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Let's Create a System to Help You Get More Clients - Together
The long-term success of your private practice depends on the following cycle happening over and over again:
But how to you do that in the most cost and time effective way?
Simple: You follow a system that works
What is this system exactly? I'm in the process of creating it right now :-)
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You'll get an email from me within a few days (maybe less) that will help me create the PERFECT MARKETING COURSE for you and countless others!
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P.S. If getting more clients is something that you worry about, join the list - as that's what this new resource is all about :-)
Simple: you find a profitable niche that you're excited, passionate and knowledgeable about.
What is a niche (and why you absolutely need to have one)
Let's take a step back: what is a niche exactly?
A niche is defined as:
a job or position that is very suitable for someone, especially one that they like
A niche private practice serves the unique needs of a well-defined (and usually smaller) client population (ex. teens with autism, musicians with repetitive strain injuries, new moms with postpartum depression)
Having an established private practice niche allows you to be a "big fish in a little pond" and treat clients you truly love, day after day.
Why is working within a specialized niche an important (and necessary!) step for many private practitioners?
Many private practitioners are terrified about two things:
Having a private practice niche increases your chances of success by being able to treat a larger subset of a smaller population, while commanding higher prices.
Yes - higher prices.
Why are specialists able to command higher prices? Both clients and referral sources trust experts. Private practitioners in an established niches have a specialization that comes with experience.
If your child had a rare condition, who would you hire to help them:
a generalist who frequently works with their issue or a specialist who has an excellent reputation for quick progress and works solely with their condition?
Would you pay a premium to work with the best person because it would mean a better overall recovery or a faster recovery? Of course you would.
Developing a niche will not only allow you to work with the kinds of clients you like best but will allow you to get paid significantly higher for those services.
What opportunities come with having a private practice niche?
When you have a niche private practice, you unlock amazing opportunities for growth and sustainability.
Some communities have only a few clinicians in private practice and some have many.
If you find yourself competing with other practices - or if you want to make sure that you're only working with clients whom you can make the biggest difference for -
developing and growing a niche private practice is a necessity.
You may have goals of writing a book, leading workshops or continuing education events or becoming a consultant - all of which is possible if you pick a unique focus and serve your clients well.
While this may seem counterintuitive, niching down and specializing in a certain area doesn't close doors or limit your chances of success, it allows you to capture populations that may be a part of growing trends (ex. picky eaters, kids with autism, baby boomers) before other clinicians get there.
As a clinician, you are a "helping people" person and you have a calling to help a specific group of people improve their lives with the benefit of your therapy. Niching down will help you and your clients find each other.
Your goal: Get a smaller piece of the market, serve them well and you'll be rewarded for it.
This article was written by Jena Casbon, MS CCC-SLP, a private practice consultant and founder of The Independent Clinician. Looking for more information about starting to treat private clients? Sign up for the brand new Private Client Mini Course here.
As the admin for the group, I asked established private practitioners to answer this question:
Here is their advice for you:
1. Vanessa Anderson-Smith, Anderson-Smith Speech Therapy, LLC
"Start slowly while still at your FT job and with home visits to keep overhead down! Also, invest in YOURSELF and your ideas...find a specialization and word of mouth gets around for more clients."
**Vanessa shared her private practice success story with The Independent Clinician back in July of 2015. You can check out "From 'No Plan' to Four Month Wait List: Vanessa's Private Practice Success Story" here.
2. Laura Badger McGloine, Badger Speech Therapy
"Believe in yourself, your skills and your education. Be confident-practice building your confidence by rehearsing the business details at home or in front of family."
3. Laurie Farkas Harriman, Speech-Language Pathologist
"Build relationships with other SLPs in your area, they may become referral sources for you! I recommend starting small too, maybe a few private clients on the side so that you can get the hang of billing, etc. :-)
And just remember...YOU GOT THIS!"
4. Asia Hutchins, Eloquent Speech and Language Therapy, LLC
5. Marena Mitchell, Bringing Therapy Home
"Say "yes" and then figure out how to do things - you will be presented with opportunities so be ready for them.
