For allied health professionals in Australia, the choice between working as a contractor in someone else’s private practice or owning and operating your own practice is a significant career decision. Both avenues come with distinct advantages and challenges, and if you’re currently a contractor considering starting your own practice, it’s crucial to carefully assess the pros and cons. In this article, we will explore what the many aspects of work life may look like as a contractor vs an owner.

 

Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Contractor: Contractors often enjoy a heightened degree of flexibility when it comes to setting their work schedules. This flexibility allows them to align their work hours with personal preferences, which can result in improved work-life balance. For instance, they can create a schedule tailored to their lifestyle, opting for a 4-day workweek, allocating a day for administrative tasks, or experimenting with varying work hours to suit their needs.

Practice owner: While practice owners do have some flexibility, the responsibilities associated with running the practice can sometimes limit their freedom. As a business owner, you might find that you can’t afford to take certain times off due to financial risks, client demands or other logistics. Being responsible for your business sometimes ties you to certain rigid requirements more than you might expect.

 

Administrative Responsibilities

Contractor: Administrative tasks like scheduling, billing, and facility management usually fall under the practice owner’s domain. This means contractors get to focus mainly on their clinical work, avoiding potentially awkward admin-related conversations, like chasing down missed payments, which can be a big relief for those who aren’t too comfortable with these discussions.

Practice owner: Practice owners, however, have to roll up their sleeves and handle administrative duties themselves. This includes managing everything from systems and billing to marketing and facility maintenance. While it gives them control over their practice, it also eats up a significant chunk of their time and effort.

 

Financial Aspects

Contractor: Contractors can enjoy a consistent income as long as they have a consistent flow of client appointments from the practice and they maintain a good level of client retention. This means they can generally financially plan ahead, giving them peace of mind. Plus, they don’t need to worry about setting up a practice or covering overhead expenses. However, the potential for significant financial growth that comes with practice ownership is absent. For instance, there are only so many client sessions contractors can conduct in a week without burning out, meaning there is a limit to their income. Additionally, contractors typically don’t have access to leave entitlements such as paid vacation or sick leave, which can affect their income and work-life balance.

Practice owner: Practice owners’ earnings are not capped, and they have the opportunity to build a thriving practice that can generate substantial financial rewards over time. However, their financial growth potential is often tied to the success and growth of their practice. Additionally, they also assume financial risks, as they must cover overhead costs even during slower periods or economic downturns.

 

Initial Investment

Contractor: Contractors are not burdened with the need for an initial investment to set up their practice. This eliminates the financial commitment typically associated with launching a new venture.

Practice owner: Practice owners have to be ready to invest in things like equipment, office space, and marketing to get their practice off the ground. It can be a significant initial investment, requiring careful financial planning.

 

Control, Autonomy and Longevity

Contractor: Contractors have limited influence on the many aspects of the practice including clinic policies, client fees, and the overall direction of the business. The role’s stability and longevity also depend on the owner’s business decisions, activities, and reputation. If the practice lacks investment in marketing or relationship-building, the contractor may suffer the consequences as their client referrals may decrease. Mismanagement of finances or resistance to adopting new systems can also impact their role. These challenges can mean that contractors may not be able to make concrete career development plans within a practice.

Practice owner: Owners enjoy complete control over all aspects of their business, from setting fees to implementing their vision for client care. This autonomy enables them to create a practice aligned with their values, and determine their business development strategies, shaping their professional journey according to their goals and aspirations. However, there is pressure in that the stability and longevity of their practice are not always within their control as many external factors can influence business growth.

 

Client relationship

Contractor: Clients in a contractor’s practice typically belong to the practice itself, not the contractor’s personal clientele. So, if a contractor decides to leave, they might lose access to these clients (although it would ultimately be up to the client to choose their practitioner), which could affect their client base.

Practice owner: Practice owners have an edge in client retention. They have more of an opportunity to build lasting relationships and create a loyal client base, even if they expand their team or move to a new location.

 

Client referrals

Contractor: Joining an established practice means contractors will have immediate access to a pool of existing referrers. This can save them time and money in the initial stages of building their client list as they’re not building your referrers from scratch. However, the client referrals contractors receive can vary based on the marketing efforts of the practice owner, which means they may not always be able to work with the type of clients they prefer to work with. Additionally, when contractors leave a practice, they often lose access to the practice’s referrers, meaning they may have to build referrer relationships from scratch again.

