Overcoming a Slow Start to Solo Practice and How to Change that with Beliza Perez | POP 847

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Overcoming a Slow Start to Solo Practice and How to Change that with Beliza Perez | POP 847

Where should you spend your money in your first 6 to 12 months of private practice? Are you currently in your initial years of solo practice? Where should you invest your money for the best chance of success?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about overcoming a slow start to solo practice and how to change that with Beliza Perez.

Podcast Sponsor: Pillars of Practice

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Over 20 FREE Downloadable resources and tools

8-minute expert videos on a variety of topics to help make your private practice stronger

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What’s your phase of practice? Click here to get full access, totally free!

Meet Beliza Perez

A photo of Beliza Perez is captured. She is therapist in Oviedo. Beliza is featured on the Practice of the Practice.

Beliza is a young but experienced therapist with a blended therapy style. She lost her father in adolescence and knows the difference that therapy could have made for her at that difficult time. This desire to make a difference in a child’s life has driven her to be a therapist and helps her to connect to her clients. She has followed her calling with excitement and joy.

She is a qualified supervisor for the state of Florida and has been invigorated by helping young therapists gain valuable experience. Her most exciting work has been in her practice in Oviedo with children, siblings, and parents.

Visit Beliza’s website, see her Therapy Den profile, connect on LinkedIn, and email her at beliza@myoviedocounselor.com

In This Podcast

  • Switching from full-time to solo practice
  • Overcoming the initial struggle years
  • What worked well
  • Where to spend your money
  • Invest early on in work-life balance
  • Beliza’s advice to private practitioners

Switching from full-time to solo practice

In her previous job, Beliza knew that the 9-5 40-hour workweek was not the way that she wanted to spend her career.

I just knew that there was more out there for me, I just didn’t know exactly what that looked like.

Beliza Perez

When her contract was reviewed, Beliza saw what her future pay would look like on this salary, and it wasn’t viable for her and the life that she wanted to build for herself.
Almost overnight, she jumped into solo practice.

I was both terrified and excited and nervous but I also knew that there was more out there for me, and the best version of me was not where I was.

Beliza Perez

Overcoming the initial struggle years

The first two years were the worst two years for Beliza’s private practice.

It wasn’t until about year four when I actually got a consultant and I paid somebody that everything changed.

Beliza Perez

Her consultant showed her the best way to go about things, which skyrocketed her success, and helped her to plan her way forward with the next best steps.

What worked well

  • Setting up a marketing system
  • Networking with two to five people a month
  • Following up with those new connections in two weeks after the first meeting – depending on how well it went

It also adds to your reputation and who you are as a person, as well as a business person and a clinician.

Beliza Perez

Where to spend your money

When you are launching your private practice, according to what’s viable with your finances, consider:

  • Hiring and working with a consultant
  • Working with a reputable website hosting company
  • Find a group of like-minded therapists at your current level or higher in business for accountability, company, and inspiration
  • Put your name out there because people won’t know about you unless you advertise yourself and your services

Invest early on in work-life balance

Instead of it just being, “Go big or go home” … I was literally breathing, eating, [and] sleeping my solo practice. Nothing else existed and I ended up getting myself sick.

Beliza Perez

Take care of yourself. If you are running a business as a solo practice owner, you need to invest in yourself as part of your business strategy! You cannot work well if you do not rest well.

There is a balance between working well and caring for yourself, and the success of each depends on you making space between them.

So many of us don’t have that, that I think if you cultivate that [work-life balance] early on, I think that is a game-changer in and of itself.

Beliza Perez

Beliza’s advice to private practitioners

You can always pivot! There are different options ready for you, so experiment whenever you hit a dead-end and keep shifting. Be open to the pivot.

