These days I’m getting an awful lot of emails from you lovely IBCLCs (or future IBCLCs) looking for advice on how to grow your lactation consultant business.
Being a private practice IBCLC certainly has it’s perks (make your own schedule, meet families in their homes or in your own office, snuggle all the babies) but it’s also a ton of work and windmilling your arms around in the air yelling “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT!!”
(If you can’t imagine someone doing this, please take a peek at my to-do list and prioritize it for me because this is not my strong suit. Ahem.)
I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts that answer these emails I keep getting- and today I’m starting squarely in the middle of the business building process because that’s how I roll (see above) by sharing with you all of the tools I use in my private practice.
Some of the links below will be affiliate links, which means I get a small portion of the sale if you purchase from these companies- but rest assured that I am a paying, active customer for everything I’ll recommend.
grow your lactation consultant business with the forms, tools and services I use every day, listed below in no particular order!
charting forms and superbills for IBCLCs
I do all of my charting on paper so I can maintain eye contact with my clients; while this may change some time down the line, I am head-over-heels in love with the clinical charting forms, superbills, and doctor report template I purchased from Diana West’s LC Forms store.
Diana’s forms are available in a variety of configurations, from non-personalized paper charting to personalized e-fillable PDFs that allow you and your clients to do all charting on the computer.
Honestly, I truly love the look and feel of Diana’s forms. They are beautifully formatted and I love just bopping down the row, checking things off and notating as needed. The doctors report I send to my clients’ pediatrician after every visit is normally only one page and takes me less than 15 minutes to complete.
2019 update: I no longer chart on paper! For more info on e-charting visit my blog post all about paperless charting, how to get started, and what system I use.
online tools- faxing, scheduling, web hosting...
FAXES! After every single client visit I fax the pediatrician (or sometimes their chiropractor or the pediatric dentist they’re seeing for frenotomy) a one-page summary of my assessment and our care plan. I use SRFax.com to send the report straight from my computer- no actual fax machine or landline needed!
The plan I use is $6.95/month and provides me with my own fax # and a fax-to-email service. On the rare occasion that someone faxes me, it’s delivered as a PDF directly to my inbox.
ONLINE SCHEDULING! I use Acuity Scheduling on my website so that families can view my availability and self-schedule visits with me. The Powerhouse Player plan allows you to fully integrate Acuity into your website (here’s my current set-up) and is HIPAA compliant.
I’ve integrated my intake form so my clients can fill out their health history before they meet with me. Acuity also allows you to sell service packages (like a prenatal & home visit combination package) and gift certificates, as well as subscription services like ongoing phone support.
WEB HOSTING! To be honest, information about my website will probably become an entire blog post. For now I’ll just say that after much trial and error with various web builders like Weebly and SquareSpace I’ve now landed on a self-built WordPress site hosted through SiteGround. I pay $5.95/month for a GrowBig account and have moved all of the sites I run off of their various platforms and onto SiteGround.
They seriously have the best customer service- they’ve saved my butt so many times when I’ve accidentally broken bits & pieces of my site, and they’re never rude about answering my stupid questions that really aren’t *technically* tech support related.
money matters- payment processing, accounting and mileage
PAYMENT PROCESSING & CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS! 95% of my in-home lactation clients choose to pay me with a credit card. I use Square to process all of my credit and debit card transactions because they’re HIPAA Compliant and they allow me to accept all major debit and credit cards, as well as HSA/FSA debit cards.
I use their wireless chip card reader, and Square provides my clients with a nicely formatted receipt via email or text, and the money is deposited into my checking account the next day. I pay a percentage of any money I take to Square- no monthly fee. Couldn’t be easier all around. If you sign up using my link, we’ll both get free credit card processing on up to $1,000 worth of sales in the next 180 days!
ACCOUNTING! I used to use free accounting software called Wave, and it did what I needed… until I realized I had set something up wrong and all of my calculations were off. which affected my income tax filings. The only way I could fix it was to delete my entire account and start it over from scratch with an entire year worth of transactions. That SUCKED.
