#166: Working With Your First Client

It’s exciting to work with your first client! But it can also be terrifying. And that’s completely, utterly normal. Here’s what to do if you haven’t a clue where to begin. This episode is brought to you by Michelle’s newly updated free training, How To Turn Health Coaching Into a Full Time Salary – http://healthcoachpower.com/earn

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Well, hello there, health coaches. It's nice to be back with you. And today we're going to be talking about working with that first client. Like I know it's very exciting when we get our first client, but it can also be absolutely terrifying. I remember it well. So I want to let you know that if you're in that boat where you're maybe thinking, working with someone, somebody wants to work with you, but it's freaking you out. You actually signed a client. It's normal. If you're having anxiety about it, it's normal. If you're thinking, I don't know what I'm doing, right? Like, this is just exactly where you should be. So let's normalize the whole experience. We've all been there. But today I want to talk about what to do. If you, haven't a clue where you should begin in your work with this client. Now, of course we want clients, right?

So if we feel uncomfortable, we will self... We will self-sabotage almost subconsciously we'll self-sabotage our efforts in signing. People will Sarah marketing isn't working, or that we don't feel comfortable marketing. We're not good marketers when really it's just that we're scared to do the thing. And so try to get real clear with yourself about what is holding you back. If you feel like you've been held back from signing your first client or your first several clients, right? What we talk about today is going to apply to that very first, but really to your first set of clients. I don't know exactly how many clients I went through before I really started to feel comfortable, but every client in a way is a first, because you've never worked with that person before. And it does get a lot easier, but still, everybody's different.

Everybody brings different stuff to the table. So learning how to manage a coaching relationship, no matter what ends up on the other side of that zoom call or the other side of the phone line is a skill that we must figure out. Okay. So first of all, someone says that it sounds like it's raining and I don't know what that would be. It is not raining here. I apologize if the audio is not so great. Let me actually just check that out really quick, because if it is my zoom settings, I want to make sure that I have the right, the right thing. Ah, thank you for this information. Let's see. Oh no, no, no, no. External headphones is set up. Okay.

I don't know what to say. I hope I hope the audio is okay for everybody. Okay. Anyway, carrying on. Before we get into the meat of today's Q and a session, I want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by my newly updated free training, how to earn a full-time salary as a health coach, it is just 28 minutes. You can do it. It's short, it's quick. It's very powerful. And it's available to you at healthcoachpower.com/earn. So if you haven't checked that out now is a great time to do so. I'm going to plop that URL over here in the comments.

If you're here, live with me on Facebook and then let's get to this first question that came from Faria. So Faria said, I'm just on the cusp of taking on my first client. The thought fills me with excitement and dread at the same time, it will be the first time I've done anything like this. She approached me and said, I need help losing weight postpartum. I feel like I don't even know where to start. Any tips for a newbie would be much appreciated.

Yeah, that's what we're here to do today. So who else, if you're here, live with me, who else has had this experience of being kind of terrified of working that with that first client and even more so thinking, I don't know if I can help this person, where should I even begin? How do I know that I'm going to be able to help this person achieve the results that they're after and all this self-doubt just starts climbing into your brain. And it can be very hard to clear your mind and actually be present for that client. And that's what I want to talk about today.

So here's where to start. I'm going to actually give you three ways to start. I think you should probably do all three of these, your choice, which one you do first, maybe whichever one feels the most comfortable for you bidding on the kind of person that you are. But here's one very important way that I start with all of my clients. So let's say that this person has already signed up with me. They've already paid and now it's our first official session together. The very first thing I do with all of my clients is complete a full health history intake and a three-day food journal. This helps me in my practice get a full picture of what's going on. And as we go through these exercises, I get to see what other topics come up that I might not have been expecting. So just to reiterate a full health history intake form would be like the health history form that you get.