Definitely try to avoid comparing yourself to others - follow the code of ethics, develop goals, and be the best YOU - remember, you don't know another therapist's story so avoid comparing yourself to the competition. It's about providing services to kids and families."
6. Kristen Keilman Chadwick, Chadwick Speech Therapy LLC
"Don't question yourself or your worth. There is a NEED for our profession, and once you get your groove, the sky is the limit!"
7. Kathleen Campbell Clifford, Speech-Language Pathologist
"Be patient, take on some clients while maintaining full-time employment, invest in yourself in training in area of passion/need in community. Network."
8. Lane T. Brown, Speech-Language Pathologist
"Document everything! The paper trail is what covers you in any disputes with patients or insurance companies. So make sure you've got a solid one to CYA!"
9. Alison Edelstein, Chirpy Chatterbox
"Believe in yourself as you stay open to learning and growing as a clinician and as a person. Develop a support system of other SLP's in your area that you can bounce ideas off of and commiserate with on the tougher parts of the job. Support your clients areas of need with their wonderful strengths. :-)
10. Ashley Gibson Bonkofsky, AGB Speech Therapy
"Say "yes" to opportunities, of course, but also know when to say "no." Understand your limits, your personal goals and your professional scope. Know you can do this!"
11. Heather Brown, Speech-Language Pathologist
"Don't avoid doing something because you hit wall after wall. One will break down eventually."
12. Sarah McDonnell, Sarah McDonnell LLC
"What you are looking for is on the other side of fear, and the only way out is through! Dream big, articulate and write your goals and steps to get there. Nothing is as hard as it seems when you take it step by step! And don't be afraid to ask for help!"
13. Robyn Wilmot Hillison, Capital Speech & Language Therapy Services
"This may not be the right choice for most, but I had to just give up every excuse I had been making and every fear that had been stopping me from doing what I truly wanted to do for a long time and just do it with 100% dedication! I went forward with no back up plan! It's a very uncomfortable position to be in, but I'll say, I've had no choice but to be successful."
14. Kristie Skeen Crawford, Crawford Therapy Services, LLC
"Yes... Patience! I started this process around August '15. I got ONE client (a friends kid ). But, after credentialing, calling, passing out brochures/cards/pens, creating a website, fb page.... Finally, LAST week i got 6 calls! Starting with ALL of them this and next week!! Things will look up, don't give up."
15. Elissa Flagg, SLP(C), Reg. CASLPO
"Be yourself. It's hard to establish a good therapeutic relationship if you're not being authentic. It's tempting to copy your style from a mentor whose skills you admire, but it doesn't work if that's not you. You'll be uncomfortable and so will the client. Have confidence that your way of 'being there' for the client is ok too!"
16. Avital (Tali) Kellerstein, S-LP The Speak Boutique
"Plan your next session - even if it's just a one word idea - as soon as you are done your last."
17. Jena Casbon, The Independent Clinician
"Every private practice starts with ONE client. While you may have dreams of running a big private practice someday, starting with one client "on the side" will help you learn the ropes and keep things manageable.
At some point, you just have to start. If you let fear of making a mistake consume you, you'll end up with "analysis paralysis"and never have the flexibility, clinical freedom, income or autonomy you desire."
There's one more especially important piece of advice I have for you:
Don't compare someone else's private practice with the one you're just beginning. You've heard from seventeen established speech pathology private practice owners who were once in your shoes. While you may aspire to have the same level of success, you can't possible start there!
So, What Common Themes Emerged?
The most common themes in this advice to clinicians looking to start their own speech therapy private practice are ones of:
Every single one of the above private practitioners started from scratch. They were afraid. They didn't know what they were doing. They worried about making a mistake or failing.
What sets these clinicians apart however, is that they took their fears and hesitations into account and did it anyway. They did it anyway.
They took action.
They did it.
They found success.
If you follow their advice, you can too.
