Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest and cheapest business entity to own. To begin a music therapy sole proprietorship, just get out there and start providing services. So long as you are an MT-BC meeting any state licensure or permitting requirements, than you’re good to go; if you currently provide therapy sessions, music lessons, or anything else unaffiliated with another business, than you already are a sole proprietor! This is because there is no legal distinction between you as “one natural person” and the business entity. You are the sole (single, as opposed to partnerships) proprietor (“owner” or person with exclusive rights) of your business services. This means you are entitled to all profits, but also burdened with “unlimited responsible” for all debts and liabilities. All business income (or losses) is taxed as your own direct income (or losses), and along with your business expenses, is filed through a Schedule C on your personal tax return (Form 1040). So keep good records and receipts of all money coming in and going out to prepare yourself for income taxes. You would be wise to set money aside (I suggest at least 20%) as soon as you earn it, and be sure to pay the IRS in total by April 15th, or preferably in quarterly estimated filings by the 15th of April, June, September, and January. For more information, see the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) websites. Accountants may provide a free consultation to help you understand these responsibilities, and offer reasonable rates to help you file taxes.

What about a better name? You and the business are a single entity, but you may prefer not to market your personal name. While carefully crafting a business name, check to make sure it isn’t already registered in your state nor trademarked nationally. You may also want to peruse social media and find available URLs before committing to a name. Each state will be a little different, but the brief paperwork and minimal costs of filing a “DBA” (Doing Business As, also known as a fictitious name) are a snap.

For example, Jennifer Sokira was sole-pro for several years: “Before I began CTMTS (Connecticut Music Therapy Services) I was a sole proprietor. I had a regular full-time music therapy job at a school and I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the “after school” clients as a business. I took on some extra clients because I needed extra money. When I was ready to take the next step and leave my full time job, I just opened an LLC to create a separation of filled up my clinical hours via word of mouth. I plugged along for a couple of years with my main focus on music therapy, my clients and being a clinician, but I didn’t spend a great deal of time focusing on my identity as a business owner. This changed as my business grew and my vision for my business expanded, however I’m glad that I focused on my clinical work during those first few years. I needed that time to grow into the role of a business owner. This allowed me to become a good mentor to my employees and to develop a trustworthy reputation as an effective therapist, which is a great asset in growing my company now” (Pizzi & Guy, 2015, p. 23).

Any questions or corrections? Comment below, or e-mail RileyMTBC@gmail.com. This is the second part in a serial about music therapy business legal tax structures. Follow on Twitter @rhythmNreason or check out our website tag “Business Legal Structures.”

BizFilings. (n.d.). When to File a DBA. Retrieved from http://www.bizfilings.com/learn/file-dba.aspx.

IRS. (n.d.). Estimated Taxes. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Estimated-Taxes.

IRS. (n.d.). Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/uac/About-Form-1040.

IRS. (n.d.). Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/uac/Schedule-C-(Form-1040),-Profit-or-Loss-From-Business.

IRS. (n.d.). Sole Proprietorships. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Sole-Proprietorships.

Pizzi, M. & Guy, J. (2015). Leading The Way: Music Therapy Businesses of the Future (e-book). Available through the AMTA bookstore at https://netforum.avectra.com/eweb/shopping/shopping.aspx?site=amta2&prd_key=65654da6-2fa6-49ff-8f59-fe5382ba6d69.

SBA. (n.d.). Sole Proprietorship. Retrieved from https://www.sba.gov/content/sole-proprietorship-0.

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Music Therapy Business Structures

When dreaming of and preparing for your own private practice, read everything available and talk to anyone you can about… everything! For this serial, let’s explore which business structure is right for you. Let’s say you want to keep it simple and work under your own name as a sole-proprietor, perhaps filing a “doing business as” (DBA) or fictitious name. If you’re seeking some legal protection and a sense that clients will perceive you as a “legitimate” organization, filing as an Limited Liability Company (LLC) may be a good fit. As your revenue ramps up or if you plan on hiring more employees, perhaps you will file for a C Corporation, or elect to be taxed as an S Corporation. Do you aim to run on donations and/or grants? Consider opening a tax-exempt non-profit organization (NPO).

Stay tuned! The Rhythm & Reason Blog will share basic info on those legal structures most common among Music Therapy businesses using the tag “business legal structures.” Please note that this serial is for educational purposed only, and can not substitute for independent research and consultation of a legal professional.

Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.) Starting a Business. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Starting-a-Business

U.S. Small Business Administration. (n.d.). Starting & Managing. Retrieved from https://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business

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Mission Statements

What is your business’s mission statement? Your professional mission? Personal mission?

