Tips for Launching your Counselling Private Practice

15 February 2024 | General

Are you considering going into private practice? Does the idea fill you with a combination of excitement and fear? Like most things in life, owning a private practice comes with pros and cons. One of the major benefits is you can work in your own way, sculpting the business around you. However, your success relies on your ability to build a sustainable business model. You ideally want to get paid! I know many counsellors flirt with the idea of being in private practice but feel scared to take that leap. These are my top tips to help you get started.

Don’t Quit your day job!
Building a private practice takes time. In the beginning the proportion of client hours to non-billable hours will be outweighed. There are also start-up costs to consider. Having a reliable source of income while you build your client base can provide a sense of security. Once your client base builds you can decide if you let go of the safety net and commit to full-time or continue with the benefits of both worlds.

Set a Realistic Budget
Following on with the theme of financial security, setting a realistic budget is critical. An important part of this is setting fees. Many therapists find this difficult to do. I remember apologetically asking for payment from my first clients. We are in this profession because we care and asking someone to pay us to do this is difficult. The temptation to keep fees low and offer discounts can be strong. Remember, without a sustainable business you won’t be able to help any clients. Your fees need to be set based on how much money you need to cover expenses and pay yourself enough for you to live. This needs to be balanced against a realistic client load. You can’t help clients if you are burnt out.

Don’t sell Counselling, sell Yourself
This is another sticking point. Many of us find ‘selling ourselves’ difficult. You therefore may be tempted to focus your marketing strategy on the service, approaches and presenting issues rather than on you. Remember, client outcomes rely on a therapeutic relationship, so the service you offer is a relationship with you. Your marketing should help them get to know you better. Use your voice, be authentic, confident and speak directly to your client base. This is an opportunity to make a good first impression and attract the clients who are the right fit for you.

Experiment and then Refine
A lot of advice out there will tell you to define your niche from the beginning. I lean more towards starting with experimentation and then refining. My advice would be to say yes to a variety of opportunities and client groups that come your way. When you challenge yourself to work with a variety of client groups and presentations, you can stumble across some hidden talents and passions you never knew you had. You will also confirm the areas you do and don’t want to work in. Once you identify these, you start to refine your ideal client base.

Don’t do it Alone
Starting out, can be overwhelming and being in private practice, isolating. There are a million tasks and idea swirling around and you can feel like there is no one to share it with. Just because you don’t have colleagues, doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. Build a supportive network around you and ask for help with tasks. You may choose to engage services, to help with marketing, design, IT or accounts. You can also build up a referral network, so you have other support services to link in with. Supervision is also incredibly important. Have someone you can confide in, brainstorm with and ask for direction is crucial. I am an advocate for using as much supervision as you need, not as little as you can get away with.  

If you are looking for someone to bounce ideas off and get your practice up and running, get in touch. I offer a start-up package of 6 sessions for $750 (inc. GST). This package is designed to help you convert your ideas into action. I am a registered clinical supervisor and level 4 counsellor with ACA.

Let me help you build a business that you love. Get in touch