Guest Blog: by AAMFT affinity partner zynnyme
As a private practice therapist, you need a business plan.
But not just any plan. You want to create one that grows with your business and reconnects with those deep parts of you that give you the energy to make your plan a reality. Because private practice success looks different for everyone, and you want to be in genuine alignment with who you currently are — NOT the “you” from months (or even years) ago who had different goals.
Many therapists in private practice who develop an initial business plan, focus on a business plan that outlines broadly what they’ll do over the next 3-5 years. Then, that business plan collects physical or virtual dust as they start actually running their business. Often, the business plan and the day-to-day operations are completely disconnected from each other.
That is why we recommend starting with a 90-day business plan. It keeps things focused on things you can achieve and implement over the next 3 months. It helps reduce the overwhelm. And finally, it turns it from a dusty document to a game plan, so you know what you’re doing and WHY -- week by week and month by month.
An effective 90-day business plan involves eight key elements:
- Your vision for life and practice.
- Your schedule and organization.
- Your documentation.
- Your processes.
- Your financial plan.
- Your niche and messaging.
- Your private practice website.
- And your marketing plan.
Let’s cover each of these areas in more detail…
Private Practice Vision
This is the foundation of your business.
As a reminder, it’s okay to change. In fact, depending on how long you’ve been in solo or group private practice, that might be exactly what your business needs to reach that next level!
When you’re creating your ideal vision, you want to include not just time for your practice but also time for your life. Journal about your one-of-a-kind strengths as a therapist — or, if you have some people in your life you can ask, share a survey with them (even if it’s anonymous).
It’s all about identifying (or reconnecting) with your core values.
Schedule and Organization
Just like your vision — you’ll notice a trend here! — you want to create a schedule that includes time for the impactful work you do AND your personal life. Figure out a way to organize your plan and tasks that works for YOUR brain and learning style. This isn’t one-size-fits-all!
And don’t forget to get your calendar organized. If you have multiple calendars, ensure they’re all in sync with each other. We personally recommend software like Google Calendar where you can have a virtual record of everything you need (and want) to do and easily make updates.
Private Practice Documentation
Do you have a way of doing your notes that allows you to finish in 5 minutes or less? Do you have a clear informed consent with a clear cancellation policy?
We recommend a 48-hour cancellation policy at minimum, but feel free to set up something like 72 hours in advance if that works better for you. The goal here, like with all the other parts of your 90-day business plan for private practice, is to create something sustainable.
And speaking of sustainable… we recommend a paperless office.
The less you have to lock away in filing cabinets, the more ease of access (and, for many private practice therapists, peace of mind) to your business and clinical documents.
Processes in Private Practice
Your practice doesn’t have to be on fire for you to make changes.
(And, if it is, you better stop reading for a moment!)
If you focus on making your processes even 1% better every month or every week, you’ll have a completely different life and business 5 months — and especially 5 years — from now.
Create a clear process for onboarding, referring out, and graduating your clients. Decide how you want to integrate outcomes in your work and how often you’ll check in to see how the people you’re serving are doing. (And don’t be afraid to refer out if it’s not a good fit!)
But don’t limit your processes to the things YOU have to regularly do. Think about what you’re ready and willing to outsource, automate, or streamline in your private practice.
Financial Plan in Private Practice
Let’s face it: Therapists DON’T get paid enough for the work they do. At least that’s been the norm for as long as me and my business partner, Kelly Higdon, have been around.
The good news is we know plenty of therapists who flipped the script and do things differently. And you can be one of them too. You just have to get comfortable with money.
As a starting point, run your numbers so you can create a sustainable long-term fee that really works for you. It’s not about what others are charging or what you’re “worth” (spoiler alert: your profession doesn’t determine your worth; you have inherent value as a human being); it’s about what YOU need to financially thrive as a private practice owner.
(P.S. Figure out your fee BEFORE you consider insurance panels.)
Once you’ve set your fee, you’ll also want to get comfy with taxes… AND ensure you have plenty of space for vacations, sick days, benefits, retirement, slow-period savings, long-term health and wellness. Yes, we know it’s a lot to think about. But you’ll thank yourself later!
Private Practice Niche and Messaging
Attract the clients who you can get great outcomes with. And yes, you CAN get great outcomes. You were called to this work for a reason — now’s the time to figure out who you best serve. So, get crystal-clear about WHO you want to work with. Even if that’s changed a bit over time.
Create a clear marketing message that’s written in your ideal client’s words. You want to deeply, authentically connect with them in a way that allows them to feel seen, heard, and capable of being supported through whatever they’re currently going through.
(IMPORTANT: This isn’t about throwing out a bunch of jargon other therapists will understand. You want to speak in the way your clients speak. Nothing about being “eclectic” and the like.)
Then, after you know who you want to serve and how to best reach them with language that connects on a deeper level, make the decision to only have a caseload of ideal clients. In other words, only work with clients who energize you and refer out the others to better-fit therapists.
Client-Attracting Private Practice Website
Is your website making your life easy? Bringing you more clients than you need? Easily turning the flow of clients on and off? If the answer is “NO,” then it’s time for a change.
Your private practice website is a compelling space that you have easy access to change and update as desired. Give yourself permission to grow over time, focusing on progress rather than having the perfect design or words on the page.
Maybe that involves creating a newsletter potential clients sign up for instead of being on a waitlist. Maybe that involves answering questions before the phone even rings — we definitely recommend this one, so feel free to include an FAQs page on your private practice website!
And don’t forget about search engine optimization (SEO). Without getting too much into the weeds here, you’ll want to learn how you can set up your website to appear at the top of Google search results when potential clients are looking for a new therapist in their area.
(Yes, this works if you’re a virtual therapist with no office, too.)
The point is that you need to understand your website and how it’s serving you. It’s the hub for creating a powerful private practice that keeps you connected to ideal clients for years to come. Your upfront investment in this area can truly lead to a six-figure practice and beyond!
So, give yourself the time and space to learn. If you really need some help, you can do a little outsourcing, but we recommend you have an understanding of all the moving parts and pieces before you start handing over to-dos to expensive web designers and SEO specialists.
Private Practice Marketing Plan
Yes, we said the “M” word. We know a lot of therapists want to avoid this at all costs — almost as much as finances — but showing up and being seen for the work you do doesn’t have to be complex or overwhelming. Think about what the easiest, most sustainable plan would be for connecting with potential clients WITHOUT burning yourself out.
Maybe that’s posting on social media. Maybe that’s connecting with other therapists in-person through networking events. Maybe that’s running some ads to your ideal clients.
The specifics don’t matter as much as your ability to answer these questions:
- Is this working, and what data do I have to support this?
- Can I let go of the marketing methods that aren’t working?
Private practice marketing doesn’t have to break the bank (or your soul). Keep things simple, figure out what works, and get rid of all the extra fluff that isn’t in alignment.
Ready to create your own 90-day business plan as a private practice therapist? We’ve created two forms depending on your practice — either solo or group. Each of these forms starts by assessing where you currently are in each of these areas so you can make an achievable plan to improve in each of these areas bit by bit over the next three months. The form gets specific and includes best practices so you have clarity on what you need to do in order to improve in that area!
Check them out below so you can start making more and working less in private practice!
P.S. Need help with any of these steps? We cover ALL of these in our Business School for Therapists, where we help mental health professionals start, grow, and expand thriving practices aligned with their values and ideal lifestyles. Learn more about Business School here! 😊