This blog is (mostly)about diving into our “Shadow” when it comes to how we run our own businesses.
I’ve seen the “dark side” as both an acupuncturist and as a website designer and marketing strategist, both in myself and in others. Indeed, our businesses are reflections of ourselves, and I believe that the people we encounter and engage with are also mirroring back to us what is happening in our own subconscious.
So I decided to identify the signs that we may need some self-reflection or a “shadow” audit, and offer my best solutions for getting back on track, based on my own personal experiences.
You might see some of these and think “Oh, wow, I’ve done that myself.” Others may actually be PEEVES of yours. Let’s explore that!
Note: I’m speaking directly to you in the second person for impact, and also in first person singular and first person plural to show that you are not alone in the journey to keep raising the bar and our vibe.
There’s also some practical tips in this blog that will make it easier to make decisions and take action.
Sign #1: Undercharging
This one is probably no big surprise to most of us.
Undercharging often means working with clients that are high-maintenance and don’t see the value in what you do. They demand more and more, for less and less, and don’t do the work it takes in order for them to get the results they are seeking. They will never be satisfied with your work or refer others to your business, not only in spite of all the work you do to keep them happy, but maybe BECAUSE of it.
You end up working more and more for less and less and find that your reputation is suffering. You become exhausted, burnt out, broke, and resentful, or maybe desperate.
Your vibes change, and the downward spiral begins.
When I first started practicing, the above sounded like a rant or complaint. Who am I to decide that I won’t accept a patient? Isn’t it MY fault that I’m struggling? Is it unprofessional to even TALK about this? It feels weird to have boundaries when you’re wondering how to keep the lights on.
I think that people can sense this.
The low confidence and resentment starts to poison other transactions, including the products and services we buy. We become that “less than ideal” client or even that client from hell.
The result: Everything becomes about how to protect what we have and what we’ve worked for. Others become a threat that might make us part with our hard-earned cash.
I know, because I confess, I’ve felt this way, on a subconscious level. If I’m having a bad week, I don’t overtly resent others who are charging more than I can afford, but for sure I can feel those gray clouds of doubt, envy, and resentment, no matter how subtle, start to creep in. I now know that I must have the courage to tackle this at the root cause.
Asking the wrong people for advice, in order to validate what you already believe, rather than gather actual insight.
I’m not talking about recommendations here, as in that naturopath who helped you get the exact results you were looking for, or the business coach that helped you get where you are today. Shout that from the rooftops!
I’m talking about the asking for and dispensing of not-so-great advice, such as that person who asks for supplement advice for a condition in a Facebook group about wellness, because deep down, they don’t want to talk to a real expert, or they only want to hear what they WANT to hear, not what they NEED to hear. This is normal, because people generally don’t go to social media to hear what they need to hear. They go to social media to feel good or to take a break from everyday reality.
Many make the problem worse by dispensing inappropriate advice based again, not on what people need, but what they want to hear.
Don’t get me wrong.. the idea (for example) of simply taking magnesium for health isn’t necessarily bad, but without knowing about the person asking for advice, it’s a bad idea to dispense it. If you are a health and wellness professional, you know this. It has been hammered into us from day one, for good reason.
Many of the people dispensing this advice aren’t even qualified experts.
Not even an expert should be dispensing an actual solution to a complex problem to someone who isn’t an actual patient or client.
Remember, offering “My 10 tips for_____” isn’t the final solution. It won’t be. Not because the expert is trying to bait and switch, but because their job is to create a strategy tailored to an individual or business, not just spit out a string of tactics.
If you are the one doing the asking, and are looking for an ultimate solution to your problem with a quick/cheap fix, ask yourself why.
Same goes for marketing. Asking for specific advice from a random energy healer who knows nothing about websites or marketing, but only what may be working (or not working) for THEM is a bad idea. Even chiropractors, who tend to be more savvy about marketing, often don’t keep up with the industry.
That’s why we have experts that focus on a specific niche. That’s why they spend years learning about something that can be applied to multiple scenarios and can be adapted to the unique needs of a client.
