#71: How I Collect a Client’s Health History

When you have someone interested in working with you and you want to schedule a consultation…do you give them a health history form to fill out? And if so…what goes on that form? In this episode Michelle talks about exactly how she handles it in her own health coaching practice.

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Well, hey there health coaches! You know when you have somebody who’s interested in working with you and you want to schedule a consultation, well here’s my question for you. Do you go ahead and give them a health history form to fill out and if so, what exactly is on that for now? If you were to graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition like I am, then you’ve probably heard these sessions referred to as health histories or health history consultation. But even if you’re coming to this profession from a different school, you still are going to have to collect a client’s health information right at some point. And what is the best way to go about doing that? So today I’m going to share how and why I actually use two different forms. One is short, one is long. And why? I think it matters.

First, just in case we haven’t met before, my name is Michelle Pfennighaus and I’ve had my own private practice for over 10 years now. Before that I worked in marketing and now I combine the two. It comes together in a really beautiful way to help me mentor health coaches from around the world, helping you earn the salary that you want while doing the work that you love.

Today we’re talking about that initial consultation and the forms that prospective clients are going to fill out. But this topic really can go quite deep. Like we all know that initial consultations can be a little bit scary and having those conversations can be a little bit intimidating or a lot intimidating, especially if you’re afraid of rejection, like a potential client saying thanks. No thanks. I don’t want to hire you. I don’t think they actually have will ever say, I don’t want to hire you, but you know what? It sounds like they go, thanks. Let me think about it. Or Oh, that sounds really interesting. I have to talk to my husband or whatever. And then crickets after that. You just never hear back.

Well listen up. I am running a free five day challenge to teach you the art. Yes, it is an art of getting clients signed up during your consultations. It’s not just luck. I don’t want you to think like, oh, I just got unlucky. This wasn’t the right person. Oh, if I just schedule like 10 more consultations, a certain percentage of them are just naturally going to sign up. That’s not true. There’s a skill to this, so if you’re feeling worried about pitching your services or if you keep hearing no thanks. Instead of yes, where can I sign on the dotted line? You’re going to want to join me for this free five day event.

It starts on August 18th and you can sign up at healthcoachpower.com/challenge and have to tell you, I’m calling this the close the deal challenge, but I hate that term. Close the deal. Sounds like we’re selling time shares. I’m going to show you how to go about it in a way that feels comfortable and fair to both you and your client so we can sign up at healthcoachpower.com/challenge.

Okay, today’s the big question came from Marissa, but if you’re here live and I know some of you are and if you have any questions related to this topic or even not related to this topic, whatever’s going on in your business this week, hit me up in the comments. That’s what I’m here for.

But here’s what Marissa said to kind of kick us off. She said, my question pertains to health history forms. Has anyone gone out and created their own form or how do you go about doing your health history consults?

Well, I’m glad you asked Marissa and yes, I have absolutely created my own forms. Not at first, at first I used whatever they gave us in school. It was just a PDF or something that I printed out. I don’t think I changed anything, but over time I noticed that this health history form really serves two purposes and I don’t know if you guys have ever thought about it this way before. The first purpose, and this is the obvious one, the form is meant to collect somebody’s health history information so you know best how to help them. And you know something about where they’re coming from with their health problems, etc. Yes, this is obvious and I realized that, okay, very important. Definitely want this information for anybody that I am going to be working with one on one but I don’t need to know about for example like a history of high blood pressure on somebody’s maternal side unless they are a paying client of mine.

Like I don’t need to know the nitty gritty stuff up front before they have even signed or paid me anything. Right? So I stopped asking prospective clients to fill out a big long complete health history form because I just don’t need it and it can sometimes be a barrier for them taking that next step. You know somebody hands you a huge form to fill out that you can just like, ah, maybe you never get it done. So I got rid of that and instead I have a different form that I have them do up front. We’ll talk about that in just a second. And I created a much more comprehensive form plus a food diary for all brand new clients that actually do sign up. So let’s say that you just told me, yes, Michelle, I want to sign up and we book your first appointment.

Very good. Before that meeting, I’m going to send you the comprehensive intake form, which is the health history plus a food diary. You’re going to get that, fill it out. And during the first session is when we actually go over both of those in depth, right? So that’s session one. Instead of it being sort of part of the consultation, which I think leads to way too much brain picking and way too much of people asking questions and expecting answers like during a free consultation, we want to avoid that. The consultation is really just about is this a good fit? Can I help you, are you committed? Is this, do we jive together? Right? We don’t want to get into like, so what should I be eating? Or do you think gluten free is right for me? None of that. So, okay, let’s go back to that comprehensive form.

