This post in the series gets at the theme of what it can actually look like to practice independently and start and manage your own business.
About how many clients do you see in a week?
That depends on how much work you want to do. For me I started part-time on evenings and weekends while working full-time. At that point I saw 5 clients a week before I decided to go full-time in private practice. On average counsellors have between 15-25 sessions a week, and I am working towards that goal. This would mean anywhere between 15-50 clients depends on how often a counsellor sees them.
What forms of problems are the most prevalent?
I specifically work with young adults and young professionals. Based on my experience with clients so far, some of the more common challenges being faced include performance anxiety, self-doubt, depression and relationship problems.
What have you found to be the most difficult about your job?
Starting and managing your own business can result in different challenges for everyone depending on their personal strengths, personality etc. For me the hardest part was being patient. It takes a lot of work and effort to promote your service and educate your target population and eventually reach your business goals.
How much more free-time do you have?
My level of free time has not changed since working for an employer to being self-employed. If anything it’s actually much more work because your success is 100% your responsibility. If you choose to have more free time but then don’t reach your short and medium term goals, it makes you question your use of time.
Which hours do you choose to work in a week?
To a certain extent my schedule is built around my clients. I try to differentiate myself by promoting my flexibility of hours and the modes of therapy that I offer to my clients (eg in-person, phone, video counselling, and pre-counselling consults). Because of this, I work most evenings during the week, some days, and usually Saturdays.
How did you start up your business? Length of time?
Before my private practice, I had zero understanding of anything business related. To get me started I sought out colleagues in the field that had already established their own private practice. They provided me with their tips and tricks on how to most effectively and efficiently start a business.
Beyond that the big first step for me was signing up for training workshops at Invest Ottawa. Invest Ottawa, located in Hintonburg (and conveniently in my area), provides amazing workshops from various professionals in the field. Some of the workshops I attended included topics on starting your own business, how to do your taxes for sole proprietors, and bookkeeping for business owners.
Once I had an understanding of all of this I then made the decision to start my business. From there sought out the professional advice of some marketing, design and website gurus in Ottawa. They all helped to teach me what I needed to do to start a successful business.
Overall, seeking out professional advice, taking the time to learn what to do, and then actually registering my business, creating my branding, website and marketing plan took me about 3 months.
Is it important to establish a niche like you did with targeting professionals and young adults?
Absolutely. You cannot be everything to everyone. There are so many different therapeutic specializations in terms of the types of theories that you can use, and they differ depending on the age of the client and if you are seeing individuals, families or couples. Counsellors usually have a few areas that they choose to specialize in, for example someone may choose to only work with children and families. The way that this counsellor operates and the techniques they use will be very different to the theories and techniques that I use with individual young professionals.