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Have you thought about setting up a private practice? If you’re a speech-language pathologist, you’re not alone. While many SLPs start their careers in skilled nursing facilities, schools, or hospitals, few go on to establish their own practice. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 3% of SLPs are self-employed despite the fact that it can provide greater career freedom along with higher earning potential.
So, what’s stopping you from opening your own practice? We spoke with three speech-language pathologists who made the leap to find out how they did it and what advice they’d give to other SLPs thinking about starting a private practice.
Become Your Own Boss
One of the most significant perks of starting a private practice is getting to run things your way. It’s not just about the ability to call the shots and set your own schedule. For the SLPs we talked to, private practice also offered them the opportunity to help others in a more effective way.
Katie made the decision to stop working in a skilled nursing facility due to concerns about unethical client treatment. In addition, she was frustrated by constantly being told that she wasn’t allowed to order the tests that her clients needed due to the facility’s budget. The last straw came when Katie was denied services that she felt her clients needed three times in one day. That was the day she decided to start her own practice.
Miki faced similar frustrations through her work at various healthcare facilities. After getting involved with a mastermind class, however, she found the confidence she needed to start her own private practice while still working full time at an acute care hospital. In fact, both she and Katie started their practices just four years into their careers as SLPs, proving that it’s never “too early” to set out on your own.
For Emily, a move to a new city was the catalyst for establishing a private practice. As a new mom, she decided that the freedom of making her own schedule would be life-changing not only for her, but for her family as well. Plus, she found that her area was lacking an SLP specializing in brain injuries. In addition to becoming her own boss, she was able to help a specific population in need of expert SLP services.
Find Your Niche
If there was one common theme in our interviews with private practice SLPs, it’s this: “You have to find your niche in your community.” As mentioned previously, Emily established her niche with brain injury clients. Katie found that she was the only private practice SLP in her area to work solely with adults, while Miki discovered that her bilingual talents were ideally suited to working with children whose first language is Japanese.
In some cases, SLPs stumble into their niche by chance. Maybe they work with a certain client type and find that’s where they really excel, or perhaps someone suggests that they focus on a particular specialty. If you don’t find your niche naturally, you’ll have to do some digging to figure out what sets you apart and what your community needs.
Not sure which specialty is right for you? A good place to start is the ASHA ProFind tool. Search your area to find out what services SLPs are offering. You may be able to uncover a niche that’s been overlooked, giving you the opportunity to bring something unique to your community.
Transitions are to be expected when going from skilled nursing facility employee to self-employed private practice owner. However, one of the most critical tasks when starting your own SLP private practice is learning how to market yourself. As an employee at an educational or healthcare facility, the clients come to you. But with a private practice, you need to make your presence known and give clients a reason to choose you over other options.
Step one is listing yourself on ASHA ProFind, which Emily found to be incredibly effective. Before she was even ready to accept clients, she already had people reaching out to her who found her from this listing.
For Miki, she leveraged her unique skill set in finding clients for her private practice. The Japanese community has a site like Craigslist where she was able to post about the services she offered and market herself to her local community.
Katie decided to take a multipronged marketing approach that involved speaking at support groups, starting a local Facebook group, and encouraging word-of-mouth marketing from her clients. In the future, she’s also planning to create marketing materials that she can distribute directly to doctors to increase referrals. Are you thinking about making the shift to private practice? SimplePractice can help. Learn more about our practice management tools that help you create efficient systems for appointment notes, scheduling, billing, and more.