Have you been percolating with an inspiring vision to make the world a better place using your knowledge, skills, wisdom and passion? You finally made the decision to quit your soul-sucking job (aka steady paycheck) and join the freedom and flexibility of being an entrepreneur.
I am writing this article because I want to help you save your money, time, and dignity. I honestly wish another solo-entrepreneur had told me all of these steps three years ago. I "made it to the other side" without dying of shame, starvation, or a broken spirit. I must confess; I lost my savings, hundreds of hours of my time, and a few friendships.
Three years ago, I transitioned out of a traditional medical job as a neurologist to the shock of the medical community, my patients, and my parents. Honey, Spirit was guiding me! I had attended every self-help, self-improvement, and spiritual workshop seeking to heal. Now, I knew I am ready to be up on that stage healing others.
I stacked up certifications in yoga, meditation, reiki, life coaching, and I still wanted to do more. I was on the path to becoming a spiritual solo-entrepreneur without a clue about how to start a business. I looked to the heavens; Spirit was going to guide me again, right?
Spirit did guide me on a beautiful journey of bringing Western Medicine and Eastern wisdom together to help audiences and clients optimize brain and mental health. However, Spirit did not tell me I would have to combat financial demons, climb mud covered bricked-wall obstacles, and have my ego left smelling like dog poop.
Now as a public figure, I am full of embarrassment to admit to you the mistakes I made along the way. Yes, in Brene Brown's world, being vulnerable and authentic is sexy. In the world I was raised, I was supposed to die working as a physician making a six-figure salary and never talk about money problems publicly.
I'm approached by other female spiritually minded solo-entrepreneurs daily, and I find myself repeating my difficult lessons. My goal is to help you keep your savings account and sanity intact.
1. Own your expertise.
I may offend a lot of people by stating this: you have got to stretch beyond the author/speaker/coach title. Speaking and coaching are services you provide in your business. You have done nothing to tell me how you will help me. Furthermore, why I should trust you to help me? Your expertise is what will draw people towards you for a service based industry.
I initially wouldn't even tell people that I had successfully practiced neurology for almost 15 years and traveled around the world studying various yoga and meditation techniques. Now, I meet lawyers, accountants, school teachers, psychologists, and a myriad of professionals daily who fail to tell me their credentials. Yes, I know your left a lucrative job. A career reinvention does not mean you must divorce yourself from the education, job skills, and life experiences you have accumulated.
Do not dismiss your expertise because you became a certified life coach or self-published a book. Instead, find a way to bring all of these skills together as your body of work.
2. What is your monetization strategy?
Ewwww, you can't believe I brought up money. We are spiritual folks ready to heal the world. Girlfriend, you have to be able to eat, sleep, poop, and meditate in a safe and clean place. That takes money.
There were months that I wasn't sure if the bill for the internet would be paid in time for me to continue blogging and posting on social media. Before you launch, have a clear idea of what services you provide. Before you send one newsletter or tweet, all of your efforts should be going towards getting the first paying client in the door. Consider a small business loan or taking on a part-time job to fund your living expenses until your business is successful.
3. Build a platform for a purpose.
You have been told by every authority that you need to build a platform. But why? I hired a professional social-media team and custom website developer to help me create my platform. I did not have a monetization strategy. Bye-bye savings. Hear the flushing sounds of rent money dissolving in the least elegant manner possible.
Not only did I spend over $30,000 with these two companies in the initial 12 months, but I also lost hundreds of hours of my time. I initially would spend hours a day on social media so that people would "like" or "retweet" my posts. Initially paying clients initially were not contacting me online, therefore was using my savings to pay my living expenses.
I learned that if you are just blogging to share your thoughts, find a free online community like Tumblr, Reddit, or Medium to share your feelings. If you have a monetization strategy, then invest in a website and social media marketing team. You need to have an ROI (return on investment) for your time and money spent online.
4. Understand the difference between hiring a branding expert, marketing firm, public relations team, and social media marketing firm. Then really ask yourself, do I need to pay for these services at this time?
Yes, there is a difference. Research the difference, and understand which one of these services your business needs before committing to anyone. Branding is who you are, marketing is what you do. I made the mistake of thinking my social media marketing team would help me with branding. In hindsight, a branding expert should have been in place before investing in a costly social media plan. I have two close entrepreneurial friends who spent a significant amount of money on public relations firms for their self-published books. The common mistake we all made? We did not have a clear plan of what the ROI would be for the time and money spent on these services.
Ask yourself, do you need these services at this time? As I look back to my initial one year in business all of my paying counseling, consulting, and speaking engagements came from referrals in my personal network. Most of these people had not idea about my Twitter addiction, I mean social media platform.
5. Join a business mastermind.
The entrepreneurial life can feel lonely, and your problems seem unsolvable. When I was asked to join a business mastermind with an MBA, podcasting historian, children's book author, and small business owner I was a bit intimidated thinking, "I am not a business woman." However, joining other smart people who will think for me and my business helped to shift me into a role of owning my title as a business woman.
Natalie Eckdahl, MBA and host of the Biz Chix Podcast, teaches about the value of masterminding for women in business in her latest series. "To have a successful mastermind, you need to join with people who are different than you. A diverse group will bring unique viewpoints to your business. You also create a network where you are accountable and provide accountability," teaches Eckdahl.
6. Spiritual beings still need accountants and attorneys on planet Earth.
For goodness sake, please don't be scared to talk to an accountant and attorney. If you didn't train in these fields, make sure someone is looking over your financial plan, business plan, and all the contracts that you are about to start signing. What, you don't have a business plan? I know, I didn't start with one either. Bad move. Hire someone to help you create one or find free resources on the Small Business Administration website. Think of a business plan as intention setting in an organized manner to make sure you don't end up homeless and broke.
7. Have a vision statement.
Create a vision statement that makes your heart chakra expand with love, compassion, and joy. If a client, partnership opportunity, investor, or consulting position comes along and is not in alignment with your vision- have the courage to say no.
In a place of fear, I subcontract my services to consult with a small start-up pharmaceutical company. In my interview, the CEO said flat out, "you can't talk about any of that holistic health and integrative medicine jargon while speaking for us."
My internal soul compass was shrieking "HELL NO!" Unfortunately, I agreed to the consulting position out of fear of missing out on the money. It turns out intuition and my vision statement were correct. I spent long hours with a company that cost me money, time, media opportunities, missed speaking engagements, and my sanity.
Now I think over every media request, speaking request, and personal coaching client before committing myself. I turn to my vision statement and make sure it is a sacred, juicy, and joyful fit for both parties before saying yes.
My intention is that by openly sharing my mistakes, vulnerable moments and lessons you will be able to thrive sharing your message while holding on to your savings account. What other lessons have you learned on your journey as an entrepreneur?
Romila "Dr. Romie" Mushtaq, MD, ABIHM is a traditionally trained neurologist with additional board certification in Integrative Medicine. Dr. Romie brings together Western Medicine and Eastern wisdom to optimize brain and mental health. As a professional speaker and expert media analyst, she empowers audiences to manage stress with her program Mindset Matters which is based in neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindfulness.