For Aromatherapy Practitioners

Personal Loss and Your Aromatherapy Business: What to Do When You Need a Break

As aromatherapy and healing arts practitioners, we need to take exquisite care of ourselves so that we can be present to our clients and customers.  When crisis, serious illness, or loss affects us, sometimes we need to step away from our businesses. 

In this season of acute and chronic loss, you are not alone. I’m feeling it with you, so I wanted to share what works for me. I’m a list maker, so this post includes both the “outward facing” items we need to take care of so we can tend to the inner landscape, and a few tips there too, all specific to our work as aromatherapy practitioners or businesses. It also includes one of my favorite blends to honor the fragility of grief. 

Outward facing things to do

This is your “business checklist.” 

  1. Sometimes you can give a few days’ advance notice that you’ll be away from your business, and sometimes you can’t. If you can, keep the announcement short and sweet. “Starting DATE, I/we will be temporarily closed until DATE. All services will be rescheduled and you will hear from me personally.”
  2. Block off as much time as you need in your online scheduling system. Make sure nobody can schedule an appointment with you. If you’re okay seeing a few people, limit your availability. But make sure it feels right. 
  3. While you’re in your calendar, cancel any existing appointments and reach out personally. Write an email that you can copy/paste, customizing each client’s name and other details. Keep it simple, clear, and kind. 
  4. Make a list of specific clients or customers that require a more detailed response (example: big wholesale client, large consulting project). 
  5. Set up an email autoresponder. Keep it simple. Tell people when they can expect to hear back from you. “Hello, thanks for your email. I’m out of the office until DATE, at which point I’ll start responding on a first-in, first-out basis. I look forward to reconnecting with you, and thanks for your patience.”   
  6. Change your outgoing voicemail message. As with email, let people know when they can expect to hear back from you. Save your original message to restore later, or at least type it and save in a “business scripts” document.
  7. If you own an online store, put an announcement on the top of your shop pages (most online store apps, or places like Etsy, make this easy). “We’re away until DATE, and we will start shipping orders on DATE. Sign up for our mailing list to get notified when we reopen. We appreciate your business!” 
  8. Send a brief message to your email list letting them know you’ll be away, when you’ll be back, and any information that would affect your relationship with them (shipping delays, etc.).  
  9. On social media, reschedule some of your most popular posts to fill in the time gap.  Even the biggest companies reuse their content. This is less urgent, but it can help you feel like things are still moving.  
  10. Create an “unplugging plan.”  When will you mute your phone or other notifications?  When will you handle emergency calls? 
  11. Make sure your materials are stored properly. If you’re going to be out of your workspace, cap everything tightly, clearly label any works in progress, refrigerate delicate ingredients, tidy up, lock up. You want to come back to a clean space and not the clutter associated with the pain of loss – it can be a trigger.

How much should you share?

This is such a personal decision. It depends on your personality or brand and your relationship with your clients. I’ve seen deeply poignant and inspirational messages, and I’ve also seen (not to be indelicate but!) overshare that didn’t go very well. Some people feel best sharing nothing, and that’s okay too, as long as you don’t leave your clients wondering. As you decide, some things to think about:

  • Step into your client’s shoes. How would you feel reading what you’re about to share?
  • Deep down inside, if you share a lot of detail, what are you hoping for in response? (This could be a sign that you need a stronger personal support system away from your clients.)
  • Do you sound desperate or worried that you’ll lose business?  
  • If you undershare, do you sound cagey or frosty? 
  • If you share a lot and get an outpouring of supportive emails, will that be too much for you to deal with?  (that’s okay – grief and loss are complicated and draining)

I tend to err on the side of caution and “warmly undershare,” knowing I can always say more when things are less raw. If you’re not sure, write a draft, set it aside, and come back to it later or show it to a colleague. 

