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Are you intentional with spending your time? Do you feel stretched too thin after having committed to trying to do too many projects? How can you focus on your energy to improve the quality of your work?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about how not to chase everything with Cordelia Miller Muhammad.
Podcast Sponsor: Level Up
March 20th – 23rd is Level Up Week, and we are offering over 20 webinars focused on helping you Level Up totally for FREE.
We have guests like Valerie Harris, talking about how to grow your practice with insurance. We have speakers from the Speaker Lab. We’re going to talk with you about the new public speaking gigs, as well as Experts on how to get a TEDx talk as well as every single phase of practice.
We’re talking about five simple marketing techniques you’d have to master and how to add virtual assistants to your practice. We have Profit First professionals coming in to teach you how to grow your money.
Whether you’re starting a practice, growing a group practice, or expanding to do multiple streams of income, Level Up week is for you. Mark your calendars, March 20th-23rd
See all of the webinars that you can register for over at practiceofthepractice.com/levelup
Meet Cordelia Miller Muhammad
Cordelia Miller Muhammad is the CEO and Founder of Shifa Living, PLLC. She is a Board Certified TeleMental Health provider and licensed clinical social worker in the states of Illinois and Michigan.
It is her mission to empower adults and adolescents who struggle with fear, worry, or self-doubt. And because for them, the opinions of others matter a lot, they rarely feel like what they have to offer is enough.
In recent years, she’s focused on building a successful virtual private psychotherapy practice specializing in the treatment of Anxiety. Practice wisdom has taught her that emotions are like wild animals, either you manage them, or they will manage you.
Visit Shifa Living and connect on Instagram and LinkedIn.
In This Podcast
- Deciding what to chase and what to leave
- The bonus of space to focus
- Helpful tips for starting a new solo practice
- Cordelia’s advice to private practitioners
Deciding what to chase and what to leave
It can be tough trying to decide what to chase and what to leave for the time being, because you probably have several different passions and dreams that want to bring to fruition.
However, it can do more harm than good to try to get to everything, instead of being intentional with your time and energy and focusing on one thing at a time.
I found myself saying, “What a minute. Enjoy doing your practice the way [that] you’re doing your practice.”
Cordelia Miller Muhammad
Find a way to validate your process of practicing therapy, get into a good rhythm, and then start to make adjustments for growth as you go along. Do not feel like you have to accomplish it all right away.
Focus on doing your best work where you currently are, and then make space for positive growth as time goes by.
The bonus of space to focus
By being intentional with your time in this way and only focusing on a handful of things, you remove a lot of the pressure from yourself, which gives you some freedom and space to focus on doing what you want to do right now, and doing it well.
I knew that I needed to have a better command of my time so that I could do more to manage my health … so, by saying no [it] allowed me to get to my baseline of being more fit [and healthier overall].
Cordelia Miller Muhammad
When you make decisions that benefit your intuitive and integral health and well-being, your capacity for and quality of work will flourish.
Helpful tips for starting a new solo practice
Cordelia spent time listening to content that inspired her and gave her the tools to do what she was hoping to do, which was starting a new practice. She listened to the Practice of the Practice podcast, signed up for e-courses, and gathered information.
If you want to launch strong, try some of these things:
- Get out of debt or reduce any, if you have debt
[Debt] can mess up your credit and as a solopreneur, your credit is your business credit!
Cordelia Miller Muhammad
- Follow people that will inspire and motivate you to take actionable steps
Cordelia’s advice to private practitioners
Self-care is never out of style!
Sponsors mentioned in this episode:
Useful links mentioned in this episode:
Check out these additional resources:
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
Thanks For Listening!
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March 20th through 23rd is Level Up Week. We are offering over 20 webinars focused on helping you level up totally for free. We have guests like Valerie Harris talking about how to grow your practice with interns. We have speakers from the Speaker Lab who are going to talk with you about getting public speaking gigs as well as experts on how to get a TEDx Talk and every single phase of practice. We’re talking about five simple marketing techniques you have to master, how to add virtual assistance to your practice, and we have Profit First professionals coming in to teach you how to grow your money. Whether you’re starting a practice, growing a group of practice, or expanding to do multiple streams of incomes, Level Up Week is for you. Mark your calendars March 20th through 23rd and see all of the webinars that you can register for over at practiceofthepractice.com/levelup. Again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/levelup.