Would you ask a random person on the internet for financial, legal, or medical advice? Would you recommend the cheapest lawyer who doesn’t know the first thing about contract law or probate law to go over your contracts or matters of estate? Or a “healer” that doesn’t know the first thing about the root causes of YOUR thyroid condition?
You may have noticed that some people actually DO this, rather than trust another entrepreneur. Where does this lack of trust come from?
In the same way you work with your own clients and patients, you are hiring someone for their insight and strategic approach to solving your individual problem and in delivering a transformation. You are not hiring an expert to merely dispense advice on an hourly/transactional basis.
A better solution:
There’s a reason why experts create free content. It’s not just about establishing themselves as experts. It’s to benefit those who know what they don’t know, those who don’t know what they know and need to be reminded, and sometimes even those who don’t know what they don’t know just yet.
Take advantage of this free content when first starting out, and let others do the same with YOUR free content.
You can also ask an expert without being an “askhole” by taking up open invitations to participate in conversations, Q&A sessions, and more. Do you LOVE when our ideal clients ask us questions or tell us what they are currently struggling with? I know I do!
These types of exchanges are great because the boundaries are usually quite clear.
When someone is ready for the next step, you already know that you can only REALLY help a client once they make a commitment to working with you in some way. The same applies when YOU are the client.
People hire professionals for providing a STRATEGY that will both save them time and help them get something valuable that they may not otherwise attain on their own.
It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need to work with someone who has been working with clients for 30 years and charges $30k for their coaching package. You can benefit from someone who is only a few steps ahead of you, but also knows how what they have learned can translate into creating results for others.
Seeking out or recommending rock bottom, basement priced services and service providers to your colleagues, peers, and random people on the internet. You refer to these rates as “reasonable.”
What does “reasonable” even mean? Often it means that someone is undercharging, and someone else benefitted from it, at least in the short term.
I agree that it’s smart to do some research and find the best solution within your current budget. There’s also a lot of arbitrary pricing out there, and of course it makes sense to do your research.
On the other hand, I see this a lot, and it seems to go hand in hand with undercharging.
If you know that you could never stay in business by working for less than $70 per hour, why would anyone expect someone else, who has also invested a lot of time, money, and energy into providing a tailored strategy for their clients, to work for peanuts?
You could also be undermining your own business by making price your ONLY criteria. There is no value in hiring a content writer who speaks poor English or spending $300 on a website that doesn’t do ANYTHING but sit there. Might as well throw that money down the toilet.
This is one example that comes to mind.. of course, the same concept also applies to a health and wellness industry. That quick fix or bottle of cheap supplements really isn’t a bargain if it doesn’t do anything or address the real root cause of a problem.
Hiring someone for dirt cheap may be fine for something like basic social media scheduling or a basic logo. The people who successfully do this kind of work for dirt cheap are likely focusing on high volume. They have Adobe Illustrator and the skills to create a starter logo, you are starting out and don’t need a corporate logo. Bingo. You have a match.
There are health and wellness practices that have also based their business models on high volume, which can also have its place.
I’m not knocking this. The old saying: Pick only 2 of the following 3: High quality, fast turnaround/quick service, or a low price. You can’t have all 3. It’s ok to pick “low cost” as one of the 2 options in some cases.
Eventually, most people are going to need something more.
That’s why there are qualified experts (like you) who have taken the time and have spent thousands of hours learning how to solve very specific problems and get results.. so that others don’t need to waste THEIR time. These experts aren’t offering a commodity. Time and quality (results and transformations) are already spoken for and IS what they offer.
Their businesses aren’t based on high volume discounts. Their time, is, and should be, the most expensive item on the menu. The same applies to you.
Just like the rest of us, they need to charge a living wage that reflects the value of what they do.
A better solution:
I’m not saying that everyone needs to run out and hire an expensive coach. If you truly have no cash flow, start where you are at. There are great ways (and not so great ways) to invest $30 or whatever your budget happens to be.
Here’s the thing: Once you make a profit, invest at least 10 percent of it back into your business and in taking it to the next level.
This may not be the most popular statement, but if you are still discounting your time. STOP. There are other ways you can serve without selling the most precious asset you have.. (your TIME) for peanuts.
