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You may be at a point in your life where you want to go out on your own in a private practice and maybe even do some consulting.  Or you may have a passion for something and feel inspired to start a nonprofit supporting the cause. Or you may already have taken one of these steps and want to maintain or grow what you have started. You may find that for you, deciding to make these changes follows the same stages as the transtheoretical model of change – pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.  The preparation stage is critical.

There are many web resources for persons deciding on whether to go into business or whether to embark on starting a nonprofit. There are also many web resources for those on low budgets as sole proprietors of a counseling practice, and there are also some resources for nonprofit organizations to save money and to help develop the organization. Let’s explore some of these.

Contemplation and Preparation Resources

For Counselors Graduate school teaches you all about how to be a counselor. They don’t teach you about the business aspect. A good resource for counselors is ACA and VCA. Network and talk to therapists you already know in private practice and see what has worked and not worked for them. Again, do your research and preparation.  You can get connected to liability insurance through VCA and ACA. If you are going into private practice, allow time for getting added to insurance panels – it can take months for the process to be completed.  You may have to complete forms and submit information to individual companies. There is CAQH – http://www.caqh.org/ for streamlining the process. You also need a national provider number. Information on this is at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/Welcome.do

Business Resources for Entrepreneurs – If you have thoughts about going into business for yourself, or if you or your group needs help with business plans and marketing and other issues, check out these resources.  You may also find help at your local government website, including the process for obtaining a business license, or the local chamber of commerce web site. For example, you can find the Williamsburg Chamber resources at http://www.williamsburgcc.com/business-start/ and Hampton Roads at http://www.hamptonroadschamber.com/ .  To find your Virginia local government website, the state has a list of these at http://www.statelocalgov.net/state-va.cfm.  – just scroll down the page for the lists. If you are in a state other than Virginia, you can find listings at http://www.statelocalgov.net/. And you want to check on liability insurance for malpractice and also for property, injury, etc.

  • SCORE – http://www.score.org/ – SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They have been doing this for nearly fifty years. SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to a network of 11,000+ volunteers, they are able to deliver their services at no charge or at very low cost. They also provide a mentoring program as well as workshops and local volunteers.
  • Small Business Administration – http://www.sba.gov/ – This site has a wealth of information for starting and growing a business.
  • Business One Stop – http://www.bos.virginia.gov/index.shtml – Guide to starting a business in Virginia
  • Enloop for writing a business plan – https://www.enloop.com/

Business Resources for Nonprofits – If you are a 501(c )(3) nonprofit organization, you can get a lot of help from Grass Roots. For starters you can get free website space at Blue Host. You will be able to put up a straight HTML site or use one of the content management systems listed below, plus a whole lot more software. It also includes email, store software, and plug-ins for your content management system, as well as learning management systems.  But there is so much more to Grass Roots. Their website describes the organization as helping “nonprofit organizations succeed, by leveraging technology to accelerate their charitable efforts. When you join Grassroots.org, you join with thousands of nonprofits, volunteers, businesses and donors working together to change the world.”

Action Resources

These are some general tools you can use regardless of the business you are in.

Office Software – The standard office suite is Microsoft Office. It can be costly, and various packages have different software included. For example, Publisher and Access are not included in the Home and Student Office edition. There is a subscription plan for Office 365. What are the low cost or no cost options? Open Source office suites have been around for years.  Open Source means that the software code is open to modification by anyone and is the software is free to download, install and use. That also means, though, that you are pretty much on your own for support. There are communities you can join and ask questions, and the software site typically keeps support, frequently asked questions and support sections. Click on the links for more information about each application. Both Google and Microsoft have online versions of office products.

Online Storage, File Sharing and Collaboration – With these you can write and create projects together and share files with others. You can keep a file private – just for you – or you can share it with individuals you specify, or you can make it open so that anyone can see it. Google and OneDrive have the office software built in. The others are online or “cloud” storage.

Encryption – There are times when for privacy and confidentiality you may want to encrypt files or your entire hard drive. For instance, you may want to keep records in a document or spreadsheet template you create rather than pay for electronic health records software. To keep your documents private, you can store them as encrypted files or you can encrypt your entire drive.

Getting the Word Out – There are lots of options here. You can use MailChimp to set up your own direct electronic mail list or newsletter for your business or your organization. There is a free version, and you can create your own templates if you want. You can set up listservs with Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. SlideShare allows you to embed your PowerPoint presentations on your website or sites like LinkedIn. Twitter has an option that allows you to embed your account feed into your web page so you can easily update information to your site with just a Tweet. Blogger is owned by Google, and you can add newsfeeds and your Facebook feed to it for constant fresh content. You can also monetize it with Google Ads. You can also embed video from your YouTube Channel and slide shows of photos from Picasaweb. The list below includes social media, pod casting, blogging, and other sites for sharing information.  Lastly, don’t forget about press releases. You can find a how-to with examples at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-write-a-press-release-with-examples/.

One thing to remember about these is that they take time and work. Don’t overdo them or over commit. You can end up spending all your time on your web projects and not have much time for your business or your organization. Have a clear vision of how you want to use them. For social networking sites, be mindful of the boundary between personal and business and what you want kept private. We won’t discuss each of these since many of them change formats and options periodically. Just click the links and explore.

Graphics Software – Photoshop is great tool, but it is also costly, and is now on a subscription basis.

Surveys – You may need surveys for feedback from customers or stakeholders, or you may need it for a research project. Both these products have free versions.

Collaborating Live – These products allow you to collaborate online in various ways – conference calling, videoconferencing, sharing files, instant messaging, etc.  Google Voice allows you to set up an account in which you can embed a gadget on your web page so that people can call you from your site. When someone leaves a voicemail, you can call for it, check it on your Google Voice page, and receive both a text and an email with the message. The text and email use voice recognition to change the vocal into text, and the quality varies depending on the phone connection and the enunciation of the caller.

Audio Recording and Editing and Video Converting and Recording – Software to help you put together audio and video projects for you site, your podcast, or your video channel. Screen recorders enable you to record your computer screen so that you can produce tutorials from your computer.

Space for Fee Websites – There are lots of places you can start your own website besides Facebook. Here are a few. You can still buy your own domain name, like counselingservices.com, and then have a site at one of these servers and point your domain to your free site. If you are using Google Sites, your free URL is sites.google.com/site/counselingservices. Just go to the control panel of the company you bought your domain from (like Blue Host, Fat Cow, Yahoo, GoDaddy and many others) and point your domain name to the URL. The company you bought your domain name from can explain how that is done. It is actually a very simple process.

Content Management Systems and Learning Management Systems – These allow you to have more than one person be responsible for various sections of the site, each with their own log in. They are open source so you would have the responsibility of doing the upgrades and security updates.

Other

If you know of other resources, please feel free to share them. We all get better when we work together.

After decades in public mental health, I am moving into the private arena.  My new location is Psychological Associates of Williamsburg.   Right now our website is at http://www.widomaker.com/~rockwell/psyassoc/PsyAssociates/index.html until we get a domain name. I will also be doing consultation work in areas such as fostering collaboration and leadership in organizations and also in web site development. Check back here for articles and updates or just subscribe via RSS feeds.  You can also contact me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/stanrockwell.

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