Sponsors mentioned in this episode:

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK] You can spend lots of time going on YouTube, reading people’s blogs, even listening to podcasts like this, but if you can find someone you trust and you understand what they’re teaching, they can save you time if you just follow them, if you dive into what they’re looking at teaching you. That’s why we put together pillarsofpractice.com, a totally free e-course to help you, whether you’re a solo practitioner or a group practitioner, to get the basic checklists and trainings that you need to rock out your private practice. Head on over to pillarsofpractice.com to get access to this free e-course. Again, that’s pillars of practice.com. This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 847. Well, I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. I am so glad that you’re here today. All month long, we are talking solo practice. We’re talking about starting a practice, growing it, getting that solo practice just kicking some butt and all month long we’re going to be interviewing people that I know that have just rocked out private practice. But we’re not going to tell you just the good stuff. We’re going to tell you the stuff that was tough, the places that they failed and where they’re still trying to get to. Today, I’m so excited I have Beliza Perez. Welcome to the show, Beliza. [BELIZA PEREZ] Hi Joe. Thank you so much for having me. Very exciting. [JOE] Yes, I’m so excited for you to join me today. Well, give the audience a little bit of an idea of just what’s your practice like, what’s your life look like, and then we’ll dive into just hearing your story of starting a solo practice. [BELIZA] Got it. So I have been in solo practice for, I want to say, eight to nine years. I just started a group practice within the last few months so, and it wasn’t always solo practice. I started on Community Mental Health for many years before that and really just knew that that wasn’t my end goal, burnt out, tired, and I couldn’t really offer the amazing services that I could offer in my private practice. So yes solo practice, self-pay in Oviedo, Florida. I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, working mostly with children, and yeah, it’s been a journey. Solo practice has been a fun, awesome, scary, crazy, wild journey. [JOE] Outside of your practice what are people that are important to you or things that you like doing just to give people a picture of you outside of just being a practice owner? [BELIZA] Sure. I am currently learning how to raise some chickens, that’s been a fun journey. Hens versus roosters, that’s also fun. [JOE] Oh, wow. [BELIZA] I spend a lot of time with my family. I have a nephew who is just my little heartbeat. So him and I spend a lot of quality time together. Definitely mom and immediate family, lots of yoga, lots of meditation these days, pottery, just some Netflixes in there, just a little bit of that. [JOE] You’re into some cool stuff. Take us back to when you were starting your practice. What made you decide, “Yep, I want to start a private practice?” [BELIZA] So honestly was always in the back of my mind. I went from working full-time at a community hospital to doing contract work there, and I just knew that the whole nine to five, 40 hours of work week was not, it didn’t make sense for me. I’m not a morning person. I just knew that there was more out there for me I just didn’t know exactly what that looked like. But I ended up jumping in because the contract that I had was being reviewed and they just, I mean, I was going to get paid pennies and I knew that I couldn’t make a living off of that, especially with the quality of life that I wanted to have. So I just jumped into private practice headfirst, and I had no idea what I was doing, none whatsoever [JOE] Was that scary, was it invigorating, was it, like, what emotions did you have when you did that? [BELIZA] It was a mix. I was both terrified and excited and nervous, but I also knew that like, there was more out there for me and the best version of me was not where I was. So it was a lot at once. [JOE] I know when I left my full-time job, I ran numbers, like, yeah, I have to see this many people a week at this rate for me to come close to what I was making at my full-time job. Were you running numbers like that or was it just, no I’m just going to jump in [BELIZA] I just jumped in and I just knew that I didn’t want to take insurance. I knew that I would eventually be, would have to charge at that time was a rate that people don’t charge or do for services. But no, I didn’t do any of that. I literally started with the website. I started with the name, I spoke to my accountant and she told me, okay, here are like the first five things you do logistically. [JOE] Wow. So when you got those first five things done in your first, say, two years of private practice, what were things that you’re really glad you did that for you you’d say that really set me up for success in the future. I didn’t realize the impact that those decisions would make later on. [BELIZA] I wish I could say that the first two years were glorious and the first two years were probably my worst two years because I still didn’t know what I was doing. I was just like I had the website up. I was telling people who I was, but the first two years I made no money. Those were like the worst two years. It wasn’t until about year four when I actually got a consultant and I paid somebody that everything changed. [JOE] So, like what did you learn with that consultant and how did they help you start making money at your private practice? [BELIZA] He’s the one who really had me go