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How to Successfully Transition from a Mill Job to Wellness Entrepreneurship

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Today, we’re going to talk about a controversial topic, mill clinics, because they’re out there. And I bet a lot of us have worked for them at some time. In fact, you might be there right now and you feel stuck because you feel that you need to stay there because it’s a job. It’s reliable work. You’re paying down debt from your certification, from your degree.

And I know I’ve been there. I’ve been in mill jobs as a massage therapist. I’ve been overworked in yoga studios, paid very little. I’ve been in physical therapy mill jobs. There’s a ton of mill-type situations where you feel like a commodity as a wellness practitioner. You feel replaceable at any time that your body is just out there to perform a certain duty. And if your body breaks down, then you can be replaced by someone else. And it’s all for the bottom line of those clinic owners or that corporation.

Now, I’ve been in rooms in masterminds of some of these owners and I talk about their therapist and the bottom line and productivity time and that sort of thing. And as an entrepreneur, I definitely think there’s a balance. I think there’s a balance of making sure that your staff is productive and at the time realizing that they do have a human body and working within their means and their capabilities.

But today, specifically, we’re going to talk about mill jobs from your perspective and why you should start saving now to leave your mill job.

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What is a Mill Job?

So first, let’s classify a mill job. A mill job is a scenario where you’re doing a service back to back and you’re paid very little.

So for example, I’ve been in massage clinics that are “mills” where it’s back-to-back massages on the hour or on 50 minutes even. And I don’t have enough time to go to the bathroom. I don’t have enough time to drink water. The front desk doesn’t know the difference between a 60-minute massage and a 90-minute massages and books you or me. I’ve been in this scenario for 90-minute massages back to back to back. No time to use the bathroom. No time to drink water. No time to take a lunch break. That is four and a half hours of straight work, which is inhumane, right? 

And I think wherever I was, I forget what state I was in because I moved around so much, probably against labor laws. But the front desk doesn’t understand the difference between a 60-minute massage, a deep tissue massage, a Swedish massage and back and neck massage, all the different things. And they just schedule you back to back to back and you’re supposed to perform it. That is an example of a mill-type scenario.

Another one, physical therapy clinic. I’ve been in a physical therapy clinic where I’ve seen over 20 patients in one eight-hour or 10-hour days. Sometimes I did work 10-hour shifts. But the point is I was highly discouraged to go in the closed door to do manual work. I was supposed to do my manual workout in the open gym with loud clanging weights, booming music, lots and lots of people around and with someone with migraines, for example, or neck pain that’s very sensitive. And we couldn’t have intimate conversations.

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People didn’t feel safe, their nervous systems were on high alert. How am I supposed to work on someone’s neck when they can’t relax? Those treatment rooms were supposed to be used for special cases only. And they would phrase it in these nice ways that were like supposed to be, political, I guess. Like, yes, you can use them if you really need to. But try to do your manual therapy out in the open gym. Save them for the evaluation.

So essentially these poor patients would come in for evaluations and experience that closed-door situation.  Never to go back in there again, unless I brought them back in and then I would usually get sternly talked to afterwards because that affects my productivity. Because if I’m in a closed-door doing this manual work, I can’t be giving exercises to three people at the same time.

Now, I understand the situation that that clinic was in because they were taking low-paying insurance. And yes, that was a benefit to the community because now these people were able to get care using their insurance.  However, as a practitioner, it was really tough. So it’s just a situation of our society right now. And personally, I felt that I could better serve people when I was able to treat the way I really envisioned and help people that maybe were under financial needs in different ways with free resources, which I give out a ton of free resources now, like this very blog right here.

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So there’s still ways to give back to your community, even though you might be cash pay or charging high ticket wellness prices. But back then I was shy. I was introverted and I didn’t know how to stick up for myself. So I just closed my mouth and did my work.

