#210: My First 3 Clients (and How To Find Yours)

Join Michelle as she shares about 3 of her very first health coaching clients – how she found them, what their programs looked like and the results they got. It was kind of rocky in the beginning, you’ll see! New to coaching? Get your business off the ground with Michelle’s free training at: HealthCoachPower.com/training

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My First 3 Clients (and How To Find Yours)

Anything brand new feels challenging. Even if you’ve already had a couple of clients, you’re probably thinking about where the next few will come from. You’re not alone!

Here’s where my first few clients came from and some details I can remember about the program they bought and results they achieved. This was 13 years ago but their stories stick in my mind because they were the first.

Client #1: From blog reader to career changer

Sophie was my first paying client (names have been changed to protect the innocent). She’d been reading my blog for awhile when I announced I was ready to start taking clients. 

When Sophie reached out, I was nervous! She was a perfect stranger who lived halfway across the country, and her main concern was eczema – not a specialty of mine. But at this point, I was ready to work with anyone who was willing.

After our initial meeting, Sophie said no. She had recently lost her job and she was worried about the cost. But I followed up  – that took guts, but I had nothing to lose!

She was lacking confidence because of her skin. I reminded her that while looking for a job, she was going to need confidence, and since she didn’t have a job right now, she had time to invest in herself. It worked!

I was planning to charge $1200 for a six month package with meetings every other week. With my first few clients, though, I just wanted them to say yes. So I offered a 50% discount as an intro rate. 

I wound up making about $100 a month from this first client– not much money, but it was the experience I needed, and it felt great to be paid for coaching.

As we worked together, she saw some minor improvements in her skin. I remember feeling discouraged that the progress was slow. But she was making progress in lots of other ways.

Even though her eczema didn’t miraculously clear up immediately, her confidence shot up, her mood improved, and her energy levels were awesome. She started exploring holistic health further and wound up re-evaluating her career in the hospital setting. 

Now, she runs her own skincare practice. And her skin is beautiful! Somewhere along the way, she found the secret. She didn’t get it from me! But I did give her the push she needed to get started on that path. 

Client #2: Quitter, or success story?

Erica was also a blog reader. (See? Creating content works!) But she actually lived in my area, so we met up in person.

When it came time to talk money, I got bold (hey, I’d already signed one client for $600) and decided on the spot to ask for $900. I just had a feeling she was ready to say yes. I don’t necessarily recommend changing your prices on the fly, but a lot of us do that when we’re just figuring it out. 

Erica took out her checkbook and wrote a check for the full amount. I tried to be cool, but it felt like a gold mine. 

Her main concern was digestive trouble. Now, I didn’t have any advanced trainings so I help her with the basics that we all know how to do – eat real food, cut out sugar, that kind of stuff. Within weeks, she was amazed at her improvement and extremely happy.

But then she stopped showing up. She canceled sessions. She left early. 

It sounds like a bad thing, but actually, it was great. 

She’d gotten the outcome she was looking for, and she got it sooner than she expected. She had the results. She didn’t need to spend time in sessions with me anymore.

It’s easy to feel bad if a client cuts out on you, but with Erica, I didn’t. She was happy. She got what she needed. Mission accomplished. 

I had to think: why was I offering a six month program? As I got more experience, I found that after three or four months, clients were either seeing results or they weren’t putting in the effort. I eventually shortened my program. That’s the value of experience!

Client #3: Workshops and community connections

I met Casey when I held my very first workshop, at the yoga studio where I was teaching. She was quiet during the workshop, but she reached out the next day and said she was interested in working with me. 

Casey had a binge eating problem. Like Sophie, money was tight for her, but she really wanted my help. I offered her that reduced intro rate, and she signed up.

As is often the case, it wasn’t just about food. Casey was lonely and she was young and didn’t really know how to cook for herself. We started with some easy steps – it turned out she really liked kale when she cooked it with coconut oil, for example.

We chipped away at cultivating a healthier relationship with food. The binge eating didn’t totally disappear during our time together – but her big leap came when we were talking about yoga. We met at the yoga studio, remember?

