All By Myself...

Around the age of 25, I got it into my head that going to a bar or restaurant alone would be the ultimate adventure. It was surprisingly hard to do. I would gear myself up for a solo night on the town, only to cave in to my anxieties about doing such a thing, and time and again I found myself calling a friend while sitting outside of a bar to invite someone along for the ride.

One night, I couldn't find a single soul who was free for the night. As I ran through my list of friends, it finally occurred to me that it was the perfect night for a solitary adventure. I headed out to a local pub that was warm, cozy, and had all of my favorites on tap. I settled myself into a seat and waited for the feelings of independence and accomplishment to hit me.

It took a while. At first I felt like everyone's eyes were on me, judging me for being that loser who couldn't find one single friend to invite out. All around me were groups of friends; there wasn't a single person to be seen. I refused to let myself leave until I gave it a fair shot. Gulping my drink down, I quickly ordered another. 

The warm glow of alcohol slowly began to calm my nerves and helped me to feel a bit more at ease in my environment. I drifted into my own thoughts and zoned out for a while, until a woman asked if the seat next to me was being saved for a friend. No, I answered, I was here alone. She apologized and gave me a quizzical look.

"I've always wanted to go to a bar by myself," I explained. "So tonight I decided to do it."

"Wow, that's so brave!" she replied. She nudged her male companion. "This girl came here all by herself, on purpose!"

"That is so cool. I'm buying you a drink!" He flagged down the bartender and ordered a round. 

By the end of the night, I had made a group of new friends, and left the bar feeling as if I had accomplished some obscure ritual of adulthood. I felt so empowered! 

I continued to go to bars and restaurants alone, marveling at how horrified my friends and family were at the thought of my solitary adventures. To them, doing social things without anyone by my side was akin to torture. I, on the other hand, felt such a sense of freedom. My social life was no longer at the mercy of others; now I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was divine.

As the years went on, I progressed to solo travel. Friends, family, patients...everyone treats these vacations alone as something that is courageous and admirable. In my mind, true courage is skydiving, offering one's self up as a hostage, or taking a bullet for someone. It isn't sitting in a lovely Irish pub amongst strangers, or having an incredible meal alone in a restaurant overlooking Big Sur. 

For those of you who have never traveled alone, I encourage you to do so at least once. It has changed me more than anything else I've done. I know that many people view this as something to be intimidated by, but there are so many perks:

  • If you're a "yes" person, it will feel SO GOOD to be able to finally do every single thing you want to do without being overruled. I'm a laid-back soul, and most of the time I don't mind being agreeable. However, there are times when I'm so sick of being the one who has to be flexible. There's no arguing when you're alone!
  • We all have our own schedules. My vacations vary. Sometimes I want to laze about, and other times I'm up for packing as much as possible into my day. When I'm alone, there's no one to worry about irritating with my schedule.
  • You're so much more approachable when you are alone. True, we all need to be careful, but every place I've visited has been filled with memories of interesting people and great conversations that I never would have had if I had been surrounded by friends.
  • You can soak things in in a way that you can't when you are distracted by other people. I still vividly remember going to New Orleans several years ago and sitting outside eating beignets and drinking chicory coffee. As I sat there, a young girl picked up a violin and began playing a haunting melody that gave me the chills. It was one of those moments in time that was so perfect, it resonated with me on every level of my being. Each part of me was at peace with every other part, and for that snapshot in time, I was fully engaged in life with all of my senses.

Have YOU traveled alone? If so, how did you feel about it?

 

 

What Drives You?

A huge component of my hypnotherapy practice is finding what motivates and inspires people to create change in their lives.  If you think that unhappiness is the ultimate motivation, you are wrong-at least in my experience. Like anything else, unhappiness can become a habit, one so deeply ingrained that it is easy to reach a state of reluctant acceptance. I liken it to a cold bath: If I tossed you into a tub of freezing water it would be an intolerable shock to the system. Your first instinct would be pure fight or flight, your brain screaming "I need to get out of this water...NOW!" However, if you had been sitting in a warm bath for hours, as it cooled to an uncomfortable temperature, you'd not notice the cold nearly as much. You would still feel physical discomfort, but as your body adjusted to the temperature, it would become your new norm, and therefore bearable.

