Owning a business is a lot like being a parent. Just like children, your business needs care and nurturing in order to grow and be successful. Then add on the extra challenge for people have never done it before, and everyone seems to have an opinion on the “best” way to do it right.
It takes practice, learning from mistakes, and experience to fine-tune the ins and outs of building a flourishing business. A private therapy practice is particularly unique because you are simultaneously the product, the service, the marketer, the salesperson, the receptionist, and the owner all in one. And when you’re just getting started — or hitting a plateau — it can be overwhelming to know how to give your business the boost it needs.
Most practitioners choose a career in behavioral health because they want to help people. But opening your own practice means you also have to run a business. For those without prior experience or an MBA, this piece of the puzzle can feel foreign.
Don’t worry; we are here to help. Using our own experience as a bootstrapped company here at The Receptionist, we’ve put together a list of tips for private practice owners looking to scale successfully.
Invest in Tech
Choosing your practice’s location requires a lot of thought. Is it easy for clients to get to? Does it have parking? Does it provide enough privacy? Is it affordable? Location is part of the infrastructure of your business — it’s foundational to your operations.
The technology you use is also a key part of your practice’s infrastructure: it’s a vital tool to help you meet your clients’ needs. But that doesn’t always mean more equals better. It’s more important to find the right systems that help you support clients, grow your business, and meet your goals. Here are some key software types you should evaluate:
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Using pen and paper to keep all of your client notes is messy, bulky, and difficult to track. It also makes it nearly impossible to guarantee patient privacy, especially in a shared or high-traffic office space.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) software doesn’t just help you keep track of all your clients. It serves as a single source of truth for all of your patient data while keeping that information under lock and key (and password). As an added bonus, many options can help you simplify your billing process.
A great EHR software should be able to help you with:
- Storing intake files and progress notes on each patient
- Scheduling your appointments (and automating appointment reminders for your clients via text or email)
- Sending invoices and processing payments
Client Check-In Software
How do you know when clients arrive at your practice? If you have to loiter around your waiting room or get up and check every time you hear the door open, you risk interrupting those brief periods of respite you have between appointments. You could be using that time to get a cup of coffee, send an email, or look through client notes to prepare for your next session
Client check-in software allows your clients to check in for their sessions quickly and easily. All they need to do is tap a few buttons on a system like The Receptionist for iPad, and you’ll get a text notification that they’ve arrived. That way, you can head into the waiting area when you’re fully ready to welcome them.
Market Your Business Like a Pro
The number of people choosing a career in behavioral health – specifically marriage and family therapists – is growing rapidly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means more local competition for many therapists. Add that to the ever-increasing prevalence of telehealth, and clients have a plethora of choices when it comes to treatment.
Marketing helps you stand out from the crowd, attract new clients, and provide insight on who you are to potential clients. In short, it helps you speak to the audience you serve in a way that resonates.
You don’t need to be a professional marketer. You just need to follow a few simple rules.
Build an online presence
Your clients likely live much of their lives online. Many of us are never far from our smartphones or laptops, and it’s easier than ever to gather information through search engines. The more robust your online presence is, the more you’ll look like a credible business owner capable of treating clients.
To create your online presence, you’ll need a few things:
- A website to establish legitimacy
- A business email domain (not a generic Gmail or Yahoo address) to make you look professional
- Social media profiles to open a line of communication with your audience
- A Google Business Profile to help you show up in local search results, as well as gather client feedback
- Informative content to reach and educate your audience about how you can help them
Show up in search
The first thing most of us do when we need to look for something online is turn to a search engine such as Google or Bing. People usually only scroll through the first one or two pages of results for their query. If you want your practice’s website to appear on one of those pages, you need to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a popular marketing strategy that relies heavily on keywords.
“Keywords” are simply educated guesses about what people are typing into the search to find what they’re looking for. For example, a family therapist based in Austin, TX might want to focus on a keyword phrase like “family therapist Austin.” That way, when someone is using Google to look for a family therapist in your city, your website comes up in the search results. The more work you put into your SEO, the higher you will appear in search engine results, and the more likely a client can find your website!
There are many ways to ensure your chosen keywords lead potential clients to you. It may seem intimidating and complex, but there are plenty of resources out there to help break down the basics for you. As marketers ourselves, we can share some trusted resources with you:
- SEO Basics: The Ultimate Guide to SEO for Beginners (Semrush)
- The Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Moz)
- SEO for Beginners: An Introduction to SEO Basics (Search Engine Journal)
Create Quality Content
Your practice’s website is virtually useless if it has a perpetual “under construction” image on the home page. When people go to your website, they’re generally looking for a few things.
- Some information about you, what types of clients you treat, and your professional background
- Reviews from those you’ve seen in the past
- Resources to help them when they’re going through a hard time
- A way to book an appointment
All of this is content that goes on your site. Content is, to put it very simply, the words and images you use to fill your site.
Many marketers aim to produce content that entices their audience while also educating them. Consider starting a blog and/or creating downloadable resources (such as eBooks or guides focused on behavioral health topics you specialize in) that will help you capture leads.
Your content needs to be valuable for your audience; otherwise, why would they engage with you? You can use your blog as a way to share some of your knowledge with readers, point them toward resources to help them with their challenges, or even give your opinion about emerging treatment advancements.
For a better idea of what we mean, head to our blog.
All of that newly-created, well-researched, and thoughtful content you produce will be ineffective in growing your practice if you don’t have a way to promote it.
This is why social media profiles are crucial. Most of us who were alive pre-internet have friends we’ve never seen or heard from again simply because we haven’t been able to find them on Facebook or Instagram.
Think about your audience. Where do they primarily spend their social media time? For some, it’s TikTok. TherapyJeff, for example, has a following of 2.8 million users simply because he creates valuable content that resonates with his audience of young people looking for easy-to-digest mental health tips.
You don’t have to become a TikTok star to grow your business. However, you can leverage social media – even your LinkedIn page – to point your followers to a great new blog you just wrote. The key is to be active where your ideal client is most active.
Continue Your Education
Doctors are likely to continue their education even after they finish medical school, either because they are mandated by law or because they choose to keep their knowledge up to date. This helps them stay on top of changes or advancements in medicine.
Similarly, clinicians may elect or be required to update their knowledge. The more qualifications, certificates, and credentials you have, the better you are able to treat your clients. Some therapists choose to go through accredited universities to earn more advanced degrees, or obtain certificates through online programs.
These qualifications, while not necessary, help you learn about innovative therapy tools and treatments, expand into a new market, and grow your business.
Create a Community
Finding like-minded people who care about helping others as much as you do can also help you grow your practice. Sometimes, therapists come across a potential client for whom they aren’t a good fit and look to their network of other therapists for referrals. If someone found your website and called you for an intake appointment, but you had no availability, you could reach out to your community of peers and find another therapist who might be able to help them — and vice versa. These groups often exist on Facebook or LinkedIn.
You can also use these networks to share information about things that have worked for your practice, questions you might have about specific operations, or even just to gain a little perspective about a specific client problem you’re experiencing.
If you can’t find a community that works for you, consider starting your own!
This might seem like both a lot of information and not enough information at the same time. That’s why we created our eBook, Level Up Your Private Practice! If you’d like more of a step-by-step guide to the tips in this blog, you can download the eBook here.
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