#126: 5 Mistakes I Made When Starting Out As a Health Coach

In this episode Michelle shares how she felt (like a hot mess!) back in 2008/2009 when she got started as a health coach. She’ll come clean about the mistakes she made so that YOU can avoid the same issues.

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Hey, health coaches. How are you doing today? Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the Health Coach Power Community Podcast. So glad you're here today. I'm going to be sharing some little bit embarrassing things that I went through when I was just starting out. So this is going back to like 2008, 2009, when I was just starting my health coaching business and I've narrowed it down to basically five mistakes that I made in those early years of my business. And yes, I did say years. I don't want you to ever think that, you know, after the first five minutes I had it all figured out and that even after the first 6 months or 12 months or 18 months, I mean, it really took me years because I had no clue what I was doing at all. Maybe you've been feeling the same way and Hey, I didn't have a resource like this.

So, today we're going to get into it. If you are here, live with me. Tell me in the comments, what concerns you about getting started with your business? So when I think back to what I was doing doing in those early days of my business, I remember exactly what it was like. I remember what it was like to be in my office all day by myself. I was definitely not used to that meeting with my first clients by phone and just having no clue what I was doing.

One of the big things that comes to mind is how all over the place I was, how I was just saying yes to everything. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that, but when I'm like, why was I doing that? Like, why was I so scattered? I think it really comes down to the fact... So, this will be the first mistake that I made, which was, I did not have a target market of any kind. I had no idea who I was trying to work with, who I would do my best work with. I really hadn't put any thought against it. And I really had no excuse either because when I graduated from the Institute for integrative nutrition, I had already been working with clients. I started working with clients at the halfway point. I had earned back my entire tuition by the time I graduated. So, I had, I had experience, right? But not once. Did I really sit down and think to myself, okay. Of these clients that I've worked with or of just people in theworld who am I best suited to help? Who do I do great work with? Who do I connect with the best too?

I like to work with who has a problem that I can definitely help solve. None of these things went through my mind at all. And I think my mindset was more, and this may be for you as well. More of a, uh, let's see, almost like I was a primary care physician because like who, who would I go to for my health through the years? Right. I would go to my doctor. And so I think when I thought of myself as being a health practitioner, I thought of it that way anybody could come work with me. And then it was my responsibility to kind of figure out how to help them. And I had a, you know, I had a decent idea that everybody can be helped with improved diet and lifestyle, for sure. But that's such a sort of passive and backwards approach would, that's fine.

If you are a doctor, if you are someone who has people coming to you, because that's what people do where, because that's what their insurance is paying for. But as a health coach, when you are out there and you have to market yourself effectively, and when you again are a health coach, you're not someone who's been through years and years and years of medical school. You're not supposed to be able to help everyone on earth and it's not necessary to, it works much better. There's one group of people who have one specific kind of problem, and you are just very well-suited to help them. It helps your marketing efforts tremendously. It helps you be more efficient with your time as a coach and it makes for better results. So if you're like me and you can just raise a hand and let me know if any of the sounds familiar.

And if you're in a similar boat where the idea of choosing a target market is just scary, or you just haven't put the time against it yet. And either case I have a resource for you, um, it is a free guide to nailing your target market. And it's something that I put together after going through this process myself and realizing how difficult it can be. But also after working with hundreds, thousands of health coaches through the years and realizing that this is a very common problem that keeps you stuck at the gate. It keeps you kind of chasing your tail and never getting anywhere because you don't have a point of focus. So that is available to you@healthcoachpower.com/targetmarket. It's a free resource to get you going with your target market. Okay. So do that. Don't make the same mistake that I did.

Let's move on to mistake number two, that I was making all those years ago. And you know what? It's really easy to fall into this one. I see it happening all the time. I think I was focused a lot more on what I was interested in, which was healthy eating, which was yoga and Ayurveda. And what about this blood type diet? And what about, you know, just all the cool stuff like nerdy, nutrition and nerdy health and wellness stuff that I was into. I think it was always focusing much more on those things, those methods. Then I was focusing on actually helping people get a result or solve a problem. Right? So when I look back to some of my blog posts from, Oh gosh, you know, 2009, 2010, something like that, I will see words in those blog posts that I would never write today.

And I think I was focused so much on the method of healing, right? That was focused on the method. And the method could be that your, um, quote, eating healthy or eating clean. That's what I was really. Those are words that I would, I would use a lot in those early years. Um, it could be a method that's a little more particular like intermittent fasting or keto. Um, it could be something else that you're doing like Reiki, but all of these are methods and you and I, and everybody in our group, like we think this stuff is really super cool, but we have to remember that again, when it comes to connecting with potential clients and even with actual paying clients that they're not as nerdy as we are, if they were as into this stuff, as we are, well, you know, they probably would be in a better place with their health right now.