On many websites I express my desire to act as a catalyst for change, and I like to think I do play a role in shifting patients' momentum. However, the truth is that without the will for change, I am useless. I cannot create motivation; it needs to come from within. I can only try my best to help patients to find that spark and to assist them in building it into a steadily growing flame.

This is what fascinates me, the inner workings that catalyze change. For so many, the fear of change is all-encompassing. They would rather live in that bathtub of cold water than try to figure out how to heat things up somehow. My fear is the opposite: I am terrified of stasis. I could be living a life that anyone would envy: financially settled, healthy, surrounded by people I care about, and for a while contentment would reign. But inevitably, the same old disenchantments and fears would surface, that question that seems to be the theme of my very soul: "What's next?"

This is my motivation for change: this idea that nothing is permanent and that anything less than constant forward momentum is unacceptable. This, and my sometimes unlovely desire to prove everyone wrong who claims that I can't do something. The greatest accomplishments in my life have bloomed from a "no." Each time someone tells me that I can't or shouldn't do something, my desire to succeed grows stronger. Due to my aversion to boredom and my stubborn refusal to turn down a challenge, my career path has taken many twists and turns throughout the years, and I highly doubt that things will ever change in that regard. In fact, as blissfully happy as I have been with the way my practice is going, that little voice has yet again cropped up, whispering that it is time for the next thing.

And so I began to really think hard about what it is that I ultimately do here, and what else I could do to bring things to another level. In the midst of all this contemplation, one of my favorite patients came in and as we chatted, she told me that she could sense lately that I'm searching for something. I agreed, and she asked me why I wasn't doing anything about it.

Without thinking, I blurted out, "Because I feel like a spoiled bitch."

Like all truths, it came boiling up to the surface so quickly that I had no time to censor myself. It just spewed out in a moment of brutal self-awareness: I realized that I had been craving something more, but I was holding myself back. Why? Maybe because to continue searching while I'm living the dream of being able to support myself doing something that I adore seems like the ultimate in ingratitude. Maybe because it feels like I'm spitting in the face of good fortune, and how dare I look for something different when most people would kill to be in my position? That slowly simmering state of malcontent that had been brewing for months felt like my inner bratty child, one who had gotten all of the toys she wanted and now couldn't appreciate them.

I love my patients. I love that I learn as much from them as they learn from me. Because the next thing she said was, "You are totally looking at this the wrong way. Don't feel bad because you want more. You need to look at the changes you want to make as a way to help even more people than you are now. It's not for you, it's for them."

And just like that, my perspective completely shifted.  The idea of change didn't feel selfish anymore...it simply felt like the next logical step. All at once, I had clarity, and I knew exactly what the next step will be in my ever-evolving practice.  I'm keeping it to myself right now, but keep checking back for updates!

Why Do We Keep People Around Who Suck?

We all have those people in our lives. People who suck the life out of us. People who bring us down. People who, in spite of their denial, truly can't wait to see us fall on our faces.  Seriously, you can see their eyes light up every time you fail (or, if you're an optimist like me, "learn a lesson.")

Time and time again, we wonder: "Why do I keep this person in my life? Why am I spending my energy on someone that always brings me down into that negative place?"

For some of us, it's simply ingrained to hold on to those people who have had years of common experiences. That junior high friend might be catty and judgmental, but she is the only one who can commiserate with your first crush, or that horrible science teacher that made your life hell, or the unfortunate feathered hair trend. That's something. Even if he or she doesn't make you feel great, at least you have the bond of the past, and that can't be replicated with just anyone.

I think of myself as a positive, patient person, and I have a very high tolerance for all kinds of BS. I can let a lot go. However, even this Pollyanna has to admit that some people...well, they just suck. Maybe that suckiness isn't the whole of who they are, but they suck at being friends (or partners). Yet, we hold on to them, even though we know it only leads to states ranging from frustration to outright rage. Truly, if a day spent with someone is bookended by dread and regret, your energy is better spent on either better people or solitude.

