126: How I'd Start My Coaching Practice Today
I would do many things differently if I were starting my coaching practice today. Recently, I received a question from a listener: "Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently in starting your business?" I'm not well into my seventh year of running a coaching business, and I can hardly believe it's been that long.
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I would do many things differently if I were starting my coaching practice today.
Recently, I received a question from a listener: “Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently in starting your business?”
I’m well into my seventh year of running a coaching business, and I can hardly believe it’s been that long. Inspired by this question, I went back in time to look through old emails and files to refresh my memory and see what I was doing in 2016.
Today I’m sharing the lessons I’ve learned while building Coach with Clarity and what I would do now if I were starting my coaching business from scratch today. Whether you’re just starting or you’ve been at it longer than I have, I think you’ll find this episode helpful. I believe no matter where you are in business, it’s always a good idea to go back to the fundamentals. Enjoy the episode!
- Where I focused when I was just starting out
- How to get clarity around your ideal client when you’re new
- Developing your approach to helping clients
- Creating your first coaching offer
- Creative ways to find your first coaching clients
- Building your audience and email list
- How to increase your visibility
- Embracing a testing mindset
- First Steps to Your Coaching Practice | Live Workshop on August 24, 2022
- Coach with Clarity | Episode 105: The Four Keys to a Rock Solid Coaching Business
- Coach with Clarity | Episode 17: How to Name Your Business
- Coach with Clarity Collective
- Connect with Me on Instagram
- Connect with Me on TikTok
- Coach with Clarity Podcast Facebook Group
- Email Me: email@example.com
Now it’s time for you to show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity! Screenshot this episode and tag me on Instagram @coachwithclarity and let me know what you’re more excited to explore in future podcast episodes!
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Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity Podcast. My name is Lee Chaix McDonough and I am so happy you are joining me for today's episode. In fact, today's episode was inspired by a question I received from a listener who asked, knowing what I know now, what would I have done differently when I first started my business? I absolutely love this question. I started my business in 2016. So I just celebrated six years, I'm now well into my seventh year of running a coaching business, I can't believe it's been that long. And I love this question, because it allowed me to go back in time and look through old emails and old files to see – what was I doing in 2016 when I first started out? What would I do differently now, especially knowing what I know, after six plus years in business? And what lessons have I learned along the way, so I thought it might be fun to share a few things I would do now, if I were starting my coaching business from scratch today.
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Now regardless of where you are in your process, whether you are just starting your business, you've been underway for a few years, or you've been at it as long if not longer than I have. I think you'll find today's episode to be helpful, because I really believe no matter how long you are in business, it always helps to go back to the fundamentals. And that's really what we're going to be talking about on today's episode. That is also what I will be talking about in my upcoming workshop, First Steps to Your Coaching Practice. I last offered this workshop over a year and a half ago. Again, I can't believe it's been that long. And so as I was getting this question around, how would you start your coaching business today, I couldn't help but think back to that workshop I conducted and I just got a sense that it was time to bring it back. So I am thrilled to invite you to participate in my First Steps to Your Coaching Practice workshop. This is a live workshop on Wednesday, August 24th, at noon Eastern/9am Pacific time. And if you can't make it live, don't worry, there will be a recording and you'll have access to it and all of the worksheets and helpful resources I will be providing for workshop participants. We'll be covering everything you need to have in place as you begin your coaching business or as you bring a new offer into your practice. So again, we'll be covering things that are relevant regardless of where you are at in your business journey. My hope is that you walk away from this workshop feeling competent and confident as you move forward in your coaching business and as you welcome new clients into your practice. And the best part, it is not going to break the bank; I'm offering this workshop for $99. So for less than 100 bucks, you can have everything you need to kickstart your coaching business or to add a new offer into your existing spectrum of services. So, I hope you will join me at the First Steps to Your Coaching Practice workshop on Wednesday, August 24th, at noon Eastern/9am Pacific to learn more and secure your spot head to coachwithclarity.com/firststeps. F-i-r-s-t-s-t-e-p-s. So that's coachwithclarity.com/first steps, you can register there and I cannot wait to see you on August 24th, we are going to have such a good time together.
