Let me offer my take. Let me walk you through the process of becoming your own boss.

Deciding to become a locum veterinarian was not difficult for me. I have a large local family and wanted to be free to attend family events as well as travel more. I did enjoy associate work, but the notion of becoming my own boss with no one to blame but myself was highly attractive.

How to reinvent yourself

I created an LLC. This allows me to keep my business expenses separate from my personal ones to separate liability. Some states require an LLC or S-Corp, while others do not. I spoke to an accountant and a financial advisor, and while both said it was not required, I decided that it was best for me. It was easy, and now when I have a contract secured, I send a W-9 with the LLC’s tax identification number as opposed to handing out my social security number. To make it even more official, I had someone create a logo for me. I use my logo on my business cards and magnet and recently had a website set up through Powprint.

Who am I?

We are not just veterinarians. We are artists, chefs, gardeners, photographers, travelers, hikers, and so much more. We are capable of achieving balance between our self and our rewarding careers. We do not have to allow our professions to completely consume and define us.



How to create a budget

How frequently do you want to work? I created a budget in Microsoft Excel and decided my rate. Relief Rover’s website has a wonderful calculator function that will help you assess your expenses. Rates will vary by region and asking other locums and practice owners in the area can provide a starting point. Ziprecruiter can also provide some insight on fees. When comparing my budget versus my rate, I was able to decide how many days I needed to work to cover expenses. I typically work on a daily rate rather than hourly. My contract does specify that a certain number of hours are covered by the rate, after which overtime will be charged.

How to approach prospective clients

Who wants to hire me? There are many avenues to securing work. Prior to Covid-19, I stopped in at clinics and dropped off a folder with my information. Email now allows me to safely reach out to prospective employers. Most local and state VMAs keep a list, and you can provide your information to them. Relief Rover has positions listed, and you can post your resume/profile on the platform so employers can reach out to you. Once connected, a meet and greet is recommended. This gives you a feel for one another and allows you to provide a face to the name, to become a real person to the clinic’s management.



How to design a contract

The nitty-gritty. Always have a contract in place with each employer before starting a job. My rate is not published but is written into the contract, as it may depend on the location, hours, day, or whether it is ER or general practice. For some of my long-term commitments I will do surgery, but for a brief commitment I will not, as I am not familiar with the staff or the protocols. This is specified in my contract.

Your contract must also address what will happen in the event of illness, clinic closure due to weather, cancellation policies, proper dress code, and timing of payment. I also mention that I will not use any information belonging to the clinic without specific permission. I ask even before copying things like cartoons.



How to navigate the paperwork

Oh, the forms. You should provide a W-9, which can be downloaded from irs.gov, even if the clinic does not ask for it. You are responsible for the payment of your own taxes. As a relief veterinarian, expenditures as well as mileage are deductible. If you are a W-2 employee, these expenses are NOT deductible. If you work the same days every week on a recurring schedule, you should technically be a W-2, or part-time, employee but the practice may not do this. Keep track of all your expenses and consult with an accountant. Since taxes are not regularly taken out of my paychecks, I pay quarterly taxes. This has been set up by my accountant. I keep all my expenses in spreadsheets, but there are numerous other applications available that can help.

How to create a retirement plan for yourself

Savings, what are those? Find yourself a financial advisor. As a locum, you are responsible for your retirement plan. Saving money is difficult. A financial advisor can help you choose between a SEP IRA, 401K, or simple IRA. You can also read about these on irs.gov and other sites. 


You have built your foundation.  

Enjoy – but remember to track your expenditures.

Take advantage of all the bonuses and freedoms your new lifestyle will bring you.  

Now go to work!