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Hi everyone! Today’s post is a juicy one. A peek into the finances of a total stranger, yay! God bless the internet for making these things possible.
(But wait, before we get to the good stuff, I need to share something with you, internet friends. I started the process of house hunting! It’s exactly like you see on HGTV, except 800% less glamorous. Shag carpet and wood paneling, anyone? Pink bathtubs? Furnaces from 1957? I’m so excited! And mildly terrified. Is this #adulting? I’ll keep you updated on my progress!)
Anyway… back to my finances. If you’re not familiar with Modern Acupuncture Marketing already, I work at my acupuncture alma mater, Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine at New York Chiropractic College (I know, longest name ever). And occasionally I lecture in the Integrative Practice Management class for third year students, which is something I LOVE (obviously, right?).
In Integrative Practice Management, it’s standard to have each student create a projected outline of their practice startup costs, based on the kind of practice they plan to have, their location, cost of rent/living in that area, etc.
(If your acupuncture school doesn’t make you do this as a student, that’s crazy sauce. You MUST. It is essential to have a plan, or you’ll risk wasting money and floundering in the dark. Use my Acupuncture Startup Cost Worksheet [click below] at the very least, and then ask one of your acupuncture professors to give you feedback on it. Do not graduate without doing this.)
After asking the students to complete their project startup costs budget, they were curious about what a real person actually spent to start a practice. As an over-sharer, I was happy to volunteer that information for them.
You guys know I’m always encouraging students and practitioners alike to learn from the experience of those who have gone before them.
I’m like a broken record, but I’ll say it again: as a group, acupuncturists have a wealth of knowledge and experience about practice building that we can share with others to help everyone succeed. The more we share, the better off our profession is as a whole, and that’s win-win.
So I thought it would be beneficial to share my startup costs here on Modern Acupuncture Marketing, for any students out there who are about to get started. I also think it’s interesting for established practitioners to see how others began their businesses, if for nothing else than curiosity’s sake. The internet thrives on sneaking a peek into the lives of total strangers, right? I’m all for that 😎😜
Before I give you my budget, let me outline my personal philosophy on acupuncture practice startup costs. I think this is important.
In a word: Minimalism.
I always encourage the acupuncture students at FLSAOM to start small. I don’t understand why sometimes people think they need thousands of dollars or a huge business loan to fit out a whole office or multi-room space. I suppose it depends on your future plans and ambitions. But if you have no patients at first, why do you need to rent several rooms or an entire building?
(And yes, I have heard of real students who graduated, rented entire buildings with multiple treatment rooms, and then wondered aloud why they struggled to pay rent. It’s because you’re paying for more space than you need, or can possibly fill at that point.)
I’ve heard it suggested by other practice management professionals (not naming names) that you should set up your “ideal office” right after graduation, with the number of treatment rooms you ultimately imagine using once you’re “successful.” I suppose this is what the students that I mentioned above did, who wondered eventually why they couldn’t pay rent.
I personally think this is terrible advice. Then you have to pay to fill a reception area and multiple rooms with furniture, treatment equipment, acupuncture supplies, plus pay rent and utilities on a larger space. Yet you have no patients to fill those treatment rooms. This feels backwards to me, and I disagree with it. (If you disagree with me, let me know in the comments. I’m interested to hear your opinions.)
My personal philosophy is to start small and expand into a larger space as you grow.
So obviously I made a huge effort to keep my personal budget very low when I first started. I’m a minimalist in many areas of my life (hello, only eight outfits in my closet!), so starting my practice was no different. I knew how much money I had to spend and had no intention of going into more debt to get my practice rolling.
I had about $1500 left over from students loans (after I finished that semester abroad studying acupuncture research in England, remember this post?), and that was the money I used to pay for these items, plus a $500 graduation gift from my parents.
Now, I know minimalism isn’t for everyone. Perhaps if you have different goals or ambitions, or a family, or more or less student loan debt, or a hefty savings account, or whatever your case may be, you’ll be inclined to set up your practice differently. All I’m suggesting is that you consider minimalism as a viable possibility, because it certainly worked for my practice.
You can upgrade to fun, cool stuff later on, when you have an actual income. In the first year of practice, your income can be very variable while you’re building. This variability can be stressful. The lower your startup costs are, the more cash you could theoretically have on hand for unexpected expenses in your practice (or in your life).
