Have you ever wondered what running your own business is like? Learn more about what it’s like to create and teach continuing education courses for therapists!
As part of our series on Side Hustle Ideas for Pediatric Therapists, we are doing a deeper dive into some of our favorite hustlers in the business. These therapists have worked tirelessly to grow and develop their businesses from the ground up, adding creative new elements businesses along the way!
In this post, we’ll hear from Kim Wiggins, owner and founder of OTKimWiggins LLC, a thriving business that specializes in webinars, in-person trainings, consultations, and more!
If you’ve never taken one of Kim’s courses (in-person OR online)…you’re missing out. They’re some of the most informative and engaging presentations we’ve ever seen! The thing we love most about Kim’s courses is that they’re packed with practical and useful information that you can put to use the second you leave the presentation. I have a notebook full of treatment ideas and intervention strategies from one of Kim’s in-person courses that I took years ago and I still refer back to it often! Since then, I’ve taken several more of her online courses and have loved every one!
We’re so happy to have Kim here today to tell us, in her own words, what it’s like to own and run her own business alongside her regular day job as a school-based OT! She is one busy lady and we’re lucky to have her in our network!
Running Your Own Business: Teaching Continuing Education Courses
My name is Kim Wiggins and I’ve been an Occupational Therapist for 20 years, a national presenter for 11 years, and am a first time co-author of a NEW book called Just Right! A Sensory Modulation Curriculum for K-5. I have spent most of my years as a school-based therapist, but I have also worked in a variety of pediatric settings. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but 11 years ago I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and do something I never thought I could do!
At first, I presented informational courses in nearby counties to staff at schools, parent groups, and doctor’s offices about fine motor development, sensory, autism, handwriting techniques, assistive technology, etc. I loved the adrenaline rush of standing in front of a group of people and helping them increase their knowledge on a therapeutic topic! Eventually I interviewed and was accepted to be a contractor traveling around the country teaching continuing education courses.
Running your own business can be tough. For each 6 hour course that I developed I would spend an insane amount of time compiling resourceful information that people could use! Don’t get me wrong…I was scared, sometimes terrified! I was not comfortable traveling all by myself to random cities and I always worried if I was “good enough” to teach other OTs new information. After every course I would sit in the car and read each review carefully. I fixated on the “how can this presenter improve” section of the forms. The majority of the reviews were good, but there were always a couple of critical comments that I took to heart. Every month the company assigned me a state and 3 specific cities. Each day I would set up the technology, sign people in, present to a large group of people for 6 hours, then hop in my rental car and drive to a new city. I lugged a heavy projector case and technology, boxes of manuals, my suitcase, and additional hands-on materials that I used to pass around at my specific course. Then I’d do it all over again the next day for 3 consecutive days! It was exhausting!
Why not quit your day job?
Many people often asked “Why don’t you just quit your regular job and travel all the time?” Well, first of all, the traveling part of running your own business as a presenter is stressful and often annoying! I also felt, and still feel, that I NEED the job so that I know first-hand how to explain strategies and techniques to others. Not to mention, I ALWAYS learn something new from presenting that makes me a better therapist and adds to my library of knowledge. Both roles truly support each other!
There are several other things I love about presenting! I absolutely love sharing knowledge with people so they can use the information in their own practices to help children. My participants are usually so thankful for the information and resources that I provide, which makes me feel appreciated…something that is not always felt as a school-based OT!
After 11 years, do I still get nervous presenting in front of people or even webinars? Um, YES…quite a bit actually! Then when it’s over the idea of being nervous seems ridiculous and I feel exhilarated to do it all over again! Of course, the extra revenue has been VERY helpful (and necessary) for my big family! As my family grew I had to decrease my “in person” courses and increase my webinars because the traveling was just too much. Through my travels for over a decade, I have met lots of amazing people, which is probably one of my favorite things about presenting. I love meeting new people, networking, and learning new information. There is always someone that is doing something extraordinary to help children or for our colleagues. This inspires me to keep pushing myself to give my best!
All in a day’s work!
Presenting webinars and traveling around the country as a side gig is not always as exciting and luxurious as it may sound! Most of the time it can be very lonely and stressful. I have had my share of weird and unusual experiences, as I travel by myself, loading suitcases and equipment into rental cars, shuttles, and airplanes! The anxiety of canceled and delayed flights, missing luggage, and presenting in front of over 400 people at a time can be overwhelming!
For example, imagine traveling to another state to present to a group of 200 people, but the night before the airline arrives late AND loses your luggage causing you to beg the hotel to give you a ride to Walmart at 11 pm to buy makeup and clothes (even though I spent days selecting the right outfit).
I once presented to a large group of people without their course manuals because the hotel could not locate them. Around lunchtime, the hotel found the manuals in the refrigerator because they thought the boxes were food!!
One time, after I was notified that my flight was canceled, an airport announcement was made stating “Will Kim Wiggins report to Gate 48 to board a plane alone?!” Yup, for some odd reason, they needed to bring a plane to a specific location that was near my final destination and I was allowed to ride on the plane all by myself!
I can’t make this stuff up!
I can’t even count how many times my flights have been canceled and I’m left stranded at an airport, missing my family terribly, and worried about not getting home in time to get to my “regular job” early the next morning! I don’t usually take many days off from my job because I feel too guilty about canceling students. So I push myself to make it home in time to go to work the next day, even if I get home in the middle of the night.
Travel can be a nightmare, and the amount of time it takes to prepare and create well-organized and thorough courses takes time away from my husband and young children. Remember, when I said I carefully read the reviews each time? Since I’m a perfectionist I take all of those comments/suggestions and try my best to incorporate them into my presenting skills or courses.
For example, someone once wrote “Everytime I hear Kim say the word ‘kid’ it sounds like someone scratching a chalkboard. A ‘kid’ is not a child, it’s a goat, and she should not refer to children as farm animals!” Well, guess what? I still say “kid” but most of the time I literally change it to child or student before it comes out of my mouth because I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable!
All that being said, I’ve continued running my own business and presenting for 11 years because the positives outweigh the negatives. I created an entire business about sharing knowledge to parents and professionals, which can be found at my website: www.OTKimWiggins.com. All of my course topics can be purchased on-demand or you can “mix and match” topics to create your own course!
Recently, Gwen Wild and I shared our knowledge of sensory modulation by co-authoring a book called Just Right! A Sensory Modulation Curriculum for K-5. We both felt there was a need for a specific “how-to” curriculum to teach sensory modulation to children and adults! We know that OTs are often spread thin AND there are so many children that have difficulty regulating their sensory needs and functioning in their daily lives.
Also, sometimes these students do not “qualify” for therapy but we know that sensory issues are affecting their ability to learn. We wanted to create something that could be taught by anyone, even if you are uncomfortable teaching sensory modulation. The curriculum has scripts for exactly what to say and 6 modifications in each of the 16 lesson plans. Gwen and I tried to make teaching this curriculum as easy and efficient as possible. Check it out at www.OTKimWiggins.com/shop.
Running your own business by teaching and sharing knowledge is definitely not an easy side hustle, but most of us do it because we truly love helping people! I truly believe that we can never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.