Things I learnt when starting my OT business

Private practice is something that I was always interested in. I remember in University taking a module on private practice. My colleague Janice and I developed a fake business and made projections about what it would offer? Who it would serve? And how it would run?  It was far from a business course but it sparked my interest in working in private practice.

After working for a few years in acute care, cementing the foundational knowledge of the life cycle of a client, I began my career in pediatrics. Fast forward a few years and I was working in a small town in the school system. Encountering families that had funding for Occupational Therapy services, but no Occupational Therapist to do the work. I wanted to fill that gap in service for these families and thus embarked into private practice, that was in 2012. I think for many this is how we start out, taking a client or two and testing the waters of private practice. 

In 2018, after a baby and moving a few times, I took the plunge. Giving notice to my employer was super anxiety-provoking even though I had a plan, had made connections, and lined up a few clients. Replacing a part-time caseload and financially staying afloat was my biggest fear. 

I have jumped in with two feet and figure it out as I go, kind of attitude. While this may have created a more chaotic start, it propelled me into action, and for that I am grateful, otherwise, I might never have taken the plunge. It was a steep learning curve, one I was very excited about, and provided me with tons of gems of wisdom. So to name a few, here is a list of things I learned when starting my OT business (and things I wished I had done). 

 

1. Belief in Self

One thing people don’t talk about when planning a business is the immense amount of self-belief and confidence it takes to promote your own services and sell them to others. You have to have a conviction that the services that you provide your clients are what they need and will make their lives better. 

What I did:  I leaned on a life coach and a few good friends who helped to coach me through the feelings of fear and imposter syndrome that came up. 

 

2. There is always enough work

When working in private practice, referrals will ebb and flow, and the ups and downs can make it more difficult to plan your schedule. But 1 thing is for sure, there is always enough work to go around. 

What I did: I would plan out 4-6 month blocks of recurring client events at a time, while there were some changes, it created some stability of where I would be traveling to and how many clients I would see in a day. 

 

3. Time blocking

As a solo practitioner working from home, I had to balance my time between the admin task, direct client activities, and travel, as well as my personal life. It takes experimenting with your schedule to figure out what works best for you. Like, when do you prefer to see clients, or write reports and then build your weekly schedule according to that being sure to schedule time for indirect client activities.

What I did: In each new block, I would adjust based on what I learned in the previous block. What I learned worked well for me, was to have travel days full of seeing clients, and paperwork/admin days separate. 

 

4. Having repeatable systems in place saves time

Trying to keep yourself organized while also handling clients’ personal health information requires systems. I was not willing to work for myself without the proper system to back me up. I had done that before and found it wasted a lot of my time I was not willing to give up on inefficient processes. Having a practice management system that could support all client activities was a must. It is very true what they say, slow down to speed up. You need to take time to learn your business workflow, set up the systems and tech that will help you to live in your zone of genius, and deliver great services. Processes and systems are iterative processes and take time to refine. 

What I did: I first set up Therabyte, to support the admin side of the business, created a business email with outlook, and had a resource folder on my computer. I defined my intake and invoicing process and communicate that to clients via intake and consent documents. 

5. Build collaborations and Lean on the community for client success

Having an external team of professionals and referral sources that you can lean on, adds to the richness of your business experience for yourself and your clients.  

What I did: Prior to taking on clients, I emailed every SLP, OT, and Behaviour consultant in my area. I introduced myself and my services. I then created relationships that resulted in a steady flow of referrals. 

 

6. Learn your zone of genius and refer out for other things

One thing that is great about private practice is you can say yes or no to any referral that comes in. You get to define the type of customer you serve. When I first started, I took any and every referral. Since then, I have narrowed down the types of clients I enjoy working with and I refer the others to other professionals in my area that will better serve them. This includes clients who require specialized services such as sleep support. 

What I did: Partnered with an OT that provides sleep coaching to my clients. Since starting, I then hired a rehab assistant who offers weekly treatment as I prefer to work more consultative in nature and another assistant who can create specialized visuals for clients. 

 

7. Value of services

Price yourself for what you offer. Price can be a challenging topic, we all have money stories that don’t serve us and can inadvertently affect how we price our services. It’s necessary to consider all the things that you are offering and any associated costs, equipment, travel, prep, training, insurance, space, time, etc. 

What I did: Session pricing allows me to bundle my services into hourly packages. This creates transparent pricing for both myself and the client and makes tracking soo much easier as I only have to track the direct hours spent not the indirect. Obviously depending on who is paying you for your services, this may or may not work. 

 

If you have met me, you know that I am a huge advocate for entrepreneurship and working in private practice. The world we live in has so many needs that are not filled by the main healthcare system. Working in private practice allows you to cater your services to serve a specific group of people and to tailor what you offer to best meet the needs of your client. While many people leave public practice and go into private to get away from institutional bureaucracy. Working for yourself comes will a whole host of new learning and challenges. You have probably heard it said that you replace one set of problems for another. While that may be true, the potential for personal and professional growth cannot be compared. Working for yourself will challenge you on all levels and will call on you to be your best self. 

 

 

Good luck as you start or grow your business. 

 

Always happy to hop on a call and talk with and support you on your journey in private practice. 

You can book a call with me here

 

Ashley

OT & Co-founder Therabyte App

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