#131: My Biggest Business Lessons from 2020

Like all of you, I was blindsided last March when covid hit and the world seemed to turn upside down. I’d been steadily growing my business since 2009…but all of a sudden the game changed. In the end, my business became stronger than ever. Today I’ll share how I made that happen and the lessons I’m taking with me into 2021.

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Well happy new year health coaches! We're back. Thanks for bearing with me as I took a little break over the holidays. It's nice to be here with you today. And to kick off, I thought, Oh boy, we have got to talk about everything that just happened. Like we have got to talk about what we learned in 2020, because this is huge. We just went through the craziest year. And with that came some amazingly, like, shocking business lessons, even for me. And I've been doing this for a very long time. So, today I wanted to talk about that, the biggest lessons and, sort of what I learned about business in 2020, the things that I'll be taking with me into 2021.

So, like all of you, I was blindsided in March when COVID hit and the world seemed to just turn upside down overnight, right? Like I said, I have been doing this a long time. I had been steadily growing my business since 2008, 2009. And all of a sudden the game changed everything that I thought I knew, I wasn't sure if I knew any more when it came to this whole business thing and my whole salary was on the line. Like, this is what I do. I'm a single mom. I have two little boys. So, this was no joke in my world. And I'm sure many of you were in a similar position. However, in the end, I'm happy to report that business continued to grow stronger than ever. And today I want to share exactly how I did that.

And, if you're looking to turn health coaching into a full-time salary, be sure to check out my free training on that exact topic. You can get it at healthcoachpower.com/earn. I'll show you how to create a plan. And I do this every year. I especially did it this year, but I do it every year. I'm going to show you how to create a plan, which you can do right now to start off your January, to get things off on the right foot, to earn the salary that you want to make this year. And again, you can get that training at healthcoachpower.com/earn. I'm going to put that link over here in the comments and speaking of the comment area, I am very happy to answer your questions as we go along today. So if you're here with me live, and I know a few of you are, we do this every Tuesday at 2:00 PM Eastern time inside the health coach power community Facebook group. So, if you're here with me, hello, please ask your questions, drop your comments in the chat. As we go along, I can see them, although there is like a minute delay or whatever it is, I will see them.

I'd love to answer your questions and also hear what did you learn in 2020? And how is that informing how you're approaching 20, 21? I think there's a lot to discuss here. So I just bullet it out for myself before we hopped on the line, like G like what were those big things that really made this year different in business from any year prior? And the biggest one that struck me right off the bat with like this year, I didn't know. Usually since we were babies, you know, you learn something and then you have that knowledge and you learn the next thing. And it's kind of a linear path, right? Little guy, you know, my, when my boys were small, they learned to stand up and then walk and then run. And it goes in that order. But this year, everything I thought I knew about business was kind of caput.

Everything I had built was like, I don't know if this is going to work anymore. And so I had to be a beginner. I mean, I'm a Yogi. I don't know if you guys do yoga, but a lot of times in yoga, we talk about having a beginner mindset, being willing to be a beginner, to not know because your body is different every day. Your mind is different every day. And with COVID, everything was different every day. So I had to be a beginner again and say, huh, now this is something I've always done. Is it going to still work? Is it going to still generate sales and work in that regard also, is it going to still work for me personally, considering that, you know, my whole situation changed and suddenly the kids were home and I didn't have any time to myself and homeschooling and you know the drill.

So you have to be a beginner and be willing to not know. And that's probably, that's probably worth continuing to have that mindset because even if say, you know, I go on to Instagram and I think I know everything about Instagram, but like the idea of like, well, what if, what if I did it differently? You know what, if this wasn't the only way what F you know, that opens up possibilities, and this is where real growth happens. So I was actually really thrilled to have that experience this year. Cause it's easy to get in a rut. And once you kind of see in your business, what's working, you repeat it and you repeat it and you repeat it. And that can be good. But this year we grew in new and different ways and that was super duper exciting. Okay. So, that was number one, everybody get ready to be a beginner all over again this year.

