Q: I’m currently in grad school, but my goal is to start my own mental health practice. What can I start thinking about now to make this a reality in the future?
A: I love this question because it shows that you want to do your research and put the work in now to set yourself up for success in the future with your practice. Kudos to you, my friend!
When we start a business, it is a labor of love. It is an area where we feel passionate and want to invest in with every aspect of our being. For the entrepreneurs in the health and wellness industry, their “why” can be especially personal.
And because of that, accounting and finance isn’t typically at the top of mind when establishing their practice.
In every case I can think of, the devotion to the practice has a very personal story and a deep desire to care for others.
Consider Your Mindset
That intensity is a large part of why I created Body of Accounting to serve companies in the health and wellness industry. It’s an area that’s important to my life. I’ve also seen that drive for service almost derail a few business owners from the most critical aspect of their work: making money.
It may not be popular to say when your ultimate drive is to help people. But you need money to do that. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Money is needed to live. Helping people will still be the reason you get up every day, but as an entrepreneur, there are aspects of accounting and overall financial management that cannot be overlooked.
There may be an identity shift there for some of you. Yes, you are absolutely therapist, but as soon as you make moves to start your own practice, you have embraced the path of entrepreneurship.
“Grad school teaches you how to be a good clinician, but no one teaches you how to run the business side of a practice,” says Steven Walfish, PhD.
Understand Your Expenses
As you begin, have a clear understanding of your expenses. What are the costs of running your business that are non-negotiable? This will include fees for space and equipment needed to run effectively your business. It also includes software.
For instance, many of my clients use TherapyNotes to help them with multiple aspects of their businesses, including confidential notes and billing. As this tool is designed specifically for therapists, it may be worth investigating to see how it can assist your business.
Similarly, there is accounting software available that will help you maintain your books and establish important record-keeping practices. There free options, like Wave, as well as tried-and-true industry standards like Quickbooks. You may find that one of both helps your business.
One thing mental health therapists and other business owners quickly learn is that they can’t do it all. Even with a wealth of resources, you need time to review and really understand them in order for them to enhance your business.
The truth of the matter is that there is never enough time for anyone, but especially the small business owner.
To ensure your long-term success, you will need to outsource. But don’t take on too much help too soon. You want to be able to cover your costs before you incur them. There are some that you should consider from the beginning.
Know what you don’t know. Accounting, bookkeeping, and business finances are not areas where most people have familiarity. So learn about the areas where you need to focus in order establish and grow a thriving practice. Talk to your colleagues. Take advantage of free consultations with accounting and bookkeeping firms like this one to help you understand the basics that you need to consider.
Uncertainty about your money shouldn’t be the order of the day when it comes to starting your therapy practice.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Another area where new practice owners often struggle is an area fundamental to all business: sales. Selling is just as critical for the service industry as it is for those with product-based companies.
You and I know how talented you are. But you have to tell people about it.
Ensure that you have a good website with clear copy. Create a blog to help you establish yourself as a thought-leader in your industry and region. Engage on social media. Give talks at libraries and community centers to get your name in front of people.
There are many ways that selling can be done effectively in this day and age, but there’s no way to opt-out. You have to do it to grow your business.