Full Guide to Becoming a Freelance Physical Therapist
The field of physical therapy continues to grow every year including freelance therapist opportunities.
It’s a lucrative career with many benefits — most notably, of course, helping others regain their quality of life after an injury or illness.
Physical therapists have a challenging job each day.
They’re on their feet most of the time, aiding or holding up people who can’t support themselves. And the paperwork is time-consuming, as well.
Still, if you’re passionate about the work you do, the advantages well outweigh the difficulties.
But what if you could have all the benefits of being a physical therapist with your own time, freedom, and flexibility?
As a freelancer in the world of PT, this isn’t only possible; it’s in demand!
Freelancing has become an accepted career role, and the physical therapy industry is where you can get your share of this entrepreneurial pie.
The medical field is full of strict requirements, though, so before you jump into this new role, make sure you know what you’ll be required to do.
This guide will help streamline the process of becoming a freelance physical therapist for you.
1. Decide Your Focus Area
When you picture your dream job freelancing as a physical therapist, what does it look like?
The potential avenues for freelancing in this industry vary, including full-time and part-time roles in clinical and non-clinical positions.
So, are you looking to make some extra money running a side hustle with your PT degree and experience? Or is this something you want to make your sole career?
Either way, here are a few ideas that might interest you.
Do you enjoy the hands-on part of treating patients?
If the clinical aspect is your forte, these avenues allow you to work directly with people in an out-of-the-office setting.
Since the pandemic hit, the need for telehealth doctor visits has skyrocketed. Millions of people prefer virtual appointments over going to the office.
And you can capitalize on that with your PT experience.
Telehealth involves a lot of privacy and security laws, though. Before you go this route, check into the physical therapy license laws in your state, as well as all the telecommunications legislation you’ll need to follow.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has a telehealth series that will get you started.
Thousands of people need PT and can’t get it because of their illness or injury. They can’t drive themselves and don’t have anyone to get them to their appointment.
As a mobile physical therapist, you help them by bringing your equipment and expertise to their home.
This outpatient home health work is already popular in big cities like New York and gaining traction all over.
Once you establish yourself as a self-employed physical therapist, you can go it alone or connect with healthcare organizations that patients trust.
With this partnership, the company recommends you to those in need of your services, and you’ll build a network-based off of referrals.
Some people want an office structure without the stress of dealing with CPT codes and insurance companies. If that sounds like you, a cash-only private practice might be the answer.
You still need all the legitimacy of licensure and insurance, but you don’t have to worry about which insurances you accept and when you’ll get paid.
Since the fee schedule for PT continues to be adjusted down, you could make more this way than you would with an insurance-based practice. And without the need for a billing person, you’re saving lots of overhead.
Ready to get out of the direct work of physical therapy?
As a doctor of physical therapy (DPT), it’s normal that you might experience burnout at some point. Don’t leave the field entirely. Take your years of experience and let them guide you as a freelance writer.
Blogging and content creation are two industries where anyone with a niche can succeed.
You’ve had years doing manual therapy and working with other clinicians. Now, turn that experience into a freelance writing gig as someone who can do high-quality content writing, helping others learn the skills.
A lot of startup writers use platforms like Upwork to build a portfolio. This is a reliable way for beginning content creators to learn about things like search engine optimization, keywords, FAQs, and other algorithm features.
If you have good competency and communication skills, you’ll have a broad audience, including physical therapist assistants and other PT providers.
Take your portfolio to your LinkedIn profile and look for job postings for experts in your field.
Freelance writing can be independently yours (blogging), or you can look for opportunities to get paid by others for your thoughts.
This site is full of guidance on how to take your PT knowledge and turn it into a writing career.
2. Get the Legal Stuff Out of the Way
Moving to the next step means dealing with the legalities.
You know your business focus. Now, it’s time to decide on the name and get established with the Internal Revenue Service.
This part is crucial because you need an Employee Identification Number to separate your business from your personal taxes.
You can file for an EIN online and get one instantly. However, first, you’ll have to decide if you want to register your business as self-employed, a sole proprietorship, or a limited liability company (LLC).
Each one has its own tax benefits.
