8 Mistakes I made Building a Private Practice

8 Mistakes I made Building a Private Practice

We are bringing back this top article because it has been one that so many have seen and we want to be sure you see as well, especially if you are considering joining Business School Bootcamp.

The path to building a private practice is rarely perfect. While most of you know that I was able to build a successful private pay private practice during the recession- many of you don't know all the ways I messed up. The truth is, I tend to look back on things in a glass half-full. Every mistake I made led me to a million great decisions and experiences. But, it still doesn't mean I didn't mess up. 

Mistake #1: I didn't

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Real Life Stories in Private Practice with Rebecca, LMFT

Real Life Stories in Private Practice with Rebecca, LMFT

Rebecca, LMFT is a therapist in Riverside, CA who specializes in working with interfaith couples and those who have left their religion. This interview is full of gems as Rebecca shares about her money blocks, tools she used, the process of getting her practice started, and picking a niche. You can check Rebecca out at http://www.rebeccawilliamstherapy.com/. Thank you Rebecca for sharing your story.

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Quiz: Should I Go Paperless? (Updated)

Quiz: Should I Go Paperless? (Updated)

Here is a quiz to find out if going paperless might be the right decision for you: Are you a therapist, counselor, or psychologist trying to wade through all of the options for going paperless? Here is a quiz to find out if going paperless might be the right decision for you: 

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Building a Hypnotherapy Practice: Real life stories with Jennifer

Building a Hypnotherapy Practice: Real life stories with Jennifer

Jennifer is an LCSW and hypnotherapist in New Jersey. She shares her journey to becoming a licensed therapist in private practice in a sit down interview. Find out what inspired her, what she finds is the single most powerful aspect of building a full-time private practice, and how she had paying clients from Day 1 of opening her private practice. 

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Building a Counseling Practice: Kimberly, LMFT

I've met Kimberly, LMFT shortly after moving to Seattle, WA. I was lucky to present to the WAMFT networking group about social media for therapists. She has a beautiful story to share about how to shift from being underpaid, overworked and uninspired to being fired up, getting lots of referrals, and doing inspired work! 

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Business Planning for Therapists and Funny Cat Videos

What funny cat videos can teach you about business. 

I was listening to NPR the other day and was stunned when I heard this statistic: "15% of all Internet traffic is cat related." I thought for a second that maybe they were wrong... and then I stopped... I thought about my husband telling me about" I can has Cheezeburger" and trying to explain cat memes to me over the years. 

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The tax lesson it took me years to learn

Let's just start by saying I am not a tax expert. I'm not a CPA, or an accountant, or a bookkeeper. I'm a therapist, consultant, and small business owner. I don't have a degree in business, so I learned a few lessons the hard way. This particular lesson wasn't painful per se, but it was important- so I'm excited to share it with you. 

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Publishing a book as a therapist

A hybrid training and live interview with an established publisher.

A hybrid training and live interview with an established publisher.

You are a therapist, and you have a great book idea.

Now what? 

We talk to therapists regularly who want to write a book. There are a lot of reasons you may consider becoming a published author: 

  • Establishing yourself as an expert

  • Developing yourself as a speaker

  • A deep desire to make big change in the world

  • A way to fill up your private practice

  • An additional stream of income

Whatever the reason you are considering writing a book, there are a lot of options you have for writing, publishing, and marketing your book. We've talked a bit about self-publishing with our free training on how one therapist successfully launched an e-book. However, traditional publishing has some major advantages as well. What publishing route you choose should be based on your goals, preferences, and big vision.

How to find a publisher for your book

Today we have something really fun for you. A quick hybrid training where we are going to give you some specific questions to ask a prospective publisher to determine if they are the right spot for your fabulous book idea. We call it a hybrid- because we have YouthLight publishing with us- and we test out the questions we recommend you ask- so you get to see us interview a real, live publisher who loves to publish therapists.

Spoiler alert: They not only love to set their authors up with workshops all over the country (and sometimes around the world) but they also have a distribution list of 4 BILLION people! To be honest- I was shocked as you probably are right now! I had no idea just how big these guys were until I started interviewing them. 

Wasn't Kelly a sweetheart for sitting down with us? We were so lucky to be seated right next to her doing the conference. I saw she was selling books, but didn't go much deeper into her business initially. (Instead we shared pictures of our kids, went to lunch together, and laughed a ton). However, as we spent time together over the week- more came out about her business, and I realized I was about to miss a golden opportunity! 

Side note about networking at conferences: 

As exhibitors at the American Play Therapy's Annual Conference, it was interesting to see people looking terrified to stop, look, and have a chat. I get it. I don't want to be "sold" to any more than the next person. However, if you stop and get to know people- you might be pleasantly surprised at what you will find out- and how awesome things can happen! (FYI: We weren't there to sell anybody anything). 

In fact, several people reluctantly stopped at our booth (for the yummy snacks or because I said hello), and they quickly said- I'm not in private practice. I'd find out a bit more about them, and many of them were in the licensure process- so I'd hook them up with the pre-licensed blog and the free online study group for licensing exams and they got to walk away with cool, free resources! 

