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My $80,000 Lesson in Starting My Nurse Business

My $80,000 Lesson in Starting My Nurse Business

Years ago I was completely oblivious to the online world. I don’t mean 20 years ago, or before the Internet existed, I mean like 2013. 

I didn’t know you could take online courses that were any good; I didn’t realize you could date and marry people online. I don’t even think I knew about Facebook. That is how anti-digital my life was.

When I started my first nurse business—a service-oriented business Coordinated Care, Coordinated Care was a transitional care program for stroke patients who were going home.  I offered them 30 days of transitional support. I knew enough about sales and marketing that I would need a website, but that was about it.  My brother, who was technically about a lifetime ahead of me (but still an amateur) talked me into starting a Squarespace website. It will be easy, he said.  It will look professional, he said.

Well, what I managed to put together was neither easy nor professional looking.  It was a disaster.  Even with the foolproof designs that Squarespace provides, I still screwed it up.

After all, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I’m a nurse, not a web designer.

Well, not to be taken down by the Internet world, I hired a web designer to put my Squarespace site together for $1000.  So here I was with a pretty looking site and no customers.

Then I got another setback.  I had planned on providing case management with my brochures to give to patients in my hospital system to use my service.  My service was offering transitional care support to stroke patients as they left the hospital.  I would support them with a home visit within 48 hours of discharge and 30 days of email and phone support.  As I saw it, there was no conflict of interest because case management would recommend my service (not me).  The patients would get great service, and I would be the hero.

Except the hospital saw a huge conflict of interest and informed me promptly that I would need to cease or find another job.

Deflated but not defeated, I had to come up with Plan B.  I confronted with the problem of how do I get stroke patients to find me?

Do I take out a billboard ad? Do a press release? Advertise on TV, newspaper, radio?

All of a sudden, my simple little business was becoming a financial nightmare.  After all, advertising is NOT cheap, and doing an ad once is pointless. To convert someone to a customer, I would have to initiate 7-10 touch points just to be noticed.  How would I get a stroke patient to see my ad 7-10 times with NO budget?

The whole idea seemed like a colossal waste of time, energy, and money.  I was in an idea bubble. The only solution I could think of was to quit my job and then call case managers I knew at the hospital and sneaked them my brochures.

If I had been 20 at the time, I might have thought seriously about that idea, but I was far from 20, and I am a single mom.  So quitting my job was not an option. At this point, I realized that I either needed to give up or figure it out.

The thought of giving up made me sick, not because I had already sunk a lot of money into the business that was going nowhere, but because there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  I was tired of the hospital system and needed a way out. If I give up, then all I have to look forward to for the rest of my life is more overtime at the hospital.

More overtime at the hospital made me depressed.  So there didn’t seem to be any other option.  I would have to learn how to market myself.

This foray was the beginning of my Internet Marketing that all said and done cost me more than $80,000 in learning and mentorship.  It’s what I affectionately call my street MBA.  I spent more money on my street MBA than my real MBA degree, which was ironically a useless piece of paper in my life, particularly in starting a business.

The cost of my street MBA wasn’t so much in learning what to do; a lot of my lessons came from learning what I don’t need to do.  Tough love.

Well, you get to learn from my mistakes, so I’ll share a couple of nuggets of tough love with you.

What NOT to do
1. Don’t pursue business opportunities you have zero knowledge base in.

I see this all the time but never more than when I do Facebook ads.  Whenever I advertise a new webinar, I use Facebook ads because nurses tend to be there, and they respond fairly well.  The funny thing is other random people and “business” nurses jump onto my Facebook ads for free and try to lure nurses away with the idea that they can make money easier and faster by selling whatever they are hacking at the moment.  I’ve seen them cut glucometers, skincare products, real estate, or buying a legal nurse course.

You can make money doing ANYTHING.  But why do you want to spend all your time trying to sell something you know nothing about.  You have to learn about an area where you might nothing about. It’s hard enough to start a business, but when you don’t know anything about the business you’re starting, this is a recipe for either failure or a huge loss of time in the learning curve.

People are attracting to the idea of a Business in a Box concept.  I was for sure! All you have to do is buy this, and I give you a business that you open and wham you are making money hand over fist.  Only, it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the truth, all businesses require sales and marketing to be effective.  No matter what you are selling, whether it’s your time, your knowledge, your skillset, or the newest skincare line, nothing sells itself.  You still have to lay the groundwork and find people to listen to your pitch.

I see this a lot in reviews of Legal Nurse courses.  You always see the testimonials of nurses who are killing it, making all this money.  But what they don’t tell you is all the hard work those nurses put into building relationships with lawyers.

They physically went the lawyer’s offices again and again and again. They wrote letters, and they did some free work, they networked, etc.  The people who aren’t successful (which is most people), expected to be handed work to do. Or they reached out once and got no response, so they gave up.

They thought if they take this course for $10,000, the work will come.  If you build it, they will come. NOT TRUE. If you build it, they will have a place to come, but you still have to herd cats – and that is Marketing.  You must understand how to package, position, and price whatever you are selling, you must understand the basics of persuasion, and you must be confident in what you are selling.

