If you’re considering setting up your own private practice its critical to get advice from people that have “walked the walk” i.e. people that have been there, seen it and done it.
Avoid business gurus or consultants that aren’t or haven’t started up and run their own practice.
Ask tons of questions and try to get as comfortable as you can about what the road ahead might look like – warts and all.
To get you started we chatted with independent fertility nurse consultant Kate Davies from Your Fertility Journey and discussed her experience of starting up and growing a successful private practice from scratch.
It’s a fascinating read and we’re super grateful that Kate took the time to share her experience with us. Here’s what we covered:
- What helped her take the leap into private practice
- What strategies she used to get her business off the ground
- How finding her “ideal client” changed the game
- How she overcame the barrier of visibility to grow a profitable business
- Why it’s so important to become an authority figure in your space
- How to transition from client work to becoming the leader of your business
Hey Kate! I figured we could start off with a quick introduction into who you are, what you do, what kind of services you offer and the business that you’ve grown so that readers can get a better idea of you.
Absolutely. So my background is I’m a nurse consultant and I worked in the UK’s NHS for over 20 years. I’ve always worked in women’s health, as that’s been my area of interest and passion, specialising in gynaecology, contraceptive sexual health and fertility.
Eight years ago, I decided through various personal reasons, to leave the NHS and set up in private practice. It was quite hard leaving the NHS behind as it was all I knew, but I knew it was going to be right for me and my family.
My business model for Your Fertility Journey is that we support women and couples who are trying to conceive, at any point in their fertility journey. We often have people coming to us who perhaps have just started trying to conceive and want some advice, or they might have been trying to conceive for six months, 12 months or many years. They may be going through IVF or considering donor conception. Or they may be looking for resolution at the end of an unsuccessful fertility journey. My inspiration for developing my private practice is that I felt that there was a gap in provision and women and couples were not provided with the right information at the right time to help them move forward on their fertility journey.
When my business first started I would never have envisaged that it would look like it looks now. I have a team of nurses and a large admin support team because I very quickly realized that as a clinician, I couldn’t do all the things and that I needed people with those specific skills to do. I’ve just recently taken on a young person, as part of the Government’s Kickstart campaign as my personal assistant and my content creator. I’m developing her skills as well as her helping me develop the business. So that’s really rewarding.
As well as directly consulting patients via video, I have a website shop and I’m also the co-host of The Fertility Podcast. This podcast started seven years ago and I joined my co-host Natalie over 2 years ago. I also have another arm of my business, where I work with corporate organizations such as banks and law firms to help them provide fertility wellbeing as part of their wellbeing programmes. I’m also currently training to be a yoga teacher and hope to offer fertility yoga in the future. I’m not sure where I find all the time!
That’s amazing! When you think back to the time when you said you were working for the NHS but then you took the leap into private practice, how did you arrive at that decision? What influenced you at the time?
I decided that I wanted to do it for personal reasons. With my husband’s job, we were relocating every 1-2 years, so I needed to find something with flexibility that worked for me and my family. However, the motivation also came from when I was young, my father was self-employed. I saw what he was doing and that he had his own business and I felt inspired by that.
But the decision to take the leap into private practice was not done lightly. It actually took me a number of months to do it. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out what a nurse consultant would look like, working privately. It was quite unheard of in the UK then, and even still now, it’s not something that’s commonplace. So it was a really brave step. I remember I had developed my website and sat at my desk with my finger over the button to make it go live and I just couldn’t press it! I was absolutely terrified because I felt that the minute that I did that, then suddenly I was going to be visible to the whole world. Of course, when I got up the nerve to press “Go”, nothing happened. I wasn’t suddenly visible to the world, there was a lot of work to come to reach that. Now looking back, I wonder “Why did I waste my energy worrying about that?”
I think a lot of people are just as afraid as you probably were and they tell themselves things like “I’m just going to wait until X happens and then I’ll be ready” or “I’ll wait until I have 10 years experience”. Back when you decided to hit that publish button, was there anything in particular that made you feel like you were ready or did you just do it despite all the fears?
I felt so driven to be my own boss and wanted my own practice, that nothing was going to stop me other than my fear. And that’s what I had to get over initially. It was only me standing in my own way.
Right. I feel like that’s always such a sobering but powerful realization to have – if I want to do this, I can do it. It just comes down to jumping over your own shadow, doing it regardless of your fears and then the sky’s the limit at that point.
Coming back to one thing you briefly touched on – you said that in the beginning, starting your own business was quite difficult and it didn’t just happen overnight. After you first hit publish on the website and there was no one there to notice, what were the initial strategies that you used to get your business out there?
After I published my website and nothing happened, I realized that I had to understand marketing. I taught myself as much about marketing as I possibly could. I immersed myself in marketing and I got support from as many different avenues, mostly, at that time, online courses or programs. Things that I just thought would help me, simple things like identifying my ideal customer. So I knew where to go and find her or him. Investing time to understand marketing was key for my business.
I also started off utilizing social media. At that time it was mainly Facebook. Looking back now, Facebook, whilst it was great to develop a tribe or community, didn’t really translate for customers or patients for me. Instagram is definitely where my ideal customer or my ideal client is. For me, that has been the biggest game changer for my business.
So certainly, I would say learning about marketing and social media is the first step. I’m lucky in that I’ve rarely paid for any advertising. Being visible is what has made the difference for me.
I can imagine that a lot of people may be wondering how you narrowed down your ideal client profile and where they “hang out”. I find that so many private practitioners are focused on wanting to help everyone, that the idea of focusing on one group of people and “excluding” others feels pretty unnatural to them. What did that process look like for you?
