Freedom, Flexibility, and Other Twisted Notions about Self-Employment

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When I decided for the first time in the 1980s to go into business for myself, my father thought I was crazy. “Why would you want to work 12 hours a day for yourself when you can work 8 hours a day for somebody else?” he asked.

“Because they are the 12 hours I choose, Dad!  I might work 12 hours today, but I can work just 4 tomorrow, or even take the day off… my choice! And – I get to do what *I* want to do.”

My response was intended to help Dad better understand the flexibility of being self-employed.

But he didn’t really get it. Not then anyway. And, it turns out, neither did I.

To many people, it seems like the working-person’s nirvana: the notion that when you are self-employed, you work for yourself, call all your own shots, and can be as flexible as you want to be. No boss to lord over you or to require you do things you would rather not do. No having to call in sick if you don’t feel well enough to work. No co-workers who drive you nuts. No having to work with nasty people. No having to justify knocking off early one day, or taking a long weekend – or not even working at all.

Freedom… flexibility…. the ultimate way to make a living!

But the truth is – that flexibility is often a crock. It’s a figment of the soon-to-be self-employed person’s imagination.

Turns out – Dad was at least partially right. Today I’ll share with you some important distinctions that neither of us realized then, but have become so very apparent since.

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Independent Advocacy’s Three-Legged Stool of Success

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In response to one of the most frequently asked questions I get as the director of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates – I might be providing an answer you don’t expect.

That’s OK! Because if you don’t expect it, then you may hear it even more clearly than you otherwise would. And that can only be good.

I hear the basic questions in a number of formats:

  • Do I need to get a degree or certificate to be a patient advocate?  Followed by, “what degree” or “what courses do I need to take?”
  • Do I need to be certified to be a patient advocate?  or   Do I need a license to be a patient advocate?
  • I already have a degree in ______  (healthcare management, or nursing, or other system-related credentials) – so do I need to study anything else?

The answer that may surprise you is this:

You aren’t asking the right questions.

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Powerful, Useful, and Beneficial — From HBO’s Vice Media: Patient Advocates Can Save Your Money and Your Life

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In April of this year, patient advocates convened in San Diego for the APHA Summits to mix and mingle, learn, and talk shop…

Joining us was the video crew from HBO’s Vice News, led by producer Amanda Pisetzner – a delightful group of young people, with so much talent and enthusiasm, asking great questions…

They worked in the background during our networking event, and separately they met with two of our advocates, AnnMarie McIlwain, and Karen Vogel, as they conducted their important work. The crew even met with client-patients who AnnMarie and Karen found were willing to discuss their own situations and results…

Bottom line – the most powerful public video we’ve seen, creating a very clear picture of the benefits of independent advocacy and why everyone needs an advocate.

We have arrived! (Note: if you attended the San Diego Summits – you might be in the video!)

I invite you to watch it – and then I’ll share a few steps you can take, too, not just to help boost your own practice, but perhaps to find yourself the featured advocate in a future media activity.

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Help Us Assess the LoveFest!

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Once upon a time, the word “advocate” was contentious: doctors didn’t want us in the room, nurses didn’t want us next to a hospital bed, and health insurers thought we patient advocates were nothing but troublemakers.

But in recent years there seems to have been a major shift in attitudes. I’m hoping you can help us assess that.

This point came up in several recent conversations with people who have been doing advocacy work for many years; who have been able to observe attitudes for quite awhile, and who tell me they have seen this shift with their own eyes.

The shift?  From wary standoffishness – to a lovefest! 

As follows:

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To Gain a New Client, You’ll Have to Break 2 Bad Habits

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The phone rings. It’s a new, potential client calling. You answer, “This is Joan Advocate. May I help you?”

The client, Juanita, is relieved to hear your friendly voice. She launches into her story about the doctor not listening to her, and that she can’t fill her prescription because it’s too expensive. Then she asks if you can help her.

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