Okay, let's get to the good stuff. Let's talk about what I would do today. If I were starting my coaching business. Now I will be honest with you when I started in 2016, I did not do what I'm about to share with you. I did what a lot of people do. I started by trying to figure out what I was going to name my business. And it makes sense that I would start here and maybe you have too. Because how do we talk about our business if we don't even know what to call it? So I spent weeks, I'm not kidding, weeks trying to figure out the perfect name for my business. And then of course, once I had a name, I needed a logo, right? I needed a brand, I needed fonts and colors. And I spent months developing a picture perfect brand, only to find out later that the brand didn't represent who I was or the work that I wanted to do at all. It was completely demoralizing to be honest with you. It got me off on the wrong foot. And in hindsight, had I just waited a bit and really focused on my business fundamentals before worrying about the name, the logo, the branding, I would have been better off. So instead of starting with my name and brand, in hindsight, the very first thing I should have done was to get clear on what I've called the four keys to your coaching business. Now I talk about these four keys in great depth back in Episode 105. So I highly recommend, if you haven't already listened to that episode, head back on the archives, or we'll have a link to it in the show notes. Look for Episode 105. That's where I do a really deep dive into what I consider to be the four keys of your coaching business. But I'll give you the cliff notes version. Now, the four keys essentially are your identity, your audience, your approach, and your offer.
So your identity is about who you are, what matters most to you, and why you are so well suited to provide coaching to your people. So before we go out, and start trying to find clients and build programs, I believe we should go within, we should be really clear about our core values, about our gifts, our strength, our talents, and understand how everything that we have inside us our intuition, our wisdom, our experiences, all of these things, unite to make us an exceptional coach who is well suited to serve our clients. But we need to know what those things are and we need to feel comfortable saying them out loud. Because part of marketing yourself as a coach is letting people know why you are the best person for them. So this is not a time for false modesty, this is a time to be really clear on what sets you apart, and why you are meant to be a coach.
Once we've done the internal work of clarifying our values, our talents and our purpose, then we can shift our focus outside of us and towards the people we want to serve. And that's where getting really clear on who your audience is or who your ideal client is, can be so beneficial. Now, all of this comes with a caveat, which is sometimes you may not know who your ideal client is, when you're first starting out. Sometimes you need to work with a broad array of people in order to figure out along the way, who you really enjoy working with and who maybe is better suited for another coach. So as you are thinking about who you most want to serve, who your ideal client is, I encourage you to treat this as a hypothesis. This is an educated guess, based on what you already know about yourself and the people that you enjoy working with, you can reasonably guess who it is you are really going to want to serve. But that's all it is right now, it's an educated guess. So hold on to that ideal client concept loosely. And understand that, especially as you're first starting out, you may need to work with different types of people in order to gain clarity around who it is that really lights you up, and who it is you most want to serve as a coach.
Once you have that rough idea of who you think you might want to serve, then we want to look at your approach. This is the very broad scale, how do you help your people? So I'm not talking specific tactics or programs or tips here, I'm really thinking larger and more conceptually. The example that I always use is that when I think about my approach to coaching, I weave strategy with intuition so that my clients have a game plan to achieve their goals, that is 100% in alignment with who they are, what they believe in, and what they want to accomplish in their ideal future. I ground all of that in Acceptance and Commitment coaching, also known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT in the therapeutic circles. So that my three M's of meaning, mindset, and mindfulness, again, all anchored in ACT theory is the framework that I use in my coaching process. So just as with audience, you may not be 100% clear on what your approach is right now. And that is okay, my friends, that is by design our approach develops, the more we do the work. So again, this is an educated guess, this is a general idea of how you will approach the work with your clients. And give yourself permission to refine that as you go. And to give yourself time and I'm talking a lot of time, this is not something that happens overnight. It may take three months, six months a year even longer for you to feel really confident in your approach. But the thing is, you can't get better if you don't get started. So give yourself the grace and the compassion to say, “You know what, I think this is how I am approaching my work with my clients. And I'm going to give myself permission to allow it to develop as I go.”
