For me, one of the scariest moves that I ever made in my own private practice journey was when I made the decision to transition my practice from part-time to full-time. That decision to “pull the plug” on a stable, regular income and jump headfirst into something that somehow felt unstable and disconcerting (to say the least!)... Gulp!
The truth is, despite the fact that it’s scary as hell, making that transition from part-time to full-time is very doable.
I did a lot of preparation for it on the front-end, which was a good move. So, I would like to share with you some of the things that I learned while making that move that helped to ensure a transition that was less scary and more effective.
Don’t quit your “day job” too soon
This might be a no-brainer for some, but be sure that you are financially prepared before you quit a full-time job to move into private practice. All too often, people will jump into private practice out of a sense of being so dissatisfied and disenchanted with their careers without having prepared for the financial impact of those initial months in the transition. It can be a huge blow when the regular paycheck stops if you are not ready for that.
First, concentrate on reducing your debt before you make the move to full-time private practice. The one thing you should avoid at all costs is going into more debt while building a practice. A better strategy is to use the money you make from your practice to go toward debt reduction (pay off those student loans and credit cards!) while still maintaining your full-time job.
Second, build a financial buffer for yourself. I always advise people to try and have at least two months of salary and operating expenses in reserve for yourself before jumping into it full-time, and more is even better. This is simply to help take the pressure off for those slow periods while you try to build and grow your practice from the ground up.
Have systems and processes in place
As you grow a practice, one of the things that is crucial towards ensuring your success in the long haul is to have the right systems and processes in place to handle referrals, phone calls, and intakes. The more you can automate these tasks, the more time you will have to spend on other areas of your practice. It will also take more pressure off of you if you are still working somewhere else.
TherapyNotes’ patient portal is perfect for this. This powerful platform gives you complete control over how people contact you and request appointments. It also gives you the ability to create a paperless office with all of your forms. Plus, TherapyNotes automates many of the other functions required for running a practice, from collecting payments to filing insurance claims (if you choose to do that in your practice).
Diversify your referral sources
Another thing you should concentrate on while preparing for the transition from part-time to full-time private practice is to diversify your referral sources as much as possible (i.e. marketing). The thing about the “M” word is that it should be thought of, as my friend Allison Puryear explains, helping people find you so that you can help. And one of your number one marketing tools will be having a website that people can find on the internet. Think of your website as an investment; it will be your most visible storefront.
In addition to having a website, it is always a good idea to blog and use social media to establish yourself as an expert in your niche (yes, have a niche, but that is a separate topic entirely). Again, it will help people find you when they go to search for therapists.
In addition to searching for you online, it is also important to have people and other professionals refer their friends and family members to you. Doctors, clergy, attorneys, case managers, schools, and others are usually good referral sources to have. Develop those relationships and let them know that you are taking new referrals.
Seek the support of others
Finally, draw on the support of others. Diving headfirst into private practice, especially as a solo practitioner, can be a lonely endeavor, so getting others involved can help you feel like you’re not on your own. Also, you can streamline so much by learning from people who have done it before. Hiring a consultant or a coach can go a long way in helping you know where to focus your time and efforts. For me personally, it has absolutely had an excellent return on investment (ROI).
Facebook groups, as Amanda Patterson describes in another blog post, are another area of support. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in these groups, and there’s always someone to talk to. Find one that you feel is a good fit for you and your practice and get involved in the conversations.
Moving into full-time private practice can be scary, but the rewards truly outweigh the anxiety of it all. First of all, be financially prepared for the transition by creating a financial buffer for yourself as your practice continues to grow. Second, concentrate on getting your systems and processes refined so that things run smoothly during the transition. Third, diversify your referral sources by focusing on marketing your practice. And finally, draw on support and do not try to do it all on your own. Get some coaching and guidance along the way to learn from other’s expertise and experience.
Enjoy the journey!* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.