Last year, Austin Plunkett qualified as an osteopath, flush with success after five years of study. Now all he needs to do is to figure out how to set up a business, and make a living, from his newfound qualification.
His first degree was in history of art, and “the internet happened when I was at university.” He tinkered around with some programming in his spare time and found himself a career in web design.
“I was working in IT, at a desk job, and at the end of the day I felt like I was 70 and not 30. I went to a chiropractor, a physio, and finally an osteopath for lower back pain, and I was impressed by the osteopath.”
“On the plinth one day, we were chatting away, and I was discussing how disillusioned I had become with my career. She said, well, you could do this. And I thought yeah. I could.”
I wanted to do something that could make a difference to people's lives
He realised osteopathy ticked a lot of the boxes he was looking for. “I’d realised that people are more important than money, for instance. And being in control of my own time is more important than a pay rise.”
“And I realised that for me, for my sanity, I wanted something where I could get up out of a chair. And be on my feet, talking to people. And I didn’t want to work for someone else. I wanted to make my own way in the world, to do something that would make a difference to people’s lives.”
He had considered working as a musician, or an artist, but he knew that those are crowded markets, where you have to be really gifted and very lucky to make money. He wanted to do something vocational, and had thought about physiotherapy.
While he was studying he broke away from employment to be a freelance management consultant “really for cash reasons, I thought I could make a bit more money, which was vital to fund my education.”
It kind of turned out that way except that during the economic crash, “the accountant I was with ditched a lot of their small fry clients, which included me. “I was scooped up by another accounting firm, and the first thing they said to me was of course, you realise you haven’t paid any corporation tax? Which I hadn’t realised at all!”
“So I got stung with a tax bill that I wasn’t expecting at all,” during the last two years as a full time student.
I always wanted to set up my own practice
During his osteopathy training Austin realised he had “no idea really of how osteopaths operated. A lot of my fellow students graduated and said, bugger, I’ve got no idea what to do!”
To help get to grips with all the practicalities he’s facing, Austin’s set up a support group for his fellow graduates. They’re meeting to tackle questions like “How do you advertise? How do you find a decent accountant?” Also, I think, to share the fellow feeling of all standing at the foot of the big mountain of building up their own businesses.
“The typical career path for someone graduating as an osteopath is to go and work for somebody else. But I always wanted to set up my own practice. Now I’m on the threshold of doing that, and starting to work with people in pain and help them achieve their goals.”
“That takes time, energy and money, and obviously at the moment I feel like I’m spreading myself pretty thin. But the enthusiasm and sharing of our osteopathic support group recharges my batteries.”
I went along to the first meeting of Austin’s support group for osteopaths, and it was a pleasure to see all those faces glowing with the joy of osteopathy. And to see everyone pooling their knowledge about how to market themselves, and what the heck to do about taxes and self employment.
Getting started is tough to do.