#115: How I Took My Health Coaching Business Online

This episode kicks off a special series all about succeeding in an online, quarantine world. To start off, Michelle shares a personal story about how her health coaching practice went from in-person to 100% online-based many years ago.

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Hello there, health coaches. How are you doing today? Thank you so much for joining me on this very, very hot mid-August day. It has been such a crazy summer. And as we're heading back into the fall, I am thrilled to tell you that this is the start of a new series. We're going to be doing this for several weeks. Talking about succeeding online in a quarantine world. We're going to be talking about what's working, how to get started with many different pieces of an online business. But for starters, for today, I thought I would share how I brought my own health coaching business online successfully many, many moons ago before there was so many options available. And before it was so commonplace. And I think this is useful sometimes to hear stories about how people have made it work, right? We always like to hear those like true behind the scenes stories.

And this is going back to 2009, 2010 in my business. So I've been doing this work a really long time. And some of you know, I teach my methods inside my program called healthy profit university. We have a live fast track semester coming up this fall with some brand new bonuses, lots of live in person coaching with me. So if you've been wanting to join us, this is going to be your very best opportunity to do so. And we're going to be opening up a wait list for this fall fast track semester very soon. So just keep your eyes open, keep your ears open for that because weightless members will be given priority treatment and some special extras. But for today, I want to give you a little glimpse into what it was like when I turned into an online health coach and what that looked like 10 years ago, when I was just kind of making it up as I went along with no model, do you know what I mean?

There was no one out there saying like, this is how you do it. These are the online tools that you need. Like this stuff just doesn't even exist. By the way. If you're here with me live, please go ahead and say hello, tell me that you're here. Ask questions in the chat area. I'm an open book and this is a long, I mean, not a long story to tell you, but it's, there's so many facets to how my business came about and how I got it to where it is today. So if you want to know anything about the early days of my business, just ask me, that's why we do these lives so that we can interact. In fact, I want to make sure that I see any comments that come up so real quick, I'm just going to open up the group.

Facebook is still being funny sometimes. So I want to make sure I see anything that you guys are asking anyway, this whole idea of going online with my practice today in today's world, you might be doing it because you can't be doing anything in person. I know lots of coaches are already a little bit online because we live in an online world right these days, but now we're forced to like really go whole hog, like into the online business space, because we can't be doing the in person events like we used to do, depending on the part, your part of the country, things may be starting to open up. But I think even just through the rest of 2020, we're going to be operating very much in the online sphere. So that may be, you know, your reason for doing it. Now. I was doing it then because I wanted to have babies.

Like that was where I was at in my life. And I knew that an online based practice would give me a whole lot more flexibility and it has, and I have those babies and they're not babies anymore. And they're upstairs making a lot of noise. And even during this whole quarantine, while they've been home with me full time as a single mom, running my own two businesses and taking care of these two and homeschooling and you know how the whole thing has gone. Whew, I've been so glad that my business is online and allows me the flexibility to do what I got to do. Right? So I'm very flexible. Very, very resilient business is one that you can pick up and take with you as needed or things that you can do regardless of pretty much what else is going on in your life. Case in point, this past week, we had a big storm over here for any of you in the East coast.

Maybe you experienced it. And the power went out in my town and it was out for an entire week. So what did I do picked up my laptop, walked out the door and got in my car and drove to my mom's because that's what you do. But you can do that. You can do this kind of thing. Your business can be very resilient. And as a result of the flexibility and the resiliency profitable, when you are online able to just kind of maintain your income, maintain what's going on, regardless of all the nonsense going on in the world. So this is great stuff. We just want to give like a round of applause to the concept of online businesses right now, because it's awesome. I'm feeling it. I don't know about you. So think about this. We're going to go back in time. If you can rewind your brain and tell us, I tell yourself, what was I doing in 2010?