Why make your life more stressful than it has to be by overspending and taxing your budget from the very beginning?
So I’m just sayin’… this is my advice. Fit it into your life as you see fit.
Finally, the details…
For reference, when I started it was January 2011 and I was renting a single room in a wellness center in a suburb of Rochester, New York. The reception area was taken care of by the wellness center; I did not have to contribute anything (money, furniture, etc.) for that. I already had a laptop, and they had a printer in the reception area that I was allowed to use, included in my rent.
Exactly What I Spent to Open My Acupuncture Practice:
- $35 – Doing Business As (DBA) name
- $285 – One EarthLite Harmony DX Portable Massage Table
- $150 – Needles, biohazard boxes, moxa, etc. from Lhasaoms.com
- $19 – Manila fastener folders for patient files
- $450 – Security deposit on the single room I rented in a wellness center
- $450 – First month’s rent (utilities included)
- $60 – Inexpensive four-drawer dresser for storage for sheets and supplies
- $60 – 3 sets of sheets (cheap ones, admittedly) from Wal-Mart
- $25 – Small, basic portable CD player (and a free burned CD of meditation music from a friend)
- $100 – Business cards and brochures from Vistaprint.com (using discount codes)
- $12 – Domain name and website from Homestead.com. (Weebly.com is also a good inexpensive option.)
- $92 – Set of two folding chairs (one for me, one for the patient)
- $0 – Borrowed a TV tray table from my parents to take patients’ pulses
A few considerations:
You’ll notice I didn’t use software for my patient notes. Patient management software was just becoming a “thing” in 2010 when I started, and I didn’t feel like I needed it. I also have an affinity for writing on paper (I’m sorry, trees 😪). If that’s something you feel like you must have (and the laws about keeping medical records may dictate it eventually), then budget for it. The cost of electronic medical records software can range widely, from about $45 to $100 per month.
I also didn’t start out with an online schedule (like Schedulicity or Genbooks) because that wasn’t really a thing yet either. Online scheduling also ranges in price, depending on the features, but I think $20 or $30 per month is fairly average. And sometimes the patient management software above actually has an online schedule feature built-in. Even though an online schedule may make your life easier and be “the thing to do,” it is technically optional when you’re first starting out.
I would also challenge you to really consider whether you need an Earthlite table. It’s “the brand” to have but since graduating I’ve discovered other, less expensive, perfectly good brands for $200-ish. We have Earthlites here at FLSAOM, so I think our students automatically decide to get an Earthlite without checking other prices. But there are many options out there, at many price points.
And I chose a DBA over an LLC because I had no possessions (home, etc.) to protect or family to worry about in case of litigation. (Check out this awesome free course from AcuProsper about the differences between a DBA, LLC, and PLLC.) An LLC or PLLC is more expensive than a DBA, and costs can vary state by state. Check your state’s “Department of State, Division of Corporations, State Records” (at least that’s what it’s called in New York) for more info.
Later on, when I felt financially comfortable, I eventually purchased a TDP heat lamp for about $120, a table warmer for around $45, and much later, a nicer Earthlite table (i.e, not the folding travel model) for about $450. (Which felt pretty baller, I must admit.) And later still, I opened a second office space in another town and spent the money to fit out that treatment room as well.
All of these costs and considerations (and many others) are included in the free worksheets below. I laid it all out there: all the various things you could potentially purchase to get your practice started. The idea is to choose what you feel you need.
I also added a section on projecting your monthly expenses, because this is as important as preparing for your initial startup costs. If you notice that I forgot anything, leave a message in the comments below so I can add it!
Download the free Acupuncture Practice Startup Costs Workbook:
Please let me know what you think of the workbook. For established practitioners, if you have advice or anything to add to the worksheets, please leave comments below. It’s so important that we make an effort to share what we’ve learned through experience so everyone can be successful and our profession can grow as a whole.
Share your practice startup costs in the comments below. I would love to see them. The more examples students can read about the different ways people started their businesses, the better informed they can be in their early practice decisions. Our transparency is essential in helping others build their own success. I hope you’ll volunteer your startup costs in the comments.
Or if, you’d like to be interviewed anonymously in order to share your startup expenses, please shoot me an email at ModernAcu@gmail.com – I want to hear from you!
See you next week for an interview with AJ Adamczyk of the Acupuncturist on Fire podcast!