She wanted to do more yoga, and I helped her figure out how. It was great for her. She found the community she needed. ​​She ended up becoming a yoga teacher and now she travels the world, teaching yoga. Whoa. 

Talk about life changing!

Takeaways: how to get clients as a new health coach

The first takeaway for new coaches looking for clients is to create content and events so people can get to know you. 

Whether it is blogging consistently, starting a podcast, or a social media account, putting out high quality content on a consistent basis has always been a mainstay of my business and it can help you, too. People need to feel like they know you!

Workshops are also great for making 1:1 connections. It’s an excellent way to turn someone from a perfect stranger into a paying client in a short period of time. I’ve gotten one or two paying clients from almost every workshop I’ve held.

The second takeaway is to offer a reduced rate in the beginning. Let them know it is a reduced rate that’s only available for a short period of time. You need the experience. They need your help. It’s a win-win. 

Don’t be afraid to offer a discount, but I advise you not to coach for free because people don’t show up when they have no skin in the game. So set your rates (and you can probably charge more than you think!), then offer a discount for a limited period.

The final takeaway is that sometimes client results are not exactly what you think they’re going to be. Remember that you are helping your client along their path, not the path that you create for them. You might be amazed at how things unfold.

I hope these stories and strategies help you as you’re looking for your first clients. 

Full transcript:

Well hello there, health coaches. I'm Michelle Leotta. I am a practicing health coach with 13 years in the industry. And today I'm opening up the client archives to share about three of my very first clients. Yeah, we're going way back. When I say archives, I really mean, cause you might picture something very formal over here. No, no, no. Like what I really mean is I'm digging into my memory because client notes from back then are long, gone, long shredded.

By the way, if you are here with me live, please say hello in the comments, you can ask questions right now throughout the entire broadcast. I am here for it. I'm here for you. And if you're just starting out with your health coaching business and you're looking for your first few clients, I know it can feel daunting. I know what it felt like for me. It's hard in the beginning. Anything brand new can feel really challenging. Even if you've had a couple of clients that might be like, okay, well where are the next few clients going to come from?

So, first and foremost, I want to invite you to a free community event. That's happening this September, where you're going to have the chance to meet and chat with your fellow newbie health coaches and me in a very, very casual setting. And we're gonna cover the three things that you must have in place in order to move forward and get your business off the ground. And we're gonna help you devise a plan for yourself to do just that. So, what you're gonna wanna do is join us for free at healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022. I held an event like this, it must have been, oh gosh, like six months ago, seven months ago. And it was so well attended. And the feedback from coaches was so overwhelmingly positive. It was like, we absolutely have to do it again. So here's the URL. Just one more time. You can register at healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022 and it's completely free. And I hope to see you there because then you will be on screen. I will be on screen. We will all be there together in a big like Zoom meeting where we can actually talk to each other. Not just listen, not just chat, but actually talk. So, I'm really looking forward to it.

Now as promised today, I have dug through my brain and tried to think about those very first clients, you know, where did they come from? What kind of program did I enroll them in? How did I do that? What did I charge? And what kind of results did they get in the end? And so many years later, actually I'll tell you all about it. But two of the three, I am still in contact with, to this day. And I know exactly what they're up to.

So, let's say hello to everyone. Who's here. Barrel is here. Hello barrel. And Nicole and Katie is here over on Facebook and Mary Beth. Hello? I know a bunch of you over here on Instagram too. So nice to see you.

I'm gonna start off telling you about Sophie and names have been changed to protect the innocent. I just changed their names, cause I think that's the right thing to do, even though, my goodness, it's been a long time. Okay. So client number one. And by the way, if you're here with me live, tell us briefly in the chat who's your first client, is that friend, a family member, someone totally random, or have you not had that first client yet? My very first real paying client was Sophie and Sophie had been reading my blog. I'm sure I have talked about her before, because it always is just such an interesting thing to think about.

