Updated: Nov 17
Note: I wrote this in 2020, and much has changed in my business since, including reaping the rewards of having invested in multiple marketing courses. Still, much of this blog post remains relevant to the overall challenges of working as a freelance FAM teacher.
Have you ever wondered what a career as an FAE is like? Or maybe you're already a teacher, and want to know what this life is like for other FAEs?
Wherever you're coming from, this post is for you! I'm happy to share my personal story with all the details of what my life is like an FAE and how I run Cycle Wise, my teaching business.
It is a lonely world as a FAM teacher, and we don't have many opportunities to actually connect and share what this work is like for us. I so often wonder about my fellow FAEs, like how they're doing in their practice, how their find clients, what their struggles are, how many hours per week they work, if they have day jobs.
So let me pull back the curtain on my own experience and share with you what the FAE life is like for me.
I stumbled upon Fertility Awareness when I was 25, and, like so many who find out about FAM, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! A couple years later I started my training with The Well School of Body Literacy (formerly Grace of the Moon), and I graduated as a certified instructor in 2016.
I remember the day I printed out my first class flyers to put around town for my first ever group FAM class. I was thrilled. I just knew that within days, my phone would be ringing off the hook to register, because, duh, NATURAL BIRTH CONTROL WITHOUT HORMONES!
What happened is that I had one woman show up to my class, a co-worker of mine, and as we were sitting there wondering if anyone else would show up, in desperation I texted our other co-worker to come join us the last minute.
And that was my first class: just my two co-workers and I. One paid me $100 and the other came for free.
I've taught my group course in person several times since then, and every time, it's been H.A.R.D to get women to come. I also teach classes for girls and teens, and filling those courses is easy peasy. But grown women? It's like pulling teeth.
I thought that once I graduated, I would have women beating down my door to access my services. I thought I could quit my day job and my weekend job and do Fertility Awareness education full-time. However, it simply hasn't been the case.
My work with girls and teens has really taken off, and I love how my training as an FAE has woven so perfectly into that branch of my work. However, I really want to be using my FAM muscle more, and I am consistently frustrated with how hard it is to attract clients.
Taking My Business Seriously (4 years after I graduated)
I have been VERY SLOW to this whole marketing thing. When I graduated in 2016, the only marketing I did was word of mouth, flyers, a little bit on Facebook, and sending the occasional newsletter out to my 20 subscribers. I had no clue what Instagram was back then. I didn't know anything about graphic design, lead magnets, how to connect with potential clients, NOTHING.
In fact, it has only been in the last year that I have really started stepping up my game and engaging more with Instagram and building my email list.
Since I graduated, I have had at least one other job (as a baker, Disney princess, and medical assistant) and I filled my schedule to the brim with other things: musical theater, traveling, getting mixed up with some bad relationships, studying languages, dancing, performing, etc, etc, and occasionally trying to work FAM in there.
I've always been juggling so many things, wearing so many hats, and not prioritizing FAM.
But when the pandemic hit, I quit my job, moved out of my house, and moved in with my family on our rural homestead in Northern California. And guess what?
Suddenly I have so. much. time!
And with all this time, I've been going balls (or should I say, oves?) to the wall with my business. It's been fantastic!
I've learned that if you want to make your business work, you have to give it EVERYTHING. You can't half-ass it. You can't try to have a bunch of side jobs or projects and think, "Someday it will get off the ground." It requires all your passion and focus and commitment.
Which is where you find me now, friends, in the summer of my 35th year. I'm learning about Instagram and marketing and email campaigns and website design and catching up on all the FAM research I've fallen behind on while, you know, doing a zillion other things that took away my attention.
Sometimes it feels like a total pipe dream to actually make this career work. Sometimes I feel like I'm made of Teflon and can't attract any interest to Cycle Wise, no matter what I do. I'm super envious of other teachers who seem to fill their calendar with clients all the time. Most days I think that I'll never get anywhere and will be stuck working at coffee shops the rest of my life.
But my deep and utter love and passion and belief in the life-changing power of Fertility Awareness keeps me going. To this day, nothing has altered my life more, nothing has rocked my world so profoundly, as when I found FAM. And I CAN'T just keep this knowledge inside me. I want to help others find it and reclaim their bodies and experience the confidence, freedom, and joy that comes from being the expert of your own body!
Every time I do a chart review for someone, or teach an 11-year old girl about her uterus, or bust up laughing with my 14-year old students talking about lost tampons, it fills me up with joy that no amount of followers or money or "success" could equal.
What Are the Negatives?
Besides my personal struggle with figuring out how to do business and waiting a loooooooong time after I graduated to start taking Cycle Wise seriously, there are a
number of things that I bet most FAEs can relate to. Here are some that come to mind.
It takes a LOT of work to constantly keep abreast of all the latest studies, FemTech gadgets, menstrual options, period positive movements, what my colleagues are talking about, etc, etc. I'm forever forgetting exactly what the role of Vitamin D is in progesterone production, or what the difference between the vas deferens and the epididymis is, or how LH levels change in premenopausal women. One week I'll do a free webinar all about cramps, and I'll have it all memorized, and then 3 weeks later it's already getting fuzzy. And since I don't usually see clients every week, I then have to study up when I do have clients coming in, and that's even more unpaid hours I'm putting in.
An FAE carries a ton of responsibility to know ALL THE THINGS, and honestly, I don't think we should have to. A lot of us are trained to be extremely comprehensive and have a massive scope of knowledge beyond just charts. Right now I am re-framing the way I advertise my private consults to say that I can offer BASIC hormonal health tips, because honestly, there is no way I can keep information about endocrinology, herbs, supplements, essential oils, abdominal massage, and tips for screening for pathology (to name a few) at my fingertips all the time!
