It’s the classic version of the American dream – to be your own boss, have unlimited earning potential, and set your goals according to your own dreams and values. For those nurses who aspire to autonomy, entrepreneurship may be the ultimate non-traditional nursing role.
The single most important step toward becoming an entrepreneur is arguably to find a niche.
Is there something you’re passionate or particularly knowledgeable about? Then perhaps you can offer specialized services, launch a custom product, or consult in an area that you excel at – provided there’s a market for what you want to do, and it’s not already saturated.
For example, oncology nurse Alicia Sable-Hunt founded Sable’s Foods, after observing that cancer patients need nourishing, easy-to-eat, and flavorful foods during their treatment period. Cardiovascular nurse David Martin founded VeinInnovations, a widely recognized leader in the office-based treatment of varicose and spider veins. And RN Marijke Vroomen Durning created her company, Med Health Writer, to provide quality medical and health writing, editing, and proofreading to a wide variety of healthcare-related organizations. Many other nurses have succeeded as business owners or consultants in the areas of home care, case management, medical billing and coding, legal consulting, patient advocacy, end-of-life planning, educational seminars, and more.
So what does it take to be a nurse entrepreneur?
There is no simple formula that everyone can follow, but a lot of it comes down to personality traits. In general, entrepreneurs are comfortable with uncertainty and able to take the risks associated with leaving a traditional nursing job to strike out on their own. It takes both time and money to start a business and it’s often not a smooth road to success. Many outside factors can affect a business, including new technology, general healthcare trends, shifting consumer preferences, and regulatory or policy changes. This means you’ll have to be adaptable and able to think on your feet. You may have to solve problems on the fly or learn new skills.
Enthusiasm, passion, and the ability to act with conviction are also key to entrepreneurship. These all contribute to your capacity to offer excellent customer service, so your customers will return to you and refer you to others. Are you comfortable with networking? You’ll need this skill in order to market yourself effectively. Marketing is not just about paying to advertise; it’s about being visible in all the right places, which might include the web, trade shows, professional associations, community health fairs, etc.
And then there’s the issue of money. When you’re self-employed, you don’t get paid for every hour of your workday. Small business experts often advise that for every billable hour you log, you’ll spend another 40 to 60 minutes on paperwork, accounting, marketing, etc. Also, your income may be less than it was at a traditional nursing job right at first, and it’s likely to fluctuate while you’re getting established. You may have expenses that you didn’t have previously, like buying your own health insurance – or start-up costs, like a logo, business cards, and accounting software. It’s no wonder that many entrepreneurs start their businesses on the side, while continuing to work part- or full-time for a traditional employer.
Once your business starts to grow, you may end up working long hours. If you choose to hire others, you’ll have to train and manage your new employees, and decide what you can safely delegate. There are also payroll functions to manage or outsource, including tax withholdings and issues regarding employee health insurance.
If all of this sounds exciting to you, rather than overwhelming or unmanageable, you may be a budding entrepreneur. The following resources may be helpful as you weigh your options or jump into starting a business:
- Nurse Entrepreneurs: Tales of Nurses in Business
- National Nurses in Business Association
- American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- Small Business Administration
And of course, it’s always a good idea to empower yourself with knowledge through education. American Sentinel’s online MBA Healthcare degree is focused on the fundamentals of business, as they apply to the healthcare sector.