They come to us because we are the experts, but we have to meet them where they are and where they are, is struggling with a problem. They're struggling with an issue that they want to solve. So instead of focusing on your method of I'm going to teach you how to eat clean, right? I'm going to teach you how to go vegan, or I'm going to teach you, fill in the blank. I'm going to help you solve your problem. And that kind of goes back to knowing who your target market is. Who's your target market? What problem do they want to solve more than anything? Do they want to lose weight? Are they having trouble, trouble with infertility, whatever it is, what's their big problem. That's what you're going to help themselves. And that's what you want to talk about. 99% of the time in your messaging, not so much how you're going to do it.

Oh, I'm going to help you solve this problem. I'm going to help you lose this weight. I'm going to help you get rid of your migraines by putting you on a plant-based diet. Nobody cares. I really don't care about the method they care about the result. So it always want to be focusing on our marketing messages, around the results and talking to our clients about the result that they want to achieve and keep all the magic a little bit behind the scenes. You know, you don't have to tell them all the details about why they should be eating more fiber or why they should go keto. That kind of stuff you can, you can know for yourself, but in your communications with your clients, we want to keep it about the result, not the method. Okay. Let's move on to mistake. Number three that I made when I was starting out as a health coach.

And, I don't know how many of you are having this problem. Again, tell me in the comments, if this sounds familiar, you get somebody into a consultation. They're interested in becoming a client and you're on the phone with them, or you're over zoom or whatever you're doing. And you're like, "So, hi..." And you don't really know what to say. I don't really know what to say. So maybe they start, um, asking about your kids and then maybe talk about the weather. And then maybe they start asking you questions and picking your brain, but every different health question that they've ever had. And at the end of an hour, you're like, um, so do you, uh, would you like to sign on to my program and it's super awkward. Like most of the time they give you some vague answer about how they'd really like to, but maybe in the future and you feel like what is going wrong here?

What is happening? So when I was in the early years of my business, this was a huge mistake that I made. I refused. And to this day, I refuse to use a sales script where to offer one to you guys, because reading a script is not what you want to be doing when you're in a conversation with somebody, when you're in a coaching relationship with somebody, reading a script is like, you're all cerebral, you're up in your head. And you're just reading the lines like this. And it really keeps you from connecting with somebody. But because I didn't want to read a script, I then had no structure at all to what I was saying during these sales conversations, I didn't know how to connect with someone. I didn't know how to move them closer to becoming a paying client. And it just turned into all this pointless chit chat.

I think I did get clients back then, but my closing rate had to be 20%, 25%. Right? So if I met with 10 people, two and a half of them would become a client, or if I met with a hundred people, 25 of them would become a client. Something like that these days, my closing rate is like 85, 95%. And that all comes down to knowing exactly what to say. When you get on the phone with someone. And if you want to hear a little bit more about how to do this, I want to refer you back to episode number 29, which is all about how to structure an initial consultation or discovery call or whatever you're calling that, that intake that you're doing with somebody. Um, you need to have some sort of structure and a plan for how you're going to move them from here to there, because that will make all the difference.

Not only are you going to sign more clients, but you're not going to have somebody or just this energy that you've put out yourself of, like, I don't know what I'm doing. And I'm just going to let you pick my brain for an hour, because that is the pits. No more of that. Okay, good. Don't make that mistake. Have a structure for your sales conversation. Now, hearkening, back to something that I said a few minutes ago, one of the visions that I have in my mind when I picture myself back in the early years of my business is that I said, I was like all over the place. I just wasn't focused. I was kind of chasing my tail day in and day out. And part of that was a mistake that I made around not having boundaries. And this comes in so many different flavors.

When I think about the kinds of boundaries that I have now, compared to the lack of boundaries, then one thing I remember very clearly would be that I would work all day long. I would start work at probably, well, no, gosh, I would get up very early, probably five o'clock in the morning. I would go teach yoga class somewhere at like a 6:00 AM class. Then I would come home, get to work, work all day long. Maybe I'd go out and teach another yoga class. And then I'd have a client that wanted to meet in the evenings. After let's say they put their kids to bed. So they wanted to have a meeting at like 9:00 PM. I had been working since 6am and I would say, sure, of course. I wanted to please. I wanted to sign this client. So I had no boundaries around my own work hours.

Similarly, if a client asked for anything, I would bend over backwards to do it. If anybody asks for anything, if someone asked me to come and do a presentation, come and ask me to be part of whatever I said, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Indiscriminately. Because I had no structure to my business. I had no strategy. It's not just that I was being a people pleaser, but I was trying to take advantage of every single itty bitty opportunity and make every single person happy along the way in hopes that it would get me somewhere. This is like the throwing stuff at the wall. See what sticks approach I did that. It's a fast route to burning out. You can't do everything for everybody. You can't be meeting with clients late at night. If you're up at five o'clock in the morning. So all of these things have over the years, turned into stuff that I have boundaries around another pet peeve of mine, clients that cancel at the last minute.