How I Stopped Working The Mill Job Scenario

Until one day I just there started to breakdown and I was disillusioned. I guess you could say by what was going on. I started to feel very, very burnout. I would get home and I wouldn’t even be able to talk to my newly wed husband because my jaw would hurt so much from talking to so many people throughout the day trying to scream over clanging weights and loud music and direct three, four people on different exercises all at the same time. They had proper body mechanics and alignment so they wouldn’t make their back injury worse. It was a mess.

And I really wanted to use my massage skills. And I knew from working as a massage therapist for almost a decade before going to physical therapy school, how much easier the healing and the work could be done when the nervous system was taken into account. Now this was almost, oh gosh, 15 years ago or so. And so there wasn’t all the hype around the nervous system as there is now. But I just understood the importance of that. But yoga, the nervous system, energetics, that was all like two out there esoteric type work not to be brought into the physical therapy clinic, which is, whatever. It is what it is.

So when I worked for my mentor, that was a better situation. I could treat one person for a full hour. It wasn’t forced to see many people all at the same time. I could have more control over my schedule where I could dictate how many people I saw in a day, in a week. I could bring in more of my manual skills. I could utilize yoga techniques. I really loved that for a good number of years.

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But then it got to a point where, again, I started to feel replaceable and in a mill-type scenario where I had to show up and deliver this and get paid $40 an hour, which is, again, I come from a privileged place of having access to all of this. But I still had over six figures of student loan debt. And so a lot of my paychecks didn’t cover that debt. So I always felt like I was in hustle mode trying to take on as many patients as I could, work with as many people as I could so I could try to pay down this debt and take the burden off my newly started family with my husband and soon to be we wanted kids.

I thought that’s how it was done. That was the safe way to do it. You go to school, you get your doctorate, and you get a good-paying job. And I thought I was doing better than when I was a massage therapist because when I was a massage therapist, I was working weekends and evenings because that’s when people wanted massages outside their jobs. So at least when I was a physical therapist, I still worked somewhat into the evening, sometimes six to seven, but I was not working weekends anymore.

So that was one thing until I started working for my mentor and I wanted to go to all the yoga teacher trainings.  So I went to all the yoga teacher trainings and started assisting in her workshops. And then eventually that opened the door for when I did have my business thinking that I had to work weekends and lead my own teacher trainings on weekends.

But here’s the truth. I became an entrepreneur because I was let go of. Eventually I wasn’t a good fit for that company anymore. There were shifts in that company. I was disgruntled because I felt replaceable. I felt I was starting to get burnt out again doing eight sessions a day. And again, I didn’t have to schedule those, but I did want to so I could pay down debt for my husband and I to try to be able to afford a house here in Southern California. But I was unhappy. And so I was let go of.

And it was during that time I did reflect and realize that I had a vision of how I wanted my clinic. I wanted it more not like the traditional physical therapy clinic at all. I wanted it more like a massage relaxing place where people could heal and feel safe and work on their whole body holistically and bring in the yoga, all the eight limbs of yoga, the mind, body, sera and all of that. I just wanted to finally do that myself.  And during that time of being let go of, even though I had no savings, I did decide to go off and do my own business.

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The Importance of Saving Money Before Leaving The Mill Job Scenario

Now, if I could go back and do it again, I would have saved. So if you’re considering leaving your job, if you are in a mill situation, my first recommendation is to start saving. The more you save, the less hustle you’ll have to do in your own business. If you can save half a year’s salary and work part-time, if you can save a full year’s salary so you could potentially not make a cent in your business for a full year but still have the funds to pay your personal expenses and invest in things like business coaching so you can actually start hitting higher revenue months faster, then that’s what I would recommend.

But I didn’t have that, so I got into the hustling and working a lot of seven days a week and long hours. Plus,  that’s how I thought entrepreneurship was. That is why I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur.

