Find Physical Therapy Clinical Side Work As An Independent Contractor

Today, I wanted to discuss a new job opportunity within the Physical Therapy (PT) profession: Mobile PT Side Gigs. This job may be of particular interest to physical therapists looking to earn extra income on the side, have more flexibility in their life, or spice up their clinical career. The goal of this blog post is to help physical therapists decide if this opportunity is right for them.

What are Mobile PT Side Gigs?

First let’s highlight and understand the key differences between available physical therapy jobs. Sometimes the differences can be confusing since job terminology is used interchangeably and can mean different things in different health organizations. Every job can be unique by combining various elements. I included a basic outline of common elements related to physical therapy job descriptions below.

Employment duration:

Employment duration can be permanent, temporary, or flexible. Permanent work has no defined contractual end point and usually pays less given the stability and security it provides. Temporary work has a defined contractual end point that usually lasts weeks to months and often times pays more given the inherent risk of having to find new work. Flexible work allows you the freedom to start or stop work without consequence.

Employment location:

Employment location can be fixed, travel, or dynamic. Fixed work allows you to commute to the same work location from a permanent residence and generally pays less. Travel work pays more and may offers stipends, but requires you to move or change your home every several weeks to months. Dynamic allows you to live from a permanent residence, but requires to travel to changing nearby work locations.

Work hours:

Work hours can be fulltime, part-time, or flexible. Full time work includes benefits and requires a minimum number of hours to be worked each week. Part-time work usually does not include benefits, but allows you to work less than 32 hours per week. Flexible work allows you to ramp hours up or down without consequence.

Employer-employee relationship:

Employer-employee relationship can be standard, PRN/casual/per-diem or independent contractor/freelancer. A standard relationship allows you to permanently work for an employer. A PRN/casual/per-diem relationship also allows you to work for an employer with slightly higher pay, but usually with a flexible or unpredictable schedule that places you on-call to cover sick days or absences. An independent contractor is paid significantly more and is not bound to an employer, but they are responsible for their own insurance and benefits if they don’t already have them.


Settings can be hospital (acute care), transitional (transitional care units, inpatient rehab, nursing homes), home health (medically complex or home bound patients), clinic (outpatient ambulatory), or mobile (outpatient ambulatory in patient home, gym, or workplace).

Throughout this article, when I discuss Mobile PT Side Gigs I am defining it as:
  • Employment duration: flexible
  • Employment location: dynamic
  • Work hours: flexible
  • Employer-employee relationship: independent contractor/freelancer
  • Setting: mobile

This type of work could be thought of as the Uber or AirBnb version of physical therapy.

How to start Mobile PT Side Gigs?

Step 1: Decide if it’s right for you

Bob and Sue are both Physical Therapists.
They each see 15+ patients per day and are salaried at $36 an hour.
They feel overwhelmed trying meet insurance requirements.
They sometimes feel too busy to provide skilled care.
They stay late in the clinic to finish notes.
They are worried because they both still have another 70k in student loan debt.

Below are the main reasons why someone like Bob or Sue would take on Mobile PT Side Gigs

  • Achieve financial freedom
  • Earn more income per hour worked
  • Flexibility and control over their schedule
  • Easier documentation
  • Focus on patients not on insurance requirements
  • Enjoyable side work with less pressure, demand, and burnout
  • Leverage direct access to get out of the clinic and see patients in the home, workplace, or community
Step 2: Become familiar with direct access in your state

Mobile PT Side Gigs usually (not always) means seeing patients/clients for cash without a physician referral or insurance involvement.  The nature of the visit could be preventive wellness or traditional outpatient physical therapy.  You should be familiar with how direct access relates to each type of visit in your state.

Let’s go through an example using the state of Minnesota.

If we take a look at MN guidelines as of April 16, 2020 you will see the following:

Minnesota Direct Access Guidelines

Every state has different rules and you will need to be aware of the rules for your state. You can learn more by browsing the APTA’s direct access general resources or guidelines by state. 

Step 3: Become familiar with Medicare regulations

Patients who have Medicare as insurance are required by law to use their insurance for any medical services that it would reimburse for. If you are planning on seeing Medicare patients, then you will need to become a registered Medicare provider and provide the patient with the necessary documentation to submit all claims to Medicare (if the patient pays you in cash) or submit on your own (to get paid by Medicare).

If you are providing a service Medicare would not reimburse for such as fitness/wellness, return to sports, continued care after denial of reimbursement, or any other service that is considered non-skilled by Medicare you may see clients who have Medicare without restrictions. Just make sure you are aware of any direct access restrictions in your state. In the future, I will be writing a guide on all things Medicare.

Step 4: Talk with your current employer if you have one

Transparency is always best Let your employer know that you plan on doing Mobile PT Side Gigs. Explain to them that your financial freedom and providing for your family is important to you.

Be fair to yourself and your employer Make it clear you will keep your side work completely separate from their business to make sure everyone’s interests are being taken into consideration.  Most employers will understand and appreciate your concern for yourself and their business.

Step 5: Make a small investment in Mobile PT Side Gigs equipment

Start with the essentials:

  • • Portable exam table ($75-100)

Gather other tools as you become aware of your clientele:

  • • Stethoscope
  • • Blood pressure cuff
  • • Pulse oximeter
  • • Gait belt
  • • Tape measure
  • • Goniometer
  • • Inclinometer
  • • Reflex hammer
  • • Resistance bands
  • • Light dumbbells
  • • Cones
  • • Agility ladder
  • • Tape
  • • Dowel rod
  • • Etc

This is not a complete list of all possible tools you may need for Mobile PT Side Gigs

Step 6: Protect yourself and your assets with insurance

Decide if professional liability insurance is appropriate for your situation. HPSO and CM&F are two carriers that offers affordable professional liability insurance for physical therapists.

Decide if filing for a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is appropriate for your situation. Physical Therapists who see a high volume of patients as Mobile PT Side Gigs may sometimes file for a LLC. An LLC is a business entity that separates your personal assets from your business assets so if there was litigation the LLC would further shield your personal assets if your professional liability insurance didn’t cover the cost.

*Note: nothing in this blog post is considered legal advice. If you have specific legal questions you should consult with a licensed legal profession.

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