Mission statements are 5-second elevator pitches. If everything your entity stands for, accomplishes, and dreams of were a dissertation, your mission statement would be the guiding thesis statement. Mission statements should highlight the most important long-term initiatives of your business, yet fit within a single Tweet. Your statement should be easy to understand. It should inspire support for your cause. It should remind you why you started this initiative, prioritize your daily struggles, and guide your future growth.

A mission statement simply and succinctly summarizes a purpose, goal, niche, agenda, or more. Whereas your vision statement will explore where you want to be in the future, the mission statement says what you will do today to get there. Your mission is the cause, and your vision should be the effect. Your mission is the process, and your vision is the product. A mission statement can be whatever you want it to be. They are not required and they can change over time. They can also be develop for your practice, your career, and your personal life.

What mission statements guide your work and your life? Why do these few, concise words matter? How will you better communicate and enact your ideals?

At the end of every day you may ask yourself: “What did I do today that advanced my business (or career, etc.)?” Perhaps you drafted a new proposal, met with a hospital administrator, or simply provided high quality music therapy and communicated with everyone involved. My professional mission statement reflects my “wide net” of interest, guiding my service to patients and the field:

“To advance music, health, and humanity

Through compassionate, evidence-based music therapy

While continuing education, research, and advocacy.”

This public (yet personal) statement reveals that I am more concerned with experience and service than competition and business expansion. By the end of the day, have I shared the Truth in music? Improved health? Helped humanity? Was I compassionate yet scientific throughout my practice? Did I indulge my curiosity and help my fellow colleagues?

This statement is the one I publish on Music Therapy St. Pete, LLC’s website. It helps people understand what my business is all about. However, I’ve also let myself be guided by a simpler mission statement. My private (but more honest) mission statement is simply, “To provide excellent service and foster authentic relationships.” Good service and communication has brought more business than any blog post or business card.

Finally, I do also think about a personal mission statement, as well as a familial mission statement, but these we can chat about in person. Hopefully over coffee! Cheers!

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Speech-To-Text Dictation

I have begun dictating to my iPhone’s Notes app, which automatically transfers to the Notes apps on my computer. After a quick proofread, the text can be copied and pasted to formal documentation. Speech-to-text dictation will require practice, but it can become surprisingly useful. Once you learn a few commands and develop an articulate “dictation dialect” you will be ready… to save time.

SAFETY and CONFIDENTIALITY

SAFETY and CONFIDENTIALITY are my two greatest concerns; accuracy of spelling or punctuation are non-issues which will be corrected later. DO NOT make dictating your notes a dangerous distraction, such as while driving in the car. You should dedicate 100% of your focus to the road, pedestrians, and the unexpected. I will present enough speech-to-text commands to theoretically enable you to dictate an entire note without typing, but you will still need to look down at your phone now and then, delete a little something, type some correction by hand, etc. Also, DO NOT dictate identifying or sensitive information in a public place, nor document private info through any applications which have any chance of being shared or made public.

Below are some key commands that Siri will use to format your message. You can find even more by searching online. Following this list, a SOAP note example has been provided to demonstrate a transcript of the dictation used to write it.

Common Commands

New line” moves to the next line, like hitting enter or return once.

New paragraph” moves down two lines, giving space before starting your new paragraph.

Cap” capitalizes the next word.

All caps” makes every letter in a single word capitalized (which works best to dictate “all caps m t hyphen b c began group…” to notate “MT-BC began group”).

Hyphen” inserts only a hyphen; “dash” inserts space hyphen and space between words. To dictate MT-BC you would speak, “All caps m t hyphen b c.”

You can dictate punctuation, such as “period,” “comma,” “colon,” “forward slash,” “ellipsis,” “quote” and “end quote,” or “open parenthesis” and “close parenthesis.”

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Profile: Bree Beynon, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist

Bree Beynon, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist, is the Managing Partner of Palm Beach Music Therapy Institute (PBMTI). Before she accepted this position in 2014, she was a clinician and Director of Business Development. Check out PBMTI’s great blog (Thanks again for publishing my guest post “Lyric Analysis Analysis“!), and tune in for their innovative radio show, Connections (recently featuring Florida’s MT registry bill SB 204 / HB 571 senate sponsor, Jeff Clemens!). The Rhythm & Reason Blog asked Bree a few questions about her current work and vision for the future.

How did Palm Beach Music Therapy Institute develop its name?

“I joined PBMTI 6 years into it’s existence so I was not present for the creation of the name or structure.  The name ‘Palm Beach’ suggests higher standard of clinical and musical ability and professionalism which I know is important for my partners and I.”

What have been the most important things to spend money on? The least important?

