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.
If you missed “Where to Scrimp,” check it out here.
Let’s talk about where to Splurge!
Clinical: you can go to the low-cost, convenient CEU opportunities as much as you want. I’ve definitely attended these because they were cheap and easy. The online and within-30-miles-of-your-house are good in a pinch, but you know what will make your clinical skills improve and your practice feel rejuvenated when you’re feeling blah? The conferences and symposium within your niche. The ones out of town that pull people together from all over the country or world where the speakers are top notch and the energy is buzzing. Where people are hungry to learn and are soaking up as much as they can. Where they can’t decide which of the awesome post-lunch talks to go to. Those, my friends, are the places you’ll make contacts that will help you grow. I know it seems antithetical since it isn’t local, but the version of you that shows up to these events is a much more appealing referral source than the you that just dropped your kid off at daycare with yogurt in your hair to learn about a topic you don’t care about just because it’s convenient. When you build your private practice budget, build one of these in each year. To cut down on expenses, I choose the one on my coast since each organization I follow tends to switch off coasts each year and I often share a room with a colleague. Make training a priority in your practice and you will be rewarded. Part of being great at what you do requires it.
ROI perspective: if you are on the cutting edge in your area, the one who knows the latest treatments or is most rooted in best practices within your niche, you will gain the respect of your colleagues. They will be more likely to refer to you. The better you are at what you do, the more referrals you will get from your clients as well.
Business: You can take advantage of all the free resources you can find and apply what feels like it makes sense but please be aware that you still won’t know what you don’t know. You’re sacrificing time and money trying to figure it all out on your own. I’ll use Abundance as an example. I have spent THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars in the first full year of Abundance learning the things I needed to to make it thrive. I could’ve found all that information on my own for free online or in podcasts, I’m sure. But it would’ve taken me probably another 2 years to find, read, and apply that information. Personally, I want to make a profit as soon as possible and I’m totally clear that I need guidance to do that quickly and efficiently. I don’t want to reinvent wheels. And let’s face it, unless you had a business background before getting into the therapy world, you have a lot of catching up to do to be able to run your business like a CEO without being a stressball.
ROI perspective: each hour of business training should save you a ton of time researching and learning on your own. My goal is to save people at least 10 hours for every 45 minutes they spend with me on research. That’s 10 hours you could be making money or focusing your efforts on other things that will bring in money. We work through resistance you have around what you need to get done and I point out the stumbling blocks you might not see in your path. If you spend $2,000 on consulting and build to full 1 year faster than you would have on your own, that’s potentially a $100K return on investment. There are a lot of great consultants and coaches out there. Do your research to see who feels like the best fit, you can see my packages here (FYI: I go on Maternity Leave in February so hop in soon if you want to). Consulting with someone who knows what they’re doing really is the most bang for your ROI buck.
Website (if you’re not getting it done)
If you ARE getting it done, save your money (see Where to Scrimp). If you keep meaning to get to it but the weeks or months keep passing, it’s time to suck it up and spend the money. You need a web presence. I tell you why it’s so important here. Some of my favorite web designers for therapists are Kat Love, Lia Luxe Designs, and Brighter Vision.
ROI perspective: the longer you go without a website the longer you go without the influx of referrals a website brings. You’re flushing more money down the toilet than it costs to get the thing done. Having a pro do it also comes with SEO (being found on Google).
I’m not talking trips to Vegas or fancy group dinners. I just mean making sure you have an adequate amount of money to grab coffee or lunch with folks several times a month.
ROI Perspective: If you spend $20 on dinner with someone who refers a client to you you’ve paid for your dinner several times over in the first session. That ROI is hard to beat.
Psychology Today/Other National Listings
At about $30/month, Psychology Today’s online listing is an ROI goldmine. I’ve gotten tons of really great clients from Psychology Today. If you get paralyzed by what to put in your profile, check out this Selling the Couch Podcast that helps you see what’s important and how to write it. If you’ve never had a Psychology Today profile and want one, shoot me an email and I can get you 6 months free. Folks ask about Good Therapy and other National listings as well. I suggest playing with Google as if you were a client to see what comes up. If I put in “therapy Asheville” Psychology Today is going to show up in the Top 3. Try “Anxiety Atlanta” or “Addiction New York City” or “Infidelity Help Portland”… whatever your ideal clients would be searching. If Good Therapy is in the first few options, get on there.
ROI Perspective: If you get 1 weekly client from it, you’ll have a year’s worth paid off within a month.
Local Listing Services
If a local organization within your niche has a directory that isn’t too expensive, go for it. For instance, an awesome non-profit here in Asheville, T.H.E Center for Disordered Eating has treatment resources and I pay the $100 annually to be a part of it. This is partly because it’s good for business (they show up pretty high on Google and link to my site so I’m easier to find on a couple levels) and partly because they do good work which I’m happy to support.
ROI Perspective: Even if I get one referral, I’m in the black within the first session. I’m linking my reputation with an organization that has a good reputation.
A Good Accountant
I did my own accounting for years. Me and Turbo Tax would knock it out in one long day and I’d pat myself on the back for saving so much money DIY-style. I felt capable and knowledgable enough thanks to the questions Turbo Tax asked me. Then I hired an accountant when a friend told me hers was so inexpensive and would be great. Then that accountant screwed up some really big deal things (sent another person all my tax info and me hers, messed up friends’ taxes despite saying she could handle civil commitments joint taxes (pre-marriage equality), forgot my daughter was a tax deduction. I’m STILL dealing with some of it years later. When we moved to NC, I found Todd. If it were possible to doodle non-romantic hearts around his name, I would. Todd talked to me about S-Corp’s in a way that made sense. He saved me a ton of money. Todd made my quarterly filing easy and made my yearly taxes hurt less. I learned that investing a few hundred dollars a year in someone who knew what he was doing could save me thousands. I like saving thousands. I also like handing over some info and not spending my off day googling tax phrases.
I found Todd by asking an entrepreneur friend who’d been in town for a really long time who she used. She trusted him and had used other accountants in the past. He knows small business. He IS a small business. You need that kind of accountant. Todd works with lots of therapists, partly because I keep telling everyone I know how awesome he is. Todd may be taking people on if you want to check. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to see.
ROI Perspective: Like I said, I save thousands more than I pay Todd, and I don’t have to mess with stuff I don’t like or fully understand.
A Practice Management System if You’re Not Organized
If you wouldn’t put “organized” in the top 10 descriptors of yourself, get an all-in-one practice management system like Simple Practice. I do put “organized” in my Top 10 but I have a lot going on so I decided to invest in Simple Practice and am totally in love with it. It does so much: electronic scheduling, credit card processing, insurance billing, electronic health record, client portal, appointment reminders. They even give you reminders if you haven’t done a note, track money owed to you and estimate your income as you book people. It does everything but answer your phone for you. If you want to try a month for free, shoot me an email and I’ll give you one.
ROI Perspective: If you aren’t organized, you’re going to lose track of what insurance has paid (or maybe not actually billing insurance for sessions) or forget which client owes what. You are leaving money on the table and not doing the business part of your practice.
Just accept that you need it. I recommend Hushmail because it creates an optional client portal with encryption using a question and answer format. It doesn’t force encryption for all emails, so you can use it for networking without the portal situation. If you get the HIPAA-compliant gmail, that’s great for you, but unless your clients are also paying for HIPAA-compliant gmail, it’s not actually secure.
ROI Perspective: It’s only $9.99 a month and keeps you from getting sued, so there’s that. 🙂
Let me know what you splurge 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.