#178: Starting Your Health Coaching Practice

Getting your health coaching business started this year? The coaching industry has been changing and in this episode Michelle highlights some common pitfalls so YOU can avoid them. Also be sure to join Michelle’s upcoming, free gathering for new health coaches on 2/16/22.

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Are you starting (or restarting) your health coaching practice?

Whether you’re newly graduated, newly certified as a health coach, or starting over after a hiatus, you probably want to hit the ground running.

Part of the process of starting something new is making mistakes along the way, but you could save yourself the hassle by avoiding some of the common things that keep coaches from planting themselves, growing roots, and blossoming in their businesses.

Mistake #1: Creating an overly detailed coaching program

I see it all the time. Coaches want to get started, but they worry that they don’t have their program perfectly mapped out. They don’t know exactly how they’re going to structure each session.

Let me let you off the hook — you can be a coach and have absolutely nothing planned for your sessions.

You can have a vague idea of a topic to touch on, but then you let the client tell you what’s most important for them. You always want to let the client lead and then you can hold space for what they need.

Even if that doesn’t make sense to you right now, I promise it will. The more you coach, the more you’ll find that your perfect outline goes right out the window.

Relying so heavily on a preset plan may actually be doing yourself and your clients a disservice.

Mistake #2: Focusing on fancy coaching certifications

As coaching has become more popular, the industry has boomed with new certifications that distract us like shiny objects. Many of you are sitting for exams to become a board-certified health coach.

Spoiler alert: your certification does not matter.

It’s great if you have it, especially if you want to work for a corporation or a third party that requires it. But otherwise? Your certification, the school you went to, the letters after your name — none of it matters. Not once in my 13 years as a health coach has anyone asked me about my certification.

New coaches get caught up in this because we’re taught that we have to have degrees to be taken seriously, but it’s not always the case. The educational landscape is evolving.

You could have a fancy certification, you could have none at all, and either way you could still be a very successful health coach.

Mistake #3: The over-emphasis on social media for marketing

Do you feel like social media is important for starting, launching, and putting yourself out there?

Coaches are always asking about Facebook and Instagram, and while social media is a powerful tool, it’s not the only tool.

You do not need social media. It’s not a requirement. If you hate social media, I can teach you 10 other ways to promote yourself that will work better for you.

If you love social media, great, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket! We want to promote ourselves online and offline, in real life with real people.

If you tracked every little thing you ever did in your business and the effort that you put forth in all your different marketing efforts, and compared that to your ROI, I can almost guarantee your social media is doing squat compared to other forms of marketing.

You have my full permission to walk away from it because hashtagging is not going to be your path to success.

Mistake #4: Thinking you need all your ducks in a row right away

If you move into a new house, do you buy all new furniture all at once? Most people certainly don’t! You start with an old sofa and a couple of folding chairs and then you slowly replace old things and buy new things over time.

This is true for your business as well.

Websites, registering your business, forming an LLC, getting liability insurance — all those things are helpful, but they can also be barriers to getting started.

What if you told yourself you couldn’t buy a new house until you had a sofa? It’s kind of like that. You get started and build as you go along.

Most health coaches have a website, but it’s not the most important thing to worry about up front.

Should you register your business? Yeah, you’ll get to that, but you can still start working with clients.

Our friend Lisa Fraley, who is an attorney and health coach, always talks about how having a client agreement is really the minimum. That’s the one thing that you need in order to start coaching.

If you have one that came with your certification, you can use that one, or you can go to a source like Lisa Fraley for done-for-you client agreement templates.

Mistake #5: Too much overhead

When I started my business in 2009, all I had was a Facebook page and a Constant Contact email account.

We didn’t have Facebook Groups, online courses, or Zoom. There were very few places to spend money.

These days, new coaches are inundated with messages that they need to have everything! You need to have a sales funnel, you need to have your own podcast, you need to buy a high-quality camera and the perfect lighting, meal-planning software, client-management platforms, etc.

There is so much out there now, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds and start spending too much before you’re making any money.

You can get away with spending next to nothing on the tools you use in your business. I ran my whole business for many years using a notebook and a pen and maybe some post-it notes.

