Back in May, we started talking about the choices and implications of naming your private practice when you are a parent when Amanda Wigfield, MA, CSPT, CSAT wrote a guest post, Personal and Professional Names in Private Practice . . . and One Therapist’s Dilemma.
Since then, one of the therapists in our own community here, Liza Alvarado, has also emailed to say that she, too, is struggling with naming her practice. Here is what she wrote . . . .
I’ve been following you for a year now and find your blog very helpful.
I had a question about naming my practice. I’ve been learning the business and marketing side of things before actually starting a practice.
My niche is teen girls and young adult females (college age) with symptoms of depression and anxiety. I absolutely love working with these types of clients. I’m also Spanish speaking, which is a huge asset that I have since there’s not too many of us in my area, and Hispanics are the largest minority in my area.
So these are my target audience. Spanish speaking young women, or the girls who know English but their families may not. Of course, non-Spanish speaking young women too.
I don’t want to use my name for my business and website because I want to keep everything separate from my personal assets and form a LLC. ( I don’t know if it matters right now but I’m my biggest asset. I don’t own a house yet or have a large bank account…yet.)
Should a name describe your practice? (I want to use ‘reconnect’ in the name to describe my belief that therapy is the process of helping people reconnect with their true selves.)
Or do I pick a name that I don’t feel too strong about but will drive traffic to my site because of the key words, such as ‘Young Adult Counseling.’ Of course I want my LLC and website to be the same for consistency.
Or do I just use my name for my website and begin & stay as a sole-proprietor, like the majority of therapist in my area do? The only good thing I see from this is that I’ll be easy to find when people look for me and establish myself as an expert in my area.
This is really confusing for me. I’ve been stuck at this name thing for so long. Maybe I’m over thinking it.
I’m sure there are many other therapist out there who have this same question. Any suggestions would be very helpful.
Liza, I’m so glad that you asked these questions because it gives me an opportunity to address several important points . . . .
First of all, I’m not an attorney (and you should definitely check with one) but my understanding is that there is no reason why you cannot use your personal name on your website or as your business name and still keep a status of Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the United States. (I can’t remember where you are geographically, Liza. I tried to find that info on your blog but didn’t see it.) If I’m correct, then forming an LLC to protect your personal assets shouldn’t even be a factor in choosing a name for your business. And, conversations with both your attorney and your accountant should help you decide whether your practice should be an LLC or remain a sole proprietorship.
There are lots of ways to drive traffic to your website. Using keywords in the content of your website is certainly one way to do so. And, a great tagline can underscore your desire to help your clients “reconnect with their true selves.” However, you will need to have a strong marketing plan in place beyond keywords and taglines to get people to visit your website. A name alone won’t do it.
My preference especially during the first five years of private practice is to use your personal legal name as your business name. There are several reasons for this . . . . Ask any mental health professional who has been in private practice for fifteen years or more and they will tell you that (1) their clinical interests have changed over time, (2) their geographic location has changed over time, and (3) their clinical skills have changed over time.
Your clinical interests, geographic location, and clinical skills will likely change over time, too. If you’ve chosen a name (or logo) that is specific to one population, one particular part of the country, or highlighting your current skills, you’ll probably find that you feel a bit constricted over time. Sometimes it’s hard to project how different business will be in the future and because of that most of us have made a choice or two that we regret along the way. (And, yes, I’m including my regrets, too.)
And, related to change . . . I heard somewhere that, unlike my parents, most new professionals today will have five [I think] distinct professions before they retire. [Career counselors, help me out – If you know the exact stats / source for this info, please share it with us.] And, I suspect that’s why most of the big names in mental health or related fields are keeping their legal names for their businesses.
Think about it . . . The Gottmans. Martin Seligman. Wayne Dyer. Christiane Northrup. Belleruth Naparstek. Bernie Siegel. Carolyn Myss. Harriet Lerner. And, I’m sure you can add others to this list. I realize that there are exceptions but the trend in business these days seems to be using your legal name. Because it’s portable, if you change or expand the focus of your career down the road from counselor or social worker to author and then from author to consultant and then again from consultant to public speaker (or whatever), it’s fairly easy to take your name with you. In doing so, you will be able to leverage your biggest asset – you – by taking your reputation with you much more easily.
Would I ever recommend that you trade your legal name for a great “business” name like the Whoop-de-do Institute or the La-Te-Da Clinic? Perhaps. But starting out? Nope. Make that decision later on . . . very carefully . . . and only if you have a really good reason to do so.