Cause, I don't think any of us really know what 2021 has in store doing. All right, the next lesson I learned, it's not, it wasn't a new lesson, but I think I had to embrace it in a new way. And this might be a new lesson for you overall. And that is to give away your best content for free this past year. You guys, again, not knowing which end was up. The very best thing you can do is invest yourself in building your audience and not just in numbers, but in your engagement and the quality of that audience and how that audience views you. So this past year I gave it all away. If you've been here in the group with me, you probably participated in two, three, four or five. I don't even know how many free trainings I did this year. I gave it all away for free.

I did it in my health coaching business too. I ran programs for free. I had never for free in the past, give it away, give it away because people learn to love you. When you do that, you know, you give stuff away, you impress somebody. I had people do my free program when I offered it, on the health coaching side of my business last may. And I had like hundreds and hundreds of people signing up, emailing me, thanking me, leaving podcast reviews and asking how they could hire me because they wanted to become a client. So when you give it away for free, you're not devaluing yourself. If you do it in a smart way, which is what I'm always teaching you guys, it really pays itself back in dividends. So, I know sometimes it's like, ah, I keep working for free. I keep working for free.

It's so annoying, but you're not. It's an investment. And you're going to see a return on that investment. And so man, we did that big. We did it hard in 2020, and they plan to do more of that this year as well. So keep hanging out with us. Okay? Next lesson. Every entrepreneur needs to hear this probably every day, pivot, pivot, pivot, right? There are so many different ways that you can earn money in your health coaching business. If this isn't working for you do that instead, if that is draining your energy and causing you angst, pivot. If something in the world happens like COVID pivot, you had the opportunity to continually change what you do in your business to modify something that you've done in the past. This is not true. If you're working in the corporate world, you show up, you do the job that they give you.

If you don't like it anymore, I guess you can leave. That's really the only pivot you can make. But I love running my own business because I can be like, you know what? I'm really interested in pursuing this opportunity. You know, let me put a little bit of energy there. Or Hey, like this thing that I've been doing, it is not working for me anymore. So I don't have to quit though. I don't have to walk away. You can pivot a million times and that's what successful entrepreneurs do we take? What's working and we, we double down or we take, what's not working and we let it go. And if you can continue to course correct like that over the years of your business, you will find yourself in a place where you feel very fulfilled. Your passion is ignited. You're doing work. You love, you're doing good work in the world that you're proud of.

And your bank account is feeling it at the same time. And that's the sweet spot. Yes, yes. I will tell you. Okay. Here's the next thing I learned you guys. Let's talk about the economy. Everybody got freaked out. I saw everybody in this group go, Oh no, everybody's losing their job. The economy is tanking. I'm going to start a coaching for $10 an hour. I'm going to, I'm going to do a 75% off my next package. I'm going to, you know, forget coaching altogether. And here's what I want to let you know. Regardless of the economy, there is still money out there. And I feel like I really proved this, even to myself this year. I'll tell you a story in just a second, but people always have problems. And if you can solve them, they will pay you the money still exists. And actually, it helps the economy for us to pay money, charge money, and you'll keep the economy afloat, but by the exchange of money.

So, I'm so glad that this year I didn't pull back entirely and stop making offers. I continue to make offers. Right? I continue. In fact, I doubled my prices this year as a health coach. And one thing I learned was that I was, I was selling myself short. I remember getting up on a phone call. I may have told this story before months ago. So, bear with me if you heard it. But I remember it very clearly. I got on the phone with a potential client and uh, and I was thinking to myself, Oh no, like, of course this, woman's not going to be able to hire me because COVID, she's not going to be able to afford health coaching right now, especially at my new rates and everything. And so, I went through the call, kind of playing down, you know, my energy was in this place of like this probably isn't going to work.