over numbers. Like, he was the one, one who was telling me, I had an Excel spreadsheet. He talked about my client visit average. He talked about my dollar visit average. He’s the one who taught me the numbers, but also how to market and network so that people knew I existed. People knew, okay, Belize’s in Oviedo, she offers these amazing services. These are her fees, and this is why you should pay her to work with your child. [JOE] Now, was it hard working with kids because oftentimes they’re at school during the day or did you do mostly do evening sessions or how did you handle that? [BELIZA] I did everything after school and I still do, everything, I might start on a two o’clock on a Wednesday because kids get out early here on Wednesdays. But I knew off the bat if I was to be successful, I had to work around their schedule. But I was committed to that. Again, I’m not a morning person, so in the evening, I’m fresh, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to work with those kids. [JOE] So once you really started clicking along what did that look like in the practice? What systems did you have? How did people find you? Like what was going well and what can we extract from that for other people listening? [BELIZA] Yeah, so I had set up basically like a marketing system where I was either networking with people anywhere from two to five people, actually more a month following up with them. Let’s see, I was doing different — [JOE] I want to pause you there, what did that look like in regards to keeping track of those people, reaching out to those people? Like break that down. [BELIZA] I used my calendar. So I’m old school. I have a meet calendar that I literally would write down when I met with that person and that I would be following up with them in about two to three weeks. That might be a text, a call, an email, or maybe even a card thanking them for meeting with me. [JOE] Now, do you put that in your calendar, like meet on this date and then three weeks later, are you putting that in your calendar “follow up with?” [BELIZA] Yes. Well, yes, depending on how well that meeting went, because it’s like dating. So it might have been a great first meeting, or it might have been like weird or it might have been like, this is not a connect. Like we would never refer to each other. It’s just, it’s not going to really go anywhere. But I would still thank them for meeting with me. [JOE] I think that’s so smart because I’ve heard so many business people say the fortune is in the follow up. Like even just yesterday, so I had someone that was looking at doing this consulting package with me, and he was all in. He’s like, yes, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I need.” But he also realized that there were some things in his group practice that he had to clean up before he could fully commit to doing a group consulting package. So I’m like, great, we never try to sell people on things that they don’t need to me. We have enough people applying and it’s just like I would hate that if I got something I didn’t need. So I texted him and said, “Do you want me to follow up with you in a couple months?” He’s like, “Absolutely, that’d be amazing.” I put his name, his phone number, all that in two months to just check in with him. So it’s like if you do that with people, whether it’s in networking or in other areas you can expand so much faster because so few people actually do that level of follow up. So I think that’s awesome you’re putting it right in your calendar. [BELIZA] I would add that it adds to your reputation so people know that you’re put your money where your mouth is and people know that like you do what you say you’re going to do. So even if that never really works out with them, like sometimes it works out for referrals, like, oh, I know this awesome therapist, oh, reach out to Belize. Like, she’s always great about reaching out back. I think it also adds to your reputation and just who you are as a person as well as a business person and clinician. [JOE] Now, if we looked at your numbers over the years would it just be a slow steady growth or were there periods when you had like, massive, so many more clients coming in? Like what would that growth look like if we put it on a chart? [BELIZA] So I would definitely say the first three years that I worked with my consultant, that’s when I saw the most growth. Like, I literally went from like $5,000 a year to like 35, then to like 50, then to like 65. I mean, I was growing at a rate of like, I want to say it was 15 to 20% for the first three years and then it, after that it was a slow and steady increase because I would increase my rates. Then I decided I don’t want to work five tight days a week, so I’m going to cut back to four but increase my rates. It wasn’t until the pandemic that things took a shift of I paused and actually made a little less money but that was a big shift. [JOE] Now when you think about raising your rates, how do you do that when you want to raise your rates? [BELIZA] I follow your model actually. You had posted several places that if you’re going to increase your rates, it should be something that’s nominal. So I usually increase it by $25, so I went from $125 to $150. But now with just the market and just with how things are going financially globally I’m going to increase it this summer by only $15. But that’s just because I’m trying to be kind to the potential parents calling in and the financial climate that we’re entering but otherwise I would’ve done another $25 to my therapy rate. [JOE] Yeah, I think that idea of raising your rates throughout the year as you get more and more full with new people and then realigning the