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How to Start a Nurse Staffing Agency

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Nurse Staffing Agency

Fast Facts

Investment range

$3,550 - $10,100

Revenue potential

$80,000 - $400,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 – 3 months

Profit potential

$56,000 - $120,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Have you heard about the shortage of nurses in the US? It’s now reached record levels and become a full-blown crisis, as severely under-staffed hospitals continue to struggle with Covid hospitalizations. But you can be part of the solution by starting your own nursing agency and making a good living while providing reliable, much-needed nurses to area hospitals and clinics. The healthcare recruitment industry has nearly doubled in the last decade as a result of staff shortages, which means the opportunity is there. Whether you have a medical background or not, you could operate your agency from home for a small investment and start helping save lives. 

But before you start making calls, it’s crucial that you understand how to start a business. Fortunately, you can do all your homework by reading this step-by-step guide, which will put you on the road to running a successful nurse staffing agency. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a nurse staffing agency has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Rewarding – Help save lives and fix a serious social crisis
  • Flexibility – No office necessary, work from home
  • Good Money – Make a nice living on commission

Cons

  • Time to Start – It will take time and work to build a reputation
  • Crowded Market – Compete with large, established staffing agencies

Nurse staffing industry trends

Industry size and growth

nurse staffing industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends in the nurse staffing agency industry include:

  • Most healthcare staffing agencies have begun technology and automation to improve process efficiencies, such as database mining to find nursing candidates, which is obviously faster than a manual process. 
  • Pre-credentialing is an increasingly common practice that aims to quickly narrow down fields of candidates and speed up the recruiting process.

Challenges in the nurse staffing agency industry include:

  • Driven by the pandemic, nurse burnout is causing many nurses to seek other professions, making nurse shortages even larger.
  • The rising cost of skilled nurses may drive some healthcare facilities to move away from staffing agencies to eliminate the extra cost. They will instead go back to handling the recruiting process internally, which is likely to take longer and result in inferior health care.
nurse staffing industry Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

  • Most popular states The most popular states for nurse recruiters are Washington, California, and Pennsylvania.((https://www.zippia.com/nurse-recruiter-jobs/best-states/))
  • Least popular states The least popular states for nurse recruiters are Ohio, Mississippi, and Kentucky. 
nurse staffing industry demand hotspots

What kind of people work in nurse staffing agencies?

  • Gender – 73.7% of nurse recruiters are female, while 22.1% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/nurse-recruiter-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education The average nurse recruiter has a bachelor’s degree.
  • Average age – The average nurse recruiter in the US is 41 years old.
nurse staffing industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a nurse staffing agency business?

Startup costs for a nurse staffing agency range from $3,500 to $10,000. Costs include a website, software, and nurse and healthcare facility databases. 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Software and databases$1,000 - $4,000$2,500
Marketing budget$1,000 - $2,000$1,500
Total$3,550 - $10,100$6,825

How much can you earn from a nurse staffing agency business?

Generally, the nurse staffing agency fee is 25% of the nurse’s first-year salary. Your profit margin when you’re working at home should be about 70%.

In your first year or two, you could work from home and place 8 nurses in a year, each with a $40,000 contract, you’ll be bringing in $80,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $56,000 in profit, assuming that 70% margin. As you increase your networking and contacts, you could do 40 placements a year. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to 30%. With annual revenue of $400,000, you’d make an impressive profit of $120,000.

nurse staffing agency earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a nurse staffing agency. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The networking and sales skills necessary to get contracts
  • The competition from established agencies

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a nurse staffing agency, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research nurse staffing agencies in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a travel nurse staffing agency, an agency that recruits certified nursing assistants, or a temporary nursing agency. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as travel nursing or home nursing.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your products or services

Your services will be very straightforward. You’ll connect nursing candidates with health care facilities. You can specialize in certain types of nursing or work with all types. 

How much should you charge for nurse staffing agency services?

Generally, the fee is 25% of the nurse’s first-year salary. Your profit margin when working by yourself should be about 70%.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be nurses, hospitals and clinics, and healthcare organizations. You can find all of these on LinkedIn, and you can also find many nursing groups to connect with on Facebook. It’s also a good idea to buy access to the leading nurse and healthcare facility databases and reach out to those in your area. NurseRecuiter is a good place to start.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
nurse staffing agency idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Staffing Agency Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “nurse staffing” or “healthcare staffing”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Synergy Staffing Solutions” over “TechTalent Solutions”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Nurse Staffing Agency Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: A brief summary of the nurse staffing agency business plan, highlighting its key points and objectives.
  • Business Overview: A concise description of the nurse staffing agency, including its mission, vision, and core values.
  • Product and Services: An outline of the specific services the agency will provide, such as nurse placement, staffing solutions, and related offerings.
  • Market Analysis: An examination of the healthcare industry and the demand for nurse staffing services, including market trends and potential growth.
  • Competitive Analysis: An assessment of the agency’s competitors in the nurse staffing market, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Sales and Marketing: A plan for promoting the agency’s services and acquiring clients, including sales strategies and marketing channels.
  • Management Team: An introduction to the key individuals leading the agency, their qualifications, and their roles.
  • Operations Plan: Details on how the agency will operate, including staffing procedures, technology systems, and day-to-day activities.
  • Financial Plan: Projections of the agency’s financial performance, including income statements, cash flow, and balance sheets.
  • Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as resumes, legal documents, and any additional information supporting the business plan.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to nurse staffing agencies. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your nurse staffing agency will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a nurse staffing agency business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Nurse Staffing Agency Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a nurse staffing agency business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments. Some states require nurse staffing agencies to have a medical agency license. Check with your state for requirements. 