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If I boiled the respondents down to a typical “reader profile,” it would look something like this:
Based on my readers’ comments, I have come to 5 conclusions:
1. People Are Motivated By Helping More People - On Their Terms
Most people get into the fields of speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy to help others. Once in the field, they still find deep personal satisfaction with helping their clients but can become dissatisfied by their school administrators, insurance regulations and other red tape.
It was clear from the survey that “helping people” is the prime motivator for clinicians - but that they want more control over what services they provide, how services are delivered, frequency of services, etc.
2. People Are Worried About Billing / Insurance
Many readers are unsure of how to get paid for their private therapy services.
Some are unsure about how to set their rate (don’t want to charge too much or too little) and others are questioning whether to do private pay only to become an insurance provider. Getting paid for your services is VERY important. You are a skilled clinician and deserve to be paid fairly for the value you provide for your clients.
My recommendation is to stay private pay only as long as you can, as it is much simpler to keep organized. If you decide to become an insurance provider, follow these three steps:
Realize that billing insurance has a steep learning curve. You will miscode things (but then learn how to do it right), you will get denials for things have have no idea why (you'll call the company and ask), and you will be confused and overwhelmed (until you create systems to streamline your billing process.)
If you need more information on how to become a health insurance provider, Chapter 6 of The Guide to Private Patients is dedicated to helping you get started.
3. Peoples “Ideal Private Practices” Look VERY Different
When I first considered going into private practice, I thought that they only way to have private practice was to have rented clinic space with a waiting room, receptionist and employees. The problem was, I didn’t want all of that, I wanted to stay small.
One of the questions I asked was, “What does your ideal private practice look like?” Here are some of the answers:
See what I mean?
Everyone has a VERY different vision when it comes to their ideal private practice.
No matter what - the first task is getting your very FIRST client and laying a solid foundation for future success - no matter what that may look like to you!
4. People Are Interested in Financial Freedom
"Helping people people” often don’t like to admit that they are motivated by money. They often feel an internal conflict around charging for their services. Having said that, when I asked the question “Having a successful private practice would allow me to ______________” Many responses had to do with income goals. People reported wanting to “retire with financial freedom,” “extra income for vacations and children activities,” “be financially comfortable” and “take earning pressure off of my husband."
It’s okay to be motivated by money!
I have often said, “I didn’t get into this field for the money… but it sure would be nice to have more."
5. The Biggest Obstacles to Getting Started Are Limited Time and Fear of the Unknown
One of the questions focused on why people had not taken action towards developing their private practice yet.
The majority of people said that they had limited time and / or that they were afraid of making a mistake.
I get it.
You work long hours at your regular job. You may have a family that depends on you. Basically, you're overworked and overtired and figuring out how to start a private practice isn't exactly on the top of your to-do list.
Just remember - you don't have to quit your job or "leap into private practice." You can dip your toe in the water and treat 1-2 clients "on the side" and build from there.
For those of you with minimal time (which I also totally get - on top of everything I do I have a toddler at home to take care of), if you're looking to save time and cut down on the hours it takes to research how to start your speech therapy private practice, The Guide to Private Patients is concise and offers step-by-step advice to navigate the process of getting started.
My Next Steps...
So what am I going to do with all of this information?
In the next few months, you’re going to see a shift in how I deliver content.
I have always wanted to get into producing webinars, and I am eager to get that going. I plan to host my first webinar “How to Finally Start Treating Private Clients” in a few weeks. Stay tuned!
Many people have joined my Private Practice Mini Course and I’ve gotten some great feedback on it. One of the things you’ll notice is that in several emails, you’re asked to click on a link to identify yourself in some way.
My rationale for this is to separate my list according to level (beginner, intermediate, advance), discipline (SLP, OT, PT, other) and other metrics still to come.
I don’t want to send advanced content to beginners - and those with large practices are far past the steps that beginners need to be taking. If you’re on my email list, please open all emails and if there’s an option to click on a link, it’s in your best interest to do so.
Lastly, many of you know that I’ve been working on a new resource to help you get more clients through efficient and inexpensive marketing strategies. It’s taken significantly longer to create than I thought, as it’s a mix of videos, worksheets and reading material.