Of course, you’ll invest in your certification, you may invest in your business skills, and once in a while you might want to upgrade to a paid version of a tool that you love. But you can do so much for $0.

How do you know when it’s time to invest? When you run into a problem in your business that is only solved by getting that next tool, when not having that tool is creating a barrier for you to advance in your business.

Most new coaches don’t have a bunch of startup money. Use your resources wisely.

Here’s how to get your new health coaching business off the ground…

Starting a solo business can be a bit lonely, right? I want to invite you to a virtual community event I’m hosting on February 16 for new health coaches. It’ll be an open conversation to talk about how to get your business going and find clients without getting overwhelmed.

If you want candid talk from my 13 years of experience, honest advice for getting started, and to meet fellow new health coaches, you can sign up at HealthCoachPower.com/GetStarted2022

Full transcript:

Hello there health coaches! Today, we are talking all about starting your health coaching practice, uh, whether you're still in school or you're newly graduated; newly certified as a health coach, or for anybody who is starting over after maybe some sort of hiatus from coaching. So getting started or getting started again. I'm glad that you're here. If you are joining me live, why don't you tell me in the comments, what's your deal? Are you new? Are you still in school or are you starting over so that I know who I'm talking to today? I thought it was time that we had this conversation because though I do have episodes from the archives that talk about getting started. The coaching industry has definitely shifted quite a bit since I got started in 2009, but I'm still a practicing health coach to this day. So, I am walking this path right beside you.

And I want to talk about some of the biggest things that I see keeping coaches from blooming, from really planting themselves, growing roots and blooming. These are things that I've been seeing recently that could very well be keeping you from making it as a coach. So it's important that we talk about it now. So let's see who's here. We've got Courtney. She's still in school at, IIN and that's where I graduated from too. Although it was so very long ago. We have Diane who's still in school. Oh, Diane. I didn't know you were still in school. Christy, who is new-ish and Christy you're from HCI, right? Um, great. We've got a bunch joining us over here on Instagram. So nice to see you guys too. Erica says she's still in school and going through Erica's part of healthy profit university, cause she is going to hit the ground running. And that's what I think most coaches want to do.

Who else is here? Live with us. Go ahead. Just shout it out. Even if it's a few minutes from now, I have my eyes on the comments. So, if you have questions and comments, as we go along, just know that I am paying attention.

I want to have this conversation today, obviously, but I, we want to have an even more personal conversation with all of you, new health coaches out there. So I would like to invite you a little party that I'm hosting a little gathering in a couple of weeks and I hope you can make it so that you know, right now you can see my face so you can hear my voice, but I can't see your or hear any of you. It'd be wonderful to actually get together and be able to meet each other for you to be able to meet your peers and, and simply feel less alone. Because when you're building a business alone, doesn't it get kind lonely.

I mean, I definitely felt that way in the beginning and I still feel that way sometimes. So, it was very hard for me to get started cause I was used to working in a big corporate setting with lots of people to bounce ideas off of. Anyway, this gathering that I'm talking about, it's going to be happening on February 16th, it's for all new health coaches. And we're going to have a conversation about getting your business off the ground and you can sign up for that. It completely free at healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022. So, I just dropped that over there on Facebook. For those of you that are here, if you're on Instagram, if you're listening via podcast later again, that is healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022.

So, for today I want to talk about some of those big stuck places, things that seem to be more of an issue now than they were when I started coaching over a decade ago. So, let's dive in. One of the things that have has been coming up again and again and again, and it must have something to do it the way that the coaching schools are teaching or maybe it has to do with the fact that we live in this world where online courses are so commonplace. But one of the things that I see over and over coaches want to get started, but it's like I don't have my coaching program mapped out perfectly yet. I don't know what I'm going to lead my clients through. And I want you just take an opportunity to remind you that you can be a coach and have absolutely zero. And I mean zilch planned for your sessions, or you could have a very vague idea of things that you might like to talk about topics that are probably appropriate for your client, but then let the client tell you what's most important for them.

