5 Tips for Getting Started as a Direct School Contractor

Jul 02, 2024

Venturing into the realm of direct school contracting as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), occupational therapist (OT), or physical therapist (PT) can be both exciting and daunting.  

Here are five tips to help you navigate this journey and set yourself up for success (regardless of what time of the year it is). 

1. Gain an Understanding of the School Environment

If you're transitioning from a private practice or a medical setting, adapting to the school environment requires a significant shift in mindset. Compliance and regulations can be complex, but there are ways to ease the transition:

  • Therapy-Only Contracts: Pursue contracts that focus solely on therapy services, allowing you to avoid the additional compliance responsibilities while giving you exposure to school documentation.
  • Hire Out the Contract: If you're a practice owner, consider hiring someone with school experience to serve the contract, helping you navigate the intricacies of school regulations.

2. Establish Your "Why" and Craft Your Offers

Defining your purpose and what you offer is crucial in aligning with the right opportunities. It's easy to find yourself in a role that doesn't match your goals once you start engaging with districts.

  • Determine Your Why: Reflect on what motivates you and what specific services you want to offer. 
  • Craft Your Sales Pitch: Be prepared to articulate your offerings and boundaries. For example, if you specialize in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), make it clear if you're not interested in full-time provider roles (unless you want to hire out for those roles).
  • Maintain Boundaries: Stay true to your goals and boundaries to ensure you secure contracts that align with your vision. We want contracting to be a burnout solution for you, which means boundaries!

3. Learn Your State Business Requirements

Understanding your state's business regulations is a fundamental step in establishing your practice.

  • Business Registration: States have specific requirements for business registration, such as choosing between an LLC (Limited Liability Company), a PLLC (Professional Limited Liability Company), or a Corporation.
  • Consult a CPA: A quick consultation with a CPA or your local small business association can provide valuable guidance as you navigate this step. I argue it's one of the best investments a business owner can make.
  • Name Availability: Before disclosing your business name to schools or putting it on a contract, ensure it is available and complies with state regulations. 

4. Establish Your Rate

As the school year approaches or if you're starting mid-year, the urgency to fill positions can lead to immediate discussions about your rate.

  • Set Your Rate Early: Have a clear idea of your rate before engaging with districts to avoid being caught off guard.
  • Rate Setting Resources: Check out this blog for guidance on setting your rates.

5. Talk to Schools

Engaging with schools is arguably the most critical step in securing contracts.

  • Identify Decision Makers: Typically, the special education director or an equivalent role is the key decision-maker. Reach out to them directly.
  • Present Yourself as a Solution: Communicate your value and how you can address their needs effectively.
  • Year-Round Needs: Contrary to the myth that spring is the only time for contracting, schools have needs throughout the year. Start conversations as soon as possible to find your ideal role.

My biggest advice--keep in motion.  So much of school contracting you learn as you go, you course correct, you expand. You will not land a contract if you don't take steps despite overwhelm.

For additional support, including sales scripts and objection management tools, check out our School Contractor Packet, which provides comprehensive tools for executing your first contract.

Keep going, don't stop. There's a school waiting for your call. 
❤️ Elise