These are things we have direct control over. However, there are some external factors we have less control over.
For example, there will be some that will overcharge. This is happening right now, as I write this. Overcharging, in some ways, is contributing to the rampant inflation happening right now. There are opportunists. Hopefully, we can choose to not buy from these businesses and the market will correct itself.
The flip side of this coin is that we have a general fear about spending money, which results in a lack of trust. This is also contributing to a weak economy.
We can choose to participate in a healthy exchange of products and services, or ultimately bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator: fear and mistrust. That’s how the economy tends to work.
Losing sight of what ROI really means. In other words, you are more concerned with saving $20 than on making a profit.
If you spend $50 and make $60, you’re still better off than spending $15 per month and earning $0.
I get it. I know that it can be scary. I also don’t advise jumping right in and spending money without a solid plan to back up or justify the cost.
For example, I use Kartra. Is it worth the $99 per month?
Yes, but only because I’ve laid the foundation and had an evergreen course to sell, a niche, and ideal client avatar, clarity about profit and income, and a reasonable assumption that I could at least break even. I was ok with making just a few extra bucks on top of it, since the product I’m selling is more “passive.” Then I re-assessed its value. I still do.
Is there another product that is cheaper and can perform the same functions? Will the change in the user experience cause a drop in sales? Will it require hours of my time to transfer everything to the new platform and learn how to use it? Will I lose my current members? Is the platform continuing to develop into an even better product, or is it stagnating?
The answer isn’t that spending more money is “good” and not spending it is “bad.” It’s that the decision making process is often flawed or skewed in favor of ONLY saving a few bucks today, without thinking about the long-range plan and how an investment is likely to pay off in the next 90 days, in the next year, and beyond.
I’ve honestly had some good months and not so great months in this past year, but I think that overall I have had my best luck with the systems I have in place now.
Business decisions are ultimately about our ROI (Return on Investment) and sometimes that means we need to.. well, invest.
And take calculated risks.
Using the software example again, I’m seeing some that are excited about “scoring” with new platforms that may be $30 less, but are missing some important features that Kartra has. In the end, it could result in actually LOSING money to invest in the cheaper option, for those who are focused on selling courses and memberships.
Then again, there are platforms that are cheaper, but could be a better fit for some because the focus is on live events and a community that could replace Facebook, which I think is a great idea. It’s no longer about whether a premium platform like Kartra or Kajabi is better, it’s about what you get from each option, and what your focus is.
In the health and wellness or coaching arena, can you think of some examples in which investing a little more could mean better results or more income, in the long run? Without necessarily “throwing money at a problem?”
Bottom line: There could be better alternatives out there, but we need to know what our goals are and what to look for, not JUST look at the price tag.
A better solution:
Start where you are at. (See a pattern here?) Do your research. For example, what are the elements needed in order to reach your goals? If it’s a website, it’s probably going to be a way to generate leads (grow your email list) in addition to featuring your message, story, and brand, showcasing your products and services, establishing your expertise with free content, and making it easy to buy.
If it’s a membership or course platform, the calculations will be based on other factors.. Like the checkout experience, how all the features integrate or work together to make it easy to promote and follow up with leads, create a successful learning experience, and retain members.
Other important features include email or email integration, live events/webinars, and built-in calendar bookings for classes.
Good news! I just created a blog/checklist (downloadable) that you can use to help you make a decision about what platforms to invest in: 7 Criteria: Setting Up a System For Your Digital Course or Membership. Here, I list the 7 “non-negotiables” you’ll need for your digital offering “ecosystem” or infrastructure.
Another thing to consider: If spending an additional $20 a month saves you time, makes your life easier, and allows you to do other things you would rather be doing, (in addition to making you more money) to me, that’s a no-brainer.
It’s up to you to make that decision.. For some Teachable is the best option, for others Kajabi. But do your homework!
When starting out with bare bones solutions, once you make a profit, use it to leverage your step up to the next level.
An investment that may seem scary at level one will make much more sense at the next level. In fact, sticking with your current startup plan indefinitely may mean that you end up doing more work for less income at some point. Our job as business owners is to pay attention to when the time is right to move on.
