When you run your own practice from day one, it’s easy to end up taking on more work than you can handle.
Managing all your bookings, emails, and bills may not be difficult when your practice is small. But, as your practice grows, you may begin to feel as though you spend more time doing office admin than seeing clients.
Here’s how you can tell when it’s time to hire an administrative assistant for your therapy practice—plus, how much it will cost you.
Four signs it’s time to hire an administrative assistant
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine when it’s time to hire an admin for your therapy practice.
However, if you think you may eventually need to hire an assistant, there are four signs to watch out for.
1. You’re spending as much (or more) time on office admin as with clients
If you find you’re spending more time
- Managing your clinical hours schedule
- Organizing notes
- Preparing insurance claims
- Scheduling consultations with new clients
- Answering emails
- Communicating with your bookkeeper and accountant, and
- Coordinating with cleaning services or other contractors
than seeing clients, it could be a sign you should hire an administrative assistant.
You likely didn’t go into business for yourself so you could devote most of your time to office admins. Treating clients is your practice’s raison d’etre. It only makes sense that you should devote the majority of your time and energy to providing treatment.
Hiring an admin assistant can free up time in your schedule so you can take on more clients, and give your existing clients the devoted time and energy they deserve.
2. You don’t feel like you’re earning enough money based on how many hours you work
When you run your own practice, you may find your working hours extend well beyond the standard 9 – 5. That’s particularly the case if you’re responsible for every moving part of your business, not just time with clients.
The result may be a growing sense of resentment, as you find yourself putting in more time and energy than you would at a full-time job, while earning less than you would working for someone else.
For perspective, try applying your hourly rate to work you do outside of office hours. After all, every hour you spend otherwise could be an hour you spend with a client.
For instance, say your hourly rate is $90.
- That hour you spent on call waiting, because you needed to resolve an issue with your payment processor? That’s $90.
- The two hours you spent responding to consultation requests from new clients, and booking them in your schedule? That’s $180.
- The three hours you spent researching and booking hotels and scheduling flights for the conference you’re attending? That’s $270.
Any of these tasks could be handled for you by an experienced administrative assistant. And there’s a very good chance—as you’ll see below—that their hourly rate is much less than $90.
3. You’re expanding your practice
Things are going well with your practice. You have a growing waitlist, and you can begin being picky about who you take on as clients.
In fact, you have so many referrals who want to become clients that you’re ready to hire another therapist to join your practice.
Be warned: Hiring another therapist—whether they’re a contractor or an employee—is going to increase your office admin burden.
Once you hire another therapist, you’ll need to:
- Start scheduling hours in the office in such a way that you can both use the space without stepping on each other's toes
- Set up payroll. Meaning, you’ll spend extra time tracking, depositing, and moving extra cash, and coordinating with your bookkeeper to make sure it’s categorized correctly.
- Forward queries from potential new clients to the other therapist at your practice
The extra earnings from hiring another therapist could go a significant way to offsetting the cost of paying an administrative assistant—while saving you time and energy, too.
4. Your therapy practice is becoming more complex
You may not necessarily be at the point where you’re ready to hire another therapist to your staff, but a growing practice can still introduce complexities that eat up more of your time with office admin.
For instance, you may recently have added new revenue streams, such as:
- Off-site workshops or group therapy sessions
- Contracts with institutional clients
- Online courses
- Writing or speaking gigs
- Clinical supervision
- Freelance consulting and business coaching for other therapists
There are other ways therapy practices become more complex, too, like:
- Taking on remote clients
- Moving from subletting office space to opening your own office
- Moving from a fully remote home office to in-person sessions
- Subletting your current office space to generate extra revenue
All of these impact your schedule, your bookkeeping (and the information you need to communicate to a bookkeeper, if you have a professional working for you), the types of records you need to keep, and your tax filing.
So, if you find these changes are beginning to push you to the brink—in terms of stress, and extra work hours—it’s time to consider whether you need an administrative assistant to help relieve the burden.
What does an administrative assistant do?
As well as recognizing the signs you should hire an administrative assistant for your therapy practice, it’s important to understand what an administrative assistant can do for you.
