StartaBizI am really, really tired of the Keep Calm stuff and I bet you are too, but in this case it’s really poignant. Your first task in starting your own business (after the resting-after-you-graduate part) is to understand that you will make fabulous decisions and you will screw up equally fabulously. So what? Life is a learning curve and so it being an entrepreneur. And being freaked out? That’s a terrible experience when you’re trying to start a business. So keep calm and keep reading while you figure out what to do first.

Lemme tell ya, I never in my life ever wanted to run my own business, not even when I started mine! Maybe not even until this past year. True story. I’m a Cancer. I love security. Being on a high wire without a net (aka, being an entrepreneur) ain’t exactly my idea of safety, but weirdly enough, I’m kind of addicted to the thrill now. Go figure.

Regardless of the new fun factor, I would have really appreciated some help when I was getting started. And that’s what I’m about to offer you. This is my real-world “what I wish I’d known” when I was starting my biz.

Only 5% of the Ideas You Read/Hear Are Useful

Let’s just get this out of the way first. I spent a lot of energy I didn’t have stressing about all the stuff I wasn’t doing. I thought I was failing miserably because I didn’t implement all of the Awesome Ideas I heard about starting a business and marketing it.

Guess what. I wasn’t failing at all. That flood of awesome ideas you’ve heard/seen, and that litany of awesome ideas that keep coming into your head? You can discard about 95% of them. Why? Well, some of them are terrible ideas. Many of them are fabulous ideas but just don’t apply to either our industry or to your practice. Some of them are just too time consuming to implement without a staff. A handful of them will be great for you.

How do you know which to keep and which to toss? Well, that’s a big old learning curve, that’s what that is! Even if you poll established acupuncturists you’re likely to get a bunch of information that still doesn’t really work for your situation. And yes, that includes anything I might suggest. Nevertheless, I’ll give you a couple of tips I think are fairly universal.

Pro-tips for Starting Your Business

  • Talk to other established acupuncturists in your area
    Ask them how they got started and what they wish they’d done differently. Even when you do this, bear in mind that what works for them may not work for you. Listen for what is common through-out the group of people you talk to. That’s often a good gauge for what to implement and what to write down on a post-it note and forget about for a while.
    Super mega pro tip: Be sure and thank your gurus for their time. Bring organic cookies or a good cup of coffee or something with you when you meet with them. They aren’t your competition. They are your tribe. There aren’t that many of us and we need each other.
  • Do keep a list of business and marketing ideas
    Even if you don’t use this litany of ideas, you could very well grow to a point that one or more of them will work for you later. But take the pressure off of yourself – start with a couple of ideas and work with those.
  • Educate yourself
    You graduated and thought your education was over for a while, didn’t you? Nope. Unless your school was different, I’m betting you didn’t learn much about being an entrepreneur. Time to get serious about some casual but important education resources. Community education courses on starting and running a business, organizations like SCORE, and other resources of this nature are solid gold. SCORE will actually hook you up with a business mentor and that’s freakin’ awesome.
  • Pick your business legal structure
    Do you want to set up an LLC, a sole proprietorship (um…don’t do that. For real. See below.), an S-Corp, a C-Corp, a 501C non-profit, an evil world domination structure? No way am I qualified to advise you on which one will work for you, so you need to talk to someone who is. And yes, this could cost you a couple of Benjamins, but it’s worth it. This is a long term investment you are making in your biz and yourself. If you are really strapped for cash, check out SCORE and see what your options are. Most of us set up LLCs of some variety. Some states (like Texas) have a PLLC designation that is basically an LLC with an extra letter. All of the options available to you, with the exception of the sole proprietorship, will give your personal assets like your house, car, and kids a layer of protection in case you get successfully sued. OK, they probably can’t actually take your kids in a civil suit even if you might want them to after a really long stretch of snow days, but wouldn’t it totally blow to lose your house because a bridezilla successfully sues you for ruining her wedding day with your wicked evil cupping marks? Yeah. It would.
  • Get a business bank account
    Do not work out of your personal bank account. I cannot emphasize this enough. This seems to excite the IRS like blood excites a vampire. You’ll need to decide if you want to be a sole proprietor or an LLC or whatever first, but after that, get that bank account.
  • Get an EIN number
  • Regardless of what sort of business legal structure you pick, man o man, do you need an EIN as opposed to using your social security number on the endless number of forms you will have to fill out during your practice. This is a federal tax payer ID number. Get one. If you go through a professional LLC setter-upper they should do this for you.
  • And get an NPI number too
    This is a National Provider Identifier. It’s free to get one. Go here and apply right now if you haven’t already. At some point you are going to be either taking insurance, creating super bills, or working for someone who does.

That’s enough for today. I’ll hit you with more later. Go do these things if you haven’t already then take a nap.

Cat

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