Like, what was life like back then 10 years ago? Now it's hard to believe that was an entire decade ago, but it was very different, right? So I know we had Facebook, like Facebook definitely existed, but we did not have Facebook groups back then did way. We didn't have Facebook live. We did not have Instagram. We were... Podcasts may have existed, but like I certainly was not listening to podcasts 10 years ago. Were you? Like, they were new. So we weren't really listening to podcasts yet. I don't know if YouTube existed, maybe, but again, it was just sort of like some people were doing it, but very few, not like it is now. And it just, wasn't a very accessible platform. Most people didn't even have a phone with a good camera and good enough to tell, take a decent video back then. So, all these tools that are available to us now in terms of social media.

So none of that was happening, right? In addition, if you think back, very few experiences were happening online. Like we were, we were emailing for sure posting photos of ourselves on Facebook or whatever, but it was very, very rare to have like an online event. You know, it's so funny cause we do this all the time now, especially with quarantine, right? There's concerts, online dance classes online and you know, just all kinds of stuff happening online that you can participate in every day. But back then that wasn't really happening. And online courses, weren't really a thing for the most part we were doing and learning in person and locally. And then maybe we would send some communications of course, like through email. But the experience itself was not really happening online. I remember that webinars kind of existed, but they were rare and they were very expensive.

If you wanted to hold one, like as a, you know, as a coach, if I wanted to hold a webinar, it would cost me a great deal of money to do so. There wasn't any of this, like face to camera stuff, it was just going to be slides. So that was, this is all new in the past 10 years. You guys remember zoom. That was not a thing. We're not doing video conferencing, video calling, FaceTime. PayPal existed. I remember cause I used to use PayPal, but a lot of people weren't even comfortable with it yet. Like they didn't, they weren't sure about PayPal. Cause it was, it was different. It was new. I didn't know if they could trust it. So, what I'm trying to say is it, wasn't so easy to just like do stuff online, the way that we do it now, now we have everything available to us.

And my health coaching practice started in person, meaning I was hanging flyers at the local gym, leaving business cards, getting brochures printed up, you know, all that stuff. I was holding workshops at yoga studios. The gyms, I had a table at the farmer's market one summer. I remember doing that. And when I had clients, I met with them in person at the coffee shop or even in my home for a little while, which I don't recommend, oh my gosh, you got to clean your whole house and the bathroom. Right. But I realized very quickly that the best way for me to have sessions with my clients was going to be by phone. It was just so much more convenient. So I started offering that as an option and most people me up on it. So to this day, like literally before this, right now, I was on the phone with a client. I do all of my coaching by phone to this day. So that was sort of a big step to becoming what people call like an online coach, because then I could work with anyone anywhere and it’s kind of just took my practice virtual and then that way.

I remember I went to Hawaii, maybe this was 2010. And I had a client meeting. I didn't want to reschedule it. I forget why I was like, you know what, I'm going to be in Hawaii, but I'll just, I'll just do the call, no big deal. But of course back then your cell phone didn't work. Once you left, you know, your area, you left the continental U.S. Or whatever it was. So I couldn't use my cell phone. And I had to use like the phone in the hotel room, staying at the four seasons. You guys I'm on the phone with one of my health coaching clients. I remember exactly who it was.

And that phone bill was outrageous. So quick tip, never call anybody from your hotel room in Hawaii. Just me just reschedule the session. It doesn't matter. But in terms of marketing myself, right, I'm really establishing my online presence. I was thinking about it. And I think like the three main things that I were doing, that's what I want to talk about today. So the first was utilizing email marketing. The second was my blog. So that was in 2009, 2010. That was really the main way of creating online content. So online content creation, that's what was going on. And third was holding virtual events as rudimentary as they were at the time. And I'll tell you more about that in just a minute. If you have questions about any of this, by the way, just let me know.

Maridella is asking is Fast Track part of Healthy Profit University.

Okay. So just going back to what I announced earlier about Healthy Profit University's Fast Track semester. Healthy Profit University is a self paced program. You can join any time, but twice a year, I run it live, right? So twice a year, you get the opportunity to go through it with me. So if you're already a member of HPU, you'll be getting information about how you can do that. If you'd like to join us, if you're not already a member and you want to join fresh, we'll have the waitlist open for you soon. Thanks for asking. Maridella.

All right, so, what were we talking about? The three things I was doing at the time email marketing. That's the first one, the main player in the game back then was constant contact. Like that's what we were all using for our email marketing. I don't even know if they're around anymore.