Investigating The Thoughts You Have About Entrepreneurship

So you might have similar beliefs like, “Oh, I’m going to overwork if I’m going to be an entrepreneur. There’s no guarantee that I’ll make it. I don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Only a few people are successful and make the revenue that they want as an entrepreneur,”  you might want to investigate all the thoughts you have about entrepreneurship. For me personally, a lot of my beliefs before becoming an entrepreneur, they were wrong. My parents overworked as entrepreneurs, but that’s what they did back then. It was a hustle culture and it’s different now. And a lot of people are successful as entrepreneurs.

When you know how to work your finances, when you’re aware of your mindset blocks, when you have strategy in place for savings and finances and profit, then many entrepreneurs, wellness entrepreneurs specifically, can do very, very well.

Some Factors You Need To Consider when you’re in a Mill Job/Scenario

And in some instances, having your own business is actually safer than having a job. So let’s go over some of that because if you’re in that mill scenario, maybe you’re in a hospital and you’re having to lift a lot of patients or patients that are obese or you’re having to do a lot of transfers, you can injure yourself.  You might be feeling lack of energy and tired all the time because you’re overworked. You’re not treating the way you want to. You feel manipulated.

I remember when I got married at that mill physical therapy job, I asked for a week off and a day for my honeymoon. I don’t think that’s too unreasonable and it was approved.  However, after it was approved, I remember being in the office and one of the old owners of the business gave me a guilt trip. They said, Oh, you don’t want to take that Monday off and make so-and-so work more because they have to absorb your schedule.  You should come back to work that day.”And I’m like, are you effing kidding me? It’s my honeymoon. No. I finally learned how to stand up for myself a little bit at the end.

But I just never, I remember just feeling so manipulated. It felt so yucky. And maybe that’s happening to you. You’re having a crappy schedule. I worked a crappy schedule because the old seasoned practitioners got the first choice in their schedule. So I didn’t have the schedule that I really, really liked. I saw back-to-back people. Sometimes I treated two, three, four. I remember looking around the room and counting the people. I had five people. I was treating all at the same time.

And I was replaceable. If I got injured, if I got sick, if I wasn’t able to work, they would just hire another therapist.  And I remember one whole paycheck didn’t even cover my student loan payment. It took almost a paycheck and a half to cover my student loan payment, which meant that so much little left to actually live on with a doctorate in a physical therapy salary. That just blows my mind. That’s just not right.

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The Flip Side Of Being an Entrepreneur

So let’s look at the flip side as an entrepreneur. Now I’m making way more money than I ever could have made as a physical therapist, whether I was working in that scenario or any other physical therapy job. I’ve never heard of someone making what I’m making even in director positions, but working less than 30 hours a week.  My husband and I were able to purchase a home here in Southern California and we built so much equity to our home that that was able to pay off my student loans.

And yes, because I didn’t save for my entrepreneurship experience, some months were tight, especially when I was going through my cancer diagnosis and surgeries and healing from all of that. Some months were tight and it did put a strain on my husband and I’s relationship. I want to be honest about that and transparent about that, but we worked it through. I learned how to fix my schedule so I wasn’t overworking as much. I learned how to sell high-ticket offers, which I teach my people. I learned a lead generation process that was reliable. Again, that is what I teach my clients as well. And I was able to create a six-figure plus business. That gives me so much time freedom.

And when I was the wellness entrepreneur having a six-figure plus business, I was able to schedule the way I wanted. I set my treatment room up the way I wanted. I tried to give it a relaxing vibe. I’m not the best decorator, but I did try to give it a relaxing vibe and feel and people would tell me they felt like they were walking into a spa. I treated the way I wanted to treat. I went home when I wanted to go home. I took vacation when I wanted to take vacation. I really enjoyed that experience. And then when I started learning about the online world, I realized I could bring in online programs and that way if I ever needed a new surgery or my body couldn’t perform body work the way I wanted or be a physical therapist, then I have the option of bringing in online programs.

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So now I help my brick-and-mortar and wellness entrepreneurs with in-person services develop their own online programs, so their business is de-risked, I guess you could say. And also it gives them more time freedom and location freedom where they can work anywhere that they want.

