Starting a business requires setting up the necessary foundation and basic infrastructure to ensure you are legally protected moving forward. Let’s step through the most straightforward part about starting a private practice: the actual logistics of forming a business.
1. Naming your business
Before you can begin anything else, you will first need a business name. Your business name is the first thing that people see and hear, so it is important to ensure it is memorable and easy to sound out. Here are some tips when you are naming your new business:
- Consider using words that are commonly used and are pleasant sounding
- Extra points if you can use words that can hit emotional nerves that invoke feelings of joy and positivity!
- Avoid names that are too lengthy or have too many syllables.
- Using your name in your business name can also work, but a clever play with elements of your name within it also helps create something more personalized and can showcase your personality and character.
- Make sure that no other business has it claimed online by searching online for other businesses or trademarks.
- When you’ve decided on the name, make sure you register the web domain name! There are plenty of domain-registering companies out there, such as:
- If you decide to build your website on a hosted platform (such as Squarespace or Wix), they often provide the option of purchasing the web domain through them so you can link your custom domain to the website.
Don’t worry if it takes awhile to decide on a name; often times, creating a memorable name that sticks will likely take multiple iterations. It's also a great opportunity to start getting in the habit of asking others (like your board of advisors) for feedback, and don’t be afraid of asking for very critical feedback. It is better to have it be judged by people you know!
2. Forming a business entity
Forming a business entity are highly important because of the following reasons:
- Forming a business entity can offer tax benefits and advantages.
- It projects a professional image, so that it encourages consumer confidence in your business and its services.
- It may protect you from personal liability, depending on the type of business structure you form.
You may want to consult with a lawyer before choosing a business structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, or LLC), and understand the benefits of each structure depending on what you want to do with your business. We definitely highly recommend that you chat with a lawyer as each state may differ, in particular around professional corporation requirements that may or may not apply to the dietitian license. Your local Small Business Administration is also a good place to research your business structure options. Online options, like LegalZoom, also provide services to help set up your business.
Once you have officially formed a business entity, there are still a few additional steps to follow up on:
- Don’t forget to register your business with both the state and the city that you are running your practice in. You will need your EIN for this (see below).
- Depending on the name of your business, you may also be required to file a Fictitious Business Name with your City Recorder through a DBA (“Doing Business As”) certificate. This is required if the name of your business does not include the surname of the owner or the nature of the business is not clearly evident by the name.
- Once you file your DBA, you must publish it in a newspaper of general circulation within 30 days from when you filed. This typically costs around $15-20.
- Perform a web search for “Fictitious Name Filing” along with your city name to find a local newspaper that can help you publish it.
3. Obtain your EIN and NPI
EIN, also referred to as a Tax Identification Number (TIN), is a unique nine-digit number used to identify your business for federal tax purposes. It is highly recommended as a best business practice, especially if you plan to handle insurance in any way:
- In-network: Health insurance companies require that you have an EIN to become an in-network provider.
- Out-of-network: If a private pay patient asks you to provide a superbill so they can submit an out-of-network claim, you need to provide a tax ID. If you do not have an EIN, you will have to provide your highly-sensitive SSN.
You need to have your business entity set up prior to applying for an EIN, so you may be able to request it as part of the services while you are setting up your business entity. Meeting with an accountant can also help save you time and ensure your EIN setup is as seamless as possible.
NPI is a unique ten-digit ID number issued to healthcare providers. Having a NPI will help indicate to potential clients that you are a verified and registered health care provider, as listed in a national registry system designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Having a NPI will be required if you accept insurance, and also necessary when providing a superbill to your out-of-pocket patients when they submit for an out-of-network reimbursement
To get started, apply here! It's an estimated 20-minute process, and you should receive your NPI within a few business days.
4. Obtain professional liability insurance
As a healthcare provider, malpractice insurance is necessary to protect your business financially in the event of a malpractice lawsuit, which is offered by Proliability and other risk management companies.
Carrying liability insurance is a critical best business practice because it:
- Provides you and your business with financial protection
- Offers financial compensation for the consumer public in the event of damages caused by you as a health care provider. Your clients will have a sense of security when they work with you as a provider.
If you are an AND member, you are eligible for discounts. Sign in to your account and scroll down to the fixed navigation bar to “Member Benefits” and click on Member Advantage Program. You will then find a link to Mercer Consumer to obtain a discount code.
If you haven't done so yet, here is a step-by-step summary of how you can set up your business.
STEP 1: Decide on a business name and purchase your web domain.
STEP 2: Identify and form a business entity structure that is right for you.
STEP 3: Obtain your EIN and NPI
STEP 4: Register your business with both your city and state.
OPTIONAL STEP: File a DBA with your City Recorder and publish the name in a local newspaper
STEP 5: Obtain professional liability insurance for your business.
If you get through all of these outlined steps, this covers the majority of setting up a legitimate business and private practice.