#52: Your Virtual Coaching Setup

Want to be a virtual health coach but not sure how that works? Michelle has been working virtually for a decade and in this episode she shares:

– The pros, such as wearing yoga pants all day.
– The cons, such as being unable to read body language.
– Exactly which tools you need for virtual coaching.

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This episode is sponsored by:
9 Key Facebook Elements For Your Health Coaching Business: healthcoachpower.com/facebook

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Well hello there health coaches! Thank you so much for joining me today. I have been hearing a question come up again and again in our group about becoming a virtual coach and oh wow, what did that just be lovely because you could work from home, you could be in your yoga pants all day long, every day, never have to do your hair right. It’s like living in the future. If you could run your whole coaching business virtually, well, I’m here to tell you that the future is now. The future’s now baby, because I’ve been working virtually for a decade and today I’m going to share the pros and the cons and exactly what tools you’re going to need in order to make it happen.

My name is Michelle Phennighaus by the way, if we have not met before, I have been certified as a health coach with my own private practice or yes, a decade. I also act as a mentor obviously for my fellow health coaches. So if you are a student or if you have been a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, you may have seen me in your videos because I am part of the curriculum there. Okay. If you’re watching live with me inside our Facebook group as I record this and you have a question you would like me to answer today, please go ahead and put it in the comments now. We will do our main topic and then I will take other questions at the end and try to get everybody I can in and the 30 minutes that we have.

So today’s big topic is all about virtual coaching. And the question that came up in the group that kind of encouraged me to go ahead and make an episode about it was Andy who said, I’m graduating from IIN next month and I would love to focus on getting my business up and running as a health coach. But also, and most importantly as a virtual health coach. I’m kind of stuck on how to get started in the virtual health coaching part. What sites to use and how virtual health coaching can be effectively run. I would love to get some suggestions and tips. Also, I would like to say thank you for letting me be part of this group.

Thank you Andy for being here for asking great questions. So I want to just paint a scenario for you because ultimately what I’m wanting to get across to you guys today is that virtual coaching is no big whoop. You can do it. You may already be doing it. It’s not like a big barrier between where you are now and where you want to be. Andy. So let’s say that you meet somebody and yoga class or you hold a workshop at the natural food store and you meet somebody and they become your client.

Great. And every week you are meeting them like in the local coffee shop or they’re coming to your house or whatever and then this person goes on vacation or they have to travel for work and they’re going to be away for two weeks, but you have an appointment scheduled and they want to keep it. So you do that appointment by phone, right? No big deal. And hey, all of a sudden now you are a virtual coach. Like it’s that simple. It just means that you’re communicating with your clients with a headset on like I have right now or a phone next to your face instead of sitting across from them. And I bet many of you are doing this in some, in some capacity. Maybe you’re doing some sessions in person, some by phone, some by Skype. That’s how I started out. I would have, I’m going to have some clients come to my house.

Sometimes I would meet them at a coffee shop and sometimes I would work with them by phone. And what I found out, well first of all, I hated having people come to my house because that meant I had to clean up. Then you have to clean the bathroom in case they have to use the bathroom and then they don’t use the bathroom and you’re like, hello, I cleaned to this for you. And it was just so much extra work. The same thing with having to travel and go to a coffee shop, find a parking spot, buy something to eat while you’re there and you know you don’t really want to eat anything at the coffee shop cause it’s all like coffee, cake and donuts. So for me I was not feeling it. I also did not want the overhead costs of having my own office space.

A lot of health coaches do this. It’s not a bad idea. It just wasn’t for me. It felt stressful to have that, that cost every month of a space that I may or may not be using, especially in the beginning and when I only had a couple of clients. So I became a virtual health coach. Like I said, very sort of naturally, you know, a client who maybe preferred it. They didn’t want to come to my house anymore. They didn’t want to have to travel. I was like, oh well you know what, we can do sessions by phone as well. And they were like sold. So that’s really all that it takes is a phone. You got one of those, right? So let’s talk about some of the pros and cons from being in person or working virtually. So like I said, uh, no travel time.

