Walking out of school with student loans and needing to make money is very Not Fun. Many of us are cash-poor right out of school and that makes things difficult because you really do need money to make money. The better funded your biz is, the easier it is to get your message out there and start finding your clients. So let’s figure out how to start funding your practice.
If you’ve ever tried hard to get a date you might have already learned that desperation is a powerful repellant. Clingy people cause intuitive red flags to start flying all over the place. You might as well have a skunk perched on your shoulder if you are desperate for patients/money. Sure, you’ll get a few patients, but you’ll do a lot better at serving your patients and then attracting more if your energy isn’t shining with an aura of clingy desperateness.
You need to find a way to lose the poverty mentality and the desperation. That might take some therapy, as well as a couple of the ideas below. Here are some options for giving yourself some financial breathing space. Feel free to contribute more in the comment section below.
What to Do
Get a job
Ooooh. Yeah, I really did just say that. It may or may not be an acupuncture job. It may or may not be part time. It doesn’t matter that much. This is a temporary measure to pay the bills. It’s not failure. It won’t last forever. Your family and friends may rib you for it, but so what? You are building your future and this is the first brick in the structure. (Ok, really it’s like the 9000th brick – your education was the first 8999 bricks.) They’ll stop messing with you when you miraculously get rid of their sciatic pain or help those shingles resolve or get them sleeping soundly after months of insomnia. Who’s scoffing now, eh?
Hop a cruise ship
Speaking of jobs, consider getting a job on a cruise ship for a couple of months. Many acupuncturists have done it, few have loved it, but it’s a pretty damned good way to make a very decent chunk of cash, learn how to treat and assess patients quickly, get comfortable marketing yourself, and asking for rather exorbitant rates for your services. Seriously. Acupuncture sessions on most cruise ships start at $150+ for a 45 minute session and that doesn’t include herbs.
Once you do that every day for months on end you won’t bat an eye coming back to your chosen community and asking $85 or $90 for a one hour session. And you’ll know you’re worth it. These are all good skills to have. You also get to see parts of the world you otherwise might not get to see, you’ll meet people from all over the world, and I understand you will seriously perfect your drinking skills. Regardless, you’ll come home with a chunk of change to start your practice and you’ll get to be a full time acupuncturist while you do it.
Should you decide to do this, talk with a lot of people who have done it and find out which cruise lines are the best to work for. They can also tell you what to expect while onboard and where to get a good maritime physical, which is required for cruise ship gigs.
Do you plan to go to a community that is underserved by acupuncture, start a community acupuncture clinic, opening a low-income urban clinic? Were all of your family, friends, and former co-workers all gung-ho about you going to school and then coming back into town to treat them? It might be the perfect time to launch a Kickstarter campaign (or GoFundMe or whatever) and raise some cash for your venture.
Passive income streams
Developing a secondary income stream, especially if it is passive income, is an absolutely golden move. Passive income means you do little to nothing and people give you money. This might be selling product online (not and MLM! See below.), doing a for-pay vlog or blog, an Etsy store, teaching classes online, or any number of things. It might not be huge money, but if you establish that now (or even while you are in school) it can really help fill in the gaps later on when you are a full time acupuncture practitioner. And guess what. . . most small business owners know that they need a couple of income streams to make it all work. True story.
Get barebones about living expenses
Get a roommate or three. Shift to “hipster cable” (Hulu/Netflix and/or a digital antenna). Stop going out to eat and cook your food instead, but keep it organic. You’re going to need this body later! Make your own coffee. Cancel your gym membership and start walking/bicycling if you aren’t already. Shop for clinic stuff at a thrift store. I’ve found a bunch of white clinic sheets and pillow cases(though not all at the same time) in thrift stores and I’m still using them years later. You get the idea – temporary austerity measures.
Get a grant
It happens! This excellent website could help. Check it out and also check out the Facebook page Lisa Hanfileti runs, Acupuncture Business Academy. It’s a closed group, but if you knock she’ll let you in. She’s good people.
Share a treatment room
If you don’t have a lot of cash, consider renting a room part time to start your practice. It’s not ideal and has all of the possible down-sides as having a roommate….because you basically have a roommate! But it’s a great start.
Try to rent space near where you actually want to locate your business long-term. When/if you move later on you are more likely to retain your patient base if you don’t stray too far from where you are when they find you. I once stopped seeing an acupuncturist because she moved just 1/2 mile outside of my distance limit. This “limit” was not conscious. I loved that acupuncturist and she’s a big reason I began to study acupuncture, but everyone has that ‘limit’ built in. So do your patients.
Get cheap business cards
VistaPrint is not my favorite entity (they are fine, I just prefer to shop locally), but they are damned handy when you don’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising. Hint: If you design a card, create an account, and get to the checkout process but then abandon the whole thing without actually paying them, they will often start sending you coupons for shipping-only/cheaper deals within a day or three. But don’t fall for their add-ons when you do purchase. Skip the address labels, business card holders, websites, postcards, etc. Just. Get. The. Business. Cards.
Think weird thoughts
You might come up with something that others have not. We all have a unique take on the world. Let yourself think crazy thoughts about funding and about living with little money while your biz is building. Many successful entrepreneurs do things in ways that no one else has thought of yet. You may not beat the odds, but then again you might! Check out Do Cool Sh*t. It’s a whole new world. You don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done!
What NOT To Do
If someone approaches you with “Let me tell you about an incredible ground-level business opportunity,” and/or they invite you to a house or to lunch for “a discussion,” chances are you’re about to be “MLM’d.” MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing. It’s also called ‘direct selling’ and ‘referral marketing and there are a million of these companies, including Young Living, doTERRA, Amway, Avon, Advocare, Herbalife, Mary Kay….the list goes on and on. This is a business strategy in which the people doing the selling get a little bit of profit not only for the sales they do, but also for the sales of other salespeople they recruit.
Mostly they are a scam even if some of the products might be good. In my experience they are mostly crap hiding behind a thin veneer of legitimacy. And no, I don’t want to hear all about how your favorite MLM product is different. Call me when the ‘shiny’ has worn off of those rose colored glasses. Stop reading if you want. I’m being real regardless of how you feel about it.
Wanna know more: Read this. http://www.vandruff.com/mlm.html
“Build your 6 Figure Practice”
Maybe the most dastardly of predator are the people that promise you they can show you how to build a ridiculously successful practice if you just follow their business model. Many of them claim to be ridiculously successful practitioners, but if they are then why in God’s name are they hawking their business success program 24 hours a day instead of honing their skills as practitioners? Because they aren’t making enough in their practice to support themselves perhaps?
Do you really want to take advice from these people? And where is that practitioner they are using in their ads? No where to be found, that’s where. It’s a scam that preys on your desperation and fear. They want thousands of dollars from practitioners who can barely generate money for rent much less pay thousands for training that doesn’t work. All you get from these things is more debt and a sense of failure when most of their marketing strategies don’t work.
Work out of your house
Caveat: this really does work in some areas. If it’s the norm in your area, then forget I said anything, but if it’s not common in your area, read on.
It’s really tempting to work out of your house. Low overhead, you know. But it doesn’t exactly say, “Hey, I’m a serious professional.” Also, I tried it. There are some seriously creep-ass people you do NOT want knowing where you live. And once they know, you cannot undo that. Unless you move. And who wants to pack? Yuck. Also, also? It’s illegal in some neighborhoods/municipalities. You’re far better off renting a treatment room part time from a massage therapist, chiropractor, psychotherapist, etc.
That’s enough for now. Go play outside!