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How To Get Your Complementary Therapy Business Off To A Flying Start

Aug 17, 2007
Well done! You've passed the exams, received the certificate, taken out your insurance and you're ready to open the doors in your new complementary therapy business. You are your own boss, possibly for the first time - and here's where the learning starts all over again.

There are two common traps that newly qualified practitioners fall into - the first is neglecting the rest of your life. Family, your own health, finances, relaxation and leisure are the main ones, but other areas include personal development and contribution to society in general. And you will probably have your own specifics.

Coaching can help you through this transition period. A coach will work with you to define your own "Wheel of Life" and ensure that it's in balance. You know what happens when your car (or cycle!) wheels are out of balance - you get a rough ride. It's even rougher when your Wheel of Life is out of balance.

The second common trap is that, being passionate about your therapy, sometimes it's easy to focus solely on the therapeutic skills you have learned, forgetting the business side of self-employment. If you are a sole-trader, this is even more likely.

An objective outsider, experienced in setting up a micro-business in the complementary therapy field will understand the problems you face and how others have overcome them. Typical challenges are:

* You are highly qualified in your therapy and love what you do, but didn't expect it would be this hard to run your own business - beset by problems such as:
* Cash flow
* Lack of funding
* Lack of clients
* You don't understand how to build or run a business
* Lacking solid procedures for making business decisions
* Difficulty in setting realistic goals and meeting them
* Do you prefer working alone or in a small team with other therapists?
* You have no natural aptitude or interest in marketing or sales and feel uncomfortable with the sales role
* You may even feel uncomfortable talking about fees to clients
* Need to expand your comfort zone
* How to keep focused on one main thing, without getting side-tracked by your many ideas
* Nervous about leaving the security of a full-time job
* Coming from a background of employment where you had lots of resources at your finger-tip (e.g. access to IT technical support) you may sub-consciously expect the same in their small business
* Time-management problems - What to "do", "dump" or "delegate"
* Need to quickly recoup the costs of your training
* Starting in business after the camaraderie of college, you may feel isolated - fellow students have suddenly become competitors for your clients!

A coach can help you, not only in the above business areas, but also in the rest of your Wheel of Life. Complementary therapists are often sole-traders, new to running their own business. Caught up in the excitement of a new qualification it's easy to lose sight of other areas of life that need nurturing. It's typical for all small business proprietors to need help working on areas outside the business e.g.
* Lack of time and feeling overwhelmed with the number of jobs you have to do
* Work-life balance - there IS a life outside your business

How does coaching differ from mentoring? A mentor will generally guide someone and support them in a specific task, or in this case therapy. This is a very valuable service, but coaching can offer a more holistic approach.

A mentor knows the answers to specific problems, whereas a coach works with you to help you discover the questions AND their answers, not just in your business, but in the rest of your life.

Effective coaching doesn't require that the coach has specific experience of a client's occupation - often the very absence of this adds to the effectiveness of the coaching procedure, as the coach will stand apart and "see the wood from the trees".

However, although a coach will take a holistic approach to working with you, it can be beneficial if the coach comes from a similar background to yourself, as they will more readily understand your problems.

With a background in nutritional therapy I originally studied coaching as an add-on, to support and motivate weight loss clients. My training required me to work with a wide variety of clients and I found that I particularly enjoyed working with recently qualified practitioners, as they were setting up their businesses. This is now a focal point in my client development programme.
About the Author
Joy Healey is a qualified life-coach, conducting telephone or face-to-face sessions. To learn more about coaching visit her website for a free monthly newsletter to help you in various areas of your life.
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