Looking at my ideal client profile for reproductive health is quite easy because there’s a finite time when a woman is trying to conceive. I think what I realized quite early on is women in their twenties probably aren’t necessarily going to seek my help. It was more women in their thirties and early forties. I then had to determine where do these women sit? What are they going to be using? What are their interests? Where would I find them?
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. When you think back to that time when you were just starting, what kind of barriers do you feel like you faced? What did you struggle with the most in the beginning?
I think the biggest barrier for me, without a doubt, was visibility. And that’s because, as I mentioned, private fertility nurse consultants are less of the norm. So people didn’t know that my service existed, they didn’t know that I was there. And until they realize that you’re there, they don’t realize that they need you. So in the beginning, it was really just trying to break down those barriers. And visibility was definitely the biggest barrier in that regard.
And how did I get around that? I felt that in order to gain visibility for me, I needed to show credibility and expertise because women and men need to trust their clinician. They need to know that I’m not just somebody who’s walked off the street to talk about fertility. That I’m actually somebody with the clinical experience and the research based knowledge.I really pride myself and the business on that. Quality and evidence-based care is our main priority and runs through every aspect of the business. So it was crucial to be visible and show that credibility.
I was also really putting myself out there as much as I possibly could, being interviewed on different podcasts, speaking events etc. Really just upping my profile so that I could be seen as a credible practitioner. All the various things that I’ve done, being active on social media and being the co-host on the fertility podcast has definitely helped me overcome any issues with visibility.
I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there who are also trying to overcome that exact visibility barrier but who are hesitant to put themselves out there, to move into that public figure role and make themselves vulnerable to the public. Do you have any tips or advice on what helped you overcome that fear (if you experienced it) and helped you to take that step into becoming an authority figure in your space?
I know initially, I felt really scared about that, especially because I felt that I was going to be judged by my peers, particularly my peers within the NHS. Were they going to criticize me for becoming a private practitioner as opposed to working in the NHS? So I really do appreciate that fear. But I think how I’ve got over it is knowing that I’m the expert in my topic. I could talk about fertility until the cows come home. I could stand on a soapbox and talk about it all day. I love it. I’m passionate about it. And I think knowing that and feeling confident in my knowledge is how I’ve overcome that fear.
Okay, great. So we’re at the point where you’ve started getting the word out and started overcoming the initial barriers that we talked about. How did you approach the next phase? What steps did you then take to continue growing your business from there?
I think I realized quite early on that I needed to grow the business further and I had other interests. I did a lot of research into supplements and chose supplements that have the research to support their use for the website shop.
Last year I started working with a corporate coach because I wanted to understand corporate organisations. Through working with my corporate coach, I’ve learned a lot about lead generation and how to hold a call with a corporation that will hopefully have a successful outcome. Over the last year, I’ve worked with a number of top UK and international banks and law firms, supporting them with fertility wellbeing as part of their company wellbeing programs.
Part of this work is supporting line managers, to help them understand fertility in the workplace and support their employees to aid retention and productivity and profitability.
One of my nurses is a menopause specialist, so we’re also doing some work around menopause in the workplace as well.
When you have ideas for these new avenues to go down, whether it’s an online shop, a podcast or adding corporate consultancy, how do you decide what to do and whether it’s worth your time? We all only have a limited amount of time available to us every day so how do you assess whether something makes it to your list of projects?
That’s a really good question. In the last few years, I’ve been approached by various different individuals with ideas of initiatives they would like me to collaborate on. Over time I’ve developed a bit of a gut feeling. I know whether or not something is actually going to be worthwhile doing. And that’s probably because I made some mistakes in the past and said yes too many times! I’ve gotten better at listening to my gut and have realised that if something doesn’t excite me or I don’t have the passion for it then it’s not right for my business.
Great, I think that’s really good advice! When you think about the future of your business, what do you envision? Do you map out specific steps or make plans on what you want to achieve?
When my business was in the really early days and it wasn’t doing brilliantly well, I remember my husband (who is my biggest supporter) saying to me in the nicest way “Kate, how long is this hobby going to go on for?”. And I said to him “Just give me another few months and I think I can make this into something, but please just give me that” Luckily short after that things started turning around.
And I mentioned at the very beginning about my dad and his business. Many years ago, about a year before he died, we were talking about his business and he said “Whatever happens, Kate, even on the hardest days, never ever give up”. And that has resonated with me all the way through and still now, even on the hardest days, I will not give up. I know there will still be hard days but luckily a lot less now!
So one tip of advice would be, when you feel like everything is against you just keep going. Don’t ever give up.
With regards to what I see for the future now? Eventually, to develop the business further, I would need to step back from patient consulting and increase my team of nurses to allow for this. That will be hard as I love it so much and I fear watering down the high standards I have. However, I know this is just a fear of the unknown and it is possible to maintain the standards I have for the care my business delivers. I will be very much looking at developing the corporate side more and my team of nurses will be helping with the delivery of the corporate side as well.
Another possible development of the business is that I consider an investor. This fills me with fear but it’s just another business challenge to overcome.
Lastly, if there is anything else that you feel like sharing, any thoughts, any recommendations, any resources to help people grow their business, please do!
I think my biggest tip is for clinicians to learn marketing because we’re not taught marketing at nursing or medical school or invest in someone to do it for you. Where I started was with Claire Mitchell’s online marketing program and also the Female Entrepreneur Association. More recently, investing in a corporate coach has been vital for my business.
That was our conversation with the amazing Kate Davies. Kate is an independent fertility nurse consultant and worked for over 20 years in the UK’s National Health Service as a specialist nurse in Gynaecology, sexual and contraceptive health and fertility. Today, she is the founder and director of Your Fertility Journey, an independent clinic supporting women and couples across the UK via online video consultations. If you want to learn more, you can find out more about her and her work at https://yourfertilityjourney.com.