How to add creative (and more passive) income streams to your business
Many of us wellness, coaching, and creative entrepreneurs were taught to sacrifice ourselves by giving and hustling endlessly. Of course this is exhausting.
As an introvert, I don’t mind working hard. It’s a myth that we aren’t ambitious or don’t like to work.
What I DO expect is to have at least one way to earn income that isn’t 100% tied to the hours I work.
Otherwise it’s just another job that I’m a slave to.
Update: This blog is for you if you resonated with my strong statements above, and if you have a brick-and-mortar clinic or practice and want to start gradually exploring other income generating options without necessarily ditching what you are already doing.
The “hybrid” approach means that there’s a continuum from pure 1:1 work to 100% “hands off” on-demand, automatically delivered digital offerings.
I call it creative income streams for introverted business owners who are ambitious, but don’t want to waste time on extroverted tactics that simply don’t work. These methods usually end up draining a lot of energy and don’t even generate any extra income in the long run.
My story isn’t everyone’s story, but it may resonate with you.
When I was in acupuncture school, we received some very, very basic training for running a business, which is vitally important since the vast majority of acupuncturists start their own practices.
I remember one day in particular, a teacher asking us what our goals were so that we could calculate how much to charge as well as how many patients we would need to see.. in order to make a certain amount of money each month. This would hopefully cover at the very least the cost of running a business and pay the bills, to start.
One student proclaimed that he wanted to see 200 patients per week so that he could earn the maximum income possible.
Something about this statement and the excitement it created seemed “off” to me, personally. Not the ambition part, but about how to keep it sustainable, and grow the business without becoming a slave to it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it then, but I was also thinking:
What would happen when he didn’t feel like seeing that many people anymore? Was he thinking far enough in advance about how he might better leverage his time with a staff, or renting rooms? Or even buying and selling practices?
Are acupuncturists just competing with other, or trying to prove that they don’t have to be poor, by seeing 100’s of patients per week? Why was I feeling pressured to run my own business this way?
What about getting results for patients? When does it become less about results and more about running a patient mill? And don’t get me started on insurance billing.
I get that a high-volume practice can work as a business model, but it wasn’t for me. I wanted to focus on results, not hourly transactions, not on insurance billing (which regards our work as more of a commodity) I didn’t want to be tied to a damn building or have to babysit a staff, either.
Nor did the idea of seeing multiple patients per hour ever appeal to me.
Not only is it not a good way for me to produce the results I did for my patients, it’s still tied to the concept of time, and the “income ceiling” is still too low in comparison to other income streams and models.
Yet I was determined to work less and earn more in my acupuncture practice, while still being of service (which for me means delivering results.) But how?
I was also interested in Time, Location, and Financial independence, limiting my interactions with people to only those who I could help the most, while actually expanding my reach to more of the perfect clients for me who existed all over the world.
This sounds pretty daunting, and it was before the pandemic when the vast majority of people didn’t understand what having an online offering was. The very idea even sounded “shady” because it just wasn’t on people’s radars yet.
Even having an online presence was met with resistance in the wellness community. Things have changed, and I no longer have to spend so much time trying to “explain” why having an online offering can help your patients get better results, allow more people to have access to your expertise, and allow you to create time, location, and financial independence. (A “repeatable” model) But back then, it was all QUITE new.
At first, I wasn’t trying to solve the problem of creating a more passive income stream. I was focused on keeping my practice full. I did this by attracting my ideal patients by blogging/SEO, and by creating a membership model. But I was still doing everything manually, and still selling my time.
The shift: It really all started out with one simple frustration: I was tired of repeating the same basic information over and over again, and wanted to lessen my workload by adding a few handouts and educational videos to my 1:1 services. From there, I started adding courses and coaching, which actually not only saved me time, but got my patients better results.
Later, I discovered that I could charge more for a hormone balancing package. It was such a win/win: Patients got better results. I didn’t have to try to cram more patients into my schedule. Most of the work was already done, up front. The course, the blood testing, the onboarding, processes, and templates were done.