This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 850.
I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast, 850 episodes. Oh my gosh, so many episodes behind me. I am so excited about having Cordelia Miller Muhammad today on the show. Cordelia has been in Audience Building academy, has been active in our communities as someone that has actually come to Traverse City to do an intensive and I’m just so excited to hear her private practice story today. So Cordelia, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast.
[CORDELIA MILLER MUHAMMAD]
Thank you. I’m so glad to be here today.
Yeah, yeah. Well, tell us in a few sentences about your practice and what you find interesting outside of work.
Sure. So I am a solopreneur. I have a virtual behavioral health practice. I specialize in the treatment of anxiety and most recently started marketing myself as specializing in the treatment of social anxiety. So I’ve been in private practice now full-time for two years and a few months, October marked two years for me. For when I’m not seeing clients or not running the business I work out, because I am now working for myself, I can actually get to the gym more. So I’m finding that I really love to swim. I’m loving my kettlebell class and then I also got a dog so I am walking the dog throughout the day and enjoying outside. I’m living in Illinois and so I get all four seasons and when you have a dog, you really do get all four seasons
That is true. I’m actually at the time of this recording dog sitting my parents’ puppy, who is a mini poodle named Copper. Whoa, I’m glad that I don’t have my daughters this week because he’s a lot of work and that would be a lot of work to have a dog and kids.
Oh yeah, they do take time. But I will say I really like how he organizes me. So he’s like my assistant, but not necessarily my assistant because with knowing I need to walk him at certain times, getting up at certain times, when you are working from, virtually, it’s very easy to just lose that structure and he really helped me to get that structure back and now I am more productive than I’ve ever been. So he’s a business lifesaver, we could say.
Yeah, that’s a, I’ve never heard that thought of a dog being like an assistant. I like that. Get you out of bed even if you don’t want to be out of bed.
Well, so this is all part of our series this month on solo practices and next week we kick off the transition from solo to group, so you’re our final solo practice owner. We’d love to hear a little bit about just why did you start the practice a few years ago and maybe we can dig into some of the things you’ve learned over that course of time.
Sure. So I actually started working part-time. I had a side hustle with my private practice. I did that for like 15 years before going full-time and I just was at a point working full-time for someone else where I realized I wanted to do more for myself. I really needed to have more time that I could focus more on my health and I just couldn’t do that with commuting and then getting to the job and there for eight hours and then trying to get back home. So that last two years I spent on a plan to launch into a full-time private practice. So when October, 2020 came the pandemic actually made it a little easier to go ahead and launch full-time and my plan actually worked. Like that first year I hit my financial goals and then I worked that plan this last year and I made a little bit more money so I’m like really liking what I have in place. And so like some of the things that I’ve learned to be able to have more of a work-life balance, that first couple years, it’s really interesting when I think about who I am today and where I’m headed. I’m so different than I was when I first started in October, 2020 with the main thing being not as nervous and full of anxiety about, ooh, can I make this happen?
Now one of the things that you and I were talking about before we started recording is just how you’ve really learned to not chase everything. Why would you say not chasing everything has been one of the keys to your success in solo practice?
Oh my God, so to stay marketable when you are working for other agencies, companies, so forth and so on, you have to like study a lot of different stuff so you can stay up on the different interventions out there and just be knowledgeable so that when you have an interview you sound like you know you’re talking about. So I had developed this habit of chasing knowledge, information that would be useful and good. I mean I was taking a lot of different courses to help with the business and so forth and so on and then I found myself doing just a lot of busy work. I was like, wait a minute, I’m running around in circles. I guess that went on probably about three or four months and then I realized, I said I need to like find a community, work with someone that I trust who’s where I would probably want to be and then just try not to chase the shiny object, try not to get diverted.
So I found that by joining, that’s when I started getting involved with, I got involved with Killin’It Camp. I also did a summit with Telemental Health because as a virtual practitioner I wanted to work with other practitioners who was also virtual. So those two communities really helped me to focus. What I would do is what can I get out of my communities and then if I couldn’t get it out of the community, how important is it to work on it right now? So that thinking helped me to more pace myself and now I have a better strategic plan for when I need to address certain things, for example, like putting together a operations manual. Well I’m in a place now to really start putting that together because not a lot of my foundational stuff to do full-time work is no longer changing so quickly. So now I can do that. That’s just like an example of that transition of learning how not to chase everything
Now are there things that you chose not to chase that when you look at it you’re like, that was a great decision?
