As a mental health professional, you want what’s best for your clients. Starting a private practice allows you to deliver a higher standard of personalized care. So why not take your practice to the next level? With small business loans, private practices can gain important resources for growing the business.
Consider this your guide to small business lending for counselors. You’ll learn more about your funding options and what to expect from the process so you can make the right decision for your practice.
Do You Need a Loan for Your Practice?
Every good counselor understands the importance of assessment. Start by looking at your practice’s financial needs. What kind of programs and equipment could you use to augment or expand your services? Identifying your needs will help you translate your vision into a specific dollar amount.
Common expansion goals that might need funding:
- Opening a new practice location
- Hiring staff
- Investing in marketing and advertising initiatives
- Upgrading equipment and technology
- Offering new services or expanding existing ones
New opportunities that might need funding:
- Taking advantage of new market trends or demands
- Expanding services to meet evolving client needs
- Diversifying revenue streams
- Acquiring existing practices or partnerships
Loans can help you finance professional development and training:
- Pursuing advanced certifications or degrees
- Attending industry conferences and workshops
- Enhancing clinical skills and expertise
- Joining a professional association
- Staying up to date with the latest research and treatment methods
The right funding could help expand your technology and infrastructure:
- Implement patient practice management software
- Subscribe to new accounting and billing systems
- Build a new website for the practice
- Invest in a new phone system
As you assess your needs, think through and question the exact nature of your expansion project? The answer to this question will affect the type and amount of funding you need.
Types of Private Practice Loans Available
Not all business loans are the same. The following are the most common small business loans for private practice counselors.
Term loans provide business funding in the form of a lump-sum payment. You’ll then repay the loan, along with any interest, according to the schedule set by the lender.
Terms and interest rates vary by lender. Most of these loans have a fixed interest rate, which means your payments are consistent throughout the life of your loan. Some business loans require collateral, which means you can lose those assets if you fail to repay the loan.
Term loans tend to be ideal for large projects with specific budgets. You can work payments into your monthly budget with a fixed interest rate. Always compare lenders to ensure you receive the best rates and terms.
Business Line of Credit
A business line of credit is a flexible funding option that works much like a consumer credit card. You’ll be able to borrow money up to a predetermined credit limit. As long as you pay back the balance, you can use your credit on a rotating basis.
Although most lines of credit are too small for major projects, these loans are great when you’re unsure about your ongoing funding needs. You can tap into the line of credit as needed and pay interest only on what you borrow. But be careful. It’s easy to lose track of your spending and accumulate a large debt.
Loans backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) have long been the gold standard for entrepreneurs. They offer large loan amounts and competitive interest rates and loan terms.
Counselors and therapists can apply for:
- SBA 7(a) Loans – Refinance existing debt or invest in real estate, equipment, or supplies
- SBA Microloans – Qualify easily for loans of up to $50,000
- SBA 504 Loans – Purchase fixed assets like property or renovate existing facilities
- SBA Express Loans – Get smaller amounts of cash, but with faster approval
One potential downside is that SBA loans tend to have higher credit score requirements than loans from private lenders.
Equipment loans allow private practices to buy office equipment such as computers and printers. Depending on your lender, you might also use an equipment loan for office or client furniture. Most lenders will ask for a clear description of the equipment before approving the loan.
Leasing your equipment is another option, but monthly payments can make this a costly long-term solution. Equipment leasing is less flexible and only recommended in specific situations.
Tips for Obtaining Funding
Small business loans can have high eligibility requirements, but you can improve your chances of qualifying by following these tips.
Assess Your Financial Readiness
Before you contact a lender, give yourself a financial checkup. Focus on the same areas that lenders will use to determine your loan eligibility.
Here are three ways to prepare yourself for funding:
- Review your personal and practice credit history
- Calculate your debt-to-income ratio
- Identify any outstanding financial obligations or liabilities
Lenders commonly look for a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or lower. Paying off current debts is a good way to improve your chances of securing a favorable loan.
Establish a Strong Business Profile
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to establish a strong business profile, which will help you earn credibility in the eyes of clients and lenders.
A strong business profile includes the following:
- Register your private practice as a legal entity
- Obtain the necessary licenses and certifications
- Build a professional website and online presence
You can also strengthen your credibility by publishing positive client reviews and testimonials.
Build Relationships with Lenders
Your first contact with a lender doesn’t have to be your application. The more you can nurture a professional relationship with a lender, the greater your chances of securing funding.
These practices can help you build a relationship with potential lenders:
- Research and compare different lenders and loan options
- Seek referrals or recommendations from other professionals
- Engage in networking opportunities and industry events
- Establish open and transparent communication with potential lenders
Even if you don’t meet every eligibility requirement, some lenders will work with you if you’ve established a prior relationship.
Understanding Requirements and Eligibility
Every lender is different, but eligibility requirements will generally fit a basic set of standards. Here’s what you should know before you apply.
