Sarah Lyon - Founder of OT Potential

Founder of OT Potential – Sarah Lyon

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Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!
Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!

Today’s non-clinical spotlight focuses on Sarah Lyon, OTR/L who went from occupational therapist to founder of OT Potential

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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?

After commuting for two years, I landed a wonderful job in Lincoln as a registry therapist at a trauma hospital. This job gave me the flexibility to start the occupational therapy website I had been dreaming about since OT school.

Back in 2011, there were limited resources available online to help new grads and I wanted to be a part of changing that. I also felt (and still do) that there was a need for more discussion about complex parts of our practice, like productivity levels and best practices.

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 a 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 used Squarespace for years, but I recently switched to WordPress.

Did you have a background in writing, web design, or content marketing?

My background in writing is only that I like reading and in particular reading about writing. On Writing Well, The Writing Life, and Bird by Bird have been a tremendous help to me.

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As far as content marketing, I enjoy following Neil Patel, Brian Dean, and Donald Miller.

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?

I currently work on my site four days/week and spend the other weekday at home with my kids. I’ve been lucky to be able to replace my OT income with the site, and have enough revenue to invest in creating new content.

I was very sad when the day came to give up my clinical work, but ultimately I decided to embrace the unique opportunity to help clients through helping therapists.

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: MedBridge has been an incredible partner for me. Here’s my MedBridge Review for anyone wanting to get a big picture of what MedBridge has to offer. OTs who want to easily obtain some amazing CEUs online can use my MedBridge promo code for significant savings. Additionally, I work to help MedBridge promote its student discount, which is a wonderful way for students to gain additional knowledge without paying for CEUs they don’t (yet) need. Finally, I’m also an affiliate of Nomadicare who helps OTs looking to get into traveling OT.
  • The OT Potential Club: The OT Potential Club is our membership platform providing OT continuing education via podcast, journal article reviews, documentation examples, an assessment search tool, and a vibrant global community of OT professionals (who you can see on our OT Near Me Directory) to discuss important new research with. On the OT Potential Podcast you can listen to an AOTA-approved CE course and earn a certificate of completion by taking a quiz in the OT Potential Club. You can check out our top and free OT CEU courses here!

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 had a great response in the past year to the comprehensive guides I’ve put out, including: Your Guide to Occupational Therapy and OT vs PT vs SLP: Similarities and Differences. I will definitely be continuing to work on projects like this. There is a big gap in information out there for our clients about occupational therapy and I want to help fill that gap.

My second passion is connecting occupational therapists with evidence. I believe that keeping up with new medical advancements is the key challenge for our generation. But, that this challenge is often obscured by the immediate demands of day-to-day practice. Launching the OT Potential Club was a huge part of this mission. And it is my goal to keep evolving it to make it invaluable for OTs.

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?

Personally, I always come back to the question: “Where does my passion meet the world’s need?”

Thanks for your insight, Sarah!

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