Make It Work: How to Sustain a Part-Time Practice It is possible to combine private practice with other responsibilities. It just takes planning, flexibility and creativity. Make It Work
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Make It Work  |   January 2014
Make It Work: How to Sustain a Part-Time Practice
Author Notes
  • Ann-Mari Pierotti, MS, CCC-SLP, is ASHA associate director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology and co-owner of Potomac Speech-Language Group in Washington, D.C. ·apierotti@asha.org
    Ann-Mari Pierotti, MS, CCC-SLP, is ASHA associate director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology and co-owner of Potomac Speech-Language Group in Washington, D.C. ·apierotti@asha.org×
  • © 2014 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   January 2014
Make It Work: How to Sustain a Part-Time Practice
The ASHA Leader, January 2014, Vol. 19, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.19012014.34
The ASHA Leader, January 2014, Vol. 19, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.19012014.34
How to Sustain a Part-Time Practice
It is possible to combine private practice with other responsibilities. It just takes planning, flexibility and creativity.
BY ANN-MARI PIEROTTI
To this day, I marvel at my ability to wear so many professional hats, raise a son and remain happily married. I added one of those hats quite recently when, in 2008, I formed a private practice with partners Sharon Khoo and Cheryl Beasley.
We all had other jobs and two of us had young children. My part-time job-share position on the clinical issues team at ASHA allows me time for the practice. I also maintain a relationship with my previous employer as an as-needed clinician in an acute rehabilitation center. One of my partners has a full-time position at a local hospital, and gives part-time hours to our business; the other partner also splits her time between a previous position and our practice.
In early planning, we discussed options for the business and made many decisions: who to serve, where to locate our office, equipment and material needs, cost of start up, establishing a business entity, developing practice forms and contracts, and creating marketing materials (see sidebar on p. 35). We consulted with a small-business attorney on the business entity piece and for guidance on writing contracts. We brainstormed ideas and developed a loose marketing plan. To defray costs, we enlisted the help of a family member to set up a much-needed website. Launching the website was one of the most important decisions we made as, after careful tracking, we found it has been the referral source of most of our clients.
Reality sets in
Shortly after starting the business, we learned the impact a fragile economy could have on a fledgling start-up. For many in private practice, particularly those in the fee-for-service arena with no alignment with insurance companies as payers, it’s important to be prepared for slow business times. Flexibility became the name of the game. We became flexible with our marketing strategies—when we realized our print ads weren’t producing many clients, we switched to more community outreach, such as joining networking groups, offering speech-language screenings, staffing booths at school open houses and writing articles for local newspapers. Marketing can be hit or miss—the point is to keep at it. We continue to refine our strategy and consider it a work in progress.
We also needed flexibility in attracting business and gaining contracts in multiple areas. One partner and I, for example, found employment as subcontractors for another speech-language pathology company, providing services to support caseloads at two schools. We also had contracts with skilled nursing facilities. But just as they come, contracts can easily dissipate—several contracts with skilled nursing facilities began with more hours but, over time, lessened to an as-needed status. This situation requires us to maintain other sources of income.
Road trip
We have managed to maintain a level of creativity that has led to some very interesting work opportunities. Several years ago we took a course in accent modification. As a team-building event, and to pursue a new line of business, all three of us registered for the training and hit the road for Long Island, N.Y. We enjoyed the course and it served as a nice addition to our previous accent-modification training. The course included resources for promoting and marketing these services as well. It has led to a new avenue of work that we continue to promote and enjoy.
We also fulfilled a contract with a local court system to help train court interpreters (non-native English-speakers) in accent modification, voice control and projection, and effective communication strategies. We provided a well-received two-day workshop to this group of more than 20 professionals. In addition, we are under contract as communication consultants to help depose witnesses in legal cases, another interesting opportunity.
The bottom line is there is work out there. It’s the plan for getting it and keeping it that matters most. If you enjoy being your own boss, making your own schedule and working independently, there are many advantages to having a creative and flexible private practice. Image Not Available
Where do I find clients?
Being seen and heard is key to attracting clients. Try some of these strategies to get noticed and build your client base:
  • Launch a website describing your services.

  • Use social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to share news and information about communication disorders and other relevant topics.

  • Start a blog about issues related to speech and language difficulties.

  • Join networking groups to connect with other business owners.

  • Join the local chamber of commerce.

  • Write articles about aspects of your practice and submit them to local news outlets/agencies.

  • Provide day care centers with information about your practice and offer free speech-language screenings for children. If you recommend follow-up, offer several options.

  • Use community space to offer free discussion forums to potential clients about various topics, such as typical and atypical speech-language development/disorders, or accent modification services.

  • Participate in school open house forums (if you serve children).

  • Reach out to and share information with other related professions (physicians, social workers/case managers, occupational and physical therapists) who may then refer clients to you.

  • For accent modification services, mail flyers with information about your services to companies that might be interested in this specialty: human resource departments, embassies and other organizations.

  • Follow up on your contacts. Sometimes people need a little nudge.

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