If you're a student at the Institute for integrative nutrition, um, I actually have a much lengthier intake form after having completed Aviva Romm's functional medicine training. So I kind of have my own form that I put together through the years, based on those different experiences. It's long. You know, it's a couple of pages and I use, by the way, I use practice better for all of my forms so that my clients are able to input their information online. It's much faster and easier for everybody then downloading a PDF and filling it out and scanning it back to me. But that's what I used to do in the old days. I also have, um, my clients complete a three-day food journal, which you do not have to do, but I have found in my practice that it's the best way for me to step into somebody's shoes, so to speak and really understand their life because not only am I going see exactly what they're eating, but I'm going to see when they're eating it and I'm going to see like, oh, that's odd.

You know, you woke up at six, but you didn't eat until 11. You know what, well, what goes on during your mornings? And it can lead to very rich conversation. So I'm looking at a food journal, less for like calorie counts or protein grams. Although I do look generally to see, you know, what are they eating? Are they getting vegetables, et cetera, but it's mostly so that I can understand their lives better. So not something that you necessarily have to do, but I really like having that as a first step. So when it's like, where do I start with this client? Well, the first thing we're going to do is we're going to review the entire form together and we're going to review the food journal together. And I'm asking a million questions in that first session. And I feel like, did you ever have to hang something on the wall?

And you got to figure out where the stud is and you knock, you knock and you knock, and then you find the stud, right? Cause it sounds different. Doesn't sound hollow in that one spot. And then you knock and you knock and you find the next step. I always think about these sessions is kind of being like that, where I have this form or this wall of information. And I'm just going to knock on it. I'm going to knock a little bit more and I'm going to knock over here until I hit something. Like I hit on something really good. And what will happen is the client starts spilling over with a story or sometimes tears or rage or whatever, like there's emotion, that's coming out of them. There's, there's more there. And that is like telling me, that's telling me as a coach, here's a place we're going to come back to, you know, here's the thing we're going to knock on again.

This is a very rich area. So going through this process together in the first session I find is incredibly helpful for so many reasons. But mostly it, it tells me where we're going to begin, right. Rather than me arriving at the session, thinking I know it all, or I know exactly what we're going to do first, second and third, I don't know. You don't know as the coach, you always want your client to lead. And this is one way that they do with you don't even have to ask them. They just do because it's in their reaction to all these different questions. So we're, we're knocking or figuring out what are the juicy bits. What are the things that we have to talk about in this case? Barrio, you're talking about a woman who wants to lose postpartum weight. I don't know how far along she is postpartum.

How long has she had her baby, but oh my goodness. I there's so much to talk about when a woman is postpartum, right? There's going to be so many variables in her life. It's not just about the weight. I can guarantee you. So going through an exercise like this will help you figure out what are all of the important parts. So if you're here live, how many of you start your first session with a complete intake like that? I'm just curious and there's no right or wrong answer, but I'm just curious if any of you are doing that.

Theresa said, do you offer an intake form inside healthy profit university? No, inside healthy profit university, I offer an application form. We do everything that is related to marketing and acquiring clients. And so that would include the application. Your intake form is different.

This is more the actual coaching skills that you would have learned in your health coach certification program. Faith says, yes, she does an intake during the first session. A lot of people will mistake... And I think it's a mistake, to do a full health intake with somebody before they've paid you any money and decided to sign up with you. Um, it's, it's not the information you need in the beginning. You need just the most important bits in the beginning, and you need to talk more about their readiness for change and their willingness to get started. Then once they've signed up with you, that's when you get into like, let's talk about the maternal side of your family and any diseases on, you know, your mom's side and stuff like that. And Sharon says, yes, she also does an intake during that first session. Does anybody do a food diary at any point with your clients?

I know for some coaches that becomes a very important part of their relationship or their coaches purposely avoid it entirely. What I do is very light touch on the food journal. There is no calorie counts, there's no precise measurements. It's kind of, I tell them to just write things like I ate half an apple and a bowl of oatmeal or whatever, you know, just a general description of what they've been eating. No right or wrong here, but I just thought you'd like to hear a little bit about how I do that. So that's one way to kick off your relationship with a new client, by asking all the questions and seeing where the juicy bits are. Another really important way for you to begin with a client. And you might actually do this during your consultation before they sign up, because I think it's important for the client and for you to know how are we going to measure success here.

