I’m a number girl. I like spreadsheets, budgets and doing math. However, I’m terrible about doing it when it matters and it has caused me an undue amount of stress over the past year. I’ve been feeling incredibly guilty that the time I spent in school and the money we invested was wasted. My business was doing okay and I was making a moderate amount of money at the spa and clinic, but it wasn’t enough to make me really confident that I had done the right thing going back to school.
Getting real about the numbers
Getting real about numbers is one of the tools that I have been using to build my practice. Figuring out my wage and the hours I worked every week was just the beginning. This past week I sat down and did the two sets of numbers I’ve been dreading: a comparison of how well I’m doing in my acupuncture practice to the previous acupuncturist and a comparison of the money I’m making now as compared to when I was working my cubicle job before going back to school.
Set a benchmark
The first set of numbers was meant to determine how well I should be doing. I spent a week sifting through six years of medical charts to find:
Really riveting stuff, right? As I went through it I found myself getting more and more bummed because “I haven’t been seeing this many people”, “God, I’m not seeing any repeats - nobody likes me as a practitioner” and finally ending with “Holy crap the doctor is going to fire me.” Yikes!
Then I took all of my numbers since February and I ran the same kind of analysis and you know, it wasn’t bad. The thing is, once you have the numbers in front of you and know their reality, your stress about them will decrease tenfold. Number analysis always looks worse as you're working through it because you can't see the whole picture.
The truth is that I had quadrupled my business since March. I was seeing a completely different type of clientele but my return rate was 17% better. I was seeing the same amount of people per week on average. And now I can expect and prepare for the slump next month. I can use that time to work on classes, blog posts, a website and a newsletter and I won’t have to beat myself up about not seeing patients.
Turns out that I’m doing as well as the acupuncturist who had her practice there for over six years and that’s not too shabby.
I took that newly found confidence and directed it towards the even scarier thing: my financial contribution to my marriage. I’ve had a lot of guilt about going back to school because in a lot of ways it has kept my husband and I from doing the things we’ve wanted to do. We have more debt, we lost time together and I’m not bringing in a ton of money (yet). But I had been beating myself up about my contribution at the clinic and I was wrong. What would happen if I took a real look at the numbers at home?
My milestone has always been to make as much money working fewer hours per week than my old desk job doing something I love. I think that that’s every entrepreneur’s dream. So along with the time tracking I mentioned last week I started tracking my wage per hour and how much I was bringing in each month. These are things I’ve tracked for our budget but never something that I looked at separately.
I was astonished to find that I’ve already surpassed that milestone. I’ve been there for a long time, possibly years. And I’ve never given myself credit for that success because I’ve been so down on myself for being a failure (a topic for another time, perhaps). Except that I hadn't been. All that negativity was because I was too scared to look at the numbers
Moving forward with a solid numerical foundation
Now I’ve spent the past few days focused more on how grateful I am to have gotten this far doing what I love and not feeling guilty about it. I have made a new financial goal to work towards that has motivated me and given me hope. Depression and lack of self-confidence can blind us to our successes and sometimes reality is much better than the fantasies that we let run our lives.
Look at your numbers. Establish your goals. Make it happen.
Related links and posts:
How to build an awesome practice for free
How to suss out your true passions and make your practice thrive
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What milestones have you surpassed?
Jessica Gustafson, L.Ac.
I am an acupuncturist and a mama from the Twin Cities. I needed a place to talk about the nitty gritty of bootstrapping a clinic, parenting and freelancing so I made a blog. Hooray! It was never meant to become what it has, but blogs evolve. I've enjoyed the process and look forward to developing it more as I grow.
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