The intake that I give all of my clients. What questions do you want to ask? Whenever you’re collecting somebody whose health history, maybe you want to add something to the form you’re using, maybe you want to take something away. I think it depends very largely on your target market. So for example, I never used to ask anything about somebody’s dental history, just never thought of it. Never didn’t know what I would do with that information. I don’t know. It just wasn’t part of the form that I had been given so I never had any information. Like had they had a lot of dental work done, a lot of root canals, cavities, that kind of thing. Did they have a perfect set of teeth in their head? Didn’t know, but when I learned that dentition poor dentition can be a sign of celiac disease and my clients in my practice tend to have a lot of Hashimoto’s, a lot of auto immune disease.

I decided, I think that’s an important question to ask. So I added it to my form and I actually, I had suggested that several clients go get tested for Celiac based on some of the symptoms that they’re exhibiting now. Does that make sense for you? Should you start asking everybody about their teeth? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. But my point is you want to add questions as they relate to your niche so that you can serve your target market better. Makes Sense. Right?

So that’s the main health history for them. If you guys have any questions about that, please let me know in the comments. I also wanted to just say something about the format of the form. So back in the day I used to send my clients a PDF and they would have to, usually what they would do is like print it out, fill it in, and bring it to our first session.

If we were meeting in person, I usually see my clients over the phone so they’d have to scan it back to me. Kind of a pain in the neck. So these days, all of my forms, food diary, everything , is housed inside practice better, which is a platform for client management, which I love. So my clients complete the forms electronically and it’s just easy peasy that way. And if you want to check out practice better just by the way, go to healthcoachpower.com/practice excellent tool. Okay. So moving right along here, if you recall, I said that the health history form serves two purposes, right? The first is gathering all that relevant deep information about, you know, when they had been hospitalized and what foods they’re allergic to, everything that’s happened in their health in the past. And that sort of fuels that for the official client session where we dive into their health.

The second purpose of such a form is marketing. Yeah, right? Think about it. That’s why when we come out of school, they say the first thing you do with someone, as you had them complete this form, and then usually ask them a question like, oh, what has it been like to spend an hour talking about your health? Cause it’s good. You’re getting people thinking about their health, they probably haven’t thought about themselves as much in a really long time. So that’s a good thing. We do want our clients to do a bit of an inventory on what’s going on for them. And the point is for them to see for themselves like, yeah, I’ve got a problem and that’s why they’re going to hire us. So prior to booking somebody consultation, I actually have a separate much shorter form that does that marketing piece very briefly.

Right? And instead of it being a big form that actually stands in somebody’s way, it’s very short, actually call it an application. And what this application does is it allows me to see what this person’s big health issues are without getting into all of the nitty gritty details. But it also does an important job of helping this person write down, sort of verbalize the problem that they’re having. Also, why they’re not able to fix that problem on their own and why they’re needing help right now. So in other words, it’s kind of like it helps them sell themselves on the idea of working with me before we’ve even spoken, right? It’s starting to plant this seed in their minds. Like, I had this big problem. Here’s what the issue that it’s causing in my life, here’s why I haven’t been able to solve it on my own.

And you know, here’s why I need this help right now and why that’s important in my life. Wow. If they can answer all those questions, suddenly they are like 90% more likely to hire a health coach. Or they answered the questions and they realized, oh, I don’t really have that much of a problem. I don’t need to fix it now. I’m not going to schedule this consultation. Which is great because then nobody is getting their time wasted. So I’m going to encourage you to really think about what information you need in order to successfully sign your ideal client during a consultation. And then those are the only questions that you should ask prior to the consultation. All right. No need, no need for all the, “Oh, I used to have asthma when I was a kid and I broke my leg in second grade” or whatever.

Forget all that junk. Just get to the heart of the matter. What is your biggest issue? What are you coming to me for? What would success look like for you? And then they’re in that mind space to sign up. Once you’ve closed the deal, right seed signed the client, you’ve collected payment, what information do you need then and then that becomes your second form and boom, there you go. Short form in the beginning, long form after they’ve signed up. Never remember going to go much deeper into this including sharing the exact marketing questions that I ask on that short form during our upcoming five day challenge. I’m also going to walk you through exactly how to hold that consultation so that it goes well. Everybody feels comfortable in signing someone up. It doesn’t feel like a big deal that makes you get sweaty. This is me sweating in the armpits.