Taking care of yourself

  • Who is your support system? Reach out. No guilt. Fill yourself up with people who help you feel safe, solid, and cherished. Everyone else can wait. Ask for specific support – errands, food runs, phone calls, video chats – this makes it so much easier. 
  • Are your basic needs met? How will you most easily nourish your body with delicious food? Will you drink plenty of water? Move your body and your voice? Rest? Stare off into space (this is part of the process)?  Be in nature?
  • What else do you need in your cocoon? Blend for yourself if it supports you. If that’s too much, spend time with one essential oil – follow what you’re called to. Create others’ blends. I have found that a blend or a single oil can be a talisman along the journey, and the talisman may need to change partway through. It’s also okay to take time away from your oils, and it doesn’t make you a bad aromatherapist. 
  • Don’t worry if you wake up one day and randomly decide you hate your business. Grief has a way of stealing our clarity, and you may not “know what you want anymore” for a while. Don’t act on it right now. Journal or record your feelings for later.
  • Resist the urge to burn it all down. Related to my previous point. Keep everything that feels stable in your personal life. Many years ago during a crisis, I completely reinvented my life, even tossing all the things that worked – professionally and personally. Right now you need all the certainty you can get, even if it isn’t your favorite certainty.
  • Do you struggle with self-care? Many caregivers do. Jennifer Louden, one of my favorite authors, has written two books full of gentle, easy, “real” ideas to help you through: “Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life” and “Woman’s Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self –In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend” (I get no affiliate earnings, I simply love her work)
  • Release fear or guilt about earning less or letting people down. This is the time to fill yourself back up so you CAN be of service. You’re modeling self-care, which is one of the most important things we are here to teach. 
  • Get professional help if you need it. In any form you need – holistic, energetic, allopathic.

When I’m experiencing loss, I am often drawn to a single essential oil, even if it doesn’t make sense. I journal my experiences as I work with it: imaginal experiences, visceral responses, words, stories, memories. It’s a freeform process, judging nothing, excluding nothing. I always find insight and healing, and the teachings stay with me and carry over to my clients and teaching work. They will find their way to this blog and beyond, in due course.   

If you need a blend

This is one of my favorites for grief. Blend for the medium that serves you best – anointing oil, diffuser, linen spray, or footbath are some of my favorites. 

When you come back to work

Restore your usual voicemail message and write a new script to use as you reach back out to people. Pace yourself. Notice what feels good about your business, write that down, and find a way to do more of it. Give yourself time to ease back in before returning to full time, if you can.

Take extra notes on your work tasks; stress and grief make us forgetful. You probably will accomplish about half of what you expect to in twice the time…totally normal. I find it helpful to schedule in specific rest and healing activities. These are my commitments to myself, as Client #1. This might also be a time to say a little more about what has happened and where things are at now. Your clients and customers are your community, and now more than ever, we need each other. 

A final bit of advice, via Twitter (good advice can come from anywhere), and thank you to Steph Lagana for finding this:

I hope this helps you as we all move through this together. If you have additional tips, or something resonates here, please share in the comments – this is our community space. 

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Custom aromatherapy labels
For Aromatherapy Practitioners

Labels for Custom Aromatherapy Products: Know Your Options

Your custom aromatherapy product labels communicate a lot about your business and your professionalism. Personalized, attractive labels and packaging help your clients feel special and help you feel more confident, especially when your clients show off their blends to friends or via social media – a great way to get referrals!

And yet, aromatherapy practitioners face special challenges when it comes to labeling products. Each custom product requires its own unique label, and we often need to create more than one blend or product type for each client consultation. 

Any products we sell, even one-off custom formulations, require compliant labeling in the United States as per the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act. Often our client is present while we’re putting together our products, and it’s easy to feel rushed!

Over the years I’ve found several ways to create attractive and functional labels, balancing cost with convenience and features. Here’s a general survey of different methods, pros and cons, and resources/suppliers, organized roughly by cost. 

Thermal label printers 

My favorite solution for one-off labels for aromatherapy consultations. I’ve used mine for many years with excellent results. The photo below is a recent example.

Custom aromatherapy labels
Custom aromatherapy labels using a thermal printer. They can be surprisingly beautiful!

Pros: Complete control over each design. Easy to print one label at a time. No toner needed. Most come with their own user-friendly design software. Thermal printers cut each label to the exact desired size, so there’s no need to keep several label sizes on hand. Well suited for typical aromatherapy applications (inhalers, roller balls, cream/salve jars).

Cons: Slight learning curve, but doable! Limited sizes and shapes (no circular labels). Print output is grayscale, but can be beautiful with colorful packaging or natural packaging for a minimal look. I recommend gloss label stock to prevent fading or grease/water stains. The lettering can fade, but typically thermal labels last a few months. If you hire a graphic designer, they won’t design for thermal printers, but you can replicate the design yourself. 

