Starting up the first iteration of my holistic nutrition practice feels like a lifetime ago. In reality, it was 2008, and if I had to count the business lessons that I've learned since then, I think it's been approximately 592,603. Not that I'm keeping track or anything.
Back then, I was fresh out of nutrition school, having just graduated as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) from CSNN. Me and my then boyfriend (now husband) decided that we were going to move back to our hometown. There weren't a ton of job options for me, so, by golly, I was going to start my own business!
For the record, I don't say 'by golly'. I swear like a sailor, but 'by golly' seems to sum it all up as to how utterly and absolutely naive I was about being an entrepreneur.
I read, let's say, 3 online articles about opening a business. The first one I think was called "How to open a business in Canada". That was the extent of my research.
I committed every single common mistake that a ton of budding entrepreneurs make, not because I was ignorant or dumb, but just because I didn't know what I didn't know! I figured that since I was moving to the heart disease capital of Canada (I wish I was joking with that statistic), people needed to be healthy. And I was a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, wanting to help people be healthy. How could I fail?
Well, let's look at the numbers, shall we?
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The good news: I generated over $25,000 in income. Amazing!!
The bad news: I generated over $31,000 in expenses!
Seriously, why didn't anyone tell me that: 1) I would probably lose money in my first year; and 2) I would probably lose money in the next few years after that. Wait, people probably did, I just wasn't listening. That, or I thought that I was so damn smart that it wouldn't happen to me.
So, 7 years later and a half a million things learned and about 10,000 more mistakes made, here are my top 3 mistakes from that first year in business as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist:
1. I thought I needed fancy equipment ... or more schooling
How did I end up with over $31,000 in expenses? I purchased a fancy EAV machine, which tests peoples' energy though Chinese medicine meridian points and helps pinpoint what organ systems are imbalanced. I also purchased all the supplements to go with it. Now, in hindsight, having one of these machines wasn't a total mistake. It generated a lot of income. I figure I lost about $5,000 that first year with the machine. The problem was my mindset.
I thought that I didn't know enough to succeed in my new business on my own, which was total BS. I did ... I just had no idea how to apply it to a business! I went to school to become an awesome Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and that's exactly what I was. Except that my new job description was 80% entrepreneur, 20% RHN. Looking back in my expenses, I hired my first business coach on October 23rd, 2008, and it was the best damn decision of my entire 7 years of practice. Seriously.
So, if you're like the newbie me, just graduated (or 6 months out), feeling like you didn't know enough to be a successful holistic nutritionist, listen to me: YOU DO. You probably have no idea what you're doing in business. And that's OK.
2. I thought I needed a "real" office
I think that this is the #1 mistake of all graduation RHN's. You feel like you won't look professional if you don't have an office, and besides, you'll be able to take advantage of all the traffic coming in the door depending on where you rent. Wrong, and it depends.
For me, I rented a room in a brand new health food store, in a not great location, with 3 other holistic practitioners in the same building. I spent $2,160 on rent over 6 months (that's $360/month, which is super cheap!), and got ZERO new clients from referrals from the store. Zero. All of my clients were either family, friends of family, people I already knew, and people who got to know me through public speaking and a few other biz things I learned from that priceless business coach. That could have been money directly in my pocket PLUS the write-offs from having my office in our house.
Once I transitioned from the store to our house, I couldn't stop the compliments of "oh my god, I love your house and new office!" every time I had a new client. Unless you have a strong referral agreement and plan from the people who you are renting an office from, just ditch it altogether. Grow your biz from your house, or if you're not comfortable with that, at a local coffee shop or work-sharing space.
3. I didn't collect e-mails for a newsletter list
Come to think of it, I didn't market. Period. Other than word of mouth. Isn't that enough? Um, a huge HELLS NO! I spent a grand total of $326 the entire year. I can't tell exactly what items I spent it on, but I can assume the $103 spent at Kinko's were business cards (which were totally useful when doing presentations). There were some purchases of stock photos later in the year, which were maybe posters or even re-vamping my first website that my hubby and I programmed ourselves in HTML. It was painful in more ways than one. Thank God technology has advanced so much in the last few years, and I could design this shiny new website by myself, with no coding needed.
The laughable part about that first year is that I put a $10.34 purchase at Fabricland as a promotional expense. That shows you how much I knew about promotion, when you try and think of what a Registered Holistic Nutritionist would be promoting with something purchased at a fabric store. At least I knew it was a write-off!
You know what would have been totally free? Collecting e-mail addresses, blogging once or twice a week, and sending it out to a newsletter list. Just like I'm doing with this article. Just like Marie Forleo and every other online marketing guru taught me for free on THEIR newsletter lists! To be fair, I looked through my client list from 7 years ago, and I still have some of those same people on my list today, and they're paying clients.
So if you're a new RHN, hell, even if you're a seasoned one, and you don't have an e-mail list? For the love of God, go to Mailchimp right now and get a free account. Start collecting e-mail addresses and sending value packed love notes at least bi-weekly. Your new clients and your bank account will thank you.
I'm getting a tons of questions in my inbox about other things like how to price your programs or services, how to even create said program, and many others, so I recorded a free video training called "Your first year in biz as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist" that teaches you:
- how to stop living appointment to appointment, sell packages, and how to price them
- what to include in your programs and packages
- how to start an e-mail list PLUS design an editorial calendar for an entire year in less than 30 minutes
- how to have passive income and make money even if you have to take time off (or, heaven forbid, take vacation!)
I wanna know: what mistakes have YOU made in business as an RHN or another holistic practitioner?