So once we're clear on identity audience approach, then we can start looking at our coaching offer. Now for many coaches that first offer will be one-on-one coaching. I'm not going to sit here and mandate that as a coach, you start with one-on-one work. I do know some coaches that went immediately into group coaching and that worked really well for them. I will admit, however, that they are probably the exception to the rule, and that most of us do best when we start with one-on-one coaching as we build our coaching practices. There are several reasons for this. Number one, it's probably easier to find one client for a one-on-one coaching slot than to find multiple clients for a group program, especially when you're starting out and you're still building your audience. The other thing is that one-on-one coaching can be very profitable, we can charge more for a one on one experience. And so when you're first starting out, getting that first one on one client can help bring in the revenue that will support your other business activities. So that's why I tend to encourage people start out with one-on-one work. Now whether you decide to offer session by session, single appointments, or whether you do a coaching package, there's room for discussion and debate there. This is definitely something that we talk about a lot inside the Coach with Clarity Collective, my membership program. I would say though, when you're first starting out, do what feels most comfortable to you. Let's get your sea legs, let's get your bearings. When I started out, I did single sessions, it was pay as you go. And it took some time for me to develop my first coaching package. Now I am a huge proponent of coaching packages, it's what I typically recommend for most of my private coaching clients and for my collective members. But I also understand that that might feel like a really big place to start. So if you want to start by offering single sessions, I strongly encourage you to do so. Again, this is about gaining traction, building momentum and building your confidence. So that's what I would do if I were starting my coaching practice today. I wouldn't worry about my name and my branding to start off with. I'd get really clear on my business fundamentals, my identity, my audience, my approach, and my offer. And again, I go into much more detail about those four keys in Episode 105.
Once you have those things set, then you might feel more comfortable really thinking about your name, your brand, your logo, your visual identity, all of that. And if you want some ideas about how to name your coaching business, I encourage you to go way back in the Coach with Clarity Podcast archives, all the way back to Episode 17. In that episode, I talk about some suggestions when it comes to naming your business. I also share what I did wrong when it came to naming mine. So I think you'll find that very helpful and we'll have a link to that in the show notes as well. Okay, so we've got our foundational components in place, maybe we have our business name and the beginnings of a brand identity emerging. What would I do next, if I were starting my coaching business right now? Ideally, I would be putting myself out there and booking myself one-on-one clients. I could do that by communicating directly with people who I think would be a good fit. But I also think one of the best strategies a new coach can do is to use their existing networks. Most coaches come into the coaching profession, already having had a first career and sometimes multiple careers. And in those careers, they've established professional contacts with people, not to mention the fact that we've got networks of friends and family members, all of these people are potential referral sources for us. Now I want to differentiate between a potential client and a potential referral source. Some people are people we absolutely want to work with and those can be our potential clients. But most of the people we come across are probably not going to be clients of ours. However, they are very well positioned to be referral sources. But in order to refer people to us, they need to know we're in business, and they need to know who we serve and what we offer. That's why we need those foundational components in place, then we can start talking to people and letting them know, “Hey, I've started this coaching business. I work specifically with…” and then you can describe your clients, “who do you know that might be a good fit for my work?” I really liked the strategy because we start from a place of assuming that they are not going to be a client of ours, so we're not directly pitching or selling them. Instead, we're asking them to help us make connections and people want to be helpful. So when you let people know, “Hey, I'm starting this new business!” and you're coming to them with the energy of excitement. They're going to feel that and they're going to want to support you as well. So you can do that a myriad of ways you can do in person chats, you can send out emails. Personally, rather than do a full generic email blast to your entire community, I might do some targeted emails where I'm reaching out specifically one on one to a person who I think might be a good connection point, who might be able to introduce me to potential clients, and I would really personalize the email to them. At some point, you may want to send a more general email to friends and families and colleagues. But before you do that general email, I would reach out and do a personalized email to 3/5/10 people that could be ideal referral sources for you. So that is a strategy that really focuses on cultivating relationships with referral partners. While I'm doing that, while I'm reaching out to my existing network and letting people know, “Hey, I have this business, this is who I serve, who can you connect me with?” I would also be focusing on building my audience, specifically through growing an email list.