Brands to consider: Brother printers such as model QL-810W (I own a QL-710W), Dymo

Laser printer and die-cut labels 

This is often the most familiar solution, and it gives you a lot of flexibility with some tradeoffs. 

Pros: Many shapes, sizes, and materials available. Easy to buy in small quantities. Some label brands offer their own software that allows you to design and print one label at a time – be sure when you buy. It’s easy to transition to retail product labels. Or, you can design labels with your primary logo and contact information, and handwrite the rest of your required info for each blend. 

Cons: Requires a little patience. Must be fed into your printer one sheet at a time, and you must make sure you’re printing in the correct place on the sheet. Plain paper labels are not grease- or waterproof, but polyester labels work well. Sometimes there are alignment issues leading to misprints. In short, it can take a little fiddling that can feel stressful if a client is waiting.

Suppliers: Online Labels (including their Maestro label creator), Avery, Planet Label, many more. 

Pre-printed roll labels 

These are generally printed with your logo, basic business and contact information, with room for handwritten info. Be clear on what you’ll need to write and how much room you’ll need. Typically this includes client name, date, product name, product weight, and ingredients. 

Pros: Many options for size, shape, and color. Easy to grab during a consultation. Many different finish choices, gloss or matte. Can produce an attractive apothecary or naturopathic style label. No need to use label software once your labels have been designed.

Cons: Handwriting may be difficult to read and can take up a lot of room. You’ll need to keep different sizes on hand for different products, so the cost can add up. Some printing companies have high minimum quantities. You’ll need to design labels yourself with your own software to meet their specs, or hire a designer. It can be challenging to comply with labeling guidelines. 

Suppliers to consider: Vistaprint, Richmark, Lightning Labels, many more

Primera label printers 

The most upscale, professional option for printing single labels or short label runs.

Pros: Excellent quality, professional appearance. Can print one label at a time or multiple labels. Ideal if you’re moving toward a retail product line with professionally designed labels and want to print small label runs in-house. In my retail business, I found this to be far more cost effective than having labels professionally printed. 

Cons: Expensive. Need to change label stock if a different size is required. Waterproof labels work best. You’ll need your own design software. 

Purchase at: Primera website

Tips to get started

  • Start with what you have. If you have a laser printer, start with die-cut labels. Choose the simplest solution that will meet your needs and keep your costs down.
  • Measure your packaging. A sewing-style tape measure works best as you can wrap it around your containers. Make a list of the label sizes you’ll need. You’ll be able to use one label size for a few different products. Create as much overlap as possible so that you have fewer labels and templates to juggle.
  • Reflect on your business identity. Are you comfortable with a minimal, apothecary-style aesthetic? If so, a thermal printer will work well for you. If you’re developing a retail product line, I strongly recommend a color labeling solution or at least a laser printer.
  • Invest a day to design all of your labels. Make sure they represent a cohesive aesthetic. Apply them to your packaging as a test, and see how they look together. 
  • If you’re design challenged, hire a designer – I guarantee it’s worth it!  You can browse Etsy for aromatherapy label templates, but be sure that what you buy is compliant with labeling guidelines.
  • Keep your label design files organized. I have a folder for my templates, and a separate folder for each client’s labels. Create a file naming system that is easy to understand. 
  • Practice. Time yourself opening a label template, saving a copy, filling it out, printing it, and applying it to a product. This helps you know how much time to allow during a consultation, or how much time to figure in to your overhead, particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic while we’re doing mostly virtual consulting

Regarding labeling guidelines

  • If your label gets cumbersome with a long list of essential oils, it is acceptable to list “fragrance” on the label and provide a separate handout with a detailed list of the essential oils in your blend. As Marie Gale points out, this is meant more as a marketing tool than a substitute for a full detailed cosmetic label, but it’s a helpful way to educate your customers about their blends.
  • Follow proper formatting guidelines for cosmetic labeling in the United States, even when hand writing labels. Marie Gale’s book “Soap & Cosmetic Labeling” is a must-have. Her website is a fantastic resource as well. 
  • This blog post doesn’t cover labeling guidelines in depth, such as avoiding drug claims (direct or implied), so make sure you’re compliant in that regard. Marie’s book (above) will help. 

What labeling solution has worked best for you, and what tips would you want to share with your fellow practitioners? What are your next steps for your own labels? Let me know in the comments!