An administrative assistant for a therapy practice may handle some or all of the following:
- Scheduling existing clients
- New client intake
- Office upkeep and tidying
- Scheduling cleaning and repair services
- Paying bills (utilities, rent, etc.)
- Communications with bookkeepers and accountants
- Coordinating payroll
- Renewing business insurance and licenses
- Correspondence with contractors, landlords, insurance panels, etc.
- Answering all incoming calls or emails
- Greeting clients who have arrived for appointments
Exactly which tasks you hire an admin assistant to handle will depend on the role you plan for them, and the needs of your practice.
Can you afford an administrative assistant?
For most therapists, the biggest barrier to hiring an administrative assistant is money.
Even if you’ve seen your practice grow from a small business, with just a few clients, into something much more significant, you may find you’re still stuck in the penny pinching money mindset of a new business owner.
With that attitude, it’s easy to think of hiring an administrative assistant as an extravagant expense, rather than as a smart move that could save you money in the long run.
The cost of hiring an administrative assistant varies considerably, based on two factors: Hourly rate, and work style.
Hourly rates for therapy practice administrative assistants
According to Indeed, typical salaries for administrative assistants in the USA range from $7.25 to $30.05 per hour.
Of that range, the most common rate is $15.88 per hour.
For any administrative assistant you consider hiring, you can expect their hourly rate to be determined by experience and level of training.
All else being equal, an admin assistant who has received a diploma or certificate in office management, for instance, may expect higher pay than one who has entirely learned on the job.
The number of years’ experience an individual has will affect their rate, but so will any specializations they have. Anticipate that an admin assistant who specializes in working with therapists or people in adjacent fields will cost more.
Work styles of therapy practice administrative assistants
“Work style” refers both to the working hours, per week, of an administrative assistant, and the way in which they do the work—whether remotely or in-house.
Broadly, work style can be broken up into three categories:
- Full-time, in-house. Your assistant works 35 - 40 hours per week, out of your office. If you have a solo practice, it’s unlikely you will hire an assistant like this. But for larger group practices, an in-house admin assistant may make sense.
- Part-time, in-house. Your assistant works in your office less than 35 hours per week. How you do this can vary considerably: Your assistant may come in 8 hours per week in order to do some admin work and tidy the office, without ever interacting with your clients; or they may work 30 hours a week, serving as front desk person while you see clients and fulfilling other administrative duties.
- Part-time, remote. Your assistant handles admin tasks online, from their own office or home office, without interacting with clients or fulfilling any other in-office duties. If you only need a few hours of admin work completed per week, this may be the best choice. Many fully remote admin assistants have multiple clients, working just a few hours for each client per week.
There’s a fourth option: Having an administrative assistant who works both in-office and remotely. In that case, they may only come into the office when they’re needed in-person—for instance, to greet clients on days that you’re working—while handling other duties remotely.
Budgeting for an administrative assistant
Unless you’re hiring them to complete a short-term contract, you will likely need to hire your admin assistant as an employee.
That entails setting up payroll. You can learn more from our article on payroll for therapy practices.
You’ll also need to create a new budget item. Your assistant’s salary is a recurring expense that needs to be accounted for. And, like most other recurring expenses—rent, utilities, and your business license—it’s one payment you simply cannot afford to miss.
Not only is an assistant you fail to pay unlikely to keep working for you much longer, but it could land you on the wrong end of legal proceedings.
When you have a salary to pay, cash flow becomes important. Cash flow is the rate at which income earned (by billing clients or filing insurance claims) becomes cash in the bank. You can learn more from our article on cash flow from therapists.
Before hiring an assistant, talk to your accountant about the realities of having an employee on payroll. They may be able to recommend some best practices to ensure you’re able to meet your obligations as an employer, as well as some support you can put in place—such as a line of credit, or business savings—in case you don hit a cash flow gap.
When you’ve got an employee to pay—whether it’s a remote assistant working a few hours per week, or an in-office admin for your group practice—you need to be sure you have the resources to do so.
Meaning, if you’ve been putting off creating a budget for your therapy practice, or your current budget is out of date, now is the time to tackle it. Get started with our guide to budgeting for therapists.
This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult their own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post.
Bryce Warnes is a West Coast writer specializing in small business finances.