I did not chase like how to build a group practice. There is a lot of talk about going from solo to group practice and it is very exciting because you make more money and then you hire people, got people working for you, working with you. And it makes a lot of sense. I’m not ready for that. I really like actually seeing clients and working with clients and so I found myself saying, wait a minute, enjoy doing your practice the way you’re doing your practice. So I actually started thinking like they’re doctors and dentists that have their practice and then they retire from their practice and it is like maybe one of them or maybe two of them. So I really actually had to start thinking about other therapists that never grew into a group practice to be like, okay, there is a place to be just a solo practitioner and then, if in the future, I have the mental energy to go ahead and grow and have a group practice, then I’ll do that. But I really needed to find a way to validate the way I’m practicing and knowing that that is good enough.
I love that point of just not even thinking about doing group practice till you’re ready and to allow yourself to just be with what you’re enjoying and building that lifestyle first. I think that that’s going to serve you for the long haul so much better than just having this hustle mentality that a lot of people have where they don’t really think through what they want. It’s great that you’re actually the, this wasn’t even planned, that you’re the transition episode from solo into when we’re talking about when to start a group. I love that you’re saying for you starting a group didn’t make sense. It’s not where you wanted to spend your time or energy.
Right, exactly. But I will say it felt weird at first to say that, meaning I felt like I was isolating myself or I wasn’t in like other clinicians but then I was, like I said, I started looking around to find more examples of what I’m doing and that helped me to release that feeling left out thing that happens that the young people used to talk all about, what is that? I think it’s FOMO or something like that, fear of missing out.
Oh yeah. So then by not doing a group practice, what would you say that allowed you to do either in your practice or in your just personal life that you’re thankful you were allowed to do because you had said no to those other things?
So like I mentioned earlier, I knew that I needed to have better command of my time so that I could do more to manage my health. By saying no to that allow me to get to my baseline of being more fit. I was eating better because I can cook for myself. I’m actually, I’m not going to be vegan., by body I don’t think would enjoy that, but I have, I’m able to incorporate more like vegan dishes, more of the vegetables. I’m even able to better pay attention, what did I eat in a week to be able to know, oh you didn’t have sugar this week or you had a cupcake on such and such day. So I’m able to pay more attention to what’s going on in my body, what works for my body and then build a lifestyle around that.
So I’m able to get enough sleep so for me I needed to detox from the work world. Now I don’t, we didn’t, I didn’t mention this, but I work, I had been in the field for like 30 years before I started my full-time private practice so when I’m talking about detoxing I’m talking like really changing some habits that I needed to be able to progress and survive when I was working for others that I just don’t need to do now. More importantly, I was able to like focus more on my health than what I need to do for me because I want to live a long time. I want to travel, I want to enjoy the rest of my life, not be sick.
[LEVEL UP WEEK]
Are you in solo practice and wondering how to get things going, what marketing techniques to do and what the order is that you should get things done? Maybe you want to start a group practice because you’re busting at the seams but you have no idea when is the right time. Or maybe you want a seven-figure, multiple-location practice that you can grow. Also, maybe you’re even growing beyond that AND building e-courses, podcasts, membership communities. No matter what phase of practice you are in, we have something for you at Level Up Week. Level Up Week is March 20th through 23rd, 2023. Again, that’s March 20th through 23rd. We have over 20 webinars that are totally free. We have things like how to get a TEDx Talk, how to get more public speaking gigs, how to use Profit First in your private practice, how to pay yourself starting a solo practice panel where we have five successful solo practitioners. We also have essential systems You have to have, how to add virtual assistance, how to add multiple streams of income, supersizing your practice to over 50 clinicians in the five simple marketing techniques Every practice has to master.
No matter your phase of practice, it could be that moment that you just said to yourself, I need to leave my full-time job and start a practice all the way up through having a thriving group practice and you are launching something that’s going to go international. We have several webinars for you. Head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/levelup to see which webinar is the best fit for your time and your phase of practice. If you want the recordings, just register for the ones that you want and we will send you those recordings totally free of charge. Again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/levelup, practiceofthepractice.com/levelup.
Now were there, was there something that happened that made you really want to start focusing on your health more or was it just like, hey, I’m going to do this?