I was no longer charging for my time, but results.
My business was also becoming more automated, to include the 4 types of automation: Self, process, template, and tech.
In fact, I wrote a blog about the 4 types of automation.
During this evolution, which was more of an evolution than a transition, I was delighted to discover that there is more than ONE way to practice, especially being an introvert, with a preference to serve on a deeper level.
Today, I prefer to have multiple streams of income, including some kind of online offering. Even my 1:1 services are now remote, because I made a pivot even before things got crazy around 2020. (It was my choice to leave the country in 2017, and never look back, and focus on marketing and websites, which makes me happy)
1:1 Work is still very important
This is not to say that doing 1:1 work isn’t a good option. It IS. In fact, we need to log time, and lots of it, in working closely with patients and clients in order to develop and refine our experience, before we begin to package it in other ways.
Many, including myself, also love interacting with clients and students. I deliver better products and services when I’m interacting at least at some level, with my clients and students. A course that runs 100% on its own has already been through BETA stages in which feedback is given, research and testing is done, and has been refined, to a degree.
You have MORE than 2 choices:
1. 100% time-based services (1:1 ) or
2. An on-demand product that you don’t have to be present to deliver.
You can mix and match, combine, and create your OWN blend of income streams that work for you, at any given time.
There are so many creative possibilities: Group programs, bundled offers, memberships, (both offline and online) bonuses, mini courses, creative onboarding and offboarding options, and more. The sky is the limit!
How creative introverts can succeed THEIR way.
My introverted nature was better suited for figuring out ways to see LESS patients AND make the same amount, or even more money in the process, without charging crazy exorbitant fees. I didn’t figure this all out overnight, but gradually I moved towards my “sweet spot” that made me feel happy, productive, successful, and sane.
I also passionately despised doing administrative work, scheduling and re-scheduling, answering emails, paperwork, and repeating the same basic information over and over again.
Instead, I channeled that energy into creating systems and workflows that could be set up ONCE. After that, for the most part, I was out of the equation.
Remember, this isn’t about “either/or,” but a continuum.
This whole concept can be quite “fluid.” An example: Once you have a process in place for onboarding (intake) for clients or patients, the journey you take them through, and a way to deliver your 1:1 services, you’ve already created a “process” automation.
Another example: Once you set up a mini course, you can use it as a template (“template” automation) for another mini course. (For more on this concept, see resources below)
You can mix and match and combine your offerings to create something unique.
Download this infographic here.
I want you to know that this is NOT a linear process, in the sense that the ultimate destination is 100% hands off income. Many people, for example, return to 1:1 services simply because they love it. It’s simply nice to have lots of options.
Now I’m going to show you some of the HOW part of all this.
How I created a system that allowed me to work less and get paid more
Yes, this involved embracing technology, but you don’t have to do nearly as much work as I did trying to figure this all out from scratch!
Please keep in mind that this blog won’t give you a “big picture” view of how to apply every strategy, tool or platform listed here. The big picture will be unique to every business.
Transparency alert: I am part of a handful of affiliate programs. This means I may receive a small compensation for referring you to a product or service, but only if I use it myself and I feel it is of benefit to others.
The Membership (offline)
First, I built a membership model.
What you need: A way to take recurring payments via credit card
The type of work I was doing was well suited for having patients pay a flat monthly fee for a set number of use-it-or-lose-it treatments.
There are some areas where there may be a few legal hoops to jump through/workarounds, but this is all possible, even in highly (overly?) regulated areas like CA and parts of Canada.
Despite what you may have heard in the past by naysayers, this is all also perfectly ethical. And repeat after me: Yes, we are “allowed” to make money helping others. To refuse to set your practice up for success or make a profit does NOT serve ANYONE.
This model works very well for those who can benefit from maintenance wellness visits. I saw a lot of older athletes, so this made perfect sense. They simply needed ongoing care so that they could keep doing the things they loved.