I can't speak to everyone at these conferences- but I can tell you Kelly and I are there to be helpful, meet awesome people, and have a great time! 

Ok- back to the exciting stuff! You can submit your book proposal to YouthLight Publishing today. Can't wait to see some of our fabulous community members get published! Post your vision, ideas, or questions below! 

Private Practice: Out of the box with intensive retreats

Out of the box therapy intensives

Out of the box therapy intensives

I LOVE meeting therapists who are thinking out of the box about the ways we can help heal our world. And no, I don't mean out of the box unethical, dangerous! I mean, well-trained, caring clinicians who are committed to providing excellent outcomes for clients. At the EMDRIA conference this week I met Dr. Ricky Greenwald in person. I have seen his name online via the EMDR listserve for several years, so it was fun to put a face to a name! And, fun to introduce myself because he had NO idea who the heck I was! 

Of course, I still convinced him to do a video interview with me! Be inspired by his story of launching intensive therapy retreats focused on great outcomes for clients. Watch below, and then post your questions, or your out of the box ideas for providing excellence in clinical services! 


How cool is this? A little brain storming about what to do with an empty apartment leads to a breakthrough about how to provide services to clients in need. You can learn more about Dr. Greenwald over at www.therapyretreat.org His organization provides advanced trauma training, his intensive therapy retreats, and is in the midst of publishing some awesome research! 

Are you inspired? Is your brain working? We hope so! Share your out of the box ideas in the comments below or post your questions! 

p.s. If you are thinking about doing something out of the box, we have an advanced training upcoming about the logistics of marketing something beyond the couch.

Your busy... but do you have a retirement?

Therapists: How to plan for retirement

Therapists: How to plan for retirement

I'm at the EMDRIA conference in Denver, CO and meeting amazing therapists from all over the world. As people came up to my table to figure out "what the heck do you do?" I had an interesting interaction. I told a woman that I help therapists build successful private practices. She quickly replied that she had more clients than she knew what to do with. Awesome! 

I LOVE to hear and see therapists who are successful! 

For those of you who are considering niching- I would say just half a day in, I'm meeting more therapists who have a glut of clients at this conference than at the average conference! Unfortunately, my excitement faded a bit when I asked a question about retirement. This beautiful, educated, experienced fantastic EMDR therapist looked at me a little like I had 4 heads. 

Retirement for Therapists in Private Practice

This wasn't the first time I've been looked at oddly when I mention retirement, or when I discuss the idea of a profitable exit strategy for therapists preparing to end face-to-face practice. It's as if therapists assume that if they are working for themselves, retirement isn't an option. 

The transition from employee to business owner

The transition from awesome employee who does great clinical work to awesome business owner who does great clinical work is a big shift. Many therapists who launch private practices feel like they have to "give up" their retirement to be self-employed. The truth is, you need to "play for" your retirement as a business owner. 

A few steps to creating a retirement program for your private practice

If you are a therapist in private practice, you need to plan for retirement. This planning doesn't happen after you've gotten full, or after you've hit some imaginary mark. Planning for retirement (and vacation, illness, etc.) should all happen from Day 1 of developing a business plan for your private practice. 

  1. Develop a business plan that integrates the expense of retirement into your plan, including your hourly rate.

  2. Even if it is just $10 a month- open a retirement plan, contribute to it every month.

  3. Consider a pyramid strategy for your retirement plan. Whether it is $1 a month, $10 a month, or $100 a month- increase the amount you put away each month until you've hit your target.

  4. If you have a full practice, but you aren't making enough to put away from retirement- this is a sign that something is out of balance. Consider watching our free how to set fees workshop.

Ok, truth time. Share below what keeps you from contributing to a retirement account. Or, share some encouragement for your psychotherapy community about how GOOD it feels to contribute to your retirement plan. 

Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!

6 Tips For Choosing to Exhibit at a Conference

If you are going to be at EMDRIA this week or at the upcoming Annual Play Therapy Conference in October, stop by and say "hi"! We have a booth at both conferences and we would LOVE to meet you in person.

Conferences are a big part of a therapists' life. It's how many of us crank out some CEUs, get out of the office and hopefully have some fun! Check out Miranda's latest Psych Central Post on picking a conference. But when it comes to exhibiting, how do you know if it is worth it to you? 

  • Check out the conference stats. They should have information on previous years regarding the attendees and their demographics. Do you see your potential client or a potential referral resource in the demographics? Now here is another reason for understanding your target market because it will help you decide if the conference is going to reach who you want to walk through the door.

  • Take note of the length of the conference. The longer the conference, the higher the attendee list should be.

  • Ask if the conference gives you the emails of the attendees. Often conferences ask their attendees for permission to give their emails to the exhibitors. It's a great way to email out an encouragement to stop by and a follow up thank you after the conference.

  • Assess value. When looking at your marketing budget, understand bottom line what needs to happen for it to be worth it. If you pay $400 for the booth but lose a day of seeing clients and that costs you $1000. The booth really costs you $1400. BUT if out of the conference you know you are going to make x referrals or reach more clients than if you can with your other marketing, that $1400 will be worth it.

