Of course, you may call it something else. If you’re an accountant, you might call it a firm. If you’re an attorney, you might call it a law practice.
If you’re a licensed psychotherapist, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist or an energy healer, you probably call it a private practice.
Whatever it is, it’s a uniquely individual service business that you create, launch and build that delivers your special set of expertise to your (favorite!) clients.
And – done well – it delivers that service in a way that makes you very, very happy.
Yes, that’s what I said – happy.
Wealthy is fine too – and absolutely needs to be part of the picture. But happy is all that – and so much more.
For example, what if you made a ton of money, but worked crazy long hours to make it work?
What if you made six figures or more, but had days full of clients who drained your energy?
What if you made enough to meet your needs (and then some), but worked in a dingy office with no windows and stale air?
That wouldn’t be much fun, would it? And sooner or later, the money wouldn’t be worth it.
On the other hand, what if you had great hours, clients you loved, a bright sunny office – and barely made enough money to pay the rent?
Yeah. That wouldn’t work so well, either.
All of it matters, you see.
And designing a practice that really works for you has to take all of that into account.
When I spoke to a group of clinical social workers this week about how they could design their ideal practice, I challenged them to get the vision in place first.
Even if you have to start out with something less than what you really want, getting really clear on what you eventually desire will guide your steps as you grow.
Here are 5 things to think through as you begin building a practice (or firm) you really, really love.
1. Who will you serve?
What kind of clients do you most want to work with? Is there a particular age group, gender, educational level or socioeconomic group you enjoy? What about the type of help they need, or the kinds of problems you help them solve?
For example, if you’re a psychotherapist, you may have a knack for working with certain kinds of clinical issues. If you’re a CPA, you may have a passion for small business owners, or for consulting with stressed out CEO’s.
2. What will your service look like?
What days do you want to work, and what hours do you want to keep?
What kind of service do you want to provide? For a therapist, this would be anything from family therapy to non-profit training. For an attorney, this could range from real estate law to wills and estates.
What kind of payment options will you offer? Cash? Credit cards? Online payments? Do you need a merchant account? How about a legal entity, such as an LLC or an S-Corps?
3. Where would you like to do your best work?
Where do you want your office to be, and what do you want it to look like? At home or in town? In a restored historic building or a cool modern high rise? Do you want to work on your own, or as part of a group?
4. When will you get started?
What are the first few steps you need to take to get started, and when will you take them? Those steps may be finding office space, reaching out to potential referral sources, or even defining and deepening your niche. Whatever they are for you, taking action is critical.
Got something on your calendar?
5. How will you keep this going?
How will you get the support and accountability you need to make this real? I know from experience that you cannot do this on your own. Will you start a mastermind or a peer consultation group? Do you have a coach? How about a colleague who will serve as a (loving) accountability partner?
There will be terrific days, and tough days. Having strong support will help you get through (and even enjoy) both.
Giving some careful thought to each of these at first, and revisiting them from time to time, will keep you moving towards creating a business that brings you a solid income, does good work, and makes you happy.
And here’s another way of looking at this too.
If your business doesn’t bring you joy, then something here is out of alignment with who you are. And getting clear on that will help you turn things around.
It’s your business. Do it your way. :)
Photo Credit: Bernd on Flickr