Yeah, I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes for like the last 10 years and it was one of those situations where I told myself, because even though I knew diabetes ran in my family and I was also told when I get, had birth or birthed my daughter that because I had gestational diabetes and they were like, oh, you’ll be diabetic one day and I was the best that they could say. They couldn’t give me a, tell me of a diet or how to eat or whatever. I was just determined, nope, that’s not going to meet me. I am not going to be diabetic. So I took on a healthier lifestyle. I was running 5Ks. That’s the bottom best I could do because I ran track when I was in high school. I was a sprinter. Those long distances would kill me.
So when I was able to run a 5k, I was thought I was superwoman. But I, so I was doing that, I was watching my diet and I had a pretty active lifestyle, but when I tested positive for diabetes, I was like, wait a minute, hold on. So part of me was really disappointed about that, but then I just came to terms with, hey, it is what it is. Maybe I would’ve tested earlier if I hadn’t have been doing the things that I was doing. So as I’m going along and I’m at work and more stress and stress and although my diabetes was well managed, I just knew I could do so much better if I didn’t have to be in such stressful environments and that I could better control when I’m eating, what I’m eating and so forth and so on. So that was the impetus. It was, I did not see where I could get on top of it and I didn’t want to wait till I was like 67 to be like, okay, I’m retired now, I can get on top of this. I’m like, no, I want to do this now. So I am seeing progress, so I’m glad I made that decision.
Yeah, it’s amazing how health concerns, like in 2012 I had thyroid cancer and then even just in fall of 2022, I had this whole salmonella thing I’m still dealing with and have to have follow up surgeries from Killin’It Camp. My friends are joking, like, was it named Kill Joe Camp because holy cow. But how, it really forces you when you have these health issues to say like, what is important in my life? What’s important in my business? Like I was laid out for several weeks at the end of 2022 and the team came together, our communities came together, a lot of the audience building stuff I had to pause for a little bit, but it’s a good stress test on the team, but also it’s a like, what do I enjoy most about Practice of the Practice and how do I do that more and how do I limit myself from having to do everything? Maybe we won’t grow at an exponential rate like we had planned, but to say, but we’re growing at a pace that feels healthy and I’m eating well, I’m making a lot of food at home, regular walks, all those sorts of things. To me it just feels like then it’s more in balance than just that whole hustle mentality that so many people have to do everything.
Oh yes, most definitely. I agree. I’m much more mindful. I actually, when it snowed here the other day it was almost like the first snow, but it was like so much snow like on the trees where it’s so pretty. So when I was walking the dog, I took quite a few pictures to be able to post on Instagram and I actually shared them with one of my artists clients. They were like, you took that picture? Those are really good. I was like, this is just me being mindful, not me trying to be a photographer. So it turned out I created a very nice product that somebody else can enjoy and so I’m just so thankful that I made me more of a priority, should I say.
Now when you go back to when you were starting your practice what were some things that were helpful when you were setting up a solo practice?
When I first started, like back in, or like when I was doing part-time or when —
Let’s say when you, when you really moved into full-time practice and you’re like, I’m going to do this, I’m leaving my job. What was helpful during that phase to really set it up how you wanted to set it up?
Well, so I actually listened to Practice of the Practice those last couple years before I went full-time. So it was helpful to actually start thinking like, people who are working in their practice full-time are is thinking. So there was the shift in the mind that I actually had before I actually stepped out on my own. What that looked like was there, I was connected with the small business development center before I went full-time. I had took certain trainings. Like I took the training in tele behavioral health and was on the path of getting my certification as a board Certified Telemental Health Practitioner. So that training really helped me to better know what I needed to be able to do this virtually. I had met with a couple people locally who were in private practice and they helped me to decide which of my, of the insurance panels that I was on that I would let go of.
So I got off quite a few of the insurance panels so that I narrowed it down to where I was only working with a few insurance panels. Then I spent that first six months, I would say looking into billing support. So I knew that the first support services that I would want is billing support. Then I also spent that first six months or so or first year working with a lawyer to make sure that all of my intake forms and my notice of privacy practices were appropriate for the state of Illinois. Because you can get a lot of information online and in different trainings, but it was not necessarily meeting what is expected for the state you’re working in. So that’s why I secured the support of a behavioral health lawyer to go over my forms and that helped to calm my anxieties about, okay, I got it together so I don’t think I’m going to get all overwhelmed and then move forward from there.