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your nurse staffing agency business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as ABILITY, Bullhorn, Akken, to manage candidate information, job openings, billings, and payments. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Launching a nurse staffing agency requires strategic marketing to stand out in a competitive healthcare staffing landscape. In addition to creating a website and networking, here are practical marketing strategies to boost your agency’s success:

  1. Targeted Social Media Advertising: Leverage platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to run targeted ads that specifically reach healthcare professionals, emphasizing the benefits of working with your agency, such as flexible schedules, competitive pay, and career advancement opportunities.
  2. Referral Programs: Implement a robust referral program for both nurses and clients, offering incentives for successful placements or bringing in new business. Word-of-mouth recommendations carry significant weight in the healthcare industry.
  3. Specialized Training Partnerships: Establish partnerships with nursing schools and offer specialized training programs. This not only helps you tap into a fresh pool of talent but also positions your agency as a supporter of ongoing professional development.
  4. Quality Content Marketing: Develop a content strategy that showcases your agency’s expertise in the healthcare staffing industry. Regularly publish blog posts, whitepapers, or case studies that address industry trends, challenges, and solutions, positioning your agency as a thought leader.
  5. Community Engagement and Sponsorships: Actively participate in local healthcare events, conferences, and community outreach programs. Sponsorship of relevant events can enhance your agency’s visibility while demonstrating a commitment to the local healthcare community.
  6. Utilize Online Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage satisfied clients and nurses to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or industry-specific websites. Positive testimonials build trust and credibility, influencing potential clients and candidates.
  7. Data-Driven Decision Making: Utilize data analytics to identify trends in the healthcare staffing market. This information can guide your marketing efforts, ensuring you target the right demographics and provide the services in highest demand.
  8. Mobile-Friendly Campaigns: Optimize your marketing materials for mobile devices, as healthcare professionals often use smartphones and tablets. Ensure that your emails, website, and other content are easily accessible and navigable on mobile platforms.
  9. Strategic Alliances with Healthcare Facilities: Establish partnerships with healthcare facilities, hospitals, and clinics. Collaborate on solutions to their staffing needs, creating a win-win situation and solidifying your agency as a reliable staffing partner.
  10. Participate in Industry Associations: Join and actively participate in nursing and healthcare staffing associations. Networking within these communities can lead to valuable connections, insights, and partnerships that can propel your agency forward.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your nurse staffing agency meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your nurse staffing agency business could be: 

  • Skilled nurses for your home healthcare agency
  • Reliable travel nurses for short or long-term contracts
  • Temporary registered nurses to meet your staffing shortages
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a nurse staffing agency business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in nursing for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in nurse staffing. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a nurse staffing agency business include:

  • Recruiters – recruit nurses for open positions
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Nurse Staffing Agency – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Nurse staffing agencies can help solve a major social problem, and you can be a part of that solution, and make good money, by starting your own nurse staffing agency. You could get started for a small investment and run the business from home while gaining a real sense of fulfillment from your important work. What could be better than that? 

Now that you understand the business aspects, it’s time to pound the pavement and get your successful nurse staffing agency off the ground!

Nurse Staffing Agency Business FAQs

How profitable is a nurse staffing agency?

A nurse staffing agency can be very profitable. However, your real reward will come from knowing that you’re helping to solve the nurse shortage crisis that the U.S. is experiencing.

How much should I charge for nurse staff agency services?

Generally, nurse staffing agencies get a fee of about 25% of the job contract that is signed for the nurse. The employer pays the fees.

What are some effective marketing strategies for a nurse staffing agency?

Effective marketing strategies for a nurse staffing agency include building strong relationships with healthcare facilities, establishing an online presence and utilizing digital marketing, implementing referral programs, targeted advertising, and showcasing thought leadership through content marketing.

How can I expand my nurse staffing agency to reach more clients and markets?

To expand a nurse staffing agency and reach more clients and markets, conduct market research to identify new areas of demand, develop strategic partnerships with relevant organizations, offer specialized services, expand recruitment efforts, and actively participate in trade shows and industry events.

How can I differentiate my nurse staffing agency from competitors in the market?

To differentiate a nurse staffing agency from competitors, focus on providing exceptional customer service, offer customized staffing solutions, emphasize the quality and qualifications of your nursing staff, highlight unique value propositions such as technology integration or specialized training programs, and gather and showcase positive client testimonials.

What makes a nurse staffing agency successful?

A nurse staffing agency’s success is determined by factors such as building strong relationships with healthcare facilities and candidates, maintaining a reliable and qualified pool of nurses, effectively marketing services, providing excellent customer service, adapting to industry changes, having efficient operations and systems, and continuously striving for excellence in fulfilling client staffing needs.

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How to Start a Nurse Staffing Agency