7 Solutions to Making Money in Alt Therapy/Teaching

On the positive side it seems to me there are routes out of this dilemma … you may have to work hard but that will feel more rewarding than just sinking despondently into the swamp.

  1. Find your voice, your angle, your passion
  2. Offer to solve people’s problems not sell your stuff
  3. Don’t sell hours sell programs!
  4. Get together with others – find partners, create communities
  5. Learn “educational selling” and especially pitching
  6. Don’t invest in more modalities learn marketing skills
  7. Invest in transformational programs yourself


S.1a  Find your voice, your angle, your passion

This is “Mega”.  This is the real deal. This is it.  As Oscar Wilde said:

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

One version of this is “own your own search engine category”.  Be a Buddhist Psychotherapist (a friend of mine). Be the Divorce Doctor (who a friend of mine has some sessions with recently). These people are clearly far more differentiating than “psychotherapist” or “counsellor”.  You need to get comfortable with a key 21stC principle – the Marmite Principle – if you stand for something some people won’t like it.  But vice versa some people really will.  And in this world of “over-supply”, you need to find people who really will like you … if they really like you they will pay more than for plain old “counselling”.

Now finding one’s voice, one’s unique style is not easy … it is about becoming an artist which is a never-ending journey.  And like all artists you start by copying others.  No one learns the piano with a distinctive style … the style emerges over time after you have done scales etc the same way as everyone else.  It’s the Artists Journey.  As Howard Thurman said [who’s he? Ed]:

Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive… then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Another 21stC “prinzip” (ah the multi-linguality of it all :-)) is being comfortable with change.  School may have made you “get it right” but “life is perpetual beta” … that is we are never in a state of completion … we are always adapting and improving (good luck if you are not).  Now people can make nice noises about “embrace change” but few people are happy with (to quote Seth Godin – uber-guru of 21stC www) “just ship it”.

As you can tell I don’t mind just shipping any old thoughts 🙂 … but don’t worry I will improve it next week and next month and in the meantime life is not an exam!

Furthermore you may not have noticed but I almost guarantee that whatever course you went through was aimed at churning out standard, factory components. People how have done the same modules, passed the same exams etc etc.  Even alt. is factoryised these days!  You need to realise this and break out of the straitjacket of standardisation and into your own clothes.

S.1b  …and in finding you own voice you not only “self-actualise” but you avoid commoditisation

Let’s be clear.  The reason you can charge so little is “not alt.” it is simply as you are supplying a non-differentiated commodity.  If you gave up alt. and became a “Java programmer” (must be one of the least alt. things :-)) you would still be charging very little.

What do I mean by “commodity”?

In the narrowest sense, commodities are originally things like crude oil.  But surprise surprise petrol sells for more, aviation fuel for more still and rocket fuel … well that’s a different thing entirely. I mentioned above that alt courses turn out factory components – in  another metaphor we can say courses produce crude oil.  If you keep selling crude oil you will never make money – you have to refine and refine yourself to move up the value chain.  Sell petrol or aviation fuel (or rocket fuel if you are a real diva)…!

For producers (ie you :-)) commoditisation is the process of systematising production and cutting costs to the bone and producing a non-differentiated product for a tiny profit.  For the consumer (let’s say me) if I don’t buy from you there will be plenty of other people I can buy “it” from at a very similar price.  Plus in a world of over-supply of commodities (21stC in general not just alt.) the price will be quite low.

Now I am sure your service/product will be different from the person I go to but unless I know that – simply and clearly – I don’t know that!   By definition I am a non-differentiating consumer – otherwise I would be after say “Dzogchen meditation from the Byagter lineage” and I wouldn’t have come to you as you aren’t offering that.

If I ask for “meditation” and you sell “meditation” it’s no surprise we are talking the lowest price.  It’s like going to a supermarket and asking for “cheese” and not wanting to pay much.  If they don’t sell to you there is always the next supermarket.

Now in terms of uniqueness as I say in The World of Work has Changed Forever Part 3 talking about creativity it’s not about “flying to mars with feathers”, it can just be “a nicer coffee shop experience”.

Just don’t go for gimmicks, for the new shiny – it’s far more powerful a sell if you are authentic and it’s from your heart than copied from this week’s fad.  But refine yourself somehow from the standard factory component, from crude oil straight out of the ground, you must.


