Sophie Wood runs Buzz Web Design and Consultancy helping therapists working in private practice with digital marketing, so you’re free to provide the best therapy service to your customers.
The advice in this blog post is based on the real-life experiences of setting up in private practice with knowledge hard won over many years by myself and partner, Sarah D Rees, a successful CBT therapist.
Once you’ve decided to go it alone and start your own therapy business, it can be difficult to know where to start. You can get lost in the myriad of things you need to do and soon become overwhelmed by the task at hand.
This blog post will point you in the right direction of the key areas to focus on ensuring your private practice gets off to the best start.
7 Quick Tips On What To Prioritise When Starting Up
1. Deciding On Your Business Structure
Your first decision to make in setting up your practice is to decide whether to set up as a sole trader or limited company. More than likely if you’re starting out, a sole-trader route will be the best business structure for you. The main advantage is the simplicity of setup with HMRC and minimal yearly paperwork. Tax-wise, while not the most efficient long-term, in the first 2-3 years it will be the best all-around option.
If you decide to go down the limited company route, the best advice is to engage an accountant. The different elements of documentation required throughout the year for a limited company outside of your self-assessment submission can be overwhelming.
2. Legal Matters (Insurance and Data Protection)
Next step is to take out indemnity insurance to protect you in the event a claim is made against you for professional negligence or malpractice.
As a therapist working in private practice with clients discussing mental health matters you will collect and store personal and sensitive data (physical and/or mental health details) so you need to be up to speed on all matters data protection related. As of May 25 2018 that means GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation. There is a lot to understand in this space – what your fundamental obligations are, how you store and look after data you hold, how you communicate with your customers about the data you hold and what you do with it. One of your tasks when setting up in private practice is to understand GDPR and how you’ll implement it within your business to be compliant. The following are links to products that will help you in this space and save you time.
3. How To Manage Your Money Day To Day
It’s important to spend time making sure your finances are in order and set up correctly to support you, your family and lifestyle.
You will need to put time aside to review finances each month/week. You will find a percentage of your time is spent running your finances. This includes invoicing, chasing up payments, recording expenses, locating receipts etc. Don’t make assumptions – review your incomings and outgoings.
Set up a separate bank account for your private practice earnings so you’re not tempted to spend it when in fact its needed for the taxman or to cover other outgoings.
How you take payments from clients’ needs to be considered carefully. The following lists the more common options:
- cash or cheque
- bank transfer (BACS)
- card readers – accept credit card payments
- online via your website via an appointment/session booking service
- clients can send payments to you via PayPal
Anything you can do to reduce the amount spent chasing up clients for payments will be a lifesaver so look for options where clients can pay ahead of sessions or at the time of the session.
4. Getting Ready For Therapy
The first item on your list will be deciding where you will practice:
- home – it’s the cheapest but may present practical space, access issues and a security consideration as clients will know where you live
- rented individual office – it’s expensive
- sharing an office location
- pay by the hour – cheap, financially flexible and good if you’re starting out
Next, you’ll want to look at the equipment you need to run your practice. You’ll need a telephone or mobile separate to your personal number, a laptop or desktop computer, a printer/copier, internet access and business stationery.
For secure online storage and productivity tools (word processor, email client and spreadsheet software) then look to Google G-Suite For Business, Microsoft 365 or DropBox (for storing data online).
5. Setting Your Fees
There are various ways of establishing the fee you charge – from checking what your competitors charge, geographic location, overheads you have and finally a finger in the air calculation based on what you’ve earned in previous employment. Best advice is to do your research and make sure whatever fee you charge is covering your costs. A simple fee calculator is offered in the pocket guide to help in this space. Getting Started In Private Practice – The Pocket Guide
6. Attracting The Right Clients
Before you can begin to market yourself and attract the right customer’s you have to know who it is that you are trying to attract and why.
To do this, you need to understand – what your core values are – why you do what you do, what your strengths (and weaknesses) are, who your ideal target customer is, who do you like working with and develop this into your personal branding message to attract the right clients. There is an excellent book on this topic that is worth a read or a listen - Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why.
Don’t overlook this step, sit down and think about what it is that makes you different to the competition, not necessarily better, just different and who is this going to appeal to. Once you know this you can build your marketing efforts around this target market and ensure your messages are consistent.
Tips On Choosing A Business Name
- Is It Taken? – Check the domain name is available for your website – 34SP allows you to check if a name is available from their homepage. Also check that name is available for use on Facebook and Twitter or other social media platforms you might use.
- Is It Simple? – Try to keep a business name simple, so it’s memorable. Also, don’t use words that people commonly misspell.
- Is It Easy To Say Out Loud? – Ensure your name out loud isn’t mistaken for anything elseand that it has clarity.
- Do You Like It? – You’ll be saying it a lot so best to like it!
- Does It Make Sense For Your Business? Make sure the business name says what you do if possible.
7. Marketing Tools and Techniques
Now you have a personal brand and know who your ideal client is, you’re ready to start marketing your business.
You’ll need a website to get customers. Think of a website as your personal marketing platform. You can either do this yourself or have one built for you by a web design company. Which path you go down will largely depend on what you want to achieve, how much time you’ve got and your budget. Remember your website is an investment, not a cost. If done properly, your website should more than pay for itself in the first year of operation.
Content Is King
It’s important to remember that to attract traffic (customers), your website needs to be attractive to both Google and your customers. You can do this by offering fresh, new content on a regular basis. This can be in the form of news, advice, tips, guidance articles or educational downloads from your site. Always remember to keep your website topped up with new content and make sure you advertise it on your social media profiles.
Getting found online
Most people these days will reach for the laptop or mobile and start a search online when they’re looking for a service. The words they type in and you want to be found for is the unnecessarily complicated topic of search engine optimisation (SEO). To get started with SEO, make sure your website contains the words you want to be found for by your customers on Google.
If you want to be found when someone searches for ‘CBT therapist’, make sure this phrase is used on your website both within the content (headlines, body text and image names) and on the back end (known as meta title and description – your website designer/developer should handle this for you so don’t worry about the terms, make a note to ask about it.) These are known as ‘keywords’.
Social media is a great way to expand your customer reach, and the best advice is to find out where your customers are most active on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn and focus on one or two social profiles consistently. Overstretching yourself across too many platforms will reduce your ability to be effective and use up precious time so pick your platform(s) carefully. It can be useful to test each platform to see where you get the most interest/traction.
Register With Healthcare Providers
It’s worthwhile to register with the healthcare providers; registration can be convoluted but worth sticking with as it can make a difference to your business. Here are a few to get started with.
- AXA PPP
- Care First
For a full list of 27 referral agencies that are worth registering with see Getting Started In Private Practice – The Pocket Guide.
What Your Client’s Say
Getting Reviews, Testimonials and feedback from your clients is essential. It establishes customer trust, improves your search results and helps turn a potential visitor turns into a client. Put a process in place for how and when you collect feedback. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to give you feedback.
Hopefully this information has given you an idea of the key areas to concentrate on to get your practice running effectively and profitably as soon as possible.
This blog is a summarised excerpt from the ‘Getting Started In Private Practice – The Pocket Guide‘, which has been compiled by Sarah D Rees and Sophie Wood, Buzz Web Consultancy.
It’s a 40-page comprehensive ‘getting started’ guide full of tips and advice on where to focus your efforts and how to get the best start for your therapy business. Use the coupon code PPHGS5 to get a £5 discount off the guide.
The Guide is part of a collection of simple and effective professional guides, products and templates explicitly designed with the busy therapist working in private practitioner in mind. To find out more: The Pocket Practitioner.