It also works well for those who may want or need more ongoing support or accountability. (the coaching model) and again, this worked VERY well for my hormone balancing patients, although most of them bought my high-end packages.
This model didn’t make sense for everyone, and I didn’t push it or make it mandatory. I presented it as a benefit to them, with some extra benefits (late cancel fees waived, flexible scheduling options, and some occasional gifts)
I presented this in a very laid back way that would make it a no-brainer, and my patients loved it.
We didn’t have to worry about transactions, which I firmly believe should be handled by a receptionist or automated system, not by the practitioner directly. It also provided a way for me to get paid consistently and on time, and eliminated a large portion of “cancellation stress.”
Having a powerful and flexible way to get paid (on time) allow me to add my next step:
Value-added bundled packages
What you will need (The basics)
- A way to produce slides (optional, but VERY helpful for functional medicine practitioners with a lot of information to teach)
- A way to record your screen (I like Camtasia, but you can get started with a lot of free software like ScreenCast-O-Matic.)
- A decent microphone, like Blue Yeti
- A way to easily create handouts. I use Google docs. You can also use Canva to create covers or entire documents.
This is the next step in the evolution. What this meant for me was premium, comprehensive, high-touch hormone balancing programs for perimenopausal and menopausal women. I included acupuncture, bloodwork analysis, herbal medicine, online digital courses, and lifestyle coaching. They were not cheap, but had a high amount of VALUE, because they offered support, education, and bottom line, got better and more consistent RESULTS.
I also ditched the volume-based, heavily discounted, “buy 10 and get one free” model that is slowly turning healing services into a cheap commodity.
The tech infrastructure
I’m going to list the basics you need to get started.
For a deeper explanation of the step-by-step process, including setting up your business model, foundations, and entire strategy, check out the Future Proof Your Business Toolkit or see the resources section below.
If you already have the basics set up that I list below, and are ready to create your first online course or membership, you can check out my article: 7 Criteria: Setting Up Your Online Course Or Membership. You can also download the entire article.
Here is a basic outline of what you’ll need to begin creating a “hybrid” offering as part of your menu of services.
1. A payment gateway and/or payment management system.
You will need to be able to accept credit cards. This is a non-negotiable.
You will also need to be able to accept online payments, including recurring payments and flexible billing options.
First, you will need a payment gateway. This can be confusing, because some services, like PayPal, are both payment gateways and payment management systems.
Most of the platforms you use are going to need for you to connect to a payment gateway like Stripe or Square.
STRIPE is pretty much the standard now for those who want to use almost any of the software and apps I recommend in this article, such as Kartra or Practice Better.
Stripe will connect to almost any online platform that exists today. (If you are based in the US)
Another option is Square. As of this update, Square has become a bit more flexible in regards to accepting recurring payments, but it’s not as seamless as other systems I use for those who want to expand beyond 1:1 services.
Bottom line: Taking CC payments is getting easier and easier. There is no reason not to anymore. And it is essential for creating the diversity of offerings I created over the years.
A practice management system that will help you gradually scale your business
A platform like AcuSimple or PracticeBetter is something you are likely already using to make scheduling much easier.
Most practice management software today provides a lot more flexibility as far as taking payments, including charging for late cancels or no-shows, memberships, and payment plans.
If your software isn’t able to manage this, you may want to consider an inexpensive tool like MoonClerk to add to your “ecosystem” or even switching to another patient management platform.
An email marketing service
You will need a complete service that allows you to send emails to a lot of people at once, and to send automated emails either as a broadcast, say for a newsletter or a new blog, or a “triggered” email if someone opts in or makes a purchase.
You also want your email system to integrate with all aspects of your marketing and practice management.
Active Campaign is my top pick. ConvertKit and MailerLite are also good for small practices, but offer far less flexibility.
I do NOT recommend MailChimp, for many reasons. It’s not cheap, not intuitive, and it has not kept up with the times when it comes to email marketing. Skip it.