If you are unwilling to spend more than lunch money on your business, I wish you the best of luck. You may get some business, but you may also be leaving a lot of potential income on the table.
Now, can you think of how this might apply to your patients or clients or students? Do you know anyone that will gladly spend $6 on a daily latte but are not willing to invest $5 in their health? Are these your current clients or patients?
What strategy might be a good starting point, but end having diminishing returns over time? How have you helped them get to the next level?
Your entire marketing strategy is about the ego: “going viral,” appearing at #1 in a Google Search, or even paid ads.
Let’s talk first about “going viral” with TikTok or Instagram, or even Facebook reels. There’s a type of marketing that’s about brand awareness, and these platforms are a great way to do that.
TikTok is also a search engine, and can indeed expose you to a wider audience. It’s an amazing tool.
The truth is that marketing also includes a strategy for high quality content that answers the questions of your ideal clients in EVERY stage of the buying cycle.
In other words,
If you rely ONLY on dancing on TikTok with your 3 tips for the day, and if there’s no place else for a visitor to go to engage with you once that content goes POOF, you’re going to be on a treadmill to nowhere.
It’s not about the following. There’s not even a great chance that followers will keep watching your videos. (Your following is considered a “vanity metirc” for a reason)
Without having a way to address people at varying stages of their journey with you (evergreen content) this type of ephemeral content has a shelf life of sushi at a summer picnic. It has a place, as I mentioned before, for brand awareness. But unless you want to spend hours making videos, it’s best to have some other strategies in place.
The same applies to Google rankings. I’m not implying that SEO is all about the ego. Quite the contrary. As long as people are searching for stuff online, SEO will be relevant, although rapidly changing. Because of this, it’s a discipline that requires a lot of skill AND time to keep up with.. but like anything, the focus can end up being more about the ego than an intentional, educated strategy.
That’s why there are still so many SEO’s out there whose main message is “I guarantee you’ll be #1 in Google.” For WHAT keyword? Somehow, that part is never mentioned.
If you rely ONLY on Google rankings, and ONLY location-based keywords, you may only be attracting those who are more ready to buy now, instead of helping people who are doing research to find the best way to solve their unique problems. You also need to HELP them (your ideal clients who are actively LOOKING for you online) by starting to create a library of evergreen content. This means content that will “keep on giving” even years from now.
Then you can optimize that content for Google searches with some great keywords. (Don’t forget about other search engines like Amazon, Pinterest, and YouTube)
I’ve been at the top of Google when I had my acupuncture business. Before I refined my strategy, it meant that I was getting a LOT of less than ideal patients. In fact, the kinds that were actually bad for my business and my own well-being.
When I refined my content and keywords, I also got more of my ideal patients, made more income in less time, and was much less stressed out and able to serve my patients on a deeper, more focused level.
Another problem is that search rankings don’t always mean clicks, and that once someone ends up on your website or landing page, if nobody takes action, all the traffic in the world won’t solve the root cause of the problem, which is your website or landing page. Don’t let this get you down, because websites are living, dynamic entities and it could be that simply changing one thing will make a difference. We all need to be able to edit our own websites, for this reason.
Paid advertising, I know, isn’t necessarily about the ego, but it can be. I think it can be an important part of an overall marketing strategy. I don’t think it’s a good idea to rely on it exclusively.
If you rely ONLY on paid ads, you also may not be getting the right kinds of clients or patients for you. It takes time and knowledge to get this right. Meanwhile, organic traffic may be just like an organic garden. It’s worth planting and tending to, and doesn’t “shut off” the moment we stop paying for ads.
Bottom line: I think the key to sustainable marketing is creating evergreen content that is optimized to be FOUND by your ideal client, so that you don’t have to chase them, and to have an ecosystem that allows you to “capture” leads and then follow up with them, automatically and dynamically.
You secretly (or not so secretly) treat other service providers, coaches, or business owners in general with contempt, thinking that they are all “a bunch of slimeballs” trying to steal our hard earned money.