An email list is one of the best ways to connect with and nurture relationships with your audience. And those people on your email list may wind up becoming a client down the road. And admittedly, it can take some time for someone to feel comfortable enough to say,
Yes, I know you, I trust you, I want to work with you. Let's do this.” And because it takes time, that's why building an email list and nurturing that email list is so vital. So here's what I would do from the very beginning: I would sign up for a free trial with an email service provider. I currently use ActiveCampaign and while it has a bit of a learning curve, I think it is a phenomenal product. But I also know people who are on MailerLite, ConvertKit, other comparable programs, but I would just choose one start at their free or at their lowest cost level so that you can get comfortable with it, then I would watch their tutorials, because let me tell you programs like ActiveCampaign and MailerLite, have a really robust tutorial section. So teach yourself how to use the basics of the email software, it will make your life so much easier down the road. Once you feel comfortable working inside that software, then we need to start building your list. And one of the best ways and most recommended ways of doing so is by offering a valuable piece of content in exchange for the person's email address. So this is what's traditionally called an email opt in. So the person opts in, they give you their email address, and in exchange, you send them something that will help them and then they're on your list and you can continue to email them and nurture the relationship. When I first started out, I think my first email opt in was a very simple PDF checklist or guide. And I think that is a great way to get things going. It does not have to be super complicated. And in fact, I would encourage you not to make it super complicated. I have made that mistake, one of my main opt ins for a very long time was a robust guide that I think actually overwhelmed people versus helping them. I wanted them to have everything they needed to see success in their business in the first 90 days. So I developed this really comprehensive guide. And I think people downloaded it, and then it just gathered dust in their Downloads folder on their computer. I'm not sure anyone ever really saw it through. And it's because there was just too much to it. So I really encourage you to keep it simple on this one. Don't feel like on your first opt in, you have to offer the moon. Find one small issue or challenge or problem that your ideal audience is experiencing and provide one simple solution through your freebie. That is the fastest, easiest way to create an opt in and to start building your list.
Now knowing what I know now, I believe for my audience, audio is key. There's a reason you're listening to this podcast right now. It's because you enjoy consuming content through audio. So what I would do and actually what I'm working on right now is a private podcast feed that would allow people to sign up so they would give me their email and in exchange, I would give them access to a private podcast feed. And then in that feed would be an audio training addressing an issue or a challenge that my audience experiences. That's what I'm doing right now. I'm building out a five part mini audio training all about The Magic of Coaching. It's in the works right now. And once it's available, I will share it with you so that you can download it as well. I'm super excited about it. But because I know that audio works really well for my audience, I'm going to meet them where they're at and I'm going to provide a freebie that is an audio format. If you get the sense that your audience is really into video, you may want to do some free videos. If they're visual learners, perhaps they do want worksheets or PDF guides. So I think we want to balance what feels easy and natural for us to create, as well as how our audience prefers to consume content. And once we find that intersection, then we found our sweet spot, and we can create an opt in where the content is delivered in a format that's going to work best for them. Now, once you have that opt in, and you're sharing it and people are signing up, not only are you going to want to deliver that opt in through email, you're going to want to continue the conversation. And that's where having a strong welcome email sequence or nurture sequence comes into play. So you're going to send them an email that gives them the opt in, you're gonna send them a second email, maybe a day or two later, just reminding them, “Hey, you signed up for this not sure if you've had a chance to access it. Here's the link in case you didn't.” And then email three comes a day or two later. And this is where we start introducing them to us and to our business. So a great little getting to know you email with some fun bullet points that share a little bit about who you are and your background and your business. And then at the end of that email, ask them to reply and introduce themselves to you. I have to say that of all of the emails that I send my introduction email is one of the ones I get the most replies to, because I'm asking them, “Hey, hit reply and let me know a little bit about you.” People will actually do that. And then I encourage you to respond personally, to those replies. This is one of the best things you can do, especially when you're still growing your list, you won't have 1000s and 1000s of people on it yet, you'll have dozens, and have those dozens, maybe one or two will reply, but then you can really build that relationship with them. So that's one of the perks of having a smaller list actually, is that you can have that individualized response to people. And again, it just builds that trust, it builds connection, it builds the relationship. So I would make sure that after you send the emails around delivering your freebie, you have an email sequence that kicks off with an introduction email a little bit about you, who you are, what you do, and invites people to reply with an introduction of their own. Then after that email, you may want to send some other ones that include content related to your niche, what your audience is experiencing. And then later on in the sequence, you can start weaving in what it is you offer. And you want to think really clearly about what's the next step that I want this person to take. They've signed up for my email freebie, they've received it, I've reached out to them. I've introduced myself, I'm establishing these connections, I'm providing more content in my email sequence. What do I want them to do? That's called the call to action or the CTA. So you want to think about what your CTA will be as you get to the end of your welcome sequence. For many coaches, that call to action will be book a call, “Let's get on a call. And let's get to know each other better.” So you're going to be directing people to a sign up link so that they can book a call with you.
