FREE TRAINING: How to Start a Speech Therapy Private Practice

Recipe for Starting a Debt-Free Private Practice: Michelle’s Story

This is a guest post written by Michelle Garcia of Rise Therapy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I don’t know about you, but I love slow-cooked crockpot meals. They are simple and delicious and don’t require chef-level cooking skills!

The key components are preparation and time, with lots of each. In a pinch, you could speed up the whole process by purchasing a ready-made microwavable meal but which would you rather eat? Which would you rather serve to your family and friends? Which would you rather be known for?

I wish this was a microwave success story but like anything else worth doing, this is a story about preparation, effort, and time. This is how I started a private practice debt-free, the crockpot way. 

Ingredients

  • Save, save, save
  • Cut, cut, cut and follow a budget
  • Make and stick to a business plan, as many drafts as you need
  • Be creative about your spending; why buy new?
  • Find accountability partners
  • Get free or low-cost support from places such as the Small Business Development Center
  • Seek information, read books, listen to podcasts 

Recipe:

Back in graduate school, I had big dreams.

​After getting my CCCs I was going to go to start a private practice, travel to Africa, and change the world. After working full-time in a school setting for 6 years and part-time for someone else’s private practice, I wasn’t any closer to my own private practice or Africa.

On top of that, my husband and I had decided to start our family. So, in 2014 while pregnant, I bought the Independent Clinician’s Guide to Private Patients. The fire I felt in graduate school started to comeback (or maybe it was just heartburn from my pregnancy) but I began to make plans to transfer the clients I was working with to my own home-based private practice. One year later, I bravely did just that!

I found myself working a full-time job, running my own part-time practice doing home visits, and caring for our baby. As life would have it, things starting to get more complicated. I began playing around with the idea of leaving my full-time school job for full-time private practice. Ironically, I talked myself out of it. My family needed insurance and benefits and a stable income, and, and…….

​Then in 2016, I got the push I needed. My school contract suddenly changed and I found myself working 50+ hours a week with a toddler at home! Things began to fall apart. I had to make a hard decision; do I close my private practice or do I grow it? The deepest satisfaction I felt with my work as an SLP was in my private practice. Seeing the progress and the difference I could make in my client’s lives was the answer I needed! After 8 years of working in schools, it was time to say goodbye. 

​Preparation:

6 months before I planned to resign from my position at the school, my husband and I began saving all the money we could.

We began to “practice” living off my husband’s income. We cut our personal spending by 30%. We stopped eating out, shopping at high-end grocery stores, etc. I started researching and designing a business plan. Ultimately, I knew I felt more comfortable and happier in a clinical setting than doing home visits, so I devised a plan to find and lease a clinic space. I scoured the city to find a space that I could afford using the income I already had from my current home-based clients.

After 6 months of saving, we had the $5,000 we determined through a business plan that we needed to start the clinic. We also saved an additional 6-9 months’ worth of expenses to supplement my husband’s income. The clinic savings would cover the first and last month’s rent, all furniture, materials, tests, a computer and printer, liability insurance premium changes, fire inspections, website design, and all other surprise and planned for expenses.

To make this tight budget work, I bought all my furniture second-hand. I “borrowed” my son’s old toys and books. I made materials in my free time. I used coupons and reduced costs services like Canva for marketing graphics, Vistaprint for cards and flyers, Facebook to get the word out, a friend to build my website, I wrote articles for local parent magazines, etc. I found a shared clinic space that already had waiting room furniture, a microwave, and toilet paper.

​With everything purchased (and $5,013 spent), we celebrated opening day! 

Cook Time:

3 years ago, I had the crazy idea to start a private practice.

The idea cooked for a long time before it could happen debt-free and it was largely due to the strong backing of my husband, my family and my support network. In this time, I asked a smart, strong-minded friend from graduate school to be my accountability partner. She called and texted me regularly to make sure I was on track and gave me words of encouragement.

I listened to as many podcasts as I could from Scott Harmon at Start a Therapy Private Practice and Paul Potter of Cash Therapy Practice from Scratch. I called my mom regularly. My husband and I prayed together.

I bought all of Jena’s materials at the Independent Clinician. I signed up to receive free business coaching at my local Small Business Development Center (I highly recommend looking into your local SBDC!).

I read books including Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey, and On Fire by Paul Potter. I researched grants and local and national small business competitions. These free, nearly-free, and budget friendly resources helped me pull through when my crockpot was bubbling and I was unsure how this recipe was going to turn out.

I am now two months into having a brick and mortar private practice and while I certainly still have room to grow and I am eager to get more clients, I am not stressed by the heavy burden of clinic debt. I can instead spend that energy being excited about growing my private practice and my family’s future. I have the time to do the things I love again, including running for charity.

In fact, this September marks my first clinic-supported half-marathon.  I am running for clean water for Africa!

Not only has owning a debt-free private practice improved mine and my family’s quality of life, it has brought me closer to my dreams in ways I never thought possible. Oh, this crockpot meal will be so delicious when its ready to serve. 


Michelle E. Garcia, MS CCC-SLP is a wife, mother, ASHA certified SLP, and owner of Rise Speech-Language Pathology Services, LLC, serving children and special needs adults in the Santa Fe area and throughout NM via telepractice.

Contact her at risetherapynm@gmail.com or  www.RiseTherapyNM.com


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