That’s a big pro, no cleaning your house, no overhead costs. And I really like to take my client sessions in a comfortable space and I’m not necessarily comfortable sitting in a chair across from somebody. I’m actually quite an introvert, you guys. So I feel much more comfortable sometimes lying on my couch with my eyes closed and I’m talking to someone on the phone and I can just focus on them and I can really hear into their voice and connect with them, I find much better that way than if I were sitting in front of them and wondering like, oh no, do I have Kale stuck in between my teeth? Or what did she just say are, you know, are we going to get kicked out of the coffee shop? Is it closing in five minutes? So for me it works really, really well. That is a big pro in my business.

Now of course there are cons when you’re not with somebody in person, you can’t really judge their facial expressions. Although you do get very good at judging their tone of voice. You can’t judge their body language. Of course, you can’t notice symptoms that may be showing up in their appearance. This is for me the biggest con because I have had clients who maybe we, um, I’ve always met by phone and then we finally do a session over zoom or Skype and I can see them and I’m like, Oh wow, this person’s hair is so thin. She never mentioned that, you know? So that is a con not being able to see someone. So, depending how much visual diagnosis you’re doing, you know, I would definitely recommend doing a zoom or a Skype over the phone. Um, but in any case that that’s the biggest con I think for me, you, you can notice that maybe someone has spots on their nails which could indicate a zinc deficiency.

You might notice that you know, the bags under their eyes or whatever it is. So think about that and how you want to practice, what’s going to be comfortable for you. And then like I said, it’s really not that different than coaching in person. So if you want to set up your virtual coaching practice, Andy, and I don’t know about you, but I’m a mom. I have had two babies since I started my business. So working virtually has been essential for me. Essential. I was able to work while my babies nap. I was able to, you know, not have again, any travel time. So like if I had a babysitter, if I’m bringing the kids to daycare, I have like x amount of time to work and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I’m going to make the most of it. I’m not going to spend half of it like doing my hair just to get ready for the client session.

So anyway, I don’t know if that’s why you want the virtual coaching practice, Andy, but whatever your reasons are, you’re going to set up your business just like anybody else. So anyone who is starting their health coaching business, first, I suggest that you nail your target market and you can go back and listen to episode 38 where we really talk more about that. The second step is to build your mailing list. This is important for everybody, whether you’re working in person or if you’re working virtually, but especially if you’re working virtually, your mailing list is everything. So don’t skip that. And then you will be selling to your mailing list and that’s what you need. And that’s the order that it goes in. So in terms of an email list, I suggest everybody starts with MailChimp. It’s a solid service. It’s been around for a long time and there’s loads of support out there.

I’m a big fan of using tools that are the industry standard because you will find five gabillion YouTube videos about any problem you have because so many people are using it. If you use a fringe service, you’re going to look for help online. There’s not going to be as many resources. So that’s one reason that I love MailChimp and I did use MailChimp for a long time. There are reasons to not use MailChimp, but if you are just starting out, I don’t really see a good reason not to use it. Um, without, you know, some rare exceptions. The other thing that you’re going to need, like I said, as a phone, a Skype account, the way that I do it, I do most of my sessions by phone because I find it’s most convenient for my clients. I have clients who might call me from the train.

If they’re going from like Boston to New York or something like that for business, they can still call me. It’s not like they have to feel like they’re video ready and have a video set up. It’s just more convenient. But just because of the cost of calling internationally, I have a Skype account with an international plan. It’s very inexpensive, a couple of dollars a month, so I can call internationally or do Skype internationally for free. And that is uh, what I do for any clients that are outside of the U.S.

The other thing that you’re going to want is a PayPal account. I know there’s like 5 million different payment processors out there, but PayPal, again, it’s kind of the industry standard. Any Joe Schmo like that you meet has probably used PayPal and is comfortable with it. I think that’s really important and people can pay you with any major credit card through PayPal even if they don’t have a PayPal account.

