I’m often asked where new private practitioners should scrimp vs where they should splurge. I have some fairly strong opinions on this after 10+ years of practice and want to share them with you. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but my hope is that the explanations will help you assess the various options that come up for you.
Let’s talk about Return on Investment (ROI, this ROI isn’t Release of Information). When you get into your own business, ROI is a very important aspect of how and why you spend your money. For most of us starting out, there isn’t a ton to go around so budgeting and making financial decisions that will grow your business and bring in more money is really important.
Next week I’m going to talk abut Where to Splurge (FUN!)
Let’s talk about where to Scrimp!
You probably want a gorgeous office all to yourself: Think about it like college. Like many of us, you probably lived in the dorm your freshman year. It was small. It wasn’t really what you’d choose, but it was safe, well located, and it was clean (stop laughing, some of us were a bit O-C in college). You don’t need your ideal office your first year. You do not need the couch and the decor you’ve always dreamed about. You need to break even ASAP. You need to make a profit. Having a pretty office isn’t going to bring in more money unless you are targeting the extremely affluent and you need to cater to their tastes. I highly recommend sharing an office with someone where you each have set days and you split the rent accordingly. I recommend you go Ikea instead of Restoration Hardware. You’ll get your ideal situation later.
ROI Perspective: Unless a showroom office is absolutely necessary for your clientele, you’re wasting money that could go to something that will build your business.
Sponsoring community events: Exposure sounds like a great idea but you need to be very choosy with this. Sponsoring that 5K for Spina Bifida might get your logo on the t-shirt, but unless you specialize in working with folks with Spina Bifida or their families or you’re a sports psychologist for people learning to run races, it’s probably a waste of your money.
Maybe it IS your niche, then take a good look at the fees associated with sponsorship. For instance, an organization that catered to my niche offered tabling at a conference for eating disorder professionals. The cost was $1,200 for a table (ouch). When I asked about attendance at this event over the years, I learned that less than 100 eating disorder professionals came each year and very few clients or family members. I decided I’d do better networking at the conference than tabling.
ROI Perspective: Unless the event is a perfect fit with your niche AND the price point makes sense for the exposure you’re going to get, it’s better to say no.
Google Adwords: Some of you may have had luck with Google Adwords, but few therapists I know have. For one thing it’s potentially really expensive (I was quoted $750/month initially before needling my way into a cheaper package). I had mine set up professionally. Here’s the thing: Y’know when you google something and you’re looking at the results? Do YOU click on the ads? I don’t. In fact, if you’re ideal clients are under 50 years old, they’re unlikely to click on the ads. If they’re over 50 and internet users they may. Part of the problem is that the ads are boring. In Facebook ads at least you can get creative and show some of your business’ personality. I’ve worked with people who have spent thousands on google adwords without ROI. I’ve also worked with a very talented massage therapist whose professionally set up ad (which included her picture) mysteriously showed up on a Louis C.K. video entitled “Bag Full of D*cks.” Seriously. Some stranger screenshot it and emailed her the picture. I love Louis C.K. (and that bit) but would probably have a heart attack if that happened to me.
ROI Perspective: There are much more impactful marketing options you can invest in.
Website (if you’re capable of figuring it out and willing to hammer it our soon): I don’t mean you need to learn to code. Some WordPress themes are pretty user friendly and Square Space is a breeze if you don’t have a block about it. If you can get to work and get a DIY site going ASAP, you’re in good shape. If you keep procrastinating or you try and get stuck, it might be a good place to splurge. More on that next week. Reticent about getting your website going? Read this.
ROI Perspective: If you can and will do it, you’ll save a ton of money.
HootSuite: If social media is a big part of your marketing, I recommend HootSuite to schedule your posts as you start out. Having an organized social media plan is more effective than throwing something on Facebook when you remember or taking a quick pic for Instagram once a month. Consistency is key. If you’re going to use social media, commit. HootSuite is free and easy.
ROI Perspective: You can pay for social media scheduling with some of the big dog systems that recycle your content (like Meet Edgar) but you probably don’t have a lot of content to recycle if you’re just starting out. Better to make sure social media consistency is your thing before you spend the cash on a bigger deal system.
If you’re super-organized, free systems: I used Practice Fusion as my electronic health record, Office Ally for billing, paper and pen book-keeping, and client’s initials in iCalendar for years and it served me well. If you doubt your organizational skills or like to hide from the money stuff, check out my suggestions next week about where to splurge with this stuff.
ROI Perspective: If you can keep track of the financial part of your business, your charting, and your calendar religiously, you can definitely do it on the cheap/free.
Next week we’ll talk about where to invest your money in your practice to bring in more clients and make more of an income.
Let me know what you scrimp on 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.