So as an entrepreneur, there is just so much freedom and flexibility, the limit is your imagination. I mean, I’m working from a she-shed. How many entrepreneurs have you heard working from a she-shed? Probably not many. I really haven’t seen or heard of too many others,  but it came from my mind and I made it work. And not to mention, it’s all not for me that I feel like I help my clients best.

I help my clients best when I am doing the treatments the way I really imagine because they are getting served through the utilization of all my certifications, not just to fit a corporate mold. They’re getting treated the way that their body, their nervous system really needs at a certain time.

In my business coaching side, I always feel that the more energy I have, the more freedom I have in my own schedule, the better I serve my clients. And the more business coaching clients I work with, the better I get. So it becomes positive momentum cycle.

I’ve also evolved so much as a human being. Like I’m still shy. There’s still some essences of me where I will stay on the quieter side. I will love to replenish and heal through just alone time. Before, I was a people pleaser. I never stood up for myself. I was afraid to speak up or of confrontations. And now I still want to do right by people, but I do withhold my own boundaries. It’s not at the cost of my own health or my energy. And I’m more aware of what I hold sacred and I respect that. I realize that I’m not replaceable. No one can replace exactly what I do. And I don’t have to be manipulated. In fact, I don’t even deserve to be manipulated. No one does.

And I’m not oscillating be talking my husband’s ear off one day because I was in the cave. I called it the cave because there was no windows where I worked as a massage therapist. Where I was in the cave giving massages all day and I was silent because I was giving massages. Most people don’t want to talk during them too. So then I would come home and talk his ear off because I had to like just talk to not talking to him at all because then I was a physical therapist treating three to five people all at the same time and yelling over the noise that my jaw hurt at the end of the day. So I wouldn’t talk to him at all. And he never knew what side of the coin I was going to come home with.

I leave my day feeling fulfilled. I still talk all day,  which is funny, right? I talk most of my day to my business coaching clients but I feel fulfilled. I feel energized at the end of my day. I look back and I think that I did a good day’s work. It doesn’t feel too much. I feel I know this word is elusive but I do feel balanced. I feel like I put in a lot of good effort when I show up to my desk and I work and then I end my day before my gas tank is depleted if that makes sense. So I still have energy for home. I have energy for my daughter. I have energy to care for our five rescue pets. 

How Did I Get To the Level Where I am Today

So what about for you? Where can you grow? I got there through coaching. Coaching on mindset beliefs and work.

I also did a lot of somatic and yoga therapy processing as well, releasing old patterns, whether they were from me or past lineages. I’ve done a lot of work to get here but entrepreneurship opened my eyes to this work.  Maybe I would have gotten into this work if I hadn’t done entrepreneurship but it would have been at a slower pace and I am so grateful for being the person I am today.

Conclusion

So who do you want to be? How do you want to show up in the world? How do you want to care for your people and treat and work with your wellness clients? Are you able to do that in your current job or are you in a mill situation? What happens if your body breaks down? What happens if you go snowboarding and break your wrist? And yes, some days are tough as entrepreneurs. There is no guarantee but there’s no guarantee in a job either. They can terminate your position at any time. They could say, “Oh, finances are lean. We have to let a therapist go.”

No job is completely secure. What happens if you don’t get raises but inflation dramatically increases? Then you don’t have control over your finances the way that you really think you do. When you know how to sign clients and bring in reliable leads and convert those leads into high-ticket wellness clients, you will know how to care for yourself and build your business always. It’s a skill that can never be taken away.

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And no one is born straight out of the womb with all the entrepreneur skills. Some of us, yes, have some privileged areas where we get a head start more than others, that is for sure. But everyone has the ability to be an entrepreneur. And I see some people grow faster than me and I’m okay with that because this is my journey.  I’m going at my pace. And I know that even though they might be faster than me now, they’re gonna hit their growth edges at some point. And I did a lot of healing work through my 20s, through my 30s and into my 40s that at some point, I might surpass them when they get stuck because I have decades of healing work and maybe not. And that’s okay too. I’m going at my own pace and I love the pace that I’m going. 

