A Guide to becoming an Independent Support Worker

So, you want to become an independent Support Worker?

To figure out if you are ready to take the plunge into the sometimes tricky and often lonely world of an independent support worker, you’ll need to tick off a few requirements outlined in this guide. We’ve also included some suggestions to think about.

DSHQ Consulting can help you get set up with your best foot forward with templates, policies, client system management and support for you through regular meetings or even adhoc advice. To find out more email hello@dshq.com.au or book a time.

This guide outlines

  • Required Qualifications, Experience and Mandatory Checks
  • Setting up and ABN and getting the right Insurance
  • Policy, Procedure and Systems
  • Finding Clients
  • Setting Rates
  • Is it all worth it?

Quick Links

 

Qualifications and Experience

It is recommended you have a suitable qualification. At a minimum, usually a Cert III in one of the following:

  • Individual Support
  • Community Services
  • Youth Work
  • Mental Health
  • Health Service Assistance
  • Allied Health Assistance

These qualifications will help you understand your role and make it easier to attract clients or get a job with an established organisation. Generally, 1-2 years with an employer will give you a good foundation to consider going it alone.

You must also complete the NDIS Orientation Module/s and have a NDIS Worker Screening Check

 

Motivation

It’s important to think about your motivation as to why you want to become a self-employed Support Worker. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about if working for yourself is something you really want or can do successfully.

There are a few things to think about:

  • Do you have the business skills or personal discipline to succeed…think marketing, invoicing, paying yourself, setting up systems tax etc?
  • Are you ok working without support or supervision?
  • If you are coming from a steady income, are you ok for inconsistent earnings – at least for the short term?
  • Do you understand the NDIS Pricing Arrangements?
  • Do you understand the NDIS Code of Conduct, reporting obligations, Restrictive Practice etc.?
  • Do you have enough paid experience to support your clients without organisational backing?

 

Initial Setup

You have the qualifications and experience and have decided to start your own business, great!

First you will have to decide if you would like to be a Sole Trader/Partnership or register as a company. Usually, people start as a Sole Trader and move to Company Structure later – see Sole Trader vs Company

For the purpose of this guide, it is assumed you will setup as a Sole Trader.

For NSW, Services NSW have a handy way to Set up as a Sole Trader.

 

Getting an ABN

Getting an ABN is easy and shouldn’t cost you anything, there is no need to pay a third party to set this up for you.

Go here for more information, and to apply: Apply for an ABN

If you would like to use a business name, you make an application through Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), there are fees associated with this.

 

Getting Insurance

There are (at least) two types of insurance you will need to run your Support Worker business. Generally, these are quite affordable, usually coming in at under $300/annum combined. Bizcover are an insurance broker that can help you find the most affordable cover.

Public Liability Insurance

Public Liability Insurance is designed to supply protection for you and your business in the event a customer, supplier or a member of the public are injured or sustain property damage because of your negligent business activities.

Public Liability Insurance also helps with the legal costs associated with managing claims that are covered by the policy.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

Professional Indemnity Insurance is designed to protect people who give advice or supply a professional service. If it’s alleged you make a mistake, supplied inadequate or inaccurate advice, misstated a fact, or have been just plain misinterpreted, Professional Indemnity Insurance will protect you financially and help save your reputation too.

If you employ staff or plan to employ staff (in some circumstances, even a contractor is considered an employee) in the very near future, you must also have Workers Insurance.

In addition to the above, it is recommended you consider some sort of income protection insurance.

If you plan to use your car, you will need comprehensive car insurance.

 

Systems and Policies

It is important to consider if you will want to expand later, hire staff or contractors, or become an NDIS Registered Provider. If you are looking to get NDIS Registered now or in the future, now is the time to set up all your policy and procedures.

At a minimum, you will need a service agreement and consent form for your new clients.

It’s well worth getting a Client Management System (CMS) in place now. There is no requirement to have a ‘professional’ CMS Platform, so you can make one yourself using MS Excel for example. Anything you do create must be securely stored on the Cloud (OneDrive etc), and not on a device.

To keep track of your income, tax and business spending, services like Xero and Quickbooks are handy. Hnry is aimed at the self-employed and can pay your tax automatically.

There are plenty of alternatives, so have a look around and find a service that suits you.

 

Finding Clients

You are ready to start taking on clients…but why aren’t they knocking the door down to sign up with you?

Your first few months may be a little slow, do not worry there is plenty of work to go around, you just have to find it.

Here are a few tips we have learnt along the way:

  • Branding and marketing is far easier with a business name and logo
  • Set up a Facebook page and join the NDIS Independent Workers groups – there are a lot around
  • Look at what comparable providers are doing to get business, learn from there approach and adapt it to work for you
  • Set up a website – with moderate computer knowledge you can set up an adequate website with WordPress to get a bit more online presence. Alternatively, contract someone to build a site for you.
  • Create a service flyer and send it to all the Support Coordinators in your area
  • Sign up to Mable – you can set your own rates, but they will take 10% of your earnings and charge the client an added 5%.
  • Post an ad on Clickability and Digital Genie

 

Setting rates

The maximum you can charge for the service you are delivering is set out in the NDIS Price Arrangements and Limits, these are updated semi-regularly so keep an eye on them.

You can charge less than the Price Guide price to be more competitive and/or to align with your experience.

Be fair to yourself and understand how much meat is on the bone when you start lowering your rates.

Your rates should be set out in the Schedule of Support with the Service Agreement.

It also worth looking at the budget as a whole, rather than focusing on an hourly rate.

For example:

You have a full Wednesday free that you would like to fill for 6 months. You meet with Alex and Danny.

Alex is happy to pay you the maximum rate ($55.47), their package amounts to $5000 over 6 months.

Danny wants to negotiate a lower rate ($53.00), their package amounts to $10000 over 6 months.

You will work with Alex for 3.7 hours per week to get $5000

You will work with Danny for 7.8hrs per week to get $10,000

In this scenario, it may be worth working for a lower rate to get the whole package of $10,000 rather than taking on one client at full rate and trying to find another client to fill in the rest of the day.

You would also have to consider how far the next client lived from Alex as you may absorb any financial advantage in travel time

 

Is it worth it?

To wrap up, you’ll need to closely consider if running your own business is for you. There are clearly advantages and disadvantages, but it all comes down to your personal goals. Often working for someone else is easier but the financial reward is limited, especially when it comes to tax breaks. Email us at hello@dshq.com.au or book a time to discuss your options.