You need to pursue your passion, and the money will follow.  You have something deep inside of you that needs to be gifted to the world.  What you need to do is decide what it is that you love to do, what you would do for free in your spare time and what type of people you want to work with.  Then let your audience.

This decision is not only the best way to start a business.  It’s the only predictable way to start a successful and profitable business.

Your nursing skills are immensely valuable and packaged the right way, and people will pay money for them.  So think about how all these elements come together.

2. Do NOT doubt yourself

Have you ever had a great idea and started to put the pieces together to make a great idea a reality?  And then you just stopped?  I’ve done this so many times, that my whole life is a series of amazing ideas that I abandoned, only in retrospect to realize that each one had the potential to alter the course of my life.

For instance, I was one of the first NPs who talked about and wrote about Post-Graduate NP Fellowship Programs.  I even designed a Neuroscience NP Fellowship Program.  I published 1 article on the topic that is now one of the seminal articles on the topic.  But one day, I decided that idea was going nowhere, so I just let it go.  I got a No on my Fellowship program from my hospital because it was too expensive to run and from my national organization because they were too busy.

In retrospect, if I had pushed forward with the idea, I could have made a career out of it.  You can’t stop at 1 No or 2 Nos, or 10 Nos.  You push until you find an audience.  There is now a vast network of NPs who are creating NP Fellowship Programs because they got a Yes. They are NP Directors of Advanced Practice Centers.  And I got left in the dust.  I guess I was waiting for someone to invite me to bestow my amazing-ness on them and they never did.

But there is so much more to it than that.  There is a psychological barrier going on here.

A big part of my problem was afraid of success, feeling like I didn’t deserve success, or I should not be able to achieve it.  This fear has always seemed ridiculous to me. At some level, I’m always striving for some degree of success.  Why wouldn’t I want to achieve it?  Well, a huge barrier that no one ever really talks about is the fear that you can be massively successful, and what does that mean?

You will be the leader, and you will be in charge, your life will change, you will have different responsibilities, different friends.  It’s a big deal to be successful.

But also, there is real comfort in “failure.”  There is comfort in living small and not succeeding in anything.  I could make myself feel like I was striving for something by pursuing success in a half-assed manner.  But any real sign or indication that success is imminent or possible and I run away.

When I look back on my life, this isn’t a one-time occurrence, and it’s a pattern.  And come to find out, it’s a very common problem pattern for the majority of people out there.  So few brave individuals go on to be successful in what they set out to do, because they persisted.  The only way to be successful in anything is to persist.

You don’t have to be the smartest, the prettiest, the coolest, the richest.  You don’t need an MBA, PhD, a Harvard degree to be an expert.  You have to be persistent and believe in what you are doing.  Coupled with some marketing skills – And You’ll Be Unstoppable.

So another huge expense in my street MBA was getting therapy to deal with my underlying psychological issues and fear of success.

Therapy unraveled this for me.  That I can let go of the idea that I’m not meant to be successful just because it had never happened to me before.  There is a certain amount of comfort in failing over and over again that we hold onto for whatever reason.

If I learned anything in my years of studying communication, marketing, and advertising, it has been that you need an unshakeable belief in yourself to succeed.  And you have to believe it’s possible.

After $80,000 in mentorship, courses, programs, and therapy, I finally put it all together.  It had less to do with all the courses I took and more to do with believing that I can be successful. I know more than most university-level Marketing majors.

I am a Certified Marketing Strategist, copywriter, and web designer.  I have over 20 websites on Squarespace that I do for myself and my students.  I know how to storyboard a website, build out funnels, and my advertising costs on Facebook are lower than a lot of “gurus” out there who were “teaching” me.

The most important lesson that I learned in all of this was that everything I needed was inside of me all the time.  Yes, I needed to learn a couple of basic skillsets that I didn’t already know, but those things are minor compared to the need to believe in myself first and foremost.  My mentor told me early on: “You are enough.”  I didn’t find her.  I felt inadequate and that I lacked a certain “Je ne sais quoi.”  What I didn’t have was that unshakeable self-belief.

Everyone has a system inside them, something that they do uniquely.  It doesn’t matter if someone else does what you do; they don’t do it the way YOU do it.

You have a gift inside you that only needs to be placed into a system and packaged.  I see this so clearly now.  It’s just so obvious to me, and I can’t believe I couldn’t see it before.  And now I can replicate the system over and over.

I’ve created NursePreneurs in the form of the system that I have learned.  And now I’ve created my subsequent businesses in the order.  I have taught my students the system to put their businesses.  It just gets easier and easier and easier.  Now instead of taking three years to put a business together, I can do it in 3 months—the entire business.

All the moving pieces that I found so confusing before falling into place.

Now, I know how to show nurses how to monetize what they already know by putting it into a system.  I can save them 3-5 years and $80,000 in a learning curve.  I can show them exactly what to do and exactly what not to do.

And instead of chasing after every money-making opportunity out there, I can show you how to go after exactly what you love to do.  What you already do in your spare time for free, you can monetize.  You don’t need to learn a new product like skincare, a new industry like real estate or the legal system.

You need to bring to the table who you are and what you know.

Because YOU ARE ENOUGH. 

Keep dreaming.

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