Let's talk about practice development for a minute. Our complimentary counseling session program has been well received so far and we thank you very much for that. I'm seeing a common thread throughout most of those sessions that I'd like to focus on today and that is the recognition by almost all of those we've spoken to that they need to diversify their income streams. We've been preaching that message for years now but sometimes it takes a tsunami to get the attention of the masses and the CovID event has apparently done just that.
Practice Development: Think Like a Small-Business Owner
To be fair, all most of us ever wanted was a way to help other people and make a decent living doing so. I get that. But what you wanted and what you bit off are not the same thing. What you really signed up for is a mindset you may not have prepared yourself for.
Okay I'm gonna just come right out and say it. There are way too many of us counselors that do not treat our practices like the businesses they are. That mindset is gonna come back to bite you if you don't look at things differently going forward! I want you to think like a small-business owner.
Run Your Practice Like a Business
This is going to take some work. A lot of work. Make sure your business is set up legally in a manner that protects you and your family from the trolls that are out there and would take everything you have given the opportunity. Get your practice compliant with all Federal-level laws and regulations. Learn your Board's rules backwards and forwards and make sure you're running compliant so you keep your license. There's a lot more to do so find a good mentor and make sure you check all the boxes.
Diversify Your Income Streams (Revenue Sources)
There are two groups, active and passive income. Passive income is revenue from sources you put in place that require very little on-going energy from you. Examples of that might be a book you write and offer for sale on your website or Amazon or somewhere else. Or a course you've developed that you'd like to sell online. Or a recorded workshop you did once and want to resell online.
Active income comes from clients and this is where you have the most immediate opportunity to increase your revenue; through new client channels.
Referring back to the consulting sessions we've done with other counselors, for the most part, those counselors that have multiple client sources are doing well, even increasing their year-over-year revenue while those that only take self-pay were down in 2020. That would be because self-pay clients use discretionary income to pay for counseling services. When the economy takes a sufficient down-turn, for any reason, discretionary funds dry up and your client traffic decreases. It's as simple as that.
I know and I absolutely get it why those of you who only take self-pay like it that way. Taking insurance is more work although utilizing an online portal has greatly reduced the volume of paperwork involved. Becoming an EAP provider is viewed in much the same light and to top it off neither of them pay quite as much as self-pay does. That argument is true but only holds water if you're at 100% capacity all the time. Otherwise, any payment during your unused capacity hours is worth more than no payment at all.
The Customer Service Lens
The arguments above are presented from your point of view; what's best for the counselor. But what about the client? When do we begin to take their preferences into account?
I can't say this loudly enough: let the customer pay for your services with the payment method of their choosing! What would you think if your favorite restaurant only took Bitcoin??
You must plan for economic downturns. Doing so will require you to think like a small-business owner and run your practice like one. Think about your revenue in terms of both active and passive client channels/sources, and let your clients pay for your services with the payment options they have available to them.
Plan Smart. Be Safe. Serve Others.
Kathleen Mills, LPC-S, CEAP
Got An Opinion?
This post is my opinion based on almost 30 year practice as a mental health provider. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to leave your civil, constructive comments below. You do not need to be logged in to leave a comment.