And I even offered her like a smaller package option, which I don't normally do, but that's how much I was feeling doubt in myself, doubt in the world. And she said, no, I'd like to take your largest package, Michelle. And I'd like to pay you in full and I'd like to do it because I actually just got a new job and I'm making a great salary. And I know not everyone's in that position right now, but I love the work that you do. I want to support you. And I want to support myself right now. I was like, huh. And then totally proved everything wrong. What I thought was happening in the world. She really showed me. It's not the case for everybody in every situation. So regardless of the economy we can succeed. Part of that is pivoting. Part of that is this knowing that if we can solve people's big problems and you can, right? You don't have to have a million degrees or certifications, right?

Just giving someone the opportunity to work with you as a health coach can improve their lives in tremendous ways. I've seen it happen again and again, and again, if you can solve somebody's problems, they will be very happy to pay you for that. Okay. Next, I probably say this lots of different ways, lots of different times, but this year, all M G I was so happy that I had a support system for myself, both personally and professionally. I want to specifically talk about professionally right now this year, a year I added to my team. I actually added some social media support. In addition to my project manager, my strategist, my virtual assistants, my podcast producer, and who am I forgetting? And the admin for our Facebook groups, right? I have what, seven, eight women on my team now. And it is amazing. Not only because of course they're going to do their job, but they're going to do an amazing job.

I'm happy to pay them for it. They were able to retain that income. I was able to keep paying them. It's a beautiful thing. But beyond that, having people to support you in your business, having a group of people or individuals that you can go, Oh man, I'm having a hard day. Or this happened with my kids today, or, Oh man, I'm worried about that. It was this combination of, of comradery of we're all in this together of like, let's make this a success. And also like, yeah, I know this sucks, right? It felt so good to have that support. So if you're out there and you're trying to start your business on your own, run your business on your own, just know that support exists in so many different ways. It can be in groups that you join and like ours, it can be in people that you hire to help you and can be.

And you know, the babysitter that comes to help out with the kids. So many different ways to support yourself. And I want to encourage you to do that now. Like get support systems in place for yourself, because we don't know what lies ahead this year, but it will be easier, less stressful, and way more fun if you have people around you. And if you're like Michelle, I can't hire anybody right now. That's cool. That's cool. Show up. Show up inside our Facebook group every day, leave a post, leave a comment, say hello. Like we are a community like 10,000 members right now. We all understand what you're going through. It's a really beautiful thing. Okay. Next, this is kind of a more tactical thing. I've said it before. I'm going to say it again. I proved it this year for myself. You do not need to run Facebook ads.

I've never run Facebook ads for my health coaching business. I have run them in the past to bring new members into our health coach power community. But this year I laid off all the Facebook ads. I said, you know what, what if we just don't invest money there this year? Because you know, everything's a little weird in 2020, let's do it differently, you know, right back to that beginner mindset. What if we did this a different way? So we, we just shelled all the Facebook ads, thousands and thousands of dollars that usually get invested into paid advertising. We hung on to, and instead came up with really smart, strategic ways to bring new members into our group to reach new health coaches. You know, obviously this podcast is one way that we get ourselves out there. We found partnerships. We did so much amazing outreach this year.

I'm very, very proud of it. Number one, because we were able to reach so many more of you guys and number two, because wow, that's much smarter business move. Isn't it? Why invest tens of thousands of dollars into ads if you don't have to. So if you have been thinking, well, the only way to get clients is on social media. First of all, that's not true. And if I'm going to do that, I have to run ads bad is also not true. So I'm going to encourage you to stick with me because I'm going to tell you, there are so many other ways to make your business grow without putting out so much money up front, which is very, very scary, just depending on your financial situation and on the economy and on the, you know, who knows what of 2021 and the last lesson, and then I'm going to answer your questions, but I have one more, or less than that I wanted to share with you that I thought it was actually really interesting, like from, uh, uh, on the personal side, this is very interesting for me in the past.

You know, my kids were smaller. I've been running my business since, before I had my first son. So I've had two babies and, you know, everything that goes along with that in the meantime, it's been up and down and up and down and up and down. But what I want to say is, uh, in the past, I have sort of kept my business. I don't want to say hidden, but kind of hidden from my kids. Um, not because I didn't want them to know about it, but because they can't really understand it, right? Oh, mommy talks to people online and helps them be healthier. You know, it's very hard for my kids to understand that it's hard for anybody to understand it. And, um, I don't want them messing with my stuff. Right. My computer set up my microphones, everything. So, I tend to keep everything in like a room with the door shut, like don't come in here.

