Want to know the fastest way to tap into shame and/or superiority as a private practitioner? Compare your private practice’s growth to a colleagues’ practices’ growth. Or, ask in a practice-building FB group (hop into ours; it’s awesome!) where people from all over the world with a million different sets of circumstances can share.
So many of us learn through example. I think there’s incredible wisdom to asking how those who have gone before us, or those who are working diligently alongside us, have found success. Exploring the “how” provides options that you can vette. The “how long,” however, is truly not helpful. Possibly even detrimental.
8 Factors That Impact Speed of Growth
- You’re Focused and Get Shit Done: Some of us are natural doers. We get really excited about a project and focus on it until it’s complete. Or maybe we manage our anxiety by knocking things off our to do list. If a Doer is singularly focused on building their practice, great things can happen relatively quickly. If the doer is focusing on several ventures at once (a book, an ecourse, and building a practice, for instance) it’s going to take a longer time. Doers often have a hard time sitting still and relaxing, so if you’re not a doer and you’re feeling jealous as you read this, know that it comes with definite downsides. If you’re NOT a doer, then I want you to use whatever skills you’ve learned to get this far in your career. Was it scheduling things? Accountability? Mentorship? You got through grad school somehow; use what worked then to bolster you now.
- Insurance vs Private Pay: Once you’re on insurance panels, you’ll likely build much faster than your private pay colleagues, all other things being equal. Insurance companies are almost like having a marketing team on your side. It makes the financial conversation easier. It makes you accessible to more people. Depending on the insurance companies where you live (it’s different everywhere), they may pay very well or terribly. They may be easy to work with or a weekly headache. There are huge pros and cons to both insurance and private pay options. I’m pro-whatever-works-for-you but don’t want you to make a fear-based decision about whether or not to take insurance. I want you to do your homework about what insurance companies are like where you live. Your local colleagues are the best information source for that. In most cities & towns, taking insurance means a pay cut. If you need to build rapidly, it might be worth the pay cut for now. If you have some savings to float you and don’t have the desire to take insurance, slower and steady may be a better choice.
- Niche: 99.9% of the time a niched therapist is going to grow faster than a generalist. The type of niche, however, makes a huge difference. I could write you a list of the fastest growing niches I’ve seen nationally or internationally from my consulting experiences, but I won’t. It’s coming at your niche from the wrong angle. Your niche should be the people you do your best work with. The sessions you feel solid and proud after. The research you actually like reading. I haven’t seen any solid niche not work, but some take longer than others. Choosing a niche because it builds faster is selling yourself and your clients out. You can choose what you love.
- Location: I’m not talking about your office location. If you market your niche effectively, people will inconvenience themselves a good deal to see you. I’m talking about your city. People who live in cities that value therapy build much faster. There’s no need to convince people that therapy is a real thing and not just paying for a friend. Often this is marked by a what others deem a “saturated market.” I so love a saturated market. That’s not to say unsaturated markets are a lost cause. I’ve seen people’s practices blow up in cities with few therapists and an acceptance that many of us need help sometimes.
- Fee: It’s not what you think: lower is not actually better. Perceived value means a lot. A participant in one of my practice-building groups recently shared that she was looking for a couples counselor and realized she was shying away from the therapists that charged what she had been charging, assuming they were less competent than the clinicians that charged higher prices. It was an awesome example of perceived value calling the shots even though she KNEW their price was not indicative of their skill level. She chose a higher priced clinician. And yes, she raised her own rate.
- Marketing Strategy: “How did you market your practice?” is a question we see a lot in FB Groups. Here’s the thing: just because a strategy worked for one person, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. And it’s not the strategy itself. Marketing is marketing and most of it works across circumstances. Instead, consider that the best marketing strategy is aligned with your natural skill-set and gets done consistently. There are some non-negotiables, in my opinion, but the vast majority of marketing strategies are a la carte and should be chosen with intention and not combined with too many other strategies. I have a Marketing Fundamental eCourse coming out this summer that will help you decide which strategies are best for you and provide some info about the different options (with opportunities to go deeper with your chosen few). If you’re on my email list, you won’t be able to miss it.
- Support: I see it over and over. The people who have people cheering them on build faster. The people who have a lot of discouraging messages struggle. It’s why the majority of my consulting is done in groups. It’s why I have the free facebook group. This is hard and we need connection. The connection of others who have done it before or are doing it now is vital. Get support and you’ll go farther faster.
- Luck: Ugh, I know. It’d be so much better if it was something we can control but damn if luck isn’t a part of this. If you’re networking and you meet the referral source who refers 10 people to you a week in your first month of practice versus 8 months in, it’s obviously going to make a huge difference in your speed of growth. As someone who really likes the illusion of control a lot, it could drive me crazy. Instead, I remind myself that I am SO lucky and look for evidence to support that (I was born in a country not experiencing genocide or war, I was raised by people I admire and respect, the few douche-bags I dated led me to my amazing husband, both of my children are healthy, I’m not stuck in an agency or in a career that doesn’t fulfill me). Even if you’re feeling decidedly unlucky around your practice, I encourage you to look at the evidence that you are an incredibly lucky person and repeat that ad nauseum. It seriously makes a difference.
So, in case you need further convincing, asking someone how long it took to build their practice is like asking someone how long they dated their partner before they got married. It’s not predictive of your circumstance and can create an expectation that hurts you later. Look at the 7 things you have “control” over and do your thing.
What are you committing to out of these 8 suggestions? Let us 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. 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, and get help from Allison and a small group of new, close friends in Abundance Practice-Building Group. Allison is all about you gaining the confidence and tools you need to succeed.