New Year New Paperwork?

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Annual Paperwork Cleanup

January is that beautiful time of year when I clean my counseling practice ‘house’ including my paperwork. This year was a little extreme because I literally got a new coat of paint and new floors. As you can see from the artsy filtered photo I took below, my office looks amazing.

But what about the things you can’t see in the photo? Is my paperwork up to date with the latest licensing laws? Have I changed my passwords on a regular basis? Have I checked to see if my credit card charges are accurate?

I’m not even joking – I called about a charge on my account I didn’t recognize and found out it was from something I THOUGHT I had closed in February 2017. The lesson? Watch your bank account.

January 2018 I will edit all of my new client paperwork, change my passwords, and update my bookkeeping. Today’s housekeeping item will be my new client intake Face Sheet. Catch my next blog and I will walk you through my editing process for our 2018 Service Agreement/Consent to Treat. Is it exciting? No, not really, but it’s only 3 minutes of your life and it will save you a lot of headaches down the road. When you’re ready you can even head to our store here to purchase the fully edited  paperwork you can download and customize for your practice. Enjoy!

Watch Me Edit My Face Sheet

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Back to School Special: Don’t Forget to Achieve Balance

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Fall is almost here and your practice is about to start booming! It’s time to make sure you have strategies in place to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This blog is about a few tactics that have been especially helpful to me over the years. In 2007 I had just finished a Ph.D., my husband was back from a recent mobilization with the US Army, I’d completed my last reconstruction surgery following a double mastectomy, and I was starting a business. Oh, and I had three kids under the age of 15. Success wasn’t an option unless I could also achieve balance; so I began my search for strategies and ideas to help.

Ten years later, after countless trips through the Google jungle, I have a huge collection of ‘Top 10 Strategies,’ and ‘Easy Life Hacks That Will Help.’’  Since I’m a strategic family therapist and I like to focus on what I can do rather than what I must stop, I took some of the most practical advice and ‘re-framed:’

Original advice: Let go of perfectionism

Kate’s re-frame: Put out the first draft and let the audience co-create

I can think of VERY few successful things I have created, developed, presented, implemented, or sold, that I felt was completely 100% perfect. Seeing everything as a first draft allowed me to produce my art and see my audience as collaborators. The result? I have some pretty cool products and some very amazing fans.

Original advice: Limit time wasting activities and people

Kate’s re-frame: Do five, 20-minute job sets every day

This is a game I play with myself using my phone timer (it’s also called Parkinson’s law of productivity). I set a twenty-minute timer and race the clock to see how much I can get done. Then I set the timer again and again until I have done five ‘sets.’ I rarely finish all five but my productivity skyrockets when I self-impose these deadlines.

Original advice: Re-structure your life (what does that even mean??)

Kate’s re-frame: Buy back your life.

A few things I have hired out: house cleaning, grocery shopping, meal delivery, cat litter delivery, toilet paper (all kinds of personal paper) delivery, driver’s ed., driving my kids, cooking, social media posting, SEO optimization, bookkeeping, accounting, and legal defending just to name a few. I want to try hiring an Uber once each week just to see what I can get done on my commute (I bet it is worth the $6.00 fare).

Original advice: Manage your time

Kate’s re-frame: Clock out.

Literally set an end time for your work every day. If you need to purchase an actual time/card punch to set on your counter, go for it.

Original advice: Manage your calendar

Kate’s re-frame: Make some friends

Did you know there are some people who stay busy with work because they are bored? These folks may be shy, introverted, scared, or socially anxious. They choose to be out of balance because it is easier than facing their issues. Surrounding myself with amazing friends and being an amazing friend are two of my goals for 2017.

Want more tips for achieving balance? Check out our Private Practice University for more resources.

Back to School Special: Answer the Phone

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Today’s blog will be short and to the point.

Answer the phone.

The Summer doldrums are coming to an end and your client load is going to build steadily through the holidays. Clients will usually choose a counselor based on the following (not necessarily, but probably) in this order:

  1. Recommendation
  2. Specialty
  3. Which one calls back first
  4. Who can get them in quickly

I’ve talked about building a referral team who is passionate about your services and can show potential clients how to connect with you quickly and easily (see my blog: Back to School Special: Networking). If you are doing this consistently then your phone will ring. The question then becomes; will you be available to answer it?