Does anybody know? Because they probably are, but I don't know anybody that uses constant contact anymore, but that was sort of the main tool available to us. And I remember it would take me like an entire day, if not longer, to put my monthly email newsletter. And it really was, it was like a newsletter, which is super old school. Now I don't want you doing that. Now. That is an old school approach to email marketing. We have episodes about that, that I've done in the past. But back then, anyway, these emails were long and they had lots of content and they had photos and they had graphics and they had links and more links and columns and colors and all kinds of stuff. It was like a project, but I got those emails out twice a month back then, I think I was doing it twice a month without fail.

That that really needs to be your non negotiable when it comes to online marketing. So if you're wanting to move into the online space or if you're already halfway in the door with the online stuff, email marketing is really number one. And I know we have social media, all different stuff that we can be doing this these days to connect with our audience. But even now email is really King wet or queen when it comes to making sales. Plus it is so much easier. Now your email wants to be short, simple, and single focused. And as a result, the great thing is they don't take all day anymore. So I find like I can bang out an email in 20 minutes if you're new to it. Yes. It's going to take you a couple of hours, but you're going to with practice, you're going to get to the point that you'll be able to bang them out in 20 minutes too.

But the point is email marketing was super important. It allowed people that I knew from my old career, for example, I used to work in advertising. It allowed them to keep up with what I was doing. Michelle left. She started her own business. What the heck? Well, now they knew, cause I was emailing them twice a month. When I added new people to my mailing list, I got, they got to know me over a period of time and it's that whole know, like and trust factor. And then they would want to sign up for something when I offered some sort of virtual experience, right? Like people get to know you in that online space, super important to be doing your emails. Let me answer some questions here.

Becky said, how do you get email? I think she means, how do you get email contacts? So everybody's going to start with who, you know, right now, it's not cool to put like me on your email list. Cause like, just cause you like know me, you know what I mean? You want to put people that you have a personal relationship with people who you would be emailing. Anyway. Now, as you move forward in your business, people are going to opt into your email list. You're never just going to add people, but when you start out, we all start the same way. It's like your mom, your sister, your best friend, you know, your friends from your job, whatever it is, people that you're already talking to and that you would already email. Anyway, those are sort of the people that are the starting point for your email list. And then of course you go through activities, hopefully a weekly basis to grow your email list.

Kara said, how did you get your business off the ground as a new graduate of IIN? I'm going to tell you about that next. I thank you for asking. So the next thing that was super important, as I mentioned was online content creation. I didn't call it that back then. That sounds fancy. I just had a dumb blog, really like a pretty dumb blog. Like I didn't have any strategy. I didn't really know why I was blogging. You know, like again, like no one was leading the way for me. I just sat down and wrote something every week or sometimes twice a week back then. Oh my goodness. To have that kind of time again. But I was regular with it. I was consistent. It was a very simple blog. Really. If you recall blogs back then, they were a little bit more like an online diary, right?

Like a blog that's short for web log because that's what people would do. They would be like basically like dear diary, you know, today I did this and then I did that. Like, that's kind of how people are using blogs back then. And of course mine had sort of a health and wellness bent to it. But because I was showing up week in and week out, people started to read my story and I started my blog in 2006. So by the time I launched my business, three years later, I had a bit of a readership built up. And that was phenomenal. It was phenomenal. Like there were people looking to me and like interested in what I had to say. And they liked my approach to these topics that I was writing about, which again were totally random, no strategy, no content plan. I didn't have fancy graphics.

I didn't have any like principal recipe plugins. I didn't have any nice food photography. I was, I did all kinds of things, wrong, all kinds of things like illegal stuff that I would never do. Now that sounds bad. Right? I mean like reposting a recipe or something you should never republish a person's recipe. You know, if it's not your own, I didn't know that. So I made all kinds of mistakes in the beginning, but you just kind of forge ahead. Anyway, I didn't even have a proper headshot of myself, but what I did do was I showed up, I wrote whatever was about whatever was interesting to me, whatever I was learning. And so essentially I was sharing value and tips. I was sharing recipes and most of all my enthusiasm and I couldn't believe it, the people were actually reading and back then people would like leave comments.

