Ten Tips for Starting Your Private Practice
By Jim Peacock
Thinking about starting your own private practice? After four years of private practice, the author shares some of his thoughts on lessons learned.
1. BE something. Be clear about your mission. There are so many distractions; so much noise that will pull you away from your focus. My focus is “Promoting the development of career professionals.” I created that slogan a number of years ago after carefully thinking about who I am and what I am passionate about. When people say to me “You should create or do ……” and that does not fit into my passion, I say no. I stay true to who I am.
ADVICE: BE something, BE true to yourself, and stay true to it.
2. Spend money to make money. Coming from education I was always trying to find the cheapest way to do things. I had to unlearn frugality. When I took bids from three people to create a new website for my business, I took the highest bidder. I never looked back. They asked the best questions. They made ME work hard to get them information to write the content for my website. And….my business has grown EVERY year since.
ADVICE: Don’t be afraid to spend money.
3. Have a plan. I worked with a Certified Business Counselor at the Small Business Development Center in my local community who pushed me to think about what a business is and the kind of hard work that must go into getting it set up. Who are my competitors? What is the value-added that I bring? What problem do I solve? Each year I revisit my plan and am astounded at what worked and what needed attention. Recently I looked at my 2015 projections and was astounded that in two areas I was within 10% of my goals financially!
ADVICE: Have a plan and revisit it annually.
4. Slow down and focus. My first full-time year of business I put together goals and one of my good friends said, “This is an ambitious plan but when are you going to take a day and just think?” Owning your own private practice business requires lots of work, many hours, and there is always more to do. But there is great value in taking time daily or monthly or whenever to slow down and think. Focus. Be mindful. Journal. Recently I took an entire day with no computer, cell phone, or technology of any sort and simply read, wrote, and thought about my business. It was amazing! The technology treadmill is turning up faster every year.
ADVICE: Carve time out of each day to read or write or meditate…or simply turn off all your technology for 15 minutes.
5. Examine your data. Look at what is working and what is not. Decide on your own metrics. I have used a simple excel sheet and noted dates when my monthly newsletter went out, when I posted in specific LinkedIn groups, when I tweeted specific topics, when I did an email campaign, and so on. Then I used Google Analytics to determine what worked. I even used two different subject lines to determine which one worked best. Google Analytics can give you insight into the activity on your website. I also use bit.ly.com to create shortened websites because I can then track how many people opened that specific bit.ly link. Constant Contact and MailChimp give you feedback on how many people opened a newsletter and how many people actually clicked on the links.
ADVICE: Make your decisions based upon data. Pay attention to the details.
6. Seek advice. One of the first things I did was create an Advisory Board of six professionals to give me feedback and advice. As a sole proprietor trying to figure things out on my own and writing my own marketing content, I needed another set of eyes on my work. I ask them to review many of my blogs / newsletters. We meet online occasionally to discuss general ideas on new markets or social media efforts.
ADVICE: Seek advice from others for an outside perspective.
7. Accept active marketing and networking. I was frustrated recently because I was spending so much of my time meeting with people, involved with professional organizations, talking on the phone: activities with no immediate financial benefit. The benefits and payback may not be immediate, but you need a presence out there in person and online: meetings, LinkedIn groups, calling authors of articles to discuss their article, Skype / FaceTime / Google Hangout, presenting at conferences, and more.
ADVICE: People want to know you as a person. They need to see you and understand who you are.
8. Do the dirty work too. Accept and embrace the fact that you will not be doing what you love to do all the time. I love doing workshops for career practitioners, but can’t do that 40 hours / week all year. When you own your own business, you are the bookkeeper, marketer, receptionist, and custodian, as well as the professional who delivers quality services.
ADVICE: Find time each week to do the things you don’t like to do. Accept it. Get it done, so you can do what you want to do.
9. Balance work life. When does my day begin and end? When it needs to. Owning my business gives me the flexibility to work when I want to. Work when you have to but don’t feel guilty if you take some time off.
ADVICE: Make sure you take time for yourself for your own health and also time for family / friends.
10. Read. I find so much inspiration from reading articles and books that help me professionally. Professional reading gives me more confidence to move forward, or another way of looking at the same event, or inspiration for a future blog It pulls me away from technology and helps clear my brain.
ADVICE: Find a way to read regularly.
