I’ve always felt an entrepreneurial pull, so it was just a matter of time before I took the leap and opened my own private practice. In June 2014, I made this a reality.
At the time I launched my business, my husband and I also planned to start a family. I thought about waiting, but decided there didn’t exist a “perfect” time to launch a practice—or a family, for that matter. But the sooner I started, the sooner I could build and grow my practice.
Starting a private practice is a labor of love to set up and get running as you work your way up to a full schedule. If you want this type of independent work life, however, you need to make a plan and carry it out. So if you’re thinking about doing it, my best advice is to start NOW and build it up over time!
Here I am a year after launching my practice and I go on maternity leave. I considered putting my clients on hold, but instead—over the course of the year—I strategically hired 10 speech-language pathologists (contractors) to work part-time with my clients. Now I can use these known SLPs to cover my maternity leave.
This system afforded me an enjoyable maternity leave rather than a stressful time off worrying about clients. The tips below come from my experience running a private practice and transitioning from full-time to maternity leave:
- Hire contractors prior to going on leave. If you don’t already employ anyone or work with contractors, hire someone to take over your clients. This approach lets you keep your clients and just transition them temporarily to another fabulous therapist!
- Continue to build your practice. New clients go to your contractors and this helps increase both the practice’s monthly income as well as yours. You can enjoy being mommy and not stress about money while on leave—after all, when you run your own practice, you don’t get paid leave unless you create it for yourself!
- Set up your practice on day 1 as if it is day 365 and you own a large, booming practice. This prevents wasted time changing medical record systems or tweaking policies and procedures when you become too busy seeing clients and/or going on maternity leave.
- Provide the best customer service while on leave. Whether clients work with me or a contractor—or they started with me and transitioned to a contractor—I schedule check-ins to make sure they’re happy with their therapist and their child’s progress. As the owner of the practice, I make it a priority to let families know I’m available as a resource even while on leave.
- Show face. While on leave, I checked in with the school sites we serve—and brought baby along to introduce her to everyone. Don’t just disappear! Someone else might walk in and take over your sites (if you go into schools) and the relationships you invested your time into building.
The last tip I leave with you is this: Enjoy your maternity leave!!! When you own your own practice, you get to determine how long a maternity leave you want to take and how many days a week you want to work when you do return—assuming you do return. I’m still up in the air on some of these decisions, but I enjoy the freedom to be flexible and it feels great!!
Hallie Bulkin, MA, CCC-SLP, owns Little Sprout Speech in North Bethesda, Maryland. She treats children birth to five, specializing in working with children with autism. She also hosts her own blog, Little Sprout Speech. Hallie@littlesproutspeech.com