Wow, so if you were to be advising someone that was just starting a practice, are there things that you would say right now, I would do a couple things different? Here’s a couple things for a solo practitioner that’s just getting started, then I would say focus on these things if you really want to launch strong,
Well you know what, Joe, I’ll tell you, it is not much I would do different because I did a calculated strategic exit. But what I would say, one of the things I was doing before I launched, so like I had been, I said I’m out of here in two years, two years to launch, so I worked on preparing to launch two years before I did. One of the main things I worked on was getting myself out of debt because just the thought of stepping out full-time knowing that there’s that window because me, because I was seeing clients part-time, so I had clients that, so I was bringing in money, but I still would need, there’s that gap from okay, this is how much you’re making today to getting to the point where I’m making enough to sustain myself. So there’s a window there where I’m going to be making less money than what I was making when I was working for someone else and so I was like, if I can get rid of my debt then I can function off of less money and then when I’m bringing in more clients and I match my salary where work, then I would be okay. So I never heard anyone say anything like that when I was preparing, but I’m saying that was probably one of the smartest things I could have did because when I stepped out and full-time, I didn’t have any credit card debt.
Yeah, I would agree. Really the only debt I had was the home mortgage when I started my practice and never thought of that as being such a differentiator, but yeah, just to not have to worry about that.
Yeah because that could mess up your credit. Then like as a solopreneur your credit is your business credit and so if you need to go to some key trainings or like when you get to the point where you’re doing more marketing types of things, and they don’t really teach us how to do that in graduate school and you definitely don’t learn too much about that working for somebody else. So that is a huge learning curve of how to promote and market yourself. There’s another, that’s another one of those areas where you can chase a whole lot of stuff and then find yourself not doing anything. So you’re going to be able, you’re going to need to be able to possibly charge to attend and in time you can pay all that off but if you don’t have the credit to do that, then it can actually get in the way of you sustaining your business.
Such good advice. The last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
Self-care is never out of style. It’s like you can get just as easily working 12 hours, 16-hour days when you working on your business or working for yourself as if you are working for someone else. So if you’re like not conscious of like closing the door or I’m off, the business is closed and taking care of yourself. Then you could just really set yourself up for having a crisis, a medical crisis or just problems where you’re not able to recover. As well as when you’re doing self-care and something does creep in that you wasn’t planning, I actually tested positive for Covid last summer and I was able, it went more over weekend and then in a few days during the week, but I really think because of self-care that, and I had a positive attitude about it, and even though I have conditions that could have caused it to be worse, I really didn’t claim that for myself. I think that I was able, my body was able to recover and I really think self-care has a whole lot to do with it.
Well, Cordelia, if people want to connect with you, what’s the best way? What’s your website and how can people find you?
Sure. My website is www.shifaliving.com, that’s S-H-I-F, in Frank, A L-I-V-I-N-G.com. That’s my website and people can go on there and there’s my address, my phone number as well as they can just send me email or contact email and then I can reach out to them or follow up with them from there.
So awesome. Well thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast.
Thank you for having me.
What an awesome episode. To transition into these other episodes that are coming up to just evaluate, like, do I want a group practice? If I do, let me make sure it’s set up in a way that isn’t going to just really be tough. How awesome. We’ve got some episodes coming up of people that transitioned into group practice coming up throughout March and also kicking off on March 20th through 23rd, we have an amazing week. It’s called Level Up Week. It’s a summit, it’s a conference, it’s a wild time of learning where you can just go full tilt towards learning about your phase of practice. We have some amazing speakers set up. We’ve got people from the Speaker Lab that are going to be sharing with us how to get public speaking gigs, we’re going to be talking to seven and eight figure practices that have group practices.
We’re going to be talking about Profit first. We have a Profit First professional coming to talk about that in private practice. We’re going to be talking about business directories, how do I grow a multi-location practice and how to know when it’s time to start a group practice. So all sorts of things. We have a private practice solo panel that we have six solo practitioners, just kicking butt, all sorts of things for you that week. You can head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/levelup and register for as many of those as you want to attend. It’s totally free. We are offering this as a way to just infuse energy and excitement into our podcast and community and into our communities that we support. Again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/levelup.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music.
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