Somebody can be reading your blog or in this day and age, following you on Instagram or listening to your podcast. And the next thing you know, this perfect stranger wants to hire you. Well, that's exactly what happened with Sophie. So I'm a huge fan of creating content. Content can come in the form of, like I just said, a blog post or a whole blog full of blog posts, a podcast of your very own, it could be content in the form of events and workshops that you're running. It could be great social media content, but creating content is where it's at in terms of drawing people to you. This is how it worked for me with my very first clients. So Sophie contacted me when she saw that I was ready to take on clients. I was at that halfway point at the Institute for integrative nutrition and I believe it's the same these days, were about halfway through the curriculum. They say, you're ready, go find your first clients. So, when I announced that on my blog, she contacted me and said, I wanna be one of your first clients. And I mean, I would be lying if I told you I was cool, calm and collected about that. I was not. I was really nervous.

The other thing was not only was she a perfect stranger, she lived halfway across the country. I wasn't even familiar with that part of the country. It was just like, who is this person? And her main concern was eczema. I was not then and I continue to not be an expert in eczema at the time I was not marketing myself in any kind of targeted way. So, you're gonna notice these three clients that I had had very different issues. Some I was better able to help than others. So, her main concern was eczema. She had recently lost her job working in a hospital. And initially she said, no. We had our consultation. And she said, I can't do this because I'm too concerned about money. I just lost my job. But I followed up and I reminded her, I don't know where I got the nerve to do this with my very first client. I figure, I must have been like, what do I have to lose? So, I followed up and I reminded her that while looking for a job, she was going to need confidence. And she was really, really lacking confidence because of her skin and for other reasons as well. And I reminded her of this and she didn't have a job right now. She had all that extra time to invest in herself. And I don't think I expected her to do anything with that follow up, but she replied and she said, okay, let's do this.

Now back then you have to remember, this was 13 years ago. I was offering a six month coaching package where we would meet every other week. That was the standard. It was kind of given to us by IIN. I don't know if they still promote this, but they were telling us, you should do a six month program where you meet every other week with the client. Okay, great. And I was planning to charge $1,200. That was my full price. But for this very first client, of course, I just wanted her to say yes. And I think it's a great idea with your first clients to offer a discount. So, for my first few clients, they knew I was going to be taking them on at about half rate or I'm not sure if I told them 50%, but I told them there was gonna be some sort of new client or intro rate. And she paid probably around $600 for this six month program. So I just wanna say something real quick on pricing. If you hear me say $1,200 for a six month program and you're like, oh my God, that's so expensive. I could never charge $1,200 for any of my services as a brand new health coach. Yes you can. I quickly did after these first few clients, and that was 13 years ago. The year was 2009.

We had, we were not in a good place in terms of the economy. There had been layoffs like this first client and yet that's the price that I was successfully charging all through those first couple years of my business. So, now in 2022, if the thought of charging $1,200 makes your knees shake, you can assure yourself that that is probably too low. Got it? Good.

Okay. So, my first client paid me about $600. So, that was a hundred dollars a month, which is really nothing, but it was great. It was great for our first client and for the experience during the course of our six months together, her skin saw minor improvements. I remember feeling a bit discouraged that progress didn't come more quickly. Have any of you had that experience where you're like, oh, this person wanted to achieve X, Y, Z, and it's kind of not happening? Right off the bat. that was my feeling. It didn't do great things for my ego. I'll tell you that right now.

Now Baryl is saying that she has not had a paying client yet Baryl, I want you to pay attention to the, uh, client acquisition tips that I'm gonna give at the end of this episode. Now, even though my client did not see her eczema disappear the way I had hoped her confidence shot up, her mood got much, much better and her energy levels improved and the whole experience got her dipping her toe into this whole holistic health thing and exploring her path in life because she hated working in the hospital. So, she didn't come to me for like career advice. She didn't come to me because any other reason, other than the eczema, but what I think we find in health coaching is people come to us for one reason and they get so much more.

Later on, Sophie became a student at the Institute for integrative nutrition. This was years later, she got divorced, right? Her life changed. And now she runs her own skincare practice as an aesthetician. And her skin is beautiful. So, somewhere along that path, she found the secret. I wish I could say I gave it to her. It didn't, but I do know that I gave her the push that she needed down the path that she's on today. So, it's very, very cool to see what she's doing now in this completely different career, running her own business and doing something that she's really super passionate about. I mean like the whole energy about her has changed so much. I mean, it's been 13 years. People are gonna change, right? But I've been able to witness it along the way. Pretty cool. Okay.

