It’ll be nine years next month that I’ve been running this little business of mine. Nine years of making remedies, teaching classes, writing blog posts, finding my voice (currently singing in the key of soft dyke / salty hag), and making lots of mistakes along the way. I love the freedom of owning my own business but I’ve made it unnecessarily difficult for myself at times, too. I’m hoping that this post helps folk stop or avoid altogether these same mistakes. Or maybe this is just a big public post-it note to myself to continue to work on not making these mistakes, because I am certainly still making a few of the mistakes listed below.
While the following post does have someone who runs their own business as an herbalist in mind, it can apply to a wide array of those in self-employed in all sorts of businesses. To be clear for the folks who haven’t been paying attention in the far back, I am not in any way trained as a business coach but I do have a tea-stained certificate in Making Mistakes as a Solopreneur (it arrived three months late and torn in two!).
So here is what I’ve learned about making your life more difficult as an herbalist (or healer or friendly neighborhood witch).
Do unnecessarily (and often repetitive) work.
Whatever you can automate, do. I started my business during the whole “handmade gets itself online” movement and I loved all the purposeful details that went in to creating products. If you ordered from my shop when I was still selling tea and herbal remedies, for example, you would have received a tea-dyed receipt with your order hand written on it. I was particularly proud of this detail - something I didn’t see other folks doing in their packaging.
Precious as that was, it was an absurd thing to be doing when I was receiving as many orders as I did during the height of my remedy-making business. Because I was not only hand-writing receipts, I also hand-stamped and decorated all of the shipment boxes, handwrote addresses (again on that tea stained paper), and hand-wrapped all my remedies in colorful paper and washi tape. And that was just the effort spent after making the remedies in the first place (which were largely underpriced to begin with). But I was absolutely convinced that things like these hand-written receipts were what made folks like my business. And maybe that was true to a point - I got frequent feedback that receiving one of my packages was like getting a delivery from a store in Diagon Alley - but it burnt me out. I needed to choose to do one, maybe two of those things, and automate the rest.
Whatever I can automate these days, I do. And guess what? It’s not stripped the soul from my business but in fact given me more space to feel spiritually connected and renewed in my work. Ways to automate your work as a herbalist include:
If you have a newsletter, at a minimum set-up automated emails for when someone joins your list. This is a great way to warmly welcome someone into your community and can act like a map and compass to your work and what thing on your website someone might look at next.
Use the auto-generated receipts and shipping labels provided by whatever platform you sell your goods on.
Use canned responses in replying to customers when appropriate. Gmail allows you to save a series of canned responses that you can generate into an email - I do this a lot and then customize the email from there.
Create handouts for your clients and students that covers basic information that you find yourself sharing again and again. I have print-outs on making tea, taking herbal hand, foot, and body baths, using essences, and more.
Those are just a few broad suggestions - I’m sure you can find many more for your own particular practice. But, please, automate and let it open you up to the path of delegation, cooperation, and the psychic group witch mind dismantling the kyriarchy. Or whatever.
Commit to your relentless belief that you are an imposter.
I wish someone had told me about imposter syndrome before I started my business. I was still running high on my own special morning blend of imposter syndrome when I started studying herbalism and it colored my early learning experiences. If you’ve heard about imposter syndrome but don’t quite know what it means or if it applies to you here are some resources:
Look, you’re not serving yourself or your community by feeding the imposter monster. It’s fed enough by society at large and overpowering systems that we can’t easily change as individuals. Want a magickal plant-centered suggestion? Give your feelings of being an imposter to a plant and see what they give you back.
Be overly complex in your communications - including client care instructions.
I mean, I love to extrapolate far beyond what is necessary (hi, have you read any of my blog posts?) but just because you providing more doesn’t mean that it’s better. Folks are going to follow-through on your recommendations if you keep it simple and easy to incorporate into their lives.
Learn to edit down your emails, your newsletters, your product and class descriptions to a point where you’re still communicating the essentials and you and those you serve will be better for it. This goes for how you talk about your work face-to-face with folks. You want to hand folks the equivalent of a verbal business card and not a college length thesis.
It’s not to say that there is never time for lengthy communications, but overall, shorter is better. And remember when I mentioned those educational handouts in the first part of our journey down mistake lane? Make those concise, too. You want folks to actually read what you give them so that they’ll feel more empowered to follow-through with their care.
Undercharge and still feel bad about what your rates.
I’ve written about money and accessibility already on this blog (part 1 | part 2), but struggling to charge what you and your services are worth are a big one. Then throw in the complexity of cultural identities and narratives around money and what you should and should not charge for (i.e. healing and magickal services) and it can feel even more complex. Since I’ll be continuing to write about money, worth, and feelings, here’s my short response to the voice in your head that’s constantly shaming you about your prices : The body that carries that voice needs to eat, needs a safe place to sleep, needs access to transportation, needs to be able to do the things which makes them feel pleasurable and whole. Honor that voice for trying to protect you and keep you safe, and then give it something shiny to look at while you get on with running a business and living a life beyond its fear.
Set boundaries - and watch yourself roll right over them.
Appointments are only an hour but here I am two hours in and just now starting to wrap up.
I don’t do discounts but I’m afraid of losing business with this person so I better give them a big discount.
I shouldn’t be answering emails on 3 AM on a Saturday, but if I don’t respond right away I’ll lose business.
There’s too much suffering in the world for me to take regular time off!
Treat your boundaries like the edges of your most sacred space. Imagine your boundaries as the grove, the temple, the mountain, the church or sanctuary where your spirit is remembered in all its wholeness. When you begin to treat your boundaries as sacred and powerful in their sacredness and that your boundaries make you better as a healer, I can guarantee that you’ll be able to run your business better. And then, when the time comes to change a boundary, you’ll be doing it from a place of feeling empowered instead of backed into a corner.
Hold yourself to ridiculous standards of creativity and making.
Hey don’t do this! Take time off! Value what you’ve created! Creating something and then presenting it to the world can be absolutely terrifying - don’t welcome in any more fear than necessary to the process.
Eat some lunch. Take a breath. All of this is absurd and necessary and in both situations fear is a lousy companion.
Don’t listen to your own advice.
Please do the opposite of this.
I could insert a whole flowy bit here about trusting your intuition and turning the knowledge you’ve gained from experience into wisdom, but here’s the short cut. Do what you advise other folks to do all the time. I know for many herbalists, myself included, it includes things like, drink water, get more sleep, go outside, allow yourself to zone out, seek pleasure, ask for help, so on and so forth… Imagine if you took your own advice as sincerely as you dealt it out.
Have some mistakes you want to share? Comment below and let us commiserate together. Let’s keep growing through and laughing at our mistakes - seeing them as the calling cards of the trickster gods that they are.