Making the leap to hire someone can be scary. Allowing calls to go to voicemail can be scarier. I love to talk with counselors in private practice about my biggest mistakes but hiring a professional to answer our phones did much more than just increase our client loads at achievebalance.org. She streamlined our practice, improved client care, created an amazing client experience, and helped eliminate the client-therapist-money triangle.

Here’s what our phone answering professional at achievebalance.org does for us daily:

  • Collects credit card information to secure the first session
  • Utilizes a script which has increased client conversion rates for every therapist in our offices (measured by the number of phone calls who complete a first session)
  • Calls clients the day before (or Friday before) their session to confirm
  • Fills empty slots with wait-listed clients and clients needing to get in quickly
  • Calls late-cancels and no-shows to inform them they will be charged the full amount of their session using the credit card information on file
  • Follows up with past clients to see how they are doing

Still not convinced?

Imagine you decide to hire a professional for $9/hour. And let’s say to start, you want this person to work two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon Monday – Friday. That is $36 per day for five days or about $180 per week. If you are a cash-only therapist, this is probably close to what you charge for one session. One and one-half sessions would pay for one week of part-time professional phone-answering.

If your goal is to average 60 sessions per month at $140 per session, wouldn’t it be worth donating six of those sessions to pay for a part-time professional to answer your phones and KEEP your client roster at 60 sessions per month?

Watch for future video blogs when I share the intake script our phone answering professionals use. You can see a demonstration of our script on our DVD set Private Practice University.

Taxes Aaaaagghhh!!

Why am I writing about taxes in July? Because it’s always a good time to talk about why it is important to set aside money to pay your federal taxes. Really. I promise.

One of my favorite mistakes I made as a new therapist was not setting aside money for taxes. I became a school teacher when I graduated from college, and before that I worked in restaurants and orchestras. I had no idea when I started my private practice that there was no ‘cosmic central office’ magically making sure I was putting aside money for taxes and retirement. So, my first year was a BIG surprise. Luckily I didn’t make much profit so it was a mistake I could, and did, recover from. In this blog I’m going to show you the charts, teach you the math, then give you a shortcut so taxes don’t become your big mistake.

The takeaway? You must always set aside money.Profit chart

First, let’s define profit. When you take money from your clients for counseling services, that is your income. When you write a check for rent, that is a business expense. Ideally your income will be greater than your expenses.

Breakeven chart

When your business makes just enough income to pay expenses, we say that it is ‘breaking even.’ There is no profit and so, you may not have any taxes to pay.

When you make income that exceeds the amount you need to pay your expenses, then you have made a profit. This is the amount that will be considered when you are figuring out how much to pay in taxes.

Here’s how you find your tax bracket and federal tax payments:

  1. Determine your profit (you just learned how to do that)
  2. Google ‘IRS tax bracket ______(insert year).’ Lots of helpful websites will pop up including the IRS site. I found this site really helpful for figuring out my tax bracket:

http://blog.taxact.com/how-tax-brackets-work/?utm_source=TaxACT&utm_medium=Tax-Bracket-Calculator&utm_campaign=Learn-More

 

  1. Determine your filing status (single, married, etc.) and add your partner’s profit/income (or not)
  2. Now do the math!

 

The US government has seven tax brackets. Your profit will probably fall over more than one bracket. Here are three of those seven for a single person in 2016:

Bracket 3. $37651 – $91150 = 25%

Bracket 2. $9276 – $37650 = 15%

Bracket 1. $0 – $9275 = 10%

As you can see, If you are single and your profit was $9000 last year then your tax bracket will be 10% and you will pay $900 in taxes. Easy peasy.

If you are single and you made $19,000 then we need to a little bit of math.

 

According to our chart above, if you made $19000 in profit, some of your profit falls in the 15% tax bracket and some of it falls int the 10%.

Here’s how it works:

10% of your first $9275 = $927.50

Subtract $9275 from $19000 and you get $9725. This is the amount in the 15% tax bracket.

15% of $9725 = $1458.75

$1458.75 + $927.5 = $2386.25 is what you will pay in taxes

or

about 13% of your profit.

My shortcut? I always put aside about 15% – 20% of my income every month. So for every $100 my clients pay me, I put $20 in a regular savings account. When I figure out my profit later on (remember, this will be lower than my income due to business expenses), I will be able to draw out enough to pay my taxes AND put money into a SEP IRA retirement plan. This lowers my taxes even more!

Sounds like another blog post to me….

 

 

 

 

 

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