“Again, I got very lucky coming into this ‘ready-made’ situation, and I fully recognize that.  Now that I am managing the financials for the business during this time of growth I can say that the most important thing is your staff, not only their pay but helping with insurance, education, materials and overall happiness whenever possible.  I don’t think there is a ‘least important’.  Everything has importance if it is essential to your business!”

As PBMTI’s Managing Partner, what are a few of your responsibilities?

“I manage the day to day operations, staff, contractors, client relations and business development.”

Administrative duties and paperwork can be daunting for a new business to establish and for anybody to keep up with. Will you share and suggestions or general thoughts about this side of running a business?

“Surround yourself with competent and motivated people and don’t be afraid to ask them for help.  No one can do it all alone.  Recognizing that is a strength, not a weakness.”

What are the intangibles a person should have to succeed? How can one cultivate those intangibles?

“Motivation, passion, energy and courage.  Operating a business is not for everyone and that’s ok.  If you identify as someone who has these characteristics and wants to move the field of music therapy forward, reach out to a successful business owner and pick their brain!”

What is your perspective on music therapy?

“That’s a big question!  My perspective is that more and more healthcare and education professionals are going to be looking for creative, holistic and non-pharmaceutical approaches to treatment and when that happens, music therapy will be a very welcome and celebrated solution.  The future is very bright for our field and our clients.”

What is your vision of music therapy in the state of Florida and across the country by 2025?

“Board-certified, licensed music therapists will be in every hospital, school district, mental health facility and senior living community AND serving as subject matter experts on healthcare and education boards and advisory councils.”

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Google Search: “Music Therapy Private Practice” 1-17

When you type “Music Therapy Private Practice” into Google (as a probable first step many MT-BCs have taken to explore the idea of going into business), what will you discover? This post summarizes and include hyperlinks to the search results (as of January 11th, 2016 – will change rapidly).

  1. Kimberly Sena Moore’s “Private Practice 101” – Kimberly presents an 8 week guide to starting a practice, including links to 9 previous posts on the topic plus new information on professional support, finances, paperwork, and marketing.

  2. Sena Moore’s “How To Start Your Private Practice: The Bare Necessities” –  In Kimberly’s earlier singular post on the topic, she presents six basic steps: selecting a business legal structure, securing your unique business name, planning an accounting system, possibly opening a business bank account, connecting with legal professionals, and managing valuable time.
  3. AMTA’s “How to Find a Music Therapist” – AMTA invites you to e-mail findMT@musictherapy.org or search their online directory of MT-BCs. The page also answers the “What, Who, Where, How and Why” of hiring a credential music therapist. It is briefly mentioned that some clinicians work in private practice.

  4. Jennifer M. Korff’s “Music Therapy Self-Employment Resource Binder” – Korff’s 2006 Seniors Honors Thesis form Eastern Michigan University is a very helpful read. The thesis begins with some hard questions you should examine long before starting a business, then continues with finding clients, marketing, sources for reimbursement, guide to determining rates, deductible expenses (I had not known about pro bono sessions or half of the SE tax paid, I’ll need to verify those two for my own state/business!), internet resources, general tips, and a brief glossary.

  5. Music Therapy Ed’s “4 Tips To Start Your Private Practice” video – Kat Fulton shares four tips: 1) Network with other MT-BCs in the area to identify which clinical areas are not currently being served; 2) identify those populations your most and least want to work with; 3) research providers serving your target populations; and 4) go to shake hands with people in the community – make calls, send e-mails, present at luncheons, and attend meetings!

  6. There’s a lot more! Click here to Continue reading

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Google Search: “Music Therapy Private Practice” 18-35

  1. MusicMind – MusicMind is a private practice offering Neurologic Music Therapy for Body, Mind, & Spirt.

  2. Job Profile: Music Therapist – This “Master’s in Special Education Program Guide” describes the salary, responsibilities, skills, training requirements, pros/cons, and outlook for a standard career in the music therapy profession.

  3. Career Overview of a Music Therapist – Similar to the the previous job profile but additionally features input from Kalani, section on personality and lifestyle, and some “gem questions.”

  4. Rachel Rambach’s “Making CONNECTIONS Every Day” – Offering services beyond music therapy not only diversifies income stream, but can be a huge word-of-mouth marketing opportunity. The more people are exposed to music therapy observations, conversations, elevator speeches, cards or brochures, etc., the better chances they will connect you with a friend or loved one who will benefit from our compassionate, evidence-based therapy!

  5. Kathy Lindberg’s “Prelude to Coda: The Secret to Starting your Own Successful Creative Arts Therapy Practice” – This experienced music therapy business owner published over 87 pages to guide you in your own start up. It is available as an ebook for $37.00 and paperback for $49.95.

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