It’s true that there are some dishonest people out there in all industries. Having been an acupuncturist, I can tell you firsthand that there is a similar problem in the health and wellness industry. We’re not above this phenomenon.
However, there are also plenty of honest, talented, and wise experts who are treated with contempt for no good reason other than many have some deep-seated, preconceived, and inaccurate notions about business and what it means to be an active participant in the overall economy.
I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. In fact, I’m exploring my own counterproductive mindset and subconscious beliefs as well. It’s a process, but awareness is a good start.
A better solution
Know that a lot of small business owners are passionate about solving problems for their ideal clients, no matter what their area of expertise is. I’m going to go ahead and say it: There is nothing that makes health, wellness, or healing businesses more important, special, or precious than other types of businesses that help others solve problems or enjoy their lives.
Many small businesses have been going through a rough period for the past few years. Instead of assuming that everyone is trying to make us part with our money, I think a better solution is to start with a basic foundation of respect for other business owners, until proven otherwise.
Likewise, It’s ok to pre-qualify and filter out those who are a bad fit for us, or arm ourselves with enough knowledge to avoid getting ripped off. But to assume that an entire industry is full of dishonest opportunists isn’t what I would call a great vibe either. In fact, it can backfire.
Working with anyone and everyone, having no boundaries, and getting upset at those who chose to work ONLY with their own ideal clients, patients, or students.
I firmly believe that working with the wrong people can actually harm a small business, and that this can be a hard concept to grasp until you’ve been in the trenches as an entrepreneur.
This is why I’m always preaching about taking the time to identify our ideal clients or patients, and THEN creating a way to filter them in, while filtering OUT those who are not a good fit.
I love working with the vast majority of my clients. Seriously. It makes my day.
I also do see a lot of the kinds of clients online that I prefer not to work with and have made a decision to avoid. Turns out that those who see these 9 methods of sabotage as “virtues” are not my ideal clients, and I yes, that’s one of the reasons I wrote this article.
More importantly, I’ve actually gotten more clients from taking a stand than by making sure that “everyone” is “happy.” I believe that everything so much easier when we know, at least somewhat, where we stand. I even consciously attract a tribe that prefers more in-depth and didactic content, and loves “geeking out” on almost everything, as opposed to what some of us may refer to as “fluff.” Other types may not like this at all (if you are reading this.. this may be you!)
This IS a normal and intentional process when you choose your niche.
This doesn’t mean that these clients are “bad” people. Sometimes the perfect client for one business owner is a nightmare for another. Much like online dating.. It’s about finding a good match. For example, I intensely disliked working with fertility patients, and preferred working with an entirely different clientele: Older men with hip and back pain
Think of it this way: Would you walk into a vegan pizza joint and get mad if they didn’t offer you a sausage and pepperoni pizza? Or a bar that didn’t play the kind of music YOU like when you walk in the door? Or get mad at your piano teacher because you haven’t learned to play that Chopin piece without bothering to practice? You would be instructed to go elsewhere, and rightly so.
You would find something that’s a better match for you, or take responsibility for your part in the transaction.
It’s no different for alternative health care providers.
Someone who isn’t a good fit for your might include:
- Someone who isn’t interested in learning about the value of what you offer. These are also not the ones who should be controlling (even if in your subconscious mind) what you charge. x
- Someone who doesn’t value your TIME. I’ve seen plenty of people who talk about cancellations and how it affects their bottom line. The funny thing is, these same practitioners have also scheduled appointments with me and my colleagues and have late-cancelled or no-showed.
As an entrepreneur who is straddling 2 industries and still identifies as a health and wellness professional and may choose to practice again if I repatriate to the US, I’m having trouble understanding why some of my colleagues treat other professionals this way, but still expect to be treated with respect. It doesn’t work that way.
- Someone who doesn’t do the work.
A great client or patient is committed to an outcome. This means that they are also committed to, and willing to PAY for a process that will provide that outcome. This is almost always achieved by working with an expert that has a system, plan, or strategy.
A non-expert doesn’t have a plan. They may have a list of “top ten tips for____.” or know where to Google when they get in a bind.
As a result, they spend months or even years spinning their wheels.
