This post was contributed by
Martine Brousse, AdvimedPro
a mentor for those who are building an advocacy practice.
Welcome to our growing circle of advocates!
You have learned from APHA and other mentors how to set your business and get started.
So let me ask you. Why did you choose this rewarding but challenging profession? What do you have to offer? What are your expectations?
1. Know your niche
Too often, new or prospective advocates ask me: “How quickly can I learn medical billing?”
While I always welcome the opportunity to educate, this tells me that the person has little clue or limited experience of the vastly complex world of billing and insurance. I end up asking why choose this advocacy specialty, which requires a substantial commitment before achieving some level of competence?
Instead why not offer clients the invaluable expertise you have already gained, skills honed in your professional or personal life, passion in your belly or a solid foundation to build on?
From this question, a retired accountant decided he’d excel at account management and keeping track of bills. A Pilates instructor realized she’d much prefer teaching the exercises she adapted for herself after her mastectomy to other women. Both had a solid client base.
If you are determined to learn a new set of skills, do invest time and effort. Your mentor can help refine your knowledge, building on your existing talents while developing new strengths.
2. Commit wisely
What are your goals, expectations, level of commitment? However tempted you are to accept every job, can you deliver the expected quality of work? Would hours of research be required to learn how to do the project? How many hours can you dedicate to clients every week?
Reevaluate as you go, especially cases you find unsatisfying or too challenging. Maximizing your time, resources, and efforts should be ongoing. Remember: running a business takes time too! Analyze metrics to determine whether to adjust your rates, find cheaper suppliers or farm out some tasks.
Using appropriate software, databases, and documents will make your business bloom. Explore websites, trade journals, blogs, podcasts dedicated to your niche. Community colleges offer many low cost classes. Connect with other advocates for support, advice, educational or referral opportunities.
Networking is great for advertising too. Some clients come my way through random meetings. Use every opportunity to hand a business card or talk about what you do. The more enthusiastic you are, the more memorable!
4. Advocate for yourself
Advocacy can be draining, clients anxious and needy. Being friendly and emotionally supportive is as essential as sticking to the work order. But I have learned the hard way that boundaries are a must, to be established early.
I rarely take calls on the weekend, nor reply to emails. But my response is immediate Monday through Friday. Beware of promising exact timelines or guaranteeing specific outcomes; meeting or exceeding realistic expectations will yield better rewards to your business and sanity.
Include fun and rest on your schedule. A 15-min walk or tea break do wonders when stress gets to me. Vent to your peers or support system when times are tougher. As you tell your clients: “you are not alone!”
I have been at this a few years now. A hard decision was to ignore the need to take on every case, based on financial anxiety. I now trust my intuition, turning down questionable clients or uncertain projects. “Better” clients give better referrals too! I do give free advice to patients with DIY issues, in exchange for recommendations.
Your peace of mind should extend to your work. What you do should bring satisfaction and fuel your passion. For how can burned-out, discontent or drained advocates be and give their best?