Starting a speech therapy private practice

speech therapy private practice

Starting a speech therapy private practice sounds pretty great. A flexible schedule, a salary without a ceiling, and being your own boss. 

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 a speech language pathologist. No matter the stage in your speech-language pathologist career, if you’ve thought of starting your own private practice, you certainly aren’t alone.

Starting a speech therapy private practice as a side hustle

One of the best parts of having a career as an SLP is the ability to easily become your own boss and stay in control of your income. By starting a speech therapy private practice as a side hustle, you can do exactly that.

With the right tools, it’s easy for speech therapists to quickly start earning extra income through their own practice.

SLPs consider launching a speech therapy private practice as a side hustle for a variety of reasons, including the ability to:
  • Earn more money during extra time outside of their full time job

  • Reduce hours with a full-time employer

  • Have the flexibility of seeing clients at times that best fit their schedule and daily life

  • Build a private practice to eventually transition to having it be a full-time job

  • Specialize in a certain disorder or treat clients within a specific population, by controlling which clients you take on your caseload

For many SLPs, starting a speech therapy private practice as a side hustle is the ultimate goal.

And you can reach it. Start by setting up an account with a teletherapy and practice management software for therapists. TheraPlatform is fully integrated to include everything you need.

You can continue to work at your full time or part time job as you slowly start accepting new clients onto your caseload privately. Consider adding just 1 or 2 in the beginning. Look at how things are going. Are you managing those few clients okay? Do you think you have the time to add more? Then go for it, because in this case, you’re the boss.

How to build your speech therapy private practice 

Though many SLPs dream about the potential benefits of starting their own speech therapy private 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.

There’s also the question of time. If I’m already busy working a full-time job as a speech therapist, how can I find the time to also start my own speech therapy private practice?

Not to worry.

Consider this your ultimate guide to starting a private speech-language pathology practice.

You’ll see that one of the keys to turning something that seems like a huge undertaking into something completely do-able is using the right practice management software.

It’s true that there are several steps on a to-do list for starting a speech therapy private practice.

Those include:
  • Setting up the required business credentials
  • Checking off daily tasks
  • Managing finances, such as billing
  • Completing documentation
  • Growing your caseload

The right tools can help you take care of all of these tasks to get your own speech therapy private practice up and running, smoothly managed and thriving. Follow these simple steps with all of the need-to-know information to get started.

Establish your business

To establish your speech therapy private 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 speech therapy private practice.

Choosing a name can cause a lot of new business owners to feel some pressure. But choosing a name for your practice can be fun.

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Here are a few tips:

Consider the clients you’ll serve. If you’re planning to work with the pediatric population, for example, you may want to select a name that’s very fun and childlike.

What message do you want to convey? Think about some keywords that show what you as an SLP want to reflect to your clients. Words like success, happy, or solutions are a few examples.

Keep it catchy. Select a name for your speech therapy private practice that’s relatively short (2 to 3 words) and that will be easy for your clients to recognize. Consider using some alliteration with words that start with the same letter, like Speechy Solutions.

Use something unique. When starting your own speech therapy private practice, it can feel like there are already so many speech therapy practices and every “good” name is taken. It can be helpful to look at existing business names for inspiration. At the same time, try to make something uniquely yours.

Next, the business entity – LLC or sole proprietorship?

These are the two entities that clinicians who own a speech therapy 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 health information privacy and security including the storage and transmission of documentation like treatment notes or 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.

#6 Build your team

Consider building a team of professionals that can help you in various aspects of your new practice.

Look for a qualified business attorney who specializes in small businesses. Legal counsel can help give you peace of mind that you are following all of the legally required steps involved in starting and maintaining a business.

Because you may be making the switch from having a W2 as a full-time employee to paying taxes as an independent contractor, an accountant is a helpful professional to have on your team. He or she can give you qualified advice for things like how much you should put away in order to be prepared for tax payments.

And because you’ll likely be utilizing technology in several ways to conduct and manage your new business, an IT specialist can be helpful to have as a resource when needed.

Download free private practice checklist

Benefits of starting speech therapy private practice 

Now that we’ve simplified the major steps for starting a speech therapy private practice, let’s talk about the benefits - and there are many.

  1. No salary cap. You have the opportunity to make a higher salary by starting your own speech therapy private practice because there are no restrictions as there are when you’re employed.
  2. Flexible hours. You get to make your own schedule. If your speech therapy 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 speech therapy, 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.
  3. 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 speech therapy private practice. You could be able to earn the same amount by working 4 to 5 hours a day in your speech therapy private practice as you would by working an 8-hour day in a school or hospital setting.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Managing your speech therapy private 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 speech therapy 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 or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Download our free SMART goals worksheet

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 and 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.

Utilize technology to build momentum

Luckily, we live in a time where there are virtually endless affordable resources that can make starting a speech therapy private 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.

Use top tools for managing your practice

The right tools can do a lot of the work for you when it comes to starting a private practice.

This includes:
  • Managing your finances. You’ll want to 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.

  • Providing templates for daily SOAP notes/treatment notes

  • HIPAA-compliant video conferencing. Teletherapy is an effective way to see clients that provides flexibility to both you and your clients. If you’re considering offering teletherapy as part of your private practice, you’ll need to use a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platform. TheraPlatform offers this functionality, in addition to tools and resources for therapists. 

Challenges of owning a speech therapy private practice

Of course, while there are many perks to owning a private practice, there are also some challenges that come with it.

For one, you’re wearing several different hats. When you work for someone else as an SLP, you’re focused on your role as a speech therapist and completing your required clinical documentation.

When you own your own speech therapy private practice, you’re also taking care of the billing, the business and legal sides of your practice, as well as finding your own clients to build up your speech therapy private practice (which could require you to do some marketing).

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You’ll also need to work to ensure you have a steady stream of income. In some settings, when a client cancels, the SLP will still be paid for their time (which they might spend completing other tasks, like documentation).

When you own a speech therapy private practice, cancellations mean you aren’t getting paid for that time. You can avoid this by booking yourself with a number of clients that account for things like this.

Maintaining a close line of communication with your clients and their caregivers can also help ensure that they provide ample notice of cancellations when they’re able to, allowing you to fill those times on your schedule with other clients.

Another challenge that can come with starting your own speech therapy private practice is the initial costs of starting the business.

You’ll need to be prepared for paying for things in the beginning to help get your practice started. That can include technology, a work space, therapy materials, and associated business costs like obtaining a business tax license and purchasing an LLC.

Watch your private practice grow

Starting a speech therapy private 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.

Making the leap full-time

Should you make the leap full-time into a speech therapy private practice?

Once you’ve successfully built up your side hustle, ask yourself that question.

Consider things like how easily you’ve been able to build up your caseload. Does there seem to be an opportunity to continue adding more clients if you have the availability? Do you enjoy working as a private practice owner? If you are and want to make the leap into a full-time speech therapy private practice, continue slowly adding more clients and reducing your hours, if possible at your previous full-time job.

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With the right mindset and tools, it’s possible.

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. TheraPlatform, an all-in-one EHR, practice management and teletherapy tool was built for therapists to help them save time on admin tasks. Sign up for a free, 30-day trial with no credit card required. Cancel anytime.

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