Again, though, why is it so hard to let go of these people? Sometimes I wonder if having someone in your life to complain about is a necessary outlet. I was reading an article a few years ago about the bonding properties of gossip. Nothing brings people together like having a third party to bitch about, apparently. Think about how much better it feels to vent about someone with your best friend, rather than saying something positive. It feels deeper somehow, doesn't it? Talking about how lovely the new girl is with your water cooler buddies isn't nearly as satisfying as telling stories about how horrid your boss is. Perhaps having some negative people in your life is a way to stock up on opportunities to vent and let out some steam from your daily life?

Or maybe having negative people around is a way for us to put ourselves on pedestals, if only temporarily. There's a certain level of judgment involved in martyring ourselves and being around people who make us feel bad. Even if we feel down or angry after spending time with these people, there's a type of superiority in knowing that at least you aren't as malicious/negative/cranky as he/she is.

I also speculate that there is a large subset of people who gravitate toward people who suck because deep down inside, they feel this is all they deserve. If someone treats them well, they look upon it with suspicion. If you believe that you deserve to get treated poorly, that is what you will attract. For these types of people, getting treated with disrespect isn't pleasant, but it is familiar. It's comfortable. It's the same reason why people date the same types of abusive partners, over and over, or stay at that job they hate until they retire. These people probably view their miserable "friends" as a necessary evil, and see no need to try to upgrade.

That sounds terrible, doesn't it? The idea of "upgrading" your friends? It's so very junior high. But in reality, some people lift us up, and support us, and make us better people. Others just can't wait to drag us down into the depths with them. Why should we feel guilty allowing ourselves to break free from that?

I remember being in one program or another, long ago. There was a woman in the program whom I will call "Sue," and she sucked. She complained non-stop. She needed endless amounts of attention from everyone around her, and if she didn't get it she would pout like a child. She was highly competitive and obsessed with everyone else's grades. And worst of all, she was the world's biggest one-upper. Any story you told, it was nothing compared to what she had been through. So. Freaking. Annoying.

In that particular program, I had become friendly with a woman who was my polar opposite in personality-she had a very strong, assertive nature and had no problem calling anyone out on anything. She was very sweet (sometimes) but SO confrontational. One day we were in class together and she brought up the topic of Sue, telling me that she was had grown extremely frustrated with her neediness and competitive nature. I agreed, thinking nothing of it-everyone in our program had issues with her. She went on to tell me that, after losing her patience with Sue, she had written her a long, long letter detailing everything she didn't like about her. This letter addressed all of Sue's flaws and shortcomings, and came with a warning that she could either opt to change, or stay away, because her various negative attributes were no longer going to be tolerated. Listening to this, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions: cringing horror at the thought of receiving a letter like that, pity, and finally admiration; I could never do something like that! I imagined the anger and humiliation I would feel if I was the recipient, and asked how Sue had responded. I couldn't believe what I heard next: "Oh, she was very responsive. She thanked me and said she would take this as an opportunity to work on herself."

My mind was blown.

And you know what? She actually did change after that letter. She didn't blossom into a new person overnight, but she really toned it down. So I suppose that this letter truly was a gift to her, but somehow I don't believe that most would respond this way. I know I wouldn't.

I'd love to hear some input on this. Do you have someone in your life who sucks? Why do you think you keep them around? And if you have gotten rid of one of these people, how did you do it?? Please post in the comments below.

Email Marketing

Admit it...when you read the title of today's blog, you were immediately bored, weren't you? "Email Marketing" isn't fun or sexy; it's the gruntwork of running a business. However, when done correctly, it can be easy and extremely effective in bringing clients through your door.

The first piece of email marketing is actually getting email addresses. This isn't always the easiest thing; people get barraged with endless promotional emails all the time. You need to give them a reason to want to see your emails; ask not what your emails can do for you, but what they can do for them. If there is some sort of incentive in receiving your newsletter or online mailing, people will bite. I don't do a hard-sell on getting email addresses from clients. I casually mention that I have a newsletter that goes out once a month which features specials and events I'm offering, and if they get bored with it, they can just click on the unsubscribe. No one ever says no, because in those one or two sentences I have let them know that: 1. It doesn't go out often, so they won't be overwhelmed with mail from me. 2. They will get something out of it, and few people want to miss out on the opportunity of saving money. 3. They have an easy out.