You know, like everybody would leave comments on like the bottom of the blog posts. And I would see the same names like post after post, the same names are leaving comments and they really were following. So to answer your question, Kira, my very first clients really were readers of my blog. And interestingly, you know, because here I was in the online space, my clients came from all over the world. Like my first client, I lived in Boston and my first client was in Missouri and then my next client was in New Jersey. And then my next client was an Israel and it was just like crazy to me just because I was showing up and I was writing these silly little blog posts on a consistent basis. And really, I want to say, I found my voice as a went. Like it's awkward when you start.

You're like what do I write? And kind of feel like a jerk because you're not used to seeing your, your voice, your thoughts published, you know, especially back then, you know, now we kind of publish ourselves all the time, even just like to our friends on Facebook. But back then, I know I felt very awkward writing. But just in the process of doing it poorly, we kind of, after week after week, I started to find my voice. I found like my sense of humor and my writing. I kind of figured out like what, how, how I could talk about something that has been talked about a million times health and wellness topics, but do it in a way that felt really authentic to me that was enjoyable. Like people enjoyed reading it. I think that's why they said, yeah, I'll be your first client.

You know? Like I like you. That's what people are saying. They're saying, I like you. I like your stuff. So I'm to this day, as, as you may know, I create content on a weekly basis in my business, a weekly basis. You guys, I might take off a week, maybe twice a year for like a vacation over the holidays. Now the blog scene has changed though. We have opportunities now through podcasts, which of course I have two podcasts through YouTube channels through even just your Instagram account, whatever platform you use, you just need to commit to it, put out interesting, valuable content stuff that someone's going to go, Oh, I like her or I like him. You know, like I look forward to seeing what this person puts out in the world and that starts to pay off dividends down the line. I promise to this day, I'm so grateful that I started that blog in 2006.

So many of you are here live. It's so great to see you. Wonderful, wonderful. I mean, look the, right now we are having a virtual event, right? Just by virtue of me going live in our Facebook group every Tuesday. And you guys notice show up. I mean, it's not like, you know, you all are setting an alarm and doing it every single week. Some of you are here every week, but it's an event that takes place. Like if you can establish yourself as a person who does things online, it's much easier for like your potential clients to put that together in their head. Oh yeah. This person's accessible to me. This person does work in a way that like, I, I relate to them and I can do that now, even when I'm still working at home and my office isn't opened and we're so quarantined or whatever.

Right. So the more you can show up in the online space via email, via your content creation and then through virtual events, I think that really sets the stage for now, like what we would call like an online health coach. Right. it's so funny. Cause everyone says like, how did you become an online health coach? I'm like, well, I'm just like a health coach, but I just coach over the phone, you know, like I just market myself through online channels. You know, it's not like a different job or anything. It's just basically the platform that you create for yourself. So let's talk a little bit about virtual events because those can take many forms. Now of course, back in 2010, there was no Facebook live. There was no option. Like this webinars were not really accessible for me as a new coach. So, what did I do?

We had say it out loud. If you know, the teleseminar the fancy, fancy, teleseminar where you would give everybody just a phone number to call and a, you know, a passcode and they would just listen. And there were no slides. There's no visuals at all. And I thought like, this is lame. Who's ever going to do this, but people did. So here's what I would do again. I had no guidance, no one talking to me about strategy, or target markets. Everything I did over the course of like five years, you guys could do in like five months now. Right? Like any success I've had over five years. Because you know, because there, there are resources available to you. Like I'm here for you, like telling you, like here's what works. Here's what doesn't work. Here's what you have to do for a second and third.

Right. But anyway, my point is, I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew I could hold teleseminars so gosh, darn it. I was going to do it. And so I put on events, right? Like around the holidays, I would do some sort of holiday theme. Do you know, healthy holidays. There's probably something kind of generic like that. And I would advertise it through any channel available to me, to my email list, using my Facebook page, hanging flyers, you guys, I just, whatever channel these days, we have 5 billion channels available to us, you know, in terms of ways that you can promote yourself, different avenues through which you can say, Hey, I'm having, I'm having an event. Please come. I'm having an event sign up here, I'm having an event. And I didn't even know how to get people signed up for these things.

