Many people like the idea of starting their own business. Not having to report to a supervisor and being your own boss is an ideal that a number of folks trapped in a 9-to-5 job have in the back of their minds. The biggest obstacle that prevents people from taking the big leap, however, is concern about whether or not starting a business will be successful. Most small companies fail within the five years of operation, so it’s important to have a product or service that can make it through those early years. For many individuals, medical coding can do just that.
Education alone isn’t enough; no prospective client is going to contract with an inexperienced medical coder. Consequently, before starting on the road to independence it is recommended that an aspiring entrepreneur gain at least two years of hands on work experience in the field. Experience is good for more than one reason, which will be explained later. Of course, part of that experience should be certification. AAPC and AHIMA offer a variety of certifications after basic requirements are met and examinations are successfully completed. These are the largest organizations for medical coders and certification from either or both of them is very desirable.
Network, network, network: that has to be the mantra of anyone starting a new business. It is the least expensive form of advertising and can be done while working at another job. Networking does require good interpersonal skills which can be developed prior to launching a business. Networking can be performed in a variety of settings, including seminars, business meetings, and even social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Moreover, effective networking can earn a business owner new clients directly or indirectly via contacts spreading the word about his or her new venture.
Don’t Forget the Details
There are some of the nitty-gritty details involved in starting a business that any entrepreneurial medical coder should consider, including:
- Establishing a business entity: Whether the business is set up as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, or corporation is a decision with long-term consequences. Seeking advice from a local Chamber of Commerce is a good idea.
- Purchasing equipment, software and resources: Some of this is specific to the medical coding profession (e.g. coding software, ICD-9 and ICD-10 coding books, etc.), while other pieces are common to just about any start-up (e.g. internet, phone, fax machine). Of course, all are vital to launching a successful business.
- Gaining clients: It may be advantageous to subcontract to a small billing company at first, providing them with the coding services they need. If that is not possible (or preferred), a new business owner needs to aggressively market his or her services. This is why it’s so important to build contacts while working for someone else.
Final Thoughts on Starting a Business
It goes without saying that anyone starting a business must be willing to sweat the details and work long hours. It takes time to become successful and anyone creating a new company must realize that. A big attraction to the medical coding industry for any entrepreneur is the fact that the work can be performed from ones home. Beyond the obvious appeal, working from home saves an incredible amount of money on things like office space, furniture and utilities. The idea of starting a medical coding business may sound scary at first, but for the right person, it has a lot of rewards. Being your own boss means – among other things – being the chief decision-maker and the one in charge. Granted, it can be lonely at the top, but you can’t beat the scenery.