I probably spend at least 3 hours each week researching and keeping things fresh.
I spend about 6 hours a week working on social media stuff, from writing to looking for images to photo editing to studying the ins and outs of how to use IG via the course I'm taking.
Another 6-10 hours go into class planning and work with clients.
Another 2-3 hours go towards following my colleagues' work (I love you, FAM-ily!) and doing continuing education.
To say nothing of the HOURS of time I spend simply *thinking* about my business, scheming about new classes, pondering research, etc.
And this could be considered a "lite" schedule to what some of you FAEs are keeping every week.
Personally, I hold firm boundaries around how much I work, though, because a) I'm not getting paid most of the time, and b) I have a life and I want to, you know, actually go outside and exercise and cook nice meals and talk on the phone with friends.
THAT ENTREPRENEUR LIFE
It's super hard. It is a long and plodding journey. It's overwhelming trying to understand business, marketing, website building, AND the actual core work of FAM and chart reviews. I'm giving it everything I have right now so that one day I CAN totally depend on FAM to support me and my family. I know that what I'm offering is gold: it has the capacity to change people's lives so, so deeply, and it is such a force for good. What you offer is gold, my fellow FAEs, and budding FAEs. Keep up the freaking fantastic work!
We FAEs are truly pioneers. No medical establishment welcomes us with open arms. Friends, family, and strangers question what we do or criticize us for teaching the Rhythm Method. We can't get hired to teach FAM by an employer (well, maybe here and there). We constantly have to prove ourselves, explain ourselves, and go out of our way to show that we're legit. We don't have a business or establishment backing us, and we have to totally pave our own way.
I worked for a year as a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood and it was an incredibly eye-opening experience and one that I don't regret. It was also truly maddening for me an as FAE to see how mainstream reproductive healthcare is conducted. It was incredibly disheartening and frustrating that although I am a Certified Fertility Awareness Educator, my background was given zero consideration and I was treated like a cog in the wheel. My years of training, my wealth of menstrual cycle knowledge, and my status as the only person providing Fertility Awareness education for 200 miles around, were never acknowledged, even after repeat proposals to at least have my business cards available for patients who didn't want a hormonal birth control method, or my proposal to do a presentation about FAM at our monthly staff meeting. There was no support for that.
What Are the Positives?
Don't get me wrong, it is seriously tough trying to make it on my own as Fertility Awareness Educator entrepreneur. However, as you know, I really haven't put in the WORK until now to get my biz off the ground, so of course it's a steep uphill climb. I know that it will be easier some day, and even just since January, when I quit my job at Planned Parenthood and started pouring the love and energy into Cycle Wise, I have had more clients come my way than ever before. Law of attraction?
Let me tell you about some of the upsides.
CHANGING SOMEONE'S LIFE
One of the most exciting and beautiful and rewarding parts of this work is seeing how my students' eyes light up when they understand, often for the first time ever, the details of their cycles and fertility. You can almost literally see the lightbulbs going on. It's magical. It's like you are opening a treasure chest to which they never had the key, and they just sparkle when they see what's inside. You are their guide for things that no doctor or nurse or gynecologist can usually provide. In my time at Planned Parenthood, I worked with so many patients who came in for mysterious "discharge" and NO ONE ever explained cervical fluid except me. Fertility Awareness Educators change lives.
TEACHING IS THE BEST
I absolutely love gathering up all my props, visual aids, handouts, and goodies like flowers and tea and chocolate and heading out to teach class. It's like biology class meets Red Tent meets potluck. I love the community. I love meeting my students and seeing how they thrive sitting in circle together. The experience of shared stories and support is such soul food. It feeds me just as much as them, and although I am the instructor, I learn a TON from my students.
FAM SUPPLEMENTS ANY HEALTH CAREER
Fertility Awareness education can weave into so many different practices, whether you're a nutrition coach, yoga instructor, school teacher, nurse, craniosacral therapist, on and on. It is fantastic to have this training under your belt and ready to offer to the people you already work with. My FAE status is the foundation of my work with girls and teens, and it builds huge trust with parents who depend on me to provide accurate body education to their daughters.
Unlike other jobs, you aren't stuck doing the same thing all the time. Sure, if you want to stick with just teaching a FAM group class, for example, you can. Or you can take it anywhere. You can collaborate with a friend who does Ayurveda and run a weekend retreat. You can teach sex ed. You can do performance pieces about cycles. You can write books, podcast, or make zines. There are so many avenues to offering FAM and you're not limited to straight client work.
So, is it worth it to become an FAE?
I would say YES. It is one of the most fun, satisfying, loving, and soul-filling things I have ever done. You will change people's lives, and there is no better feeling than that. There are so many ways to weave FAM into whatever else you currently offer. Finding your niche takes some figuring out, and it takes serious effort to create your own business. It ain't easy. But we FAEs are changing the world for the better, and that is an awe-inspiring movement to be a part of. And as FAM becomes more widespread and less fringe, it'll become easier to find financial stability in our work.
And there you have it, a glimpse into my life as a Fertility Awareness Educator!
This is my own unique path and I know it's so different for everyone. Maybe this looks nothing like your path. Maybe it inspires you to become, or NOT become, an FAE. You'll have to let me know, okay?
Please pretty please tell me how this resonates with you in the comments! Being an FAE is lonely work, and I'm dying to connect more with other teachers and hear your stories!
Let us know:
:: What challenges have you faced?
:: How long have you been in the field?
:: What's your favorite and least favorite thing about being an FAE?
:: What are your questions about becoming an FAE?
:: How much time per week do you dedicate to your business?
:: Do you have other jobs on the side?
:: What tips for success as an FAE can you share with us?
:: What do you wish you had known before you decided to become an FAE?
....Or whatever else you feel moved to share. I can't wait to hear from you.