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Ellie Burcher: Tips from an Independent OT

June 16th, 2014

Ellie Burcher: Tips from an Independent OT

Why did you decide to start working as an independent OT?

I was working as an OT manager for Health and Social care; I loved my job and the team around me but found that I really missed the hands on clinical aspects of doing my job. My role was very managerial and l wanted to get back out to meet clients and be able to look at a range of solutions to their needs, not just the pre-prescribed options!

How did you take your first steps to starting as an independent OT?

I started doing some small pieces of work for an OT agency as I didn’t know if I would enjoy private work. That way allowed me to try it to see if it was for me before I launched fully into that seemingly scary world!

I really enjoyed the variety of work private practice could offer so took that leap of faith in November 2009. Since then I have worked in so many areas such as Specialist seating, housing adaptations, product design, training and development and specialist equipment provision.

Have you found a benefit from social media marketing (twitter, facebook, google plus, etc)?

I have found twitter and linkedin a great way to network and connect with other professionals across the world – what an amazing thing to be able to talk OT things with others from so far and wide! I also find it’s a great way to keep updated with new product launches to make sure I can offer my clients all the options available to them.

What were some lessons that you learned in the initial stages of working for yourself?

  1. Plan in admin time!!!! It’s still a skill I haven’t fully mastered to be honest! I think when you first start you are keen to take on anything that comes your way and fill your diary to the brim – make sure you plan some admin time as sadly there’s still spreadsheets to be done!
  2. Get some support – there’s plenty of us out there so don’t fret about a question that’s worrying you – ask another private OT

How long did it take for you to turn a profit/how long did it take to achieve a steady flow of work?

I was very lucky to get a steady stream of some work straight away but it takes time to build a good reputation and get opportunities to expand into other areas. 

What was your original goal and have your been able to achieve that vision, if not how have things changed?

I’m not sure that I ever had a specific goal in mind in terms of what I wanted to achieve. I simply wanted to get back to enjoying my work as an OT and have time for my family. Whilst that sounds a bit woolly it has allowed me to expand into areas that I wasn’t even considering!

What is the best thing about being an independent OT?

Flexibility – both for me and my clients!

What are some tips that you could give to OT practitioners considering starting a business or working for themselves?

  1. Get some support to enable you to ask those questions that you think are silly (We’ve probably asked them already!)
  2. Sign up to some OT agencies to get some initial work and support
  3. Go slowly – don’t feel you have to be a ‘brand’ to start with – OT is all about word of mouth so build up slowly and get a good reputation
  4. Get your name out there – use twitter and linked in to start being a presence

Do you have an elevator pitch for what you do/your role as an independent OT?

Not really as it depends on which part of my role they’re asking me about! I think one of the great things about working in the private sector is the opportunity to have so many roles – seating, product design, training etc…… different roles give me a variety of types of work so I have a pitch for each!

Ellie is a private Occupational Therapist covering the Gloucestershire, Bristol and South West areas. To find out more about her experience and background please visit her profile here.

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