Starting an allied health private practice business requires careful planning and a bit of time investment. Think of it this way: imagine a marathon runner who dedicates months to training, stretching, and understanding the race route. Such a runner is more likely to excel and avoid injuries compared to another runner who shows up unprepared, simply hoping for the best. Similarly, when it comes to launching a business, the principles of preparation and thoughtful consideration play a crucial role.
However, it’s vital to acknowledge that even marathon runners can’t foresee every potential challenge. Waiting for perfect conditions, an ideal location, or flawless weather conditions might deter them from ever participating in a race. In the same vein, when establishing a private practice, there’s only so much you can do before launching, and not everything needs to be absolutely perfect right from the start.
In an ideal world, every aspect of your business would be flawlessly set up before the grand launch. But in reality, you can legally, ethically, and responsibly start seeing clients under your private practice as long as you have the essential components in place. However, it’s important to distinguish between what’s absolutely necessary, what would be nice to have, and what can be developed over time.
So, what exactly are these critical components of an allied health private practice business that must be in place before the launch? And how long should you realistically expect these tasks to take?
In this article, we’ll explore the key components that should be addressed before you welcome your very first client, along with some estimated timelines for each element.
Table of contents
The Planning Stage
- 2-3 months
In the Planning Stage, you’ll embark on the foundational journey of launching your private practice. This stage is all about defining your practice’s identity, audience, and financial groundwork. It sets the stage for everything that follows. Here, we break down the crucial steps you need to take before your practice becomes a reality.
1. Define your core identity
- 2-3 weeks
Your private practice core identity (i.e. your vision, mission, and values) is the bedrock upon which your entire practice is constructed. In fact, they simplify and expedite every other facet of your business by providing crystal-clear guidance on what you aim to achieve.
Take, for instance, the naming process: a well-defined vision can swiftly lead you to a business name that aligns with your vision. Clear values act as a compass, directing your business decisions and setting the tone for everything else.
Therefore, it’s essential to invest time in meticulously contemplating your vision, mission, and values. What is the purpose of your business? What are your long-term aspirations? What core values will steer your business practices?
Once you’ve articulated your vision, mission, and values, take a moment to sit with them, revisit them, and reflect. Will they remain relevant and inspiring over time? Can you envision holding the same vision and values in one year, five years, or a decade?
Given the need for careful consideration, this exercise may take a few weeks to complete.
2. Identify your target audience
- 2-3 weeks
Not every private practice can cater to everyone’s needs. Your practice should have its own target audience that matches its vision and mission, as well as your experience, qualifications, and preferences.
Identifying and understanding your target audience is crucial for tailoring your services and marketing efforts effectively. For instance, if your target audience includes young professionals, you might find social media to be the best way to reach them, and that can shape your social media marketing strategy. If your target audience consists of parents with young children, you might consider using colourful visuals as part of your branding strategy.
Researching your target audience might take a few weeks to complete thoroughly.
3. Determine your services and fees
- 1-2 weeks
Now that you’ve taken into account your vision, mission, values, and target audience, it’s time to think about the services your private practice will provide and how much you’ll charge for them.
Given your experience in the industry, you likely have a good sense of the typical price range for services. Consider where you want to position your fees within this range.
Your pricing will be influenced by several factors, including the socioeconomic status of your location, the demand for your services, your reputation and experience, as well as the affordability and accessibility of the services you offer.
4. Develop your marketing strategy
- 3-4 weeks
One of the most vital steps in attracting new clients to your practice is establishing a robust marketing strategy. In simple terms, your marketing strategy outlines your plans for understanding your market (i.e. your target audience), delivering services that cater to their needs, and reaching them effectively.
While having a comprehensive referral strategy can be advantageous, it doesn’t need to be a daunting task or result in a lengthy, 30-page strategy document that collects dust. Before launching your private practice, having a few reliable marketing tactics in place can suffice, with room to expand and refine your approach as you settle in and grow.
Consider the most effective methods for bringing new clients to your practice and strategies to retain them.
Invest time in research and seek guidance from business coaches or other professionals in your industry to fine-tune your strategy.
5. Consider your budget and financial projections
- 2-4 weeks
Based on your business vision, consider the type of private practice you’re setting up and how much startup capital you need. From business registration and commercial lease to website development and software subscriptions, there are various costs associated with starting and managing a private practice.
Consider whether you have sufficient funds to both set up your practice and support yourself during the initial months when a regular income from the practice might not be guaranteed.
Then, using your research, knowledge of the industry and experience, make some financial projections. Estimate how much income you can realistically expect each month once your practice is up and running, and subtract all your expected expenses. Will this income provide for your needs and allow you some work-life balance?
It’s wise to err on the side of caution by underestimating your revenue and overestimating your expenses to ensure financial stability.
Depending on the complexity, allocate a few weeks to complete this exercise in order to allow for a thorough analysis.
The Set-Up Stage
- 2-3 months
In the Set-Up Stage, you’ll lay the groundwork for your private practice’s physical and digital presence. Over the next 2-3 months, these essential steps will ensure your practice is ready for launch. From structuring your business to setting up your digital infrastructure, this stage guides you through the key tasks required before your practice opens its doors.
