Guys, I’m excited to introduce you to Lauren Woodard, LCSW for a couple reasons. I know, guest posts are usually the last week of the month, but we’re doing ‘em back to back because Lauren is a badass and she’s sharing some lessons learned.
Lauren is an Abundance Practice-Building Group Grad. In the last year she has built exactly the private practice she wants despite some hurdles and, within the first year of her practice, was voted “Best of Western North Carolina” in the Psychologist/Counselor category. She has had a meteoric rise and I’m so impressed with what she’s done.
Another reason I want you guys to know Lauren is because I hired her. With her help Abundance is able to provide more free consultations, which opened up the first day of each month. As a Practice Strategist, Lauren is using all the things she learned from Group and beyond to help you start your practice. She knows what I’d recommend AND she has phenomenal ideas of her own so I’m so excited she joined the team. Ok, enough from me, let’s hear from her!
I Started Before I Was Ready & Here’s What I Learned
My name is Lauren, I’m a clinical social worker, and private practice was my retirement plan.
(This is where you say, “Hello, Lauren!)
I repeat, private practice was my retirement plan. It was this dreamy, elusive plan for the days ahead when I had time, extra money (I was working as a social worker…where was that going to come from? Ha!), all of the expertise and years of experience I felt I needed. It was the escape plan I had promised myself for when I burnt out in the hospital social work world. Someday. When I was 50. Maybe when I was 65. Maybe it wouldn’t ever come true. I wonder how people actually do that?
Enter, Abundance Practice Building Group. I thought, hmm, maybe I could take this course and speed my plan up and open a private practice when I was 45 (I turn 32 next month). After day one of group…. Maybe I could do this in 5 years? After week two of group… “Okay, I can do this in a year!”
During Group 6 (the last group) of Abundance Practice Building, I announced that my practice, Bloom Counseling and Consulting, would be opening in 17 days.
My name is Lauren, I’m a clinical social worker, and here are the top 5 things I learned from taking a leap of faith, embracing vulnerability, busting through fear, blocks, & imposter syndrome, deciding I was worthy, and building the practice of my dreams…in 6 months.
1) You’re going to be scared…. Like really, really scared. Think of meeting a really attractive blind date during your first plane ride ever while on your way to ride the World’s tallest roller coaster. That kind of scared. What I learned from that fear is that I was scared because I really wanted this. More than anything, I wanted this. I wanted to build a career I was excited about.
So, I embraced the fear. Every time I felt scared/nervous/on the verge of throwing up, I called a fellow therapist in private practice. I turned to the Abundance Facebook Group. I enrolled in a webinar and learned something new about running a business. I took a CEU and brushed up on my clinical skills. I channeled all of that nervous energy into learning more, finding support, and empowering myself. Who says fear can’t work in our favor?
2) Networking is your marketing budget’s BFF. I love meeting new people. When I opened my practice, my marketing budget was non-existent. So I listened to Allison’s Practice of the Practice networking podcast, carefully made a color-coded spreadsheet (those are my jam) of 26 therapists I wanted to meet and I reached out. I had coffee, went on walks, met for wine and I just listened. I listened to their successes, failures, ups, and downs. I was a sponge. I led with humanity and did not pretend I had it all figured out. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount from these clinicians, but I was learning from people whose practices were full or filling quickly. Soon, they started thinking of me when they had to refer new clients out. When I first started, this is how the majority of my clients found me (I wasn’t paneled with insurance yet, more on that below). In a world that is so focused on tech based interaction, I truly believe you cannot beat face to face meetings when building your business.
3) Your patience will be tested. And then tested again. Whether it is waiting to become paneled with the insurance that shall not be named (it took me 8 months to get on the panel, the hold music still haunts me) or waiting for your first clients to call and schedule an appointment…your patience will be tested.
I am a huge Gabrielle Bernstein fan and one thing she says about patience really stuck with me during this time. She said, whatever you are waiting on, envision that it is on the city bus, headed towards you, it is just in traffic (notice, she doesn’t use the phrase “stuck” in traffic). When I first opened my practice, I leaned on faith that my ideal clients would find me and that they were on the bus headed my way. I just started “knowing” that the people who needed my help would find me. I started trusting that I was enough. I finally listened to my Mom and let her convince me that the World needed my light and that I was born to do this. I blessed the clients who were on their way, acted with compassion and gratitude towards the folks working at THAT insurance company (they ended up responding well to that compassion and expedited my application 4 months more quickly—it was originally scheduled to take a full 12 months for me to get paneled), and just trusted. And then, the phone started ringing. And ringing again. I went full-time in late March 2016 with 8-10 weekly clients and was full by May 1st with 24 weekly clients.
4) You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. You’ll take an 8:30pm appointment when you are exhausted, squeeze in a new client who isn’t your ideal client, you’ll waive a cancellation fee that makes you feel icky, or take an extra sliding scale client when you really didn’t have the space. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Your practice won’t close and the Earth will continue to spin on its axis, I promise. I did all of these things once during my first 6 months and each time, I learned. I am better for making these mistakes. I am a better clinician, business owner, and human. Building a practice is deeply therapeutic and each time I face a “mistake,” I grow more resilient, wise, and compassionate towards my own humanity and the humanity of others.
5) I learned that there really is something to be said for starting before you are ready. You really can (and should) start before you “feel” ready. I wake up now excited to go to work. For the first time in my career, I am reading for fun and have an actual lunch break. Heck, I am reading for fun DURING my lunch break. I am genuinely excited to show up, be present, and do the work with the amazing clients I get to work with each day. My practice has freed up time to pursue passion projects and professional interests I never thought I would “get to”. I get to be creative, set my own hours, and be my own boss. I get to live out my “retirement plan” at age 31. I am so grateful I started before I was ready.
What are you waiting on? If you are waiting on a sign, this is it.
Lauren Woodard is a LCSW and owner of Bloom Counseling and Consulting in Asheville, NC. Her practice won second place in the counselor/psychologist category of the “Best of Western North Carolina” Mtn Xpress Newspaper reader survey in August, 2016. Lauren worked as an oncology social worker for six years in Washington, DC and Asheville, NC before opening Bloom. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a 2009 graduate of Western Carolina University with a Master’s degree in social work. In her free time, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Asheville, is a current member of Leadership Asheville Class #35, and volunteers frequently with the women and children at ABCCM’s Steadfast House.
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.