The adage ‘do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is what drives many of us who are in private practice. The thought of working for someone who might dictate how we practice or who we get to work with can feel restrictive, so we make the decision to venture out on our own. However, as many of us quickly find, private practice can be quite isolating. Even if you are fully booked and spend all day with clients, you are always ‘on’ and don’t have peers around to let off steam with like you would as an employee.
Also, running a practice doing what you love and working with clients you love is one thing, but it’s only half the story. Quite often, we soon discover that we are woefully underprepared for the other half: running a business. Legal structures, business licensing, bookkeeping, accounting, and everyone’s favorite: marketing, are not subjects most of us are passionate about or skilled in. Learning these skills the hard way can be a painful and costly process.
So what can we do about these issues? Go to business school? Get a job? Hell no! We can seek out others who have walked the path before us and already made the mistakes we might make. We can learn simpler ways to navigate the business side of managing a private practice from our peers and mentors. We can learn about things we don’t even know that we don’t know.
The most important question to ask yourself when starting a private practice is probably, ‘how will I get clients?’ Networking events, posting flyers, cold calling local doctors’ offices, or writing a marketing plan? Cringe, cringe, and more cringe. Painful options for most non-sales-oriented healers. Perhaps a better question is, ‘how will clients find me?’
Inbound marketing is a slightly more comfortable strategy yet still somewhat painful. All we need to do is talk about what we love and the results we get, and clients will show up, right? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on who you are talking to, where you are sharing, and what you say about your work.
Anyone who has been in private practice for even a short time will tell you that the best clients come from word-of-mouth. Usually, they already understand why they are coming to see you, what to expect from a session, and a level of trust has already been established.
A word-of-mouth practice takes time to build. One way to speed up the process is to build trust and meaningful relationships with peers. Find practitioners who have a similar treatment philosophy to you, who work with the same type of clients, or who have a different expertise than you. Take a deep interest in their work, learn how you might support them, and how perhaps they might help your clients by complementing the work you do with them. Share openly and passionately about your work with them, what brings you joy, what motivates you, and what frustrates you about being in private practice.
By talking with like-minded peers who support you, you get to practice sharing your successes without feeling salesy. You can share your doubts and fears or ask for advice without worrying about de-positioning yourself.
Our passion at Tribe is to provide a platform for practitioners to connect authentically without feeling the need to put on their ‘game face,’ where they can show up on Zoom with crazy hair and not feel judged and, most importantly, have fun.
Wherever you decide to find community, make sure it’s one where you are comfortable both shining your light and sharing your shadow; a community where you can share ALL sides of you, quirks and all.
Written by Ellen Letten. Brain Health educator and co-owner of Tribe. In addition to her own practice, Ellen supports other wellness professionals in private practice.