[powerpress]| Subscribe in iTunes | Subscribe via RSS

starting a practice without any patients


We are quickly coming to the close of another year. 2015 is almost in the books. I hope you’ve had both a successful and meaningful year. I truly believe 2016 could very well be your best year ever.  I hope that it has not been another year of grinding it out day after day at a therapy factory. If you’re looking ahead to next year and dreaming about how your life could be different, I’ve written this post for you, the visionaries.

So you have this great idea for a private practice. Your friends like it, even your mom likes it. You’ve shared it with a few colleagues and they think it’s a great idea too. You’ve might even have floated your private practice idea with your family and close  friends and got a thumbs up.

In your free time, you consume every blog post you can on starting a cash practice. You might even have bought a couple of business books on platform building and social media marketing like Michael Hyatt’s Platform or Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. You may have written down a goal to own your own business in 2016.

From there, you might even have thought about a practice niche that is focused on your clinical expertise. You may even have talked to a landlord about a possible practice location.

As you develop your practice idea further you’ll want to avoid the “build it and they will come” trap. Starting a private practice in today’s healthcare economy is much different than it was for me. The cost of professional graduate school can run into the tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therapist’s salaries and the financial margins in patient care have not kept pace with the cost of professional education.

The economic realities for therapists who want to own their own practice require a fresh look at different ways start a new practice. Despite the doom and gloom of naysayers, I still believe that now is a great time to build a business on something you care about.

With countless practice opportunities in hands-on-care, women’s health, boomer fitness and fall prevention, it seems easier than ever to find a target population who wants what you’re providing. You must narrow down your practice to the ideal clients that align with your personal and professional goals.

One of the most sustainable ways to build a practice is to develop long term relationships with your ideal clients. If you take a look at some of the most successful private practices you’ll see that they slowly grew their practice over time. They built their practices one patient at a time. There might have been opportunities that caused a temporary spike in referrals but most of them are dependent upon word of mouth referrals from loyal clients. But what do you if you’re just starting out and don’t have any patients?

5 Steps to Start a Practice With Absolutely No Patients

Define the Problem

Step 1. Define The Main Problem You’re Solving

More than likely, your practice idea came from your experience in solving your patient’s problems. You’ve developed the knowledge and skills to consistently solve problems that need solving or fulfill desires that need fulfilling. You’ve spent your entire career getting good at diagnosing and solving problems. You’re good at it. When you are in your professional treatment zone people get better and they appreciate you for it.

Write down the main problem that you solve. You can build any practice upon being good at solving people’s problems.

Think about when you first started getting really good at what you do.  What were the first steps you used to help people? What words did you use when you explained what you did for a living? What phrases would you have used to do a Google search? Describe the problems you solve in your patient’s own words. That’s the language that your target market uses when describing their problems and looking for a solution.

What are they really looking for? What terms are they using when they discuss the problem that your practice solves? Who are they asking for? How do they describe the results they are willing to pay for?

do market research

Step 2. Do Your Own Market Research

You’ve defined the problem that you’re going to focus on solving. You’ve begun to identify your target market and ideal clients. You’re beginning to use their language when describing the benefits clients can expect from you.

Listen to what your clients are saying. If you listen to your target market they will tell you what want. You can build a practice upon providing people what they want.

Now it’s time to do your market research. Make a list of places where conversations are taking place around the problem and key words that you’ve identified. If you are treating patients listen to them as they describe what they are looking for. Keep a notebook with you at all times to write down what they say. In this stage, you are creating a library of topics that people are interested in and are seeking professional help.

Instead of assuming what clients need listen to what they tell you. Their input into your practice is priceless. Take your list of topics and go online to places where conversations are taking place. Blogs, forums and social media channels like Facebook and Instagram are great places to read what your clients are talking about. Look for the common questions and struggles that your target market is trying to overcome.

You can learn a lot from what your ideal clients are saying to each other online. You can listen in on conversations about the topics that they care about. Social media is a great avenue for reaching out and making connections with your target market. Comment on different blog posts, answer questions, and introduce yourself to online communities.  You can build relationships and credibility among your target market just by being helpful and generous.

develop your niche

Step 3. Develop Your Niche

By now you should have a healthy list of potential client problems upon which you could build a niche practice.

Choose one. Yep you heard me right. Just one. You can always expand your practice later.

One of the main reasons that therapists fail to start a practice successfully is that they struggle to narrow down their target market.

They have a lot of interests and usually have  an abundance of clinical skills. Therapist typically like variety and new challenges. Narrowing down your practice might seem counterintuitive, it’s exactly what you need to do to successfully launch your practice. Become an authority in your practice speciality. Patients are attracted to credible authorities they can trust to sove their problem.