We never want to like lead the client down the path. We want them to tell us what they need and then we can hold the space for that. So even if that doesn't totally make sense to you right now, I promise it will. When you start coaching somebody in our group just said today, she said, I thought that I needed to have every session mapped out. But once I started working with my clients, I realized that outline just goes out the window. So if you've been feeling like you need your coaching program to be all buttoned up before you can get started, you do not. And I actually think you may be doing yourself and your clients a disservice, by relying so heavily on some sort of preset plan for how your coaching is going to go. That's just not what coaching is all about.

Okay. The other thing that may be holding you back and actually, I wasn't even planning to talk on this, but I just saw something pop up in our group before I went live. And I thought, yeah, let's talk about this back when I started coaching, um, it was the wild west and it still kind of is the wild west, but health coaching industry is starting to become a little bit more structured and have a little bit more of, um, the, a certification process, a governing body. You, many of you are sitting for the board, so you can become a board certified health coach. Some of you see titles out there like master coach or getting your whatever, blah, blah, blah certification. I'm going to say this and this may change, right? But today we're talking about 2022. Your certification does not matter. And I know that's like, ouch, if you just sat for the boards and you're like, oh my God, I just spent all this time and whatever to sit for the boards.

I mean, that's cool that you have it. If you want to like work for a corporation, you're going to work for some third party, they may require it. And so in that case, it's good. You have it. But otherwise it legit doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what school you went to. It doesn't matter what exact letters are after your name. None of that stuff matters. And I just feel like a lot of new coaches are focused on that because that's the model that we grew up, you know, thinking like, oh, I'm going to go to college and I'm going to get this degree or that degree. And that's going to make all the difference in the job that I get. And the success that I see later, which also is not always the case when it comes to college and even quote unquote normal careers. But it's definitely not the case in this industry.

So you can have a big, fancy certification. You could have like literally you could have no certification at all, um, serious and still be a very successful health coach. So please do not get hung up on this. Do not spend more time worrying about your certifications. I have had a client ask about my health coach certification exactly zero times in 13 years. No one has ever said, can you tell me more about what it means to be a certified health coach? Or do you have X, Y, Z health coaching certification? Nobody. Not a one. . Is this making sense so far? Have you been getting hung up on certifications? Have you been getting hung up on having your coaching program all mapped out? Tell me in the comments. I'm interested to see where you're at. Um, and Lindsay's here and who else is here? Kelly and oh, oh and health Maven who says graduated in 2019 and needs help launching. Oh my goodness. That was two years ago. You're in the right place. You are in the right place. .

All right. Let's talk about some other stuff that's coming up right now. Many of you, again, tell me in the comments, how many of you feel like social media is very, very important for starting, launching, putting yourself out there? Like on a scale of one to 10, you feel like social media is an eight, a nine, a 10 level importance in building your health coaching business. I ask because so very often I see coaches asking about using social media and oh gosh, I don't know how to use Instagram or I'm never going to get ahead because I don't know how to blah, blah, blah, on Facebook. And when I want to tell you the secret is that although social media is very hot and it is, I, I use a powerful tool, but we all know it has like downsides too.

Yes. And everybody knows that. Um, it's just one tool. It's just one of many tools that we can use to promote ourselves. And what I'm seeing is this over-emphasis on social media as a marketing tool. So again, it's not that we should abandon it. I am using several forms of social media right now as we speak . But I'm seeing this real over-emphasis, especially from new coaches, right out of school. You do not need social media. It's not a prerequisite. It's not a requirement. If you hate social media, I can teach you 10 other ways to promote yourself. That will work better for you. If you love social media. Great. But even then I wouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. We want to promote ourselves online, offline, you know, in real life with real people. There's just so many different ways.

So if you're ever getting hung up on social media, you have my full permission to walk away from it because hashtag tagging is not going to be your path to success. Let's see what you guys are saying. Diane has definitely been thinking more about certifications, but I realize I just need to start louder in the back for everybody to hear Diane. She just needs to start coaching. There's so much wisdom in that. Courtney says, I feel like social media is important to just show your presence like a calling card. Um, yeah, except if all you do is have like a Instagram profile that you've posted two, three times that can actually look worse than not being there at all. And sometimes when you look somebody up and they're not there, you think, oh gosh, this person's so busy with their business. So busy working with clients that they don't even have time to be on Instagram.