So now, I've got their email address. As I said, I send out newsletters once a month (approximately). Now the goal is to get people to open and read it. Timing is helpful here; if you send out a newsletter on a Friday night, few people will bother to read it. I have found that I get my best open rates early in the week, on Sundays and Mondays. Generally my open rates are higher mid to late day than mornings. Rainy and snowy days are perfect times to email newsletters, as people tend to be inside on their computers more. 

Actually creating a newsletter takes a bit of forethought. Most people put something bland in the subject line: "Specials," "Welcome To Fall," or something similar. Snore. When people see this, they immediately tune out. They know it's a generic greeting and it will probably be a generic newsletter. Utilize the subject line to connect on a personal level. My last newsletter subject line was "This is what you were asking about." I had previously had many patients ask about a specific event, and although the newsletter didn't apply to every reader personally, they felt drawn to know what I was talking about. Anytime you can use the word "you" in your subject line, do it. It will increase your open rate significantly.

Keep the newsletter itself short and sweet. Use pictures, if you can. Allow it to reflect who you are. People aren't reading these for fun; they want to get something out of it, and perhaps get to know you a little better. I've sent newsletters giving little details about my life, such as vacations or personal stories, and these have gotten more patients to reactivate than anything else. People choose your business because of who you are as well as what you do, and giving them a small glimpse of your life is often all they need as a reminder that they are due for a visit with you. 

Now that they have opened your newsletter, read it, and decided to schedule something, don't give them a reason to wait. Make sure you have contact links EVERYWHERE in the mailing. Your email and phone number should be all over the place so they can't miss it. If you have online scheduling, make sure you set up hyperlinks so that they can just click and schedule. Provide links to your Facebook page as well, and also include links to any review sites you'd like them to visit. 

Happy marketing!

 

Adventures In Advertising

During the first year of opening my practice, I simply couldn’t afford advertising in any form, so I placed my business name into every free directory I could find. Once I started to make some money, I invested in a few very inexpensive ad options. I placed ads in the local hippie health directories, the ones with yoga practices and mediums. I also signed up for a few websites geared toward people looking for health practitioners. I’m on Google and Yelp and all of those well-known sites; my last experiment with marketing was with a site called "Thumbtack." I had heard about it from a number of practitioners and decided to see what it was all about. This particular site is based on sending leads to you, based on clients’ needs. It costs a few dollars to contact a lead; once the person is contacted, they can choose to either read your contact information, or ignore it. If they open up your email, you get charged. If they don’t, your money is returned.

Here is what I have found to be most and least effective ways to build my practice over the past few years.  Bear in mind that we are all very different; what worked well for me might not work at all for someone else. So much depends on location, socioeconomic factors, and innumerable other elements. Nevertheless, here’s my input for the best and worst marketing tactics I used on a shoestring budget.

While it might work for some, for me, print advertising was a complete waste of time and money. I got almost nothing out of it other than people looking for free stuff. I’ve had very few negative interactions with patients, but the ones I’ve had have been quite memorable. The only patients I’ve had who came in looking for illegal “extras” have been the ones who found me in print ads.

I did, however, get a number of patients through writing articles. If you have any inclination to write, I’d suggest writing a few short articles in local publications. It’s free, and while I didn’t completely fill my schedule with patients just from blogging about my adventures in acupuncture, it did generate a good amount of business.

And then there's Yelp. Ah Yelp, the double-edged advertising sword. They filter out your reviews left and right, and make it almost impossible for your reviews to stick. But everyone is on it. Everyone. Including me. I use Yelp to find everything from restaurants to dentists. It’s a great tool if you use it correctly. 

Google, Yahoo, and Bing are the big three when it comes to search engines. I rarely get anyone from Yahoo or Bing, but I get a lot of patients through Google. There are all different Google circles now, and to be honest I can’t keep them straight: Google Local, Google Business, Google whatever. I just listed myself in all of them and hoped for the best. The ultimate goal is to be able to type in your type of business and your area and find yourself. It takes a while, but if you keep listing yourself everywhere and being consistent, you’ll slowly move up the search engines until you become visible. This is imperative, because when people aren’t using Yelp (or the outdated Yellow Pages), they’re usually typing in “acupuncturist in Natick” to find me. If I’m right there, on the first page, I’ll become an option for them.