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For Aromatherapy Practitioners

Contemplation: Essential oils for “Breathing”

This week I created a blend called “Breathe Joy” for a special person who is a huge source of inspiration in my life. And as most things do, it got me thinking.  

Blending is a contemplative practice for me, and the word “breathe” is a pretty intense one. Interestingly, the medical term for inhaling is “inspiration.”  (More on this later.)

As a former American Sign Language interpreter, I enjoy reflecting on how a sign interacts with the conventional meaning of the English equivalent, how I feel signing it in various contexts, and the personal insights this offers. It’s a mind-body practice. In ASL, “breathe” looks like this:  

Take a moment and try for yourself. Get inside the experience. Sign YOUR breathing: this is the basic movement, but play with the pace, size, and flow until it fits your body and emotions. Notice how you feel. How are YOU making the sign, and what’s behind it? Peace? Release? Panic? What’s your facial expression? What does that tell you? It can help to journal on these ideas. 

There’s a lot here. 

Now, think about a client who emphatically pleads to anyone who will hear: “I. just. need. to. breathe.”

Sometimes breathing is about respiratory congestion. Sometimes it’s about emotional suffocation. Sometimes it’s a tool for meditative practice. Sometimes it’s simply a pleasure, and sometimes we forget we’re even doing it. But breathing is critical to our survival and “thrival” on all levels, and what we need to breathe in each circumstance (and beyond) can be shockingly different.

Do you see just how much that can influence the emotional landscape of a blend?

We often turn to leaf or needle oils, both from a chemistry and an energetic perspective. They’re expansive, often mucolytic or anti-inflammatory, green, herbal… it makes sense, but it can be a default setting.

To illustrate: what if your client tells you, “I need to feel grounded before I can breathe.”  

Aha!  

So when you’re blending for a client…  

Ask. Dig deeper. 

For instance, “what’s under that need?”  

Or you can offer prompts, and you can explore the emotional tempo, the visceral feelings/need, a color, a feeling inside OR outside their body and personal space, and so on. Some ideas: 

  • “How does it feel in your body when you just need to breathe?” (look for emotion words and physical sensations)
  • “What kind of help do you need to get there?”  (some people don’t know, some do)
  • “Do you need to feel more grounded?” (what oils ground them?) 
  • “Do you need more room to breathe?”  (this is more expansive, yes?)
  • “Do you need things to slow down a bit?” (how do essential oils relate to time? oooh!)

Such a HUGE difference this can make in our approach. Do you see it?

So, what about “Breathe Joy”?  Well, if you ask me and my view of the person I held in my heart… that’s the key to this interpretation. I did indeed use a leaf oil, but one that I find very heart centered – Geranium, and maybe that’s because of its rosy aroma? Some things don’t need to be figured out, just felt. Exquisite floral Neroli settles us within the heart for grounding, peace, and spiritual inspiration. (See? There are many layers to grounding, and there’s our “inspiration.”) Grapefruit is the outbreath in this blend – returning to the world with a full heart, nourishing the things we’ve set in motion, infusing them with joy. And we can of course visit the d-limonene, linalool, citronellol, and geraniol to honor the way in which chemistry and energetics are often just different sides of the same coin.  

I’d love to know how this impacts your next blend for a client or yourself, or perhaps your experiences as you sign “Breathe” and what oils that calls to mind for you. What needs come up, and how do you honor them aromatically? Please share in the comments. 

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For Aromatherapy Practitioners

Aromatherapy Consulting in the Era of Social Distancing

Virtual aromatherapy consulting is often considered less than ideal, as ours is a deeply personal practice. However, in these exceptional times, fears around the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the stresses of social distancing, and financial insecurity, aromatherapists have an unprecedented opportunity to support our communities, and we need to be flexible. 

For these reasons, I do feel that distance aromatherapy consults are an excellent support option right now, if done mindfully. In my work educating aromatherapists across the country, I have seen some truly inspired action. 

Here are some tips for professional qualified/certified aromatherapists. 