And that can actually work in your favor. So, uh, if you're going to be there, do a good job, have, have a strong presence. If you're not going to be there. That's okay too. Um, I just probably wouldn't hang out in the middle area where you have a page that's not active, cause that could look like you were in business and now you're not. Or something like that. Holly gave on a scale of 1 to 10, a 7 that social media is important for awareness. Diane also said a 7, you know, if you could somehow magically have a graph and you could do this. If you tracked every little thing you ever did in your business of the effort that you put forth, all your different marketing efforts and then what the ROI was for you. I can almost guarantee that in most cases, your social media is doing squat compared to other forms of marketing.

So that's what, and you know, my Healthy Profit University members know that I teach you lots of different ways to promote yourself. And social media is just one of them. Lindsay's saying, social media marketing. Yes an 8, but email and connections is a 10. I would absolutely Lindsay knows this because she's part of how healthy profit university, um, your email list and your actual connections with real people, like one on one conversations and connections and networking relationships, those are worth so, so much more than any, 'oh, I got a new follower.' You know so I really think that we need to, you know, we're everyone is like coming of age, like health coaching is sort of coming of age during a social media boom, but they do not go hand in hand. You can be a successful health coach and you do not need social media. They are two distinct and separate things.

Okay. I'm going to stop ranting on that now. But my goodness, it comes up a lot. What else? What else? Tell me in the comments, what else is holding you back? What else are things that you're sort of spinning on and getting nowhere? It's really important to notice those things in life , but also in business, you may even notice this when you're working with your first clients, that somebody might be spinning and spinning on a certain thing about their health or something they think they need to be doing. And it's like not really the most important thing. And often it can be really useful to help them see that and you know, move their attention to a different place. You know, I had a client recent who was really hung up on how she wasn't drinking enough water.

And I don't know why she thought she wasn't drinking enough water, but she kept bringing it up and bringing it up. And so finally I said, you know, when you go to the bathroom, when you pee, what color is your pee? So she described it to me. And these are conversations that we get to have as health coaches. And I'm like, you know, it sounds like you're drinking the right amount of water for your body. Why are you so concerned about it? And she was like, I don't know, everybody just says, drink more water. So that's sort of in line with like, I don't know, everybody says, you got to use social media. What color is your pee? Okay. I think I took that metaphor a little too far. Let's move on. Right? Alright. Here are some of the things that I want you to know when you're building your business.

Things will come in time. As you need them. You don't have to have everything right away. It's kind of like if you move into a new house and all have is like that little crappy sofa that you used to have in the apartment, but now you have it in the house and like it's good enough for now. And then like later you'll probably go ahead and buy the big sofa that fits the space a little bit better. Right? Or maybe in the beginning, you don't even have a couch. You just have a couple folding chairs cause you just spent all your money on the house. So things come in time when you're, when you're new at something or when you're building something fresh and it's true for your business as well. So one of those things is a website. One of those things would be registering your business, forming an LLC, getting liability insurance are all those things helpful.

They can be, but they can also be barriers. What if you were like, I can't move into the house. I don't have a sofa. Well, I guess I got to wait until I find the sofa and I can afford a sofa and then I'll finally move into the house. No, you do it the opposite way you get started living there and then you get things as you go along, you know, it's kind of like that. So like yeah, sure. Of course. Most health coaches have a website, not the most important thing, not something you have to worry about up front. Should you register your business? Yeah, you'll get to that. But it's not like if your business isn't or you can't start working with clients and we've had several podcast episodes and I've had many conversations with Lisa Fraley who is an attorney and health coach.

And she always talks about how having a client agreement is really the minimum. Like one thing that you need in order to start coaching, you don't need to have insurance. You don't need to have an LLC just simply having a signed client agreement is enough to get going with and like health maven over here brought up the idea of legal documents. That's really the only one. And most people do get a... What am I trying to say? A program agreement from coaching, wherever you got your coaching certification from. So you can use that or you can go to a source like Lisa Fraley and you can get one from her. She has done, what are they called done for you? Well, anyway, they're templates that you just kind of fill in your name and whatever. You can get that athealthcoachpower.com/legal, but again, very little needed there.

