Whether you’re newly qualified or have been working in a clinic setting for some time, starting up in private practice is an exciting time. And maybe also a bit daunting! But as with any big task, breaking it down into smaller ‘to do’s can really help avoid overwhelm.
We’re going to run through the essentials you’ll need to get started, from registering as self-employed to creating a safe space.
Your Private Practice check-list:
Register as self employed
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Register with the ICO
Create a professional space
Choose the right tech tools
Must Do Administrative Tasks
1. Register as Self-Employed
Starting out in private practice, you will need to register for self-assessment as a sole trader. This can be done on the HMRC website, and you will be given your Unique Tax Reference number which you’ll need to submit your annual accounts. If the thought of filing your taxes brings you out in a cold sweat, you can look into working with an accountant or using accounting software. There’s some great, inexpensive accounting software out there that will automate it for you if an accountant isn’t yet in the budget.
2. Professional Indemnity Insurance
Having professional indemnity insurance is an absolute must-have as a therapist or counsellor. It is there to protect you in case of any legal claims made against you – not the nicest thing to think about, but a necessity. Not only that, but it is usually required that you have professional indemnity insurance before you join a membership organisation.
3. Register with the ICO
When you start seeing clients, storing their information, sending texts/emails, or keeping session notes, you become a data processor and controller. You are responsible for the safe keeping of their information and you’re legally required to register with the ICO and pay a small annual fee. The Information Commissioners Office is an organisation set up to protect the Information Rights of the public – they provide loads of information on how you can protect your clients’ data (such as being GDPR compliant), and they also issue fines for data breaches.
Ways you can protect yourself, and your clients’ information, from the get-go include:
Making sure you store client records and notes securely and in accordance to GDPR (HIPAA is an acronym you might have seen, but this only applies to US compliance laws, not UK/EU laws which are more stringent)
If you’re offering video session, make sure the platform you’re using is made-for-purpose rather than general video calling.
4. Create a professional space
Whether you are seeing clients in-person, by video, or a mix of both; having the right space is really important. Find a spot that's private and quiet and if you are seeing clients in person, consider how easy it is for your clients to get to the location, and whether it's wheelchair accessible.
The ‘feel’ of the space is also important too. Make sure it feels safe and private, and that there aren't any potential interruptions or distractions, and keep the space clear of clutter.
Finding the right location is key to building a successful practice - when your clients feel comfortable, they're more likely to come back and recommend you to others. But also consider how the space works for you – you’re the person who will be spending the most time there! Is it somewhere you can focus and feel relaxed? Can you set up everything you need within easy reach during session?
5. Choosing the right tech
Having the right tech tools ready from the start is a great way to get organised with clear systems in place, show professionalism, save money, and prepare yourself for growth!
Think carefully about the software you chose - if you are looking at a combination or software to cater for your needs (such as video software, booking software, cloud storage, invoicing, etc.) you could save money, and a lot of effort, by choosing purpose-built, practice management software that includes all of these capabilities. This can work out a lot cheaper than individual software subscriptions.
In addition to being built specifically for your needs as a mental-health practitioner, these platforms are built to be secure and compliant. Just make sure you choose a UK or EU based software provider for GDPR compliance.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Your profession can be incredibly rewarding, but also emotionally demanding. When you’re running your own practice you’re adding to that the additional pressure of wearing many different hats and keeping a steady flow of clients through the door.
Make sure you set a plan for looking after your own health and wellbeing. Physically schedule out time every day to do something you enjoy, including some time where you can fully disconnect from your job. It’s good to actually schedule this time from the beginning so that it becomes a habit you can continue regardless of how busy you get!
2. Create a Support Network
Going solo can get lonely at times, and having a network of peers you can connect with is really important. Not only does it allow you to have sympathetic and understanding ears when you need support, it can also provide opportunities for you to reach more clients and receive referrals. Within your network, having practitioners from different disciplines creates a great environment for collaboration which can be very rewarding, not to mention, allowing you to provide more comprehensive care to your clients.
Finally, you’re going to need to have a plan to find clients for your new practice! Think about how you can best reach the kinds of clients you would like to work with and create a clear plan. You will also need to think about how your potential clients will be able to find you – website, social media, and practitioner directories are good place to start. You can read our articles on how to create your brand and how to market your therapy business to help you get going!
Remember to celebrate your successes! There will be highs and lows, and plenty of milestones along the way. Take time to step back and appreciate your progress and everything you have achieved.