Would you like to start your own practice—but don’t know where to begin?
Are you fully employed and think you don’t have enough time?
Too much student debt?
Too many family responsibilities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not the only healthcare professional stuck in this situation.
Thousands of therapists just like you have a dream of leaving hamster-wheel practices, but they just can’t bring themselves to walk away from their family and financial obligations. Many feel trapped with no way out.
But maybe they—and you—are not as trapped as it seems. In fact, there’s an emerging business model that just might be the solution to this conundrum: micropractices.
A micropractice is a lean business that capitalizes on a provider’s expertise in delivering a specific service or product. Micropractices:
- leverage technology to reach and serve ideal clients in a market niche, and
- streamline workflows to keep overhead low and profits high.
Read that paragraph again.
It doesn't say anything about having to establish a traditional brick-and-mortar private practice. That’s because a micropractice isn’t just a smaller version of a traditional private practice. Micropractices include only the essential elements required for delivering exceptional patient experiences in the most affordable way possible.
Starting a micropractice doesn't necessarily mean quitting your job and venturing out on your own. Sure, some practitioners launch private practice clinics, but it's not a requirement for success.
There are therapists who like the steady paychecks and inter-colleague interactions that come with a full-time job. But, a new generation of therapists is reinventing "full-time employment." How? By working several part-time jobs and pursuing the career and lifestyle they desire.
Examples of Successful Therapy Micropractice Entrepreneurs
The beauty of micropractices is that they come in many shapes and sizes, often growing out of the passions and strengths of the founder. Here are some examples of therapists who have successfully launched profitable micro-businesses:
Dr. Lisa Holland, PT, opened her cash-based yoga therapy center for new mothers while being employed in a large hospital. Dr. Lisa has since grown her Belly Guru brand of yoga therapy to offer coaching services to women who aspire to being the CEOs of their own lives.
Ben Musholt is a physical therapist who turned his passions and professional degree into a profitable side hustle. From his blog, he sells his books—Parkour Strength Training and Mad Skills—as well as BPMRx exercise software. He is known internationally as the "Parkour PT." His brand has opened doors with Parkour authorities all over the world—not to mention a steady stream of patients who are willing to pay for his services.
Cash practice owner Brennan Hussey feels called to serve his community with both his manual therapy and youth basketball coaching skills. Brennan’s father was a teacher and coach who died of a heart attack in his 50s. His early death had a profound impact on Brennan’s life and career as a PT. That meant taking advanced training in manual therapy so he could provide his clients the best care possible. It also meant that he would volunteer his time as a basketball coach. Brennan’s willingness to give selflessly to his community has turned out to be an effective marketing strategy for building his cash-based practice.
Dr. John Rusin, PT, is not your run-of-the-mill therapist. John has created his dream practice—one where he is able to combine his passions for hardcore strength conditioning and physical therapy. Dr. Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and writer. His successful worldwide brand brings together high-performance strength and functional hypertrophy training. He has been able to successfully grow his micropractice into a business that trains athletes from all over the world.
These are just a few examples of therapists who are breaking the private practice mold to live out their dream of being their own boss.
You might be short on time and cash, but that doesn’t have to prevent you from starting a side hustle while you work a full-time job. Use your job’s reliable income to cover your and your family’s living expenses. Then, put whatever extra time and money you can toward starting your micropractice.
The Debt Factor
Starting a business is easy; growing a sustainable business is hard. That’s why many small business startups fail.
Most therapists have scant training and experience in business and marketing. Starting a business from scratch has a sharp learning curve for even the smartest of us. For most of us, our only hope is keeping our startups lean and agile until we figure out how to run a successful business.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, new PT graduates begin their careers with an average of $96,000 in student loan debt. A new graduate's starting salary will be in the $60-70,000 range. As Katie Choe explains in this New Grad PT blog post, graduates looking to pay off that kind of debt in 10 years will need to make monthly loan payments of close to $1,400 (or about 25% of their gross salary). That doesn’t leave a lot of extra money for starting a new business venture.
If you’re a new therapist with a large amount of student loan debt—and you want to be your own boss—then you should be as frugal as possible. Don’t take on new debt to start a new business. Instead, invest your time and sweat equity in opportunities that fit your skills and experience.
Starting a side hustle or part-time gig while working a full-time job might be one of the best ways to pay down your loans. I cannot think of a better way to parlay your investment in a professional degree than by turning it into a service or product that solves consumers’ health problems. Now, let’s talk about how you can go about doing that.
4 Tips for Starting a Successful Micropractice
1. Become a 10% Entrepreneur.
Going all-in with a full-time private practice is great, but it’s not for everyone. As Patrick McGinnis writes in the book, The 10% Entrepreneur: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job, being a 10% entrepreneur allows you to enter the startup game on your own terms.
McGinnis defines a 10% entrepreneur as someone who dedicates at least 10% of his or her time—and if possible, 10% of his or her money—to new ventures. Therapists who invest in a part-time venture are significantly less likely to fail than those who quit their jobs and jump into their own full-time private practices.
Why not start setting aside one hour per day for your new business? By the end of the week, you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve accomplished. The same principle applies when it comes to money. Instead of investing your life savings, set aside 10% of your income to use as seed money for your practice idea. Take one step at a time, and don’t expect too much too soon.
2. Know Your Destination.
You might have a great idea for your new practice, but that’s usually not enough to make it successful. You’ve got to know where you’re heading—and why you want to get there.
In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Unless you define what a successful practice looks like, how will you know when you’ve arrived?
Answer simple questions like:
- What kind of patients allow you to do your best work?
- How would you describe your ideal work week?
- What area of practice excites you and inspires you to learn more?
Approaching your goals with a laser-focus will help you design a roadmap to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
3. Start With Your Ideal Client.
One of the biggest mistakes I see therapists make when starting micropractices is beginning with their credentials and clinical skills. This doesn’t work, because most people don’t understand what therapists do and can’t see how therapy may solve their problems. As a result, therapists try to be all things to all people, which adds confusion to their professional brand.
Instead, research the market to identify your ideal clients; then, find ways to access them directly. Interview them to find out where market gaps exist and how much prospective patients are willing to pay for the services you provide. Research your competition so you can position your practice as the answer to an unmet need. This will give you a competitive advantage.
A side hustle (i.e., micropractice) allows you to test the market and adjust your strategy until you find a profitable niche—all without spending boatloads of cash.
4. Build Your Network.
Develop a network of personal and professional connections to be part of your launch team. Don’t make the mistake of trying to figure it all out on your own before announcing to the world that you’re starting a business. Instead, ask your friends and family for their input as you test the market with a practice pilot. If possible, include your current coworkers and patients as well. Patients can be an invaluable informational resource as you get your part-time practice off the ground.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to operating a business. So, leverage everyone in your network—including accountants, consultants, and other small business owners. Chances are, they’d love to help. You can also utilize online courses that provide step-by-step blueprints for building a strong business foundation. And remember to leverage social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to help you get the word out.
A Fresh Start
Opening a micropractice may prove to be a fresh way for you to reconnect with patients. Helping people in a meaningful way is the main reason many therapists go into health care in the first place.
That’s part of the reason so many therapists are leaving high-volume practices—complete with assistants, office managers, receptionists, and billing staff—to find the newfound inspiration and freedom that often come with a micropractice. Ready to take the first step toward the professional and personal freedom you desire? Perhaps starting a part-time micropractice can help you do just that.
Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years, he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practices. His website. PaulPotterpt.com, helps therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or on LinkedIn.