So now I use Quickbooks! There are lots of different subscription levels but I use Simple Start, which integrates with both Square and Acuity and makes it much easier to keep track of payments from clients. I also truly love the app that lets me look at reports at any time to see how well I’m doing in a given time frame.
Good financial hygiene is HUGELY important when you’re running a small business. Even if you’re only making $50 a month… eventually you’ll be making more money. Get your accounting systems in place now, people, and avoid the growing pains!
MILEAGE! This business involves a lot of driving. I used to track mileage on paper but I’d miss a lot of little trips to Staples, the bank, Target… a few months ago I downloaded MileIQ and I’ll never go back!
MileIQ runs in the background on your phone and simply asks you if each trip is personal or business- then loads all that data into a report for you come tax time. I pay $5.99/month for MileIQ and have already logged $471 worth of business miles in less than three months- I would have missed hundreds of these miles using a paper log. Sign up using my link and get a 25% discount on an annual subscription!
marketing basics- stock photos and graphic editing
STOCK PHOTOS! If you’re using photos or graphics on your website or printed materials, you can’t just use google image search. I use DepositPhotos to legally (and cheaply) purchase all my stock photos. They have a large selection of breastfeeding photos (though sadly, they’re mostly of white women…) and I’ve always been able to find something that fits my needs there.
GRAPHIC EDITING! I am not by any means a graphic design pro. Luckily Canva exists- and I use it to design all my web graphics, my memes, my flyers & mailers- everything I put on the internet or have printed. It’s fairly intuitive to use, you can save your brand color scheme, and even the free plan is enough to meet my needs (though there are a whole lot more features available if you upgrade to Canva for Work at $12.99/month).
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This is amazing info! Thank you so much! What are your thoughts about having a room in your home dedicated for patients to come to you in addition to making home visits? Not sure if most people would want to leave their house if the cost was a little less to come to my house.
Hi Naomi! I think it’s a great idea if you have a dedicated room that can be accessed from outside without having to walk through your house, ideally with an attached bathroom. It opens up a lot of tax and insurance hoops to jump through, though.
Thank you so much for doing this series! There isn’t a lot of up-to-date information out there for us newbies on being in private practice, so this was sort of like a gold mine for me. At least a place to start and things to consider. I’m super appreciative of this.
Thanks so much for sharing your information. It’s very helpful!!
I’m an Rn working prn in a postpartum unit, which I’m hoping will be helpful. Do you have suggestions regarding affordable advertising, or ways to find clients.
This is invaluable information. I have been an IBCLC for 2 years now and work in a pediatricians’ office. I have been a pediatric LPN for 18 years. I would love to venture out on my own and this is amazing information. I am also a photographer and am hoping to incorporate that into my business as well. Thanks so much
I’m so glad it’s helpful to you Rivka! Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like me to tackle in upcoming posts.
Hey Rachel thank for the valuable information. I was a OB RN for 5 years and now I am a DNP, FNP-C and I am starting a lactation consultant business on the side with concierge services. I am trying to learn the business and I am looking forward to following your blog
Do you need to do all the paperwork? Or file with insurance? I was just thinking about doing some consulting on the side. Been a postpartum rn for 8+ yrs and ibclc for 1 and have 7 kids. Was just thinking about doing this instead of working in the hospital.
Thank you for this information. It is so helpful. I would be interested in you writing a post about the supplies that you have/use for consults, like what scale you have and what other supplies you buy and have on hand. Thanks
Rachel, thank you so much for your top notch guidance. Can you elaborate on accepting insurance and your relationship with Aetna? I am an L&D/PP RN and I just passed the IBCLE in April 2017. I’m interested in starting a side business while I work full time in the hospital. Thanks!
Hi Cindy! I’m in network with Aetna, they’re the only insurance company in my area that accepts IBCLCs with no other medical license as in-network. If you’re thinking about applying to be an Aetna provider I highly suggest this guide: http://shop.peacelovebreastfeeding.com/Crash-Course-2nd-Edition-for-IBCLCs-002.htm
I am an RN, and I just completed and passed the IBCLC exam in December. Are you still having issues with insurance reimbursement?
