Caroline Pomeroy: Tips from an Independent OT

March 28th, 2014

Caroline Pomeroy: Tips from an Independent OT

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

For a long time I'd been curious as to whether working independently as an Occupational Therapist could work for me. I was self employed for some time before I trained as an OT so had already had some experience of the book keeping side of things. I have always naturally sought a challenge and, because Occupational Therapists are renowned for their adaptability, if things didn't work out I was confident that I could do some something else with my skills. My curiosity led me to attend a COTSS-IP look before you leap conference which gave me the push to dip my toe in the water and try it out.

How did you take your first steps to starting a business/in independent OT?

I contacted a number of Private Occupational Therapy services and went through the process of registering as an associate with them. A few pieces of work began to come in, initially I did these on top of my full time post with a local authority and it was not long before I found myself working weekends and evenings to make sure everything was done. At this point I knew I could drop my full time hours by half,  within a year I could no longer sustain both private and local authority work so I bit the bullet and resigned from my post. I never really intended to only work as an associate but, I find that it works really well for me.

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

Thus far I have managed to avoid the terrors of social media. It is always in the back of my mind that I may have to embrace it fully at some point but the longer I can deny its strong influence the better. I did send a tweet once but I talk far too much to be able to say what I mean with so few characters available to me!

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

What I have learnt is the importance of contracts. If you follow all of the advice and make a water tight contract and agree prices (including who will be responsible for payment) prior to carrying out any work it will save a lot of time and hard work in the long run.

Also, Be meticulous with book keeping and time management, if these systems fail you will quickly lose control and flounder.

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

I always intended to set up my own business and promote my services locally. As things are, I am a sole trader working as an associate and travelling anywhere across London and the South East. This works well for me, in fact much better than I had imagined and I have no need or want to change the way things have worked out.

What is the best thing about owning your own business/being an independent OT?

It's a bit of a cliché but, having the time and resources to be able to use my skills and imagination to make a real difference to peoples lives rather than just scratching the surface to reduce their difficulties. For the first time I feel like I am doing real OT where I can carry out treatment programes and see them through to the end, getting people back to work, enabling access to a toilet for the first time in a year, providing the right equipment to help someone walk their dog, facilitating sensory stimulation, increasing confidence, reducing anxiety....... The list is endless and the restrictions due to resources are few. Its a wonderful feeling. I love my job.

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

  • Believe in yourself and your skills, you CAN do it.
  • Keep on top of your CPD...there are lots of resources out there to make sure you keep up to date and ensure your skills are fresh, they do not always have to be costly.
  • Dont lose touch with other OTs networking is essential.
  • Make a business plan, stay focused and manage your diary and time well.
  • Make absoluely sure you keep a good work/ life balance. Dont live to work, work to live and enjoy both!

Caroline is a private Occupational Therapist covering the Kent, London and the South East areas. To find out more about her experience and background visit her profile here.