#60: Should You Become a Health Coach?

This episode is for all of you who are not currently practicing as a health coach. You’re wondering, “Is health coaching really for me?” Maybe you’re certified but never got your business going. Or maybe you’re only considering becoming a health coach but haven’t enrolled in a school yet. Take a listen to learn what all successful coaches have in common – and see if you could be one of them!

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Hello health coaches, and hello to those of you who are not yet a health coach. Maybe you’re still in school, maybe you’re in the process of getting certified, or maybe you’re just thinking about becoming a health coach. Recently, I’ve actually been noticing that many of you who are watching and listening may not already be certified in this profession. And I want to say hello, and I want to say that I think you’re really smart because what you’re doing is you’re peeking behind the scenes before you invest in your education. You want to know what is this field all about anyway, from those of us who are in it. So Kudos to you, really smart move. And this episode is for all of you, for whatever reason are not currently practicing and you’re wondering, hmm, is health coaching the right thing for me? Or should I start my business back up even though I didn’t quite get it going a couple of years ago? Or you know, you’re in that state where you’re not, you’re not in motion, and you’re wondering if you should get in motion. So this is for you.

My name is Michelle Pfennighaus. I’ve been a health coach with my own private practice for over 10 years and I act as a mentor for my fellow health coaches. So if and when you are a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, you will see me there in your curriculum where I teach you about marketing.

Now, today’s episode was inspired by Audrey. I hope I’m pronouncing your name correctly, who wrote, I am a true believer of destiny. I stumbled onto your podcast by accident and within a few weeks of listening to you, your message gave me the extra push to move forward with my health coaching journey. I quickly enrolled with IIN and can’t wait to put all your valuable advice to practice. I look forward to your episodes. You are amazing. Keep inspiring all future coaches.

I plan to do that. Thank you so much Audrey for that review on iTunes and for bringing to my attention yet again that some of our listeners are simply looking for that next step on their journey. We’d love to send you a little thank you gift by the way. So Audrey, please send your mailing address to support@healthcoachpower.com and reference episode number 60.

So the big question, should you become a health coach? Should you get your business started? Should you put yourself out there? I mean, who succeeds in this field anyway? I think I’ve been a pretty good position to answer this question because I see a lot of businesses fail. I see a lot of businesses flourish and as I was preparing to talk to you guys today, I thought about some of the most successful coaches that I know through their friends of mine, personal friends or they’re coaches that I’ve worked with inside my program, Healthy Profit University.

But in any case, I noticed that they have a few things in common, as you might imagine, they’re all different, right? Uh, this one specializes in weight loss. This one specializes in thyroid health. Everyone’s all over the map in terms of who they help and how they help them, but they all have a personal story that seems to motivate them to help others because at the end of the day, while we do all, probably all of us, most of us want to make money and have a financially successful career, it’s a much stronger motivator to witness the health transformation that take place right before your very eyes. I mean, that’s the best part of being in this field. And I know I personally feel drawn like with a rope, I get dragged towards anybody who’s struggling with anxiety, with chronic stress, and with all of the health ailments that come with that because that was me, right?

And I was miserable. We’re talking, oh gosh, 10 plus years ago now, maybe 15 years ago, changing my diet, changing my lifestyle. It changed my life in such a huge dramatic way. And I want to talk to everybody about it. I just want to evangelize so hard when I see people struggling. Like I would do this for free. I was doing it for free. Trust me, I used to be wicked, wicked annoying to all of my friends and family. So running a business really meant taking my message and packaging it up in a way that people actually want to listen and pay for my help. And I see that same kind of passion in like every successful health coach. I know like even when we’re kind of behind the scenes, uh, you know, the mics are turned off. We’re just hanging out. These are coaches who love talking and nerding out about this stuff.

So if you have had your own, I’m going to call it a health awakening, that you just cannot stop yourself from spreading the good word about, then I think you should become a health coach because that’s the kind of people we are. All right. Now, how about this? Are you already the go-to person? Think about your coworkers, your friends, your family members. Do people already come to you asking for advice about food topics, nutrition, health, that sort of thing? If they are, that means, first of all, you’re already well positioned in this field. You’re already being seen as an expert, so go you, you have a leg up. It also means that you’re putting out a vibe. Like, I know what I’m talking about. I can help you. I’m willing to help you talk to me. And if you have that vibe about you and people are already picking up on it, then yeah, I think this could be the right path for you.