So, for me it is, again, it’s just the most seamless way to do business and there’s a lot of resources out there to help you with PayPal. You don’t even need a business account necessarily along for a long time. I just had a personal PayPal account and it works just fine. So that would be one difference, right? If you’re meeting somebody in person, they might hand you a check when you’re working virtually, you’re going to get paid virtually and there’s going to be a fee that kind of stinks, right? Like in the beginning I was like, ah, I don’t want to have to pay these fees, but it’s just the cost of doing business. So you can build in, you know, pad your fee for your program a little bit to cover these costs. Um, so the PayPal fee, I don’t know what the percentages, it’s like some sort of flat fee plus a percentage of every sale.

And again, just the cost of doing business. The only other thing someone can do is send it like friends and family where you can Venmo money. I know there’s ways to do it where there’s no fees, but to me that kind of puts you in a gray area. You’re not really supposed to use it that way. And I like to try to keep my finances on the up and up just in case there’s ever a problem. Okay, so those are like the basics and it’s literally all you need. In fact then you know you probably have a notebook like wait, hold on a second. I’ll show you my notebook, which I still have, you know a notebook like this with tad up at little tabs on here for all the names of my clients and this is where I scribble notes and that’s, you know, you probably have something like that to keep track of everybody and you don’t need anything else.

But I do have a favorite tool that makes it all a lot easier from the billing to the notes to getting forms signed. I’m going to tell you about that in response to the next question, but let me see. I see some questions coming in. Adriana says, I will be entirely doing virtually coaching as I’m homebound, due to illness and living with family, but hopefully sometime next year I’ll buy a house and have a separate office for in person coaching too. It’s my biggest dream. Well, you know what, just to see how it goes. You may find that you love working virtually and as I have found, it works better for my clients too, so I’ve been able to move. Gosh, how many times have I moved? I lived in Boston when I started my business. Then we moved to the DC area.

We lived in several different places there. Then we moved to New Jersey, then we moved to New York when we finally bought our house and every time I’ve moved, I’ve just taken my clients with me like it’s no big deal. I still have people who think I live in Boston because it doesn’t matter where I am. I could go anywhere, so you might find that you love it and hello to everybody who is here live. I love seeing your names pop up.

Lisa says, I always like in person or video first, then follow up with phone. There’s something about seeing someone that I can’t get past. Yeah. And I also think it has a lot to do with what you’re used to. So actually just yesterday I was on the phone with like a financial planner type person. I know nothing about financial planning, so I’m like asking him the dumbest questions in the world. But anyway, and he was like, yeah, I’ve been in business for 30 years and yes, we can do a lot of things virtually because his office is about half an hour away from my house. But I would love to meet you first. I feel like that really you have to meet someone to build a relationship. And I’m like, well, you’ve been doing business that way for 30 years. So I understand. But I will respectfully disagree. It’s, I don’t think it’s a necessity, but it has a lot to do with just your comfort level and how you work, which is totally valid.

Um, and Adriana is asking, do you use your cell phone, a specific office, landline phone or your regular home phone?

I don’t have a regular home phone do you? I wish I did, because a lot of times it’s cell phones constantly dropping calls and it’s really annoying when it’s between my phone and a client’s phone. You never know where they are. The calls can get dropped a lot, but that’s life. Right. Um,

I have a cell phone that I use. I have a Skype phone number. Again, not much money to get your own phone number through Skype. So I give, when I give out my phone number, I give out my Skype number. It’s not actually my personal number and that number can be used through Skype but also rings to my phone. So it’s really interesting how it’s connected. I’ve heard all sorts of arrangements that people have where you can get like sort of a pseudo phone number that goes, even have like a pseudo voicemail just for your business. So you don’t actually have to pay for a second phone, but you know, once or twice, uh, you know, I’m talking with someone on the phone anyway. My clients, I don’t mind them having my personal number. It’s really just in the beginning, you know, with people who, I don’t know, I like to use the, the pseudo number, which is really still the same thing. It’s still rings my phone who we can.

Okay. So the question that I wanted to talk about next, because it was so very related, um, came from Kimberly. She said she’s a new coach, trying to make the onboarding process easy and streamlined for potential clients. So instead of sending them PDFs and the program agreements and a credit card authorization, like how can she just make it not so clunky?

