You’re going to have to grow a thicker skin. I have always had a tendency to care a lot about what people think about me. I always wanted everyone to like me. Starting a business and putting yourself out there means that there are going to be some haters. I wasn’t quite ready for that. To be honest, this is still a work in progress for me.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meredith Futernick. Meredith is a Psychotherapist, Yoga Instructor, Self-Care Coach, and the Founder of LGBTQCouplesTherapy.com. Her private practice is 100% remote, providing accessibility and convenience to the couples and singles that she works with. As of late, she has also been helping other Therapists with their own self-care.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Meredith! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Growing up was pretty tumultuous for me. I remember never feeling like I fit in anywhere, and just being in this constant state of pain and anger. I ended up finding friends who were using drugs and alcohol, and found myself getting in quite a bit of trouble throughout middle school.
But the thing was, I was so drawn to other people who were also in pain. I loved being the person that people trusted and spilled all of their deep dark secrets to. I loved getting to know people and empathizing with their pain. It has always been important to me that people know that I really see them- not their past experiences, not the wrongs they’ve done- but who they truly are underneath it all.
I started practicing yoga in high school, and though I didn’t know it at the time, this would later become my most reliable coping skill. Up until that point, I had never learned coping skills or ways to express my emotions in a healthy way.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
By 2011 I had really begun to turn my life around; committing to a healthier lifestyle. I had gone back to school and graduated in 2016 with a Masters degree in mental health counseling. I went to Thailand for six weeks that year. I studied yoga on an ashram and became a yoga teacher. When I really committed to a meditation practice and gave myself the opportunity to get quiet for long periods of time, that provided me with enough insight to realize what I really wanted out of life. I can say with confidence that all of my “a-ha” moments have come to me during meditation.
At that time I was working at a job that was becoming something that was not in alignment with my values. I was being asked to do things that I felt were unethical, and I felt stuck because I was worried that I would get fired if I didn’t do them. I hated the feeling of living out of alignment with my values and would end my day with a feeling of guilt and a knot in my stomach. I didn’t turn my life around to keep feeling this!
Once I came back from Thailand, I decided to leave my job and start my own business. I knew that being a therapist and teaching yoga were two things that had to be a part of it, but at the time I did not know what it was going to look like.
And it has really transformed over time. And it continues to transform. Now, I have an online private practice and I can teach meditation and yoga to my clients as a part of their own self-care.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I made a lot of mistakes. In the beginning, I tried to do everything myself. I was too proud to ask for help. But, I was really doing myself a disservice because there are so many people who have done this before me (who actually know what they are doing!).
Once I put down my ego and picked up the phone… that was when I really started to thrive. There are so many resources out there; from accountants to business coaches to other business owners. And, honestly, just running things by my friends and family who I know would give me honest feedback. That really helped me to get a better idea of what people are actually looking for.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
I think that it’s really important to evaluate what is important to you and decide whether or not “that thing” that you absolutely love is something that you want to do for a living. Lay out your values. Write down what your life looks like now and what you want it to look like. Would making your hobby into a career mean that you are aligning your life with your values?
If the answer is yes and you’re still feeling reluctant, it might be time to take a look at what is stopping you. Fear can certainly get the best of us, and sometimes the only way to work through fear is to take a risk. And at the end of the day, if things don’t work out you can always go back to doing something else.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I am definitely one of those people who becomes bored pretty quickly, so keeping what I do for a living fresh and enjoyable is super important to me. When I start to get that feeling that my daily routine is becoming tedious or mundane, I take action and learn something new. I love learning different techniques and about how to best serve different populations.
So in order to keep it fresh, I will start offering a new service or working with a different population. I am constantly adding things that feel exciting and letting go of things that no longer serve me.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
What I enjoy most about running my own business is the freedom that it has provided me. I can create my schedule around the things I like to do for self-care, like yoga and hiking. I can travel anywhere and still work, since my private practice is completely online. This has made a huge difference in my quality-of-life.
The downside is that when I do take a day off, I don’t get paid. So there are definitely times when I choose to work during a vacation or on a holiday. I have really been working on my work-life balance, in this respect. This can be difficult sometimes because I really enjoy what I do for work. But I have to keep my personal life and my family life a priority and be present for the people that I love.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
In my mind, I was starting this business and people would just naturally know how awesome I am. Well, that wasn’t the case. When you are trained as a therapist, you learn pretty much nothing about marketing. And I didn’t know the first thing about marketing. Actually, it made me think of the sleazy sales person and I didn’t want anything to do with that.