Practice owner: Generally speaking, once practice owners build a referral relationship (say, with a GP), it’s likely that the relationship will be long lasting unless there is a major challenge. As long as the practice owners do their parts to maintain the relationship, the referrers will send clients their way even through certain changes such as location changes (within reason), business name changes, availability changes and so on.

 

Variety in Work

Contractor: Contractors have the freedom to spice up their work life by working with multiple practices or mixing private and public sector roles. This mix can lead to a more diverse set of experiences, and allow them to continue learning and growing in various professional aspects. However, they may have limited opportunities to work on other projects they’re passionate about such as groups, courses and workshops, if the practice they work for doesn’t have scope for such projects.

Practice owner: Practice owners have the opportunity to broaden their scope of work by introducing additional services like online courses, workshops, and seminars. This allows them to work on things they’re passionate about while still drawing an income from their practice. Additionally, practice owners are not just limited to clinical work as they also need to work on managing and growing the business. Depending on what you’re after this may be a pro or a con, but working on the business can certainly add variety to the type of work you do on a daily basis. It can be a welcome change especially if you work with a high-risk or demanding client base which can take a toll on you over time.

 

Cultural Fit

Contractor: Contractors usually have limited say in shaping the practice’s culture. This includes things like recruitment and staff management. So, they might see changes in practice culture that don’t exactly match their preferences.

Practice owner: Practice owners can craft their team to fit their values and goals. They have the freedom to choose team members who share their vision, creating a practice culture that aligns with their professional identity.

 

Job Security

Contractor: Contractors can usually end their contracts with short notice, but they don’t have the job security of permanent positions. Plus, they’re generally not entitled to payouts, meaning they can be left in a sticky financial situation if they don’t already have backup plans.

Practice owner: Practice owners have more control over their job security, but their career success depends on how well their practice does. Economic ups and downs or practice-related challenges can impact their long-term security.

 

Job Search / Recruitment

Contractor: In the allied health private practice world, contractors often hold the cards when it comes to recruitment. With many allied health professionals wanting to start their own practice as well as other factors such as increasing pay expectations, levels of experience and cultural fit, private practice owners often find recruitment challenging. This means contractors can often have many options to consider and are able to negotiate terms in their favour.

Practice owner: While it depends on the business structure and offerings, most private practices need bigger teams to achieve higher profitability. This means practice owners have to deal with all the challenges that come with recruiting and managing a team. Recruitment is a big project which can be immensely time-consuming and expensive, adding to the already stressful daily responsibilities of the owner.

 

Professional Development

Contractor: Many private practices offer professional development opportunities to their contractors as part of the benefits of being part of the team. Collaborating with experienced colleagues in an established practice can offer a rich learning environment, fostering professional growth through knowledge sharing and shared experiences.

Practice owner: Practice owners are often responsible for keeping on top of industry changes and professional development opportunities. This may be challenging, but practice owners also enjoy professional collaboration with their team, ensuring they continue to grow and adapt.

 

Social and Professional Isolation

Contractor: Contractors have more of an opportunity to build professional and social relationships with other contractors. However, they’re not immune to isolation if they work independently or have limited interaction with colleagues. The absence of a team dynamic can be challenging for those who thrive under a collaborative and cohesive culture.

Practice owner: Practice owners, especially those operating as solo practitioners, may encounter social and professional isolation, which can affect the overall work environment. Even with a team, maintaining professional boundaries might limit social interactions. However, working with business coaches can alleviate some of the professional and business isolation.

 

Commitment and Responsibility

Contractor: Contractors generally have fewer commitments and responsibilities compared to practice owners. Their professional obligations tend to be less all-encompassing, allowing for more flexibility in their career.

Practice owner: Practice owners assume significant financial, emotional, and time commitments in their role. This heightened responsibility can impact their career flexibility and personal freedom, as they are increasingly responsible for the well-being of their practice and team.

 

 

Allied health professionals in Australia face a critical decision when choosing between becoming a contractor in another’s private practice or owning their own practice. Each option offers unique benefits and challenges. Contractors enjoy financial stability and reduced administrative burdens but may have limited control and financial growth potential. Practice owners, on the other hand, experience autonomy, unlimited income potential, and client ownership but must manage administrative tasks and assume financial risks.

Ultimately, your choice should align with your career goals and values. Some allied health professionals thrive as contractors, while others find fulfillment and success in practice ownership. Understanding the pros and cons can guide you toward an informed decision that suits your aspirations and professional goals.

Ready to transition into owning your own private practice but unsure where to start? Talk to our private practice business coaches!