Something I am often asked is, "How long does it take to build a private practice?"
It's an interesting question, and far more complex that it first appears.
So how long does it take to build your private practice? Let's take a look...
I actually and I started putting something together about this a while ago but stopped. However, Neil Gaw asked me this on Instagram, so I thought I'd take another look for him. He asked:
"I've been taking all the advice about how to start and market your practice, but I think the thing that would really help would be advice and encouragement on how long it can take to build up your practice (or find a job) and not become disheartened and frustrated by the process.
I'm not sure if you've covered this already as you have so much content!"
Thank you for the great question, Neil.
The Complex Question
I started working on this a while ago but actually gave up on it!
Because there is no definitive answer to this question. So many ‘it depends’ answers, so many ‘if this, then that' answers that it just became confusing and disheartening.
But that’s the truth! It’s not a simple question to answer. So let's take another look together and see if we can make more sense of this.
A Reminder: Episode 156 ‘How to stop comparing yourself with other therapists’
Before I start, did you read or listen to episode 156 ‘How to stop comparing yourself with other therapists’?
In it, I talked about comparisonitis and we focused on YOU and the unique journey that got you to this point in your life and career.
The point of that episode was to highlight how comparing yourself to others isn't fair - you know nothing of them and their circumstances.
This ties nicely to this episode, and as such, I highly recommend you to pop on over and take a listen - don't worry, I'll wait! How to stop comparing yourself to other therapists
And this is why it's impossible to put a time frame on how long it's going to take for you to attract the number of new clients that you want. So let's break it down.
What do you want from your practice?
The first question to answer is, what is it you want from your practice?
Some people are happy with 5 clients a week, some want 20, others want to start a CIC company, or diversify in some way.
- Do you have any previous experience of running a business?
- Do you have any marketing skills?
Both of these questions matter because in order to grow your practice and attract more clients, you will need to learn new skills which you maybe haven't even considered before. Those skills need time and energy to learn and practice with consistency.
Time and Marketing
How much time can you or do you devote to marketing your practice?
Often when people become qualified, they join an online directory, which is great, but a very passive way to do marketing. Basically, it involves just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
But there are thousands of therapists available now, so how can you stand out on a directory? (check out ep154 Counsellor or Clone? Breaking Through the Monotony of Online Directories)
And there are so many ways to market yourself - and they all work! So you need to experiment to find out what's right for you. For example:
- Extroverts may prefer methods involving being with other people like networking.
- Introverts may find blogging more to their liking.
This is what the Grow Your Private Practice membership is all about. I show you how to get the basics in place, so you can then work on the marketing methods that are right for you.
So if your practice isn't your main source of income, or you are a single parent, or if you feel overwhelmed, or have fears around visibility, then it stands to reason it will take more time. But just how much, I don’t know. The more you keep working on it, the quicker it will be.
But I have some resources that will help you manage your time more effectively, and I'd definitely recommend you take a look at the first one as its so simple and effective.
Let’s talk about investing in your business:
As with any investment, you can expect a ROI (Return On Investment) which means that you can expect to earn more money because of the investment.
Take a look at my membership, for example. As I write this, the investment is £45 a month. But if you do the training and take action you will attract more clients.
If you get 1 new client that pays £50 per session and they stay for 6 sessions, that will bring you £300 as a result of the investment you made. That I'd say is good ROI.
So the question is, how much money do you have to invest? How much money can you afford to invest?
If you can invest in your business by paying for a website, paying to get a coach, paying for my membership, then you will probably get results faster as you learn skills more quickly and grow in confidence more quickly too.
A note about websites - I don't recommend just entrusting your website to a website expert. They might be the expert when it comes to the techy side of websites, but you are the expert when it comes to understanding your clients, understanding ethical considerations and what it should - or shouldn't say. And if you’re not sure, I have the ‘Your Website Blueprint’ course to help you through that.
Do you need to have money to invest?
No. When I started my practice, I had more time than money, so I bootstrapped it and basically spent a long time learning how to do things myself - which was good because it led me here, helping you!
But if you don't have much money, it might take you longer. And if you're low on both money and time - well, realistically, it will take longer to get known. That definitely doesn't mean you can’t do it, but just keep those expectations realistic.
That said, many things come into play. As I talked about in episode 156 about comparisons, things like your personal circumstances, the social circles you frequent, where you are geographically, etc., all make a difference, so again, that annoying ‘it depends’ answer has to be used.
So as you can probably see, it’s impossible to say how long it will take. And once you’ve grown your practice, you don’t stop; now you have to market consistently to maintain the numbers and avoid the ‘Feast and Famine’ aspect.
What is the most important factor that brings about growth?
The biggest factor when it comes to growing your practice - in my opinion - is mindset.
I see it often in my membership: those members who throw themselves into the training and the community, ask questions and have that curiosity to try new things - well, they see results faster.
It’s that curiosity, that drive and determination that makes those people go on to be successful.
This doesn't mean it’s always easy, or quick, but the interest and desire to be successful can make things happen for you. Taking an active role in the growth of your practice rather than a passive roll and waiting to be found.
I talk a lot about this saying:
” Inspiration without action is merely entertainment”, and it’s so true!
So are you willing to find or make the time in order to do the work? Ask yourself, do you read my blogs and then take action or is it just information cluttering up your head?
So are you devoting sufficient time, regularly, to take the necessary action?
As you can see, how long it takes to be successful isn't an easy question to answer because it depends on so many things:
- How much time you have to devote to it?
- How much money you have to invest in it?
- Your mindset - do you have a curiosity about learning new skills, or are fears holding you back?
- What previous experience do you have of running a business or marketing?
The fact is, there are no guarantees - and avoid anyone who tells you there are. But as with anything in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in.
For me, what I lacked in time and money, I made up for in curiosity and passion. I learned new skills, enjoyed the creativity I could use and enjoyed the challenge it gave me.
And as such, I enjoyed the process. Because the better I got at it, the more clients I attracted and the more money I made. And it's alway worth remembering that 3 new clients paying £50 a session brings you £600 a month - so it's got to be worth making that effort, right?
So Neil, I hope this has helped.
And do YOU have a question for me? Just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I might just produce a blog for you!
And if you’re ready to take action and grow your practice, please click the button below.