What holistic healers and acupuncturists don’t learn about running a business:
It’s not what you may think. There is more than ONE way to practice in 2020 and beyond, especially if you are an introvert, are creative, and like to serve on a deeper level.
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, which 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 100 patients per week.
Something felt “off” about this statement to me. It wasn’t because he was ambitious.. or that I was indulging in “naysaying” thoughts based on jealously or resentment when I told myself that this isn’t something I would want at ALL. He was perfectly entitled to run his practice however he saw fit, and back then, this WAS how you defined success.
But I didn’t speak up to say Oh HELL no. Knowing what I do now, I might have politely said that 25, or gasp, even less, would be fine with me. It wasn’t because I was “lazy,” because I enjoy my work. It wasn’t because I was “unethical” either: I preferred to concentrate on fewer people so I could deliver better results, in fewer treatments.
Seems like a win/win, right?
But back then, I had some self-doubt about my mindset. I believed that in order to be “successful,” I had to cram in as many patients as I could in one day, and hustle to make it happen every. single. day.
Later, I discovered that I actually really DID like business, marketing, and technology. A LOT.
Why marketing helps creative introverts 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 exhorbitant 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.
It’s NOT what everyone else was doing, or at least saying what they wanted to do.
I’m not knocking high-volume practices. It’s just that seeing too many people and making that much small talk exhausts me. Especially if I had to keep attracting new patients constantly and wasn’t retaining any of them.
I also passionately despised doing administrative work, scheduling and re-scheduling, answering emails, and paperwork. This makes perfect sense, as an INTJ. As a matter of fact, if you are an INTx.. you probably figured out a similar system to the one I created.
I was willing to put in the time to create a system that worked for me.. and my patients. I didn’t mind putting in a lot of extra hours to make it all work.
It was a win/win.
How I created a system that allowed me to work less and get paid more
(and yes, this involved embracing technology)
Please keep in mind that this blog won’t give you a “big picture” view of how to apply every tool or platform listed here. The big picture will be unique to every business. However, I can help with that!
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.
First, I build a membership model. 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. I was more interested in hormone balancing, “anti-aging,” biomechanics/sports medicine, and general wellness than in treating exotic conditions in which this model might not work.
There are some areas where this may not be legal, even though for wellness programs it’s perfectly ethical. And repeat after me: Yes, we are “allowed” to make money helping others. To refuse to do so does NOT serve ANYONE.
You may want to investigate this option. Keep in mind also that there are practitioners who for some reason, are rabidly opposed to this model, but I learned my lessons from Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.. and did what worked for me. I chose the peers I interacted carefully to save my energy.
This system meant setting up a payment gateway that would not only accept credit cards, but allow for recurring monthly payments.
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.”
This payment gateway also allowed me to do things like:
Create value-added rather than discount-based volume packages. 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.
I gave it my all, but much of the work I did was up front. Each time I did the program it was easier and easier, since most of the work was done on the front-end. I also raised the price each time I ran it.
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.
This all required putting technical pieces into place. I had to create the courses and market them via email and social media. I even wanted to find a way to make my ENTIRE PRACTICE portable so that I could live anywhere I chose, and not have to depend on bringing a high volume of people through the door.. just those I really, truly wanted to work with. I wanted to give those people my absolute best.
I’m so glad I rook these steps. In my opinion, the ways of working and doing business are shifting and changing as people move into a more flexible, dynamic, authentic, and deeper way of doing their life’s work, regardless of the industry they are in.
For me in meant no longer having to struggle doing it the conventional way, or measuring success via how many patients I saw a week.
If this sounds like you, or as you get older you would rather begin doing more teaching and deeper work than have to constantly hustle, technological systems are going to be your friend.
Some even make the move to teaching other professionals and doing more business-to-business marketing.. either to augment or replace working exclusively with patients or clients.
This strategy will also help you serve MORE people. This is what “scaling” a practice is all about: Instead of trading your time and energy, (which becomes more and more precious as you get older) for money, the energetic exchange feels much more sustainable for the long run.
And once again, “tech” is your friend, not your enemy.
The basics of setting up the technology to make your business work FOR you:
• A payment gateway and/or payment management system. Authorize.net is a payment gateway, as is STRIPE. A payment gateway is the system that connects your bank info with credit card payments.
Other systems also allow you to manage payments.. as in take payment plans, split payments, or bill on a monthly basis. DirectPayInc is great for coaches and holistic practitioners who may want to have the flexibility of taking CC payments without needing to swipe a card, but also set up payment buttons online.
Keep in mind that this requires an approval process similar to that of applying for a loan, although not as scary. Mostly it is to see what kind of income you will be bringing in. The reason I like DirectPayInc is because they readily accept that online coaches and new practitioners may make $300 one week, and $3000 the next, and no “red flags” or fraud alerts will be triggered.
As of this writing, Square has become a bit more flexible in regards to accepting recurring payments, but it’s not as seamless as other systems I use (Currently Moonclerk)
Taking CC payments is getting easier and easier.
• A practice management system like AcuSimple or SimplePractice is something you are likely already using to make scheduling much easier.
2020 Update: Acusimple has partnered up with a service (PaySimple) that gives you a lot more flexibility as far as taking payments, including charging for late cancels or no-shows. At this time, it doesn’t look like recurring billing is an option yet.
Mindbody is another option which is pretty powerful, but for many clinics it’s overkill and it can get pretty expensive. There are other alternatives that allow you to automatically charge a monthly fee.
