The realities of running your own private practice: the challenges

While owning and running a private practice as an allied health practitioner can be fulfilling and rewarding, it’s essential to acknowledge that it also comes with its fair share of challenges.

In the previous section, we looked at the many benefits of running your own private practice. In this section, we’ll explore the drawbacks. Understanding the potential drawbacks can help allied health practitioners make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of private practice ownership effectively.


Navigating the dollars

Financial risk is one of the significant downsides of starting any business. Starting a private practice can require a substantial investment of time and money. In addition to the costs of renting or purchasing a space and buying necessary equipment, there are also ongoing expenses such as wages, subscriptions, supplies, utilities, and insurance that must be factored in.

The financial risks can be even more significant if the practice is slow to ramp up to the point of generating enough revenue to cover its expenses. This is particularly true for practitioners who are new to the field and don’t yet have an established reputation or a referral network.

In addition to the costs of running a practice, there are also financial risks associated with the changing landscape of healthcare. Changes in Medicare and/or new regulations could negatively impact the practice’s revenue. You must stay up to date with industry trends and be prepared to adapt your business strategy accordingly to mitigate these risks.


Juggling the paperwork: the admin burden

As a private practice owner, you’re not just a clinician but also the master of all things administrative. From managing your schedule to wrangling with insurance companies, handling billing and invoicing, and keeping records up to date, there’s a whole world of admin tasks waiting for you. Add more practitioners to this mix, the admin work can seem endless.

All these tasks require time, attention to detail, and a knack for staying organised. Managing your schedule becomes a juggling act as you strive to find the perfect balance between client appointments, paperwork, and personal time. It’s like being a superhero with the power to manipulate time, ensuring everyone gets the care they need while keeping the administrative side of things running smoothly.


Sailing the ship alone

Running a private practice can feel isolating if you’re a sole practitioner. This can be particularly challenging if you’ve worked in a big organisation previously. Gone are the days of bustling office banter and impromptu brainstorming sessions with colleagues! The absence of daily face-to-face interactions can leave you feeling disconnected and, at times, isolated. Even when you have a small team, the social aspect of work comes with more limitations as you need to maintain the boundaries of employee/employer relationship.

The isolation extends beyond social interactions to a professional level, too. As the sole decision-maker in your practice, you may find yourself grappling with challenging business situations and making critical decisions on your own. This can lead to feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt.

To combat this, many private practice owners opt to work with a business coach, consultant, or mentor. Not only can you acquire new business skills and gain valuable guidance, but you also have the opportunity to bounce ideas off someone who understands the unique challenges of running a private practice.


Work hard, play… wait, no (paid) time off?

When you run your own practice, you’re responsible for managing your own time off. This means that you won’t receive paid holidays or sick leave like you would if you were an employee in a larger organisation. This can make it challenging to take time off without losing income.

Taking time off as a private practice owner also provides more challenges than foregoing the leave pay. It requires meticulous planning and coordination to ensure a smooth transition during your absence. From diverting phone calls and informing clients to ensuring the practice continues to run seamlessly, the responsibilities can feel overwhelming. This pressure only increases the more team members you have, adding an extra layer of pressure to maintain stability in your absence.


Building your own referral network

When you work as an employee or contractor, you typically have access to a large referral network that has already been established by the practice owner. There is little work required on your part to build and nurture this network.

However, when you run your own practice, you need to develop your own referral network to attract new clients. While it may be exciting to forge new relationships with other professionals, it requires time, effort, and a sprinkle of creativity. This could involve reaching out to other practice owners, visiting GPs, sending business proposals to small businesses, engaging EAP providers, and approaching other establishments such as schools. This can be challenging and slow to build, particularly if you’re just starting out.


Mastering marketing and business skills

Running a successful private practice requires not only clinical skills but also marketing and business skills. These skills become essential in promoting your services and growing your practice as you learn to market your practice effectively to attract clients, manage your finances, and maintain accurate records.

This may involve creating an online presence, developing a compelling brand, implementing marketing strategies tailored to your target audience, as well as managing your projects and tasks effectively in line with your growth strategy while ensuring employee/contractor satisfaction.

Transitioning from being a skilled clinician to a savvy entrepreneur can be a daunting journey when running a private practice. If you don’t have these skills, you may need to invest time and money in professional development to acquire them or work with a business coach or mentor who can guide you.


Stepping into the captain’s shoes

Running a private practice also requires honing your leadership skills. As the practice owner, you’re not only responsible for providing high-quality client care but also for guiding and inspiring your team.

Leading a team means balancing the needs and strengths of each individual, setting goals, providing feedback, and fostering a positive and cohesive work environment. It’s about being the captain of the ship, steering it towards success while supporting and empowering your team members.

Developing leadership skills takes time and practice, but with dedication and a growth mindset, you can cultivate a strong and motivated team that contributes to the overall success of your practice.


Imposter syndrome and unmasking the inner doubts

Imposter syndrome is an incredibly common hurdle for many private practice owners. Despite your qualifications, experience, and achievements, you may sometimes doubt your abilities and struggle to silence the voice that says, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

But here’s the secret: even the most accomplished business owners have battled imposter syndrome. That owner of the beautiful practice with 20+ team members? Chances are, they often wonder if they got to where they are by chance. Trust me, you’re not alone.

While it helps to know that everyone struggles with imposter syndrome, it’s crucial for you to acquire strategies to overcome it. Imposter syndrome can hinder your growth by instilling unnecessary fear and doubt, turning you away from potential opportunities. Embracing your accomplishments, celebrating your successes, and reframing self-doubt are all powerful techniques to counter imposter syndrome.


To wrap things up, running your own private practice as an allied health practitioner is a journey filled with both rewards and challenges. It offers the freedom to shape your practice according to your vision, serve your clients in a way that aligns with your values, and enjoy the potential for higher earnings. On the other hand, it can give you endless headaches as you navigate through the financial pressure, admin burdens and the need for strong marketing, business, and leadership skills.

As you manoeuvre through the realities of running your own private practice, it’s crucial to approach it with a balance of enthusiasm and preparedness. Seek out mentorship, work with a business coach, continue to develop your skills, and remain adaptable to the changing landscape of healthcare. With dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to providing excellent care to your clients, your private practice can thrive.

So, embrace the journey, celebrate the victories, learn from the setbacks, and above all, stay passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of your clients through your private practice!