S.2 Offer to solve people’s problems not sell your stuff 

This is very important indeed.  You can read more about it in this blog post about understanding supply-push versus demand-pull. Too many people (I have done this lol … it’s the “traditional” style) blab on about their modality.  But that’s all about you.  We don’t live in the days when you set up a Zen temple and when someone comes knocking you get them to sweep the courtyard for a year before you consider them.  These days (very 21stC) people are overwhelmed with choice, overwhelmed with “sellers”.

Rather you need to focus not on your key but on their lock.  What is their problem they would just love you to solve?  People love to buy solutions to their problems … if you are selling your stuff everyone can see you are trying to solve your problem (“I have stuff I need to sell it” lol).  They may be capable of being convinced that in doing so you can solve theirs too … but you have already started on the wrong foot.

So rather than “massage” offer “massage for stay-at-home mums” – you could also make it “physical and mental relaxation for stay-at-home mums” [you see how the language changes from “what I am selling” to “what you get”?].  Rather than “qigong” sell “a unique approach, tried and tested over generations, for solving depression”.


S.3 Don’t sell hours sell programs!

This is best summarised in this YouTube by Daniel Priestly who I highlighted in The World of Work Has Change Forever Part 1  as one of the people who really “get” the C21st.  Here he gives a great case study in a guy who stopped selling £ph and started selling programs and who now has more impact, works less and earns far more and has people coming to him.


S.4 Get together with others – find partners, create communities

Join together

One of the extremes we have gone to in the West is this hyper-individuated “me” … all alone doing everything oneself.  Well none of us are good at everything.  We should focus on our strengths not our weaknesses.  Recruit partners.  Form some cross-referral system (get a few of you in the same industry in different areas or different speciality in the same area/place).  Make sure there is some commission system (10% for a succesful referral) – everyone is more motivated that way.

One qigong teacher I know got a “wholesale” deal with a major alternative therapy provider that he would train their students in qigong.  A real win-win.  Now that’s just sentences, but think about it. In essence he had to sell only once and as a result gets hundreds of students.  The usual model is to have to sell hundreds of times (and even then you have no way of making it obligatory as his partner could).  Like wow maaan.

Another qigong teacher I know (in a different school) got together with two chums and now, with only a Facebook page – Fully Alive – have 738 likes and run seminars where almost 100 people come.  It’s a great example of community creation, working with others, making something happen and providing content that people find valuable (very 21stC … just selling folks stuff is very 20thC).


S.5 Learn “educational selling” and especially pitching

I cover this style in my usual witty and engaging manner [you can’t write that – it’s not true! Ed.] in this post Sales Secrets I – Tai Chi Not Foie Gras

While you are at it you also need to learn how to pitch your service.  Here is the best ever talk I have heard on the topic.  Its 48 minutes long which is well beyond most people’s capacity for watching on YouTube I understand.  However how many hours did you put into learning your modality in the first place?

I heard Mike speak yesterday and he absolutely emphasised that a pitch should not be hyped, should not be spin but should just explain simply and clearly what you do, why you do it and what’s in it for your clients.  This entirely fits with my “educational” selling angle.  If you have some real value and explain it then the people you want will ask more 🙂

An important point is that a good pitch can “go viral” – which doesn’t have to be in the www world, it can be good-old-fashioned “word of mouth”.  Here is a guy (who was tutored by Mike Harris) talking about how his pitch went from being embarrassingly bad to so successful people he hadn’t met were coming to him.  Now you would like some of that wouldn’t you…

At the same conference another speaker mentioned a “never fails pitch” in a which is definitely “viral”:

“I make 45-year-old men look attractive to 25-year-old women”.

Do you think the guy with that pitch has problems finding clients and charges £50ph? 🙂

“Always sell something in demand” and “always have a compelling pitch about what you are really offering” (after all – hey – your modality is just a tool, just a means to an end isn’t it.  Sell the end dudes not the means!).

The speaker who mentioned described the pitch as having real “cut-through”.  Now few of us might get to that sharp an edge … however your pitch does need cut-through – not just “I teach yoga” (yawn).


S.6 Don’t invest in more modalities learn marketing skills

In P.3 I was sniffy about many business courses that folks get sent on by Job Centres (bureaucrats refer to bureaucrats) and indeed more worthy institutions.  Some of these are rooted in notions of business that are 19thC.

