10 Surprising Lessons from 5 Years in my Coaching Business
#1 Never Underestimate the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing
From the very beginning, word of mouth marketing has been responsible for most of my business. People talk. Kindred spirits flock together. I was once referred two paying clients who came to me after hearing about me on a retreat they’d been on where a beloved client had mentioned me. No matter how much time, money and energy I’ve thrown into marketing, word of mouth is the clear winner. Moral of the story: look after your clients well and they will be your best marketers.
#2 Consistency is the Best Kept Unsexy Secret
You’ll hear so much fancy advice about the latest ways to grow your business. There’ll be a trend towards paid Facebook ads and then another trend towards Instagram stories. You might feel pushed and pulled by the winds of all the trends. Or you can stay true to a sustainable and authentic approach without being distracted by the marketplace. The million-dollar secret that isn’t spoken about enough, because it’s unsexy is this: consistently build your audience with a regular, authentic marketing method that works best for you. Everyone is different. For you it might be weekly blog posts or a regular video-blog or a regular podcast. The word on the street might be one thing. But consistency, as unsexy as it might sound, is the one secret ingredient that works to build momentum. If you’d like a business that carries you to your next, more expansive destination, then go into the marketplace in your chosen medium, consistently well and you’ll reach a critical mass point where your audience responds at the press of the publish button.
#3 Put Your Clients First
The advice currently out there is to put self-care first, prioritise your own needs and to work on your self-development so that your life-style can be liberated from too much hard work. I’m all for a wonderful, balanced, sustainable lifestyle. But like a faithful parent, the sacrifice you make for your clients will come back ten-fold in the form of loyalty, referrals and job satisfaction. You make your own luck and hard work is still, albeit old-fashioned, the key ingredient to success. If you’re constantly making your business about you and your own needs, you’re missing out on the deep fulfilment that comes when someone has a breakthrough moment, experiences a life-changing shift or your unique blend of magic is activated through another. And the deep satisfaction that comes from a hard-earned result and a little old-fashioned self-sacrifice. This is what soul purpose realisation as a change agent and transformer is all about – leaving your legacy or imprint of healing on another person’s life and working towards that end. It’s not about you. The fastest path to unhappiness is making your business all about you or all about the money.
#4 Prioritise Income-Producing Activities
If you’re constantly hiding behind training courses, building social media profiles, learning how to design websites, business card design and other non-income producing activities, then expect to have less income. If it’s important to you to make money in your business, you need to become super comfortable with the money-making activities in your business. Serving clients or selling products and services will bring the income, spending hours tweaking a website will not. Some of the most financially successful businesses have been built using simple and efficient websites. The beautiful thing about prioritising income-producing activities is that you can then use the proceeds to up-level and upgrade other aspects of your business and branding. But don’t spend vast amount of time and money on these things until you have started producing income.
#5 Not Everyone Will be Supportive and Happy for You
Despite the love and support of many, there will always be family, friends and the most unexpected people who will show surprising levels of ‘un-support’ or disinterest about your business. It’s ok and not a sign that you’re not on track. Sometimes it’s just that people are too busy. Sometimes it’s driven by jealousy and sometimes people won’t agree with what you’re putting out into the world. You’ll pour your heart and soul into being of service and towards being as helpful to others as you can. You’ll have all the right intentions. You’ll work hard, work overtime and work with your heart in the right place with sincere dedication towards the greater good. And people still won’t like what you do. It’s not worth losing sleep over. And it’s definitely not a reason to give up offering your soul medicine to the world.
#6 Not Everything will be Fair, Easy or Just
Sometimes it will seem like everyone else in business is getting to an easy six-figures and that you’ve had to work longer and harder to make it.
Sometimes it will seem like you’re putting everything you’ve got into your business and you’re still not finding the rhythm or returns that you expected.
Sometimes you’ll expend energy on the wrong people who don’t understand that you’re also a parent/partner/daughter/sister/friend with a life outside your business.
There’ll be people who take advantage of your generosity, kindness and open-heart. There’ll be events that feel unfair and unduly harder than you expected.
