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4 weeks ago

Kate Sheehan: Tips from an Independent OT

September 26th, 2014

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

If I am honest it wasn’t a decision but something that fell into my lap.  Someone I trained with needed some private OT input for a gentleman returning from Australia following a catastrophic accident and asked if I would do it, after rather a lot of indecision I decided to do it and was hooked.

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

The first steps were rather haphazard as I had a piece of work before I had done any preparation for setting up in private practice.  In hindsight I would recommend that you take sometime setting up the processes around your independent practice before starting.  The look before you leap session run by the Specialist Section in Independent Practice is a fantastic start.

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

My personal opinion is avoid facebook, tweet daily and really use Linkedin, the latter allows you to pick and choose who you wish to communicate with and I would thoroughly recommend taking time out to really understand how Linkedin can help your business.

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

1.  My first accountant recommended that I put 50% of my earnings away for tax and expenses in a separate account, this proved to be invaluable as:

  • You always have enough money to pay HMRC
  • It should give you a little left at the end of a year for a ‘bonus’

2.  Network, network, network.  Most of my referrals have come via recommendations

3.  Maintain a work life balance

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 extremely lucky and made a profit from day one, but I did start independent work back in 1996, I did not need business cards, websites or any other marketing material.  You are only as good as your last piece of work; I found out very quickly that if you do a good job, the work comes in regularly.

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

Once I completed my first piece of work, my goal was to use the additional money to fund holidays for my new family; we have been on some amazing trips and the memories are just awesome.  As time went on and I moved to full time private work, it was to allow me to work around my children, I did not work holidays and tried to work as much as possible in school hours, the joy is my children always say that I was there for them at the end of the day and loved the fact that friends came home to play. 

My goal has recently changed, I want to be able to run my small business, turn over a reasonable profit but spend time with my family and friends, money isn’t everything and you can never get that time back.

My moto is ‘enjoy life, its way to short’.

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

Freedom to do things outside traditional OT field, I have work for some of the major bathroom manufacturers on design, been involved in government reviews, taken part in research, been involved in developing exhibitions and travelled the world teaching.  I have been incredibly fortunate to meet some extraordinary OTs across the globe that inspire me and support me; this would not have happened if I had remained in a position in Social Care.

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

Here are my top three tips

  1. NEVER give away your profile on the COTSS-IP page, lots of referrals will come from this marketing site and it is really cost effective.
  2. Make sure you give yourself enough time for Admin, although tedious at times it is essential
  3. Network as much as you can, talk to people offer to do a short training course free of charge, write an article, support your specialist section……get your name known

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

My name is Kate Sheehan, I am one of the leading housing OT experts in the UK and have worked both nationally and internationally.  My company is passionate about meeting the goals of our individual clients by reducing the barriers in their built environment and enabling them to achieve what they want to achieve.  Here is my business card, it would be great to meet up for a coffee to tell you more, when are you free!

For more information regarding Occupational Therapy or starting out as an independent OT please contact Inclusion via 01892 704065 or email