And, uh, and I feel like it's always been very nebulous for them about how mommy has a job. And even my little guy, sometimes I don't think he believed I had a job. He just thinks that I cook all day for him, which somehow I also do because that kid eats a lot. But this year I had to say to them, I had to say, listen, guys, I know you're home from school. I know you're busy tearing the house apart. Thank you for that. But mommy has to go downstairs and do a very important webinar right now. Do you know why it's important? And I was able to explain to them how we as a family make money and they got it. Mommy has to go do a thing downstairs right now. That's going to result in. And sometimes I even put it in terms of dollar amounts that they could understand this much money.

Mommy's going to make a hundred dollars, you know, whatever, like that just blows their mind. And they started to take ownership of that. And they'd say, okay, this is very important. Cause they think money is very exciting. Mommy's going to make money for us. So we're going to be quiet or we're going to sit upstairs. Or sometimes I even have to say to them, you can't use the internet right now because it sucks bandwidth. And I need all the bandwidth for this event that I'm doing. That's hard for a six-year-old and a nine-year-old. You can't use internet. Oh my God. But they, they did it. It's like they took ownership of it. They had some pride in the fact that their mother was working and generating income so that we could, you know, do all the fun things that we did this year. And I love that they have a much better sense of what I do now.

And I would like to bring them more and more into my business as time goes on. I've always thought that my older son could take over some, you know, Instagram posting for me, maybe in a couple of years. Right. He's only nine, but anyway, that's been super cool as well. So those are some of the big things that I brought into next year. I want to answer a couple of your questions now. And of course I'll be back every Tuesday to do this more. So ask questions inside the Facebook group, because those are the ones I pull from and answer during these sessions, as well as anything that you're... That you're asking on the spot. So let me do one here that I have from Heather. And then I'll get to those of you who are putting questions into the comments.

Heather says I'm new to health coaching, and I'm struggling to figure out my setup. I'm hoping to replace my teaching job. So I need evening and weekend sessions for now. Cool. Can anyone share your general business setup, your schedule, your session and your offer? There are so many ideas to sift through.

Heather, I like that you're thinking about this. And I remember when I started my business, I didn't have that kind of restriction. I had been laid off from my previous career and I could work all day every day. And that is what I ended up doing because I did not think, okay, what should my schedule be? I'd have a client. Who's like, well, can we meet at nine o'clock at night? And I was like, okay. And another woman would say, can we meet at five o'clock in the morning? And I'd say, okay. And you don't want to do that. You really do want to look at what's going to work for you first and foremost. So, for you, Heather, I would look at your evenings or weekends and don't make it a free for all, because you need time off for yourself and for your life as well.

So maybe there's one block of time on the weekends and two nights per week that you're going to take clients and that's it stick to it. People will respect you and your schedule, if you respect yourself enough to set one up in the first place. So that really needs to be with whatever works for you and as for your sessions and as for your offer, ahh, just start, okay, just start. I know like you want me to tell you, Oh, it should be like 10 sessions and you should charge this much money. You know, it's, it's a little more complicated than that, but when you're first starting, the most important thing is that you just start. So I don't care. Pick a number out of a hat, do that many sessions, pick another number out of a hat and make that your price for now, for now get some experience. And you're going to come back to these questions with the whole refreshed view in just a couple of months.

Here's a question from Maddie. She said, I'm signing on a new client, was wondering what you guys provide or send to officially start the partnership, Maddie, what officially starts. The partnership is not what I said, but what the client sends me in the form of payment. So no payment, no nothing. Once payment has gone through. And I do really, really encourage you guys to collect payment immediately during your consultation, when you make your offer, they say, they'd like to sign up with you, try to sign them right away. Ever since I started using practice better, I'm able to accept a credit card over the phone and process it on the spot. It saves me so many headaches. Um, and I will, we actually have a discount with practice better. I'm going to put that into the comments after I get off this live, ‘cause I need to copy and paste it from somewhere.