I tried out a lot of random concepts during my first few years, such as Level Up and Push 44. How much did I get out of it? Not much. But cumulatively, adding both to my online presence helped to boost my online visibility. If I had to pay for either of these options, I wouldn’t have. Not worth it. But sometimes advertisement comes from places you wouldn’t expect. When I signed up for Level Up (which is an app geared toward paying for treatments with an iPhone) I was contacted for an interview about using it in the workplace. That article brought me a lot of exposure. Push 44, on the other hand, didn’t work as well for me…but again, it was another way for Google to view my website as “legitimate,” which boosted my web rankings a bit.

At one point, I ran a Living Social promotion, and this was the most significant increase I saw in revenue. Patients who came in stayed with me, and referred others. It was fantastic. They have now changed their platform significantly, and it isn’t nearly as effective in attracting new clients. However, for those starting out, it’s a good way to get new people through the door.

Facebook is a great way to connect with clients you already have, but it did not bring in any new clients for me. It was useful for reactivating people, though. I also use Constant Contact for the same reason; it won’t attract clients, but once you have them in the system, you can reach out occasionally and remind them that you’re still around.

So, my final word: Yelp, Google, word of mouth have been the most successful for me in getting new clients. Print advertising and paid ads=waste of time. Online coupons can be very beneficial to your business, but the key is to give great service so that your clients are happy to spread the word about you. Word of mouth will always be the best source of clients for you.

The Price of Free

When I was starting out in my acupuncture practice, I attempted all kinds of creative (and free) marketing ideas to get my name out there. One night, I was struck by what seemed like a fantastic idea. I had about 30 clients in my database at that point. I decided to write out thank-you cards to all of these clients for choosing me as their acupuncturist. Along with the the cards, I included two gift certificates for fully paid sessions of acupuncture. One was for the client, and one was for anyone they chose to refer, no strings attached. As I placed stamps on the cards, I was filled with a growing sense of excitement; very shortly I was going to double my client base! 

About a week after the cards were mailed out, I was working at my second job and started a conversation with a woman who was very interested in acupuncture. After chatting for a bit, she revealed that she worked in public relations, and was happy to give me some free pointers on marketing. 

"What are some things you have done so far to promote yourself?" she asked. 

Bursting with enthusiasm, I told her about the gift card promotion I had just sent out. As I explained it to her, I noticed that her anticipatory smile began to fade. By the time I finished detailing my plan, she was shaking her head and grimacing. 

"Oh, honey. I'm sorry, but that is not going to work. I promise you, you won't get a single new client from this type of promotion."

Perplexed (and rather defensive), I inquired as to why.

"Because when you give people something that has no cost, that's how they perceive it: as worthless. If you give someone a service without monetary value, it loses ALL value in their eyes. You would have done much, much better even offering five percent off, rather than giving your services away for free. You'll see."

I stubbornly refused to believe it, but she was right. I didn't have a single new referral come in with a free gift certificate. My one patient who did end up coming in to use hers ended up rescheduling her session several times, as if she didn't care about the appointment one way or the other. 

This was my first lesson as an entrepreneur on the concept of value in the business world. People want to feel as if they are buying products or services of worth. The more monetary value, the greater the worth. Think about all of those expensive purses out there that sell like hotcakes, even though they cost as much as a small car. Yes, they might be of slightly better quality than the $29.99 special at Target, but the real draw for many is being able to have others look at them and perceive them as being the type of person who can afford that type of product. In their eyes, more money equals higher quality.

When purchasing services, this attitude can be beneficial for the client; after all, what is more motivating than not wanting to throw your money away? For years, I belonged to a very expensive health club and averaged 5-7 days a week working out. When I moved from the area, my only option was a basic gym that was very inexpensive. After I joined, I realized my drive to attend classes regularly dipped significantly along with the price. As a healthcare practitioner, I have noticed that my peers who charge less for sessions often attract patients who are less compliant, less dedicated to treatment, and less likely to show up for appointments. On the other hand, I know of a few acupuncturists who charge exorbitant amounts for their sessions. These practitioners have clients who fully commit themselves to lifestyle changes in their journey to health, and very few cancellations.