Absolutely. And then finally, and this is huge, like I put it last, but maybe I should have put it first. It’s a question that I might need you to like think about like meditate on this later. Do you have the capacity for growth? And I know you were like, yeah, of course Michelle, everybody has the capacity for growth. But I mean, are you willing to be vulnerable to fall down and get back up and then fall down like another 100 times? Because running your own business means you’re stepping into the ring, right? There’s no sitting on the sidelines in this business you have got to get out there and I guarantee that you’re going to make mistakes all the time. I do to this day, multiple times a day. So if you have a fixed mindset that says, you know what, I’m good at x, Y, Z, but don’t ask me to do ABC because I don’t know how to do that.

Then honestly, this may not be the right thing for you. All the successful health coaches I know have a growth mindset that says, you know, yeah, right now I’m good at x, Y,Z , but with practice I know I can get great at ABC or I can at least try and yeah, I’m going to probably mess up along the way big time, but every time I do I’m going to learn from those mistakes. I’m going to jot down, okay, what could I have done better? Where did that go wrong? How could I improve? What did I get from this mistake? So it becomes a positive. Now if that’s you, then I think he should become a health coach because this entrepreneurial world is not for the faint of heart and this isn’t a highly established field. It’s not like becoming, I don’t know, like a lawyer or an accountant where a zillion people have done it before you and a zillion people will come after and everyone kind of follows the same route to get there.

More or less, health coaching is much more nebulous. We are making it up as we go along. Like literally in the past 10 years, I feel like I have played a small role in creating what health coaching even is because it just didn’t exist before. So, every day that I stepped into the ring like I’m kind of improving and you’re going to have to be willing to improv too. By the way, this whole idea of the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset, if you want to read more about that, it’s a theory. Um, there’s a book by Carol Dweck, D.W.E.C.K., Carol Dweck, if you want to read more about it. I found it fascinating and it’s a theory I share with my clients because it applies to all sorts of situations in life. Now I got into health coaching because like I’ve mentioned, I just couldn’t shut up about it.

I was voraciously reading every book I could get my hand on learning everything that I could and not a whole lot has changed. Although these days I’m probably reading fewer books and listening to more podcasts. Truth be told and it’s not just about health and wellness, but I’m constantly expanding my knowledge base around building a business around online marketing so it’s like constant growth, constant change and challenging my comfort zone and I happen to love that. So listen, if you’re not already a health coach, like if you are not enrolled in a school already, don’t have a certification and you just want to learn more about what it takes to become a coach and what options are available to you. I do have a free mini course available on my website. If you go to healthcoachpower.com/become there’s even a private Facebook group for that mini course where you could ask me questions about getting into this field, and just get a sense of whether or not you’re ready to take that next step.

Again, this is not for most of you. Most of you are already certified as health coaches, but if you are not and if you are not already enrolled in a program, you can find that mini course of healthcoachpower.com/become now, I would love to take your questions if you have any questions about becoming a health coach or if you already are one. We’re going to move on to some other topics now, so if you’re here live, go ahead and tell me in the comments what would be helpful for you to hear about today.

I have a question in line over here from Elaina. Again, I hope I’m pronouncing your name correctly. Why can’t you guys all just be named Mary? It’d be so much easier for me. We get all these interesting names, but I do my best.

Okay, Elaina said, I am in a unique situation. I’ve been approached by an exec at a top modeling agency in New York City that needs coaches to help their girls with nutrition. They need a system to stay within sizing, etc. And she wants to know what my rates are, but it would be paid by the corporation. Not the girls themselves. My question is would you charge your normal individual rates or would you suggest something higher because it would be paid by the company?

I think that’s a great question, Elaina. And at first my brain immediately thought, yeah, like of course the company is going to pay more companies generally do pay more than an individual would. They have budgets for this stuff? I mean go for it. Go for it. That’s what I wanted to tell you, but I have a more intelligent answer for you upon thinking about it for a couple of minutes.

So I generally suggest that you price your services according to the problem that you are solving. Did you hear that? Your price corresponds to the value of the problem you are solving. And it doesn’t matter if you’re solving it with meal plans or Reiki or magic or if you’re doing something in a group program or if you’re doing something individually, if it’s online, if it’s in person, none of that stuff matters. So in this case, I’m thinking whether it’s the corporation that’s paying or it’s the girls that paying, who cares. The point is what problem are you solving? So, if you were working one on one with, you know, one of these models, the problem you’d be solving is for her to be within the size that she needs to be, right? So that’s a, that’s a big problem for her. But when you think about the agency as a whole, Elena, it sounds to me like you would be solving a problem like at that corporate level, like you would be helping them keep all of their models within size and guidelines effectively keeping them in business, right?

