As healing professionals without a “formal” business education, we can feel behind the curve when it comes to starting and running a private practice.
While there is true value in solid business training, there’s real-life biz school all around you.
This point hit home for me earlier this month during Hazel’s unexpected (semi-emergency) trip to the vet.
A little back story:
I’ve been around dogs for as long as I can remember. Over the course of my childhood, we had dogs, two types of ducks, rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, doves, and a Spiny Mouse.
As expected, I’ve experienced my fair share of animal tragedies, including finding pets after they’ve experienced serious medical trauma.
And yet. Hazel is my FIRST puppy.
When we had to take her to the vet, my sensitive heart was breaking to see her in pain.
We all do what we can to cope during stressful times.
For me, I got through it by identifying business lessons popping up during Hazel’s Vet Fiasco of 2019.
Three unexpected lessons from Hazel’s FIRST VET Experience
Lesson #1: Have the right support
The story starts on a Friday afternoon.
As I braved rush hour traffic to get to the vet in south Littleton, I was a hot mess.
In addition to my empathic distress of feeling my 11-week old puppy in pain, I was convinced I was a terrible dog mom and the vet was going to add me to some secret blacklist for future dog adopting. Plus, Hazel would be traumatized for life.
I reached out to a few dear friends during this time.
They were AMAZING. They assured me Hazel would be fine, I was NOT a bad dog mom, and shared similar stories of pet mishaps. My partner (out of town) stayed strong for me as I hyperventilated on the phone.
Just like your first puppy, when you are embarking on a new business adventure, it’s gonna bring up some unresolved feelings.
Well, hello imposter syndrome, money stuff, and self-doubt. I thought I had left you behind years ago.
And when these feelings arise, you might question if you’re even cut out for this whole self-employment gig.
Having the RIGHT support can be key in these moments.
You’ll want other therapists-entrepreneurs in your corner. People with whom you can be 100% vulnerable. They will get excited about new ideas and hold you accountable to your boundaries.
I wouldn’t be still in private practice without my few biz besties talking me down and normalizing my struggles. It feels good to reciprocate and guide them during tough times, too.
For this support, you can seek out a mastermind, 1:1 coaching, or a group program. You can intentionally cultivate a small group of local therapists to meet monthly. Many self-employed folks also see their own therapy as invaluable to their business success.
Lesson #2: Timing is everything
Fast forward: I’m in the exam room with Hazel and Friendly Vet Tech.
I’m stress sweating and holding back tears, but Friendly Vet Tech obviously has to do her New Patient Spiel. She gives me samples of heartworm medications, discusses the research that grain-free diets lead to heart disease, and hands me pamphlets about pet insurance.
Friendly Vet Tech: I’d like to talk to you about a few brands of dog food that we recommend you stay away from. Research is showing that grain-free diets have been linked to heart disease in dogs. Do you know what brand of dog food you have for Hazel? Is it grain-free?
What I’m thinking: I DONT CARE ABOUT GRAIN-FREE ANYTHING RIGHT NOW. JUST HELP. MY. DOG.
What I say: I’m not really in the space to absorb this information right now. Can you put this all in a bag and I’ll read it later?
In the therapy room, you’re already an expert at knowing the best time to broach a sensitive topic.
Just like with Friendly Vet Tech, the wrong timing can be a huge block to your potential clients hearing valuable information about you, your services, and how you help your clients.
Consider this lesson for your business as well.
- When is the right time to discuss fees on a consult call?
- When should you launch a new therapy group?
- When should you start a warm letter campaign?
- How do you know the right time to invite a commitment or keep communicating value?
- When should you do a fee increase? When do you bring it up in session?
- How often should you reach out to network?
- When should you leave insurance or negotiate a higher rate?
- How do you know when time to change niches or leap from side hustle to full time?
Are you using the power of proper timing in your business?
- Are your social media posts falling flat because you’re not posting at the time your followers are active?
- Are your potential clients balking at your fees because you’re not talking about the investment in therapy soon enough in the consult call or on your website?
- Are you reaching out often enough to referral sources to nurture a solid relationship?
- Are you asking for your audience to commit to purchasing a product before they have had enough time to know and trust you?
- Do you know how to write copy that brings in the client’s pain points at the right time?
If you’re not sure, reach out and I’d be happy to talk this through with you.
Lesson #3: Know your niche
Back to the story.
Exam, x-rays, and procedures are all done. With relief, I’m bringing Hazel back home.
I hadn’t even pulled into the driveway before I word-vomited the details of the incident to my neighbors.
(Meanwhile: Hazel happy-peed on their porch from the head pats.)
They have dogs, they’d want to hear the gory details, right?
And while they’re too nice of people to ever tell me otherwise, once the adrenaline of the vet fiasco wore off, I wondered if I should have been a bit more conservative with the details.
After that, when I spoke of Hazel’s vet trip, I prefaced it with: “This story is a little graphic. Would you like the PG version or all the details?”
I gave them the power of choice. People who didn’t want to hear it didn’t have to.
Many friends (often other dog parents) wanted a detailed play-by-play, punctuated with seeing the x-ray.
Suddenly, I was initiated into The Dumb-Stuff-My-Dog-Did-Which-Cost-Me-Too-Much-Money Club
And, let me tell you. It was a good feeling to have people really get me.
This is a lesson in knowing your audience.
Because if you don’t know WHO you’re talking to or WHAT they care about, your message will fall flat.
Niching is necessary.
With my story, my target niche was fellow animal lovers who had a serious medical scare with their pet, too.
They were open to hearing my story. We related. They understood me. I got them. They felt included in my experience. I felt part of something special.
When you niche for your business, you want clients to feel part of a special club where YOU deeply understand their experience, just as much – if not more – than they do.
Consider these questions:
- Do you have a clearly defined niche?
- Have you created an Ideal Client Avatar (ICA)?
- Are you marketing in a way that your ideal client is likely to come across?
- Have you discovered and honed your brand voice?
- Does your web copy speak directly to the fears, hopes, and experience of your niche?
- Do your referral sources know how to summarize your niche in 4-5 words?
When you identify your ideal clients, they are automatically open to hearing what you have to say.
They will gleefully devour your social media posts and binge read your blogs.
By the time they call, it’s just a matter of confirming the connection they already felt from reading your copy.
They will happily pay your full fee because they know you’re the right person to help them.
The moral of the story:
You know more than you think you do when it comes to business.
You know what your clients REALLY want to hear.
You know what they want to FEEL.
And you know exactly HOW to get them there.
So, don’t let fear, doubt, and imposter syndrome get in the way of tapping into this wisdom.
Also, no matter how closely you supervise your puppy, they will get into something, so prepare yourself (and your bank account) for that, too.
Ready to niche down, loosen up, and write from the heart?
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