Best Business Practices For Independent Career Professionals For 2015!

By Sue Aiken

As recent as the 2014 NCDA Career Development conference in Long Beach, California, I was surprised and pleased to learn how many of us independents were in attendance and that the need to share ideas resonated with me as vitally important to our professional, economic development.

Graduate students and alumni alike during my tenure at John F. Kennedy University often struggled with the notion of making money, as in making a living, as a career counselor.
Is there some thought out there that anyone in the helping professions is not really supposed to support him or herself?  Even non-profits make money for salaries.    Shouldn’t we know and practice BOTH excellent counseling competencies AND those of running a business whether it is a solo practice, small business or a non-profit?  I hope your answer is “Yes!”

That said…. what are best practices you would care to share here in this web magazine with your fellow readers?  Here are a few links to relevant articles in the Career Convergence archives for your consideration and inspiration before writing your own article.   





Possible Categories or Topics for New Articles:

  • Marketing of services- What is your most successful source of clients?  How much time per week do you put into marketing? 
  • What have you found to work best for you in getting clients?
  • Business Plan – Determining fees, Mission and Vision, Clarity on what you offer, Clarity on who your clients are. Do you see anyone or do you have specializations?
  • Financial management or How you get paid - Do you accept credit cards, checks and cash?  Do you offer Pay Pal?  When do you expect payment?
  • Location of office – home or elsewhere?  
  • How do you work -Work alone, have partners, share office space with related services, form a counseling group?
  • Source of income - single source or multiple ones?  Does one of your sources provide benefits?  How varied are your skill sets and certificates, degrees?  Do you have contracts that provide clients on a regular basis?
  • Professional Development – number of hours per month, per year?  Do you set learning goals each year?  Do you give back to your community and your profession?  Who are your mentors?  Are you part of a consortium of your peers?

Share Your Story so Others Can Benefit – Here’s Mine:
For most of my 30 plus years as a career development professional I have worn many hats and am never bored!   I had a private practice that took various shapes: my own office space shared with one other career counselor, shared offices with a consortium of counselors, as well as seeing private clients within both non-profit and for profit organizations.  This led to collaboration with counselors on presenting workshops and a specialization of career services designed for lawyers.  We were able to set up a contract with the county Bar Association for an EAP-like program so their members received 3 sessions of career counseling at no charge.  We did not have to do any marketing for these clients and we always got paid! A real bonus!

This arrangement led to opportunities for speaking, writing articles and other free marketing opportunities.  One other favorite network was a group of fellow independent career counselors, all with different specializations.  We met monthly for many years to collaborate, support and promote one another, share resources and provide empathy.  This is hard work and feedback like this is invaluable.

At the same time, my work as program chair of the John F. Kennedy University graduate program in Career Development gave me the opportunities, over 15 years of teaching, of mentoring, advising, serving as liaison, and facilitating on so many levels.  I learned about organizational challenges and opportunities and loved the diversity of my work.  One day I was in San Francisco working with clients and the next in my university office organizing events, hiring faculty, interviewing potential students and greeting alumni.  

My closing career chapter, as I prepared to move to a more rural environment and to cut back on work, was a fantastic ten-year stretch via Career Development Alliance with a team of other career counselors to provide a government agency with virtual career services.  I love variety and value independence, so this fit me perfectly.

Benefits of Sharing
What do you love and value as a career professional?  What tools have been essential to your story?  
As usual we have more questions than answers until all of you write an article about your best business practices for the 2015 Independent section of the NCDA Career Convergence online magazine! A content article about your specialization(s) would be appreciated as well.  How does it benefit your business and you professionally and personally?

This leads to my closing thought about sharing our knowledge, skills and resources:
I have had the good fortune to be a part of a state association, and to volunteer for NCDA in the capacity of Associate Editor of the Career Convergence magazine.  Consider that this is done in the name of good business sense.  It will widen your network, simplify marketing efforts, increase your insights and skills, and add not only to your resume but also to your self-confidence.  I was fortunate to observe and learn from Howard Figler, Carol Gelatt, HB Gelatt , Betsy Collard, Richard Bolles, Mark Guterman and so many others.  From whom do you learn?

Click on the link to the submission guidelines for Career Convergence.  Your ability to write and share an article with your professional colleagues will amaze you!   

Sue AikenSue Aiken lives on the Central Coast of California enjoying the best of both worlds:  beautiful community and connections to her professional life.  She lives in co-housing where she has put her learned skills as a career counselor and group facilitator to work nearly every day.  New interests include starting up a community food cooperative and permaculture.  She has found the best practices of these new interests include so much of what she experienced both in her own career development and that of her clients and colleagues.  Please contact her at saiken001@charter.net

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Janet Wall   on Tuesday 12/02/2014 at 08:06 AM

You comments are very important to those in independent practice or are entrepreneurs. CEUonestop held a very informative webinar on these topics called Building a Profitable Private Practice in the Career Development Industry. This was led by two entrepreneurs Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark of the Career Thoughts Leaders Consortium.
The session was recorded and is available. It is loaded with excellent practical and actionable tips. I was able to implement some of their ideas immediately.

Carla Hunter   on Wednesday 01/14/2015 at 08:10 PM

Great article!! I also believe to succeed, a private practice career counselor has to be resilient and agile not always knowing what the future will bring. Exciting and scary at the same time. This develops strong empathy skills.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.