All right. So what questions do you guys have for me? I'm not going to just pause. I'm going to take a breath. I'm going to sip some water. I'm going to scroll over here on Instagram to see if I missed anything. This is such a, I think this is a really needed conversation. So, don't forget that we're going to be doing this and we're going to like actually be face to face, which is so cool on February 16th. So I hope you can join me for that conversation about getting your brand new health coaching, um, business off the ground. And you can sign up for that for free at healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022. Diane said, oh wow. I thought insurance was required. It's great to know it's not required. I'm not saying that means don't get it or it's bad or, or whatever. That's a different conversation for a different day. But let me just pose this question to you, who would be requiring it, right?

We are not under an umbrella organization. It's not like our certification can be taken away from us or that we, you know, how a doctor can lose their medical license. Our industry is not regulated like that. So when you say something is like required, it's like, well, who would be requiring it? You know, there's nobody out there who is policing that or looking at it or even caring about it. So it's really about you and your willingness to take on risk. There's a term for that? Your risk... I can't think what it is, how, you know, it's your it's how much risk are, are you willing to take? So, and that's how Lisa describes it as well. So yes, you can have like seven different layers of liability insurance and contracts and this, that, and the other thing and an LLC. But like I said, a client agreement would be the one thing to have in order to protect yourself.

And yes, that's smart, but even that is not required. Nothing is required cause there's nobody requiring us to do anything because we run our own show. It's a very different kind of industry than anything you've probably worked for in the past. Oh goodness, here come the questions I knew they would be here. tolerance. Thank you Christie. Risk tolerance. And Bernadette knew the word too. You guys are good. Erica says, how do you get over the fear of taking your first steps to getting in front of possible clients? You do it and you’re so afraid and your armpits, sweat, and you Stamer when you speak and you feel ridiculous and that, and you do it anyway. And then the next time you do it, you'll still get a little bit sweaty, but like not as much. You know, it's this whole idea of starting before you, you feel ready and that's absolutely the, the only way to do it really, because there's no way Erica, that you could ever prepare yourself for what it's going to be like to put yourself out there and market yourself aside from actually doing it.

You know? So you just have to know that the first time you do something, you might be a train wreck. You know, like the first time I recorded one of these Facebook lives, uh, which now of course we published a podcast and, and go over to Instagram and all the rest, but I was pretty much a train wreck, you know, I didn't know what I was going to say. I was stumbling over my words and then I kind of just got a little bit better and a little bit better at it. And now everybody's like, Michelle, how are you so confident on camera? I'm like, because I've been every week for the past 5, 6, 7, 8. I don't even know how many years. Okay. So just do it really bad and that's how you're going to get over the fear of doing it. Okay, terrific.

Lindsay says thoughts on testimonials? I don't have any yet. And I feel that I need them. They're helpful. Do you need them to get started? This is a great example. No, cause how could you ever get like, you know what I mean? If you needed testimonials to get started, how could you ever get started? You won't get testimonials until you work with people. So don't even worry about it. Just work with people. If you're working with someone and they're getting great results. Amazing. You're going to want to ask them if they'll write something for you or would I, I like to do is actually take their words, maybe something they said to me during a session or something that they just organically wrote in an email or whatever. And maybe I'll do a little editing on it and send it to them. Hey, you wrote this great thing and that email you sent or in that session we had, you said this great thing.

Would you mind if I use this in my marketing materials? Is there anything you want to add or edit? And that way they can just go yep. Looks good. And they don't have to sit down and write something from scratch. Um, so it definitely helps to have testimonials, but that's again, one of these things that will come in time. So don't, don't stress out about it too much in the beginning. Okay. Let's move on to the next thing that I think is tripping coaches up in 2022 first rewind. Let's go back to 2009. When I started my business, I was, hmm. I was 29 years old and I had a Facebook page that didn't do too much for me. I had a constant contact account. That's what we used to use for email. Do you guys remember constant contact? I think they're still around, but nobody really uses them anymore.

We didn't have Facebook groups and we didn't have... there was no on online courses didn't exist. That, that wasn't a thing. There was no zoom. There was no anything. So I had very few places to spend money, right? My business was like me in a room with my laptop, sending emails, blogging on like blogger.com. You know, whatever it was back in the day. It was free. And there were very few, you know, tools and platforms out there these days. OMG, by the time you guys graduate as health coaches, you're probably already inundated with like, oh, I need like a sales funnel. And like, I need to start a podcast on this platform or that platform. And I need, you know, this kind of camera and lighting and tools, software meal, planning stuff, client management stuff. There's just so much money that you can be spending on various tools.