Moving right along. I distinctly remember Erica. Erica was my second client. She was also a blog reader. You guys, if you're not creating content and you want to be marketing yourself beyond your local area. I mean, there's a lot to be said for marketing locally and getting referrals from this practitioner and that practitioner. But if you want to have clients worldwide, which let me tell you, within my first five or six clients, I had a client in Israel. I've had clients in China. I have clients, um, gosh, Australia. I've had clients all over the world, I think at least for continents. So if you wanna be running a business like that, creating online content is super important way to get there. It's a long game. You know, these people had been reading my blog for maybe a year before I started taking clients. So, if you start a blog today, just know it's not gonna pay off today.

You start a podcast today. It may not pay off today, but it will pay off over time. So, the difference with Erica was that she actually lived in my local area. I used to live in Boston. She lived in Boston too. So we met up in person. That was scary. I was very afraid. This woman's been listening to my voice for a year. Uh, no, she wasn't listening. It wasn't a podcast. I forgot it was a blog. She was reading my words on the page for a year and now we were gonna meet in person. So it was exciting and it was very scary, but she was lovely. We met at a cafe and because I was feeling a little bit bold, because I had signed the first client when it came time to talk money. I told her that her program was I think, $900. So right there on the spot, I kind of jacked up the price cause I felt like I was gonna get the yes. I don't necessarily recommend changing your prices on the fly. But I think it's something that a lot of us do, especially in the beginning based on what we're feeling from a given client. So let's leave it at this. You can quote a higher price if you're feeling good, but don't discount yourself. If in that first conversation don't automatically lower the price just cause you think they might say no, can we at least agree on that? Anyway, I quickly standardized my pricing, but for this first couple clients, it was a little bit all over the place.

Now let me tell you what happened. She said, yes. She took out her checkbook. She wrote me a check for the full amount of the program, not monthly installments and hand it to me across the table. And I was like, Ooh, what? I mean $900 all at once felt like on gold mine. But I tried to be very, very cool about it. Anyway, she was a great client. Her main concern was digestive trouble. This I knew a lot about. And within weeks her digestion cleared up a lot. Like she was amazed. She was like, I can't believe it. And it was all stuff that I promise you all know how to do. I had not taken any advanced gut health course. I hadn't learned any specialty stuff. Nope. I had just gone through the curriculum at IIN and really I recall that all we did was have her start eating real food and got rid of the sugar and the junky stuff that, you know, maybe the things that she thought was healthy, but was not actually healthy that kind of thing, and wow, within a very short period of time, she started having these, uh, this like remarkable recovery from her lifelong digestive issues.

So, she was so super happy. You'll never guess what happened. She stopped showing up. She canceled sessions and she cut out early. That sounds like a bad thing, but actually it was a great thing because she got the result that she was looking for and she got it in just a couple months instead of a whole six month program. So, it was more important for her to have her time and have her great results that she now knew how to continue eating the right way for her body. She didn't need to spend time on the phone with me anymore. So that was very interesting. Usually when a client cuts out on you, you can feel bad about it or you might feel like, oh, I did something wrong or they didn't get good results, but this is an occasion where they simply didn't need all that time.

So, you do have to think, why am I offering a six month program? If you have multiple clients who start getting results earlier and then by month five or month six, it kind of starts to drag. Has anyone had that experience? I've had that a lot in the beginning, cause I was just offering the six month program. And yet I rarely needed six months. By month three or four either like someone was seeing results or they weren't putting in the effort. It wasn't gonna happen for them. They had some self sabotaging thing going on and months five and six always tended to drag. So anyway, she ended early, but it was a good thing. She skipped out and I never heard anything from her again. So I don't know what happened next in this case, but it was a happy ending in terms of my business and working with this second client.