Now, if you're promoting something else, your call to action may be a little different. For me, maybe my call to action is “Listen to the podcast. Here's a link, go here to subscribe,” because my podcast is another way that I can connect with my people, share valuable content, build relationships, so you may have a call to action that directs them to something else. Whatever it is, just be really clear about what you want your person to do after they've subscribed to your email list. And let's make sure that we are including that call to action in some of your later emails. Now this was a real quick down and dirty high level overview of how to build an email list using a free opt in. We go into this in way more detail inside the Coach with Clarity Collective. We have a number of past guest experts who have provided trainings on how to write really good emails, how to create a welcome sequence, how to create an email opt in. So if you're looking for more support in this area, it might be time for you to consider joining the Coach with Clarity Collective, which you can do over at coachwithclarity.com/collective.
At this point, though, in our brand new business that I'm building, I'm really clear on my business foundations. I've started thinking about my name and my brand only after my foundations are in place. I've reached out to my existing network and sought referrals. And I've started to build my audience and my email list by offering a valuable piece of content for free. With these pieces in place, now I'm looking to grow my visibility. I want to connect with more people, I want more people downloading my free opt in so that they'll get on my list. And there's all sorts of ways that we can do that. Social media certainly is one option. So perhaps you've chosen a specific social media platform, whether it's Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and you're posting several times a week. Sometimes the content is informational. Sometimes it's entertainment. Sometimes it is reminding people, “Hey, I have this great free offer, make sure you go here to download it.” So we can encourage people to get on our email list by reminding them on social media, “Hey, I have this available for you.”
When it comes to social media, I also find it helpful to just show up in communities where my ideal clients are, and be of service. So if people are asking questions in Facebook groups, answer them. If you're on Quora, and there's a lot of questions about a given topic, start providing responses. Again, we want to show up, we want to be helpful, we want to let people know that we're knowledgeable in this given area that helps build our visibility and our credibility. And we want to make sure that we're doing this in a way that's very genuine and authentic. It's not always about driving people to our email opt in or to our website or to our offer. Sometimes it's just about showing up and serving and trusting the process so that as we build up all of this goodwill, it will come back to us in the long run. You especially want to be careful about this in Facebook groups, because many groups have a no self promotion policy. So if you include a link to your own work, whether it's for a paid program, or a free opt in, that could get you in hot water with the group admins, so be really mindful of group rules. And again, when in doubt, just show up and serve. Once people see you and know you and they start associating you as an expert in a given area, they will start tagging you, they will start finding you. And then just make sure that whatever platform you're on, you've optimized your profile so that when people click on your name to learn more about you, they know where to go. Make sure you have a link to your website and your profile, make it as easy as possible for someone to learn more about you and the work you do when they go to your social media profile.
As you build your visibility, you are going to be making more connections with people in a similar industries or shoulder industries. And these are really valuable opportunities for networking, for community and also for win-win relationship building. One of my favorite things to do, for example, is to do a podcast swap. This was something I did very early on with this show where I might invite someone on, and I would interview them on my show and then they would have me on their podcast. And that was great, because then all of a sudden, I was getting featured to their audience. So when there's opportunities to create win/wins, like podcast swaps, or cross posting or showing up in each other's Facebook groups and doing lives, you get the idea, there are so many ways that we can create win-win opportunities with people. And that can be a fantastic way to build your audience and grow your visibility.