Right. Um, so knew about Google forms that you could potentially use. You can use DocuSign. That’s a service that I just mentioned with my financial planner guy. He’s like, yeah, we use DocuSign. So that’s perfectly okay. But to make this really user friendly and like the most simple thing, I have found that this was such a great question cause I have the answer for you Kimberly.

It’s called Practice Better. You can go to healthcoachpower.com/practice it is a service made by a holistic nutritionist for holistic nutritionist, health coaches, people in this field, everything you need, they’ve got it. It’s kind of crazy. You’re kind of like, oh, but what about payment plans? Oh yeah, you can do that. Oh but what about this other thing I want to run? You don’t want to build people as like part of a group instead of individually. Yeah, you can do that. You know? So like they really have all of it covered, the billing, the forms, and it’s made my life so much easier. And it is not that expensive. I forget exactly what it is. I want to say it’s like $35 a month. It’s Canadian dollars. So if you look on the website again, that healthcoachpower.com/practice you’ll see how much it costs per month. But that’s Canadian dollars, so if you’re in the U.S. The exchange rate is very good and I find it to be totally, totally worth it.

Okay. Let’s see what other questions we have about that. Bev says, I take notes in Evernote so I can copy and paste to email. Each client has a notebook in the system. Okay, that totally works. There’s so many different tools online for organizing yourself. Just in general. I really like Trello. I don’t know if you guys know that tool; Trello.com. Regardless of how you’re working, what kind of business you’re in or just for personal use. I love that. And

Lisa’s saying that Google voice works too and you can have Google voice forward to your phone as well. I’ve heard of people using that. I’ve never actually set it up myself. Okay, so here’s a different kind of question we’re going to move on from the virtual coaching topic because hopefully you can see it’s really not a big deal. You don’t need much, you really don’t.

You all you have to do is tune into your listening even more because that’s what you have, right? You’re not seeing people visually. So you really have to listen to the inflection of their voice and notice what they’re saying, what they’re not saying. It just feel like the skill comes with practice. Um, I really, I don’t want to work any other way. What can I say? Okay.

So, this question came from Arty and Arty said, has anyone here struggled with binge eating while getting a health coaching business launched?

And I, what I hear between the lines, they’re sort of like, is this stressing anyone else the F out? So much so that you find yourself binge eating. I don’t know if that’s exactly what you meant Arty, but that’s how I read it. And I was like, yeah, I totally hear you. In fact, not that I’m just getting my business set up by any means, but last year maybe.

Yeah, about last year I was talking to Andrea Beaman. Some of you may know her. She and I have a podcast together with Lisa Lewtan and we’ve been doing that for about a year and a half now. So we were just chatting and I was talking about how I have to bribe myself sometimes with food to do things that I just really don’t want to do. Like I hate sitting down to do my books, like bookkeeping is for the birds. I can’t stand it. So I found myself, anytime I had to do it, I would have my hand in like a bag of chocolate chips and somehow about three quarters of the way through that bag, I would have my books reconciled. But I know of course as a health coach there is a disconnect here. What’s the problem? But on the other hand, the work had to get done. So like things I don’t want to do things that stress me out.

I find myself going for food, going for a snack, using something. And I always think of it as like bribing myself. Like, oh, if I eat, if I do this, I get to eat that. Right? If you’re a client told you this, wouldn’t you just be like, oh, we have to talk about this. I know, I know. So when I was talking to Andrea about it, she was like, she basically said, well that’s the stuff you got to outsource. And I’m like, Oh yeah! You know? So smart. When we talk about outsourcing, a lot of times we’re like, well, what would I outsource? Would I have, uh, an assistant answer my emails for me? Would I have somebody else, I don’t know, set up my podcast for me? You know, it’s hard to sometimes break out the tasks that you would outsource, but that one was so obvious.