whole caseload as much as you can works really well for a lot of people. [BELIZA] Yes. You just have to have the mindset, you have to have the confidence and you have to remember what it is that you’re offering your clients. Because I think a lot of people, depending on who you speak to, you have to speak to the right people, they’re going to say that’s you’re expensive and I’m going to say yes, but I’m well worth my rate. and here’s why. [JOE] Yeah, no, I get that. I see that that a lot in consulting too, that when I hired Jamie Masters, she was $2,000 for 45 minutes and had a minimum of like six months that you had to work with her. So I was going to be dropping $15 to $20k, but it was totally worth it. I mean, I can track back hundreds of thousands of dollars to that six months of consulting. So if you were to, so say if someone’s listening right now and they’re in their first six months to a year and they don’t want to limp along for three to five years, like maybe you did at the beginning and they maybe aren’t going to hire a consultant, but they want to just take some of your advice, where would, where should they start, what should they do? What should they invest in? What should they put their time into? Like what would be things that you would say, here’s where to spend your time and money in your first six to 12 months of private practice? [BELIZA] If they’re not going to work with a consultant, I would say find a reputable web company that can really make you look good on your website because your website is basically your, we used to do business cards, I feel like it, that’s your business card. So invest in a good website, but find a good web company because there’s a million out there. So being able to invest in a good website is a must. That’s one. I would say start networking, well not networking, but find a group of people who are at your level or higher who are going to support you, who are going to be your cheerleaders because it’s hard, if you’re alone, it’s very, very hard. Get a group of people who are your cheerleaders that, I mean, they may not be therapists trying to jump into private practice, that maybe they’re other entrepreneurs who are really trying to make big moves. Get that team together and get your cheerleaders together. What else would I invest in? And just putting your name out there, so whether it’s networking, whether it’s online platforms, like nobody knows you exist if nobody knows you exist, so you need to put yourself out there. People need to know Beliza Perez works amazing with kids who are gifted, angry and anxious. She works with young kids. She’s got the energy for days, that’s who you call. So you have to, they people need to know you exist. [PILLARS OF PRACTICE] We brought together all of our checklists, videos, and other free things in one spot so you don’t have to opt in all over the place just to get another checklist. We’ve put it all together over at pillarsofpractice.com. Whether you’re just getting started or have an established group therapy practice, we have a free e-course for you. As well, we have eight-minute experts, which are short eight-minute videos around specific topics completely free. So if you want to take your practice to the next level, head on over to pillarsofpractice.com to get access to our free e-courses. Again, that’s pillarsofpractice.com to get all of those free e-courses. [JOE SANOK] What are some ways that right now, as you’re entering into group practice, that you’re helping people know that beyond you exists, that you’re adding a group practice that like how are you marketing your group practice? [BELIZA] I’ve been doing a lot of stuff like on Google, like Google My Business page. So I’ve just been updating a lot of information on there. All of my current people that I network with I reach out to them like, we just had Christmas cards go out, so I would put on the bottom of the cards like, “Hey, we just hired somebody. Here’s our new group information.” I made stickers. The stickers have the new group website on there and just giving them a little bit of information. A lot of it’s just been anybody that I speak to my current clients, letting them know, hey, we’ve hired, hey, we’re expanding because my current clients are, besides Google are how I get new clients. [JOE] How did you know when it was time to expand into a group compared to sticking with solo practice? [BELIZA] That was around the pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, I was already feeling tired. But I’m the type of person where you push yourself, you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine and the pandemic hit and it was the biggest eye-opener that I’m here and I’m stressing and I’m trying to figure out how to make extra money when had I had therapists we could have been still continuing to serve our community, but also continuing to make the money that we needed to make. So it was probably 2019 that I knew deep down inside that we were ready for a shift, but I didn’t, I didn’t hear the alarms, I didn’t pay attention to myself enough to say, let’s start to look into that. [JOE] So when you’ve made that transition, what’s been easy about it and what’s been hard about starting a group practice? [BELIZA] Oh my goodness, so I’ll start with easy. I guess once I found the right fit and I found the therapist that I was like, oh, I’m in love with you, like, you have to work for me or with me. Just that fit made getting them clients easier, just everyday conversations easier just knowing that like when I speak about him, I can, it’s just beautiful things flow out because I am so passionate about who I work with that it just, everything just flows