Like you would be eliminating what must be, I don’t know anything about modeling. I’m sure that’s hard to believe, but I’ve never been a model, but I’m guessing that you’re actually solving a much bigger problem that this company faces. So, if they don’t have any models can go to the shoot or walk on the runway that don’t fit into the clothes. I mean that is a huge business problem for them. That’s going to cost them, I don’t know, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars. So that is effectively what your services are worth to them and that is why I think you should charge more because the company itself is paying you and not the individual. I hope that makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions about that.

All righty, got another question here from Tanya and Tanya said, I’m not a big fan of the meal plan idea for my practice. I don’t want to tell people what to eat. However, I was thinking of making a food list. For example, I’d have a vegetable list of fruit list, the protein list fat list and an eat minimally list and I would do something like pick a protein, pick a couple of vegetables, pick a fat. That way I give my clients the power to choose what they want to eat themselves, but still giving them all the healthiest options out there. Obviously keeping in mind that not every food is going to make everyone feel good, so intuitive eating is a big thing, but anyway, long story short, have any, have you tried this method and has it worked well?

You know what, Tanya, I actually did something exactly like what you’re talking about. I created a spreadsheet of sorts. I think I called it like a point and shoot meal planning spreadsheet. You can steal that if you want. I thought it was a good idea. It actually came from one of my clients who was like, I’m so busy, like I don’t even like have time to look at recipes. I just want to be able to like point my finger and say like, okay, I’m just going to eat that. I’m going to pair it with that. And I thought, oh, I can make a resource that does this for you. So it might even still be on my website somewhere. I used it as an opt-in to get people on my mailing list. I called it something like, you know, my point and shoot guide to meal planning. And it was exactly that. It was like list of proteins and a list of fats and a list of vegetables and things like that. And I don’t know that my client ever actually used it and I don’t, I’ve never heard from anybody who downloaded it that they used it, but it did convert well, meaning the number of people who saw that freebie available on my website, a good percentage of them opted into it.

So I think it’s a good idea that people are drawn to and I would absolutely try it out. I think that’s great thinking. And you know on this whole topic of like meal planning or helping people choose foods, it’s always suggestion, right? So even if you are providing a meal plan, I’ve had clients who look at a sort of sample meal plan that I’ve given them and they go, oh I get it. Like it clicks for them how they could make something for dinner on Monday and eat it for lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday. Like for some reason having it mapped out in front of them just illustrates this point and they’re like, oh I get it. I don’t have to cook every day a hundred times a day. So don’t totally set aside the idea of meal plans. I think they can be really, really valuable, but all of these things are just tools that we can give our clients to help. So great thinking and thanks for sharing that idea.

Okay, Jessica had a question about payments. This one get, might get a little technical here. Let’s see what I can do. She said how do you collect payment for private and group programs for groups? I have a link on my Squarespace website linked to stripe and I just got charged two 3% fees, a stripe processing fee and an application fee. That’s 6% I’ve also used square and PayPal and I know that those are about 3.5%. Help, I don’t want all my income going to fees.

So Jessica, you got a lot of feedback about this when you posted it in the Facebook group or for anyone who didn’t see my take on the situation is if you want to do business in this day and age, you want to collect payment online, there’s always going to be a fee. And if you ask me how much are the fees that I pay when like students sign up for my courses or a client signs up through my member portal, I don’t know and I don’t care.

It’s not worth my time to go dig around and do the math. It’s probably worth my time to focus on marketing and getting myself more clients or focus on doing things to build my business so that that small like 3% 4% whatever, Eh, you know, just kind of doesn’t matter. The point is that you want a system that just works flawlessly, that’s easy for your clients to use. It’s easy for you to make refunds when you need to make refunds, and easy for you to track on your end with your accounting or bookkeeping software and if everything is working smoothly and I would say it’s worth a couple percent just to have that system in place. So I don’t know what fees are and I say just don’t even look at them. Now, if you are noticing that you’re getting a double fee, yes, you might think about eliminating one of the tools that you’re using, like you’ll find, I’m trying to think of an example with Practice Better, which is a platform that I use for all of my clients.

It manages the scheduling, it manages the billing, but it doesn’t process the Payments so it connects with Stripe and then Stripe processes the payment. I’m pretty sure Practice Better does not charge anything on top of the Stripe fee, but that’s what I’m talking about when you’re using two tools together. Yes, you might be getting some sort of double fee and it might totally be worth it if that system is working flawlessly for you in other ways.

