With more and more OTs shifting into an occupational therapy private practice, we wanted to compile and share some insightful business-practitioner advice to keep you motivated and focused on your goal: being the best OT you can be, in the setting you prefer.
Be realistic and keep your personal standards.
“It is great to have flexibility within your work; however, it can be difficult to separate home and work life when working from home. They can encroach into each other’s space without you realizing and leave you feeling drained and frustrated. The benefits outweighed the limitations for me but I am always mindful and have improved the situation by taking on some specific office space,” says Rachel Wilson, independent OT and medico-legal rehabilitation specialist.
“When I started working for myself I loved it! It re-ignited my passion for OT, it gave me the chance to develop my professional skills and at the time of the arrival of our first child it gave me the work life balance I craved,” says Matthew Box, independent OT and director Inclusion. Me Ltd. “Eight years down the line I’ve added another child, I’ve become a company and I’ve learnt more as an OT and in business than I thought possible, but unfortunately, that work life balance maybe isn’t quite as even as I previously enjoyed and most of the time my kids now think I’m some distant relation who turns up stressed and grumpy just before bed time.”
“I am not everything to everyone,” admits Christel Seeberger, an independent OT with 18 years of experience owning her practice and over 25 years in the field. “To my clients and therapists on my team: I always try to be the best for you. But I have learned that I serve you best by realizing that I am not always it! So, now I always try to ask for and get you the best help, and sometimes I have to admit that I am not the best help even though I want to be.”
Plan, try, and be savvy.
“If you’re tempted to step out into being a private OT, think about what you’re going to offer and plan how you’re going to do it. Think goals, aims and objectives, but with some grown up stuff like insurance, money and legal costs thrown in. Discuss it with whomever you can and make sure you plan your journey,” advises Walter Brazil, an independent OT. “Then do it, try it out and see if it’s for you. There are lots of ways you can get into independent practice; it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done. Then again you might think it’s not for you and you prefer the safety of a regular job, with a steady monthly wage and holidays. Either way I bet you’ll be glad you did it on some level and I’m pretty sure you’ll wish you’d done it earlier!”
“I used to think, go with your gut. But now I don’t. Really. Neither should you go with the example of someone else, even in your field. Go with your detailed research. It isn’t rock, paper, scissors; your research always wins…I read about occupational therapy constantly, local, national and international books, journals, newsletters, social media and everything good I can find on the internet. It is the best use of my time, because it means in occupational therapy, my OTs and I can do what works best first,” says Seeberger.
“When it comes to marketing and acquiring patients, there are only a few things you will need. You will need business cards and letterhead. At this time, you do not need to spend money on any other marketing materials. You don’t need brochures, “Welcome to the Practice” folders, newsletters…there is no magic marketing widget that is going to have your phone ringing off the wall with new patients,” writes Jack Sparacio, in his article “How to Start an Outpatient Private Practice For Less Than $8,000.” The most important thing you need is time. You need to take the time to go out and establish relationships in the local community. Yes, I know your time is valuable, but there is nothing that can take the place of a strong personal relationship with a local referral source (physician, physician’s assistant, personal trainer, etc.). And the good news is you don’t have to lay out any money for your time.”
To save money on capital costs, Sparacio advises, “Watch for other clinics going out of business…Use your referral and peer resources and networking to find good deals. Most patients don’t care about fancy bells and whistles. They just want to get better.”