nicely, easy. My assistant made a lot of things easy just because of the systems we developed and she was really good about, okay, we’re going to interview people here. I’m here, we’re going to steps to hiring. So she helped with that. Those are probably the easiest parts. The name like, getting the name was easy, I just knew that My Oviedo Counselor just, you would remember it and it’s something that was personal. The hard parts, and it’s still hard, is letting go of the solo practice that I built with every ounce of me went into my solo practice and that was, I mean, that’s all me. So saying goodbye to that and saying hello to something bigger and better and different was very difficult, very difficult because it was a death, it was a death of this amazing thing that I built to a birth of a new transitional thing that’s going to be just so amazing, just different. [JOE] Now how, do you have dreams of it being a really big practice, just a handful of people for overflow, you’re just seeing how it goes? How are you setting the vision for what you may grow into? [BELIZA] That’s something that’s still evolving. Like, I definitely want to see how well I can manage a small group practice. Like I definitely already envisioning hiring another therapist, figuring out what that looks like. But for me it isn’t just the practice. Like I think of my vision is beyond that. So having an office building that some of my clinicians are in, but we’re renting out to other providers. I think of like just having retreats for the parents because these parents are stressed out, they need support. So having some sort of like local weekend retreats for them. So it’s like beyond the group practice, but I definitely see us growing. I just don’t know how big. [JOE] Yeah, I think that’s, you never have to like make those decisions at this point. You can just see if you like the group practice, if you are growing it and you may find that you’re shifting towards other things. So when you think back to early practice for yourself, and maybe you’ve answered some of this already, but are there things that are very clear, nuts and bolts or very clear mindsets or postures toward your private practice that you really wish you had started or engaged with or just had those mindsets early on in private practice? [BELIZA] Yeah, I think I wish I would have worked more towards work-life balance instead of it just being go bigger, go home. Like it’s, I was literally breathing, eating, sleeping, my solo practice like nothing else existed and I ended up getting myself sick. So I wish I would’ve just leaned into it with more of that work life balance where I was taking care of myself just as much as I was loving my practice but also connecting with the right people. So I feel like everybody I spoke to, I wasn’t in the best circles, they were just like, what are you doing? Like, you don’t do that. You do a nine to five, you get your retirement plan. Like, what are you doing? I really wish that early on I would’ve started connecting with more like-minded people so that way I knew, I mean, deep down inside I knew I made it happen. But having that amazing network, I feel like as a game changer, I mean, you just have one or two people who are like, yes, try that or you what about if you tweaked it this way? We’re like that. Just that mindset I think is amazing. So many of us don’t have that, that if you can cultivate that early on, I think that is a game changer in itself. [JOE] Such good advice. Well, the last question I always ask is, if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know? [BELIZA] I would say it, you can always pivot. I used to always think that it was solo practice or bust and I think that, now that I’ve opened my mind to like different options, different possibilities just experiment here, experiment there. That pivot is going to rejuvenate you and just help you grow in just these amazing ways beyond a practice. So just being open to the pivot and being open to like, what’s that, what could, would it look like if I dabbled here or experimented there? Like, don’t be afraid to just imagine and think of it in a different way. [JOE] I love that. Don’t be afraid of the pivot. Well, if people want to connect with you, if they want to check out your website, where’s the best place for them to reach you? [BELIZA] The best way, so my website is myoviedocounselor.com, but the best way to get me is going to be belize@myoviedocounselor.com. That’s my email address so I check that three times a day. So that’s the best way to reach out. [JOE] Awesome. We’ll have links to all that in the show notes. Beliza, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast. [BELIZA] Thank you Joe, for the inspiration. [JOE] Go out there if you are starting a practice. I hope you are inspired by Beliza and the other folks that we’ve been interviewing this month. We’ve got a few more interviews coming up also throughout the month. If you want a bunch of free resources head on over to pillarsofpractice.com. That is our e-course, that is for solo practitioners or for group practitioners. When you go to pillarsofpractice.com, you’ll see all the curriculum that’s included in there. We used to have all these different downloads that you had to individually put your email in for each and every one of these checklists and different things but we have all these videos, checklists, all these free resources in there over at pillarsofpractice.com. Thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon. Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the producers, the publishers, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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