So the event is free and you can sign up at healthcoachpower.com/challenge. Alrighty, I’ve got time for more questions you guys. Let’s do this thing. The group has been so active lately and that’s such a an array of different questions. So I pulled out some of my favorites but I’m also looking for anything that you guys want to toss in live while we’re here.

So, here’s one that came in from Erin. Erin said, I’m doing a fermentation workshop next week. Yay! She says I’m having trouble finding pre-shredded cabbage, any other low-cost vegetable ideas that work just as well and release enough liquid.

And this made me think about a fermentation workshop that I actually attended years ago and it was hosted by another health coach. I went because for the life of me I could not figure out how to make sauerkraut. I just did not understand how brine was going to exist once I mixed salt with the cabbage, like I tried it at home and I’m like, I don’t get it.

I had to go watch somebody do it. So I’m so glad that you’re hosting this time type of event. It’s really fun because it was, you know, interactive. We were all making something together. So I just tell you how she ran it cause it worked really well for me. We actually made two things. We need sauerkraut and we made pickles and with the sauerkraut there are heads of cabbage and there was a knife and we got broken into small groups of like three or four people. And so somebody would chop the cabbage and then somebody else would start mixing it, the salt and somebody else would be packing it, et cetera. And I think what we did was kind of rotate, you know, everybody had a chance to play all the different roles. So you might not actually need pre shredded cabbage cause most people are actually going to buy cabbage and need to slice it up anyway.

So as long as you can gather a couple of kitchen knives together and have a cutting board, you might be able to avoid that problem entirely. Um, and then of course you’re going to need the jars and you’re going to need a, you know, like a wooden spoon or whatever you’re going to use to pack the jars. But you probably already know that part. The other thing that I was thinking works really well for this type of ferment would be carrots, shredded carrots. But again, I don’t think you want to buy those pre-shredded cause they get dried out. You know, like pretty shredded. Like the ones I sell to just go on a salad when they’re already shredded up, they’re kind of dry and you really want all that moisture. So for that I’d kind of want like to have a shredder or food processor with the shredding blade or something like that and really walk people through the entire process.

But in any case, I hope your workshop went really well. And most importantly, I hope that you were able to tie the idea of fermentation to your target and get lots of names on your mailing list because that’s sort of the goal of hosting these workshops in the first place. Nice idea though. Everybody listening. If you’d like to do fermented foods, go ahead and hold your own workshop like that. I’m telling you, it was one of the most influential and enjoyable workshops that I have ever attended.

Okay. I’ve got a question here from Anna. She said, I just began the health coach program at IIN and I was wondering how much will a health coach earn per year? Can any experienced health coach? Give me an idea. How do you earn money as a coach, please?

Great question. And one that I think a lot of new coaches in particular are asking themselves. I know I did. I remember kind of doing the math like, okay, if each client’s going to pay me whatever, $1,200 and this is how many clients I can take per month. And I would just think, oh my God, how am I ever going to make this add up to a real salary? It seems completely impossible. So to answer your question, first of all, how much will a health coach earn every year? I mean, it ranges from 0 dollars to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is no way to actually answer that question the way that I think you’re hoping somebody will because it depends.

So largely on the individual how much effort they’re putting in, how much time they’re putting in, how much knowledge they have about marketing. Um, do they or have they been able to pick a target market and prove that it’s viable and go after that target market, fill a mailing list, create a program and sell to them. Or are they kind of floundering doing this, doing that, hosting a workshop over here, but they don’t really know why working with their next door neighbor as a client. But that’s the only client they have. You know what I mean? So it totally depends on the person. I will say that it is reasonable for any new business like in any field to actually lose money for the first three years. Right. So, if I was going to like open up a, I don’t know like a shoe store, I would expect to, first of all, I have to pay for the space.

Second of all, I have to pay for the inventory. I had to pay my staff, I have to pay the electric bill, you know, all kinds of things. So you’re shelling out a lot of money up front before you’ve even sold a single shoe. And that can sort of keep people in the negative for three years when they start a new business. Now I will say before everybody freaks out that as health coaches, it’s so wonderful because we don’t have any fixed overhead costs, right? We don’t have to have an office space, we don’t have any inventory, we don’t have staff. Probably when you’re first starting out, I know I didn’t, although I do now. So I never lost money. Like even in my very first month of business, I came out ahead and may have only been by a couple of dollars. I don’t recall. But I certainly didn’t lose any money.