And then Krista had a follow-up question to that. She said, do Thinkific and Stripe also work when someone’s paying monthly for a program or do you send them an invoice through another program?

Krista, asked me that because I use a member site called Thinkific for my course Healthy Profit University. So when someone signs up for help when a health coach signs up for a healthy profit university, yes I do get charged a fee.

Absolutely. And if they’re paying monthly then there’s a fee every month, you know, for each of their payments. If they pay in full, then that whole fee gets taken off the top. And that’s a, that is a combination of the Thinkific platform and the Stripe platform working together. I do not send them an invoice through another program, but I want to stress that tools like Thinkific, like member sites, um, some of these more complicated tools are only necessary if you are running like a big program with lots of members, like hundreds of members and you are constantly every day onboarding new members. If it’s the kind of thing where are you going to have like six people and you’re going to meet every Wednesday for six weeks? I mean honestly I would go easy on this. I don’t think you have to over-engineer the situation. Just send them a PayPal, PayPal invoice or have a PayPal button somewhere.

I would just use the least amount of technology that you need to achieve the goal. You know what I’m saying? For example, Jessica, maybe your whole group just lives inside of a Facebook group. Your videos are there, obviously your community is there, your files, are there everything that you need. So, if you’re only going to have like let’s say under 20 people in your program, it wouldn’t be that hard to have them just use a very basic payment method just like you would with a private client. We’re going to send them an invoice through PayPal or whatever you do, so don’t make it too complicated, you guys. It’s easy to get too complicated and sometimes it was just no need for it.

All right. What questions do you guys have for me? I see one here from Karen, she says, I feel a bit under accomplished with a communications degree. It seems as though the health coaches with the medical background have a leg up on me. Is it even necessary to mention my education other than IIN?

I hope not, Karen, because my degree is in art. I have a bachelor’s degree in art. So yeah, you can do just fine in this field even if you don’t have the medical background. And actually I was thinking about this because like, but going back to our main topic of should you become a health coach, I was thinking like, oh well if you’re already in a healthcare profession, um, but you’re little bit disenchanted with the healthcare system, then maybe that’s a good person to become a health coach. And the answer is like, yes. But also I see people really struggle when they come from a medical background because they’re so used to operating in one paradigm and health coaching is totally different.

So sometimes people have a hard time making that switch from licensed medical professional to coach, even just in how they run their business. So it can actually be a negative thing as what I have seen, Karen, you absolutely never have to tell anybody that you have a bachelor’s degree in anything. You don’t even have to tell them that you’ve been to college. It literally does not matter. And a lot of coaches that you see out there kind of spouting off about this medical condition and that medical condition may have done some sort of functional medicine training as a health coach. It doesn’t say anything about their about their degree that they may have from a college or university. So please don’t sell yourself short. If there is anything that you can do to make yourself feel more confident, it’s really going to be all about business building, learning how to market yourself and learning all about sort of the business of health coaching and not so much like do I know the medical term for this bone right here. You know like that does not matter. I hope that helps you and I hope that will help you set aside some of those limiting beliefs.

Okay. Question from Mary. Mary’s saying, can you address how to work in a saturated field of health coaching? It is pretty saturated. I will agree with you there. And she also was mentioning how she’s working part time as a health coach until you can become full time. How to go about that. She says, I think many fields are saturated, so it’s got to be possible to succeed. And I’d love to hear thoughts.

Yeah, so it’s true. 10 years ago I found it was enough to get people’s attention. If I said, I’m going to help you clean up your diet or I’m going to help you eat clean or I’m going to help you eat organic or I’m going to help you eat well and I’m going to teach you about organic food. And by the way, have you ever heard of Kale? And like that was enough because people are like, Huh, what’s that?

What’s Kale? Never heard of it. What’s organic mean? So back then I can be pretty broad. I can be pretty vague. And it was it in the what, how can I phrase this? Like it was weird enough already. It wasn’t something that everybody was hearing every time they turned around, it was already enough to spark somebody’s attention that I was speaking about eating clean or eating organic. But as the market has become more saturated and as like now Walmart has an organic aisle and things like this and the general like consciousness of the public has really been raised, which is a wonderful thing. Now it’s like well what message do you get out there with? I can’t just say, hey let me help you clean up your diet. Cause they’re like, yes I have been offered that from like 20 other sources in the past 20 minutes.

