Are you an SLP intersted in private practice? Would you like to know what owning your own clinic is really like? This article shares three of the most common private practice myths! Keep reading to find out if you’ve heard these myths, and if private practice is right for you.
There are some great things about owning a private practice. First, I love treating a variety of disorders. For example, I now treat adult voice clients as a part of my practice, and that is something I never saw when working in other settings. Second, I love working closely with families in the clinic environment. Because parents watch sessions, they often carry over our activities at home.
However, there are downsides to clinic work. As I explore the great parts about owning a practice, I want to make sure to share the reality as well. In fact, I often hear touted benefits to working in this setting that are totally inaccurate. Hearing these myths heralded as the truth is one of my pet peeves. Full disclosure? I, too, believed these myths when I originally heard them. Now that I’m years into my own clinic, I know better. Because of this, I wanted to dispel some of these myths today.
Three of the Most Common Private Practice Myths
You work your own hours
Ultimately, you work when your clients are available.
In general, most clients want appointments 4pm and later. Preschool and toddler clients are great to have during the daytime, but not all families have a stay-at-home parent. This means many families (including preschool families) want to schedule evening appointments, when parents are off work.
Although I’d love to work earlier in the day and wrap up in the early afternoon, I work almost exclusively late morning to late evening hours, because that is when clients (and their families) are available.
Is this the case for everyone? No. For SLPs who don’t need to work full time, you can likely be a bit more choosy about your schedule and turn some clients away to see clients when you’d like. However if you want daytime hours, be ready to turn clients away who only want 4pm and 5pm slots.
You work fewer hours
My first year of business, I worked 50-60 hours a week. I worked weekends, evenings, and brought work home.
I’ve had SLPs email me who want more work-life balance, and who’ve heard that private practice is a good fit. For me (at least 2.5+ years in), this wouldn’t be my recommendation to improve work-life balance. That said, I’m sure there are SLPs who have been doing this for much longer and have better systems in place – and therefore fewer working hours.
When people ask me about private practice and work-life balance, I usually steer them towards telepractice, which I’ve found (for me) offers fewer extra working hours and more time at home.
You make bank
Although you make a significantly higher “hourly” wage for time spent with clients (I make about 3x as much), that doesn’t mean it’s money you take home. Costs associated with running a business will eat up a lot of that margin, and overall I make (slightly) more doing private practice than working other SLP jobs. Although I make a little bit more doing private practice than other jobs I’ve worked, the increase is minimal.
Even if you don’t have a physical location (which does eat up quite a bit of your profit), you’ll have a variety of business expenses, which could include: electronic medical billing software, HIPPA-compliant email, an upgrade to faster internet, a new phone line or business cell phone, increased printing/materials costs, standardized tests and protocols, liability insurance, and of course…taxes.
You will earn more money, but also have more expenses and a higher tax burden. If you are anything like me, chances are it’ll (mostly) be a wash in the end.
In general I’ve found that clinics who hire SLPs to work under them do make a higher income, but solo practices like mine don’t generally earn much more than you’d make elsewhere.
So why do private practice?
Running your own practice means you get to make the rules. In a world of micromanaging and paperwork pushing, you really do get to run things your own way when you do private practice. If a client isn’t happy with their service, they can choose to go to another clinic. This means the clients I see really, truly appreciate the work I do. I also find it incredibly rewarding to have more time to research how to do certain therapy techniques as I work with new disorders and in new areas. I also enjoy working with a variety of clients and families.
I hope this article on three of the most common private practice myths helps you determine if private practice might be right for you. Although running a clinic isn’t easy, it’s extremely rewarding!
Sarah is a private practice speech language pathologist in Ashland, Oregon. Her clinic in the Rogue Valley specializes in working with late talkers and toddlers/preschoolers with significant speech sound disorders. You can find Sarah’s day-to-day clinic life on Instagram, if you’d like to follow along. To get notified when new posts go up, enter your email address in the bar on the right of this page.