|Six Tips for Developing Your Professional Ayurveda Practice|
June 14, 2016
By Heather Grzych
Like many in our community who came to this world to study and practice Ayurveda, we struggle with figuring out how to create a business around it. It can sometimes feel like a daunting task to help people understand what Ayurveda is and how it can help them. However, it can be done.
When I found Ayurveda, I was working full time leading product development for a health insurance company, plus studying yoga therapy and teaching yoga on the side. Let’s just say I was a bit busy. I wanted to do something different with my life, but teaching yoga didn’t quite motivate me enough and I didn’t know what this other career looked like. In addition, I was very afraid of leaving the safety and security of the job I had for many years.
One day, I just had it in my job, and I knew I needed to leave and go deeper into my Ayurvedic studies. I was 36 years old, single and leaving a cushy job to enter a master’s program in Ayurveda, where many of the people practicing actually had two careers – Ayurveda and something else that paid the bills. I had no idea where it would take me. I had no idea if I would be able to make a living doing this work, but I was determined to find out.
So I quit and I entered a period of education. I loved my school and I had the opportunity to learn from so many teachers who imparted Ayurvedic wisdom that has improved my own health and my ability to help others be healthier. I worked on my master’s thesis and began a practice offering Ayurveda and yoga to individual clients and companies.
In the beginning of my practice, I had many doubts that I would be able to make a living at this work. At the time, my income was coming from teaching yoga in studios, teacher trainings and in corporate settings. It wasn’t anything impressive and I wanted to practice Ayurveda more than I was.
I had many doubts – thoughts about Ayurveda being so unknown in the United States and feeling like I might not be ambitious enough to run my own business. I also had a fear that I should never have left the safety of my cushy job that paid me so well, even though I felt it left me with a gaping hole in my heart.
And then one day, Facebook came to the rescue.
One of my Ayurveda colleagues, someone who I respected greatly, “liked” a business page on Facebook. I don’t normally click on these things, but somehow I was curious because of who clicked on it. It was a business coaching program led by some guy I had never heard of. My first thought was, “I’ve been a business person for 16 years, so I don’t need business training.” However, as I listened to him speak with passion, and I observed the clear stillness in his eyes, I realized I had a lot to learn about running MY OWN business. My gut then said, “Check this guy out more.”
So I ended up enrolling in a business training that helps people with “service businesses” figure out how to increase their income through program development and marketing. I found it funny that I was doing this, considering that my old career was actually to help companies do this. Well, apparently it was more difficult to do when the product I was offering was “me”.
When I started my practice, I was charging for three sessions at a time. I was used to people paying for yoga privates, and so I charged around the same amount. However, I never really counted all the time I spent outside of a session on prep work and follow-up that directly benefitted my clients, so I always felt underpaid.
I also didn’t really have a long-term vision for what I was trying to help people with. These two things made me feel undervalued and prevented me from creating the trust and excitement that people look for in a healer, healthcare practitioner or anyone else one is seeking help from.
So I created some programs. I started with many imperfect actions and looked at the whole process as exactly what it is – building a practice. Building a practice does not mean you get the whole thing perfected and then you roll it out in a neat little box. It means you continually refine it – you make some mistakes, you learn from them and then you improve. Even if there are setbacks, you keep going and learning. By the time I finished the program, I had already increased my revenue 5x. Not only did I love what I was offering because I had spent years studying and building my toolbox, but my clients were so excited to work with me that it fueled my own excitement too.
Many of us have difficulty because we try to be everything to everyone, perhaps because narrowing down our focus feels limiting or perhaps because we aren’t clear on what specifically we help people with. However, it is absolutely essential in our culture and the way our economy is structured that we focus our work on what we have experience with and what potential clients desire from us. Not only that, but if we are running our own business, we MUST bring in our personal passions and inspirations to fuel us.
So here are 6 important tips for developing your practice:
1 - Develop a problem-solving mentality
2 - Understand your own perceived value and limitations
You’ve spent time studying to be an expert in Ayurveda and this has value. All the other life experiences you’ve had also create value. Learn truly what your gifts are, and also what your limitations are. Help people solve only those problems you feel confident you can help with. Clients will trust you if you trust yourself. If a client’s issue seems either beyond your experience, or outside the area where you want to focus, then you may refer that client to another practitioner or consult with this practitioner yourself (offer a fee for this service). We cannot know everything. The best we can do is continue to stay educated, be strong in what we do know and admit when we need help.
3 - Determine your business model - how you would like to engage with clients and potential partners:
Here are four business models to explore:
Solo practitioner – charge-per-service model
Some people enjoy seeing clients once, educating them, and then sending them on their way until their help is needed again. This model works well if there is a strong, ongoing demand for your services, perhaps because you are doing some successful online marketing or because your service is well known. This method works with conventional medicine because there is already such a great demand and oftentimes one or more insurance plans are referring members to providers. For this method to work with a lesser-known service, like Ayurveda, marketing activity is critical to the success, so you may need to hire marketing help if this isn’t something you like to do.
Solo practitioner – program model
If you want long-term relationships with your clients, you don’t need as many clients to make a living doing your work, but you must create a pathway so the long-term relationships are possible. This is where program development comes in, and possibly developing multiple programs that feed into each other and serve a larger overall purpose. This model is helpful when individuals are offering lesser-known services, or niche offerings. An outcome-based focus is required, such as “Sleep better in 30 days with Ayurveda”.
Referral partnership – charge-per-service model
If you have relationships with other types of practitioners who would like to promote Ayurveda as being part of their group practice, they may want to refer clients you. In these cases, determine the anticipated volume, and if it’s high enough, you might pass along a discount for your services. There is also the possibility of utilizing space, so if you aren’t ready to rent your own, you may be able to see these referred clients onsite for no cost. Determine if it makes sense for the practitioner or the client to pay you. If the client pays you directly, then that person is your customer. If the practitioner pays you on behalf of the client, then your customer is both the referring practitioner and the client. This latter option is helpful if the practitioner is offering a program that your services are included in, but make sure to have all agreements made up front.
Referral partnership – program model
If you want to develop one or more programs, and you have other practitioners you’d like to provide services to your clients, then you may propose a fee to pay them for their services or ask that they pass along a discount to your clients. The discount option is easier for you to manage, but including their services can make your program look more attractive if it helps with the end result you are going for.
4 - Invest in receiving help from others
As mentioned earlier, if you don’t like marketing, but you need marketing to be successful, then invest in getting someone to help you with this. If you need help building a website, washing linens – whatever – ask for it. Paying other people to make your business better is an investment and will pay off if you are offering a great service and if enough demand has been created for that service. Interns may also be a possibility for you to hire as a no- or low-cost option to getting help – especially with website development, social media and other technology-related tasks.
5 - Share excitement
If you aren’t excited about what you are doing, no one else will be either. The first best marketing tactic is for you to LOVE what you are doing and tell people why. Later, ask your clients to share how your work has helped them, especially right after they have a big win. This will magnify the excitement and interest in your services.
6 - Continuously support and refine your work
Building a practice is exactly that. Start your work. Listen to your clients and refine your offerings when necessary – your revenue will tell you how well you are listening to people, being effective and whether you are working with the right type of clients.