So the way to stand out in a saturated market is to niche down. It sounds a little bit counter intuitive because you would think, oh there’s just like, there’s not as much work for a health coach or there’s not as much people paying attention. I better get my message out to all people. But in actuality that just makes you part of the white noise and you don’t want to be part of the white noise. You want your message to stand out. So the way to do that is to get more and more specific about who you serve and what problem you help them solve. So these days, I don’t say, here, let me teach you how to clean up your diet because that is like done. Like everybody knows what that’s about. Nobody’s listening to that message. I say things more along the lines of, and this is me and my business.

I’m going to help you reverse the health conditions that come along with chronic stress and burnout. You know, I work with type a driven women, you know, so I’m not saying, Hey, I work with anybody, man, woman, child on any health issue that you have. I’m getting real specific about who she is and what problem I help herself. So I think that is how you overcome the, the saturation problem. Your other part of the question is about working part time as a health coach until you can become full time. And this is tricky business. I know coaches who have done it and they do it different ways now. It really comes down to having some sort of cushion for your income and that might mean you’re working full time in another career and you save and you save and you save. So that as a health coach, you don’t earn any money, maybe for the first year or two and you’re going to be okay.

Like that’s the kind of cushion you need. Other people will leave their full-time job health coach as much as they can and then get a part time job like at a natural food store or at whole foods or if you’re lucky you can work part time in a field that you’re already getting paid a professional wage in. So that can help ease that transition. Me, I feel very lucky. My husband was working full time, he is a solid career, solid income and we purposely tamped down our living expenses for that we could survive on his salary alone, which allowed me to work smoothly and not have to stress about hitting a certain dollar amount. Um, so I actually, I didn’t, I didn’t ease into it. I went from working full time and advertising to working full time as a health coach. But again, I had that, that padding or cushion of income.

So that’s really the trick for making it work because there’s never going to be a day when you can make enough as a health coach working part time that it’s, well, there might be a day, but it’s rare that you’re going to work part time as a health coach and make so much money that you’re able to say, oh, I don’t need my full time job anymore. I will now just do this full time. Chances are if you’re only working part time, you’re not able to put as many hours in as you need to make the salary that you need. So it is always going to be a little bit of a leap to jump over and start health coaching full time. But I hope that helps keep your expenses down and have some sort of cushion for your income. I got like two more minutes.

If you have a question for me today, please put it in the comments and I do have one right here from Sharon and Sharon says, I was presented with a great opportunity to collaborate with a Pilates studio who’s interested in finding ways to help their clients that are starting to plateau. I assume that means with weight. I’m unsure of how to structure the relationship. Ideally remaining independent and using this as a referral relationship would be best. However it seems as though they want to incorporate health coaching into their brand. Does anyone have any experience in this type of situation?

Sharon, I agree with you. I think the very best arrangement that you could have, especially as this is new, this would be a new arrangement, is to remain independent, show up, do a workshop, get those people onto your mailing list and market to them separately. I imagine that the studio is thinking about their own business model. Why should they be sending their clientele your way so that you can earn money if they could be actually accepting that money themselves and having a health coach on staff. If that were the case. It’s likely they’re going to be paying you less and that might be okay if the dollars work out, you know, it’s usually a split where maybe if they are bringing the clients to you and people are registering online on their website or whatever and you’ve literally just show up and they’re like, oh hey Sharon, you have a new client today.

I mean that’s a beautiful thing that’s worth the money. So if they’re going to take 30% or 40% I would say like that’s a great situation, but they have a ways to go before they get there. If they’re not doing this yet, it’s not going to happen tomorrow that they just have this steady stream of clients coming to them asking to sign up with the on staff health coach. And the other reason I would be very careful about integrating myself with another business is because I’ve heard about this, health coaches might get involved with a Yoga Studio, with a Pilates studio and next year that studio goes out of business and there goes all your business. So it can be more advantageous for you to remain independent. Build your list, build your own thing over here, but have a relationship with the studio where they refer to you and there could still be some sort of referral fee if you hold workshops there.

Same thing if it’s a paid workshop, they might keep 30% and give you 70% but if they want to make it an income stream for themselves, they are really going to have to figure that out and pitch something really good to you and still, if you go for it, be careful and keep your own individual practice going on the side so that you don’t ever run the risk of being left in the dust.

All right, that is all for today. You guys, please head over to iTunes and leave a rating and review for the Health Coach Power Community Podcast so we can keep reaching more coaches. And maybe next time I will read your review on the air. In the meantime, please keep asking all your great questions and I promise to keep answering them. I’ll be back next week. See you then.