You need 21stC advice for the 21stC.  It’s my main theme here.  For a good overview which pulls together The Tao of Biz Dev Marketing 101 themes check out How to be English and do Marketing – it’s not just for English folks 🙂

One of the more assimilable approaches for the modest is Michael Port’s “Book Yourself Solid”.  I think the end of his subtitle wins the day “… even if you hate marketing and selling” 🙂 You can download three free chapters here: http://www.bookyourselfsolid.com/

Now I have heard him speak (online) but have yet to finish his book (I keep lending it out and have 101 in my to-read pile).  However the good thing is that it’s a system.  It’s a system – not a bunch of good ideas you pick up from different books and websites and try to cobble together yourself.  System as in a whole soup to nuts way of going about things in a way that worked for others.

Now there is another mega-one.  You alt. folks should be big on how school, society and your parents programmed you. Right?  But have you spotted all the programming?  Have you realised that you and I were programmed as the very worse sin “copying”.  Aaargh nightmare. Thrown out of exam etc.

OK that’s that – but life is not an exam.  The way to succeed in the 21stC is to take someone else good ideas nd leverage them!  You don’t have to “invent yourself up from the stone age”!  After all you didn’t do that in your modality did you – you copied teacher…  So why not the same here?


S.7 Invest in transformational programs yourself

Folks spend thousands, tens of thousands learning some modality over years and years.  But then some won’t even read a whole webpage or watch a long YouTube to improve their “distribution” skills. Some folks struggle for ages and produce a substandard website rather than having spent 1% of their modality course fees on a professional one.

Idea 7 is simple … but important. Very important – and few get it for reasons I will come onto below – which you alt. folks do know – even if you don’t apply it to yourself…

At one point the thing that held you back from being a yoga teacher/aromatherapist/Tai Chi teacher/whatever was that you didn’t know how to do that thing.  Right?

And what’s holding you back right now is you can’t make things happen. Right?

Well dur…

Invest in a program or some coaching.

Why do I say program or coaching?  As (and I assume this is your day job or at least part-time activity) it’s about transformation not information.

You are reading this page … that’s information.  But it’s not transformation.  You may even be on a big surfing session and a few minutes later having forgotten much of what you read.  That’s the internet shallows.

But no-one confuses reading a book on martial arts with becoming a martial artist do they?

No-one confuses reading a book on massage with being massaged do they?

But – and I have met a few in my time – I can’t think of one alt. teacher/healer who has invested in real business skills coaching or transformation (I don’t count going on some box-ticking bureaucratic course, or that bit added-on to the end of many modality courses about registering for VAT, getting insurance and putting ads in shop windows).

There are hangovers of alt. being “alt.” (and “not about money”) – but why should you starve why you heal the world?  But mainly it’s the resistance to change, resistance to pushing boundaries, and being stuck in the past (20thC) when things were easier.  This resistance and stuckness you see all the time in your clients and help them with.  So why shouldn’t someone help you with your resistance, stuckness and needs?

(Alt.-) Physicians heal thyselves!

I have mentioned Daniel Priestly and friends a few times here – (a) as I think he has some great ideas nicely packaged but also (b) as I am writing this the day after his seminar.  So to start off with another example (who has plenty of coaches to help people transform their marketing and sales approach) Michael Port is popular as I mentioned above.  On his website it says:

93% of our small business coaching clients, who have implemented the Book Yourself Solid® system have increased their number of clients by over 34%

Well that sounds more like an investment than expenditure to me…  Also:

As a yoga and meditation,instructor, I didn’t think six figures,was possible, until I studied with Michael. But here I am, and on track,to double my 2012 income in 2013.


And just to be clear I have no connection with Port.  I won’t make a cent if you go there.

As I say earlier no-one ever made money by doing generic dot-to-dot business plans.  People however do make more money by following what I think of as 21stC pathfinders.

And do you know a common secret that’s gradually dawning on me?  I am starting to come across the fact that most of these pathfinders themselves had mentors/coaches.  None of us emerge in full armour from the sea like the goddess Athena.  All of us need a hand up in this world of an unprecedented pace of change.

The three-month program bodybuilder above got where he is today by doing (uber-pathfinder?) Daniel Priestly’s KPI 40 week program.  Not by becoming a champion body builder and trainer and then working out how to “solve” 21stC business models himself. That would be what I call “being your own dentist” 🙂

For complete avoidance of doubt as English is sometimes ambiguous (well mine is lol) – don’t “be your own dentist” … even if you are a dentist lol.


Well that’s my 2,752 words on the solutions.  Enough for now 🙂