When you first start out, a system that has a low monthly fee may make more sense than just looking at transaction fees.
The monthly fee, however, may be totally worth it when it comes to eliminating not only headaches from no-shows and late cancels, but being able to get paid automatically, if monthly cash flow is a source of stress.
• An email marketing 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 can also segment your list to better target your audience, For example, you can automatically send specific emails to patients with kids, or those who may be interested in sports medicine.
You also want your email system to integrate with all aspects of your marketing and practice management.
Mailerlite and Active Campaign are good for small practices.
Mailerlite. (Free for under 500 subscribers) In my opinion, Mailerlite makes more sense for automations and managing contacts than other free plans like Mailchimp.
Active Campaign is becoming more powerful AND is more more accessible to small businesses at $15 per month than it was even a few years ago. It also “plays well with” many other platforms and systems you will need (website, payment systems, and other apps)
Don’t make the same mistake I did and go with an overly clunky system that will overwhelm you.. I started out with 1ShoppingCart and AWeber, which was a nightmare when it came to systems integrations, API keys, and getting emails to trigger and get sent. It wasn’t appropriate for the kind of business I had.
Note: as of this writing, email marketing has become MUCH more user-friendly. You definitely want to take advantage of what you can have access to at an entry level, including creating email automations to put some of your marketing on autopilot.
If you still fell overwhelmed, I wrote an epic email marketing blog and guide.
• Social media:As we approach 2020, I think it’s a good idea to diversity and not depend EXCLUSIVELY on social media to build your business.
I recommend becoming well-versed in 1 or 2 platforms before adding anything new, so that you can focus your energy and time on creating quality content and building an email list, which you actually own, instead of spending TOO much time keeping up with so many changes.
Don’t give up entirely, though. Social media is still a great way to attract leads into your Sales funnel or lead pipeline.
DO spend some time each month on keeping your finger on the pulse of current trends, such as video, groups, stories (ephemeral content) and how SM can be used for building strategic alliances, networking, and referral marketing. In other words, building relationships with people who can help you market your offerings!
• Analytics and data. 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.
This usually means Google Analytics and Google Search Console to start. They give you a LOT of insight as to how many visitors (traffic) you are getting on your site, what pages are getting the most “hits,” and what your audience consists of.
You can find out what visitors to your site are typing in Google when they find you.. how you rank for a keyword, and how many times people “click” on a search result to find your website/blog.
• SEO. (Search Engine Optimization) SEO is pretty involved. It’s a rabbit hole, in fact. But it’s a fantastic tool to learn. I talk about some of the basics in my blog about SEO, but you can learn a lot from Neil Patel, Moz, SemRush, SEO Profiler, and any one of a multitude of new SEO sites that are popping up.
• A powerful and flexible website platform like WordPress: I’ll be honest. 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, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive.
I build websites and I’m not worried about teaching others how to do it or giving tips, because I know there are plenty of people who still are not going to have the time or inclination to build their own website, and that’s where I come in.
At the very least, you should eventually get to know enough about the backend to maintain your own blog without the help of outside assistance.
It drives me crazy when developers hold their client’s websites hostage. YOU own your website, and I believe you should be the primary admin.
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, what type of business you are in, and more.
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.
Generally I do NOT recommend Wix or Weebly at ALL. for a business.
• Powerpoint, Keynote, or Google Slides These apps will be your first step in creating courses,
• Video recording and editing apps. I use an old version of Camtasia, but dream about Final Cut. It’s probably overkill for what you might need.. but I’m kind of a nerd.. I actually took classes in audio engineering and would do it again one day.
I use Camtasia to record PowerPoint presentations, using a professional microphone,which you can get for about $120 USD. (Blue Yeti) These videos are loaded into Teachable or a membership area of a website, along with .pdf’s or audio files, to build a course.
• Canva. Canva isn’t as powerful as Adobe products like InDesign or Photoshop, but for making quick social media graphics, it works pretty well. It is a staple tool for anyone who does marketing online. (and that should be ANYONE who has their own business, whether it is brick-and-mortar or online)
Later on you can add the following:
• 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 (which I’m currently using) Podia, Udemy, and WordPress plugins like Thrive Apprentice, which I will be testing soon.
There are subtle differences between these options, which I may write in an upcoming blog.
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.
• Zoom. 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.
• Google Ads and FB advertising. This is an area that can create a lot of stress for many. I’m going to be very transparent: Paid advertising makes much more sense once you develop an organic following.
It is best to hire an expert in this area, since if you don’t know what you are doing, you can end up wasting a LOT of money. An expert will help you decide when the time is right for YOU, and how to go about it.
• 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.
Truly, it does seem like “tech” is getting easier and easier. However, you will learn not just about these individual Parts and Pieces, but how they work together. You may also become familiar with integrations, API codes, and embedding codes in your website, and you will start to gain more confidence. Wow!
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!
I hope this has been a helpful overview for you.. keep in mind, it’s not a comprehensive step by step guide.
You can simply pick an area to focus on when you have the time. It took me well over a year to get all these systems in place, and longer than that to make changes and find a system that worked for me.
If you want to know more about HOW to APPLY these systems to an actual marketing plan, check out the 3 part series I wrote about marketing funnels.
If you would rather have someone else do some of these tasks, you know what to do.. click on that burgundy button below and let’s talk!