6. Complete your business registration
- 1-2 weeks
Having determined your private practice core identity and target audience, it’s time to choose a business name that aligns with these elements. When choosing a business name, it’s important to pick one that reflects your services, purpose and beliefs. In addition, the name should be:
- Easy to pronounce
- Easy to spell
- Easy to remember
- Available as both a business name and domain.
Consider the most suitable structure for your business, such as being a sole trader or forming a private company, and proceed with registering your business. If you’re confident in your setup decisions, you can handle this process on your own. However, it’s highly recommended that you engage an accountant. They can help you make informed decisions about the optimal business structure and guide you through the setup process correctly.
The structure of your business, as well as the additional tax registrations like payroll and GST, can have significant tax implications in the future. A good accountant won’t simply handle the registration of your business but will also thoroughly examine the most advantageous tax strategies. Take the time to understand what aligns best with your unique circumstances in line with your business vision and goals.
Once your business is registered, don’t forget to secure your domain name.
7. Start your premises setup
- 1-3+ months
There are many reasons why a private practice may need a physical location, including:
- Providing in-person client services
- Having access to a consulting room part-time
- Establishing an office space for a telehealth or mobile practice
- Creating a staff meeting room for a telehealth or mobile practice
- Setting up a space for group sessions and workshops.
The time required to find and prepare your practice location can vary widely based on your specific needs, location, and budget. While renting a single serviced office space might be a straightforward process, leasing a larger clinic space with multiple rooms can become complex and time-consuming, potentially taking several months to complete.
It’s essential to strike a balance between your immediate needs and future scalability. For example, while planning for a clinic with multiple consulting rooms may align with your business growth goals, you might not require such a large space for the first couple of years.
Start your search for premises as early as possible to allow time to find the ideal location. Additionally, allocate both time and budget for outfitting the space, acquiring furniture, and setting up signage for your practice.
8. Obtain your Medicare provider number
- 2-4 weeks
For healthcare professionals eligible for Medicare, acquiring a new provider number may be necessary when launching your new practice. If you’re a practitioner, this process might sound familiar to you. While the application procedure is generally straightforward, it may take a few weeks for processing.
Make sure to check the Services Australia website for up-to-date information about the application process as well as the processing times. Apply as soon as you can to prevent delays in launching your practice.
9. Set up your IT and email systems
- 1 week
Establishing email accounts using your business domain is essential for showing professionalism and maintaining brand consistency. It’s worth investing some thought into the types of email accounts you’ll require and how you plan to utilise and oversee them. For example, will you have a separate account for billing issues or for referrers?
The process of setting up your email should be relatively straightforward. Allocate a few days to complete the setup, configure your email signatures, test your set-up, and address any potential issues that may arise along the way.
10. Build your website and logo
- 2-3 months
A website and logo serve as the foundational elements of your private practice’s branding and marketing. They should authentically represent your business vision, mission, and values, while also being relatable and easily recognisable to your target audience.
The timeline for developing your website and logo can vary depending on the agency or professional you choose, or if you decide to create them yourself. Typically, this process can take several months. To make the most of this period, revisit your vision statement and refine the message you intend to convey through your branding.
Additionally, think about the content you wish to include on your website. Even before engaging a designer, you can begin drafting the website content, such as your professional bio, the “about” page, and information about the services you provide. This proactive step not only helps you clarify your messaging but can also save you time in the long run.
11. Set up your practice management software (PMS)
- 3-4 weeks
Establishing practice management software (PMS) for your private practice is a crucial step in efficiently managing your operations. PMS tools like Halaxy, Power Diary, and Cliniko enable you to digitally store client records, efficiently manage your schedule and billing, and introduce automation into your business processes while ensuring the security of your data.
Additionally, most PMS systems regularly update in line with advancements in healthcare technology. This means you can access additional tools through integrations that enhance your practice’s efficiency. For example, your PMS can seamlessly integrate with accounting software like Xero, simplifying your bookkeeping tasks.
Different PMS options come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Consider the must-have features required for your practice, as well as any additional features that may be beneficial. As many PMS offer free trials, take your time to test them out and explore their knowledge base or contact customer support to figure out the best way to utilise the system.
While the initial setup is straightforward, the learning curve and experimentation with different systems may take a bit more time. Allocate a few weeks for this phase, and seek recommendations from industry professionals for guidance.
12. Set up your telehealth system
- 1 week
Telehealth has become a prevalent service offered by allied health practices, particularly in non-physical disciplines like counselling. If you plan to incorporate telehealth into your private practice, it’s important to have all the necessary systems in place before your launch.
This entails selecting an appropriate telehealth platform (e.g. Coviu) and configuring it to align with your practice. Integration with your PMS is key to maximising efficiency and automation.
Setting up telehealth for your private practice should generally be a straightforward process. Nonetheless, it’s advisable to dedicate some time to research and test the platform’s features for a seamless launch.
