Over the many years that I have been working as a professional shaman there have been numerous observations that I have made regarding the “complimentary medicine” field. I put that in quotation marks because that is what main stream people call it. I actually call it TRADITIONAL because it has been around for, oh, 40,000 years and contemporary medicine has been around for maybe 300 years. So they really are the new kid on the block. That is not to disqualify contemporary medicine in ANY way. What I am saying is that we have been practicing a LOT longer and so I, for one, will NOT be slotted into an “alternative” category. I think we need to show some mutual respect and work together.
So back to the original thought. People in the “complimentary medicine field”, no matter which therapy or traditional medicine they practice, have often found themselves destitute because either they don’t charge any money for what they do (thus disqualifying themselves as worthy healers or, even worse, undercutting those who do have a fee) or because they just are not business minded. They can be absolutely BRILLIANT at what they do, thus maximizing their creative minds. But do they keep proper bookkeeping books? Do they actually have an accountant? Do they have a business license? Do they even have a credit rating or a business account in which funds are placed? This can lead to perks, such as being able to qualify for a debit machine. But so many do not have this, and are even opposed to doing so because they want to work “outside of the corporate box of expectations and procedures”.
Ok. So you want to put yourself out of business because you cannot function in the world of business or, worse still, you want to put yourself in jail for tax evasion. Did I hear someone say, “Shoot yourself in the foot!”?
Having your own healing practice takes more than just being good at what you do. It means that you HAVE to become a savvy business person as well. This does not in any way mean that you have to become territorial and compete over clients with other practitioners. That is utter nonsense and deprives the client of the choice of who they wish to have on their healing TEAM. And, believe me, you might get away with insisting that someone work exclusively with you for a short while, but those folks are soon going to catch on that you are being territorial and are not doing the work for the right reasons. They will leave and they will come to the rest of us who have no problem whatsoever with them having a TEAM that they work with for their healing.
So what does it mean to be a savvy business person? Here are a few tips, just off the top of my head
1. Start SMALL. Too many times I have seen people have this pie in the sky dream that they are going to open an “Alternative Healing Centre” and have all of their friends who are various types of practitioners join them. This is an alright goal…DOWN….THE…..ROAD. But do remember that even if you DO create this, being friends with someone is MUCH different than being in business with them. I have seen otherwise perfectly harmonious relationships go completely south because one or more of the participants had NO IDEA what it is like to run a business and so everyone blames everyone else and the next thing you know the entire centre is blown up and everyone scatters and goes their separate ways.
Be a SMALL business, even in a room in your own home, and be a SUCCESSFUL small business. Leave the larger dream for YEARS down the road. You really do have to learn to walk before you can learn to run.
- Be Gracious. Make your people feel completely comfortable. Make sure that your space is CLEAN and TIDY. Be willing to greet them professionally but warmly when they arrive. Offer them a drink of water or, if you prefer, a cup of tea. They are your special GUEST for the duration of the appointment. Make sure that they have a beautiful experience.
- Be Professional. You may share personal stories when they are relevant, but this appointment time is for THEM, not YOU. So listen to what they are saying and find where you can assist. Have a clear plan for what is needed for the appointment, based upon what they have shared with you, and do that. Do NOT bad mouth other practitioners. That will lose your client’s respect faster than anything. Adopt the theme of Thumper’s mother, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Wear clothing that is appropriate for your work. Do NOT (and I only bring this up because it has happened) show up for your appointment with a client wearing torn and stained sweats or, worse yet, your pyjamas. You do not need to wear a business suit, but clean and professional looking clothing is a great idea. Do not cover yourself in scents, be they perfumes or aromatherapies. Something that is “natural” is not necessarily something that will appeal to a client and you do not know what allergies they have, so they could have an allergic reaction EVEN THOUGH WHAT YOU ARE WEARING IS “NATURAL”.
- Be Clear with Your Time. You are providing as service to someone. You are NOT their servant. Your time is valuable, so keep the session time to the allotted amount of hours or minutes. If you find that you have situations that require more time, make sure that you allow for that and that you charge accordingly. Also know that you are not a crisis centre and you are not obligated in any way to take phone calls from clients in the middle of the night.
- Assemble a list of things that people need to know in order to work effectively with you. An example of this is a list that I have on my wall that is “How to Work with Me as Your Shaman” and it has everything on there from “Arrive ON TIME” to “No, a gift is not payment”. These address the many things that I have encountered over the years working with the public and help people to know what my boundaries are and what the expectations are for both of us.
- Keep meticulous books. You should, at a glance, be able to tell a person what you have earned on any given day and what payment method was used.
- GET AN ACCOUNTANT. If you are running a business there are tax breaks that, believe me, you will not even have imagined. An accountant knows all of them. You may spend a bit of money on their services, but they will save you THOUSANDS of dollars in tax breaks. An accountant will also keep your butt out of jail for inadvertent tax evasion. Listen to your accountant. Do what they say, no matter how inconvenient it may be or how philosophically offended you may be. Just shut up and do it. If you work out of your home, there are things that you can claim as a deduction on your tax return. There are also things that you NEVER want to try to claim because, if you do, they will land you into a situation of having to pay Capital Gains Tax on the sale amount of your house. An accountant knows these things.
