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Veterinary experience help to forge a new career path

dvm360dvm360 December 2023
Volume 54
Issue 12
Pages: 14

Animal health professionals can put their skills to work and earn income with an online business

Jirapong / stock.adobe.com

Jirapong / stock.adobe.com

When I qualified as a veterinarian in 2001, I thought I would always work in a consulting capacity. I knew there were other ways in which we could use our veterinary degrees, but going into industry, government work, research, or lab work just did not appeal to me.

Now more than 2 decades later, I no longer practice as a veterinarian. Yet, I still use my degree every day and I still help people and animals, but in a slightly different way. I operate a couple of thriving veterinary-related online businesses.

I remember the day I made the decision to switch focus from practice to entrepreneurship. I came home late one evening to find my baby asleep—again. For 3 days straight I had not seen her awake. Something had to change. But how?

I had wanted to be a veterinarian my whole life. The thought of giving up on this dream was shattering. Being a stay-at-home mother was not an option for me. I had to find something that would generate an income—preferably the same as that of my practice.

As it turned out, the businesses I now run allow me to stay at home, and I generate more income than I ever did as a practicing veterinarian. They use the same knowledge and passion, but with a different focus.

I already had begun dabbling in some side hustles. I ran an online shop, created my own product range, and consulted for an herbal pet company. All these little extra sources of income were great and helped to sustain me during my second pregnancy. But I needed to create a more sustainable income—something with more longevity that gave me the freedom to work flexible hours from home and to travel and work at the same time. As a family, we love to travel, so this was important to me.

I started to think, “Am I longing for the impossible here?” This dream job sounded too good to exist, let alone be true for me.

The germ of an idea

The idea for one of my online businesses came while I was helping clients who lived 3 hours away with some therapeutic exercises for their dog with arthritis. I filmed the exercises and sent a video explaining what they should be doing and why.

I realized that many people needed veterinary rehabilitation help yet lived far from veterinary rehabilitation therapists. I started to reach them online. Over 10 months, I created my first online course and my 12-week strengthening program, and went on to create 2 more courses—a massage course for pet owners and a 7-minute doggy workout.

Fast-forward 9 years and I now have multiple successful online businesses, all generating a semipassive income. I work about 20 hours a week from home, and only in ways that suit my family.

Let us talk about this term passive income before I explain the steps I took and the steps you could take if you are wanting to start an online business. There are few truly passive income sources. Passive means not doing anything. This is not the case when you own an online business.

Yes, you do a lot of the work up front, and if you set up your business correctly, it can run on autopilot with a small amount of marketing. But you still need to market the business, maintain online connections, and update your product offering from time to time. So forget about sitting back drinking piña coladas on the beach all day as the money rolls in. There is work—but not too much of it.

Getting started

Honestly, the best way to start anything new is to learn from those who have done something similar. Why make your own mistakes? This article will help you learn from mine.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do anything. The right way to set up an online business is to create automatic systems that utilize technology, so that emails get sent without your involvement, clients can easily access your digital products, and payments happen automatically.

What are you good at?

If you are serious about starting an online business, start by considering what you are good at. We all have something we are especially good at—something colleagues frequently ask us to help with. There are problems out there that you have the skills to solve.

Often, we are not aware that we have these skills. It is only when we sit down and think about it, or ask friends and family, that we realize the thing that comes so easily to us is not so easy for everyone. Notice that it is not only about what you love—it is what you are good at. We often hear the words, “Follow your passion.” I think there is a sweet spot between what we are passionate about and what we are most qualified to help people with.

Identify a problem

Once you have an idea of your particular knowledge or skill, consider the problems people have. Like all businesses, a successful online business solves people’s problems. If you can solve someone’s problem, they will pay you for it. The amount they are prepared to pay is directly proportional to the amount they need it, or the extent of the problem.

Ideally, find that convergence of your knowledge/skill and people’s problems. Then find a way to package your unique skill as a solution to their problem. Right there you have a foundation for your business.

It took me a couple of years to streamline my businesses, learning the hard way what worked and did not work. I learned, for instance, that you cannot launch a product if you do not have a following. Building the relationships comes first; selling the product comes later. It is far easier to sell something to people who have come to know and trust you over time than to launch a product cold.

The following are my lessons learned the hard way, condensed into 10 points as follows:

1. Choose a profitable, successful niche.

2. Build an audience and a following.

3. Create a road map for solving their problem—a plan that takes them from A (where they are now) to B (their transformation, with their problem solved).

4. Share free content, help people, be genuinely interested in them. Sign them up to your email list. Chat to them on social media.

5. Create your first paid digital product such as a course, an e-book, or a video. This should be a low-ticket offer, solving one problem.

6. Create your second paid product, a higher-ticket offer, solving the next problem.

7. Market and sell your products, growing your audience and nurturing them with weekly emails and social media posts.

8. Collaborate with other professionals via joint ventures and a referral program.

9. Create more products and keep solving problems.

10. Impact people and animals (depending on your niche) all over the world.

What not to do

My mistake was creating my product first. I advise choosing your niche first, then building a relationship with people online, then creating your product. This way, you know the people for whom you are creating your product, and can refine it based on their real needs. This is far better than making assumptions about their problems and creating a product you think will help them.

Even better, ask your audience to validate your product idea. Present the kernel of your idea in an appealing way and get feedback. That way, you already have people interested who will probably give a return on your investment when you launch.

I even have people paying me for courses before I have created them. If enough people pay for a course, my idea is validated and I have a basis on which to develop the course. I send them weekly surveys asking what their struggles are and use their answers to create the course content.

Another mistake I made was not automating. In the early days, I had 3 courses and 3 different e-books, and I was exhausted trying to market them all. In the week I marketed one, I would get some sales, but other product sales would drop.

Now, using my road map, I create the right products in the right order and can automate the sales and marketing. All I need to do is market 1 thing: the free content. It is much easier to give something away than to sell something. Once clients have signed up for the free content, the automations kick in—emails that do the selling for me. Paid orders follow the free content without my having to do a thing. This part really is passive.

Your road map is your plan for success. It shows the most logical order of steps to help someone get from A to B. It also helps you decide what content to create and in what order, and what constitutes free, low-ticket, and high-ticket offerings. You need a combination of all 3 for a well-functioning online business.

Start low-key anytime

Starting an online business does not need to be a full-time job straightaway. You can quite easily start as a side hustle and build from there. Why not give it a go? The financial investment is minimal. All you need are workable ideas, a little tech know-how (most of which you can learn while doing), and a good internet connection.

If you are interested in participating in our online community, join the Veterinary Professionals Making Money Online Facebook group.

Megan Kelly, DVM, has been a veterinarian for 19 years. After completing a postgraduate certificate in veterinary rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, she opened her own practice, Holisticvet, in Diep River, Cape Town, South Africa. In 2014, just before the birth of her second child, she decided to take a sabbatical from practicing veterinary medicine and has since been swept up into the online world of veterinary education.

She owns and runs Onlinepethealth, an international continuing education site for veterinary rehabilitation therapists. Every day she pushes the boundaries on what is considered the norm for professional education, creating, innovating, and providing solutions and outstanding customer experiences through webinars and online conferences for veterinarians and veterinary rehabilitation therapists.

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