So the final piece that I want to share today is after we've done all of this, our business foundations, our networking with referral sources, our email opt ins, our win-win relationships. Ultimately, what we want is to direct people into our business so that they work with us. And so now it's time to make the offer. This is that offer that you conceptualized way back at the beginning when you were doing your business fundamentals. Now it's time to let people know, “Hey, I have this available. Are you interested in working with me?” As we do this work, I really want you to embrace the idea that this is a beta test. We are testing things out to see how they work. So you have an idea around the what you're going to offer your potential coaching client, that idea needs to be tested. So how do we do that? We can do that by conducting conversations with people who represent our ideal client, we can get to know more about what they've already tried, what they're looking for, what they don't want. All of that information can inform our offer. We can also let people know on this email list that we've created, “Hey, I'm thinking about offering this. Hit reply if you'd like to learn more.” And so we can kind of test out the interest in an offer by sharing it first with the people who are already on our list. And at some point you may decide that in addition to one on one, you also want to do a group offer. I highly recommend doing a small cohort, the first time you run a group, and let people know at the start how excited you are to be launching this brand new program, that they are a part of your inaugural cohort. And you will be so grateful for their feedback, their input and their guidance as you continue to build out this program. So it sets the expectation for this first cohort from the start, they feel like they're a part of something that they get to be a part of building it with you. And then they'll be more likely to provide feedback when you ask for it because you've set that expectation from the beginning.
So my friend, that is what I would do if I were starting my coaching practice today. Number one, I would start with my fundamentals: identity, audience, approach, and offer. Only at that point, would I start thinking about name and branding, then I would reach out to my existing networks, and start letting people know, “Hey, I'm doing this kind of work,” and then asking for referrals. I would start growing my audience first by creating a really valuable piece of content that I would provide to people in exchange for their email address. And then as I receive those email addresses, I would deliver that free opt in and then follow up with a really strong welcome email sequence where people get to know a little bit about me. I ask them to reply so that I can get to know a little bit about them and then I'm weaving in my call to action in some of those later emails in that welcome sequence. I'm looking for ways to show up as a subject matter expert and that looks like being generous with my knowledge, whether it's on social media, through posts through groups, and the like. I'm looking for win-win relationships that will allow me to support my audience by introducing them to a subject matter expert in a different area. And then I can go to that person's audience and share my knowledge as well. And then finally, I am making offers to my people and approaching it from a place of curiosity, experimentation and growth. So those are the things that I would do in order to build a coaching business today. And with that, let's head into this week's Clarity in Action moment.
This week's Clarity in Action moment is brought to you by my First Steps to Your Coaching Practice workshop. As I mentioned, at the top of today's episode, I am offering this live workshop on Wednesday, August 24th, at noon Eastern/9am Pacific. And I would love for you to join me there. It's $97 and we are covering all of the foundational components you need to have in place for a successful sustainable and fulfilling coaching business. So head on over to coachwithclarity.com/firstdteps to learn more and to enroll today. And if you can't make it live, no worries, we'll record it and you'll have access for as long as you need.
For today's Clarity in Action moment, I want you to go back and think about the steps I just described towards building a brand new coaching business. And I'm curious if there's a particular step that you thought, oh, yeah, I should be doing that more. If so, then let's create a plan to make that happen. So for example, if you are wanting to cultivate deeper relationships with the people on your email list, maybe you want to create a new welcome sequence. And just because people are already on your list doesn't mean they don't deserve to get that sequence as well. You can always reinvigorate your list by reintroducing yourself to them, and then following up with valuable content over a series of emails. So your task for this week as this week's Clarity in Action moment is to think about these steps that I've just described for creating a coaching business. And if there's any one area where you're feeling like I could really redouble my efforts there. Let's make it happen. And I want to know what that looks like for you. You can find me on Instagram or TikTok @CoachWithClarity, or you can send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know which step really resonated with you and what your first steps are to taking action. I can't wait to hear about it.
Well, my friend, that's it for me this week. But I will be right back in your podcast feed next week with a brand new episode, so make sure you're following or subscribed to the show. That way next week's episode will show up automatically in your feed. And until then my name is Lee Chaix McDonough reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.