Professional Development

Why I Decided to Become a Freelance OD & How I Do It Well

By Arian Fartash, OD

June 27, 2018

The decision of a mode of practice is a big one. After careful thought, I decided that freelance optometry made the most sense for me.

Here is why I made this decision, and some of the benefits I am experiencing as a result, including how my freelance work may prepare me to eventually open my own practice someday.

You See a Greater Diversity of Patients
I like diversity in the type of patients I see. In one office I work at, it is mostly 20-40-year-olds with little-to-no disease. It can be enjoyable working with young, healthy patients, but it also can be monotonous, with the same standard annual comprehensive exams performed.

As a freelancer, I balance my work with young people with work in practices that serve older populations, and even work in nursing homes. In addition to keeping me fulfilled, working with a wide spectrum of patients builds my skills as a doctor.

You Get a Sense of What Works Best
The other reason I love to work freelance is I am able to learn from each office what I think works best, and what things I would change, when it comes time to open my own private practice.

For instance, some of the practices have recall systems that I prefer to use, and seem more effective than others. This is good to know for when I have my own practice, and am looking for a recall solution.

I also have learned about how to build a business by spurring purchases in the optical. Practices in retail settings have taught me how best to create an appealing optical, and how to both serve patients and generate profitability.

Take Thorough Notes
It’s sometimes hard to follow-up with your patients when you are not at the same office all the time. This can cut into the continuity of patient care. To overcome this, I am careful to take excellent notes in the patient chart, as well as explain to the patient who will see them next, and assure them that the next doctor will be up to date on their case.

I leave a note for the next doctor about what to expect with the patient’s case. The more the communication by all parties, the better when it comes to patient transition from doctor to doctor.

Learn How to Work With an Array of Products
From a prescribing point of view, freelancing can be hard. Not every office carries the contact lens trials you may like, or trust, and may not offer the spectacle lens materials and frames that you prefer. Adaptation is key here. When freelancing you must be open to all products, but never have it take away from the integrity of your patient care.

How to Keep Your Schedule Full
Creating wonderful relationships with the staff, doctors and patients in each practice is what keeps my schedule full.

I also try to stay flexible about filling in at the spur of the moment. Sometimes clinics may have emergencies, and they appreciate when you are available to fill in at the last minute. They will remember that the next time they need to line up a doctor to fill in because it shows you care about their practice. I make sure to treat each practice as my own, which is another reason why clinics keep calling me.

I highly suggest cultivating, and keeping on record, a specific contact for each practice you freelance for. The contact should include the per diem fee you agreed on, if there are any bonus structures in place, what they are, and when to expect payment. That way there are no questions when it comes time for payment.


Arian Fartash, OD, is a freelance optometrist in California, who has also gained expertise in social media marketing, and heads an optometric social media company, helping offices connect to their existing and future patients online. You can learn more about what she does at To contact:

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