The non-clinical spotlight series exists to shed light on all of the interesting paths that rehabilitation professionals have taken. Today’s spotlight focuses on Sarah Lyon, OTR/L who went from OT to founder of OT Potential. Want to be featured on The Non-Clinical PT? Know of someone who’d be a great person to interview? Please reach out today!
What’s your full name and title?
Sarah Lyon, OTR/L
Where did you attend OT school, and what year did you graduate?
NYU Steinhardt, New York City, NY
Masters of Science: January 2010
Department: Occupational Therapy
What did you do when you first finished school?
I bid farewell to Brooklyn and moved to Lincoln, NE. From Lincoln, I commuted an hour to work in a rural critical access hospital, located in the town where I grew up.
At what point did you launch OT Potential, and why?
I had this vision that if OTs had a platform to share what was (and wasn’t) working in their daily work, it would elevate our our whole profession.
Did you initially have a plan for the site, or was it more of a hobby?
When I started, I knew that I wanted to grow it into valuable resource, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. In the beginning, I mostly wrote reflective articles that helped me process my work. I thought of my initial year or so on it as “market research” time, in which I was figuring out what needs were out there and how I could meet them.
OT Potential really started to grow when I made the switch from writing for myself to really focusing on helping others.
How did you design the site? Did you use a CMS or website company?
I have been a dedicated Squarespace user since day one! I love this platform because the templates make it relatively easy to make your site look appealing. Squarespace is also continually updating their backend and available features.
For example, when Google started prioritizing mobile-friendly content, lots of my articles jumped in Google ranking because other platforms hadn’t prioritized this the way Squarespace had.
Using Squarespace has also made having a store associated with my site relatively easy.
Did you have a background in writing, web design, or content marketing?
At what point did you start focusing on growing the site as an actual monetized project?
There were a few twists and turns during that time between starting the site and growing it into a business.
After I had worked in the trauma hospital for about a year, one of my dream jobs opened up at our state psychiatric hospital. I also had a baby at this time and neglected my website for about a year.
We ended up moving to Chicago for my husband’s work in 2014, and while I was waiting for my IL license, I began working on my website again. It kept growing and I haven’t been back to full-time or part-time work, outside of the website, since.
I did have another baby in this time, and I’m thankful to my fellow OT entrepreneurs who helped me keep my platform running during my maternity leave, particularly Mandy from Seniors Flourish. (It really does take an OT village.)
One personal change that helped the business grow was that we moved from Chicago to small-town Nebraska.
Being in a small town has created margin in our finances and time that has allowed me to focus on two of my passions: helping OTs and spending time with my kids.
Do you still work as an OT, or do you run the site full-time?
How do you make income from the site?
I’m a fan of having multiple revenue streams. This was a pro-tip I learned from fashion bloggers, and it has given more stability to my business.
- Affiliate sales: I have a partnership with MedBridge, WebPT, and Neofect.
- Job postings: I currently host a Zip Recruiter jobs board and post Relode Jobs.
- Forms, Ebooks and Handouts: I sell resources made by myself and other occupational therapists.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of running a website for OTs?
I am an ideas person, so for me personally the biggest challenge is the attention to detail that it takes to produce great content.
The most rewarding part is working with OTs from around the globe. The individuals in this profession are truly passionate about providing great care, and it is an honor to serve them.
How do you feel that the site has impacted the OT profession so far? If so, how?
Honestly, my biggest goal for the past couple years was just to answer basic questions people within the field have about OT, especially new grads leaving school. For example, “What is it like to work in a SNF?” and “How do I find a job?” etc. I am making good headway on getting this basic content out there.
In the past year, I’ve been excited to grow into an outlet for individuals to write about advances they are seeing in the field, particularly advances in rehab tech, as this has been a natural fit for the website and my readership.
What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for OTs, moving forward?
I believe that the future of healthcare will be a collaborative one, where some of the most impactful advances will happen when professionals from different industries join forces; for example, an OT working in a tech or data-collecting company, or any other number of non-traditional OT jobs.
As OTs, I think we are particularly well poised to be a part of collaborative pairings like this.
What do you see your site evolving to become in the next few years?
I’ve been mulling recently over the problem of evidence-based care and best practices.
Our productivity expectations have increased, along with the pressure to be backing up our treatments with evidence, but tools have not evolved to help us quickly scan and understand available evidence.
I would like to be a part of solving this puzzle.
What would you tell someone who is eager to start their own website? Do you have any words of wisdom?
In retrospect, one of the most helpful things I did at the beginning was to pay $500 to meet with someone who had experience in branding. In addition to creating my logo, he helped me articulate answers to the following questions:
- What problem will your website be solving?
- What solution will your website be offering?
- Who is your target market?
- How would you describe your mission?
What would you tell a rehab professional who is considering an entrepreneurial endeavor, but not sure where to start?
I think it starts with self assessment. Where does your skillset converge with one of the current problems in the field? How much are you willing to risk and invest into bringing that solution to market?
Thanks for your insight, Sarah!