Okay, first I just wanna check in with our live viewers. Do you have any questions so far? Anything you're curious about that I did or I didn't do with my first couple of clients, you can go ahead and put that in the chat. I'm keeping an eye on it and I'm always happy to answer your questions for these. I really do have to pause and think hard cause, it was a long time ago. I feel like it was three or four lifetimes ago. But it's been really interesting even just to prepare for this session to dig back through.

And so when it comes to my third client, I gotta tell you, I cannot remember exactly who the third client was, but I can remember a standout client that came early on in my business very early on and we're gonna call her Casey and I met Casey by holding my very first workshop.

Have you been holding workshops? A year ago... Oh gosh, two years ago to ask that question was fraught with, oh my goodness. COVID this COVID that. People were doing online workshops. Of course it wasn't exactly the same. But now the opportunity is back on the table for any kind of workshop that you wanna do. In fact, I was just talking to Melissa, who's one of our HPU members I was over in the HPU group and Melissa is planning to hold a workshop on blood sugar control for diabetics and maybe even people who are not diabetics, um, at a local gym. So that's the kind of workshop that I'm talking about. Um, India's asking, is there any assessments that you had to do for them before you began their program? Great question. So for all three of these clients and many, many that came after the only kind of intake that I did was I used the health history forum given by IIN. I was using that the way they instructed us to, I just followed directions for the most part in the beginning. I wasn't making too much stuff up on my own and I would have that consultation call with them and go through the health history form that they had completed in advance of that call. I don't do that anymore. And we have other episodes talking about a better way to bring in new clients.

I don't think in your free half hour call or I think back then I would actually do a whole hour, which you do not need. I need to be asking about like their mother's side of the family's health history and the father's side of the family and have they had any surgeries. I mean, you don't need that level of detail in order to have a conversation, see if you're a good fit, offer your program and sign someone up. You can take all those nitty gritty pieces of information later. So anyway, back in the day though, that's what I was doing and you know what? It may not have worked like gangbusters. There were certainly clients that I didn't sign and time wasted on calls where people just picked my brain for an hour and I got on the phone with wrong people, et cetera, et cetera. But that's what I was doing. Good question.

So anyway, Casey was my third client for all intents and purposes and I met her at my first workshop and oh my gosh, oh, this is like a little bit embarrassing. But the first workshop I ever held, it was at the yoga studio that I was teaching at one of the yoga studios that I was teaching at. And it was called the yoga of food, which I thought was fascinating. And I continued to be interested in energy work and food energetics. And because I thought it was fascinating. That's what I named my workshop. And I don't advise that, but okay, fine.

I guess it appealed to those who are already at the yoga studio and somehow interested in food. That's what the workshop was and Casey came to the workshop. She was rather quiet throughout. So, it's not like somebody who seemed super interested from the get go, but she contacted me like the next day and said that she was interested in working together. Workshops are excellent for this. You guys, I want to encourage you set up workshops. Now I'm recording this at the end of August in 2022, which means if you're listening, there's probably still time to book workshops for the rest of this year, fall, maybe late fall, um, beginning, you know, going into like November that time of year, you can probably still book some workshops and if not book 'em for January, because it's an excellent way to turn someone into, from a perfect stranger, into a paying client in a very short period of time. You wanna meet them in person and give value during that event.

And almost every time I held a workshop, it, it resulted in one or two paying clients. Anyway, Casey had a binge eating problem. She was slender. It wasn't a weight problem, but it was an emotional eating thing if I recall and I do. I remember thinking, gosh, she's so young and she's so lonely. She was living in Boston, but she was new to Boston. She had very few friends and she had a job where she wasn't meeting anybody or getting out and it paid very little. So initially she was like, I do not have the money for this. When we initially, you know, held her consultation. And I used that very long intake form that I was just joking about, so for her, I thought like my heart went out to this girl and I wanted to work with her so much that I offered her a very reduced rate.

I don't remember what it was, but I'm thinking now that I probably went back to that $600 rate. If I had initially offered nine, I don't remember, but whatever it was, I brought it down for her. It's not something I would do today, but when you're just starting out, you know, and you need the experience, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. And she did sign on at that very reduced rate.

