We tend to idealize things.
At least, this seems to be a trend. Maybe because working in health and wellness makes you think a lot about helping people get closer to their ideal selves - stronger, fitter, healthier, happier.
We then apply this to our businesses. We think the ideal situation would be working for ourselves out of our own rented space, calling all the shots and making our own rules.
But here’s the thing.
We also tend to get blinders on about this. We end up suffering from a good old dose of ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome. And we don’t take a real - and by real I mean super realistic and honest - look at what it really means to go out on own own, open our own place and start calling all the shots.
I see and hear a lot of advice given to health care folks who are either thinking of going out on their own, or who are happily working at a clinic with other people. And a lot of that advice is, well, unrealistic. So let’s talk about a few of the things I hear people saying.
"You'll make more money if you work for yourself!"
Hands up, who has heard this from colleagues or friends?
Or something similar: ‘You need to stop helping someone else pay their mortgage and start paying your own!’
You know, this seems to be a common misconception about running a business. It’s assumed that if you have full control, you're going to make more money, because you can do things the way you want to. And if you’re a clinic owner, you must be making a lot of money off the therapists who work with you.
That might be true in some situations! Maybe you’re working at a place where you only take home a small percentage of what you make, and if you opened your own space, you’d get to keep a lot more. Even after you factor in the costs of doing business, you’re still retaining more of what you make. That could be true!
And yes, there are some clinics where the owners are charging their therapists a large amount of money in order to line their own pockets. That is also true.
But in the vast majority of situations, this simply isn’t the case. At all. Most clinic owners are barely covering their costs with what they charge their sub-contractors. Most sub-contractors who go solo because they think they’ll make more suddenly discover what it’s really like running their own treatment space or clinic. There are so many costs when running a business, and you don’t really ‘get it’ until you’re in it.
There isn't some magical thing that happens when you decide to go solo. We assume that if we open our own space, most of our previous clients and connections will simply follow us to our new location. Some probably will, yes! But you need to be real with yourself.
Often we have to work twice as hard to get clients booked and get people checking out our businesses. At least in the beginning, when the business is new and people don’t really know about it.
Even once we're rolling, we STILL need to work hard to keep things going. A story from 'real life': I used to work with a massage therapist who was booked solid most weeks. She once told me that even after her many years of hard work, she found that if she let her marketing and client retention practices slip, she'd start to see it negatively affect her schedule.
The reality of all of this? There really is no guarantee you're going to 'make more' if you go solo, you need to work twice as hard if you run your own show, and you honestly might be better off if you worked for someone else instead of opening your own clinic. It’s not as cut and dried as we like to think it is.
“Going solo means you’ll have so much more free time!"
If you open your own space you’ll be able to call all the shots on when you’re working or not working and will have more freedom, right?
Well… As much as we might dream of having a ton of free time, that's just not the reality for most of us. Remember what I said above about having to do the work to be successful?
So yes, we do have more flexibility with our time. We can go to a daytime yoga class, take an afternoon break to do some gardening, or go for a long walk to clear our heads without having a boss tell us to get back to work. It is true, you will have more control over your schedule!
But that flexibility can be a curse. It can mean that you don’t sit down and do the things you need to do for your business, because you don’t have a boss telling you to do them. Be honest: do you avoid doing your paperwork, marketing, emails or other things because they’re not your favourite tasks? Of course you do. All of us have moments like that! But if you want your business to be successful, you need to do those things, whether you like it or not!
The other side of this issue is many of us who run our own businesses tend to work odd hours. For the most part, we need to work when our clients are available, so for many of us this means working evenings or weekends sometimes (or, all the time!). This can mean missing out on things our ‘normal office hours’ working friends can go to without a second thought. That concert on Wednesday night, or that birthday party on Saturday afternoon? Yeah, we often have to miss that, because we have to work.
"Being the boss is the only way to go!"
Well, maybe for some of us. Maybe you have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and have always wanted to run your own business. If that’s the case, and you’re aware of the pros and cons and hard work, go forward and do it!
But let’s be realistic here.
We already talked a lot about the work that needs to be done if you want to run a successful practice. But there’s another side to ‘being the boss’ I haven’t covered yet.
If you work for a clinic or company and something goes wrong, who is responsible? Often, it's not you, or at least, you share the blame with other people.
Being your own boss? That means you get to call the shots! But it also means you are responsible for every single one of them. There's no one else to help deal with upset clients, or people who don't pay, or the broken computer, or the fact that you've run out of toilet paper. It's all on you.
So there’s our reality check for the week. ;-) It’s not all roses when you open your own practice, and we all need to stop acting like ‘going solo’ is the only possible goal for any practitioner. You can be very successful working for someone else, and you can be very successful working out of your own space.
You just have to decide what is right for you.