The first thing you need to do is make sure you are qualified and then, once you’ve obtained premises, register your company. The NSAW have standards that you must meet in all areas of your practice. Check the guidelines of your state, or the state in which you wish to practice. In most cases, you’ll need to gain not only a degree but a professional license before you can legally practice.
Any new business needs insurance. As a social worker, you will need to obtain liability insurance to protect you from any possible lawsuits. This might be higher than usual, as private practice is often considered “high risk”, but please don’t overlook it.
As a private practice, you’ll need to register as self-employed and obtain a tax number. Your practice will be a business, and so subject to business taxation laws and practices. You’ll also need a business plan and a long term financial forecast.
Branding and Design
Once all the legalities and business decisions are made, you can start having a bit more fun. Your practice will need some design work. At the very least you’ll need a logo, some signage and a letterhead. Play around with some ideas; you want to stand out from the rest, but remain caring and professional. These designs will be used to make your company instantly recognizable and memorable, so take your time making the decision. Ask for help and advice, consider using a professional designer.
You are going to need a lot of support! Setting up on your own is hard work. It’s going to take a lot of your time and effort. Make sure you’ve got a great support network, both on a personal level from family and friends, but also professional support. People you can ask for help and advice, someone to answer your silly questions. Do some networking if you need to, to meet other social work professionals and grow relationships.
There’s no point in doing all that work if no one knows about it. Use digital marketing and word of mouth as your main sources of promotion to begin with. Make sure your logo and branding is on any professional online profiles you set up.
How much are you going to charge? As a new practice, you might want to stay relatively low until you’ve built a great reputation before slowly increasing your fees. Look at the rest of the market. What do your competitors charge? Make sure you stay competitive.
With careful planning and research, starting your own practice doesn’t need to be difficult, and can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re currently studying for an undergraduate social work degree, and the idea of starting a practice of your own appeals to you, the first thing you need to do is look at MSW programs online.