How to leave your full time job for private practice

It’s hit you that it is time to leave your full-time job. Or maybe, you know over the long-haul that you want to leave eventually. Either way, the full-time job isn’t for you. How do you leave your full-time job?

That’s the easy part: Put in your notice.

But wait! Let’s have a plan to mitigate risk and increase your income over time. But first, let me tell you my story. Check out my other article: Why I Left My Full-time Counseling job.

Here’s a worksheet to help you figure out how to leave your full-time job: How to Leave Your Full-time Job Worksheet

How I planned (and achieved) leaving my full time job

Initially, I never thought I’d leave my full time job. It actually was one of the better paying counselor jobs in Traverse City. It had great benefits. I liked my supervisor and staff I worked with. I was able to be creative. We didn’t bill insurance. What’s not to like?

It took a while, but I eventually realized that everyday I showed up, I was losing money. It did not happen overnight, but the counseling private practice and private practice consulting business that I had created, was making far more than the full time job. (Here are my monthly income reports).

Everyday that I went to my full-time job, I was losing money!

But let’s rewind and see what I did to create a landscape for growth.

Step 1: Reduce home and life expenses.

In 2004, I got married. I moved to rustic Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan, where eagles fly, snowmobiles go wild, and people end most sentences with “eh?” even if it is not a question. I made just under $30,000 that year. We paid off $10,000 in student loan debt and paid for my wife’s state schooling out of pocket.

In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions we made. We lived off of $100/month for food, our “entertainment” budget was $80/month (that included going out to eat, movies, and everything that was fun). We each got $50/month to do whatever we wanted. Since we always fought about buying clothes, we called it our “fashion budget” but it was actually for anything we just wanted to buy.

Also, we saved a little bit for an emergency. I think it was $1,000.

By doing this we:

  • Learned to live on way less than we make, therefore, if we ever need to go back, it’s not too big of a lifestyle jump.
  • Reduced student loans, we actually paid off all debt (around $40,000) and paid cash for my wife’s graduate school. We were debt-free except the house by 2010.
  • We set ourselves up to save like crazy.

If we look at this as a “How to leave my job” plan:

  1. Save up an emergency fund of around $1,000
  2. Pay off debt
  3. Save some money

Then, get the business going or growing!

Step 2: Start your counseling private practice

Maybe you’re brand new, then definitely learn from this page (How to start a private practice) if you have a counseling private practice, then grow the overall income by doing some or all of the following:

  • Raise your rates
  • Get off insurance panels so you have more freedom
  • Find a clear niche in private practice
  • Market yourself on radio, newspaper, or TV (Here’s a great podcast interview all about how to get the media’s attention)

By building yourself beyond just a list of accepted insurance providers you build your influence and income. Examples of how to do this are: be seen in the media as an expert, be recommended by trusted people in your area, or do speaking engagement around a specialty you know AND love!

Step 3: Examine the financial viability of leaving your full-time job

There is a moment when you realize that leaving your full-time job might be a reality. It starts to grow and brew within you. Then you start running the number and it may or may not work out. It’s a combination of your own tolerance of financial fluctuation, responsibilities, and demeanor.

Let’s take an example. I was working 40 hours per week and taking home around $1,300 every other week.

Evaluate the Final Take Home Pay

Thus, I’d need to take home at least $33,800. For most people, depending on their tax bracket and state, you’ll want to divide this number by .6 to get the amount of actual money that would be needed, pre-tax. That would be: $33,800 x .6 = $56,333.33.

Add the Benefits

Most full-time jobs provide some benefits. Here are some questions to compare apples to apples:

How much would comparable health insurance cost?

How much would comparable life/disability insurance cost? 

How many paid sick and vacation days do you get?

What retirement is covered?

What technology is provided for the job?

What other options are given as benefits?

In my situation, here’s how the numbers looked (remember, I was planning to leave my full time job, being the only income for a family with 2 kids):

Health insurance: $20,000/year

Life/Disability Insurance: $2,000

Retirement: N/A since it is a pension and based on the government’s follow-through, it’s very hard to calculate what will be there when I retire. If I stayed until vested it looked like I would get around $300/month upon retirement, despite paying $167 per paycheck into it.

Based on working 48 weeks

Dental: $1,500


What benefits were you already paying for?

I looked at one of my final paychecks and I paid:

Health insurance + HSA Contribution: $3,536 + $1,500 into HSA = $5,036

Life/Disability Insurance: $312

Retirement: $4,342 (but this went toward a pension that I don’t get)

Based on working 48 weeks

Dental: $988


Add subtract what you were paying from the replacement

So now take the cost of the benefits and subtract what you paid out of your paycheck:

$23,500 – $10,678 = $12,822 to replace current benefits.

Now let’s add that to the take home pay number: $56,333.33 + $12,822 = $69,155.33 to replace the full-time job.

Determine the weekly income needed

Lastly, we just have to subtract that number by the number of weeks worked to determine the weekly average needed to replace the full-time income and benefits.

$69,155.33 divided by 48 weeks = $1,440.74 per week.

Imagine your session rates are $120 per session, divide that by this weekly income. That would be 12 sessions per week.

We’re not done yet, because you can’t run a business for free! There are other costs that we need to add in, so don’t leave your job yet! Add up the expenses and use the How to Leave Your Full-time Job Worksheet to figure out your bottom line.


First, we’re going to look at how much you bring home and what it would take to replace that income.




Next, we’ll evaluate what your employer pays for in the form of benefits. Once on your own, you may change these expenses, but let’s compare exact plans. A quick way is to look on a pay stub and see how much your employer contributed and multiply by 26.


Many employers get discounts due to their size, so these have been multiplied by a factor of 1.25 for a rough estimate.





Next, we’ll evaluate what you already pay each pay period toward your benefits. You are already paying a portion of your benefits. Look at a pay stub, we will automatically multiply it by 26 pay periods in a year.


*Depending on retirement benefits, you may not receive these back.



What does it take to run your business?



Here\'s the bottom line to leave your job


Weekly Income $

Best of luck on your journey! If you need any help, I’d love to be a resource!



Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant. Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI. To link to Joe’s Google+ .


Photos by Keith Trice

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