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(Written from the heart, for those that sometimes wonder about if they will ever make a living as a herbalist).

There is an old saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and I believe that if we are to survive and flourish as herbalists in the future, and actually make a modest if not good income on which to support ourselves, then we must look at how we can re-invent ourselves. Is there a need to do this? Well I for one think emphatically yes!

Who are we re-inventing ourselves for? Well, the people, ‘Joe Public’… people who don’t have a clue about herbal medicine. Those thousands of people out there that could be consulting you in this great symbiotic relationship of you helping them to help themselves to a healthy life with Herbal Medicine. Exchanges of time & expertise, money changes hands and everyone is happy.

But, for many of us this ‘money’ thing is just not happening. I speak from experience as a herbalist that very nearly gave up and threw in the towel. I could not have been more broke and in debt that when I left University with my shiny degree in Herbal Medicine (not gained freely without some life threatening health issues and the near collapse of a marriage). For me, Herbal Medicine was a calling, and once I had finished that part of my training I saw that I could never go back to whom I was and the previous dead end jobs I despised.

Necessity has been my friend and ally. That, together with sheer ’bloody mindedness’ has propelled me forward and encouraged me to think of ways to become a busy herbalist generating an income.

In many ways, I feel that certain PA’s have done us no favours, tying our hands in the beginning with rules about what we could and could not do. Placing an advertisement in that well know yellow book and waiting for the telephone to ring, giving the odd talk, was their idea of PR.

I saw that this was not going to work. I watched and spoke with friends who were Homeopaths, Acupuncturists and Naturopaths. They set up websites, promoted their medicines, and raised a profile for themselves. Their PA’s certainly seemed to be active in the PR department. The public certainly knew about them, but sadly, not us. Unless a person just happened to know about the existence of Western Herbal Medicine, we seem to be forever be lumped in and mistaken for ‘Chinese/TCM’ by the media. Most web searches and Googling of ‘herbal medicine’ always seem to produce the word ‘Chinese’ before the word herb. The endless oriental emporiums that have invaded our high streets and shopping centres have not helped us either, they just seem to reinforce to the public that Chinese herbal medicine is the only herbal medicine out there, (nothing wrong with TCM, but they really don’t need the publicity like we do!!).

Over the first few years of practise, it became apparent that something needed to be done. Out of necessity, I needed to take matters into my own hands and work out how I could earn money from my calling. And, after years of reflection and honing my skills, this is what I came up with as a game plan for struggling herbalists.

I also have to thank my two mentors here in Essex, one of which has shown me how she became a great success.

Top tips for getting ahead  or Having your fingers in many pies!

Here then are some ideas that have worked for me, and my mentor before me and perhaps some of you are doing these things already. Perhaps some of you are worried about trying, so as another author once said ‘feel the fear and do it anyway!’

1. Become visible.

My workload doubled overnight when I went from working at home to working within a clinic. This clinic was attached to a health food store, and so there is often (but not always) a ready and waiting clientele there.  If you are not yet established and working from home, you may need to double or triple your efforts in PR to get your community to come to you. Get out and about, do talks, walks, local radio, farmers markets (see later entry). Write yourself a press sheet; learn the art of ‘blagging’, which means even if you don’t feel so confident and brilliant, tell everyone how brilliant you, are and what you can do for them!

Self-belief will bring confidence.

If you are not a great public speaker or get nervous, then try learning to overcome it, or use the written word instead. Local newspaper articles can be good. For example, I have just installed my dispensary in the high street clinic. This means I can do drop in clinics as well as full consults and sell herbs from the premises if required. It is the only high street in Essex where there is a traditional herbalist doing this, and so it may be news worthy. I have contacted the local papers and radio and am likely to get free publicity.

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