Happy Friday! Hope you are soaking up one of your last summer weekends! Today, I’m sharing a guest post written by Jena over at Independent Clinician. I hope you find it helpful! – Jenna
Nearly every SLP I’ve ever known has at some point dreamed of having their own private practice.
Some clinicians are interested in having a more flexible schedule. Or autonomy. Or clinical independence. Or making more money.
One common misconception about private practice is that you have to have rented clinic space, employees and /or that you have to do it full-time. The good news is, many clinicians decide to treat their own private clients “on the side” of a regular job. This allows you to keep the financial stability of a regular job while allowing you to earn additional income and see if private practice is right for you.
I started treating my own private clients “on the side” of my job as an SLP in a rehabilitation hospital back in 2006. After a few years of learning how to start and run my own private practice, I began teaching SLPs, OTs and PTs how to start their practices on my site The Independent Clinician Since then I have helped thousands of clinicians get the flexibility, freedom, and income that they deserve.
If treating private clients appeals to you, I want to answer some questions that you may have. These questions come up almost daily on my Independent Clinician Facebook page and in a private group I run called “SLP Private Practice for Beginners.”
So… with no further adieu, here are five of the most common questions I get asked (almost daily!) and answers that (hopefully!) make sense.
- How can you minimize risks involved with treating private clients?
Everyone who asks about “the risks” involved in treating private clients has a different fear in mind.
Some people are worried about getting sued by clients and others are afraid of financial risks such as not making enough money. The easiest way for me to explain this is: you need to provide excellent therapy to clients in a way that works for you.
The easiest way to minimize risk of a lawsuit when treating private clients is to make sure that in addition to providing excellent therapy, you have professional liability insurance. I personally use and recommend a company called HPSO (Healthcare Providers Service Organization). In order to reduce financial risks, I recommend treating clients part-time and “on the side” until you’re able to build your private caseload enough to reduce your hours at your “regular” job.
People talk about “jumping in” to private practice – but that is risky!
Take your time. Start with one client and build from there. Do not quit your job and then start a private practice. There are certainly some private practitioners who have been able to do this successfully but far more who have gotten overwhelmed and regretted their decision.
- How much experience should you have before you start?
Most clients and family members who seek private therapy assume that the private practitioner they are hiring is an experts in their field. You don’t have to be an expert in every aspect of speech-language pathology but you need to be an expert in what you’re treating.
Private practice gives you the freedom to specialize in your clinical passion(s). So whether you love to work with kids with apraxia of speech or adults with aphasia, get as much experience as you can (in person and through continuing education) so that your private therapy services are extremely valuable to your clients.
I usually recommend waiting until about a year after completing your CF before you get started. That way you’ll have about 2 years of experience under your belt before getting stared.
- What is the cost of starting a private practice?
I hate it when people say, “It depends,” but it depends
You absolutely need professional liability insurance, which costs about $100/year. Depending on what town you live in, you may also need a business certificate, which costs about $25.
To keep expenses how, create treatment materials and choose to order inexpensive marketing materials from sites like VistaPrint.
The biggest cost for private practice owners is renting clinic space. I recommend starting by treating clients in their homes, which is free!
- How do you determine your rate / get paid?
Do not provide private therapy services for free – even if you would! You shouldn’t feel badly for charging for your services. Private speech therapy services are incredibly valuable and your clients are willing to pay for increased quality of life via their therapeutic gains.
There is no such thing as a typical “going rate.” Your rate should be based on the value to that you provide as a clinician, which speaks to your level of experience and type / duration of treatment provided. I get into more detail about how much to charge for private speech therapy.
I usually recommend getting started with private pay clients before thinking about becoming a health insurance provider. Contracting with health insurance companies is a great way to get referrals but the process of getting accepted and paid can be confusing. There is a great (and free!) service called Freshbooks that creates professional-looking invoices that will help you get paid and track your income.
- Can you treat private clients “on the side”?
Yes – and this is how you should start.
It may mean treating clients after work, on weekends or during the summer. You can either choose to maintain this “on the side” model or eventually shift your hours to part-time as your caseload and demand for your services grow.
Everyone has different private practice dreams. Some clinicians may want to have a bustling brick and mortar practice with employees and magazine subscriptions and others want to stay small and work independently.
Private practice isn’t for everyone but if you think it might be for you, take the above information and start small. If you need some additional help, visit www.IndependentClinician.com
Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist based in in Boston, Massachusetts. She is passionate about helping adult survivors of stroke and brain injury regain prior functions and be successful in their new lives. She was a consultant for MTV’s True Life: I Have a Traumatic Brain Injury and Lisa Genova’s novel, Left Neglected. In addition to helping her patients, she has taught thousands of SLPs, OTs and PTs how to start their own private practices on her site The Independent Clinician She is the author of two books: The Independent Clinician Guide to Private Patients and The Independent Clinician Guide to Creating a Web Presence.
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heidi britz says
Jena, great advice! I’ve been seeing 4 kiddos in addition to my full time school SLP job for a few years. I would add that SLPs should consider hiring a billing person to file the paperwork and deal with insurance companies/medicaid when you head down that road. My billing person is worth her weight in gold!! She reduces my stress significantly, letting me enjoy the part of my job that I love, therapy!
I couldn’t agree more! Once you’re able to afford hiring someone to take care of billing it frees you up to do what you do best: help clients.
Thank you for your comment!
Ashley Kurth says
Can I still be a partner in a LLC during my CF year? My full time position is in a high school district but my friend who has her CCC’s and I want to open a LLC. Any response back to this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot!!!
Jackie Riggs says
Do you need a referral to treat private pay clients?