And the best way to continue is to stay true to your values, especially the ones about kindness, generosity and connection. Stay around soulful and good people who understand the business journey and who know that it’s not ‘luck’ but hard work that gets the best results. And be prepared to fall down 9 times and get back up 10. It’s all part of the mission. And pray or engage in a spiritual practice regularly. It’s the single most effective way to stay in alignment with a universe that conspires alongside you and with you to move mountains and make a true difference in the world.
#7 Systems are the Secret to Sustenance and Sustainability
- A well thought out on-boarding process with a welcome pack.
- A well thought out signature program that outlines the transformation you offer.
- A simple payment system that makes it easy to receive money.
- A profit-first approach where you pay yourself a percentage and then consistently invest into a tax-holding account and have quarterly meetings with a bookkeeper to assess your profit-loss balances.
These are the types of systems that carry you and support you to focus on being a coach. They don’t need to be complicated but they do need to be replicable so that you’re not exhausted and trying to re-invent the wheel constantly with every new client.
#8 Get Offline and into your Community
When I started Sacred Womens Business Coaching, I intended it to be an online business, serving clients via Skype. After 2 years of full-time coaching online and experiencing tech burn out (wearing headphones and coaching over Skype for up to 9 hour days creates a serious nervous system overload), I ramped up my offline presence. I spoke at networking and live events, prioritised local clients for face-to-face meetings, taught workshops and started taking on therapy clients again so that I could return to my hands-on and in-person work that brings my business into more balance. I run my 1:1 coaching calls over 3 days per week and the rest of the time I spend in offline work. This is my sweet spot and it’s important to remember that not everyone suits the online space especially solely. Your offline presence will feed your online presence. Never forget the power of presence in your local community.
#9 Reconnect with your Body Regularly
Weight gain was one of the most unexpected things that happened to me after releasing most of my yoga teaching work and transitioning into the coaching space. All my life, I’d been rake thin and have eaten everything and anything I like. Yoga teaching and therapy work kept me moving and supported my health. When I started the more sedentary work of sitting on Skype calls and working online, as well as serving clients on the couch, I put on 8kgs in the first 6 months. It’s been an interesting side effect and it’s meant working on ways to stay active. I’ve learnt how important it is to stay connected to my body so that I can be an embodied presence and so that I can sustain my energy levels. I never expected weight gain to be a ‘thing’ but it has alerted me to the potential poor health associated with a desk job and it has helped me to stay committed to my own yoga practice to keep the body-mind-spirit connection strong.
#10 Have Sound Management for the Seasonal Fluctuations in Income
After 5 years in my coaching business, I’ve been able to plot predictable seasonal changes. December and January are usually my quietest time, which makes it a good time to plan summer holidays with my sons. One of the most beneficial things about having training and therapy income streams on top of my coaching income is that it’s not a big deal if the business experiences some quiet times because the busy times more than make up for it. But there were several moments earlier on in the business where the fluctuations used to cause a lot of anxiety and the unpredictability was hard to handle. As a sensitive soul, it’s important to have a sound management of the variations in income that can happen in service-based business. Working with a bookkeeper is also helpful to plot the seasonal/quarterly changes and to plan ahead for the quiet times. Taking on regular part-time contract work might be all it takes for your wellbeing during the unstable or quiet times.
Taking on non-ideal clients is not an effective strategy for boosting income in the quiet times. It impacts clients who are a perfect fit for your services and who deserve your full attention. Time-wasters and clients who are not prepared to do the work are not worth the broken sleep and the negative impact it can have on future motivation and satisfaction levels. It’s a true death spiral. So screen your clients carefully with an initial discovery call or introductory conversation before taking on any big contracts with them. Work with dedicated clients who are committed to succeed. They’ll light you up. Your positive energy will spill over into new opportunities and magnetise more high calibre people to work with.
There are so many more lessons I could share, but these are some of the most surprising ones. I’d love to hear your lessons too, so please do press reply and share with me your greatest insights.