Are you thinking about opening a private practice sometime down the road? Are you wondering about what you can be doing in advance? If so, I have a great suggestion for you. Let me back up and tell you about how I arrived at this great idea.
I had a timeline to open my private practice and there were many things that I put on hold until everything was in place, such as designing a website and getting business cards. Those two choices served me well, but I missed out on some preparatory work that would have sped up my process. Once I had everything in place and opened my practice, I began catching on to ways in which I can bring more people to my website. Now let me say that many of you may already know about what I am talking about, but for those of you like me who are not as online savvy, this information may sound new.
One way to draw people to your website is by having a strong online presence in social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. On Twitter, you can build a following of people by posting ideas, reposting other people’s tweets, and responding to others’ ideas. This following can become very useful for two reasons. The first is that from time to time, you can post about a blog that you have written on your website and you can direct people to read more. The second reason is that the more you connect your website to other links online, the more people visit your site and then your ranking in a search engine will increase. By that I mean when people search for counselling in your city, your website is closer to the top of the list. This is referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this takes TIME.
No doubt you see where I am going with this … before you even get your private practice opened, if you invest some time in building your online presence in social media, you will be better equipped to direct people to your website when you are open for business. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I heard some good advice in the business class that I took last spring and that is to maximize your online presence so that potential clients can learn more about you. I do not tweet, nor am I a fan of Facebook, however, even someone like me (and maybe you) can establish an online presence .
This is what I’ve done so far: I have a website that I built through Wix, I am on LinkedIn, and I am in three online directories. Also, one of the reasons I chose to do this blog was to increase my presence. In the near future, I plan to create an additional website with other therapists that have links to our individual websites. One common suggestion that I have heard is that having numerous links to your website increases its standing on Google searches.
These are the fees that I have encountered for professional online directories:
- $ 94…/year (pro-rated) – my provincial association referral list
- $40.00 / month – Psychology Today Directory
- $25. 00 /month – my city directory
- $50.00 / month – Yellow Pages
My plan is to use the first three directories for a year or so, monitor how my clients found me to determine which referral sites I will continue to use.
I know that there are companies that can audit your website and improve its visibility on Google searches. In fact, one tracked me down within weeks of launching my website. Out of curiosity, I researched two such companies: one costs close to $600.00 and the other’s fees were approximately $400.00. It is good to know that this service exists, but I hope that I won’t need it. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
In an earlier blog, I wrote that part of my marketing plan is build relationships with neighborhood medical clinics in the hopes that they will be a referral source. I have been working on this for three weeks and this is what I’ve learned so far. Continue reading → *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
How do you plan to receive payment from your clients? Are you collecting payment yourself or will there be a receptionist doing that for you? Do you have third party payment? Will you be mobile or in one location? Will any of your counselling be online? All of these answers will help determine which option is best for you. I will share what I have learned about payment options and how I made my decisions. Two very useful online articles are listed at the bottom. Continue reading → *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Many colleagues in private practice have suggested to me, “Don’t spend too much time on promotions like brochures and fancy business cards because you will get the majority of your clients through word of mouth.” I believe that this is good advice, however, word of mouth must start somewhere. Here are a few of my ideas about how to promote oneself as a counsellor/therapist opening a new private practice and to set in motion word of mouth.
I think it begins with connecting with the leaders in the community. These leaders may be in churches, cultural organizations, and social service agencies. For my purposes, I plan to build relationships with doctors in neighborhood clinics, school counsellors, and community association leaders who are part of my target regions. I think that it makes sense to concentrate time and effort connecting with groups and individuals who may become regular sources of referrals.
Continue reading → *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
How do you plan to receive payment from your clients? Are you collecting payment yourself or will there be a receptionist doing that for you? Do you have third party payment? Will you be mobile or in one location? Will any of your counselling be online? All of these answers will help determine which option is best for you. I will share what I have learned about payment options and how I made my decisions. Two very useful online articles are listed at the bottom.
So, there seems to be four basic payment options: cash, cheque, credit, or debit. Each have benefits and disadvantages, depending on your answers from above. These are my thoughts based on my single person, mobile, face-to-face private practice.
- Considering how much a counselling session can cost, cash does not seem like the best option because I am the holder of the payment and I wouldn’t want to have a lot of cash in the office. If the client is not paying the full amount, however, this could be a hassle-free way to be paid.
- Cheques seem like a good option assuming they don’t bounce but the bank usually holds them for a few days before they can be accessed. Also, I don’t know how many people use cheques anymore. I wouldn’t make this the only option, but I see few disadvantages to accepting cheques.
- Debit does not cost anything to accept, so in that way it is preferable to credit, although some online payment systems such as Paypal do not include debit. I like debit, although I could not find any debit options that did not also include credit.