Referrals The Right Way will be out in a few months. If you would like to get on the VIP Early Access list, click here.
The fear of messing something up weighed too heavily on mean and I caved. One of my colleagues also worked privately and I was lucky enough to find my accountant through him.
It's funny, when I first met with David, I thought I was organized. I had lists and added columns and separated and totalled receipts and I honest thought he was going to be so impressed with me.
The problem was, the way that I had organized my financial information didn't make it easy for him to input everything into the IRS forms online.
What should have been an hour long appointment became a two hour appointment, which meant I owed double what I thought it was going to cost me.
And I was totally embarrassed and ashamed.
Benefit #1: To Get Organized (and Create a "Tax Binder")
Before I met with David for the first time, he had sent me a worksheet packet for me to list all of my personal income / expenses / debts in addition to the income and expenses associated with my private practice.
While I tried to use it, I found the form a bit confusing. I knew what information he wanted but I wasn't sure how to organized it.
When I actually met David, everything clicked.
His warm personality was welcome as I had feared that he would be a rigid and impatient accountant.
He could tell how much effort I had put into organizing everything and helped me see where I needed to reorganize myself.
He taught me a system based on creating a Tax Binder that I immediately fell in love with and still use to this day. (Instructions on how to create your own Tax Binder can be found in Chapter 7 of The Guide to Private Patients)
Being a nerdy SLP, once I got home from the appointment, I immediately took the main content from his forms, customized them to meet my needs and created home-punched sheets to put in a brand new binder.
Knowledge is power... and so is confidence.
Benefit #2: For Piece of Mind
My first year in private practice, I used Turbo Tax. As far as my personal income / expenses went, it was very easy to use.
When it came to entering in my private practice information, I was completely lost. I did the best I could and hit send. I got a refund (yes!) but wasn't sure if I had really done everything correctly.
I immediately vowed to make enough money in the future so that I could hire someone else to file my taxes. And I did :-)
Not only was I able to sleep at night knowing that everything had been done properly, I went into the new year completely organized and on top of everything. I tracked my income and expenses in a much more organized way (using Freshbooks) and knew exactly what to pay in quarterly estimated taxes.
The year before I was afraid to spend the money on an accountant. That year, I couldn't spend it quick enough!
Benefit #3: They Pay For Themselves
Before I used David, I claimed significantly less in taxes because I thought that the only things I could get reimbursed for were mileage and therapy materials.
After meeting David, I realized that I could write off:
I believe the first year I met with David, I paid him $250 and he got me back close to $1500. I'll take that any day!
Considering Hiring an Accountant For Your Private Therapy Practice...?
As far as meeting with an accountant, I would do it sooner than later.
The benefit of meeting with someone isn't as much about keeping track of your earnings (although they will help you with estimated taxes if you have earned enough) but also with making sure you get all tax deductions you're entitled to. Taking deductions reduces that amount of your income, which reduces the amount you owe / get refunded.
Before my life and finances got more complicated, I paid about $250/year. Now that I am married and have a business, home, child and other expenses, I pay closer to $1,000 (but accountant fees are also tax deductible.)
If you have other friends in private practice, consider asking them who they use. It's helpful (but not essential) that an accountant be highly familiar with the professional lives of SLPs, OTs and PTs. They aren't doing billing for you - they are looking at income and expenses.
Another place to check is review sites like Yelp and Angie's List. Again, try to look for people with experience with therapy practices but if not, experience with small business / freelancers will do.
Hint: You want to make sure that whomever you hire is a Certified Public Accountant or CPA. CPA's are certified and licensed, having passed rigorous tests and with requirements for continuing education.
Jena's "Taxes Binder"
If you're interested in my Taxes Binder organization strategy, the step-by-step method (including the forms) are available in Chapter 7 of The Guide to Private Patients.
The Guide to Private Patients is available here.
Jena H. Casbon, MS CCC-SLP is a private practice consultant who helps SLPs, OTs and PTs start their own private practices. She is the author of two books: The Guide to Private Patients and The Guide to Creating a Web Presence For Your Private Practice.