My husband turns 50 this year and we get to celebrate his birthday twice. We’re going to Maui next week,  actually. And in July, we’re taking a camping trip. I wouldn’t take that back for the world. If I was working for my mill physical therapy clinic, that would have been my vacation for my whole entire year. If I was working for my boss, I could have taken off more time, but I would lose that pay completely. My business is set up to help absorb that. I’m able to plan ahead and I am able to take vacation without worry. 

So here’s the thing too, I recommend build up your savings, but also don’t try to race out of your job thinking that the grass is gonna be greener and everything’s gonna be magically fixed when you start your job. The more you clean up energetically and emotionally in your mind, in your job, the easier your business will be.

So the more you repair the relationship with a boss, like for me, for example, I should have learned how to communicate better with my bosses instead of being fearful of communication and being so introverted and shy. I didn’t say what I really needed and maybe got passive aggressive or showed up weird as an employee or not the best employee. If I had repaired that relationship when I was in a job,  it could have made entrepreneurship a little bit easier where I would have been more confident right out the gate

So work on what you can work on in your job so you leave your job feeling sufficient. You leave your job feeling complete that it’s just time to move forward onto this new path. Not that you have to race out of your job. And yes, that is hard in a mill position where you are working with a lot of patients or clients back to back to back.  However, the more that you can realize that this is a learning experience, take from that. I mean, that is the upside of working with a lot of people is that you’re gonna get a ton of experience. 

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So imagine like, okay, if I were to be a wellness practitioner on my own where I would combine somatics and coaching and mindset and physical movement, start practicing that now in those positions as much as possible.  Yes, the sessions aren’t gonna be exactly how you would imagine it if you’re on your own, but you can do a few minutes here, a few minutes there. So you’re testing your processes. So then when you go out as an entrepreneur, you’ll feel more confident in them. You’ll have stories to back up your proven systems.

Start to dream of what you really want and just take your time to get there. This will allow you to work your ideal schedule right out the gate without having to hustle like I did working seven days a week, evenings and weekends, or feeling pressured to say yes to everything because you wanna make sure you can succeed and pay the bills. Again, build savings. Can’t say it enough. Build savings.

Notice where your limiting beliefs are and your mindset blocks are in your day-to-day, in your job, because they’ll still show up in entrepreneurship. But again, if you can heal and repair them now with a paycheck, go hire a coach. It will make the path of growing your own business so much easier, because think about marketing.  You will need to market in some way, whether it’s in-person in networking events or leading your own workshops or social media, you will have to show up in some ways and that requires courage because you will be visible.

Now, there are ways to market where you don’t have to show your face. So if it’s a schedule thing, then work on your schedule now. I can’t tell you the number of entrepreneurs to be I talked to, they say, “Oh, I’ll start marketing when I leave my job.” If you’re not marketing with your job, most likely you’re not gonna market consistently when you don’t have your job because more time does not always mean that you’re gonna fill those hours with activities that you don’t necessarily really like marketing. It means that you’ll probably fill them doing other things and continue to prioritize other things over those activities like marketing.

So if you learn how to fit them into your calendar now with the job, you’ll get into the pattern of doing it when you’re an entrepreneur and that, again, will increase your likelihood of faster success. So yes, some days are tough. You will work through growth edges. You will experience ups and downs as an entrepreneur but I 100% would never go back to a mill type situation whether it be massage or driving all around town, teaching yoga classes at studios or a physical therapy clinic where I’m working with a lot of patients  instead of having my own business and going through those growth edges here. I am so grateful.

If you want my help making your leave the mill job plan then just reach out to me. That’s what I’m here for.  Alrighty, enjoy dreaming!

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Author

Alison McLean

"I help the Entrepreneur reduce stress and live a more fulfilled and balanced life."
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