A way to be found: SEO
(Search Engine Optimization) SEO is pretty involved. It’s a rabbit hole, in fact.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, I recommend getting some momentum with keywords and become familiar with some common search engines that will help your ideal client find you.
Keywords: Do some research to find out what your ideal client is typing into searches, so that you can place them naturally into your blog or website content. (Blogging is the easiest way for most to get started with content and leveraging it for SEO)
Search Engines: Don’t stop with Google. Take advantage of other search engines like Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.
My favorite is Pinterest, because the vast majority of Pinterest users are there because they are ready to buy. This is definitely not the case for Facebook and Instagram.
A powerful and flexible website
It has become MUCH easier to build your own website in even the past 5 years. If you are a holistic practitioner or coach, you DO want a well functioning and professional looking website that converts.
When it comes to what platform you want to use.. (WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, etc) my advice is: It depends: on where you are at in your business, if you have a niche and market established, I recommend WordPress, using the DIVI theme/builder.
As you grow your business, you will very likely run into a roadblock (which could cost a lot of time, aggravation, and money) if you are using a basic platform like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace.
Data Collection and Analytics
Data collection and interpretation are going to help you make your best marketing decisions.. everything from what to blog about.. to how to set up each web page in order to convert visitors into buyers.
You can get data to determine the performance of your website, your email, and almost platform you are using. It’s much easier than ever to get this kind of data at your fingertips, in a way that is intuitive and easy to read and make sense of.
I like to say that data is our friend. Intuition can only get us so far.. without actual information from the external world, we don’t have much actual insight that will help guide us in our business decisions.
Once you get some momentum going.. you may want to add:
A place to host your first course, membership, or program!
Course-building apps such as Teachable which allow you to create professional looking video courses with .pdf worksheets and homework. This is where you can upload the videos for that 8 module fertility course you created!
Other options include: Thinkific, Podia, Udemy, and WordPress plugins like Thrive Apprentice, Kartra, and Kajabi. (Update to add AttractWell, New Zenler, Systeme.io, and BuilderAll) Some of these platforms are decent, others are still kind of “clunky.”
My favorite is Kartra.
I do NOT recommend Udemy. They are the Groupon of online courses. Building and marketing our own courses, in my opinion, is always the best idea. You also want to have 100% control over pricing.
If you are at this step, don’t let choosing your platform hold you up. This article will help.
A way to host meetings or webinars
One of the most popular options is Zoom. You’re probably already familiar with it. More and more professionals are using Zoom.. which allows you to share screens, view multiple participants, and record. If you are even considering working with clients remotely, this is one app you should familiarize yourself with.
Patient portals and/or project management apps
Patient portals allow you to easily share messages, documents, and give access to other products or services on an individual or group basis. For this, my pick is PracticeBetter.
Project Management apps, such as Asana or Trello to help you track everything, especially if you outsource. This is the app that I have my clients use so we can communicate effectively and have everything in one place instead of chasing after random emails.
It’s up to you as to which tools you want to use to communicate with your clients or patients.
Truly, it does seem like “tech” is getting easier and easier. Each time I update this blog, either the systems I’m already using are getting better, or there are solutions that make the process more seamless both for your clients and patients, and for YOU, on the backend. Hooray!!
For this reason, there are more and more practitioners going the DIY route. Here’s a list of resources for you, if you are a DIYer:
Future Proof Your Business Toolkit The complete strategy for building and promoting your first online offering, so that you can create a sustainable, thriving wellness practice without selling your TIME…and without the overwhelm
The Tell Your Story DIY Website Kit: Everything you need to build your own StoryBrand-based website: Beautiful DIVI templates, copywriting prompts, step-by-step instructions, and guidance
For more about the concept of the 4 types of automations, check out the book “Free to Focus” by Michael Hyatt.
It’s also perfectly OK to say “You know what, I don’t want to deal with any of this.” I just want to hire someone to do most of it for me.
This is also a sign of success.. it means you have “leveled up” in your business!