Starting your own financial counseling practice is an exciting prospect and also a daunting task. Along with client meetings and sharing of helpful resources come business management responsibilities where a counselor may have limited experience, knowledge and interest. Many counselors are left asking where do I start and how can I be successful doing this? Outlined below are some resources you can turn to and some important questions to think through and explore as you decide how to build your practice and what your focus will be.
Having your own practice requires some entrepreneurship. Is this the right fit for you? If so, what questions should you consider to make sure you are thinking about the right key business decisions?
Small Business Readiness Assessment
20 Questions Before Starting
The Small Business Association is a great resource especially if business startup skills are not your area of expertise. The SBA also offers many free and low-cost services to help you get started. They provide seminars and one-on-one business counseling sessions to help you personally get started on your own business. Services address topics including:
- Creating a business plan
- Setting up a legal entity (i.e., LLC, S corp, C corp, etc.)
- Naming your company
- Federal, state and local tax registration
- Start-up costs
- Regulation and compliance requirements at the federal, state and local levels
- Hiring employees (W-2) versus independent contractors (1099)
- Partnership agreements
- Creating a marketing plan
Many other topics are also offered. See your local SBA for more information.
Defining Your Business
Client Targeting (niche marketing):
- What type of business do you want to start?
- Financial education
- One-on-one counseling
- Group counseling
- Financial information, pattern-breaking, both
- Couple’s financial counseling
- Entrepreneurial counseling
- Cash flow counseling
- Divorce counseling
- Inherited wealth/windfall counseling
- Housing counseling
- Life transition counseling
- Family counseling
- Special needs counseling
- Women and money
- What do you need in terms of income? What do you want to earn?
- Wildly profitable? Mildly profitable? Break-even?
- How much do you want your business to earn for your personal life? How much do you need to earn?
- If you add that to your business expenses, what revenue do you generate annually?
- At the client billing model that you’re selecting, how many clients/classes/groups do you need to have per month/week to reach your income goal?
- How much time do you need to work to have that many clients/classes/groups? Is that the amount of time that you want to be working? If not, increase your pricing model.
- Who do you want to help? What does your client look like that will pay you what you want to earn from this business?
- Now that you know your pricing model, describe your ideal client.
- Where do they get their information, how do they find you, what information are they looking for.
- Marketing language and location should be in alignment with that ideal client. (Marketing to everyone is comparable to marketing to no one.)
- Is counseling your primary service? Or will you have a secondary type of service (such as consulting, referral network, speaking, tax consulting, investment advising, etc.)?
- Where will you get your leads?
- Are you considering multiple streams of income?
- What services are you going to provide?
- Contract work? Self-generated? Salaried?
- Advice, coaching, consulting, all of the above?
- What materials so you need to develop for your specific services
- Other resources?
- Do you want to offer a free consultation as an introduction? Be careful not to counsel/coach but rather use client stories; your counseling/coaching is what they are to pay for
- What to charge?
- Do you need to have only one pricing model? (i.e., fee only, retainer, contract income, other residual income, licensed to sell products/service, etc.). How would it feel to you to have more than one pricing model? What is your criteria for choosing one over another?
- Using your ideal client pricing model, what do you want to charge, per hour, per objective, per project?
- If you need a per-hour guideline, use the therapeutic industry: what are successful therapists charging in your area?
- Compare this to the hourly rate that financial planners are charging in your area.
- How can you sound confident and in charge of the pricing model you select when you speak to your clients? (Hint: practice, practice, practice.)
- Initial Contact: questionnaires, follow-up emails
- New client information and client agreement forms
- Description of services
- Spending plans: from another source or your own adaptation?
- Debt reduction forms/programs
- Letter of Understanding: expectations, limitations, explanations of client relationship?
- How long sessions are and how long the relationship will last?
- How available are you, by phone, by email, by texting?
- What can the client expect in terms of privacy and confidentiality, in person, in record-keeping, in remote counseling?
- What are your expectations of their involvement?
- Cancellation policy
- Late to meetings
- Follow-up to meetings: Summarizing email? Reminder texts?
- Closure to client relationship
- What’s the infrastructure that the client will use to keep the changes sustainable
- What routines/practices are they putting in place?
- How will they know when they need a “tune-up”
- What is your availability to them going forward?