Wondering when you should leave that full time job?

For those of you juggling a full time job, a private practice, and y’know Life, hats off to you. I was in your position for about 5 years and looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did it. You’re awesome and I want life to get easier for you very soon.

While I can’t wave a magic wand and make you emotionally or financially ready to make the leap, I do want to give you a few things to think about.

Questions to ask yourself: 

  1. In business, are you more risk-averse or do you dig calculated risk?  You may be a sky diver but scared to death of letting your savings account dip below $5K. So see if you are business-risk averse. Put me in a closed deck kayak in white water and you’ll see a panic attack (I tried to love it for a while… it’s my husband’s thing, not mine). Tell me to rely on my ability to do what I need to to financially succeed and I’m fearless. See where you are in the fear spectrum with business and see how to work with private practice leaping in a realistic way.
  2. Where can you cut back in your personal budget to make your business happen? This doesn’t have to be drastic. Similar to all those times you’ve dieted, you’re likely to binge if you restrict too much. We work better with moderation. Do make some sacrifices to create a cushion but don’t hate life for a year. You’ll end up with a closet full of new clothes, a remodeled kitchen, or way more gear than you ever needed if you do and have hated life without the savings you strived for.
  3. Can you go part time at work? That’s an awesome option if you don’t want to leap into private practice full time. It’s the wading slowly into the pool option.
  4. Do the math to figure out how many clients you’ll need to replace your current income. I have a great resource: Joe Sanok of the Practice of the Practice created a great worksheet for this. WARNING: You will probably be horrified by how little you’re making per hour.
  5. If you can’t go part time, after calculating how much you’re pulling in per hour, could you make the same amount working in a book store, as a barista, or some other job that will allow the emotional bandwidth and part time flexibility to build your private practice?
  6. Are you willing to take a pay cut before going full time? How much do you need to get by each month? Get really clear on your home and business budgets.
  7. Do you get reimbursed for unused paid time off at your job? That might provide a sweet cushion if, like many agency employees, you’ve been denied the time off that you earned.
  8. Do you have the time and energy to work full time, see clients in private practice, network, write website copy, and do some business education via podcasts, blogs, books, or programs? How long can you realistically keep this up? Would it interfere with your other roles as a partner or parent or caretaker? I always vet whether my business choices will allow me to not suck as a wife and mom. My 5 year stint of too much work was pre-kid and at a time my husband’s work schedule was crazy as well. I also had a lot of blocks around just jumping in due to a scarcity mindset.

Points to Consider:

  1. Most of the people feeling blocked about private practice think they’re blocked because of the financial piece but really it’s emotional. It’s the “Who am I to think I could do this…” or “I suck at business/money/time management” or “I’m not a good enough clinician/business person” or “I have to wait until the time is right” (for those of you in the “time is right” category, read this). Sit down with Joe’s worksheet, your budgets and your courage and get real about what’s holding you back. Do what you need to for the money planning part then really dig in to the emotional stuff.
  2. If you’re working part time or devoting all your work time to private practice, you’ll be less burned out and be able to work harder on building. You’ll be able to network more, which is SO VITAL to building. Scared of networking? Listen to this podcast all about effective and fun networking.
  3. If your full time job really sucks, you are already probably burned out and depleted. You probably need fewer therapy clients to be effective, not more. Just sayin’.
  4. If you’re waiting to save up 6 months’ to a year’s worth of living expenses while working an agency job, you’re probably going to be waiting years. You’re losing vitality, love for your work, and money the longer you wait. In agency work plus my part time private practice in 2010 I made roughly $50K while working my ass off and having little down time that I was often grumpy during. It was the most money I’d ever made in my life and felt like too much to leave. In private practice in 2012 I made $94K in full time private practice working less than 27 hours/week, with 3.5 day weekends every week and actual vacations (you’ve heard of those, right?)
  5. When I moved to Seattle, away from my $50K, and went whole-heartedly into private practice I finally succeeded in having the practice and income I wanted. I had to go all in, lose the safety of my full time job, and just make it work. If I’d had a safety job in Seattle, I honestly don’t think I would have succeeded. Losing that security made me work my ass off to get what I wanted. I deferred my student loans, I found a lot of cost saving ways to make it cheap to go into practice (a future blog post), I saved a whopping $5K to devote to my little start up business and swore that if that money ran out and I couldn’t pay my practice expenses with what I was making, I’d look into an agency job. Since I’d rather cut off my own finger than work at an agency, I made sure that didn’t happen.
  6. Now before you say you can’t just jump right in consider this: When we moved to Seattle, my husband was in school, not working. His student loans barely covered his tuition and our rent was twice what our mortgage had been in Georgia (with half the space). Food was more expensive. Gas was more expensive. While I was building, we lived pretty simply, vacationing only to drivable, often camp-able places and packing sandwiches and apples and snap peas for sustenance or foil packs of food from home we could throw in the fire to heat. This was not me building a hobby practice while my partner brought home the bacon (though more power to you if that’s your position). The pressure was real, uncomfortable, and helpful. You may legitimately not be able to jump right in. if you’re a single parent with kids to care for it’s going to take more time and more strategizing, but it’s doable.
  7. If you are committed to a successful private practice, you will have it. By that I mean, if you are willing to invest time, money, and lots of learning to have the business you want, eventually it will be your dream come true. People whose private practices crash & burn have very predictable things in common (another future blog post). You will not be one of them if you keep looking at your business practices, keep learning what will work better, and keep putting yourself out there in ways that highlight your awesomeness.

So, where are you on the quitting your full time job thing? Let me know in the comments!

Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.


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