If you choose your niche then you’ll be able to explain what you offer in an articulate and compelling way. Your ideal clients will know what you stand for and why. Plus they will know clearly what solutions and benefits they can expect from you. If you don’t you’ll sound boring like everyone else or even worse sleezy as you try to convince them that you are somehow different. A conversation is a dialogue and not a monologue.

Try to have meaningful conversations about your practice as you speak from your heart.

When you focus on your practice niche, you’ll speed up the word of mouth referrals to your practice. There will be no question in the minds of your ideal clients of what you’re about and who you serve. Your satisfied client will be more apt to refer their friends and family because they know what you stand for.

connect with influencers

Step 4. Connect with Influencers

Be on the look out for key influencers in your target market. You should build relationships with the top influencers in your industry.  Nurse practioners, personal trainers, coaches, other therapists and assisted living directors are all community leaders that have connections to your ideal clients.

Get creative. Connect with other professionals outside of healthcare whose business also relies on referrals. Consider networking with the professionals you already do business with like car salesmen, financial planners, graphic designers and entrepreneurs.  Develop a mutually beneficial referral relationship. Reach out and ask for a quick meeting to explain how you can add value to their customers. Both they and their customers have health needs and problems that you might be able to solve.

Look for opportunities to demonstrate your credibility and trustworthiness. If they have a blog consider writing a post in your area of expertise. If they have a need for a speaker offer to speak on a specific topic that is relevant to your specialty.

You can go a step further by joining relevant Facebook pages and Twitter Chats on topics related to your niche. Get involved and talk to people online. Tell them that you’re trying to provide useful information to help solve people’s health problems. You’ll be surprised how many supporters you’ll have that genuinely want to see you succeed.

Write down your patient education in a blog post or record a video demonstrating an exercise. Ask influencers if they would read your blog post or watch your video and give you feedback. Start with your trusted friends and family then reach out to key influencers whom you have served.

Learn by doing

Step 5. Learn by Doing

You’ve made considerable progress in laying your pratice business foundation. You’ve identified the main problem your solving, you’ve chosen your ideal clients and you’re connecting regulary with previous patients and key influencers. Now the fun begins.

This is the point where I see too many therapists waste way too much time on trying to plan their business. By in large therapists are high achievers and have enjoy success in school and at work. They’re used to good grades and they hate failing.

One of the key principles of the lean start up movement is to learn by doing. You will validate your practice idea by getting it out of your head and testing it in public. Getting paid, in one sense, is the ultimate test whether your practice idea is valid. If you’re practice idea is able to make a profit on a consistent basis then your business is sustainable.

A startup practice in the early stages is best seen as a pilot study. The main goal of a pilot is to gather information on whether the hypothesis is true and worth pursuing. Think of your practice pilot as a means of testing your practice idea in the real world. You will learn more by doing and talking to real clients then by reading and planning. You will most likely experience set backs and struggles as you learn what your target market values and is willing to pay for.

how will they find me?

How Will Your Patients Find You When You Start Your Practice?

You’ll be surprised how quickly the word will spread when you provide a unique solution to a problem as long as you are delivering value to your right people at the right time.

When you’re first starting don’t be afraid to throw your practice ideas on the wall to see what sticks. Try not to get discouraged when most of them don’t. Remember you’re not selling yourself but a service. Measure the metrics that matter to you the most as you test and iterate until you find what works best for you and what your target market values.

There are two traps to avoid when developing your practice. Trying to be like someone else. Trying to be like no one else.

Just be yourself.


Cash Therapy Roadmap image

I’m launching a Cash Practice Pilot Course for therapists interested in starting their own private practice in January 2016.

The course promises to help students build a solid business foundation that will take students from a practice idea to seeing their first patient. I’m limiting the class to 15 students because I will provide one-on-one coaching to help students do whatever it takes to launch their own practice pilot clinic.

The deadline for signing up for the pilot course is midnight December 31st.

If you’re interested please email me at heypaul@paulpotterpt.com and type Pilot Signup in the subject line. I’ll arrange phone call so I can answer your questions about the pilot course.


You all are amazing people and you are doing some pretty amazing things. Keep it up. I hope to inspire, encourage and provide you quality information so that you can continue to make a difference in your part of the universe.

Get Your Own Copy of On Fire


As therapists we have tremendous opportunity to use our abilites, education and expertise to enhance client’s lives. What a privilege? If your are in the therapy business to serve people, then my new book On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice might help you. The healthcare industry has undergone so many changes lately and many therapists are overwhelmed, overworked and confused on where to turn to for help in the battle.

On Fire takes a close look at innovative therapists who are using alternative ways to deliver high-value care to their patients. Cash therapy services have emerged as a viable alternative to accepting business as usual.

If you are intrigued by the attention that cash-based practices are attracting On Fire is a great primer to help you get up to speed on the key issues and how if might impact your practice. The book is available on Amazon. If you are interested in getting your own copy join my email list and I’ll keep you up to date on the special pre-order bonuses I’m giving away.

Please connect with me