And that’s a very good thing. And I always want to liken this to, you know, if you go to college, let’s say you major in accounting. Okay? So yeah, there’s going to be some people that graduate and then they go on to get like an amazing accounting job and whatever. I don’t really know much about accounting, but let’s say they go work for one of the big, what is it, the big five, the big six. Anyway, a big accounting firm, they’re getting paid a lot of money and you can point to that person and you can say, well, accountants really succeed. Look at them. You know, it’s a great idea to go to school for accounting. I know there’s going to be other people who go to school for accounting and not really that into it or maybe something happens in their personal life.

Maybe they don’t get that great job. Maybe they decided on, I don’t know if I really want to do this or maybe I’ll try. You know what I mean? They just have a different path. They might end up doing something totally different. How many of us went to school for one major in college and ended up doing something totally different with their life? Me, my degree is in art. Yeah. I’m not an artist, so some people are going to always succeed wildly with what they study and others not so much and that’s just going to be true regardless of the field that you’re in. It’s not something that’s specific to health coaching, but to really answer your question, how I earned money as a health coach, it really falls into just a couple buckets. First, private coaching, second group coaching and group programs and last affiliate marketing and I would say roughly a third, a third and a third for those three areas in terms of the breakdown of where my income comes from in my health coaching practice.

So if you don’t know what affiliate marketing is, we have a whole other episode about that that you can look for. I think it’s called something like the best passive income stream for health coaches. Um, but between those three avenues, that’s how I’ve been able to make a salary, not just private coaching alone. Right? I do think it’s important that you have some sort of passive income stream in your business. That plays a pretty significant role so that you can actually take days off. Now, either coaches that I know of, they earn money by running retreats. Some people run like a lot of retreats, big retreats, expensive retreats, and they do a beautiful job with them. So that could be a way that you make money. You could sell products, you could be part of an MLM, you could be providing meal prep services or personal chef services, uh, personal training services.

A lot of health coaches are also personal trainers or their also a trained chef or they’re also a yoga teacher and some people package these things together. So that all becomes like how you earn money as part of your business. When I will say, just sort of as a final point about this is that whatever you’re selling, when you have a relatively small audience, and by that I mean your mailing, your social media, just the people who in any way are engaged with your business. Maybe you have a couple hundred, couple thousand even. How does a thousands of people paying attention to you? That’s still relatively small. So if you sell something that doesn’t cost very much, let’s say you sell something that costs $99 how many of those are you going to have to sell in order to make the salary that you want to earn?

Right? Like a lot. But you don’t have a ton of people. You only have maybe like a thousand people. So if you want to earn a salary as a health coach, it’s really important that you think about selling a higher priced product or service to fewer people because you have fewer people. If you are beach body right and you have like millions of people in your audience, then yeah, you can get away with selling something that’s only like $19 a month. Get it. So it’s like a math equation and that’s what I have to say about that. Let’s move on here.

Question from Addie and Addie said, do y’all have clients that come to you and as you talk with them, they tell you they want to do something specific like Keto or intermittent fasting. How do you handle clients like that? Do you just do whatever they want? Even if it might not be something you particularly agree with.

Yeah, that’s a really good question, Addie. It comes up all the time, right? Because people are doing a lot of their own research and a lot of times they’ll come to you and say like, yeah, I’m really interested in doing the Keto diet now. There’s different ways to play this and I think that you have to use a little bit of your own judgment. Like sometimes a client will tell me something and I’m like, like I’m thinking to myself, I bet that’s really not a good idea at all. But, as a coach, it’s not my place to say like, this is what you should eat, this is how you should eat. No, I’m like, my job is to support the client. So I’ll ask questions like, what interests you about this diet what have you read?

I’ll offer some further resources like articles or books or something that they can read on the topic and often from like the opposing perspective so that they get a really well rounded view before they make a decision. Ultimately it’s going to be up to them. Right? And the last thing I want to do is make them feel bad or make them think that they’re doing the wrong thing. But what I can do is whether somebody wants to go vegan or go Keto and I generally, you know, I don’t do either of those things myself and I can make sure they do it in a way where they’re eating real food. I can make sure that they’re eating enough vegetables, not just bacon for example. Or you’re going the Vegan route. They’re not just eating like processed fake meat, you know, so you really can support clients no matter which way they go.