There's a code, there's a discount. You're going to want it. So, check that out. But anyway, um, so they provide the payment and then what happens automatically again, through practice better is they are sent an intake form and a food diary. Those are the two things that I send to a brand new client. They complete those prior to our first session. And then we're often running. So congratulations on signing our new client and also know that if you do none of that, nothing that I just said, and you do it all backwards and upside down with your first couple of clients, that's okay. I didn't have a system when I started either, I was doing everything. Just kind of like by the skin of my teeth, figuring it out as I went along and it all works out. My next question is from Tanya. She says, I'm curious what others start out charging for one-on-one clients when you're new to coaching, huge question marks hanging over everybody's heads right now I can feel it because nobody knows what to charge.

And again, I can't tell you, like, here's exactly what should be charging at first. I'm going to give you the10,000 foot view and then I'm going to get right down on the ground and give you a practical answer. So, the view from high up above Tanya is that you should charge your clients. Um, as much as it is worth for them to solve their big problem. Like why are they coming to you? And, what is that worth to them to solve that problem? If they have no problem, if they have a very tiny problem, they're not going to want to spend a lot of money. If they have a big problem that they believe you can help themselves, they will be willing to spend big money. So, it's impossible to just say, Tanya, your coaching sessions are worth X dollars because it actually has nothing to do with you.

It has everything to do with the person coming to you and how motivated they are to change. That's the first answer. Second answer. I'm just going to tell you what I charged when I was starting out. So, when I was a student at the Institute for integrative nutrition, they told us that what we should do, and I'm not sure what they're saying these days. This was back in like 2008. You guys, honestly, though, from what I hear, it hasn't changed too much. Um, they were telling us that we should offer a six month coaching package with two sessions per month, right? So that would be 12 sessions and we should charge $1,200 for that six month package. So my first clients I took on when I was still in school and they suggested we do it for half. So my first clients paid me $600 for that same six month package. After I graduated, I raised my rates to $1200 and then it's been up and up from there. And also less and less time with the clients. And these days, if you kind of have packages that are really based on the number of hours, but if you broke down the amount of time that it actually spend with the client, even though we're getting great big results, nobody has time. So we spend as little time as possible to create the biggest results as possible. And I earn around $500 an hour if you broke it down that way. Um, so anyway, a lot of opportunity for growth here, but that's how I started out. And I hope that's helpful.

Here is A question from Jorge. He says, I'm taking on my first client pro bono in exchange for a testimonial. I've had two sessions with him. And so far it's gone pretty well, but I feel like I could be more productive in my sessions. Though I'm not quite sure what to do in terms of diet. I know I can't give exact advice. So I feel like I'm constantly filtering myself to not give personalized recommendations. Any advice on how to make coaching sessions more productive while staying within the scope of a health coach?

Jorge for you I would say, why do you feel that you need to be more productive? That's coaching question. And that's kind of thing that you can do with your clients. They're going to tell you something and it's going to be kind of like up here on the surface, they're going to say, well, you know, it's some food and I tried that recipe and yeah. Had some kale or whatever, and then it's your job to not just go. Oh, okay, cool. That's good. What would you, uh, what else do you want to do? You know, like what about your exercise? It's your job to dig deeper? How did that feel? What did you think about that? You know, what came up for you when you did X, Y, Z, and then they're going to answer like one level deeper.

And they're going to tell you, well, I felt, uh, I felt kind of proud of myself or, I was feeling discouraged or, you know, whatever their feeling is or, you know, and then you just keep asking and you keep trying to drive down a little bit deeper each time making it. So by the end, you're no longer talking about what they ate yesterday. Cause who the hell cares, what they ate yesterday, right? Like in the big picture, we're trying to help people in much bigger ways than just the types of food that they're eating or how much food that they're eating. So it's a great way into a conversation to talk about those action items from the session before, but then try to drill down to the emotional stuff underneath their motivations of what's driving them, their fears. What's keeping them up at night.