I’m starting up my own outpatient business.
I am so appreciative of this post! I’m planning on sitting my exam in 2018 and it’s been so helpful. But also it’s given me a deep, ravenous need for that boob pen, so there’s that. 😉 Thanks, Rachel!
Oh my boob pen! It ran out of ink. It makes me sad. But look, there’s hope for both of us! http://amzn.to/2qfefWq
I absolutely love this! I’m an IBCLC trying to figure out how I want to practice. Can you tell me on average how many clients you see in a week? I’m scared that I won’t make enough doing pp but that is really what I want to do. I’m also considering trying to start while also working full time in my current nursing position if that’s what I need to do. Other private practice IBCLCs are so secretive on their businesses.
Hi Courtney! I think your best bet is to try to start your private practice while also working as a nurse. PP work is feast or famine, especially in the beginning when you don’t have name recognition in the area. I also work per diem on a maternity floor and I usually see around 4 PP clients a week, which is about 15 hours of work. Sometimes less, sometimes more. It’s hard to admit but the vast majority of PP IBCLCs I know don’t make “enough” money.
This is so helpful! I’m working my way through your suggestions as I put together a budget for my first year in business. How does Acuity work if you are potentially travelling to a client? And do you have a magic way for it to set time aside for finishing up documentation afterwards?
P.S. my sister lives in Sudbury and I was tickled to be getting advice from her “neighbor” (I live in Indiana)
Tell your sister I’ll meet her at Karma for coffee any time 😉
All of my visits are in-home, so the best way I’ve found is to build a buffer into the appointment lengths. My initial visits are normally 2 hours, so I tell Acuity to schedule them for 3 hours. This way if I have two people back-to-back there’s actually a free hour in between for travel & charting.
The only time this doesn’t work well is when I have a client very far out of my service area-but then I can look at the bookings, contact the client, and tweak timing as necessary. 99.9% of my clients are within a 30 minute drive of my house.
This is fantastic! I’m actually an MD opening a private practice breastfeeding clinic in Portland, OR! A lot of this info still applies to me and I am eagerly awaiting your next installment!
Awesome, your services as a MD in the lactation field are so sorely needed! The families in Portland are very lucky to have you <3
This blog is definitely going to be my bible for working my business. Thank you so much for sharing
So glad you liked it, Jacquie! Anything in particular you’re looking to learn more about in future blogs?
Thank you so much for posting this information! I am in the process of becoming an IBCLC and had a mini-breakdown this morning over whether I have what it takes to run my own practice. I have a 5 year old and have been at home with her since birth and the idea of going back to a 9-5 is not pleasant. Your post gave me the confidence boost I needed!
For most people, private practice IBCLC work is so incredibly far from the normal 9-5 grind, so that’s definitely a plus 🙂
Thank you Rachel!!!! This is SO helpful! Thank you for your willingness to share your pricing as well. I don’t know why people aren’t more willing to share that info! Each person can easily change $$ to what is best for their area! But it helps to see the break down ! (versus just stabbing in the dark) I have used GoDaddy for my website, and the site has been down for a year since my daughter has been unable to help me due to a rough pregnancy, then newborn and now moving. So … I might have to forge ahead and start all over ! It was overwhelming to me. But this all looks very doable! I can do “some” stuff – but redoing my web site … ugh! I lose things and can’t place them where I want them etc.
Yeah, web sites are overwhelming and I think most people in our profession avoid working on them as much as possible. You may feel like a weight is lifted off yoru shoulders if you just pay someone to build you a fresh new site.
Thankyou much for this post Rachael. Very informative and helpful
So glad you like it!
This is truly helpful to summarize all that is needed for someone to start up the business. When I get those calls all I can manage to say is it’s a lot of “other” work besides holding babies. Can I send people to this blog?
Yes, feel free to send people to the blog. Is there a topic you think might be helpful?
This is so helpful; thank you tons!
Thanks Liz! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.