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How to Start a Nurse Staffing Agency

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Edited by:

Reviewed by: Daniel Javor

Updated on December 23, 2022

How to Start a Nurse Staffing Agency

Disclaimer: Step by Step Business’ content is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional legal or tax advice. All of our articles are thoroughly reviewed and fact-checked by our editorial team. Read our editorial guidelines for more details.

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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

How to Start a Nurse Staffing Agency

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

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. 

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 Business 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: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • 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 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: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

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

what to include in a business plan

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.

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 ZenBusiness’s 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. 

types of business structures

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. 

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/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

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. 

Marketing

Some of your business will come from casual online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Hire Now.” This can sharply increase purchases.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers. 

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence, and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include: 

  • In-Person Sales – Offer your nurse staffing agency at local healthcare facilities.
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Start a blog – Start a blog and post regularly. Change up your content and share on multiple sites.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Payper-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
  • Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your nurse staffing agency helped them.

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. 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. 

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.

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

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: Start Making Money!

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 much does it cost to start a nurse staffing agency?

You can start a nurse staffing agency for about $3,500. You need a website, staffing management software, and a marketing budget to get started.

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.

Do I need a license to start a nurse staffing agency?

Some states require a medical staffing or other relevant license. You may also need various other business licenses and permits at the state and local levels. Check with your local governments for requirements or visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.

How much should I charge for nurse staff agency services?

Generally, the new employer pays the nurse staffing agency a fee of about 25% of the nurse’s first-year salary.