Starting a Speech Therapy Private Practice
Starting a speech therapy private practice such as all of the need-to-know information, from how to set up the required business credentials to managing day to day details like finances, documentation, and growing your caseload are covered in this blog. Also, the top tools to make it all run smoothly.
Flexibility, a salary without a ceiling, and being your own boss. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
You might be a seasoned therapist who’s burnt out from some of the constraints of your full time job, interested in earning an extra income, or a new grad just getting started as an SLP.
No matter the current stage in your career as a Speech-Language Pathologist, if you’ve thought of starting your own private practice, you certainly aren’t alone!
Though many SLPs dream about the potential benefits of starting their own practice, they’re often stopped by thoughts of what’s involved. Legal requirements, applying for business entities, documentation, marketing - it can all be overwhelming to say the least.
Not to worry!
Consider this your ultimate guide to starting a private speech-language pathology practice.
Follow these simple steps to get started!
Establish Your Business
To establish your Private Speech Therapy Practice, you’ll need to check off some boxes for completing the necessary business and legal requirements.
Take a deep breath. This part does NOT have to be as intimidating as it might seem!
Here’s what you’ll need.
#1: Set up your Business Entity
First, decide on a name for your practice. Some SLPs simply use their first and last name with their credentials (MS, CCC-SLP), while others choose to come up with a name for their private practice.
Next, the business entity; LLC or Sole Proprietor?
These are the two that SLPs who own a private practice typically use. The main difference between an LLC (Limited Liability Company) and being a Sole Proprietorship is that an LLC offers personal liability protection.
Read up a little more on the differences and decide which route you want to go for your business. Once you’ve decided, apply for the entity through the state in which you live. You can typically find the required forms online through your state’s website.
#2: Apply for a Government Issued Tax ID Number (TIN/EIN)
A Tax Identification Number (also called an Employer Identification Number) will be necessary for tax purposes for your private speech therapy practice.
You can apply for a free TIN/EIN online through the IRS website.
#3: Obtain an NPI Number
NPI stands for National Provider Identifier number. Having an NPI is required for all Speech-Language Pathologists to bill insurance companies.
Considering only accepting private pay? Even if you don’t plan on billing insurance directly, some clients may pay you in cash and request what’s called a superbill. A superbill will need to have your NPI number listed so clients can submit that to their insurance to request reimbursement if they choose.
If you do not have an NPI number, you can apply for one here.
If you are already a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist in the schools or a medical setting such as a hospital or rehab center, you can find your NPI number in the government’s registry here. It’s important to note that you can use your existing personal NPI number if you choose to set up your business entity as a sole proprietorship. If you’re starting an LLC, you may need a different type of NPI, which is a Type 2 (group) number. Review the details on what’s required on the NPI registry website.
#4: Set up a HIPAA Compliant Structure
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law that protects clients’ privacy. HIPAA regulations govern the way that businesses provide privacy and security of health information, like the storage and transmission of documentation of treatment notes and evaluation reports for Speech Therapy. The law also includes regulations on electronic standards, for example, conducting Teletherapy sessions and communicating with clients and families through a secure/HIPAA-compliant connection.
It is crucial that you set up your private speech therapy practice in a way that complies with HIPAA standards. Failing to comply with HIPAA can result in civil monetary penalties up to a yearly maximum of $1.5 million.
Using a practice management software like TheraPlatform is an easy way to ensure that your teletherapy sessions are conducted over a HIPAA-compliant connection, and that therapy notes, reports, insurance information and other documentation follow the laws to protect your clients’ privacy.
#5: Get Liability Insurance
Another non-negotiable when it comes to the legal aspects of starting your private speech therapy practice? Professional liability insurance.
Liability insurance is a must as a Speech-Language Pathologist. It legally protects you from unforeseen events like a client falling out of his chair and hurting his arm during one of your sessions.
As a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), you’re eligible for coverage with premiums as low as $60 a year through proliability.
Benefits of Starting a Private Practice
Now that we’ve simplified the major steps for starting a private Speech Therapy practice, let’s talk about the benefits - and there are many!
- No salary cap. You have the opportunity to make a higher salary by starting your own practice because there are no restrictions as there are when you’re employed.
- Flexible hours. You get to make your own hours. If your private practice is going to be in addition to your full-time job, you can schedule clients for weekends or evenings. If you choose to solely work through your private practice, you can enjoy the freedom of scheduling clients in a way that fits your lifestyle. Need the mornings and afternoons to pick your kids up from school? Or need to run to a doctor’s office during the work day? You are your own boss!
- Potentially reduced hours. Because you’re not paying a cut of your salary to an employer to cover overhead costs, you may earn more per hour or session by running your own practice. You could be able to earn the same amount by working 4 to 5 hours a day in your private practice as you would by working an 8-hour day in a school or hospital setting.
- Build your own caseload. You can choose to focus on working with clients who have certain diagnoses or disorders. When working for an employer as an SLP, you’ll likely be asked to treat whatever client the employer adds to your caseload, including those of various ages and speech and language diagnoses. Having your own practice is a chance to focus on treating the areas that you are truly passionate about and feel most competent in!
- Use a documentation system you like. When working in the schools or other settings, you must comply with the documentation or EMR system that the employer requires. In your own practice, you can select a system for writing therapy notes and scheduling that is simple and efficient.
Running Your Practice
You’ve laid the groundwork and officially started your private speech therapy practice! Now what?
Here’s what you can do to ensure your practice thrives.
- Set goals for your business.
Take some time to write down a few short and long-term goals for your private practice. A short term goal might be to see 10 clients a week. Or, if you’re keeping a job with an employer, it might be for your income from your practice to exceed that from your employer so you can run your practice full-time. A long-term goal might be for you to hire 1 employee in the next year. Make your goals SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
- Grow your caseload.
If there’s a specific population of clients you’d like to work with, grow your caseload accordingly. For example, consider reaching out to your state-run early intervention program to apply to be a provider if you’re interested in working with children from birth to 3. If you’d like to work with school-aged children, consider offering speech and language screenings in local private schools to build your client base.
- Market your practice.
Establishing a website where potential clients can find you is a great way to start off marketing your private practice. Being active in certain social media groups is one way to put your name out to families of those in need of speech and language therapy. Have a presence at events in your community where potential clients may be, such as walks that support those with certain diagnoses, like Apraxia of Speech or ALS. Consider reaching out to potential referral sources, like doctors’ offices in your area, to inform them about your practice.
- Manage your finances.
Be sure to carefully document the financial aspects of your practice. Set up automated invoicing and billing so you can stay on top of monthly finances.
- Utilize technology to build momentum.
Luckily, we live in a time where there are virtually endless affordable resources that can make starting a private speech therapy practice a possibility for just about any SLP who’s willing!
Take advantage of technology to get your business going. Post resources for clients and their families on your website to drive traffic. Offer virtual events, like story time over zoom for children or a Facebook live event providing speech and language tips for adults with Aphasia, to increase awareness about your practice and strengthen relationships with your clients.
Watch Your Private Practice Grow
Starting a private therapy practice is a dream of many Speech-Language Pathologists, but doesn’t become a reality for all of them. It’s true there’s a lot involved, but laying the groundwork and continuing to work at your business unfolds endless benefits and possibilities for you and your career as an SLP.
TheraPlatform is a fully integrated teletherapy and practice management software for therapists that offers resources, HIPAA compliant video conferencing, scheduling, electronic documentation, billing, a client portal, and more! Get started with a free trial.
Check out the TheraPlatorm Resources page and manage your practice all in one place.