Lenders determine business loan eligibility based on a constellation of factors, including your:
- Personal and business credit score
- Annual revenue
- Business size
- Years of operation
- Collateral or a personal guarantee
- Financial history and documentation
The more you understand your business data, the better prepared you’ll be when applying for a loan.
Assessing Your Credit Score and Financial History
Your business credit score typically runs between 0 and 100. This score is a major determining factor in assessing your history of handling debt. A higher credit score will boost your chances of receiving a loan under favorable terms.
Some lenders may look at your personal credit score as well. It’s common for businesses that don’t have established credit. Again, the higher your score, the better.
The major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) allow you to get a free credit report once each year. Take time to learn your credit score and determine how you might increase it before applying for a loan.
Determining Your Loan Amount and Terms
The lender will set your final loan amount. But you might start by setting a goal. How much do you need to cover your expansion project? This number will give you a target to aim for when comparing lenders.
Once you start comparing lenders, you also must compare loan terms. Look at the interest rate, loan fees, and the term length. Your lender will set the duration of the repayment term, which will influence the size of your monthly payment. You need to select a loan option that fits with your operating budget.
Building a Strong Loan Application
How can your practice put its best foot forward? The following tips can help you secure small business loans for private practice counselors.
Crafting a Comprehensive Business Plan
A business plan will tell the story of your business to lenders and other stakeholders.
The SBA recommends that every business plan include:
- An executive summary highlighting your key points
- A description of your company
- Market analysis and marketing goals
- A description of your organizational hierarchy
- A description of your services
- Funding request
- Financial projections
- An appendix with additional information
Maintaining an updated business plan will ensure you’re always prepared to submit a funding request.
Gathering Essential Financial Documents
During the application process, you’ll also need to submit documents such as:
- Financial documents (profit and loss statements, balance sheets, etc.)
- Personal or business income tax returns
- Personal or business bank statements
- Leases to commercial property
- Business licenses
- Articles of incorporation
- Existing debt schedule
- Proof of collateral
While you can include some of these elements in your business plan, having these documents ready makes it easier to demonstrate your creditworthiness to lenders.
Highlighting Your Qualifications and Experience
You’re not just selling your services. You’re also selling yourself. When you write a business plan, you’ll want to include a brief bio and description of your qualifications.
This qualitative data will show lenders that you can succeed in your practice.
Creating a Convincing Loan Proposal
A good loan proposal will do two things. First, it should highlight your unique value proposition. What makes your practice unique? What resources do you have that will ensure your future success? Data from your past performance can support your future projections.
Second, a convincing proposal should be accurate. Avoid exaggerating your past success or your chances for the future. An honest evaluation of your performance and potential will improve your chances of approval.
Managing Repayment and Obligations
Getting the loan is half the battle. Even before you’re approved, you must consider your repayment strategy. Here are some tips for managing your new debt.
- Creating a Realistic Budget for Loan Repayment – You need a loan repayment schedule that fits comfortably into your operating budget. This need means that you must communicate your financial situation clearly with your lender. Don’t exhaust your budget with a new loan, otherwise, you may lack the cash flow to meet your financial obligations.
- Strategies to Ensure Timely Loan Payments – It’s crucial to pay your loans on time. Failing to do so will lower your credit score and can result in penalties or additional charges. To ensure timely payment, you might consider creating a loan repayment plan, instituting a purchase approval policy, or automating your loan payments.
- Dealing with Unexpected Financial Challenges – Life happens, and when it does, business owners must still meet their financial obligations. To prepare for expected challenges, start by communicating with your lender should something happen. If you’re consistently struggling to make payments, consider refinancing the loan. A refinance will replace your current loan with a brand-new one — ideally, with better rates and terms.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Small business loans for private practice counselors can fuel your business success. But a misstep can have devastating consequences for you, your practice, and your clients. Here are some common mistakes and tips for avoiding them.
- Borrowing More Than You Need – Asking for more money than you need will reduce your chances of loan approval. Or worse, you might get the full amount, leaving you on the hook for high monthly payments and heavy interest charges. Be specific with your funding request, but don’t exceed your ability to repay the loan.
- Insufficient Business Planning and Documentation – Without a complete business plan, your lender may reject your application outright. Always be as thorough as possible. Make sure you’ve gathered your required documentation. And once you’ve submitted your application, respond quickly if the lender asks for clarification or additional documents.
- Not Comparing Multiple Lenders and Loan Options – Interest rates and administrative fees among lenders vary widely. Likewise, some loan options will be better suited for your practice. Research and compare at least three lenders to find the best possible financing option.
- Poor Credit Management and History – Failing to manage your payment history can damage your credit, jeopardizing your loan eligibility. Pay your bills on time and check your credit report for errors that might affect your score.
- Lack of Cash Flow Planning and Repayment Strategy – Plan for your loan repayment. Make sure you have the cash flow to handle your loan payments and any business expenses that come your way.
Small business loans can help private practices maintain a high standard of care. Stay focused on your goals, your real needs, and your loan payments to help your therapy practice grow!