Making Veterinary Locum Relief Work Work for You
Veterinarians, Veterinary Nurses, and Veterinary Technicians are drawn to locum relief work for a wide variety of reasons. Some individuals want to focus on maximizing income, while others want to maximize flexibility and work-life balance. Regardless of what draws you to relief medicine, it’s important to ensure that you are running your relief business in a way that reflects what you hope to get out of the profession. Consciously evaluating your business strategy is not only important for vets, nurses, and vet techs that are new to the locum relief world, but also for those who have been in the veterinary relief field for years. Thinking consciously about your business will ensure that your locum relief career is working for you.
Locum relief work is often recognized as a source of better pay, reduced work stress, and the ability to set your own schedule, but these benefits don’t come automatically. Learn how to maximize the benefits of locum work, while minimizing relief-related headaches…
Set your priorities
While your priorities are likely to change over the course of your career, it’s important to have a sense of your goals at any given time. Knowing your priorities will allow you to be more conscious when selecting which locum relief opportunities to consider, focusing on opportunities that will bring you closer to your ultimate goals.
Potential career priorities for a locum relief vet or vet tech might include:
- Maximizing your income to provide financial resources for debt repayment, a home purchase, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, or retirement savings
- Maximizing your work-life balance, working as few shifts as possible while maintaining your desired income
- Working in practices that offer high-quality, high-tech medicine, allowing you to grow professionally and gain new skills
- Working in practices that offer a warm, supportive work environment that allows you to enjoy your work days as much as possible
There is no right or wrong priority for a locum relief business. However, identifying one or two chief priorities (and periodically revisiting these priorities, making changes when necessary) will allow you to be more intentional in your business, determining which practices to work with and how many shifts to schedule yourself in a given week or month.
Create a budget
Relying on locum relief income requires you to have a detailed sense of your expenses, both personal and business-related. You will not be earning a steady salary, so it’s important to establish a budget that will allow you to live securely and comfortably, while also putting away savings for potential slow periods.
In addition to your personal expenses (including categories such as rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, and other expenses), it’s important to also include business-associated expenses when creating your budget. Many expenses that are traditionally employer-paid will now be your responsibility as a locum relief professional. These business-related expenses may include professional licensing, veterinary association dues, health insurance, private disability insurance, retirement contributions, and continuing education. Also, don’t forget to factor in taxes. While your employer typically withholds your taxes from your paycheck in a traditional job, but may be responsible for paying your own income taxes as a locum relief professional.
Use your detailed budget to determine your minimum required income as a locum relief vet or vet tech. Once you have determined your required income, you can make educated decisions about your how much to charge your clients and how many shifts you need to work on a weekly or monthly basis.
Consider your legal business structure
There are multiple ways to structure your locum relief business, depending on your country of residence. In most cases, there is no single right or wrong structure, and you will need to carefully consider which structure will work best for you.
In the United States, relief vets and vet techs can choose whether to operate their business as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or an S-corp. Operating as a sole proprietor is easy and does not require any specific paperwork to establish your business. Establishing an LLC or S-corp typically requires the help of an attorney, but allows you to separate your personal finances from your relief business finances.
In the United Kingdom, you may elect to work under an umbrella company or create your own limited company. Working under an umbrella company allows you to work as an employee for tax purposes (even while choosing your own placements as a locum veterinarian), which can simplify your locum finances. In contrast, creating your own limited company may be a bit more work, but it gives you complete control over your business finances.
When determining the best way to structure your locum business, do your research. Investigate the options that are available in your area, and assess the pros and cons of each option. Talk to other locum relief professionals, to find out what has (or has not) worked well for them. Finally, consult an accountant or other financial professional to ensure that you fully understand the implications of your decision.
Remember, your initial business structure is unlikely to represent a permanent commitment. In most cases, you can reevaluate and change your business structure in the future, if your circumstances change. However, setting up the right business structure can provide a boost to your business, and simplify your career as a locum relief professional.
Develop a relief contract
Some locum relief vets and vet techs operate without a written contract, making all of their work agreements and arrangements verbally. It certainly isn’t the best idea, but if it is just occasional work that can be sufficient. Eventually, though, a situation is likely to arise where you will wish you had a contract.
Your relief contract should spell out all of the details of your work arrangement with a given practice. While most relief professionals have a standard contract used for all clients, you may choose to make changes on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the individual practice.
In addition to including your daily or hourly rate, your contract should also spell out what happens in various scenarios. For example, the practice you are working for is open 8 am to 6 pm and you are scheduled to work those hours, but you end up staying until 7 pm tending to an emergency or returning client calls. Is this extra hour included in your daily rate, is it billed at your normal hourly rate, or do you charge a higher “overtime” rate for hours worked after closing? What happens if the practice cancels your shift on short notice – are you entitled to a cancellation fee as compensation? Are there any procedures that you are uncomfortable performing, and how will you handle those cases if they arrive? Spelling details out clearly in a relief contract can prevent misunderstandings between you and your clients, giving you more control over your work.
In your early days of locum relief work, you may find yourself accepting any work offer that comes your way. That’s only natural, as you build up your business and client base. Over time, though, you will hopefully reach a point where you can accept the “best” jobs (based on your personal priorities) and turn down less-rewarding work. This is where marketing comes in.
There are several ways to market yourself to prospective clients, and many relief professionals use multiple forms of marketing. Consider the following options:
- Join the VETERINARYlocumotion Community – Automatically find Locum Relief work. Automatically find Locum Relief Veterinary Professionals. Real-time shift Needs and Veterinary Professional Availabilities, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…without any extraordinary agency fees, rate markups, or payment delays…and where you can deal directly with Practices and Veterinary Professionals with no one in the middle – not even us 🌞
- Place an ad in your local veterinary association’s newsletter.
- Send an introductory letter or email to all veterinary practices in your area. Include information about yourself and your qualifications, as well as a business card or magnet that practice owners can use to keep your contact information accessible.
- Talk to drug reps, traveling specialists, and veterinary team members who work in your community. Word of mouth is a common way for veterinarians to find locum relief help.
- Network with other locum relief vets and vet techs in your area. They may have more work offers than they are able to accept, which can provide you with a potential new client.
Continuous marketing will prevent you from becoming trapped in a rut, ensuring that you always have a choice of veterinary practices for which to work. The more clients you have seeking your services, the more selective you can be in determining which shifts to accept.
Whether you’re new to locum relief work or a seasoned locum relief professional, it’s important to periodically step back from your daily work and take a long, hard look at the big picture. Is your locum relief business working for you, allowing you to achieve your goals as a veterinary professional? If so, count yourself lucky and keep up the good work. If you see areas of opportunity, though, investing time and energy in conscious business planning can help you maximize the benefits of locum relief work.
- Is relief veterinary medicine for you? – 25 February 2021. https://www.dvm360.com/view/is-relief-veterinary-medicine-for-you-
- Why We Charge What We Do – April/May 2020. https://todaysveterinarybusiness.com/relief-veterinarians-fees/
- Limited Company vs PAYE Umbrella: The Ultimate Guide. https://sjdaccountancy.com/resources/becoming-contractor/ltd-vs-umbrella/
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