New Year Resolutions for Herbalists
Follow me this month while I try to clear out my own chaos and get a few tips on how to get your herb cabinet and/or business back in order! January is a perfect time for reflection and planning, but also, we have time for getting things done since the rush of garden season is still a few months away, the snow keeps us at home a bit more....as does the promise of a warm house and hot cup of tea. Each day, I am going to tackle something that needs constant care or attention, but that is often left to become dysfunctional as the year goes on. Will this be the year, I actually keep on top of things? Who knows...but if not, I will repost next year!
January 26 ~
Value Your Work
This is always a touchy subject and there are clearly many schools of thought on it, but I believe it is an ongoing issue among herbalists and healers that requires strong consideration. We have all seen herbalists who overcharge clients for substandard work--or even good work...and we have seen those who feel it is a privilege to work with plants and that their talents should be shared freely. Then we see those who acknowledge the need to charge for services, but agonize over a fair fee and just feel bad about charging at all.
When I need or want a product or a service---I do not mind paying for it. That is MY decision to seek and/or pay for it. Clients make the same determination, so we should not feel bad about it. We simply need to be fair--not just to client's, but to ourselves.
While I spend a lot of time educating people about how to be herbalists or at least be comforatable with their own self care, most people do not follow that route. They simply want to use natural methods of healing instead of allopathy. They are not interested in reading/learning/doing it themselves....so they seek a practitioner. My feeling is that people should expect to pay for a service and that practitioners owe it to their clients to present themselves as someone competent and with whom they are having a professional--not an informal relationship. I find that most clients understand this and are fine with it--it is the herbalists who feel strange about it.
If you consider yourself a non-professional herbalist and want to make suggestions to friends--of course, that is in the "free of charge" category. But if you have invested time/money to studying, feel a passion for this work and want to make it a vocation, you have a right to reasonable recompense. If you accept that, great....but then there are other pitfalls to navigate.
Some people (clients and practitioners) have the attitude that if you "love" something, you should not worry about nitty gritty things like money---that is a quick path to burn out--which begins as a gnawing resentment. Resentment also springs from family members who may benefit from more household money and more of your time. However, even if you are well off financially, you should still charge for services--because it says to clients that YOU value what you do. A very important issue is that charging an appropriate fee, separates your services from being a "hobby". Hobbies rarely make a profit--and most often are money drains. I see many herbalists with good heart operating that way.
Now, I will become a bit cynical. Healers deal with people at a vulnerable point in their lives. Teachers deal with students anxious to soak up knowledge. Both types of situations open themselves to the possibilities of growth, change, guidance and sometimes.... miracles of all sorts. By and large, engaging with plants in the healing or teaching process, is enriching for all involved. However, there IS a steady percentage of folks who blur the edges or go straight over the boundries of appropriate social behavior. Sometimes, we have to be honest and say--I can see this coming and am going to nip it in the bud...and not, yet again..and again...give someone the benefit of the doubt for fear of being judgemental or uncaring. To care for the majority of your clients/students/family, you need to be able to trust your gut and gently weed out those who will never be respectful of your services. We all know those who need help, in earnest, and are grateful, willing to be a healing partner and who understand boundries. But, I have also had clients call me every day for weeks, I have had students who take a few classes and "forget to pay"/"left their checkbook at home", keep coming and keep "forgetting". I hear the hard luck stories (yet see they have some pretty nice stuff). One woman kept calling to ask more questions and I asked if she could see her way to making a payment for hours in phone consultation. She told me " The universe has not seen fit to gift me with any money lately". She went on to then say...that she too was a healer (massage therapist, I believe) and she does free stuff for people all the time!!!! I simply told her that my universe was asking for some of my bills to get paid (and so was my husband!). Her decision to do "free" work was then passed on to my not getting a fair return for my services. I have a hard time understanding that thought process. It is disrespectful to the needs of others, irresponsible and immature. For every action, their is a reaction...it certainly helps when the actions are positive and thoughtful. Then...there are the "could we barter?" folks. Nice concept---rarely works where BOTH parties feel equally compensated. I have clients that make beautiful things--some I would even like to have, but may not need. There is the issue of fair exchange. People value things differently--which is why money was invented to begin with--Anyway, this all places me in an awkward position of having to explain why I don't want their offer. They often suggest it because they don't have the money in hand--without understanding that I may need money in hand as well. I have successfully bartered twice. An important thing to consider is that too often, we want our healing relationships to be really informal----sometimes that can work. Other times, psychologically, people need a formal routine for them to relax into the healing process. Setting out the monetary expectations, etc. is a boundry with no emotional attacthements, no hurt feeling because the practioner doesn't like what they have to barter....it is a subtle thing, but my feeling is that much of healing surrounds that area of subtlety.
It became clear to me long ago, that those who take up most of your time and resist fair payments...also have the poorest outcomes. Most of them, in fact, are looking for someone to listen and care. As healers--we need to be able to do that and also realize that true healing is not just physical--the mental/emotional and spiritual all need attention. However, in the folks I am discussing here,their needs are way beyond your primary role as an herbalist. They need a therapist. Lastly,I do not want to leave out the ones (bless their hearts) who simply are the types that take advantage of any situation---they know who the nice, pushovers are and they hone in. They are the ones who always look busy and never seem to do anything, always looking for a deal, have no compunctions about asking for freebies or samples, have no clue about boundries of any kind, are dishonest....and their entire lives are encased in treating people poorly--either consciously or not. We all know them because we usually pick up their slack. My advice is to not engage in a healing/teaching relationship with them--or else, you will spend the bulk of your time suffering in silence or talking about them and their latest shenanigans, rather than all the wonderful stories of students/clients you certainly have.
Most healers are empathic. We need to be. It is not harsh to be aware, realistic and straightforward. It is not unfriendly to set strict days/hours, it is not uncaring to release a student/client who you are not in sync with. It is not selfish to charge a reasonable fee that considers your time (all of it--even that hidden in billing, buying, prep work...), supplies and level of training. Instead, doing those things takes care of your needs as a person and an herbalist, the needs of your family....and those of most of your clients. It will keep you going for along time, with a great attitude. What about those who you must turn away? Sometimes, they will be able to see the problem and learn/grow. Others will move on to the next practioner until they find one they can guilt or are as dysfunctional as they.......Don't be that herbalist!!
If you value your work, yourself and your students/clients enough to be good to yourself, you will then have the time, means and desire to do some regular Pro Bono work for those that really need it and are able to truly appreciate and benefit.