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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Striking Out On My Own in Health IT Marketing/PR

September 12, 2020 What I Wish I'd Known Before 2 Comments

I wish I had started freelancing sooner, especially in healthcare. It is so rewarding working in a field where the products or services you’re marketing can make a positive impact on someone’s health.

Don’t! The debacle of health insurance makes this an exercise in major frustration and heartache and massive risk. You can buy “insurance,” but since its not really insurance but rather a Costco membership to buy (maybe) at lower cost, you are left holding the bag and it just takes once medical issue and you are f$%#ed. Thinking about getting LTD insurance – good luck since you can only get coverage for whatever your current income is, and as you strike out, that will be low and maybe non-existent, so your previously viable LTD is nigh on useless Getting back in likely proves even harder once you discover your mistake. Suck it up and accept the crappy work environment and be grateful you have health insurance.

I started my own healthcare IT-specific product marketing business eight years ago, after 25 years in corporate product marketing in healthcare. Here is what I have learned:

  • Building a business takes three times longer than one expects.
  • In general, people have their own concept of product marketing, which (incorrectly) tends to revolve around advertising and sales sheet creation.
  • Everybody thinks they’re a marketer!
  • Business leaders don’t understand that marketing efforts take 6-10 months to have an impact. They expect an immediate impact on their sales.
  • Most healthcare IT business leaders are technical and believe that marketing is unnecessary. They frequently believe “if I build it, they will come,” which is never true.
  • Many healthcare IT business leaders under estimate the importance of collaborative reference sites and their role in marketing.

I did the solo thing for 20-plus years and it was great, yet came with a lot of headaches. Before leaving your current job, I have the following suggestions:

  • Assess your core competencies, focus on what you do best, then identify companies that need your services.
  • Survey colleagues to determine the fees you will charge. Simultaneously, create an initial business plan outlining how many hours you have to bill per month to pay yourself and pay for your business expenses (don’t forget to calculate taxes).
  • Line up a client or two and have them sign a simple contract committing to a minimum monthly fee for your services. Sample contracts are online for free or a minimal fee. Then, quit your current job.
  • At minimum, set up a sole proprietorship with your state. Preferably, set up an LLC or S corp to get some legal protection. All of this can be done online without paying someone to do it for you.
  • Set up company bank account. If you have some cash, you can self fund yourself for a while and place it into the account (essentially making a personal loan to your new business). The account will add accountability and tracking for your business expenses, which are deductible.
  • Determine office needs — what you have, what you need to purchase, including computers, phones, software, internet access, etc.
  • Set up website (free or low cost), and create your social media presence.
  • If you’ll need health insurance, get quotes to determine premium costs.
  • Evaluate other types of insurance you’ll need, e.g., workers comp, home office insurance policy rider, liability, errors and omissions, etc. Many large companies require contractors to have a $1 million liability policy and $1 million errors and omissions policy.
  • Consult with a CPA to learn what is deductible and how often you’ll have to file taxes (usually quarterly, at first), and what software they’ll want you to use to track everything (QuickBooks, Peachtree, etc.).

Most importantly, ask yourself: Will all of this be fun, or an even larger hassle than your current job? And, will you have a security net for situations when clients pay slowly or not at all?

I didn’t have all of these items in place when I quit my job and went solo, and things still worked out for me. I had a wonderful experience, and wouldn’t trade it for anything. After two decades of running a business, I decided that I wanted something different and took on a role at an amazing company. No regrets so far.

Lastly, Google is your friend. Search for lists and tutorials on starting your own business. Literally everything you need to know is out there if you search for it.

I wish you the best!

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Back in 2018 I did a webinar for HISTalk titled” So You Want to be a Consultant”
    It covers many of the do’s and don’ts. It was targeted more on the IT discipline but was generic enough to apply to all disciplines.

    I think it is out on youtube, not sure, if not I can send the slides if anyone has an interest and I’d be happy to present it again if there is an interest.

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