Have you ever felt OT burnout or just wanted to be your own boss and make your own schedule? If so, an OT consulting job may be for you.
OT contract jobs are most prominent in pediatrics, but any setting can provide a position as an independent contractor. You can also find contract positions in areas that aren’t looking for OTs.
So why should you get a job as an OT consultant?
In many cases, OT consulting can help you do your same job, but get paid twice as much. Consulting can also help you do something completely different and broaden your scope of practice.
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What is an OT consultant?
OT consultants are privately paid therapists who work for themselves or their own identity. They typically work in a variety of settings. This may include pediatrics, NICU, acute care, acute rehab, skilled nursing, and hand therapy.
They usually negotiate their pay with their employer directly and receive a 1099 tax form as an independent contractor.
Most OT consultants work for themselves, however, travel therapists are sometimes considered consultants, but they usually work for a third party as a W2 employee.
OT consultants usually work based on need. They may work as needed (per-diem), cover vacations/sick leave, or work a regular Monday through Friday work week.
An OT consultant is different from a per-diem or full time therapist, because they are not paid as a W2 employee. They have to pay for their own taxes (FICA) as they are paid based on a 1099 form.
It’s beneficial to work as an independent contractor, because they can negotiate a higher rate. As an independent contractor the employer does not provide health care, 401k, dental, vision or other benefits, so an independent contractor can request a much higher hourly rate than a regular therapist.
Contractors usually work in high need environments and can negotiate additional rates based on the need. They can ask for a higher salary than a per diem employee, because they don’t receive the tax benefits of working per-diem.
The disadvantages of contract jobs include less benefits, unreliable work schedule, and challenges with receiving invoices.
Working as a contract therapist you will need to provide your own benefits and make sure your pay rate will cover the overhead costs. You will also need to factor in costs such as health insurance, 401k, dental insurance, vision insurance, workman’s compensation, medical leave, and other liability costs.
Contract work may mean that you could lose your job at any time. Some companies will hire an employee who can carry out the same responsibilities and take you off payroll. This could leave you without a job in a moment’s notice.
If your contract position is in a rural area or requires a specialized skill, you will have a higher chance of keeping your job.
Getting paid regularly can be a problem for contract employees. This usually happens when you work for a smaller business, or don’t communicate your billing needs correctly.
Before you start working, make sure you make contact with the person who will be sending you a check. Discuss how you will send them an invoice, so you get paid right away.
Maximizing your income
The easiest way to maximize your income as an OT contractor is to do your research and find out the regular hourly rate for full time or per diem therapists in the area.
The usual contract rate is double the rate of a full time therapist. For example, if a full time employee makes $40 per hour, you should be able to negotiate $80 per hour or more.
How to become an OT consultant?
Becoming an OT consultant is all about research and marketing. Look for jobs in your area that aren’t being filled. This works well if you specialize in a specific area of need. This might include hand therapy, sensory integration, pelvic floor, low vision, etc.
If you want to work at a rehab facility or hospital, you might look at marketing yourself as a travel therapist. If you don’t know how to create a contract or aren’t sure how much to charge, email a travel company and ask what they charge and if you can get a sample contract.
You can also find sample contracts online, but not every consulting job requires that you have a contract.
How to find a job?
Look at job forums, Facebook groups, or career websites. Call HR departments or contact the director of therapy to discuss contract opportunities.
Ask if you can send your contact information to them and to let you know when a position becomes available.
There’s a hundred ways to look for contract work, but it all starts with action.
Finding an OT consulting job requires hard work, but the freedom of working when you want and being your own boss can be more rewarding than other traditional settings.
Non traditional OT Consulting jobs
If you’re interested in trying something new, you might think about a medical discipline or field in which OT isn’t utilized.
This might include podiatry, sports medicine, or your local community.
Think about an OT service that might be offered that is different from what is provided by physical therapy. If you provide a similar service, think about how you might relate the service back to meaningful activities, self care, ADLs, or IADLs.
For example, you might decide to work as an OT to help a golfer improve his swing or help refugees learn to assimilate to a new culture and environment.
When we start thinking outside the box, we become empowered and create new opportunities to grow and provide services that are vital to the communities around us.
Below I’ve listed a few contract positions to help you think of other possibilities.
- Hand Therapy
- Acute care
- Life coach
- OT job coach
- Refugee resettlement coordinator
- Splint fabrication consultant
- Low vision specialist
- Driver rehab specialist
- Ergonomics specialist
Working as an OT can be challenging, stressful, and lead to burnout. OT consulting can help you get out of that rut and work for people who really need your help.
Consulting can also help you do something completely different.
There are pros and cons to every job, and for some, it may be too stressful to start a private practice. But taking this path can help alleviate some of that stress and can help you become the OT you’ve always wanted to be.
David is the lead editor of OT Focus. He has been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2013. He specializes in acute care, hand therapy, and ergonomics.