Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 4 - Considering Private Practice?

I've just finished my taxes for another year - Argh! After a late-night trip to the post office to beat the 12 PM deadline, I've got a little time to sit back, check Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr (Can you say information junkie!). My mind is full of deductions, expenses, and income statements and my living room is full of piles of paper (LoL). With that in mind, here are some of my thoughts on running a private practice or being self-employed.

When I began my first music therapy job, I didn't have a choice - it was private practice/contract or nothing. Thus began my journey into the world of self-employment and I haven't looked back since. Many people cite the ability to "be your own boss" as a benefit of private practice. What they don't say is - you also need to be the accountant, public relations person, and secretary! I also don't remember a course about "How to run a business" during my training (They should definitely include a "Business 101" course as part of the overall degree requirements).

Being the accountant means that you have to keep track of things like cancelled sessions, damgaged instruments, gas and meal receipts AND come up with a system to invoice and record expenses properly*. Another, less enjoyable, part of being the accountant is following up on deliquent or overdue accounts. Being in private practice means that you can never be sure when you will receive payment for the invoice(s) that you submitted last month. If you have a "need to know" exactly when money is to come in, don't choose private practice. (I've had some invoices that took three months to be processed). And please, if someone has a foolproof way of getting invoices paid on time - PLEASE let me know!

- find out what tax categories you will be needing and set up your annual spreadsheet accordingly - it will definitely save you a lot of time come tax preparation!! A

Being the person in charge of public relations means that you have to develop your advertising plan/brochure, arrange for pictures (remember what I said in my previous post: no pictures = no interest), and the newer responsibility of ensuring that consents and releases are obtained before you put anything in said brochure or newspaper article! In this position it pays to be an OPTIMIST. You are probably going to have quite a few "no's" before that one "maybe" or one "I think about it". It also helps if you are an "extrovert" rather than an "introvert" (coming from someone who was very shy and had difficulty expressing himself in public). I still get nervous when speaking in front of a large crowd but a measure of comfort can definitely be learned.

Finally, being the secretary means that you get any other job not covered in the previous two roles. Some examples include: writing progress reports and/or letters to funding agencies, answering calls from anxious parents, and, of course, cleaning the bathroom!

Have I made it sound like I hate being in private practice? There are certainly days when I long for a full-time position in a nursing home (my specialty is geriatric clients) and I am an employee, not a contract worker. Overall, however, I do enjoy the freedom, responsibility and challenges that come with being in private practice.

What is your opinion?