YOU are an expert. Imagine if your clients or patients or students hired you, but never bothered to take your advice or do any work.
A better solution
Again, there’s some work involved. The more you can accurately identify and understand your ideal client, and the more you take steps to attract them and yes, repel those who are not a good fit, the less of a problem this becomes. I promise.
Stick to your guns when it comes to protecting your boundaries, including your time and giving away your expertise. I know this is easier said than done. I get it, I still struggle with this sometimes, although I’ve made a lot of progress.
Think of the examples I listed above. YOU are that pizza joint, bar, or music teacher. You can say NO instead of bending over to accommodate everyone that walks through your door. (or your virtual door) By doing so, you’ll actually be creating a more valuable and unique experience for those who are drawn to what you do.
Make sure you are clear, from the start, about expectations. Not just about what a client or patient can expect from you, but what you expect from THEM as well.
You may need to spell this out in a way that seems elementary or common sense. You can make it obvious and clear without sounding harsh. It may take some practice or research or even some assistance, but it’s worth it to have this extra layer that will help buffer any misunderstandings or energy leaks and ultimately protect your business and your sanity.
You rely 100% on intuition, without putting any credence in INSIGHT.
As someone who identifies as BOTH left-brained and right-brained, (non-dominant) I know that rational thought and intuition are interdependent. I don’t buy any of the nonsense that puts one on a pedestal and rejects the other.
To me, the best of both intuition and rational thought can be summed up in one word: INSIGHT.
Insight comes from knowledge. All the intuition in the world isn’t going to get anyone from point A to point B if they don’t have any clue about the world around them, or bother to learn about it. An intuitive 10 year old can’t take the place of someone who has been on this planet for 50 years and has devoted their lives to study and gathering experience.
Conversely, all the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean much if we don’t trust ourselves and our own intuition. That same 50 year old will be much more powerful if they choose to embrace their intuition and use it to make effective decisions in life.
Intuition is a wonderful tool, and much more powerful when based on insight.
Not taking action.
The world is full of people that only know how to consume, but not create something original and present it to the world.
People that only know how to follow, but not lead.
People that bitch about others for “shamelessly promoting” their offerings, whether it’s the release of a new album, a new restaurant, or a unique service that fills in a much-needed gap, but never have the balls to actually create something original.
All they have to offer is re-posted content, lame advice, trivial thoughts, and their unconstructive criticism.
And of course, you “should be ashamed” for talking about the things you studied and worked your ass off for. I, for one, would rather hear from another entrepreneur or passionate hobbyist about their latest podcast or blog or insightful post than engage in most of the junk I see posted by your average person on social media. (Most of my friends are self-employed or working on some really cool projects anyway)
It takes courage, especially in these times, to take a stand, speak up, and take action on the things we believe in.
I’m not talking about political activism here, and by now, us entrepreneurs know what tacky spam looks like. Talking about what we do and our offerings doesn’t automatically qualify as spam, nor does every little thing we prefer not to see need to be “flagged” as such (and who decides this anyway?)
To sum it all up:
It’s very, very easy to fall into a pattern of letting habits and external circumstances rule our lives.
What I’m talking about is not allowing your dreams, desires, and goals to manifest because you’re too “busy” dealing with daily dramas, devotion to fighting entropy, trivial matters, fear, procrastination, numbing out, escapism, fear of what the “herd” will say, or other patterns that keep us from contributing and leaving a legacy.
Life’s too short.
If you’ve read this far, it’s possible you may ready to read me the riot act. This is fine because you would not be an ideal client for me, and this process of self-selection will result in less wasted time for both of us. I mean this in a kind way, over a beer, and encourage you to do the same with your messaging to help you weed your own garden.
Or you are on board and have identified some of the same issues I’ve either struggled with myself or have seen in some of our peers.
Or I kept you engaged.. and you agree with some of these points but not others. That’s cool too! (If everyone agreed with me all the time it would be weird)
Mostly, I would like this blog to inspire you to explore, write about, and share this type of centent with YOUR audience.
The world needs more leaders right now, who are willing to create, take a stand, find meaning, and support other entrepreneurs.