“A business has to be evolving, it has to be fun,
and it has to exercise your creative interests.”
~ Richard Branson
So now that you have figured out who your ideal client is, and hopefully where they hang out, it’s time to consider your office space.
When setting up a private practice, you want to make sure either you are so clear on your niche that people will travel to work with you, or you go where your clients already are and make it easy for them. Consider that nowadays, clients often put their home or work location into google maps and search “therapists near me” as a way to find practitioners.
Consider your ideal client when choosing your office location.
- Is it easy for clients to get to?
- Is there available parking or is it close to transit?
- Is it in an area your clients feel comfortable in?
- Are they already in that area for other reasons? close to home, close to work, close to play?
If you are just getting yourself started and don’t have the financial means to jump right in, starting out by renting hourly can be a nice way to get your feet wet without a huge commitment. In this case, you only rent the space when you have a client wanting to come in, and you only pay for time you are actually in the office. The downside is the office may not always be available when you want it to be, and you always have to check with office availability before you can confirm with a client. This means increased time spent on logistics. It can be a bit harder to maintain constant office hours but you will rest easier without the financial pressure of rent every month.
Once you begin to build your practice you will want to look at a part-time or full-time arrangement as hourly can get expensive if you are seeing many clients. Check Craigslist and professional association rental listings to see what may be available in your area.
Part-time rental means you have a guaranteed block of time, usually either a half-day/s or full-day/s every week that is paid for monthly. This allows for consistency for booking appointments and sometimes you are able to store your files in the office, personalize the space slightly and use the amenities of the office.
This is great for people building their practice or who don’t want to deal with the responsibility of maintaining a full-time office but want a consistent space. Again check Craigslist and professional association rental listings to see what may be available in your area.
Full-time rental has a much higher overhead but much more flexibility of use. You will usually be responsible for furnishing and maintaining the space (although most office buildings offer a cleaning service as part of the rent). Once you have built up your clientele, full-time rental can actually be the most cost-effective rental arrangement, as you would usually only need to see anywhere from 6 to 10 clients in a month to pay the rental fee and then the rest is yours. Additionally you can rent out the space on days you aren’t working to help with your overhead costs and support others starting their practices.
Check commercial office listings in your area to see what is available.
If you have an appropriate space in your home that you would like to use to see clients, you can set up a home office. The upside is you won’t have two separate rent or mortgages to pay each month so it can keep your costs lower. The downside is you have to be much more vigilant about safety and boundaries. Often therapists who use home offices have a very strict screening policy to ensure the clients are a proper fit before allowing them to enter their homes.
Office Licensing and Insurance
In all of the above cases, make sure that you secure a business licence, and ensure that the space is zoned for counselling services. Not all office space and home locations are legally allowed to be used for business services and specifically, therapy. Before you sign a lease agreement or set up your home-office, make sure you have done your homework. Check with your local licensing office to determine the zoning of your potential office space. Additionally, make sure your insurance will cover you in that space. Often home insurance will not allow for commercial services without adding a separate policy. If you are renting space, make sure your general liability insurance covers you in your location.
Here is more information on determining if you need a business license.