Your hypnotherapy practice - Is it a business or your hobby?

My client, Gwen (not her real name) has had a hypnotherapy practice for more than twelve years. Because she has another source of income, she has not paid attention to her practice as a business until recently. In preparing her taxes, her accountant reviewed her business and said to her, “Gwen, you don’t have a business; what you have here is a hobby!”

Your hypnotherapy practice, Is it a business or your hobby?

Gwen does excellent work helping people lose weight, quit smoking, etc. And she has a very busy schedule, seeing about as many clients as she can handle, in the office seven days a week. Yet she is not making enough money to sustain herself. The practice runs a negative profit, with the alternate income actually supplementing expenses incurred by the practice.

She consulted me (Neill) to help turn her business into a profitable venture. You see, she works hard and provides a quality service, yet she is not making a living at it, “I feel like a rat on a treadmill, busy working hard but going nowhere.” She is beyond going nowhere, she is going backwards. Working seven days a week and paying to do it makes it an expensive hobby. Something has to change for Gwen.

A hobby is something enjoyable that engages a lot of your time and energy, without an expectation of getting paid. Indeed, most hobbies require a certain monetary expense, in addition to the investment of interest and time. A business, especially a viable hypnotherapy practice, requires that you provide a professional service for which you receive a professional fee; meaning there is money to pay all your expenses, with some left over to pay yourself. Whether business or hobby, you can practice your craft, do good work, help people and enjoy it. The only real difference is whether or not you get paid a professional fee.

Many hypnotherapists face a two-pronged problem: 1) getting paid, and 2) setting a professional fee (getting paid well). Provided that you are already certified and competent, being successful financially in your practice requires business savvy. Besides practicing hypnotherapy, I also consult with business owners to improve their business health, especially financial health. As I examine the practices of my business clients—including hypnotherapists—it becomes quickly evident many do not operate as businesses, i.e., to make a profit. Yes, many provide a service or product for which they have a real passion, but they receive only nominal reimbursement. They LOVE what they do and in the heat of their passionate enjoyment somehow forget a very important element—getting paid.

Why? Because they pay only scant attention to the mechanics of running a business. They do a lot of work, and they charge what they think people will pay but they do not know how much money they need to break even, much less make a living. Add a dollop of accounts receivable (that is, people who owe money for services already rendered), and also avoid looking at a balance sheet until tax time (You did remember to set aside money for taxes, didn’t you?), and you get just a hint of why business mechanics are so important.

Now, there is a place for doing unpaid work, but that place is not a business. If you perceive yourself to be a healer, you may be most at risk for charging too little and not being able to close a sale. Many hypnotherapists feel they should give their work away to help others. All that is well and good, and I am not knocking compassion; but to the extent of not being to able to sustain your own livelihood? A starving hypnotherapist is not a very effective one and a bankrupt one is quite useless to anybody. Assuming you have continued reading because you want a successful hypnotherapy practice, let’s consider how to get there.

Charge an appropriate fee

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Business or Hobby: Charge an appropriate fee

Part 2, Appropriate fee; Part 3, Close the sale; Part 4, Get the money up front; Part 5, Swap hats; Part 6, Accept the difference

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