Jim Peacock is the Principal of Peak-Careers Consulting offering online seminars for career professionals, face-to-face workshops / trainings, and individual career coaching. For over 11 years he was Director of the Advising & Career Center at a community college, has over a decade as a high school counselor, and since February 2012, has been full time with Peak-Careers. He is a nationally certified Career Development Facilitator Instructor and two-time President of Maine Career Development Association. In 2007 he received the Outstanding Career Practitioner Award from NCDA. He also works part-time at Colby College in Waterville Maine in their Career Center. He can be reached at JimPeacock@Peak-Careers.com. Learn more at www.Peak-Careers.com
Barry Davis on Friday 04/01/2016 at 05:39 PM
Great advice, Jim! Thanks for your insights!
Celeste Robertson on Friday 04/01/2016 at 07:04 PM
Just the advice I needed! Thanks a lot for sharing, Jim!
Lisa Park on Friday 04/01/2016 at 08:27 PM
Such an encouraging and honest article! Staying on mission is something I keep reminding myself to do. There's so much to think about when starting a business and too many distractions!
Catherine Nkonge on Saturday 04/02/2016 at 09:43 AM
This is really useful advice to have as I embark on growing my career counseling/coaching practice. Intentionality and follow through are definitely essential for success.
Jim Peacock on Saturday 04/02/2016 at 12:05 PM
Thank you for your comments. This has been a journey and a huge learning experience and I have LOVED it.
Often people have said to me "you should do ____" and I think, yes I could do that, but then I go back to what my mission is and try to stay focused.
Linda Zimmerman on Saturday 04/02/2016 at 02:45 PM
Jim-- very timely advice as I just came back from a conference about "writing" as part of a career development business.
Ellen Weaver Paquette on Saturday 04/02/2016 at 04:21 PM
Great, concise advice as always, Jim.
Private practice is a work in progress, so helpful to talk to others about legal and financial considerations.
Jim Peacock on Saturday 04/02/2016 at 04:35 PM
Thanks Ellen, yeah there is a lot to this besides what I addressed here. I decided to incorporate as an S-Corp but everyone needs to explore options.
Paula Brand on Saturday 04/02/2016 at 06:43 PM
Hi Jim, Thanks for sharing your learned wisdom. I have found many of these things to be true for me too.
Joe Austin on Sunday 04/03/2016 at 01:16 AM
Jim, Great piece. Thanks for sharing. Staying focused is challenge. I'm posting your tips over my desk as a constant reminder.
Deborah Walsh on Sunday 04/03/2016 at 08:06 AM
Thanks for a great article Jim. It is so important to be structured and intentional when beginning and growing a practice as a business. Revisiting mission and avoiding isolationism by seeking feedback and advice and checking analytics are key reminders. You definitely created a concise Top 10 that can be generalized to others. Nice job!
Jim Peacock on Sunday 04/03/2016 at 08:40 AM
@Joe no one ever said it would easy. I need these reminders too. It easy to get bogged down in the details and forget the "prize"
Karen Chopra on Monday 04/04/2016 at 09:16 AM
This is a terrific list. My two favorites are: 1) invest in the business--a business dies without regular investments; and 2) be clear about who you are--a little clarity goes a long way! Thanks for sharing.
Leigh Mundhenk on Monday 04/04/2016 at 03:11 PM
Wonderful advice, Jim! it's very clear what you are so successful; you follow your own advice!!
Jim Peacock on Tuesday 04/12/2016 at 10:40 AM
Thanks Karen and Leigh, glad you liked it.
@Karen. Staying true to who you are is key. It's easy to chase new opportunities but they all may not be "who you are".
sorry it's taken so long to respond, I've been 'off the grid' for a week on a 100 mile backpacking trip in California.
Heather Maietta on Tuesday 09/20/2016 at 11:21 PM
Thanks Jim! This is the second time today I've heard "work with a business coach". I am going to take the advice and look into it!
Jim Peacock on Wednesday 09/21/2016 at 11:03 AM
@Heather. I have met with a business coach and also with a person from SCORE. As a matter of fact, I am meeting for the 3rd time in 3 years with SCORE next week.
It is helpful to have an outside person look at your consulting business as a business. All too often we are emotionally attached to the business and can't always see what is working or not working.