So for this woman who wants to lose weight after having a baby, she knows that she wants to lose weight. Okay, put a finer point on it. Like, what will success look like? Is it a certain number of pounds that you want to lose? You need to know that as a coach, not because you necessarily have to help, help her hit that number, but you have to know what's going on in her head and like what she's going to be pleased with. What's going to be upsetting to her. Right. And just kind of where her head is at in the beginning. So is it a certain number of pounds? Is it a certain size clothing? You know, sometimes women will say, well, I don't really care how many pounds, but I want to be able to fit into this dress that I bought for this particular occasion or this dress that I used to love to wear.

And now I can't zip it up. Right? So sometimes that's going to be the way that they are measuring success. They may also have a certain timeframe in mind. And this is super important to know, because if someone thinks that they're going to lose 20 pounds in the next three weeks, like you want to know that upfront, whether or not you take them on as a client is up to you based on that. But you should certainly know. And they should also for themselves be able to speak out loud. What they're looking for in what timeframe are there measures of success. Can you think of any others that you hear from your clients, right. It's not always about this number of pounds. Of course. Now we are talking about this woman who has postpartum. Um, I'm thinking when I was postpartum, one issue I was having was sleep for sure.

I was having such trouble sleeping because I was so like, oh my God, the baby, oh my God, the baby. And my anxiety was really at an all-time high. Often with postpartum women, they may be having trouble breastfeeding or navigating those challenges. Um, again, I don't know how many, how far along she is after having her child, but there are other measures of success as well, energy levels, uh, losing the brain fog yes. Anne says energy levels here. Exactly. And then you want to kind of get specific about this stuff. So not just, oh, you want to have more energy. Okay, cool. You want to kind of quantify it. And we can't say like, how many pounds of energy do you want to gain? Because we can't measure energy that way. But I like to ask a question like, how will you know that you have more energy?

What will be different in your life? And they might say something like, well, when I wake up in the morning, I'm not going to want to hit the snooze button. That's a really good measurement because then she'll know when she gets there and she'll feel like she made progress because, you know, as coaches, we're helping people make small, sustainable changes over time. And sometimes they don't notice the improvements because they're incremental. You know? So after a couple of months you might check in with this person and say, when you woke up this morning, did you hit the snooze button? And there'll be like, no. Why? And then you can remind them. When we first spoke two months ago, you said that you wanted to have enough energy that you could wake up in the morning. And I hit the snooze button and here you are, how does it feel?

And that's going to be such an aha moment for her. She may not have realized on her own. Shelly's talking about joint pain. That's another one when there's aches, pains, stiffness in the body, um, it's a little bit difficult to measure it. So it's a really good question to ask, like, how will you know, or how will your life be different if you were able to reduce your joint pain or eliminate your joint pain. And then there's probably something that they can't do right now. We're having trouble doing. Cause it hurts. And then they'll know that they have achieved this goal when it no longer hurts. Right? So it's very helpful to ask these questions about how your client is measuring success, not only so that you can help them get there and remind them of it and celebrate their wins. But it also just gives you a really important peek into their mindset.

Is this someone who's trying to do something fast, furious, and an unsustainable way? That's a personality. That's a thing that you're going to have to deal with. If you decide to work with this person, um, or are they someone who's looking for more, oh, vague results. They can't quite put their finger on it. That's going to be difficult too, because they may never be satisfied. They may never feel like they got what they came for and you don't want that. You want them to feel like they definitely got what they came for. So anyway, asking these questions about success can be really important way to go. Theresa says, I have not done a food diary in the past, but I can see how powerful it would be. I will start doing that. You try it out. I just send the food diary. It's just very simple.

