In my last post, I talked about the varying attitudes that people hold toward money and affluence. I've noticed that, particularly in the holistic health field, there seems to be a lot of shame and guilt surrounding the idea of making money. It's as if we have to decide: money or happiness? You can't have both, right? I've never been one to compromise on happiness, and I refuse to do so now. I really do believe that you can have it all. I love my job, I wake up every morning excited to go to work, but I don't feel guilty about success, and I simply won't. I work hard, I work a lot, and I've invested a lot of money in my education and training. Why is it that so many practitioners don't see it this way?
When I first opened my practice, I had no clients. None. There is nothing more depressing than sitting in your shiny new office, praying for the phone to ring. At that point, you can either choose to get down about it, or to be proactive and figure out ways to get people through the door. I chose the latter. I would spend hours blogging, working on building my web rankings, and getting creative. I began to advertise free Sunday sessions. I ran extreme coupon deals. I did SO many things to attract clients, that I can't remember half of them.
After a few months, people began to trickle in. Slowly, word began to spread...and as clients told their friends and family, I began to actually make a few bucks here and there. Fortunately, I was still waiting tables, so I didn't need to worry about starving...but here's the thing: when you have two jobs, your focus, determination, and drive to succeed is split. Fear is the ultimate motivator; without it, it's easy to get complacent where you are. Once I realized this, I began to cut my waitressing shifts. The less time I spent in the restaurant, the busier my business got. Coincidence? Hell, no! Without the extra money from the restaurant to fall back on, I worked harder. And more importantly, I began to focus all of my energy on building, building, building. That energy I put out there began to manifest income, much more quickly than I imagined it would.
In the midst of all this building and promotion, I will never forget one particular encounter that really changed the way I viewed the value of my work. As I said, I came up with lots of creative ideas to draw people in when I started. After I collected a small base of clients, I decided to give out gift certificates for free sessions to everyone who had ever come in. The way I saw it, it would be a great reminder for them that I still was around, and it was also just...well, nice. Nice is good, right?
On top of this, I included an extra gift certificate to give to a friend or family member in each envelope. I imagined that I would double my clientele this way; after all, who could turn down a free $100 session of anything? And then once these friends or family members of my clients came in and realized how good they felt, they would keep coming back. Makes sense, right?
So, I excitedly mailed out the gift certs with handwritten messages expressing my appreciation to my clients. I was pumped. Not only was I sure that this would bring in lots of clients, I also felt really good about doing it. And then...I waited. And waited.
In the interim, I was still waiting tables, and one night I ended up serving a marketing consultant. We started to chat, the topic of my "real job" came up, and, as she got rosier and rosier with wine, she told me that she wanted to offer me some free marketing advice because she liked me. It was a slow night, so we had plenty of time to discuss various methods of building my client base, and I proudly told her about my latest scheme. I thought that she would be impressed by my ingenuity, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
"Oh honey," she said, "you need to put more value on yourself and what you do. How many of these free gift certificates did you give out?"
"Thirty to clients, and thirty for my clients to pass on. So, sixty."
She took a sip (gulp) of wine, shook her head, and replied, "It was a nice gesture, but you know how many new clients you'll get out of this? None. I can guarantee you that no one will come in and become a client because of this. You know why?"
"Because...you've taken ALL the value out of what you do. You're giving them something for zero dollars, so to them it has zero dollars worth of value. You would have gotten a lot more response giving out a 10% discount, cheap as that is, because then people would see your sessions as being worth something. Everyone wants a deal, but people won't buy anything unless they think it's worth something. You give something away for free, you've already declared it as worthless."
I stubbornly refused to believe that my plan wouldn't work; I honestly thought that it HAD to. But, you know what? She was 100% right. I didn't get a single client from that promotion. Not a single one.
I was so disappointed, but it taught me a lesson about the value of what I do. I know a lot of people in this field (and similar ones) who get talked into lowering their rates, accepting trades and barters, and basically getting screwed. Again, it's that guilt thing. We are doing good work, so getting paid shouldn't be a high priority...isn't it enough that we can go to bed at night feeling good about ourselves?
I suppose it would be, if happy thoughts could pay off my $130,000 in student loans.
Once upon a time, I thought that it was the best feeling in the world to get paid for what I do. Now I realize that there is nothing better than the feeling of having someone pay you happily. It really is good for the soul. I recently had a patient come in and pay with a check. As I was depositing it at the bank, I noticed that she had written "Happiness" in the line at the bottom of the check. In the following weeks, I saw that she also wrote "health" and "balance" on her checks, and it made me happy. I know that people are truly looking at their sessions as money well spent, and knowing this makes me feel valued.