Client sessions often involve tears. You know, sometimes mine as the coach, often there's as the client. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing. It will never happen if we just stay on top and give food recommendations. So don't worry about the fact that as a health coach, you can't give personalized nutrition advice because you don't have to. And really you shouldn't as a coach because there's so much more important work to be done. So, it's about asking open-ended questions and down deeper, deeper, and seeing if you can get to more substantive conversation, I would say, but anyway, congratulations on your first client and I'm glad it's going well.

All right, what else do we have here? Um, Samantha said, I'm trying out offering a 14 day program for a small cost. And she says, my free programs grew my list, but people were not committed. Um, that can happen. It depends on the free program and it depends what you're asking them to do. So if someone is not paying, they're not investing monetarily, they're not investing energetically with you. It is very common for them to not bother opening that email, not do that thing that you, you know, you suggested for them to do. They're not going to be as committed. However, it is our job as coaches to give them something so valuable to give them an aha moment that even if they don't make the recipe or they don't do the thing, they're like, Oh, I get it right. So the more we can offer them, the more ways that we can get them to engage with their own problem that they're trying to solve or with their own mindset or whatever. Um, it's not about them. You know, by the end of the program, they lost 10 pounds. It's just about them going like, wow, like opening a door in their mind. And I find that if you can do that, they will be your fan until the end of time, they will sign up for everything that you offer. And they will bring 20 of their friends.

Um, Allie says, I just created an account with practice better and was wondering if the liability waivers plus the other forms they provide are legal to use as-is with clients. Good question, Allie. I don't know. I don't know if the liability waivers are legal to use as-is, as that probably has something to do with exactly who you are and what state you live in and things like that. And I always, always refer you guys for legal questions to Lisa Fraley. We have done podcast episodes with her in the past, you can go to Lisafraley.com. She is a health coach and attorney, and she would be the right person to ask any legal questions to like that, because I know a lot of stuff. And the law really is not an area that I'm going to get into nor accounting, also car maintenance. I'm not your girl, but Allie, I'm glad that you got an account with practice better. Cause it's a really, really great tool.

Jennifer's saying, I graduated from IIN four years ago and never successfully launched a coaching practice. I'm going to relaunch this year as a side gig. What is the bare bones minimum I need to do in terms of start-ups so that I can start to see clients, Jennifer, you need, let's see, what do you need? Bare bones minimum. How did I start working with clients? Um, you have a phone, good. You got a phone, you got a notebook, got an email address. That's all you need. You guys. I see you going into these rabbit holes of like, I got to set up my LLC and I got to register this and I got to do that. I got to set up my bank account.

I got to... I didn't do any of that stuff for years start-ups, you can totally start working with your first clients today. You're going to accept money as a sole proprietor. You're going to report it on your tax return. It's all on the up and up. You guys it's okay. It's like, you know your babysitter, right? And babysitter comes over and makes money. The babysitter doesn't have all kinds of things registered and this, that, and the other, you will do that in time. But when it's like your first client, your second client, don't worry. Start doing the work. You know, you want to get some kind of insurance sooner than later a bank account. You don't need that. I didn't open up a separate bank account for my business. You're going to laugh. I think I was in business for five years before I did that.

And even then it was just a separate personal account because a business account was going to require, you know, an EIN or I don't even remember all this other stuff I hadn't done yet. So I just set up a separate personal account and used it for my business. It was fine. It was totally fine. And then as it made sense, I got more and more affordable with things, you know, eventually it made more sense to set up an LLC. Now I'm actually, uh, set up so that I get taxed as an S Corp because there are advantages to that when you start making more and more money, but you kind of like learn a little bit as you go and you set it up a little bit more as you go, don't put up a bunch of red tape in front of yourself and go, I got to do all this stuff first before I can health coach. No, you can start today. Jennifer, go do it.

All right. You guys thank you so much for being here. We will be back next week to do more questions in the meantime, head over to healthcoachpowercommunity.com. Ask your questions, tell us what's up for you in the new year. And we'll talk more about it next time. Have a great week, everybody.