You know, it's just like day one, day two, you know, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Um, it's very simple form that I send to all my new clients. As soon as they've paid and sign up, they get their full intake form and a food journal set to them. And I just ask them to complete it in advance of our first session, because obviously that's what we're going to go over on that first session. Patricia's saying they don't feel like they need to nap. That would be another measure of somebody having more energy, right? So I have totally had clients like that who are like, I can't get through the day. I need that mid-afternoon nap every single day. And then if they realize, oh wait a minute, three days have gone by a week, has gone by two weeks, have gone by. And I haven't even thought about taking a nap.

Huh? It's so powerful because you know, you always feel when you're sick, if you wake up and you have a runny nose, you notice it. But if you wake up and you don't have a runny nose, you don't notice it. You don't make note, Hey, today I don't have a runny nose. And it's the same thing. When people start to feel better often they don't notice it. And so then sometimes they feel like they're not getting any value out of their health coach. So it's very worthwhile to remind them and help them see for themselves how far they've come. Okay. So those are two ways to get started. So if either of those sound like a good way for you to get started. Awesome. But I have one more idea. And I think this is important, not only in the beginning of a coaching relationship, but throughout, right.

If you're working with someone for three months or six months, there's going to be times where you as a coach are like, huh, I don't really know where we're headed right now. Or this person seems to achieve their goals that they set out in the beginning. What's next. And you're just not going to know, get comfortable with that. Because as a coach, that's going to be a lot of not knowing. So another approach when you're working with a new client or with any client at any time is just complete and utter transparency. Like it's okay to not know. And it's okay to ask your client. I do this all the time. What would you like to talk about today? What's important for you right now. What's top of mind that we need to discuss at your next session. Right? You can just ask. And in this case of a woman wanting to lose the baby weight after having her baby, um, I would probably say something like, listen, there are a lot of aspects to losing weight.

Where do you want to start? And let her tell you, right. Is it that she knows she's eating too much, you know, uh, too many cookies in the evening and she already knows like, that's a thing. Is it that she just has absolutely no idea how to feed herself and she never has and she relies on fast food? Is it that she eats a very healthy diet and she goes to whole foods once a week, but yet, uh, you know, following all this advice that she's been reading online and she's still not losing weight? So, let her tell you what the issue is. And then you'll know where to begin. And of course, if somebody names like eight different issues, well, I don't eat well and I don't know how to cook. And I don't like to exercise and I'm very, very stressed. And you know, they just kind of listed all out for you again.

It's okay to say, where would you like to start? It's so powerful. It's so powerful. Not only does it start to carve a path for how this is going to go, but you're giving your client the reigns of their own life. So often people go to a nutritionist, go to a doctor, go to a specialist. And they're thinking that person is going to give them the answer, which keeps them from tapping into their own inner knowledge. If we can do anything forever health coaching clients, we can teach them how to tap into what they already know. It's always, always going to work better than an outsider, looking at them and saying, here's what I think you need always. So don't be afraid to ask the questions and not know. Does anybody do that already? Like when was the last time that you asked your client what they wanted to talk about, or you let them know that you weren't going to leave the dance you were going to let them lead the dance.

Hmm. How about that? Try that at your next session, it really shifts the energy and it really leads to someone feeling much more empowered over their own health. So far, I hope that was helpful and that you absolutely sign this client and start working with her right away. Even with all of the unknowns. Like I said, you're going to have that with every client that you sign. You're going to say, here is a unique individual. I have never walked a mile in their shoes. Therefore, I'm going to be surprised. And I think it's one of the most exciting parts of coaching that it's never quite the same conversation. It's always going to be a little bit different. What questions do you guys have today about working with your first client or anything? This is a true Q and A session. It's been a while since we've done one of these, where I'm here to answer your questions about, just about anything you can throw at me and I'll do it right here on the spot for about the next 10 minutes that we have together.