As a business owner who is just starting out, it can be difficult to resist the urge to undervalue oneself. In the beginning, every fiber of your being is invested in simply getting people in the door. Dropping your prices or offering freebies can seem like a quick way to do this. Remember, however, that everything you do in your business sets a certain tone, for both your clients and yourself. Once clients begin to undervalue your products or services, it can breed feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. This is a slippery slope to the resenting your clients for their lack of appreciation. Offering incentives can be a helpful way to attract customers or clients, but it should be done in a way that doesn't negate the value of your goods or services.

 

 

The Basics Needs of a DIY Website

You need a website, and that is pretty much non-negotiable. If you read my last blog, you know that I started out with the bare minimum and learned as I went. My first site was a cookie-cutter template with just the basics. Looking back, I now cringe at the graphics.  But at the time, it served its purpose, and it taught me some valuable lessons about what people respond to when they see your site:

  • Before I go any further, do this. Pretend that you are catering to the laziest, least motivated person you've ever met. You know that person who will watch static on TV for hours because to reach the remote they would have to lean forward? This is your reader. I get annoyed when I have to wait an extra third of a second for Google to respond to my inquiry. I am society. I have, no joke, changed my mind about contacting a company because I couldn't click on their website and call them. It annoyed me that they were making my life so much more difficult. So I found someone I could click on, and went with them instead. This is the type of person you are dealing with, because we are all like this now, spoiled and entitled when it comes to the online world. So, at the very least, make sure all of your information is beyond easy to find. Your address and phone number should be accessible on every page of your site. Make sure it's all large enough that the older generation can read it, because old people use the internet too, these days.
  • Make sure the first page of your site is clear and concise about what you have to offer. Use the first page of your site to engage the viewer. Don't fill the home page with too much information, however; if your site is cluttered and full of too many words, the reader will get bored and tune out before they've gotten what they need.
  • Do not even think about creating a website that isn't mobile ready. If your site can't be accessed on a cell phone, you are alienating a huge percentage of your potential customers. 
  • Changing your content frequently helps to keep you fresh on the search engines, which makes you more searchable. I highly recommend blogging. Even if writing isn't your thing, just adding a small amount of content on a regular basis will keep you rising through the search engines. 
  • Giving viewers a tiny snapshot of who you are as a person will help you to attract clients that mesh well with you. Since I'm an acupuncturist, my site contains details about what sparked my connection to this medicine. My mother was sick throughout my childhood, and I talked about how this led me to an interest in acupuncture. Even though my first website was sorely lacking, I can't tell you how many new patients came in and told me that they chose me because of the story on my website. They felt that they knew me a little bit, even though we hadn't yet met in person. If you're not a fan of writing, you can add some pictures, create a link to other sites with some of your interests...anything to give strangers a small taste of who you are.
  • Don't get intimidated...you can do this! I still have a CD player, and JUST learned how to listen to music through Pandora and Spotify. To say that I lack tech savvy is a grand understatement. Still, I managed to create two separate websites, because these types of "design your own website" sites are well aware that a huge segment of the population needs lots of handholding when it comes to stuff like this. Trust me, you've got this. And if you need help, you can always reach out to me and ask for it, that's what I'm here for!

The Truth About Website Design

Dear Readers, I am about to save you lots of time, money, and aggravation. Since starting my business, I've made so many mistakes out of a simple lack of knowledge. Fortunately for you, I'm willing to share my mistakes and lessons learned in order to pave an easier path for you to succeed.

I cannot underestimate the value of a great website. Seriously, this is really, really important. It isn't 1982. People aren't browsing the Yellow Pages to find you. Unless you have been in business for years and have a huge clientele, you need to be searchable online.  And if your website looks like something a 7th grader made in the early 90's, it may hurt you.

That being said, a very basic website is better than no website at all. If I can't find someone online, they simply don't exist to me. If I find someone with a site that isn't great, but is serviceable enough that I can easily get the info I need, I will consider them as an option. If I find a site loaded with grammatical errors that is impossible to navigate...they are going to be low on my list.

