On December 1, 2016 I will be celebrating 3 years of private practice. A lot has happened over this time and I’ve been reflecting on some of the biggest lessons I have learned.
Lesson 1: Most things take longer than planned.
It took longer than I expected to find office space. It took longer for the lease to be negotiated between lawyers. It took longer for my website to launch. It took longer to build up a full case load.
While it may be a possibility that I’m overly optimistic when making plans, this seems to be a consistent experience shared by many therapists. There are so many factors that are outside of our control (as well as our own procrastination and roadblocks), that accepting that things take longer have been a huge part of my process.
I once read that it take 2-3 years to feel well established in private practice. Now that I am here at the 3 year mark, I totally believe that. Can it happen faster? Sure. However, if it doesn’t, do not beat yourself up.
Private practice is a long game. Hopefully, you will be doing this for years and decades to come. Give yourself the space to take a breath and not push through the process.
Lesson 2: There are no magic beans to grow a private practice.
When things were going exceptionally poorly in my practice, I was desperate to find the ONE thing that would help me grow my practice. I thought that if I connected with a referral source with lots of clients, that would be the secret. Or maybe if I boosted a number of ads on Facebook, that would be the key for a steady flow of referrals. If I got my website to page 1 of Google, that would be the answer to my private practice prayers.
I slowly discovered that there was no magic bean. However, there are lots of ordinary beans.
Identifying ideal clients.
Creating web copy for that ideal client.
Creating relationships with referral sources.
Your own mindset.
Making friends with your finances.
On their own, these are all small beans that you plant and sometimes they grow quickly, sometimes they grow slowly. Sometimes they grow into something you totally weren’t expecting.
The secret is to keep planting. Keep going even when if feels that your efforts are fruitless. The only way to not succeed is to stop.
Lesson 3: It is easy to get overwhelmed with information.
I am a self-professed information junkie. My Kindle is loaded with books for entrepreneurs, I regularly purchase courses, I sign up for e-mail lists, I talk to as many people as I can who are on their private practice journey.
While this has been incredibly helpful, at times, it has also been incredibly overwhelming. I was thinking of launching a podcast before I had even identified an ideal client. I fell down the rabbit hole of sales funnels, conversions and e-mail marketing before I even decided whether that was the right strategy for my own practice. I would feel so overwhelmed that I would freeze and do nothing for days (err, maybe weeks).
In order to stop the overwhelm, I gave myself permission to work in spurts. I have two settings; Sonic the Hedge Hog or Sloth mode. I am consistently inconsistent.
I have accepted this about myself and given myself permission to sloth out when I need to. This is my time to rejuvenate, rest and recharge. I also give myself permission to go into Sonic mode and sometimes that looks a bit frantic.
I will admit that as my practice grows (as well as Blissful) I have slowly been putting systems into place and carving out time specifically for creating. My biggest step recently was stepping away from my practice on Mondays. I use this day to create, network and have some openness in my schedule.
I also have given myself permission to put projects on hold, scrap ideas all together and pivot when I needed to. I have also unsubscribed from tons of e-mail lists, not finished books that weren’t doing it for me, and gave myself permission to outgrow mentors.
While all of the information available to us can be helpful, there is a time to step back, stop consuming and give ourselves time and space to create or do nothing.
Lesson 4: Sometimes you need to leap before you feel ready.
I have made business decisions that would probably make any traditional business advisor cringe. I leased a much larger space than I needed. I signed myself up for expensive services. I invested in myself when I really couldn’t afford it.
Some of these decisions were mistakes, but the vast majority have paid off in spades (and even the mistakes contained valuable lessons.)
Learning to trust yourself and your own intuition is one of the most important parts of private practice. Even if something feels too big for you, or that you’re not an expert, take a deep breath and ask yourself “Is this just my fear talking?”
Of course, there will be things that are truly a bad idea, but it’s usually fear that keeps us from taking leaps (or even small steps) that take us out of our comfort zone. The more you practice doing things despite the fear, the more natural it will start to feel. I now use fear as an indicator that I’m about to do something big, but that will ultimately push me forward in my private practice journey.
Lesson 5: My journey is my own. Your journey is your own.
When I started my practice, I wanted timelines from others who had a private practice. I was looking for certainty in this process. I wanted to know what to expect. I also wanted someone to tell me what to do and when to do it.
I may have been a little bit needy.
I’ve learned though, that no one could tell me what to do exactly because they didn’t know all about me; my home obligations, my family responsibilities, my finances, my tolerance for risk and uncertainty.
I could take pieces of information and advice and learn from others who had gone before me, but only I could decide what the best plan of action was for me.
The same will be for you. Take advice and information that resonates with. Toss the rest.
I am so grateful that I have had the experiences that I have had.
I am so grateful that I am able to share those experiences with you.
Want to learn more about my journey? Signed up for my free video series on some of the biggest mistakes I made in my first year of practice and how you can avoid them.