  • Look at the schedule. Are there plenty of breaks? How are attendees encouraged to go into the exhibit hall? The more time you get with the crowd the better.

  • Do you get CEUs? Sometimes conferences allow exhibitors to attend events as well. You get to market your practice and get CEUs while you are at it!

If you attend a conference, know your goals and purpose. It will make it a lot easier and more fun when you are attending a conference and building relationships. Have you attended a conference as an exhibitor? Share your story and how you decided to choose the conference!

11 Free Private Practice Marketing Strategies

free ways to start a private practice

I started my private practice on a shoestring budget. Actually, that isn't really true. I started with absolutely no budget. Why? I wasn't planning to start a private practice, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had just quit my full time, benefitted job with the county after having my infant- sort of out of the blue. 

Our financial plan included me going back to work. I had just take off several months of work, the vacation and sick time were used up... there was no buffer... 

So, I did what I always do when I am completely lost- I started researching! While I did spend money in learning how to launch a cash-pay private practice- here are things I was able to do for absolutely no money out of my bank account to my launch my private practice: 

1. Build a website on a free platform. I built my website initially on Google's free website builder. While most free website builders have major limitations and aren't the end point- writing up my website on a free builder was invaluable for me. It helped me find my voice in a new way- and allowed me to see my work in action. I am a kinesthetic learner- so even later when I purchased web design services- it was nice to have a clear idea of what I wanted. 

2. Take advantage of free trials of paid Internet directories. It is a no brainer, in most cases, to list your practice for a free trial period. Make sure you put a time on your calendar to go and assess whether to keep it- or to cancel before you start getting charged. How do you know if you should keep it? You have to ask clients where they found you- and yes sometimes they are vague! If you get even one referral during the trial period- the return on investment is quite high. Here is free 6 month Psychology Today listing link. 

3. Meet new business owners on LinkedIn in your geographical area. Don't stay insulated to just other therapists and doctors. Think more broadly. While you are at it- make sure your LinkedIn profile clearly spells out what you do. Most people have an inaccurate view of psychotherapy. Even if someone has a good idea of what therapy is- there is a WIDE variety in the framework with which therapy is conceptualized and delivered. Make sure you can articulate what you do clearly. 

4. Call up people you know in your area to check in, find out how they are doing. Tell them how you are doing- learn to talk comfortably about your business- and articulate verbally what you actually do. When starting or relaunching a private practice- 10- 20 minute phone calls a week (less than 3 hours) can have a significant impact on getting new clients. Note: You don't have to be extroverted or business savvy to do this- you just have to be willing to have real conversations with people. If you don't want to use up your cell phone minutes (that would cost $)- grab a Google Voice number and use your computer to make phone calls for free! 

5. Make sure your business is listed on free directories. Today, many people go straight to the Internet when looking for phone numbers or services. Even if you aren't ready to launch a website yet- get listed on free sites. It can be time consuming. In fact, even though this is free- consider going to a site like this one http://fiverr.com where there are people who will do this for you for $5. Skip a trip to Starbucks and save yourself hours of work that someone else can do better than you. Include your specialties. 

6. Go to a site like www.quicksprout.com that does a free check of the findability of your website and see how you rate. Also known as search engine optimization- there are certain things you can do to make sure the robots at Google know who you are. It isn't about tricks or paying to be findable- it is about making sure Google knows where you are located, what you do, and your specialties, etc. 

7. Make a plan to talk to your community at least 4 times per year. Talk to local business owners you know who have employees you might want to work with. Offer to do a free talk to their employees on a topic you are passionate about: stress reduction, relaxation, goal setting, dealing with difficult customers, etc. 

8. Make a plan to "talk" online to your community at least 4 times per year. That means blog. Blogs have become a funny buzz word- but all they really are is you "talking" to your community in a written format. Sit down one morning and write out 4 talks you'd love to share- set them up so you can post them once per quarter. Want to grow faster? Consider monthly or even weekly blogging. 

9. Use social media wisely. Too many therapists are using social media without a clear understanding of how it works to build your business and reputation. Instead of growing their business- they are stagnating because they are ignoring real relationships in the world! The two fastest ways social media can build your business: 1. The more people who share your website on social media- the cooler Google assumes you are- that makes your website more findable. 2. The more people you meet on social media and build real relationships with- by meeting by phone or in the real world- the bigger your real world reputation and referral base is. 

10. Build real relationships with other specialists in private practice in your area. If you are private pay- meet with others who are private pay. If you take a certain insurance that you want more referrals of- look for other providers who take that insurance. Don't just send them a letter with business cards attached. Be bold- invite them to coffee, ask to stop by their office so you can get to know them and their office and make better referrals to them. 

11. Have fun! Look for things that bring you joy and energy! There are a 1000 ways to build a beautiful private practice- look for things that best reflect who you truly are. You want what you put out into the world to be an accurate reflection of who you are and what you do so you attract clients who are looking for just that! 

Need more support for marketing your private practice? Check out our Business School Bootcamp, the largest online business training system for therapists.

Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!