Patricia saying that she agrees 100% and Chloe says, best advice I've heard. All right, Chloe, go out and get them. Theresa says, I have a client who was very noncommittal, even putting a check mark on her calendar feels like too much work to her, in her words. She wants to lose weight, but she doesn't want to be responsible for changes. Speaking of herself, she always says, I'm too lazy. Oh, that's a juicy one. Right? So this is someone that know type A to do list kind of thing is going to work for. It's just going to backfire. So I'd probably ask a question to this client along the lines of what do you feel drawn to? What do you really want to do? Forget what you should do. What do you feel like you really want to do? Because maybe her whole life is a pile of, I have to do this and I have to do that and I should do this and I should... and I'm always falling short and maybe she's just like, Ugh, done with feeling like she's always falling short.

And maybe what she really wants to do is order a pizza and sit on her deck and listen to classical music. I don't know. I just made that up. I would absolutely tell her that her homework was to order a pizza and sit on her deck and listen to classical music because this is a mindset that she has to get out of that she's somehow like a victim of everything that's going on and like she, what she should do and has to do, she needs to feel like she's in control of her destiny and that she can accomplish what she wants. So figure out what you want. That's what I would do.

I have a question here from Sue. Sue said, how do you start your conversation in a free consultation? So first we were talking about working with the client at first session. But if we back that up to the actual consultation, I was interesting to see all the different answers that came into our Facebook group for Sue, about how to start a conversation on a free consult.

And what I want to share with you is that the most important thing you can do in the beginning of a consultation is set the agenda for the day. Like tell this person exactly what's going to happen and the timeframe. So I always like to check, you know, I have you on my calendar for a 30 minute appointment. Is this still going to work for you today? Have them say yes. Okay, good. Here's what we're going to cover today. But have them say, yes, that sounds good. Now you have their buy-in for everything that comes next and you're owning the conversation, which sets you up as the expert. And it's going to take a lot of pressure off of them because they're going into here and into this conversation, not really knowing what to expect and they may be feeling a little antsy, but if you could tell them what to expect, uh, that helps a great deal.

Theresa said, I must know her. I must know this client because it's a mindset thing for sure. Well, Theresa, let me know if it's pizza on the deck with classical music or what it ends up being for her. Carrie says I have a client who always just says, I know, I know, whenever we talk about her late night eating, uh, yeah. If that sounds similar, right? That's, that's shame. That's guilt. That's feeling like I'm not measuring up. I know, I know for like the millionth time in my life, I'm not enough. So we have to work on that before we can really work on the nighttime eating, right. I would try to have conversations that have nothing to do with the nighttime eating, but that do have to do with her making decisions for herself, doing the things that she wants to do, how she wants to do them tapping into who she really is, right? Cause somebody who goes on, I know, I know it's almost like a child with their parents and we want to flip that dynamic right away.

Patricia says there's a lot to unpack there. Yes. With the first one who's going, I know, I know. Or who says, I'm too lazy to do anything. There is a lot to unpack and that is the beauty of private coaching. Right? You can't do that with like, I don't know if they joined Weight Watchers or something. That's just one more thing that they're going to feel like a failure. And what we can do as a coach is we can set up the stage to give them a win. Whatever that win is, it could be a healthy when it can be something that you know, you or I might judge and say, well, that's not very healthy, to eat pizza.

Uh, but you know, it would be a win for her to do something that she actually wants for a change. I mean, that's huge. That's huge. That's the start of much more to come after that. I have another question here from Lindsey and Lindsey said, curious if anyone has a better way of going about selling group program from their website. Right now, I use Squarespace. And at the time of purchase, they can download the group program guide. Once I get the email that someone bought my program, I go on MailChimp and I manually send the kickoff email, but allows them to download all the recipes. Um, it's sort of a pain and it would be so much more professional. If the email was able to just be kicked off right after purchase, like automatically it doesn't look like MailChimp or even Squarespace lets me do this.

