuff I was thinking?

No wonder I was feeling stuck and hopeless.  Clearly, I had a lot of doubts to overcome.

But why post all of this stuff?

Because I bet you’ve had at least a couple of these thoughts yourself

whether you’re still in your counseling program and wondering if you’ll make it through,

or you’re stuck in the middle of internship and trying to get more hours,

or you’ve just launched a private practice and feeling overwhelmed.

You need to know you’re not alone.

Final thoughts

hopeful ladderI don’t think people talk much about the early years of a business because things are so fragile, so vulnerable.

And I certainly couldn’t talk about it openly myself, as I was going through it.

In many ways, my business is still quite young, and still growing.

But it feels safer now to talk about these things.  And more of these conversations need to happen, so people know what to expect.  So they know they’re not alone.

Because I know some of you are beginning that first year yourselves.

Whether it’s for internship,

your newly minted private practice,

or some other great and amazing enterprise that you’re thrilled and terrified to begin.

So regardless of what that first year is all about, whatever you’re embarking upon, take heart!

You’re not alone.

Seek support.

Be ruthless in developing that business plan.

And be determined to adapt, to be flexible, and to find where you fit.

As for me, I can’t wait for you to arrive.

And if you need help along the way, I’m here.

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  1. Patricia

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Ann. I had not heard these kind of thoughts and feelings before starting my private practice. It is great to know I am not alone. Your presentation on MYOB yesterday was awesome! Best regards, Patricia

    • Ann

      Hi, Patricia! Thanks for taking the time to post a comment here. I’m so pleased that this post filled in some gaps on what you needed to hear! You are definitely not alone. I hope you’ll drop by again soon. Best of luck in beginning your private practice!