Christina's saying, I find the initial pain point ends up leading into other things. So it fills the gaps. It's true. So somebody comes to you because they have eczema or in this case she was binge eating and it, it always leads to other things, right? It's always a bigger thing. And here's what I learned very, very quickly, especially with Casey. Health coaching, you think it's about food. All of y'alls out there were like counting your macros and going keto or, and whatever, going plant based. Food is never about food. It's like hardly ever about like, let me teach you about kale. You know what I mean? It's always these deeper underlying issues. So, you think you are like a health coach and you're gonna talk about nutrition all day false. You are a health coach. You're gonna talk about nutrition a little bit. And you're gonna talk about all kinds of life issues beyond that.

Now, I do remember that Casey did try a lot of new foods when we were working together, she was young, right? She hadn't cooked much for herself before. And I remember she really liked cooking kale and coconut oil. She didn't like it before, but when she tried cooking it in coconut at oil, suddenly, it all made sense to her. And she started enjoying kale. And I think we chipped away at helping her have a more healthy relationship with food just overall. So, the binge eating, did it disappear? No, that was a bigger issue. That's also probably something that was going beyond what I could offer as a health coach. It's not a specialty area of mine, right? Digestion. Yes. Eczema, no. Binge eating, not really. Um, but I will tell you this, her biggest leap came when we were talking about yoga. Cause if you remember, we met at the yoga studio.

So, we had that in common and she wanted to do more yoga. She was very into it and it was great for her because of, because of the, every, I mean, yoga is great for just about everybody, but also it's a social setting and we were going to a studio where there were a lot of young people. So, I really wanted her to do more yoga too, but she couldn't afford the classes. Right? Classes are pretty expensive. And I told her, cuz I had been in the yoga world for a while. I said, you know what? They offer work, study positions, talk to Lynn. Lynn was the owner. I said, talk to Lynn. And that just blew her mind. She's like what they give you free classes. If you work in the studio, a couple of hours, she got started with that. She ended up becoming a... I'm getting chills right now.

She ended up becoming a yoga teacher and she travels the world, teaching yoga. Oh my God, right? Like I seriously chills all over my body because that one conversation affected such change in her life. And I can only imagine that by finding something she was really passionate about and finding a community in a place where she belonged and immersing herself in that the binge eating, right? That's the kind of stuff that's gonna fall by the wayside when we take care of the deeper rooted issues. And I'm very, very proud of my work with her. So, in retrospect, I think the main takeaways for those of you listening, first of all,

is to create content and events so people can get to know you. They have to get to know you now inside Healthy Profit University. I teach coaches how to create a signature workshop. Like I said, those tend to be excellent for connecting with new clients very quickly. My first workshop, I don't know what the heck I was doing now. I literally can tell you step by step, how to set it up, how to connect with the venue, what should be included in your workshop and how to get the most out of it. That's what we do inside of HPU.

But what I am telling you is whether it is blogging consistently, it's a podcast. It's something that you're putting out high quality content on a consistent basis has always been a mainstay of my business. Second thing, offer a reduced rate in the beginning and let them know it is a reduced rate that's only available for a short period of time. Get the, yes, you need the experience from the beginning. They need your help. It's a, win-win you get a testimonial from them. You get a case study 13 years from now. You can be talking about them. You wanna make that happen. So, don't be afraid to offer a reduced rate, but don't do it for free because when you do it for free people, don't show up. Cause they've got no skin in the game. And then last, sometimes client results are not exactly what you think they're going to be. So you wanna leave room for not knowing what's going to happen. You wanna remember that you are helping your client along their path, not the path that you create for them.

You're not out there like laying stones and saying, yes, walk here. They are doing that. You're helping them find that for themselves. And I think that came through very, very clearly, with Casey, that third client that I just told you about.

So, again, if you're new to coaching or if you're new again to coaching, because maybe you're starting again after taking some time away, either way, I want you to join us this September for a free community gathering where we're gonna be discussing how to get your coaching business off the ground. And you can join us for free at healthcoachpower.com/getstarted2022. And I will see you there and I'll see you next week. Thanks for being here everybody. Take care.