My childhood best-friend’s father, Ed, was in his late 70s when he began to deal with difficult medical problems. A cancer diagnosis led to surgery, chemo, myriad tests and treatments…. and, of course, many doctor appointments.
His daughter, Janet, was a stalwart advocate for her father, driving 90 minutes each way, week-in and week-out for years. She attended all her father’s appointments, took notes, asked questions, filled prescriptions – in short, all those things we do as advocates, which many of us can relate to.
I used to check in with them both every couple of weeks to see how things were going. On one of those calls Ed, frustrated, reported:
It sounds like a simple task, doesn’t it?
And yet, in all these years, I have found that the lack of ability to ask for money is one of the most consistent barriers cited by those who either decide not to open an advocacy practice, or those who fail after hanging out their shingles.
In my last post I wrote about a non-solution – creating a non-profit organization. So many who want to be advocates but don’t want to ask for money think that if they start a non-profit, they won’t have to do that dirty ask-for-money deed. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Instead, here is the simple truth: if you can’t ask for money, you will not succeed at becoming an independent advocate or care manager. Because, if you can’t ask for money, you will not get paid for your work. No one is going to simply write you a check or give you their credit card number if you don’t ask. If you can’t and don’t get paid, your independent practice can’t succeed.
If you CAN ask for money, then you’ll probably do just fine, as long as you have estimated correctly how much to charge a client.
If you CAN’T ask for money*, then either you need to learn to do so – or – you might as well walk away from your dream or desire to become an independent advocate.
If you’re one of the folks in the “Can’t Ask” group, and you truly want to make the leap to the “Can Ask” group, then here are some ideas for you:
You are your own best marketing – just you. You are friendly. You are helpful. You are knowledgeable and resourceful.
But take a moment to think through all the places you see dozens or hundreds or thousands of people who don’t know one single thing about you, much less that you can help them find improved medical care. They have no idea how friendly, helpful, or knowledgeable and resourceful you can be!
They see a person who looks like any other generic person. Your mission should be to improve that impression.
So how can you be your own billboard? The person who becomes recognized as more than a generic person? In this case, I’m thinking about some of the ways you can showcase your brand physically.
No, not real highway billboards. And no, no one is asking you to wear sandwich boards!
Rather, these are ways of showcasing your name and brand personally, beyond online, or even on business cards….
From your first contact with a potential client, whether it’s by phone or in person, keep track of what you learn and what you’ve promised.
When you get started, you may think, “Why do I need to write down every detail? I can remember what I told him!”
But what if the prospective client doesn’t call you back for several weeks? Or what happens the minute you have a second client with similar needs? Even if it’s just an inquiry – you’ll begin to mix up their stories, their needs, your promises – any part of the conversations with them. What you tell a prospective this week might be entirely different than what you’ll need to tell her in a few weeks. But to be consistent, and to sound professional, you need to have documentation to remind you of what you told her.
In fact, you’ll want to track much more than you can carry around in your head, no matter how well you remember things. The best practice is to record everything – from client details to family members, providers, medications, and new prescriptions, discussion summaries, to-do lists, decisions, ideas, wishes, advance directives (as appropriate), other documentation and its location – anything that might be helpful at another time.
Here we are in the midst of income tax filing season. Those very organized among us have already filed their taxes. But most of us are either working on them, or are thinking about working on them, or are thinking that in a few days we’ll begin thinking about working on them….
So let’s take a momentary detour to talk about how you, through your advocacy practice, can be marvelously helpful to your clients, providing them with information about how to save some money on their income taxes (maybe.) You may even improve their health by the suggestion!
“But!” you say… “I am not a tax preparer! How can I help my clients save money on their taxes?”
The answer is simple. and is true for both American and Canadian income taxes (IRS and CRA). It does require a bit of explanation, though.