Reach Out to Current Clients – AND New Ones

  • We’re natural carers, and I’m sure you are feeling the call right now – so use it! This is a great time to reach out to current clients and explain that you’re offering online services. It eases the transition for you, gives your clients extra options for support at a difficult time, and helps you keep these precious relationships going.
  • Stay active on social media. Talk about how you’re able to support people right now. Share quick tips that are directly relevant to the current situation, but be sure to stay within your scope of practice. What’s your favorite sleep support blend? Tell people about it, why you love it, and why you created it.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to practice educating your clientele. Share with them the value of aromatherapy for stress management and why it works. The trust and credibility you’ll develop are invaluable to your business.
  • Video is such an important way to bridge the gap right now – people feel disconnected, and so open to calm support and helpful information.
  • Consider setting up an online store to sell your most popular products or blends without a consultation.

During the Consultation:

  • Video meetings give you much more nonverbal information (body language, facial expressions) than phone calls. 
  • Get familiar with your video conferencing software/app before your appointment. Test with a family member or friend. Maintain a professional image. Use a headset if there are others in your home. 
  • Make it clear what you can help with (general immune support, stress, sleep, comfort) and what you cannot (diseases like COVID-19).
  • Keep neutral language that does not cross into diagnostic or curative territory. We’re supporting holistic wellness, not treating disease. 
  • If your client is at all concerned about their health status, refer them to a licensed medical professional. Do not attempt to “fill in” for their doctor on other issues while our medical system is strained. 
  • Book a follow-up session before you end the call. This gives them something to look forward to, gives you a chance to learn from your work, and builds trust.
  • Make clear and safe arrangements for delivery of product and payment (see below).
  • Your client should fill in a complete intake form. This is a great reason to have yours available online or via email!

Nuances/Self-Care:

  • Hold space. Many people are frightened, lonely, and living in unusual circumstances. Keep good boundaries while being friendly and empathetic.
  • Find out how your client is feeling about social isolation. Some people welcome it as a time of reflection; others are struggling. This impacts your blending. 
  • Many people have children or elders with them in tight quarters. Ask about health issues, ages, etc., to make sure your blends are compatible with any household concerns or can be kept away from others. 
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling, too. Stay grounded, and don’t take on their fears.  Don’t deplete yourself!

Goals and Expectations:

  • Agree on clear expectations and simple goals. 
  • Focus on the basics: stress, comfort, personal immunity, quality sleep. These have a direct impact on good health. Not only is a holistic approach what aromatherapy does best, it also keeps you within your scope of practice. 
  • We do not have any evidence at this time that any essential oils can mitigate or eradicate COVID-19. A general antiviral approach is inadequate and risky. Don’t extrapolate research, don’t guess, don’t approximate, don’t suggest. 
  • Unless your product has been approved by the FDA, you cannot legally sell hand sanitizers. DIY internet recipes are usually NOT anywhere close to being a true hand sanitizer. 

Formulation Considerations:

  • In lieu of organoleptic evaluation (having clients smell oils), keep it simple: ask how they feel about a specific fragrance category or plant part(s), or have them name favorite products/scents.
  • Stay with their favorites. The familiar can be very comforting and “normal” in a time like this.
  • For some, this is a time of introversion, cocooning, and deep self-care, so going inward feels right. You can support that with meditative, protective, inward focused essential oils and methods of delivery. 
  • Others may need help remembering there’s still a world out there. In these cases, I’m working with more expansive, extroverted oils – conifers, bright citruses, mints, cineolic oils. 
  • Choose a method of application that will be easy to use, pleasurable, and require little thought or effort. We want to make their lives easier, not give them one more thing to think about right now. 

Production:

  • Follow appropriate workspace sanitation guidelines. Formula Botanica offers a basic outline in section 8 of this blog post
  • Wear disposable gloves while creating and packaging all products. Wear a mask if you have one. Do not touch your face.
  • Wear a fresh set of gloves when carrying the parcel to its final destination. 

Delivery:

  • Offer curbside delivery or a clear location where they can pick up their blends. 
  • If your community has a shelter in place order, be absolutely sure you are following guidelines. 
  • If you choose to mail/ship anything, remember that most delivery services are behind schedule. 
  • Include a clear, concise instruction sheet. 
  • Strongly discourage clients from sharing their blends with family members! Right now, best practice is for each person to assume they could be contagious. 

I’m inspired by the support I see in the aromatherapy community, and new developments are occurring weekly. Stay flexible, stay informed, and practice exquisite self-care. You are your number one client, and how you care for yourself sets an example for your clients. Stay well, and stay safe!

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