9 Jul 2014

Starting your own business as an entrepreneurial occupational therapist

I was asked to contribute to one of AOTA’s (our national OT association) Late Night with New Practitioners posts on OT Connection, specifically geared at entrepreneurism. Here is what I contributed to their July post (OT Connection is for AOTA members only so I am pasting it here).

  1. Let passion be your guide. It’s never too early or too late to start building up your own company.
  2. Jump into the shallow end. Keep your job, do the basic legal paperwork (not that hard or expensive), and test the water in your spare time.
  3. Actively accumulate entrepreneurial resources. Books, mentors, podcasts, interdisciplinary role modeling, observation, inspirational Pinterest quotes, casual discussions, anything and everything.
  4. Save all your ideas and plans in a spot outside of your own head. Think of it as your brain back-up.
  5. Time is money. Frustration is money. Outsource accordingly.
  6. Learn how to spell the word “entrepreneurial”!

Below are the steps I had to take to start my business in San Diego County in the state of CA, so they may be different for yours. This was for me being independent though, no employees, no office location, and private pay only.

I also want to note that I am NOT saying this is an exhaustive list and that in all cases you should double-check for yourself that you are on the right track. This is a generic guide only.

Also, this is with the assumption that you have determined you have a feasible business plan, and now just need to execute the basic legalities/safeties.


1. Apply for a business license/tax certificate through your county government site, a .gov address. Very simple online process with small fee.

1a. Decide whether you are going to be a LLC or Sole proprietorship or what, and the business .gov website you go to will explain if you are even eligible for an LLC. In California, licensed professionals can’t do LLC, so I went with sole proprietorship. It’s pretty simple to look at the options and decide, or run it by a trusted friend/mentor/business person if you’re nervous. It shouldn’t make a big difference at this point, in my possibly ignorant opinion. 🙂 You need to decide so that you check the right box on the business tax certificate/other forms.

2. If you have a fictitious business name, meaning that your own name is not in the title, then you have to register that with your county. You’d contact the county and you get the form, very basic form and small fee, to register it. For my county, once I submitted the form, they gave me another small task or so, very straight forward, from there.

3. Sign up for an EIN, or taxpayer ID number, through irs.gov. Very quick and easy. This basically just means that as a business, you can use that number versus your social security number.

4. Get a business banking account. For mine, because I had a fictitious business name, they had to wait until I could show them I had applied for the fictitious name, so don’t try this too soon, or find out what they will need.

5. Get both umbrella/general AND professional liability insurance. I used HPSO for professional liability, and I was able to do umbrella/general with my current go-to company for financial/insurance needs, USAA. It will up your insurance just a little bit for some pretty significant coverage, so a good deal.

6. I have no idea what to tell you if you are wanting to apply to be part of insurance companies, hopefully someone else can chime in. Nor do I know all the details if you are wanting to have your own office/employees etc. This is for me going to people’s homes or local places or doing consultation. Just me, and no office, and private pay only.

7. Business cards! Marketing! Etc! Ideally, find a mentor, someone who is already doing this type of practice, to ensure you have done everything you need to do for your own county.

8. Get an accountant BEFORE YOU NEED THEM FOR TAXES. To ensure you are doing the right things so that when tax season comes along, you A) have someone you trust, B) have an established relationship, and C) know you have done the correct things.

9. OUTSOURCE/RESOURCE. Need help with a website? Help with marketing/business card design? Yes, you can do it all yourself, but your time and frustration both count as money. Ten hours of frustration to do something someone else could do in an hour? You’ve lost at least $400 dollars of your own time and mental health, and could have paid someone far less. Network and find out who other people are using.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none