I hate doing bookkeeping, hate it. And so I hired a bookkeeper and I found that whenever I’m in that situation where I’m like, I’m going to need an entire bag of pretzels to get through this, that’s what I need to outsource. I need to get support. Right? And so in business, most often that means hiring somebody. It, it could be getting a friend to help or having my husband tells me, God, help me. But something to that effect because it can be really stressful and it’s not just when you’re getting your business set up. It’s every step of the way. Being an entrepreneur is not easy and it can feel very personal when things don’t go right or you come up against an unexpected challenge and we’re human, so maybe that bag of chocolate chips in your cupboard like mine is going to get hit every time.

Of course you could do something different. You can eat celery sticks, Michelle eat the celery sticks, but even better resolve the actual problem which is like you’re out of alignment and you really in your business, you want to do the work that you do best so that you can shine and outsource the rest. Get help with the rest, get support with the rest. That’s my best advice for you.

Jennifer is asking, Hey Michelle, I have a dumb question how I’m sure it’s not that dumb. Jennifer, let’s see. I’ll tell you. I’m just kidding. She says, how do you set up your client notebook is at one tab per client. Do you set aside a certain number of pages per client? I can’t figure out the best solution. I love the notebook idea. Just can’t organize it.

Oh, that’s fun. No, I like that question. I’m such a nerd. I love questions like that. So I’ve probably should just use a three, three ring binder because then you can move pages around. But for me I’m like, okay, this person has 10 sessions, I’m going to give them five pages. That’s, you know, front and back. That would be 10 sessions. I usually, I know I usually take about one page of notes per session, you know, and then I just put the tab for the next person five pages later. So I’d just kind of figure up how many pages they need. And then occasionally like they’ll resign for another set and then I’ll just take pages and paperclip them in. It’s really not high tech at all. There’s not the best system in the world as it, but yeah, I got like binder clips and things in here because you know, it’s uh, it’s an organic, it’s a growing document. But yeah, I mean really you think about it critically, a three ring binder would probably work better.

All right. I have a another question here from Samantha and she says IIN was great with the idea of a six month program, but sometimes I feel people are hesitant about doing six months because of the financial and time commitment. So is it wise to offer packages that break it down into smaller timeframes or should we just offer six months and hope potentials don’t turn away? Okay Samantha, so I’m going to answer this question slightly differently than you probably expect. I feel strongly after doing this umpteen different ways. I mean my goodness, I have sliced and diced and priced my packages so many different ways throughout the years. But where I am right now is if you know who you are targeting, it goes back to your target market and you know what problem you solve for them, then the only right thing to do is offer them a program that’s going to help solve their problem.

Give you an example. I had a client come to me, very overweight, the kind of overweight where you know she had had gastric bypass surgery, gained all the weight back and then some, I mean just a lifetime of being overweight and dieting. Let’s say that I offered like a two month program and eight week programs, something like that. She may have liked the idea of that because price wise it’s not so much commitment wise. Time wise it’s not so much, but if I sold her that package I, I wouldn’t be able to solve her problem. There was no way could solve her problem even come even begin to solve her problem in eight weeks that just would barely be scratching the surface to this lifetime of problems that she’s had. So I like to think of it in terms of what does this person need and just really tap into my own integrity.

Like what do I need in order to deliver the result that they’re looking for? I don’t want to work with them for a shorter period of time if I’m not going to be able to help them because they’re going to shrug their shoulders. And go, I don’t know, should I resign? I haven’t really been seeing results. Maybe I’ll ask a couple pounds or maybe I, my skin looks a little bit clearer, but you know, they’re not feeling super impressed. It’s unlikely they’re going to sign again. They might, but it’s also unlikely that they’re going to refer me to other people if ultimately they’re not thrilled with the results. So I say, pick your target market, no, what problem you’re solving. That’s huge by the way. And then you can create a program with a length, with a format, with the content that that person needs to see their desired results. That’s how you pick the length of your program, not because it sounds good, you know, Oh, six months, oh, three months. You know, that’s very generic and I don’t think it serves anyone particularly well. So my thoughts on that. Hope that helps Samantha.