Summarizing the Business Terms You Need to Know
As a freelance physical therapist, you’re going to need an EIN to get any state or local permits and licenses. It’s also required before you can obtain any insurance policies.
Delving into the world of EINs means you need to know the difference between the types of businesses you can register as.
Here’s a quick summary to help you get started:
- Self-employed is the default status of any business owner, freelancer, or independent contractor. It gives you the minimum deductions possible when you file income taxes.
- Sole proprietorship is necessary to separate your personal and business assets. As a sole proprietor, you’re the only owner of your business, but you may have employees on your payroll.
- Limited liability corporations have more than one owner. All personal and business assets are separate, and there may be employees.
While it is possible to go through this process on your own, it can be intimidating anytime you’re dealing with the IRS and establishing a business.
3. Understand the Insurance
Starting out on your own in any medical field means you need to cover yourself with insurance.
As a business owner on top of a physical therapist, you’ll encounter many coverage options. You’ll need some, but not all of them.
Depending on your freelance job description, here are the basics to invest in before you start practicing.
Malpractice/Professional Liability Insurance
This policy is essential for anyone who provides a service to others as an expert. It covers you if a claim is filed against you stating that your advice or service was negligent or harmful.
If you’re treating patients, this insurance is a requirement. However, if your role is non-clinical, check with your state laws to see if you need to invest in this coverage.
General Liability Insurance
General liability is the coverage you need in case someone gets hurt on your property or something is damaged.
For example, if you’re visiting your home health client and accidentally break their TV, it’s covered under your general liability policy.
More commonly, though, it covers any claims if someone sustains an injury on your property. So, it’s crucial to have a general liability insurance policy if you have your own office.
Beyond these two policies, other types of coverage are a good idea but not essential for your license, like:
- Healthcare coverage that includes wellness visits
- Life insurance
- Disability insurance (giving you a paycheck in the event of injury or illness as disabilities that keep you from working)
- Commercial auto (necessary if you drive for your job)
4. Build a Budget
Before you cut off your consistent income stream, you’ll need to analyze your spending needs.
What do you already have to get your business off the ground? What will you need?
Make a budget for your PT expenses, including things like:
- Licensing and permits
- Overhead (i.e., utilities, rent, employees)
With this clear picture in your mind, you’ll be able to decide whether starting the business is financially feasible with what you have on hand or if you need to look into a small business loan.
Then, write down your personal expenses. How will you cover those?
5. Design Your Business Plan
If a small business loan might be in your future, you’ll have to create a business plan. Even if you’re doing it all independently, this document is a strategic way to start.
You may have all the ideas in your head. A business plan takes the thoughts and goals you have and puts them all on paper in an organized manner.
It includes planning for factors like covering expenses as you get started and gives you a holistic idea of how you’ll meet your goals.
A typical business plan guides you through the process of:
- Market research and analysis
- Writing a basic plan
- Calculating costs
- Learning how to establish credit for your business
- Setting milestones for mini-goals on the way to your big target
Tackling Your To-Dos With a Plan
With a solid plan underneath you, you’ll be able to optimize your spending and set smart goals in an order that makes sense. It helps you sort through your tasks and tackle them one at a time, starting with the most relevant.
As an example, you know that website creation and marketing will be necessary.
You need an online and social media presence in order to be searchable and get referrals if you’re seeing patients.
But until you have your insurance and licenses, there’s no reason to start working on your website.
You can’t treat anyone yet, so why spend the money designing a site and getting a hosting platform?
Starting a business, especially if you’re going out of your comfort zone as an entrepreneur, will always have some challenges. With a plan of action in place, you’re expecting the obstacles and preparing for them before they happen.
There’s a reason why this is a required part when you apply for small business funding.
Financial experts know that most successful companies start with a plan, and they follow it, adjusting as necessary.
Why reinvent the wheel? Work with the legal experts at Selfgood to find a business plan template that aligns with your goals, and tweak it for your freelance PT gig.
The role of a physical therapist has adapted in this post-pandemic world. It’s a field that can be hands-on or hands-off, depending on your experience and passion.
As long as you follow the strict requirements that make up the medical field, you can be a freelance physical therapist.
You don’t have to do it alone. Selfgood is designed to help gig workers be successful. And this guide covers everything you need to know to get your business started.