Has anyone encountered this or have a better workaround, Lindsay, that's exactly how I ran my earliest programs. Someone would pay me maybe through PayPal, I'd get the money and then I'd go scurry over to my email. And I email them a confirmation and you know, whatever materials they needed, if they bought something in the middle of the night, well maybe they're not going to get that from me for like eight hours or longer. So it's not a perfect solution also though, it's fine. Like it's fine. Especially if you tell people that you will not get a confirmation immediately, but you'll hear from me within 24 hours, you know, you could say something like that from the outset. So they know once they make the purchase, what to expect. Now that said these days I started my business. We did not have the tools available that are available.

Now these days, it really is better. And it's easier for you if, when somebody buys, it's an automatic process from there. So there are definitely ways to do this with MailChimp or with whatever email service, you need to be able to integrate it with your payment processor. So when a payment is received, it automatically triggers that email. I would reach out to your email service and ask them how to do it. They likely have support available, or they're going to have some sort of support document. That's going to walk you through the process. So let's say it's like PayPal and MailChimp. You're going to try to figure out how to integrate those two, the other way to do it. What I really like using on these days is practice better. And I think I already mentioned practice better one time earlier today. So, I'm just going to talk about it again, because practice better offers all of these types of functions for health coaches and it's so very useful.

Um, we do have a discount code if, for anybody who wants to check it out, you want to go to healthcoachpower.com/practice and use code hcpower30, the number 30, and to get 30% off your first three months. Um, the reason I love practice better is it's not terribly expensive. It's going to handle all of your billing and booking and also runs group programs and online programs. So within that one platform, you could have somebody pay and immediately get access to your group program and all of the materials right there. So that's another example, um, that is much less expensive than having a full on online course, like a Thinkific or teachable or something like that. That would cost you probably hundreds per month and only serve that one function practice better is less expensive and it has many, many functions that you need.

Anne would like that in the chat. You type it in for me. Okay. It's healthcoachpower.com/practice and the code is hcpower30 Chloe says I've been dying to do one of your programs. But at this point, my husband is the person funding my coaching business. He wants me to start my business and obtain clients before we put more money into my business, aside from INN and other educational course that I took. What's your advice? Well, Chloe, I did not have any support with my business for the first I want to say it was about seven years and it's slow. It's super slow. Can you do it? Yes. You have so many resources available to you. For example, our entire Facebook group and podcast, like I had nothing and I just know how slow it can go when you don't have guidance, but don't sell yourself short and you can do this.

You can grab one of my freebies, listen to one of these episodes and get yourself an action. I mean, in some ways maybe your husband's right. You know? Maybe there's stuff that you can be doing right away. Um, the other thing that I will say on the other side of it is ultimately it's your life and it's your business and it's your stepping into yourself. You know, I found like I have learned so much of myself... about myself by running my business that now I'm divorced. So it's different for me to say, but when I was married, I did not feel it was his place to tell me I couldn't do that. You know what I mean? We're allowed to make decisions about our lives and sometimes our spouse is not going to agree. So there, I just gave you two sides of the coin.

I hope that's helpful. And I'm going to answer one more question before we wrap up for today and this one is from Cassandra. She said, do you add a prospective client to practice better before they pay you? Yes and no. That's really it probably a question that is better asked of practice better and their support team. But generally when I have a new client who is just filling out an application and booking a time slot for a consult, they get, they don't get full access to the member portal. They just get access to do that. And then they get a reminder, you know, your appointment's coming up and, and that's about it. They're not able to log in to the whole site and do everything. But then once they become a client, then I send them an invitation and then they create their login and they can manage their appointments and look at their notes and all those things. Make sense?

Um, okay. That's it for today. That was very fun. We will be back next week. We do this all the time. So bring your questions and get ready to rock, but thank you for joining me today. And once again, I want to remind you that I'm able to continue bringing you free content week after week after week. Because things like this are supplemented by my free training. And I'd love for you to check it out. It's at healthcoachpower.com/earn. It's just 28 minutes. And it's going to show you how to turn health coaching into a full-time salary. Have a great day, everybody. And I will see you next week.