My Biggest Mistakes in Private Practice

I want to make this clear – I am not perfect! Far from it. I have made a lot of mistakes in starting my business. Some are due to my naturally impulsive nature – getting too excited and jumping in – and some were due to being uneducated on how to run a business.

That is the reason I love consulting with therapists. It is important to me that I help them to avoid the mistakes I made and, in doing that, they can experience faster growth and waste less time and less money.

I didn’t think enough about the name.

When I first started I really had no idea what I wanted my niche to be. But, I thought I did. And because of this I chose a VERY niched name. Niched names are wonderful, but I suggest picking them only after you have practiced in that area for awhile and are sure there is a market for it and that it is your passion.

My initial name was A Better Life Therapy for Families and Youth. I still like the name but I quickly found out that I wasn’t that passionate about working with children.

I ended up having to change the name which was just a mess and I am still dealing with the reverberations from the city. Yuck! Every now and then they will send me a letter or tax bill to my old business because they are confused.

Don’t let yourself become frozen while choosing a name, but do consider the longevity of the name. Will it welcome growth? Are you positive you want to stay in the niche?

I didn’t hire the right professionals

When I first started my practice, I did it on the cheap. But, I was TOO cheap. And, I didn’t hire the right professionals. I used Legal Zoom which ended with me having filed the wrong paperwork and then feeling super anxious about having to fix it. I also had to spend money to fix it. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

I also hired a cheap accountant. Sometimes cheap is cheap for a reason. He accidentally filed my earnings as MY PROFIT. I didn’t know enough about tax law so I ended up sending tens of thousands of dollars to the city.

When I started to sniff out that there might be an issue, I switched accountants. My new accountant realized the mistake and was able to get me my money back, phew!

But, of course, he was a good accountant and had to charge for his services. And, unraveling this horrible mess cost A LOT of money.

My advice to you? Spend little to no money on the frills (like furniture and office space) and spend good money on accountants and lawyers. It will pay you back in dividends.

You can read more about the costs of starting a practice here.

I changed from a Sole Prop to an LLC to an S Corp

This was not a mistake, per se. I was doing what I thought was best at the time. However, I wish I had more information on the different types of business structures from the get go so that navigating the changes wouldn’t have been so confusing.

I didn’t start a SEP IRA

When I first started my practice, I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what I needed to do for the business, let alone for myself! I wish I would have started a SEP IRA (or another self employed retirement account) in order to save money AND save time on taxes.

I wasn’t firm enough about my policies

I was so afraid that clients would leave me if I followed through on my cancellation policy or stuck to my fee. This lost me a lot of money and set up challenging dynamics in the therapeutic relationship. Once you allow one missed appointment to slide, you set the precedent that you will let the other’s slide. You put yourself into a difficult predicament that often leads to resentment.

Mistakes don’t mean failure

But they do waste time and money. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes hold you back. You will be successful either way. But, if you would like the type of guidance that helps you save time and money then I am here.

Article by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT

Read more about Elizabeth

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