How Long Will It Take To Build My Private Practice?

It depends.

Don’t you hate that answer? It’s so unpredictable and full of unknowns, which can be very scary, especially when it’s your business and your livelihood is banking on your success.

There’s nothing I can say to prevent you from being anxious about your new venture. You have a unique journey ahead of you. A journey that will be unlike any before you, and there’s probably not going to be one like it after you.

But maybe this post will help by giving you real numbers and timeframes, along with special considerations that will help you to formulate realistic expectations for your own business.

 

The Business of Therapy is Different

Any of you that know me, know that I love tattoos. And that’s where the idea for this blog post originated.

I was thinking about all the times that I have been walking around in public and strangers come up to me to compliment my tattoos and ask who the artist is. I happily tell them that it’s Kimi Leger at Sacred Lotus Tattoo, and I highly recommend her to anyone who will listen.

What great marketing! It’s like you have a live business card walking around.

This doesn’t happen to me in my private practice. People are not coming up to my happily coupled clients on the street asking, “Who is the therapist that helped you have such an amazing relationship?”

Although the stigma around mental health treatment is decreasing, therapy still isn’t something that typically comes up in a conversation with strangers. And it’s not something that is as visible as a tattoo. Although the results of therapy are amazing, they are often subtle.

 

Get on with it! Give me some numbers already!

Any time that I offer timeframes or numbers, I always say “don’t quote me on this.” There’s a reason for that. Everyone’s situation is different, and there too many factors to even begin considering to get a “normal” timeframe or estimate for anything private practice related.

Variables may include area, availability, specialty, insurance, expenses, training, approach, private pay, quality of website, strength of online profile, office location, advertising, amount of networking, skills as a clinician, business know how, marketing strategy, and a million other things.

With that being said, here are some numbers and timeframes 🙂

Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve heard consistently that on average businesses will often have a loss their first year in business, break even their second year in business, and begin to make a profit their third year in business.

Don’t quote me on this either, but I’ve heard consistently these timeframes related to building your practice. For insurance-based practices, many therapists share that it takes them 6 months to 1.5 years to become consistently full. For private pay practices, many therapists share that it takes them 1.5 years to 3 years to become consistently full.

There are always going to be outliers, so don’t put too much stock in these numbers and timeframes.

Also, please take this information with a grain of salt. As I shared above, there are way too many variables to have any reliable data on building a private practice.

If you’re ahead of these time frames – good for you! You are either working your ass off, or the stars aligned for you, or both!

If you’re lagging behind these time frames, it may mean that you are working your ass off doing everything you can and there are factors that are just out of your control.

Or it may mean that there are some things that you can be doing to improve, and it may be helpful to seek out the support of a business coach or consultant to help you identify strategies to grow your practice. Sometimes we are so close to our practice that it just takes an outsider’s perspective to get the ball rolling.

If you’re feeling antsy in your first few months in private practice and feel like you are spinning your wheels, you probably need to be reminded of the 3 P’s: Passion, Patience, and Persistence.

There are not many therapists out there who are trained to run a business (I am an in the minority with a Business Management degree), so don’t be so hard on yourself when the business stuff doesn’t come naturally to you. It’s not supposed to. You are wired as a helper.

 

You’ve Got This!

Hang in there, believe in yourself, don’t expect to be an overnight success, and put in the work.

You can have a successful practice!

As a private pay therapist, I’ve given myself three years to become profitable. What’s your timeframe? And is it realistic?

 

I Want You To Be Successful In Private Practice!

Starting a private practice is a big deal. It's super-exciting and super-scary all at the same time. I created Mountain Practice Journeys to support you through the difficult and muddy terrain, and to celebrate with you when you have reached each summit of the many mountains you will conquer on your journey.

Happy Climbing, Cindy