13. Set up your payment systems
- 2-3 weeks
With the foundational aspects of your private practice in place and systems ready for service delivery, it’s time to address the financial side of your business.
Start by considering the payment methods you’ll accept for your services, which may include online payments, EFTPOS, bank transfers, and cash. While offering multiple payment options can be beneficial, it’s essential to find a balance as managing too many methods can add complexities. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each method and conduct thorough research on how your practice should be configured to accommodate them.
Allocate sufficient time to research, set up, establish connections, and thoroughly test your chosen payment systems to ensure a smooth and hassle-free payment process for your clients.
14. Develop the essential policies and procedures
- 2-4 weeks
While having a complete set of policies and procedures can greatly benefit your private practice in terms of client service, operational efficiency, and financial management, it’s not critical to develop an extensive set of policies before your practice launch. Most importantly, you should have a few essential practice policies in place to ensure ethical and responsible operations.
Start by identifying the critical policies required for your practice. Conduct research to find examples of policies, which can be sourced online or from the governing body of your allied health discipline. Ensure that the policies you develop align with both the regulatory requirements and the specific goals you’ve set for your practice.
Allocate a couple of weeks for this task, allowing you to establish the necessary foundational policies for your practice.
The Marketing Stage
- 1-3 months
In the Marketing Stage, you’ll focus on nurturing essential referral relationships to drive clients to your private practice. Developing strategies to attract clients to your private practice is a process that requires careful planning and execution, and it takes time to see results. Some strategies may need all the setup work to be completed, while others can be initiated before or in parallel with the Set-Up Stage. To expedite the time it takes to begin receiving referrals, it’s crucial to plan ahead and prepare in advance.
15. Develop your GP marketing strategy
- 1-2 months
Local GPs can be one of the most important sources of new client referrals for private practices. If GP referrals are relevant to your new practice, concentrate on establishing strong referral relationships with the GPs in your area.
Begin by creating a list of GPs in the areas relevant to your practice, considering the locations where your potential clients may come from or go to. Then, initiate contact with them to introduce yourself and your practice. There are various ways to do this, whether it’s through phone calls, emails, mail, or in-person visits. Choose the approach that best suits your needs.
It might take some time to compile your GP list and create any marketing materials you plan to send. Therefore, it’s advisable to kickstart the GP marketing process as early as possible.
16. Consider other important referral sources
- 1-3 months
Depending on the nature of the private practice you’re setting up, you may have other referral sources that are important. Conduct research to identify these potential sources, such as schools, legal professionals, small businesses, or other allied health practitioners.
The process of research, initial contact, and follow-up can span several weeks. Approach this task with a strategic mindset and set aside dedicated time each week to consistently make progress.
The Operations Stage
- 2-4 weeks
The Operations Stage is the final phase in preparing your private practice for launch. During this stage, you’ll develop the essential workflow processes to streamline client interactions and establish an efficient reception setup. These components play a vital role in delivering a smooth experience for clients and maintaining the overall efficiency of your practice operations.
17. Develop your workflow processes
- 2-3 weeks
Running a private practice involves juggling various tasks, from handling client needs to managing marketing and finances. It’s crucial to manage these processes effectively. How will clients get in touch with you? Who’s responsible for handling their emails? What’s the plan for managing cancellations, payments, and communicating with referrers?
While these processes can evolve, it’s essential to have a basic workflow for the key aspects of your practice. Take some time to create straightforward workflows and explore ways to automate tasks.
Simplify your workflows to ensure they are user-friendly for everyone involved. For instance, aim to make it easy for clients to reach out to you without unnecessary back-and-forths.
Since many processes in private practices follow established standards, creating basic workflows won’t be overly time-consuming. Remember, the goal is not to create complex and convoluted processes for every aspect of your business but to establish clear procedures for the primary touchpoints.
18. Set up your reception processes
- 2-3 weeks
Client service, which includes how your reception is organised, is a vital aspect of your workflow. Take the time to plan your reception setup because it’s a crucial point of contact between clients and your practice, and it can leave a lasting impression.
Your reception setup also impacts other aspects of your business. For instance, a smooth reception process can boost return client bookings. Asking new clients how they heard about you can offer valuable marketing insights, and inquiring about reasons for cancellations can provide information about your target audience and practice gaps.
Creating an efficient reception process takes time and can be refined after your practice is up and running. As you prepare for your practice launch, focus on making the client experience as seamless as possible. Equally importantly, build strategies to ease your own admin workload. You can achieve this by including FAQs in your email templates, sending intake forms before appointments, offering multiple contact methods, or considering a virtual receptionist to handle calls when you’re unavailable.
Embarking on the journey of launching your allied health private practice is an exciting and rewarding endeavour. From crafting a compelling vision to setting up your digital infrastructure, each step plays a crucial role in building the foundation for a successful practice.
Remember, while careful planning is essential, perfection is not a prerequisite for starting. Your practice can evolve and grow over time. The key is to take the necessary steps, address critical components, and refine your approach as you gain experience.