Um, if they’re doing something like intermittent fasting, you’re going to just want to be a sounding board for them. Again, providing resources. How’s it going? How did you feel? Like, let’s check in. What do you think’s working? What do think is not working? And try to not insert your own opinions. Now, that being said, if somebody comes to you and she’s, um, let’s say she’s anemic, she hasn’t had a period in several years, you know, and she’s like, I want to go raw vegan, I’d probably be like, uh, how serious are you about that? And if she’s like, I’m 100% serious about going raw vegan, I would probably say, I’m not the right coach for you. Because like, I don’t think like ethically I could do that for somebody if I knew. Like, I really felt it was going to be the wrong diet for them at the wrong time of their life.

Um, you might just want to step aside and, and point them to somebody else who would be a better fit. You know, I had a client who wanting to go Keto recently, actually, and this, this was the conversation we had and I said, well, how does this, how is this different than all the dates you’ve been on in the past and why is this one going to work for you and why? You know, why do you think that, like this is it? Even though every other crazy diet you’ve ever tried hasn’t stuck, hasn’t been something you could do for the long term because she was one of these sort of Yoyo dieters and you know what? She went ahead and did it anyway because I think right now there’s a lot of support around Keto in particular. You know, just cause it’s really hot right now.

So like her husband was into it and her friends was into it and she did end up losing a lot of weight. You know, time will tell how that goes in the long-term for her. I hope it goes great, but I was able to support her through that process. All right. What else do we got here?

Valerie asked, would anyone like to do a health coaching exchange or a share? I feel like it would be really helpful to experience the program with somebody and swap.

Yeah. You know what? A lot of health coaches do this, Valerie. I think on one hand it gives you a chance to like practice as a coach and then swap and kind of experience the program as a participant. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am going to make a different suggestion. So the reason I’m going to make a different suggestion is that when you have two new health coaches together and you are going to like quote unquote like swap health coaching, I don’t think that is necessarily a fair representation of a coaching relationship or what coaching will really be like.

I think there’s a lot of like second guessing. I might say, oh I’m not sure what to tell you right now, Huh? And you’ll say, oh you know like, and you know what I mean? Like you’re always going to be like talking to each other. Not In like as a coach and as a client, but like as peers and it doesn’t, it just, you’re not going to really get the real experience. So if you do want to experience the power of coaching, I suggest actually finding a coach that you want to work with and hiring them and like go through that whole process top to bottom. Even the part where you’re, you know, perhaps filling out an application or sending them money in, noticing how do they collect payment and go to someone who has been in practice for longer than you have and who has demonstrated their own success so that you can actually see that process as you are a client of theirs and get coaching from them where everyone retains their role, their appropriate role.

I think you’ll get so much more out of it and then of course in terms of you practicing as a coach, find somebody to practice with. Again, I don’t suggest another health coach necessarily for all the reasons I just mentioned, but maybe it is your friend, your sister, your neighbor, like anybody who can go through that process with you of filling out your forms. Maybe they’re going to pay you a small amount, which I do recommend because people tend to be a little more invested when they are invested and walk through the process with them where you retain your role as a professional. So just my 2 cents but hey, any experience that you get is going through something you can learn from. So I’ll leave it at that.

Now I do want to get a quick shout out to Easy8519 who wrote this five star review on iTunes. She said, I came across Michelle while searching for health coach podcast as I began taking on new clients after a very long break. The advice she gives is so helpful and practical. Listening to her weekly podcast and being a part of her free Facebook community for health coaches has given me so many new ideas and really motivated me to get my business going. I totally want to hang out with Michelle in real life. I think we would be BFFs. Thanks for passing on all of your expert tips and advice. This is definitely a five star podcast. Thank you so much Easy8519 and I’m so glad to hear that you’re getting the ideas and the motivation right here with us.

Please send your mailing address to us at support@healthcoachpower.com because we have a little thank you gift coming your way and for everybody listening, please take a minute to leave a rating and a written review if you could on iTunes. It’s amazing how many coaches are finding us this way and I so appreciate your thoughtful review and of course, who knows? Maybe I’m going to read yours next time. Until then, be sure to sign up for the five day, close the deal challenge at healthcoachpower.com/challenge. Keep asking great questions. I’ll be back next week to answer them. I’ll see you then.