I had my first client in 2001 while I was still in massage school. It was in the living-room of the dusty apartment of my neighbor on the big purple massage table that I carted along with me. I remember being terrified that my massage routine wouldn't be long enough to fill the entire 60 minutes (it was--but barely). Despite my initial jitters (and thanks to my very grateful new client), I discovered that I loved doing massage. I kept at it and, quickly realizing that I wanted to learn a lot more about health and wellness so I signed up for as many workshops and trainings as I could in nutrition, energy medicine, yoga, meditation and more.
Flash forward several certifications and 15 years later, and I still love health and wellness. While I realize that in the grand scheme of things, 15 years isn't really all that long, I sometimes cringe when I think back on some of the things I did as I was building my business. And while a lot of these "embarrassments" are just plain silly (flinging panties from the freshly laundered massage sheets onto a clients floor or showing up soaking wet to teach yoga after an unexpected downpour) there are some bigger lessons there, too.
Here are 3 mistakes that I've made during my career and, eventually, learned a lot from. Maybe you'll learn something from them as well (even if it's just "Thank God. Someone else did/thought/said that thing, too!")
Ignoring the Money
Since I first started my practice, I've been much more interested in serving people than making a million dollars. I really wanted to help people heal, teach them how to take care of their mind and body, guide them on a healing journey to overcome pain and limitations. For a long time, I thought that it was "good enough" if my clients were happy - even if I was giving my services away for free. I assumed that money would come "sometime" in the future - and luckily I've always had enough money to live comfortably - but I didn't have any profit plan or revenue model. I didn't even know what those phrases meant until a few years ago.
It was actually my own frustrations with feeling undervalued and burnt-out after a decade of making the same income that inspired me to take money a lot more seriously. I started reading all the business books and listening to all the podcasts that I could get my hands on - especially the ones about start-ups and entrepreneurs - and paying more attention to the flow of money in and out of my life. When I asked myself, "What's my relationship to money?" I discovered a lot of limiting beliefs about what I was "worth" and what I "deserved" to be paid. I especially struggled with taking full accountability for my finances and not blaming my difficulties on anyone else.
I believe that too many health and wellness professionals get discouraged because they love what they do, but they aren't making a good living doing it. I believe that all health and wellness professionals can create purposeful and profitable holistic businesses with the right tools and support. I believe that the health of your bank account is just as important as the health of your body, mind and spirit. And I believe that money and healing are not mutually exclusive but rather interconnected and interdependent - just look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs to see that our basic security has to be in place before we can do the higher work of transformation.
Being a Hobbyist instead of a Professional
Between 2009 and 2014, I made over 500 YouTube vlogs. They were interesting and entertaining. I talked about every aspect of health and wellness that I was studying and practicing. I accumulated more than half-a-million views on my channel. BUT it was never anything more than a hobby.
The videos weren't integrated into my business. They didn't generate any extra income for me. They didn't lead to speaking engagements, press coverage or anything that would have given my business more exposure. They didn't even open up doors for teaching, presenting or publishing. At the end of the day, it was fun for me and the few hundred people who were regularly watching, but it wasn't the best use of my time, energy and creativity. Still, it was hard to give it up because it was so enjoyable. I had so much passion for the topics and I really wanted to share what I was learning. Eventually (and thankfully), I stopped. I decided that I needed to channel that passion, energy and creativity into products that could actually make a difference - not only for the viewers - but also for me.
Instead of vlogging everyday, I used those extra hours for writing articles that could be published, building online classes that could be taken and creating videos with specific information that supported my products and services. I still feel the same excitement and joy when I hit "publish" but now I have the added benefit of knowing that I am also shifting from hobbyist to professional.
I believe that too many health and wellness professionals waste time doing things that are fun but don't make sense for their career. I believe that all health and wellness professionals can channel their passion and creativity into products and services that support the health of their business and bank account. And I believe that taking ourselves more seriously (while still having fun) is how we will make others take us more seriously, too.
Too much Learning and not enough Doing
Aside from my trainings in Massage Therapy, Kundalini Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, Healing Touch and Mindfulness Meditation, I also have a Ph.D. in Transformative Studies. Want to know a super-easy way to avoid the difficulty of running a business? Stay in school. Keep enrolling in as many programs as you can so that you are always learning instead of doing. Keep finding things about yourself that you need to improve and then seek out books, teachers, therapists, videos, and so on to help you work on those issues.
For a looooong time, I had the feeling that I wasn't "ready" to [fill in the blank]. I wasn't ready to be a teacher. I wasn't ready to write a book. I wasn't ready to make more money. I wasn't ready to be on TV. I kept waiting for the "ready" feeling but it never came. So I got sick of waiting and I just started doing all of those things anyway - even though I didn't feel "ready." I taught the classes, wrote the book, pitched the proposals, got the TV gig. And even while I was doing it, I suffered a twinge of the imposter complex. I wondered, "Who am I to be up here professing my knowledge?"
This kind of thinking is sooooo last year. This is not the time to be playing small, making excuses, avoiding our work, succumbing to procrastination or self-doubt. This is the time to get shit done. There are too many people who are suffering and struggling for us to be staring at ourselves in the mirror wondering when we are going to look and feel like the expert that we are. I don't care if you know 2 more things than me about nutrition, than you can teach me something. And we have to OWN that and we have to stop with the self-absorbed worry about what others will think or what mistakes we might make. You will make mistakes - that's what this whole article is about - my mistakes. But who cares! If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything.
I believe that too many health and wellness professionals are hiding behind a book, a computer or some other excuse for why they are not "ready" to do the work. I believe that all health and wellness professionals need to be more brave, more determined, and more assertive about bringing their gifts to the world. I believe the world needs our gifts now more than ever - we need people who can raise consciousness, mend brokenness, guide people from the darkness to light, be role models for a happy, healthy life. And I believe that running your own holistic business can be one of the most liberating, amazing, rewarding, lucrative experiences out there--and it doesn't have to be complicated or intimidating or costly.
You don't have to do it perfectly. You just have to do it.