- Make sure that your practice is NOT interfering with your family life. This means when the hour (or whatever allotted time) is up, you are DONE and go back to your life. Going overtime 5 minutes with one client will cause you to be half an hour late at the end of the day. Does your family deserve that? No. Also, make sure that your family life does not interfere with your business. So whatever age your children are, they need to know that the T.V is on low volume and they do not erupt into a yelling match in the middle of your session.
- Know that you are NOT going to be completely healing a person with the one hour that you have with them. You will be able to accomplish some things, but not all things. I often say that if all we get done is ONE thing, then that is AWESOME. If we get two things done, that is also AWESOME. If we get done more than that, then that is AWESOME.
- Have homework to give your client to do. This is not something that they need to stress over. This is a matter of “tools in the bag” that they can use on a daily basis that will help them to maintain themselves in between sessions with you. People get into the habit of expecting others to do it all for them, not realizing that THEY are the ones who live their lives, live inside their bodies, and who are in charge of their well being…no one else is responsible for that. So if they choose to do the homework, excellent. If they choose not to, then it will simply take a lot longer to accomplish the things they want to accomplish in their healing journey. The choice is theirs and those choices are not a reflection in any way upon yourself as a practitioner.
- Leave your territorialism at the door. People have the right to choose who they work with as healers, and how many. If you are communicating to them that they need to work exclusively with YOU for the modality to work, then you may want to consider a few things: A) If a modality is so sensitive that it can be kyboshed by another modality, then it is not a valuable modality and its application will never have a long lasting effect. B) If you need to be the ONLY healer in your client’s world, then you are completely coming from ego and wanting to take credit for their healing. Their healing is THEIR success, not yours. You are there to open the door to healing, but they are the ones who integrate it and work with it in their bodies every single day. You only see them once a week or so. C) If you are being territorial then you are in the business for the wrong reasons and you are letting your fear override your professionalism. This is usually based upon one’s fears around financial security. Those fears are NOT YOUR CLIENT’S PROBLEM and in laying that on your client you are actually abusing them. Stop that NOW. You will only alienate them and lose them as a client. D) Let your CLIENT decide when they will next see you. So often I hear practitioners recommend that the client sees them within a certain time frame. This is an abuse of the client as well. They may not be able to financially afford this. They may not be getting the benefits from the therapy you have to offer and might need to see another practitioner in another modality to augment the work that you are doing with them. So now the client has more than one practitioner to pay. This adds up in their bank account. And even if they can afford a lot of therapy, the question also has to be asked, “Is this a therapy junkie?” I often say to people, “You know how to find me and how to book in with me online. So whenever YOU know it is time, just book in and we will pick it up from there.” But if I notice that they are becoming far too dependent upon me, I will firmly suggest that we have more time in between sessions so that they can more fully integrate the work that we are doing.
- It takes, on average, 3-5 YEARS to get a business off the ground. So please do not think that you are going to miraculously do it faster. Too often I have seen people jump in whole hog and find that within 6 months to a year they are now in great financial crisis because they did not build up their client base properly, which takes a lot of time. There is NOTHING wrong with working a full time job for a wage and doing your healing practice part time for a number of years until that client base is sufficiently built up. I have been doing this for about 33 years, and am at the point where I am seeing the children and grand children of the original clients. To get a multi-generational client base one has to look at the BIG picture and attend to the small details each day. And one has to be in it for the long haul. So take the rose coloured sparkly glasses off your face and realize that there is WORK that needs to be attended to if you are going to make a success of your practice.
- Join an association that is there to help small businesses. As an example, I am a member of an organisation that is called the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. This organisation lobbies government and banks on behalf of small businesses. As an example of things that it has been able to accomplish, it has successfully managed to alter tax burdens on small businesses, and has successfully been able to force the implementation of regulations when it comes to credit card companies, who were gouging businesses with rate hikes constantly, and with no notice, and, while doing so, automatically renewing contracts with businesses, without their knowledge or consent, thus locking them into another 3 year contract that they would have to pay thousands of dollars to get out of. This was standard practice and now is much more heavily regulated so that businesses have fair dealings with these companies. The amount of the membership fee is more than compensated for in the amount of money one saves.
- Welcome to the 21st Century! People pay healers. Hundreds of years ago the community would make sure that their healers were fed, clothed and housed so that they would be able to completely focus on the healing of the people. Those days are gone. We are now in a monetary system, right or wrong, and this system demands that we pay rent/mortgage, car loans, clothing, food, etc. So yes, we now have a fee. And sometimes that fee increases to compensate for the cost of living. That is how it is.
- Make sure that your work time is spent with WORK. Too often people get so flexible with their work, especially when it is done from the home, that they end up completely neglecting their practices. I always say that, even if I do not have a client in the room with me, I am at WORK and therefore will not be doing laundry, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning, doing dishes or cooking. There are so many things that have to be done in a work day just to sustain that practice. Blogging is done only while I am at work unless I am at the lake and feel a yen to write. Bookkeeping is done while I am at work. Art is done while I am at work (because that is part of my practice), errands that are work related are done while I am at work. Workshop planning is done while I am at work. These things all get time slots made available to them, so when I am doing those things I will not book a client into that time slot. That way I am not taking time away from family trying to catch up in all the administrative stuff that I did not get done when I was actually AT WORK. And then when I am with my family I am completely focused on that, and not my work. It also helps to give one a sense of accomplishment, even if one has not seen one single, solitary client in their day.
There are many other points that I could make regarding having a healing practice and running a business that is your healing practice. But for now, this is where I will leave it.