- Credit costs the counsellor money (somewhere around 2.75%), however, it is very convenient for everyone. Also, there are a number of ways to receive payment through credit: a point of sale system like the square, a mobile card processor, a credit card terminal if you are in one location, and online payment like Paypal. I like this option because the fee transfer happens right away.
My plan is to accept cheques and cash while encouraging credit or debit. For credit options, I narrowed my top two choices to the Square or Moneris because I wanted the transaction to be face to face (rather than e-transfers or Paypal). Even though Moneris has a monthly fee, I chose it over the Square for a few reasons. First, Moneris has been around longer and has a strong track record for customer service. Second, this service has a relationship with my bank (RBC) and a person in my city who has already talked to me on the phone – how often does that happen these days? , Third, I can accept debit or credit with Moneris. The Square only takes credit. If you are curious about online payment systems, you can visit the two articles I listed below; I found both very informative.
This decision about payment options is an important one to make and you would be wise to do so before opening your business bank account because there are a number of different types of accounts based on how your receive payment. I found it very helpful to speak with a business account manager at my bank in order to sort out all of these options. If anyone has opinions or insights about payment options, please leave a comment and share with our readers.
Lindzon , J. (2014, Nov. 14). Top five online payment systems for your small business. Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-money/cash-flow/top-five-online-payment-systems-for-your-small-business/article21553705/
Purch. (2015, June 11). Square Review: Best Mobile Credit Card Processing Solution. Business News Daily. Retrieved from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8064-best-mobile-credit-card-processor.html *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Looking for office space has made this experience feel a lot more real. It’s about making real decisions with significant consequences. Working out of my home is not a practical option for me and so I am going to share my newly acquired wisdom about finding office space to set up a counselling practice.
Through my gap analysis, I was able to target the part of town in which I want to open a private practice. To get a sense of my options, I sent a brief email to professionals in the counselling, chiropractic, naturopath, massage therapy, and physiotherapy fields in that part of town to introduce myself, and to inquire if they had any space to rent. Not only was I very pleased with the number of responses, but also about the useful information I gained when meeting with many of these individuals.
Continue reading → *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I mentioned a gap analysis in my last blog and I cannot stress how helpful this has been for me. Yes, it is time consuming and a bit on the tedious side, however, it is better to do this work upfront so that you can make informed decisions. OK, that’s my pitch. Now let me tell you what you need to know about the gap analysis.
Basically, a gap analysis allows you to determine if there is a gap or need in the market for your service. Previously, I suggested that you do your research and create a list of the counselling agencies and private practitioners in your area, noting where they are and their area of counselling expertise. Already, this gives you two categories of useful information.
First is the location. Are there areas of your region that are under-served? Are there areas that you want to avoid because it is already saturated? You can ask yourself why that may be. In my gap analysis, I found that the under-served areas were either new neighborhoods or areas that were the least wealthy that may not be able to support the fees of a private practice. Continue reading → *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
If choosing between incorporation and sole proprietorship was the hard part (http://www.ccpa-accp.ca/blog/?p=4247), choosing a business name can be the fun and creative part. You may already have a few ideas; I didn’t and so this is the process that I followed.
First, I did an extensive google search of private practitioners in my area. Originally, I just wanted to see what names were already taken. Then I decided to create a list of all of the other private practices noting their area of expertise, area of the city, the number of counsellors on site, and their contact information. I strongly suggest you do the same because this can be the basis for your gap analysis, a referral list later on, and a contact list for rental space. I also developed some ideas for a website by looking at how everyone else did it. I’ll have more information about these ideas in later blogs, so stay tuned!
What I noticed were a few trends in business names. A number of counsellors chose names highlighting location, others chose names that conceptualized the counselling process, and some kept it simple by using their names for their business. Because I am incorporating a business of one, I decided to use my name. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Continue reading →
There are so many things to think about and choices to make going into private practice. The first big decision is choosing a business structure, and many small business websites do a great job at educating their readers about this. Let me tell you what I’ve learned so far.
I have spoken to a number of counsellors who are in private practice. Some chose to work within a sole proprietorship because they anticipated small revenues and/or wanted to keep it simple. Others decided to incorporate because it seemed like the logical and/or safer route to follow. I have also done some online reading about limited liability partnerships wherein practitioners work somewhat independently of one another and commit to sharing expenses.
I am also taking some entrepreneurial classes through a Continuing Education program and I am loving it. What I’ve learned in this class is that there are advantages and disadvantages to each business structure. A sole proprietorship costs less (approximately $50.00) and is easier for tax purposes. The incorporation, on the other hand, provides more personal protection from legal issues and the cost is about $460.00. Basically, if someone sues me as a sole proprietor, (s)he can pursue my business and personal assets whereas that same person can only access my business assets if I am incorporated. This was the deciding factor for me.
My choice may be different than yours for a variety of reasons. It would be great to hear from other counsellors in private practice and how you made this decision. In fact, if at least two counsellors post to this blog, that will double the number of posts from last time! *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA