Perhaps you’re tired of working under a strict hospital system and you feel you could do more for your patients if you were free to enact your own guidelines. Maybe you’re not unhappy with where you are, but you’ve always dreamed of owning your own business, and as a psychologist, that means opening a private practice. How do you know if you’re ready? These five things will help you succeed as you branch out on your own.
1. An Advanced Degree
The better educated you are, the more tools and knowledge you’ll have to cope with the challenges of running your own business, and the challenges specific to psychology. Find out here how to earn an online master’s degree in psychology even if you have limited free time.
Your professors will cover topics you may not have studied as an undergraduate, and as part of your coursework, you may produce research papers that are publishable. Getting your name out there as a published professional may lead to accolades, which will prove invaluable when you start your own business and are looking for clients and perhaps other psychologists to join your staff.
2. Years of Experience
No matter how educated you are, nothing beats real world experience. Shadowing while earning licensure isn’t enough. You should have several years of experience working in another practice before you consider opening your own. Working at another practice will providea good opportunity to observe and work with other psychologists, allowing you decide what you think works and doesn’t work about how the practice runs. The work will also let you save money to pay off student loans before going further into debt and give you time to save for an initial investment in your own practice. Also, you will have worked with a number of patients who will follow you when you move into your own practice.
3. Finances Saved
Most small businesses, regardless of the industry, operate for a few years “in the red.” In other words, the business owners don’t see profits and instead rely on investments and a line of credit to pay the bills. Sign up for a line of credit and speak with a financial investor about the amount of money you’ll need to make a down payment. Don’t jump into business ownership before you have a comfortable amount of savings so you’re not living paycheck to paycheck.
4. A Need in the Community
The American Psychological Association states that finding your niche is the key to success for a private practice. If you simply open the doors to a wide variety of mental health issues, you’ll seem like a psychologist who knows a bit about everything but not enough about a particular issue to make a difference or to stand out among the other psychologists in the area. When earning your advanced degree, pick a specialization to show that you are educated and experienced in the niche of your choice.
Look for a need for your specialization and experience in your community, or find a community that has a need for your niche and open your practice there. If a community with a large population of children has few children’s therapists, for example, a person who specializes in children’s psychology and family issues is more likely to get new clients.
5. Mentor Advice
The psychology community is one of the few types of work communities where patient health is more important than competing with “rival businesses.” Take advantage of your colleagues’ experience and speak to professionals with their own private practices. Ask your mentors how they knew they were ready to branch out on their own, and what they did to achieve their success. Use the information you collect to come up a viable business plan with realistic goals, like the number of clients you’ll need in the first few years and the types of financial aid you can offer.
If opening your own private psychology practice has been your dream for years, it won’t hurt to wait just a while longer if necessary. It’s better to make sure you’re prepared for success before you undertake what’s risky business no matter your industry: small business ownership. Get the education and the experience you need to succeed before you take the leap.