Dispelling myths: Can holistic practitioners have thriving businesses?
There is a collective belief in the holistic health world and especially in the doula world that it is difficult to have a thriving holistic health business. Is there truth to this belief? Yes, but it may not be what you think.
I started my studies in holistic health in 2001 and have been building my holistic health business since 2004. In nearly two decades I have seen many holistic practitioners come and go. I myself have faced a time where I was incredibly close to throwing in the towel myself, tired of breaking even despite being incredibly busy. I have nurtured my holistic health business both in the traditional sense through trial and error marketing, investing my income back into the business and networking in my community but I've also had to put a lot of energy and investment into nurturing myself, looking in the mirror and facing my own weaknesses and areas for growth to create the shifts in me that shifted my business.
I have loved the business side of my work as much as I have loved helping people, and I love helping people a lot. I love supporting my fertility clients, I love attending births, I love offering training and I love sitting at my computer to create content, I love taking risks and I love the growth that comes along with all of it.
So why can it be hard to be successful in the holistic health field? Here are my observations. I'm going to speak generally but obviously recognize that everyone is different and not all can be painted with one broad brush.
People who are drawn to the holistic health field are not usually business people.
Business people look for opportunities to make money. Those who are drawn to be doulas, Reiki practitioners, reflexologists, yoga instructors etc. are drawn to help people. These are our nurturers, our lovers, our support people. Their motivation is giving and they're not generally great at receiving. Money makes a lot of holistic practitioners really uncomfortable. They love what they do for the sake of doing it, for how it makes people feel. While they may excel at holding space, listening and healing, they may lack computer or other technical skills.
It can be really uncomfortable to sell yourself.
People who are drawn to train as holistic health practitioners may not think beyond completion of training. Finding clients is not as easy as printing some business cards and creating a Facebook page. Our work is so intimate many clients need either a good confident word of mouth referral (or three.. many of my new clients have been referred to me by three different people before they come!) or they need to start to feel like they know and trust you and your skills. The only way to start building that foundation of relationship and trust is to put yourself out there and start selling your awesome self and your services.
There are many spiritual and energetic techniques that can be used to nurture a holistic health business and generate income too. It's vitally important that holistic health practitioners be investing money back into themselves too. To hold healing space for others means we have to also be committed to walking the walk. A holistic practitioner who suffers from "I can't afford to go to holistic health practitioners" will only attract people who share that belief.
Whether practitioners work completely independently and for themselves or out of a larger clinic or studio, some degree of business knowledge is an important part of building a business that is both fulfilling, balanced and pays the bills. New practitioners (or experienced practitioners who are expanding their business) should anticipate spending as much time building their business as they do supporting clients, potentially more in the early days when clients are lacking. Having some training and support in business building can make the early effort more effective and enjoyable. Mentorship with an experienced practitioner can me learning from their mistakes and fails and going to what works right away. Anticipate lots of fails too. It's just part of the journey. Hopefully you enjoy the ups and downs of business building as much as I have.