Your First Year in Private Practice – 11 Things to Expect

Stepping into your fist year in private practice? Get ready for a ride that’s as exhilarating as it is challenging!

According to research conducted by Fundsquire, a global start-up funding network, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year and around 60% fail within the first three years. These are sobering statistics. Given therapists receive little to no business advice as part of their training, you may feel like the odds are stacked against you. I’m here to reassure you. With a solid plan and the right support, you’ll be ready for anything! Which is a good thing because you’ll need to be…

What to Expect in the First Year

Your first year in private practice is going to be a mixed bag! You’ll have days where you feel unbeatable and others where you wonder what you’ve signed up for. But that’s the thrill of it, right? Be prepared for it to be messy and challenging. Some things might not go according to plan, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.

Here are some other things you can expect in your first year in private practice…

  1. Fear & Uncertainty

Will I get enough clients? Will I earn enough? Will it work out? These are all normal concerns for anyone starting out in private practice. Try to roll with the uncertainty. This will be much easier if you expect it to be part of the journey. Attempting to plan for every eventuality can be exhausting. It might even prevent you from moving forward. Instead, aim for progress over perfection. As your practice develops and your understanding of the business evolves, feelings of comfort and certainty will increase.

  1. You’ve Got to Spend Money to Make Money

If you want to make £40K a year in your private practice, it will be very difficult to achieve this without any initial investment. You either have to invest financially or with your time and energy. Most likely, you’ll need a combination of both.

The following percentages should give you some sense of the proportion of your projected income you might need to allocate towards initial setup and ongoing operational costs in your first year of private practice. Keep in mind, these are estimates and actual costs can vary.

Initial Setup – At the lower end, £2,000 represents 5% of the £40,000 income target. At the higher end, £5,000 accounts for 12.5% of the £40,000 income target.

Ongoing Monthly Expenses – Estimate £300 per month (or £3,600 annually), which is 9% of the £40,000 income target.

Investing in a new business can be daunting, but spending money on quality resources is essential for long-term gain. Once you have a good foundation, these costs are reduced and you regain what you initially spent.

  1. Paying Tax

Understanding and planning for taxes can be a huge learning curve. Seek advice and make sure you’re saving enough. Over-saving can cause as much stress as under-saving, so it’s important you’re on the right track. Although you can complete your own tax return, I always recommend working with an accountant. Unless you’re great with numbers, it can be a nightmare!

  1. Setting Prices & Asking for Payment

Deciding what to charge and understanding client affordability can be tricky. It’s very common for people to undercharge initially and this can have a long-term impact on business sustainability. Rather than plucking numbers from thin air, I’d encourage you to base your prices on facts. This free therapist fee calculator is a good place to start.

If you’ve worked in the public sector, asking for payment can be uncomfortable. Make it easier by giving yourself framework. Ask for payment either before or after the session. Practice how you will ask beforehand and after the first couple of times it will start to feel natural – I promise!

  1. You’ll Need a Website

One of the things I’d encourage you to invest in is a good website. During their first year in private practice, I see lots of therapists put a great deal of effort into social media platforms. However, in my experience, it can be much more beneficial to work on platforms you own and/or control such as your website and online directories. While it might take longer to see results, those results will be more sustainable and resilient. Not sure where to start? Pocket Site can help!

  1. You’ll Have to Get to Grips with SEO

Creating a website means thinking about Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. Therapists are often conned into spending a lot of money on this, especially in the first few years. You should never be spending hundreds every month on SEO. Instead, download Pocket Site’s Free Guide to Local SEO, follow the advice of your website designer and remember it’s a long game. Take it slow and steady!

  1. The Wait for Referrals

It takes a good year for most therapists to get a steady stream of referrals. Building a financial buffer before you take the leap into private practice can be helpful to ride this out. Download a list of places where you can register HERE.

  1. Becoming Visible

If you decide not to rely on referrals, you’ll need to figure out how self-funding clients are going to find you. Putting your website online does not guarantee an immediate influx of enquiries. Any marketing you do will take 3-6 months to have an impact and that includes launching a website. Don’t be disheartened – building visibility takes time and effort. Read How to Increase Visibility Beyond Your Website for more information.

  1. The Comparison Trap

It’s easy to spend too much time looking around at what others are doing. In small amounts, this can be helpful, but it’s important to remember every business is unique. Don’t compare your new business to ones that have been around for years. Focus on your own journey and where you are right now. Define success on your own terms, set goals, and run your own race.

  1. A Need for Boundaries

Clear boundaries around your working hours are essential. Without them, you can become overwhelmed and end up creating a business you don’t enjoy. This isn’t always easy in the first year when you’re worrying about getting enough referrals. It’s tempting to say yes to working late at night or at weekends to suit the client, but if it doesn’t suit YOU, don’t do it. Refer them to another therapist instead.

  1. Wearing Different Hats

It takes time to adjust to running your own business and being the boss. You will find yourself wearing lots of different hats. As well as being a therapist, you need to be a marketer, administrator, social media expert and a financial whizz! Embrace these roles as much as you can, allow yourself to be a beginner, and consider outsourcing tasks you don’t enjoy as soon as you can.

You’ve Got This!

The first year in private practice can be a bit of a rollercoaster. There will be ups, downs, and plenty of unexpected twists and turns! Remember, it’s perfectly normal to find this challenging. Keep your eye on the prize and try not to lose heart on the tougher days. Lean on your support network, keep learning, and stay the course. Trust me, it’s these experiences that shape you into a seasoned therapist and savvy business owner. Keep pushing through, and you’ll find every challenge is a stepping stone to your success.

Learn With Me

Getting Started in Private Practice – Training Course

Useful Links

Getting Started in Private Practice – Training Course

Join us in the Community – Therapists Corner

Set up your Private Practice in a Day

Private Practice Coaching

Private Practice – Is It Worth It?


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