Oh, why not? Michelle? Yeah, she works from home. What's the big deal. I can't make it. I have a work meeting that all of a sudden popped up. So I'm going to cancel and expect to make that session up next week. Oh no, no, no, not anymore. Now we have a 24 hour cancellation policy and these are all to protect your energy. Not just your time. Yes. Your time. Not just, you know, people have more respect for you. Absolutely. When you have boundaries, you are able to better protect your energy. And what I found as a health coach is that you're always giving energy. We're holding space for people. We are listening. We are supporting so energy is going out, out, out all the time. And I found myself in such a burnt out state after about a year of doing this stuff. And I would say every year that I have in business, I implement more and more in the way of boundaries and policies and how I spend my time and how I don't spend my time and who I'm going to hire to do that instead so that I don't have to do that with my time and energy.

And it's a lot about protecting your, your center because without that, you really have nothing. So as your business grows, you'll need to do more and more of that. But even in the very beginning, you need some boundaries. And one thing I like to always just start out with is the very basics of what hours do you work? What hours do you not work? And if you have kids who is watching those kids, cause if you are the primary caretaker, I know you can kind of work on the side cause I have done plenty of that, but that does not count as dedicated work time. You need dedicated work time where someone else is primarily in charge of your children. I say that for many years of experience.

And finally, and then I'm going to take some questions that came from you guys on this topic. But my, uh, final, my fifth mistake that I was making when I was starting out, my health coaching business was that I was not acting as a CEO and unsurprisingly, right? Because my whole career, I used to work in advertising and I was an art director. So as an art director, you report to the creative director and the creative director reports to the executive creative director and up the chain. It goes, I wasn't used to being the person in charge. It's not just about like giving orders and telling people what to do when you're at the top, you have to see the whole picture. You need to have a strategy and a map for what's happening and when and why. And somebody who's a little lower on the totem pole.

They're not thinking about that. When I was an art director, it was a lot more, um, of a task oriented position. You know, I had this problem to solve or I had this campaign to create. And so we worked on that thing, but we weren't looking at the overarching structure of the entire company. So now in my business, I realize that I have to play that role. And as a solopreneur, you have to play every role. So sometimes you're going to be down in the weeds, working on a specific project, trying to figure out what you should write on Instagram today. That would be considered a weed for sure. Just one of the little things that have to happen in your business, but you also need time to sort of elevate yourself up out of that. And this is something I never did back then.

I couldn't even dream of it and think how's this whole situation going to work? Am I going to make the amount of money that I need to make by the end of the year? Or how am I going to do better next year than I did this year? Right? So all of the planning, all of the strategy, I had none of that. So when you're choosing how to spend your time, if you have a strategy in place, you can refer back to it. If I get an opportunity today that has nothing to do with my business strategy, I can go. Hmm. That's interesting. But no, I can't make time for that. Whereas on the other hand, if something comes up or we have an idea and I'm like, Oh, that fits perfectly with what I'm trying to create in my business this year, I'm going to focus my energy there.

I know this is... It's kind of hard to wrap your head around it before you've gone through many of business. Cause it's always easier when you look back, but I want to help you get a little bit smarter about how you're planning your year, how you're spending your energy and all of your resources. So if you're interested in being a little bit smarter, especially as we go into 2021 head over to health coach power.com/earn E a R N. I'm just going to drop that link right here in the comments. Um, this is a training that I put together to show you how to actually put a full-time salary together as a health coach. And I would say of all the things that a CEO would be worried about, this would be one of them. How are we going to pay the bills? How are we going to be profitable?

How are we going to make this business a business that's thriving and sustainable. And it's still here a year from now, two years from now, 10 years from now. So if you're having any issues around that, um, hit up that training and health coach power.com/earn. I made it with you in mind because these are all things I definitely could have used 10, 12 years ago, whatever it was. Oh my gosh, we've been doing this a long time. You guys, so, all right. I have a question here from Jorge.

Jorge says, hi, Michelle. I'm currently a junior in college and kind of worried about being perceived as too young and not experienced enough. I have a podcast. I wrote a book. Wow, but I'm having pretty slow growth despite consistent posting for the past few months and not feeling experienced or old enough, seems like it would be especially tough to get my first few clients. Any tips will be helpful.

