OH – Starting out on your own?

Thinking of starting out on your own in Occupational Health?

Are you a health professional and considering the option of starting out on your own? Here is a quick checklist to make sure you have all the bases covered…

Ignore these tips at your peril

Qualifications:

Are you a registered nurse on the specialist section of the NMC (Nursing Midwifery Council) list?  Both the Health and Safety Executive and Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health (SEQOHS) suggests this qualification demonstrates competence in occupational health.  If you are a Doctor then you will need to have a minimum qualification of the Diploma in Occupational Medicine.

For other professionals always look to become accredited by a professional body, for example, Ergonomic Society or Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

Experience: 

What experience do you have?  Build on your strengths in the beginning – for example, if you have a special skill in absence management AND enjoy it, why not offer this service to local business?

Training:

Ensure your practical skills are in date eg anaphylaxis training, spirometry, audiometry etc if taking on this type of work

Insurance: 

You will need public liability insurance if you work out of your own premises plus indemnity insurance available from the Royal College of Nursing or Medical Defence Union – other private companies offer cover too

Type of Company:

Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company, Not for Profit – all have different definitions and liabilities in law

VAT:

How much are you planning on earning?  Larger clients look to ensure that you pay VAT as a measure of your success/size.  If your turnover of VAT taxable goods and services supplied within the UK for the previous 12 months is more than the current registration threshold (this changes annually) or you expect it to go over that figure in the next 30 days alone, you must register for VAT. There are various ways of paying VAT contact HM Revenue and Customs for more detailed advice at VAT information from UK authority.

Corporation Tax:

This is a tax on the taxable profits of limited companies and other unincorporated bodies.

Taxable profits for Corporation Tax include:

  • profits from taxable income such as trading profits and investment profits (dividend income is taxed differently)
  • capital gains – known as ‘chargeable gains’ for Corporation Tax purposes

Go to HM Revenue and Customs (bit.ly/2gITkVv) web pages for more information

Accountant:

Usually required for ‘keeping the books’ and for annual tax returns to the Inland Revenue although this can be done by yourself

Starting out on your own in OH
Starting out on your own in OH

Business Plan: 

If you want to borrow money to start your business most banks will request a business plan which sets out how you intend to earn money and repay your loan.

Market Research:

How much to charge?  Look at local OH providers websites/pages.  Phone up and ask for quotes.  How much were you charged for services in your previous jobs?

Bank Account: 

Many of the leading banks offer business accounts with discounts for the first years of business, most are free initially.  They also offer a personal account manager who can discuss the best way forward for money matters and a 24-hour helpline.

Funding:

Need some equipment? Include this cost in the business plan and borrow from the bank to get you started.

Branding: 

People need to recognise you!  Think of the McDonald’s golden arches or twitters little blue bird!  What do you want to portray – what colour reflects your style/service.  Always use the same format and font for correspondence.  Add consistent signatures to emails.

Logo:  It’s good to have a logo and strapline to easily identify your brand and primary purpose.  See mine:

Occupational Health and Safety Advice in a Changing World

Business Cards: What is important to go on the business card?  Think about changing telephone numbers or addresses in the future.  It is costly to change everything.  Use a high-quality card with easy to read fonts and minimal graphics

Stationery:  Headed paper – are you going to do your own or use a printer?  The higher your sights the more you should pay for your branding/stationery/logo development  costs

Your Website – really necessary when starting out on your own

Domain Name:  The perceived best name for your company would end in .com or .co.uk.  Buy your domain name from a reputable domain name seller.  Costs can vary depending on the perceived importance of the name

Hosting:  You will need a provider to sell you ‘space’ on the web to house your website

Content:  What do you want your website to do?

  • Sell items directly (sites such as eBay, Amazon)
  • Advertise your service
  • A reference site (sites such as the Health and Safety Executive)
  • As a showcase for your work
  • As a record of your activity (blog)
  • A membership of like-minded individuals who need to register to read the full content of the website
  • Other

Images for your website:

There are many free images to download – ensure they are free or you will be infringing copyright.  I use stock exchange at www.sxc.hu/; there is also free online photo editing facilities which can change sizes and clarity of pictures you chose to use – try Paintnet or the free apps that are now available.

In order to monitor who looks at your website and which pages they view, insert the Google Analytics widget.  This allows you to see who, when, where and how the visit has gone. www.google.com/analytics/ warning – this can become compulsive viewing!  Or check to see if your site is working correctly by using search console to run reports and correct errors.

Do you need to take payments online?  Join PayPal who will manage this for you in a safe and effective manner.  Go to www.paypal-business.co.uk/

There are sites which offer the facilities to build your own website – watch this video on Youtube click here which focus’ on the Google free website builder and also gives the names of the best free websites around right at the beginning.  Have a go – it’s addictive!

Networking:

Nothing is stronger than word of mouth to promote a good service and to bring in business.  Go to exhibitions, conferences.  Write articles for magazines.  Join Jiscmail for a lively debate on all manner of topical OH issues via an online forum.  Register with LinkedIn.  Respond to surveys and consultations. Always carry your business cards!

Work you do:

Decide what your focus is early on – what level are you going to operate at and if you are going to specialise in one area or have a wide portfolio (remember you have to keep up to date):

  • Practical Work: Display Screen Equipment, spirometry, audiometry, Fork Lift Truck etc
  • Absence Management
  • Stress
  • Strategic
  • Training (in any of the areas above)
  • Wellbeing/Health Promotion
  • Specific industry eg food, manufacturing, local government, construction, railways etc

Data Protection:

You will need to register with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) if you are processing personal data – currently tier 1 (less than 250 employees) costs £35 per annum.  Go to ICO website for more information or download your free template policy to adapt here

Supervision:

Specialist Practitioners should have ongoing clinical supervision – how will you ensure you get this?

Clinical Governance:

What systems do you have in place to ensure that what you do is evidence-based or best practice?  And what about continuous improvement in your service and clinical work?

Support from the Medical Team:

OH Doctors have a huge part to play in any robust OH practice, ensure you have the support and facility to ask for advice from a Doctor who has a suitable qualification in Occupational Medicine.  Look at the BMA website to check registrations.

Quotes & Invoicing:

Think about your daily rate when deciding on costs for work – also travelling time and petrol, wear and tear to your car plus any hotel accommodation.  When deciding on your rates include costs that you have already used to set up the company and divide that evenly over the year – such as office accommodation, IT, website, stationery, accountant, registration and compliance eg data controller, stationery, reference materials etc. Set out a template for quotes and invoicing to ensure consistency with your branding.  Always use PDF for emailed quotes and invoices using software incorporated in Word or Google Docs.

Subcontracting Work:

If you are overwhelmed with work or bidding on a large contract consider asking other OH companies/agencies to provide assistance or help.  Consider how you will assess the competence of the practitioners, provide guidance for the work, checking registrations, monitoring the work and payment plans etc. Starting out on your own is a big step but if you have considered the pointers above you will be halfway there to being successful.

Good Luck!

Further Information/Reading on starting up on your own

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