In 2010, I started with a Vistaprint website. It wasn't pretty. It was a basic template that was somewhat easy to navigate, and the style wasn't original or intriguing. It got the job done, mainly because of the content (which I will get into in a future blog-content is so important!) it had a low monthly fee, was very easy for a technologically illiterate soul such as myself to maintain, and could be changed easily. I'd give it a C, rating-wise.

After a few years in practice, I decided that it was time to upgrade. I was making money, I was starting to build a reputation...why not spend some money on creating a site that truly reflected my vision as a business owner?

I spent months looking at websites and taking note of those that appealed to me. I highly recommend that everyone does this as they prepare to create a site. What colors, themes, styles resonate with you? The more you hone in on what you like, the more the site will become a reflection of who you are-which is exactly what you want!

After much searching, I realized that I absolutely loved the design of the website for my yoga instructor, so I reached out to the designer. He created my current site (www.healingpointtherapeutics.com), and I was very happy with it for a long time. It was a bit difficult to change, but the designer would get back to me relatively quickly if I needed him. All was well.

But...websites age quickly. Recently, I decided that it was once again time for an upgrade. I was ready to shell out a few thousand for an upgraded site when I asked a techie patient of mine to recommend someone. She told me to take a look at Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. My instant response was: no, thank you. I had grown beyond the homemade website thing. I was so cocky; I could pay someone to do all this stuff for me, now!

She sent me a link to some sites that had been created on these website builders, and I had to admit that they were impressive. Still, I remained stubborn. I wanted all the work done for me. I contacted someone who was willing to revamp my site for $4,000, with a monthly maintenance fee of $79. When I asked what the maintenance fee was for, he explained that it covered any changes I requested once the site was done. But...he also told me that I could make any changes I needed to, myself, once the site was up. So, I was confused. If I could change the site when needed, why was I paying someone a monthly fee to change the site when needed?

I decided to take a look at Squarespace again. It had everything I needed, was easily changeable, and looked clean and modern. It was exactly what I needed, for $19 a month. So here I am.

I'm not trying to sell Squarespace on you. Wix, Weebly, or maybe another company I've not heard of yet may be a better fit for you. I'm just saying, do your research before spending thousands on a website. Website designers are becoming obsolete, as more and more of these companies are cropping up and giving business owners an affordable and flexible way to put their businesses online.

 

 

 

 

Five Pieces of Advice For Small Business Owners

I wrote this blog several years back, but it still holds true. Here are 5 important pieces of advice for when you are starting out:

1. NEVER leave your house without business cards. Ever. I probably go through hundreds of cards a month, and most of my transactions are completely random. In the last month alone, I have had business card requests from a bank employee, my dentist, the guy changing my oil, restaurant managers, and a doctor. In all of these cases, I wasn’t just going around handing out cards; I was asked for them. If I didn’t have them handy, I would have missed out on all these opportunities to get my name out there.

2. Refer, refer, refer. What comes around, goes around. If you know someone who is really good at their job, spread the word about them. I’m telling you, it always comes back around. Talk up others, and you will have good things said about you. And word of mouth is everything for a small business.

3. Write down EVERYTHING. Lack of organization will lead to bad, bad things. Trust me, I know. I am not someone who is particularly organized, but I force myself to be. Hold on to every receipt, bill, and piece of information that relates to your business. Business owners need to look for every possible deduction when tax time comes around, and there are deductions out there that you would never even think of, so keep those receipts!

4. Talk. A lot. Remind people of what you do, and you may find clients where you never expect. Most people are curious by nature, so if you just mention that you are a small business owner, they will reciprocate by asking what kind of business it is, and then you can let the conversation flow from there.

5. Relax. Seriously, the first year of running a business is exhausting. It seems all-important to focus on nothing but work, but there is something more important-your life. What good is making all the money in the world if you aren’t enjoying yourself? Also, you can’t devote your full energy to anything if you are completely burnt out (I have learned this the hard way.) So, take a time-out once in a while and breathe…or take a walk…or schedule an acupuncture session!