You might be the youngest person in our group. I don't know if that's true. If there's anybody who is younger than a junior in college, how old are you when you were a junior in college? I guess you're like, maybe you can't even drink yet. Okay. Anybody else you got to let me know? No, because I like to keep track of these things. I love seeing diversity in the health coach field. We have inside healthy profit university, which is my course for health coaches, our oldest member is 73, I believe 73. Um, and then we have someone who's 69, uh, you know, and then we have lots of people in the middle, but it's so cool to see people at either ends of the spectrum. And we have men and we have women and we have people from all walks of life who are health coaches.

And this is so important because when you go out and just look at the world, you don't just see women in their thirties and forties who are white, by the way, who, um, who need help with their health. Heck no, you see men, you see women, you see children, you see teenagers, you see people who are grandparents great-grandparents of every race and color and denomination. Every buddy, unfortunately in the world today needs help with their health. So what I wanna say to you is that yes, I'm somebody who is, let's say, 60 years old and needs help. Let's just, you know, make this up out of, out of thin air needs help because their blood pressure's too high. Are they going to hire you being that you're 20 and you probably don't have high blood pressure. And uh, and, and you know, you're still in college, maybe not right.

Maybe not. Maybe that's not going to be the right target market for you, but let's say that like, I'm a mom of a teen boy who's playing sports. Right. And he, um, you know, was trying to get a scholarship to go to college or something like that. Might I hire a health coach for my son, maybe, right? Like maybe he's struggling with something or maybe I have a kid who has ADHD, right? So maybe you're best suited to work with people who are a little bit younger. You're still going to be selling to their parents because their parents are the ones that have the money. But like I probably wouldn't hire, um, a 75 year old woman to help my son improve his sport game and get into college and get a scholarship. Do you know what I mean? Like, you might be much better suited for that.

So I would think very, very clearly about who you're best suited to help who you can do the best work with. And this is all outlined in that free resource that I talked about earlier at healthcoachpower.com/targetmarket. Who can you do your best work with? What results can you help them get? And who is most accessible to you? Um, in your case, who would you best relate to? Who would trust you? Right? I would, I have a babysitter for my kids. He's, uh, maybe he's about your age, right? But he's not a kid. He's not like 13 years old, you know, but he's, he's quite young. And my boys love having a boy babysitter when we have Timmy come over. It's like the happiest day ever. And I would pay Timmy just about anything because it's a perfect match for what I need. And I, it's not the same thing.

No, one's hiring you as a babysitter obviously. But the point is that like, if you can give somebody exactly what they need, they're gonna, they're gonna trust you. They're gonna pay you for it because it's a perfect match. And so you're looking for your match. You're not trying to work with anyone and everyone. And that's really the point of having a target market in the first place. So I hope, I hope that helps. And thank you so much for being here. I have another question from Rosa. She said that she's concerned about how to make a good first impression with her website when I don't have any customers or success stories. Yet I have a couple of different things to say about that. Such as you don't necessarily need a website, don't worry about your website. It's not the most important thing, but I've said all of that before.

What I'm going to say today to you, Rosa is the best way to make a good first impression is to give people content that they have not seen before, have not heard before, or I should say an slash or something that makes them feel motivated, happy, engaged, and delighted to learn more about how to solve their problem. So if you have, let's say a blog and people read your blog posts, and they're like, that was so helpful. Or that was hilarious. And it makes me actually want to try putting ground flax seed in my oatmeal, right? Like if you can walk that line between helping people and entertaining them at the same time. So they keep coming back. That is an amazing way to make a great impression with something as simple as a blog post or a podcast episode or a page on your website or something that you post to social media.

So you don't have to have success stories. You don't have to have like a million trainings and certifications and you don't have to be a particular age, but you do have to know how to engage people at how to help them. And if you can help them in a small way, in like the first five minutes that they spend with you, they're going to come back for more and then they're going to come back for more. And then they're going to come back for more.

Speaking of being helpful. If you guys find this podcast helpful in your journey to becoming profitable, successful health coaches, I would be so honored if you would take a minute and leave a review on iTunes. And I want to give a shout out to health coach sof who wrote: awesome resources, information, and tips for health coaches and gave a five star review.

And this person I love listening to Michelle's podcasts and appreciate her so much. Michelle is very generous for giving so much great advice for health coaches. I highly recommend the Health Coach Power Community podcast for all health coaches. Thank you so much, Michelle.

Thank you. Health coach, sof, whoever you are, please send your mailing address to support@healthcoachpower.com because we have a little thank you gift. We'd like to send your way. You just want to reference episode number one 26. And again, for all of you listening, if you find this podcast helpful, I would also appreciate your written review on iTunes because this is what helps us reach more health coaches. And if I'm able to continue expanding our reach, then this continues to be a very good way for me to use my time, bringing the free content to you every week. And I would like to continue doing that. Who knows? When you leave a review and next time I might read yours on the show. Thank you so much in advance and I will see you all next week. Have a great one. Take care.