You set a goal for yourself to get your Master’s degree and then you worked equally as hard, maybe harder, to get those hours in and study for licensure. You were thrilled when you made it! All the hard work paid off…well sort of…you have your license, but do you have clients?
Have you ever thought about starting your own private practice? Maybe you thought it would be too hard, too daunting of a task, too intimidating or too expensive. Actually there is nothing difficult about starting a private practice.
In this article I’m going to take you through the very simple and quite do-able steps you need to know to starting your own Private Practice.
Step 1. Finding Affordable Office Space
Here are some questions to consider when looking for an office space:
- What location would give most people within your niche access to you?
- How far do you want to travel to your office?
- What size office do you need?
- Will you be a one man show or working with other professionals?
- Will you need a receptionist or office equipment?
- How many days and hours a week do you need office space for?
Drive around the areas you identified and check out some of the office buildings. Stop, walk in them, inquire about the size offices available and the monthly cost per square foot. You can also do a lot of this work via the internet which can save you time.
Find A Business Center
You may want to consider a building with a business center in it. That means for a little extra per month you can get receptionist services, have access to copy machines, faxes and even conference rooms for doing groups or training. These office set ups are ideal for small business owners.
Another thing to consider when selecting an office is privacy issues. For example:
- Does the office space allow for easy entrance and exit for your clients?
- Is there a bathroom near by to slip into after an emotional session?
- Is there a space to serve as a waiting area for clients who arrive a early?
- Does the office space itself offer enough privacy from sound intrusion?
- Can you hear through the walls?
- If you need help with sound issues, purchase a white noise machines
Don’t rule out subletting from other counselors or related professionals like: Medical doctors, alternative health practitioners, lawyers etc. Sometimes faith based organizations will even allow you to use an office a few times a week in return for the benefit of having someone on their campus they can refer people to. Don’t be shy about calling, just do it. All they can do is say “no.”
Next, you might consider how many days a week you expect to work. Many licensed counselors can see 10 -20 clients a week and therefore they do not need access to a full time office.
If you are a faith based counselor, consider contacting some of the local synagogues, churches etc and see if they may have an office space they would be willing to rent to you. Offer a discount to the faith based organization to any referrals and you might get free office space.
Set Your Budget
Have you considered how much you are able to spend on an office space. The cost of a space can run any where from $0 a month to a few hundred dollars per month to a few thousand dollars per month depending on the cost of living in your area and the building location within your town or city. Newer more upscale office buildings are going to be pricier than more established and perhaps historical locations in your area.
Don’t get hung up on the cost though…the important thing is that you get clients. Your case load and fees for services will ultimately determine how much you can reasonably spend on rent. We will discuss that in another post.
In the past I’ve had free office space, to moderately priced office space, i.e. $300/month when I rented from a medical professional who had extra space. Then I split the monthly cost of an office with a colleague in a building that had a business center. My share was about $150/month. That was from the time period of 2001 to 2012.
One way to think about the cost of office or setting your budget is:
- Annual Income: decide how much you want to make each year
- Multiply that number by 20% (that would be a minimum amount of overhead you need to operate your private practice)
- Divide that number by 12 to get your needed monthly revenues
- Divide your monthly revenues by your hourly rate to get the number of clients you need to generate your income and revenues objectives.
Counseling Forms and Paperwork
One of the first things you need to start your private practice is a professional set of SOAP or Progress Note forms and Intake Paperwork. These kits can be downloaded and used immediately and you can customize them with your own logo or credentials or simply use the PDF version.
How to start a private practice and what it costs – Step 2: Getting the proper licenses