Starting out in private practice?

Benefit from our experience with these top tips…

Setting up your own private practice is a really exciting time. It can, however, be difficult toknow where to begin. Here we’ll guide you through the main to do list to getyour counselling business off to a great start.

Reflecton your own experiences

By now you will have had plenty of experience of being both a client and a therapist, in perhaps a number of different counselling settings andconsequently, you’ll have your own ideas about what worked for you and what didn’t.

This is a great starting point when setting up your own private practice.

Ask yourself what mattered most to you as a client and hold this in mind when youare creating both your brand, and marketing and running your service.

Inour experience the services that put their clients at the heart of what they doand stay mindful of the client perspective throughout, are the ones that tendto thrive.


Thereare four main practicalities that you’ll need to put in place before you startseeing clients privately.

  • A confidential, quiet space for your sessions
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance
  • Your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • Sign up with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)

A confidential, quiet space for your sessions

This may be a room at home or a room that you rent. Either way, consider the client’s experience of the location before committing.

Thinkabout accessibility i.e are there good transport links, is the building easy tofind, is it wheelchair accessible? Location can play a big part in the successof your practice, so the more accessible it is, the better.

Alongsidethis, the “feel” of the place is also crucial. Does the space feel safe and private?Is it well soundproofed and can you guarantee that there won’t beinterruptions? If you’ll be offering early morning or evening sessions, is theentry well lit?

Finding the right space goes a long way in building a thriving practice. The more comfortable your clients feel the more likely they are to both return and to recommend your service.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

Amust for all therapists. This is there to support you, should you ever need todefend yourself against any legal claims made either as a result of the serviceyou’ve offered, or injuries sustained in your practice.

Makesure your insurance includes public liability and that the cover is for atleast £1,000,000, as many insurance and EAP referrers require this level.

If you’re working from home, it’s best practice to undertake both a health and safety audit and a fire risk assessment, and to purchase a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and accident book, just in case.

Your UTR

Whenyou start out in private practice you’ll be classed as a sole trader and willneed to register for self-assessment with the HMRC. At this point, you’ll begiven your UTR number, which you’ll then use to submit your annual accounts.

Ifyou intend to manage your own accounts, you’ll need to register with the HMRCand submit your record of sales and expenses each year.

Alternatively, you can enlist the services of an accountant who will register you as a sole trader and will process and submit your accounts each year as your agent.

Sign up with ICO

Onceclients start using your service, even if you’re using Kiku or another practicemanagement service to store your client information, you will become both adata controller and processor.

You’lltherefore need to register with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and payan annual Data Protection fee.

They’lloffer guidance on how to follow GDPR best practice and you’ll need to contact themimmediately, should there ever be a breach of data protection in your service.

CreatingYour Brand

Nowthat you know where you’re going to work and you’ve got all the necessarypaperwork in order, it’s time to create your brand so you can start marketingyour services.

Step1: Choosing The Right Name

Thename of your service can play a huge role in those all-important firstimpressions. It sets the tone of your brand and influences client expectations.You may already know exactly what you want to call your practice and we aredefinitely of the belief, “If it feels right, it is right”, but if you’reunsure, think about the following before you start to brainstorm:

  • What is your therapeutic ethos?
  • How you want clients to feel when they come to you?
  • What are your long-term goals for your practice?

Thename that fits these three criteria, will be the one.

Step2: Designing Your Logo

Yourlogo forms an important part of your brand and the first impressions thatclients will have of your service. You’ll most likely use your logo on yourwebsite, marketing materials, email signatures, letterhead, and appointmentcards, so make sure you’re happy with it.

Thinkabout the emotional chord that you want your logo to hit and choose yourimagery and colour scheme accordingly. Are you going for something hopeful andempowering? If so, choose a bright colour palette. If you’re going for a calmingand soothing feel, then a softer more muted palette will work best.

We’dalso recommend that you take a look at the branding of other therapists in yourarea and think about how you can stand out from the competition.

Youcan find help to create your logo online using sites like Wix or Canva.

Step3: Setting Up Your Website

Thereality is, that even once you’re established, the majority of your clientswill find you online. We’d therefore strongly recommend that you create yourown website to help you raise your online profile.

Youcan do this fairly inexpensively by using website builder sites. As part ofthis process, you’ll need to purchase a domain name, which alongside hostingfees, you’ll pay for each year.

Yourwebsite is your “shopfront” so it’s important that you design it in a way thatis welcoming to prospective clients. The colour scheme, images, line spacing,font and language that you use, all play a part in creating the impression ofyour service so consider all this carefully.

Makethe most important information easy to find

Aneffective website will clearly communicate the most important information aboutyou and your service, whilst not overwhelming the client.

Rememberhow anxiety provoking arranging therapy can be and how this can interfere withour cognitive capacity.

Yourwebsite needs to be clear and easy to navigate to help clients to make it tothe booking stage. Ensure that the font you choose is easy to read, avoidwriting in long blocks of text and make the most important information easy tofind.

Whatto highlight on your website

Inline with GDPR you’ll need to include your Cookie Policy and Privacy Policy onyour website. It’s also good practice to make an up to date copy of your termsof business available too.

Beyondthese legal requirements, in our experience the key information that clients wantprior to booking is:

  • Where are you based?

The suburb and citywill do, if you’d rather not advertise your full address online.

  • How much do your sessions cost?

Create a price listand place this page in your main menu.

  • Are you available and if so, what are your clinical hours?

Having a session freethat fits with the client’s diary is often the clincher in securing a booking.The more flexible you can be at the start of building your practice, the better– just make sure you don’t exhaust yourself.

  • How do they arrange a session?

Make sure yourcontact details are easy to find. Consider providing a guide to the bookingprocess and even what to expect from the first session to help to put clients’minds at ease.

Expressyour personality

Alongsidethis more logistical information, your website should also give prospectiveclients a sense for who you are and what they can expect from therapy with you.

  • Tell them who you are

It’stherefore in everyone’s interest that your website is a good representation ofyou and how you conduct therapy. That way prospective clients can make aninformed decision about whether or not you’re the right therapist for them and youwill attract clients that are more likely to become regulars.  It’s a win win.

Irrespectiveof the approach we use, therapy is always, at its core, a relationship. If therelational fit is not there, clients will not continue on in therapy with us.

  • Tell them how you work

Formany people counselling and psychotherapy are mysterious processes, surroundedby many myths that we, as therapists, are tasked with debunking.

Offeringsome information about how you work, your modality (if there’s a centralapproach that you use), what areas may be touched upon in the therapeutic processand how this can help, can go a long way in demystifying therapy and encouragefirst time clients to give it a try.

For more advice on setting up your private practice, how to get clients and how to run a successful counselling service visit kiku practice tips