What I have learned is that getting my name out there and creating content is the only way for people to know that what I have to offer is awesome! It’s what I spend about 50% of my time doing now. And it is actually fun! It’s not sleazy at all because I approach it in an authentic way.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
For sure. There are honestly still times when I think that. Even though I don’t consider myself to be lazy, there are times when it just feels like so much work and maybe it would be nice to just have a regular routine and be told what to do every day.
I think at times we all tend to get that “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. It helps me to put things into perspective; to remember my “why”, and know that by continuing to do what I do, I am able to make the most impact and feel the most satisfied with my professional and personal life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake that I made when I was first starting out was advertising on craigslist. I can’t even tell you how many phone calls I would get from people truly believing that what I was really offering was some sort of sex work. I kept looking back at my website, thinking “what is it on here that is making people think that this whole therapy thing is a front for something else?” Finally, I put two and two together and took down the craigslist advertisement. And sure enough, those phone calls stopped.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Wow, there have been so many people who have inspired me throughout my life and throughout my career to be a great leader. From teachers, to supervisors, to other business owners. Also, as corny as this may sound, my mom has been such an inspiration to me. She has been a math teacher for over 30 years, and has helped so many people with her leadership style. It has always been more important to her to teach important life lessons through her curriculum then to just cram the information into her students’ heads. That’s how I strive to be. A teacher of life.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I would like to think that I am doing my part to make the world a better place. For as much work as I do and get paid for, is as much work as I do that I don’t get paid for. I host 2 Facebook groups “Yoga & Recovery” and “The Self Care Spot For Therapists” in which I offer support and tips to two communities that are really important to me.
I also don’t want to take away from how the paid work that I do makes the world a better place. I am able to work with clients who live in parts of the country where being “out“ as an LGBTQ+ person is not safe by offering therapy online. I am also able to offer services to people who are not able to leave their home for a number of reasons (immobility, agoraphobia, etc), or who are intimidated by seeing a therapist in person. This is one of my favorite things about what I do. Being able to offer services to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- I wish someone would have told me that it is OK to fail. The first time that I tried to launch a group and it totally bombed, I was devastated. Up until that point, most of what I had done had flowed with ease. Looking back, I learned so much from those moments.
- You’re going to have to grow a thicker skin. I have always had a tendency to care a lot about what people think about me. I always wanted everyone to like me. Starting a business and putting yourself out there means that there are going to be some haters. I wasn’t quite ready for that. To be honest, this is still a work in progress for me.
- No matter what, don’t give up. That may mean having to find some contracted work while building up the business. It may mean having to build it while working a part-time or full-time job. Having to do any of those things does not make you a failure. In fact, I still do some contracted work to supplement my income.
- It’s OK to have fun and not take everything so seriously. Sometimes, I can get so wrapped up in the deadlines and to-do lists that I end up exhausted by the end of the day. Of course, we need to have some level of seriousness to make a business thrive, but it’s also OK to take a break and have some fun. Actually, it’s critical.
- Be ready for the ride of your life. There’s going to be ups and downs. The ups can feel really good and the downs can feel really low. I am learning to do my best to stay somewhere in the middle through the highs and lows. To let go of expectations and judgments, and appreciate the moments when I feel unstoppable.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Inclusivity within the LGBTQ+ community is a movement that I am very passionate about. I notice how much discrimination there is even WITHIN the community. This confuses and upsets me deeply, especially since we already face enough discrimination from outside of the community. Regardless of sexual identity or gender identity, we all just want to feel safe and validated. As members of the community, we have an obligation to each other to practice inclusivity and acceptance. It doesn’t make any sense to ignite more anger and hate when there is already enough of that coming from outside of the community.
I have received some pushback for saying that I work with all LGBTQ+ people, and the point that I’m really trying to get across is inclusivity. No matter who you are or how you identify, you are safe with me.
A 2nd movement that is really important to me is self-care for therapists. We work really hard for our education, for our license, and for our career. A lot of us find it difficult to take the time for self-care, even though we can teach it to our clients all day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My “Life Lesson Quote” is: “The moment you have the motivation — take action.” I can’t even tell you how many times I have thought my way out of a great idea. I have let fear get in the way many times. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of criticism. The list can go on and on. So now, when I have an idea, I act on it ASAP. Sometimes the idea works and sometimes it fails. It’s all part of the learning experience.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If I could choose anyone in the world, I would have to say the Dalai Lama. He might not be the first person you think about when you think about business (and I’m not quite so sure that he’ll see this- but you never know!). I choose him because he is the epitome of mindfulness and I truly believe that all of my success has been a result of my mindfulness practice.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.