And it turns into way too much overhead. When I was starting out my business, the only thing where health coaches were spending too much overhead wise was renting an office space when they didn't have the clientele to really pay for it. That's funny cause that's kind of gone away. I hardly ever hear about health coaches renting space anymore, especially coming out of COVID. Are we coming out of it? Anyway, two years into COVID, everybody's just on zoom so that expense has gone away, but it has been replaced with so, so many other tools and things that can run your bank account dry. So I know we have some of my healthy profit university members here. If you're here with me guys, how much money do I recommend you spend on tools? Because inside the program, of course we talk about email marketing.

Of course we're designing things, there's tools that you sometimes need to use, but how many of them cost you more than like $0 to get started with? And, and this is the thing I want all of you to think about keeping your overhead to a minimum. Yes. You're to invest in a certification. Yes. You're going to invest to learn more about business building skills. Yes. Every now and then there might be a piece of software or a tool maybe that you want to pay for, but you can do so much on $0. Like the internet is full of free tools, even things like, um, your scheduler, you can use talent and that's free. You can use Canva and Canva is free. Lindsay says that she loves that. Yeah. Lindsay knows I'm all about using the free tools because when I started my health coaching business and I'm sure this is not different than most of you guys, I didn't have a bunch of startup capital.

Nobody handed me a hundred grand and said, here you go, good luck. It started, you know, like that's not how these businesses start. We start businesses, you know, in the cracks of taking care of our kids and going to work at our other job and all our different responsibilities at, you know, at home and in our community. And oh yeah, we also teach yoga. Like I know your time is limited and I know that your resources are limited. So, I always want to advise you to invest your money very wisely in the few things that you do need to learn or acquire. And other will take advantage of so many free tools that are out there. And to be honest, I ran my whole business for many years using a notebook and a pen and maybe some post-it notes, you know? So, the next time you see something, you know, out there it could, it could be useful like all the different softwares and like talk about Practice Better a lot.

And I love Practice Better, but if I were just starting my business now in 2022, would I be signing up for Practice Better? Hmm. I mean, it depends how many clients I already have, but if I had no clients or I had one client, I would be sticking with their free plan for now, or I would be using a notebook and a pen for now because you can do it that way on the cheap for a pretty long time. You want to wait until you run into a problem in your business that is only solved by getting that next tool. Trying to think of an example that that has happened for me recently. I know that I always use the free version of Calendly for my scheduling until I needed to have a way where my whole team could have calls booked, not just me. And then I upgraded to a paid plan that could accommodate that.

Do you know what I mean? So, you always want to just use the free stuff until it's really creating a barrier for you to advance your business. Not just an inconvenience, but it's like without this I'm actually can't make more money. So, you know, when you run up against that wall, that's the time to upgrade. Okay. So, if you've been experiencing any of these stuck places that we've talked about today, you know, worrying about your coaching program, not being mapped out, worrying about social media, like it is the end all be all or your certifications as if that's going to make the difference to your success. If you're spending too much money on various tools and just find yourself going nowhere fast, please join me for this live gathering that I'm hosting on February 16th. It's going to be on zoom. I wish I could have you all over to my house, but you know, COVID restrictions, but also, we have coaches around the world.

So I hope you can make it in February. You can register for that for free at healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022. Even if you can't make it, I will be recording it. You can also, watch the replay, but it's honestly going to be like an open forum, right? Where we can like talk and see each other. It's not going to be me sitting here with the slideshow. So, I definitely want to have you there if at all possible so that we can have that conversation and talk about what's real and present for you as a health coach, brand new, starting out in 2022. Thank you all for joining me today. We talked about the pitfalls and we talked about some shiny objects to avoid. Next week, I'm going to be back discussing how to actually market and sell your services when your brand new to coaching.

The thing is that you have to learn how to talk about your work. And I know that's scary. So we'll talk about that next week. Have a great one. Everybody I'll see you then.