Signs You’re Building The Wrong Practice (and What to Do About It)
For those of you who have worked in toxic agencies, do you remember the “Sunday Scaries*?” Laying in bed, dreading the work week. Maybe you didn’t go to brunch or get together with friends on Sundays in order to have enough downtime to bear the next 5 days.
It’s places like that that led me to private practice. In my last job, I never knew if I’d be therapizing my clients or my coworker-friends more on any given day. Or if I’d be the one smiling down the hallway, walking into a friend’s office, closing the door and bursting into tears.
Private practice is supposed to free you from that. It can, however, create the same damn feeling if you aren’t careful. Let’s look at the signs that you’ve basically built yourself another crappy agency job.
Sign #1 that you built the wrong practice: You feel like you can’t say no.
To potential clients. To ongoing clients. To insurance companies. To your office landlord. To colleagues. Maybe you keep taking on clients even though you’re full to the brim. Or you’re taking on the clients that you don’t enjoy or don’t do your best work with. Your boundaries are getting stretched in every way and your lunches are eaten hunched over your case notes or waiting on hold with BCBS.
What to do about it: Stop. Just pause for about 30 minutes and get really clear about what you want your practice to do for YOU, not your clients. It’s easy to put them first; we tend to be givers. What do YOU want?
For instance, I want my practice to be a vehicle for feeling useful. I want to have moments of deep connection and revelation with my clients. I want to laugh. I want to feel both appreciative and appreciated. I want to feel moved.
If I take on clients I don’t do great work with I’m not going to get those things. If I railroad my own boundaries I’m resentful. If I don’t carve out time to both stay on top of my admin tasks AND have some personal down time I get overwhelmed.
Get in your schedule and make time. Yes, right now. I’ll wait.
Now when potential clients call, if they can’t fit into the slots you have designated for therapy, refer them to a colleague.
Sign 2 that you built the wrong practice: You have a lot of tasks you dread.
Pre-authorizations, case notes, keeping up with paperwork, social media marketing, case coordination, following up about an unpaid claim, returning phone calls, billing, setting up appointments, playing phone tag, listening to voicemails, returning emails… ugh just writing this makes me want to close the computer and go for a walk instead.
What to do about it: Yes, there’s going to be stuff you don’t want to do in any job. As a solopreneur you’re probably trying to do it all yourself. Yes, once your practice is full, you’re making a lot more money than in an agency, right? Fantastic!
Now consider if all that extra money is worth it if you aren’t happy.
Look, you’re going to have to do your case notes. Bleh, I know. But you CAN get more efficient and more confident with them. I recommend Maelisa Hall at QA Prep a lot. Paperwork is her jam and she’s fantastic at helping you not hate it.
Two other important things to consider is what can be automated and what can be outsourced. For instance, online scheduling cuts out half the things I happen to hate (please never leave me a voicemail). Some of the practice management systems make billing a one click activity and some are totally automated.
Outsourcing is awesome because you can let people who like to do tasks you hate. If you’d rather shove a fork in your eye than create a bunch of social media posts then hire someone to do it for you. Hire someone to answer your phone. Or do your billing. Or build in SEO. Or do your bookkeeping. Or do your taxes. Or clean your office. I have used both That Girl VA and My Solution Services for some of these things and have had a great experience letting people enjoy doing the things I hate.
Sign 3 that you built the wrong practice: You’re burned out.
Noooooooo!!! Private practice was supposed to save you from burn out! But of course, if it’s not grown with intention it can be a different hell.
What to do about it: I’m going to refer you back to sign 1. Stop and reassess. Build in time.
Handle your shit, both personally and professionally. I don’t mean that in a harsh way; I’m totally guilty of this sometimes myself. But you know when you have unresolved issues you aren’t dealing with. Hopefully you know your patterns of avoidance and can recognize them in time to course-correct.
Get into therapy. Force yourself into a vacation (stop making excuses about time or money). Say no as much as possible in most facets of your life.
Reconnect to your Why. Take some time to remember your deep, personal reasons for doing this work.
If any of these 3 signs describe you, don’t feel bad. It’s really common. I usually have at least one person in the Abundance Practice-Building Group whose practice is full but so not what they wanted. It’s why the very first group is focused solely on clarity about what we want to build.
And let’s be realistic about the ongoing nature of this stuff. I’ve flirted with all 3 of these in the 6 months! It’s something we have to stay on top of and manage, not something that can be “cured.” Like a healthy marriage, we have to continuously work on a healthy business. Some of those actions become commonplace and natural. Some don’t.
What about you? How did you know you needed to course-correct and what did you do about it? Let us know in the comments!
*Sunday Scaries is what Abundance Practice Strategist, Lauren Woodard, calls it and I think it’s brilliant. Hat tip to her.
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.