Okay, what else do we have here? Antonia asked, she said, hey guys, I’ve just finished my opt in Freebie, which is a guide to tackle weight loss during menopause. I’m wondering if I should include information regarding my paid program at the end or if I’m better off making it part of my email sequence and build more trust first?

Okay, so the way lead magnets usually working Antonia and everybody, is that the lead magnet, get somebody onto your mailing list, which is amazing. The lead magnet itself may or may not be read, you know, it’s just a PDF. They might glance at it, they may actually read it all. Who knows? Usually somewhere in that document you’re going to ask them to sign up for a free consultation or whatever you’re calling that, that phone call that you have with prospective clients, a strategy session, you know, whatever it is.

That would be the call to action inside your lead magnet. You wouldn’t actually be telling them about your paid program. You’d want to get them on the phone and suss out whether they’re a good fit first before you offer your program to them. Right now, as for email, that’s going to do the same thing. Somebody downloads your Freebie, their name goes onto your mailing list, and they should start receiving a welcome sequence that first delivers the Freebie to them and then a series of emails and there’s sort of formulas for how you do this, but essentially it’s like an introduction, a case study, you know, you’re going to basically give them all your best content upfront while they’re still interested and hot on you, like they just signed up so they want to hear from you and those emails, we’ll do the same thing and inviting them into your strategy session. You’re free consultation. The call itself is like, you know, the sales call, I hate that term. Um, but during that sales call or sales conversation is when you would explain the actual program if a good fit for it.

Okay. I think somebody asked about HIPPA because Lisa is saying as health coaches, you don’t have to worry about HIPAA. And that’s true. We’re not licensed medical practitioners, so we do not have to worry about being HIPAA compliant. However, the service that I mentioned earlier practice better is HIPAA compliant. I mean there’s no harm in being HIPPA compliant. It’s not something you have to stress about it as a health coach, but they are and they have like video conferencing through practice better. So, like if you don’t want to use Skype or zoom, you could use the video conference tool through practice better and then you don’t have to worry about the HIPAA stuff, the HIPAA stuff. That’s what it’s officially called. Okay. What else do we have here? I have time for one more question.

Marnie said, can we talk about LinkedIn for a second? As soon as I revamped my profile, I’m getting way too many health and wellness professionals trying to sell to me. They pretend they just want to network and then they move in for the kill. I’m over it. Is anyone else having this experience?

Yes, we all are. I don’t think a week goes by that somebody doesn’t try to get me to sell Plexus or something-agenics or whatever as if I’ve never heard of it before and I’m not interested PS, by the way, please don’t contact me about that. But it’s going to happen. I mean that’s what network marketers are apparently told to do because they’re all doing it. And I have a pretty like no bs policy cause I just don’t have time to waste. So if anything even remotely smells like network marketing to me, I probably won’t respond at all or all respond with something like, “Hi, if this has anything to do with network marketing, I am not interested. It is not part of my business model.” Because that is true. Um, and actually I don’t really use LinkedIn, but it happens constantly over every platform Marni. So anyway, probably network marketers out there. I’m not trying to say you’re all the worst. I’m just trying to say some of you are the worst. Don’t do it. It’s so annoying. If I’m interested in selling your stuff, I will probably contact you.

Before we go, you guys, I want to give a shout out to plain old Jim’s wife who left this review on iTunes and yes, that is her iTunes name, plain old Jim’s wife. I want you to change that to like Jim’s lucky as heck wife. But anyway, she wrote, “I feel like Michelle is talking to me. Her messages have helped me in my journey to developing my own health coaching business. I keep listening and really listening so much good info. That totally makes my day.” Thank you for listening. Thank you for listening, plain old Jim’s wife -beautiful lucky Jim’s wife and for showing your support of the show. I want to send you a little something. So could you please send your mailing address to support@healthcoachpower.com and for everybody, please head over to iTunes and leave a five star rating and a written review.

I put out a whole lot of free content every single week. So in order to keep doing that, I need your ratings and your reviews because that helps us reach more coaches and we are, the podcast has been growing by leaps and bounds. I want to thank you for that and I’ll be back next week. So keep asking all those great questions. I will keep answering them. Take care of your body.