Like, I didn't know. I didn't have a tool and no idea how to put together a page with like a button that they could click and then type in their email address and sign up. This was all completely foreign to me. And so I remember my very first teleseminar I, it was, it was like the sugar, blues, sugar blues. Teleseminar a lot of, you might be familiar with that one. Cause it's one of those generic scripts that gets passed out to health coach schools sometimes. And I hosted that sugar blues and I said, if you want to join, like, you know, here's the date, here's the time. Here's what we're going to be covering. If you want to join email me and I put my email address and I just said, right, like I want to join in the subject line. And that was it.

Like, that's how I registered people. I just had them email me. So I got all these emails that said, you know, I want to join. And then I would just write them back one by one and say, great, you know, copy and paste the phone. There you go. It was so bare bones. It was not fancy. It was like not sexy at all, but I just did it anyway. And then I did it again. And then I held one like the month after that. So I started doing these kinds of virtual events. Sometimes they were free. I'm pretty sure I experimented with having them paid and quickly learned that, you know, going through the trouble of getting some sort of payment system set up. So a couple people could pay me $10 was hardly worth it. It's much better to do them for free and add a lot of new names to my mailing list.

But whatever I experimented with all different versions of this. And then and then I remember my very first live group program. And I thought this is interesting because what I did was actually a hybrid. So I had been running a 21 day detox, wait, no backup. Was it the first, the very first time I was planning to run a 21 day detox that I developed and I was going to run it through the yoga studio that I worked at. Cause I was teaching yoga and they did that's exactly what I did. But then this light bulb went off in my head and I was like, what about all the people who've been reading my blog and are on my mailing list. And yet they don't live in this part of Boston. What about them? So I thought, well, what if I do? I just took the exact same materials and made them available online.

And so that first time I ran my 21 day detox with again, no guidance, no clue what I was doing at all. I was just like, I'll give people the choice. They can come in person. Or they can be an online participant. It's some people did a little bit of both. Like maybe they just came to the meetings that we had in person, like one time if they lived far away. And others just participated remotely. But I just said, I'm just, I'm just going to offer it two ways and see how it goes. And it was so cool. Cause I had about the same number of people registered through the studio. As I had registered through me in the online space, I charged the same amount for both. Now of course, with the yoga studio, you have to give them a percentage. But when people registered through me, I got to keep all the money and I thought, well, that's a heck of a lot smarter, isn't it?

So, very quickly I started to see the benefits of working for myself. You know, having people just register for things directly through me and holding things in the online space so that my clients could participate, whether they were on the East coast or the West coast or on the other side of the world. And from there, it was like, the ball just kept going to the point that you know, today. And for many years now I haven't done anything in person in a very long time. Like it is a cold day in hell when I put on like real clothes and do my hair and step out into the public and do some sort of event, I'll probably do some more like that in the future. Cause sometimes they're fun, but that was sort of have the transition wet. So, I hope this has been helpful for you to see how they're, it's not super complicated, but you do need to continuously show up, provide the content, run the events and be known in this space.

It's almost like instead of someone getting to know like you and you live in this office over here or on main street or you know, like how you just like your dentist, your dentist, like they're over there. You think of, they think of like where people are when people think of me, like I live here, you know, this is my, this is my wood, my fake wood wall back here. And you know, it's just so funny. You build your own little house online and then you invite people to it. So in the coming weeks, we're going to be talking more about the many pieces that go into successful online business, making in a quarantine world, holding webinars, using social media, like all these different tools that are available to us because it's not, you know what, it's really not going away. You know, even, even if we can go back out into the world and start doing in-person work, everybody has shifted online though.

You know, like this instance that you never thought were going to be online are now online. People who never use zoom in their life or my mom, like my mom uses zoom now. So I think like the world has really changed in the past couple of months and now is the time to really get a handle on this online marketing thing. So we'll be talking more about that in the next couple of weeks. And of course we will be opening up the waitlist for healthy profit university's Fast Track semester so keep your eyes open for that. And thank you so much for joining me today. Everybody, I will see you next week. Take care.