I have owned and operated my own private practice since 2006.
In fact - just this week I celebrated my 9th anniversary. (How did I figure this out? People kept congratulating me on my work anniversary on LinkedIn - haha.)
Anyway, over the past nine years I have had successes and failures, mistakes and triumphs. Having my own speech therapy private practice became a dream of mine early in graduate school. I am proud of myself for starting it, keeping it going and working for myself and my clients on my own terms.
Here are 10 valuable lessons I've learned over the last nine years:
1. Private practices can be part-time or "on the side"
You don't have to work full-time in your private practice to be in private practice!!!! Many clinicians (myself included) have run very successful private practices "on the side" of other jobs / responsibilities. You can see a few clients in the evenings. Or when your kids are at school (or asleep via Telepractice). Or all day every day. It's up to you!
2. Private practice is hard work
Most people get into private practice for the flexibility, income potential, and opportunity to help clients in their terms. I know I did. What clinicians don't always realize is the blood, sweat and tears - confounded by doubt, decreased confidence and mistakes that also accompany the journey into private practice. It's not an easy road - but it's a great one.
3. Every private practice looks different
Every clinician has a different vision of what their private practice "looks like" and what personal, financial or therapeutic goals they are hoping to achieve. When you're in private practice, you get to be your own boss and don't have to deal with (as much) red tape!
4. You will make mistakes - it's okay
The number one thing that stops clinicians from starting a private practice is fear. Fear of making a mistake. So they prepare and plan and analyze to death and never get started. The fancy term for this is "analysis paralysis." You have to start somewhere. You will make mistakes. If you learn from them - you will ultimately be successful. If you never start you will never be successful.
5. Flexible schedules really are nice
Depending on your lifestyle and family situation, you may be looking for increased flexibility in your schedule. It's nice to be able to work around your family schedule or treat private clients in the evenings or on weekends.
6. There is a wealth of support online
One of the negatives about private practice is loneliness or missing interaction with co-workers (especially for solo practitioners) the good news is that there is a wealth of online groups to tap into for support, guidance and networking.
Facebook Groups: SLP Private Practice Beginners, SLPs in Private Practice
LinkedIn Groups: Private Speech Therapy Network; Private Occupational Therapy Network
7. Clients are looking for private therapy
Clients are searching for private clinicians. Clinicians often worry if they are going to "get enough clients" but if you market yourself the right way and fill a need in your area, clients and family members will gladly pay for your clinical expertise (but mostly for their own progress!) People are willing to pay a premium to get excellent services outside of the school system or medical model.
8. You have to have a website
Whenever I hear private practice owners complain about lack of clients my first question is always "do you have a website?" Listen - where do you look for info these days? Online. If you need a new dentist - where do you look? Online. Piano lessons for your kid? Online. If you don't have at least a basic website, don't complain about not being able to get clients. Get a website - now.
9. You can make a good income
Yes, you absolutely can make a lot of money by owing your own private therapy practice. The keys to success are: getting enough clients, charging a solid rate and staying on top of billing / collecting payments. Therapists don't usually like to talk about money but - it is nice to be able to make more money while helping more people.
10. Private practice is great :-)
Many clinicians are interested in starting their own private therapy practice but few actually get started. I highly recommend starting with a few clients to see if it's a good fit for your interests, personality and lifestyle. If you decide that private practice is for you, the flexibility, freedom and income are worth it.
Need More? Choose Your Path Below
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 and an online course, Grow Your Private Practice.