I’m a risk adverse gal. As a child, I used to watch on as my friends shimmied to the tops of towering oak trees. Me, I kept my two feet firmly planted and considered the probability of my friend breaking a limb if she toppled from the tree’s branches.
I would have stayed in a comfortable job, earning a regular salary and benefits. Two feet, firmly planted. Circumstances, however, compelled me to launch a private practice.
I’d finished my master’s degree. I’d jumped through the hoops with my post-graduate work. I just wasn’t interested in going back to school for a teaching credential, so classroom jobs were out. At the clinic where I worked, I kept less than a quarter of the student’s fees. Someone was making money, but it definitely wasn’t me. No one was hiring educational therapists. So I screwed my courage to the sticking-place, and tentatively, cautiously, started the climb towards building my own practice.
That first year was painful – money was tight and I was worried about the business’ success. Honestly, there was just a lot of ego on the line. Mine. Everyone knew that I had started this business. What if I failed? What if I was ineffectual? Turns out, a well-developed fear of failure can provide potent motivation. I kept climbing.
Today, I love my practice. I love that it allows me to make ethical decisions, to prioritize my own well being, and to be flexible. Honestly, the view from those branches is pretty darn sweet.
For me, the benefits really come down to flexibility.
I have the flexibility to put the student first.
When I began in this field, I worked at a clinic where the director had to meet a certain quota of student hours each month. This put her in an untenable position; she ended up accepting students who weren’t a good fit for the clinic. I finally left the job when I learned that a four-year-old (!) was scheduled to receive 15 hours-a-week of literacy intervention.
Now I run my own practice. If a student doesn’t need educational therapy, I reassure the parents, recommend some books, and send them on their way. If I feel like I’m not the right fit for a child, I refer them to a trusted colleague.
I’m running a profitable business, make no mistake. But, I run it my way. That means the child always comes first.
I have flexibility in my life.
Right now, I’m sitting on my balcony looking out on the spring-green hillsides. Also, it’s 10:30am on a Thursday morning. I’m dressed and presentable, but I’m also still wearing my fuzzy slippers. On a typical day, I spend the morning working on online projects, preparing lessons, networking, and completing administrative tasks. A lot of the time, I’m camped out in the local coffee shop, sipping my earl grey tea. In the afternoon, I see four or five students. This mixture of professional development, entrepreneurship, and teaching keeps my energy high.
In addition to my flexible workdays, owning a private practice allows me to prioritize personal goals. Last summer, I took a month off to backpack the John Muir Trail with my husband, Ross. During the school year, working for myself allows me to prioritize going to the gym, getting enough sleep, and cooking healthy meals at home.
It’s funny — I never would have ventured out to start a private practice if I’d felt like there were other feasible options available. Now that the business is established, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Today, Ross and I are venturing out on that limb to try something new. Starting this blog feels strange, uncomfortable, and exposed.
We’re optimistic that we’ll like the view once we get there.