Ep 35 – 2 Powerful Shifts To Enroll More Committed Coaching Clients

This episode is an ON AIR Coaching Session with David Smith.

David Smith is a Washington DC – based career coach. He is a Fulbright scholar. After 30 years in law, as a University professor and  overseas working for a think tank, he came to realize that his collective experiences provide insight into inside DC careers.

For two years he has coaching two different audiences:

  • people 20 – 30 emerging into international or policy based careers inside the beltway
  • people 50+ looking for their encore career

Two Problems Related to Coaching Client Engagement

David said he was looking for some wisdom. Specifically he was having two challenges in his coaching business:

  1. Sometimes clients disappear without notice.
  2. Younger clientele are difficult to engage into a longer term coaching relationship.

These classic challenges are related. And both are things that David can fix with a shift in his approach to enrolling.

I asked David to describe what he tells prospects about his offer.

He offers a Discovery Session and admitted to a common problem coaches have … over-delivering in the discovery call.

Shift #1: Stop Coaching in Discovery Sessions

Some coaches offer a sample coaching session to enroll clients. I used to do this myself and found that, much of the time, prospects would walk away from that experience feeling satisfied and uninterested in taking a next step.

I was so intent on showing my value that I over-delivered. And the prospect would say: “Thanks!” But she had no interest in taking a next step.

Can you relate to that challenge?

I remember feeling sort of demoralized by the lack of interest in coaching, something I felt so passionate about.

That’s because coaching is a hard sell.

People don’t wake up knowing that they want coaching. Instead they seek out solutions to specific problems.

So, unless you’re offering a sample coaching session that focuses on a very specific coaching niche — a specific solution to a specific problem — then your sample coaching session is going to feel general and not highly relevant to people.

Even if you have a specific niche, a sample session isn’t the most effective tool for enrolling a committed long term coaching client who pays you well. Because the tendency to perform and over-deliver is strong in that type of session.

When I shifted away from offering sample coaching sessions to offering discovery calls, I immediately started enrolling more ideal clients and earning more from coaching.

Here’s the thing … a Discovery Session isn’t meant to be a coaching session.

You can absolutely use the coaching tools of asking powerful questions and listening in a Discovery Session. But you don’t want to step into the Co-Creative Relationship with a prospect because they have not paid a fee for the coaching. That’s part of the client’s responsibility.

Instead, a Discovery Session is a get-to-know-you call. Ultimately, it’s about assessing fit between the coach and prospect.

David knew this. He just had not framed the Discovery Session that way to prospects. And, because he is passionate about helping his prospects he would “give away the farm”.

In your Discovery Sessions ask powerful open-ended questions to:

  • Learn basic information about your potential client, especially as it relates to your niche — the specific problem you solve for a specific target audience.
  • Connect the prospect emotionally to what they want most and what’s in the way of that outcome.

Then, once you’ve heard all you need to hear to fully understand what motivates your prospect and what’s been holding them back, share how you work with clients.

And this is where my second recommendation to David came in.

Shift #2: Offer a Signature Program Tailor Made to Your Target Audience

David has been charging for session-by-session coaching.

No wonder he was having trouble with clients “ghosting” and not responded to his check ins!

Part of David’s background was as a lawyer where most clients would pay an hourly rate. So it’s understandable that this is the practice David applied to his coaching business.

When I started as a coach, I charged for monthly coaching and I had similar challenges where clients would suddenly disappear.

Have you ever experienced something like that?

You’re going along, thinking you’re doing good work together and then suddenly the client doesn’t show up or respond to emails.

It’s weird. And it feels awful!

But then I realized that, monthly or session-by-session coaching isn’t positioned well. It’s not oriented around big enough outcomes for clients. So they aren’t motivated to keep it up.

More on that in a minute …

For now, what is a Signature Program and how can it possibly work with coaching?

It works better than you might think.

You can still let clients bring the agenda. You still use coaching skills to serve them. The difference happens when you enroll clients.

Instead of selling coaching when you have a Discovery Session, you’ll connect the desired outcomes and challenges your client is having to a structured program.

Milestones Are the Secret to Enrolling Long Term Coaching Clients

Let’s say you’re a coach and you want to be successful but it’s not working out the way you thought it would.

And then you hear about this podcast that supplies all sorts of helpful tidbits about mindset, habits, tactics and strategies to build your business.

You realize this person putting out these episodes could help you. So you go to her website, check her out and there’s even more free valuable information there. You fill out the form on the website. And you’re invited to a Discovery Session.

In that Discovery Session, you’re asked a bunch of powerful questions that help you articulate what you really want and what’s been in the way of that.

And then, you hear that there’s a program you can enroll in that would help you accomplish all the tasks you’ve been struggling to do on your own. It’s accomplishing those milestones in a step by step fully supported way that turns you on.

So you go for it. You enroll into that Signature Program because it’s clear there’s a structure and it’s thought through.

On the other hand, if in that Discovery Session you heard that you could have session-by-session or monthly coaching and no milestones or outcomes were clearly laid out as part of the value, you might just walk away.

Because you weren’t inspired.

It’s All Related to Target Audience and Coaching Niche

The reality is, you cannot create a Signature Program as a coach until you:

  • Have narrowed to a specific target audience.
  • You know exactly what they want so much they’ll invest in help to get it.
  • And you’ve made it your niche to help that audience achieve that goal or set of goals.

I invited David to eliminate one of his two audiences, because having two was keeping him from creating a Signature Program. It was keeping him from getting specific on his website, in his marketing and Discovery Sessions.

Even people who referred clients to him would be able to send him ideal clients if he would target only one audience.

An amazing bunch of things happen when you target a specific niche and make sure that everything you do — every email, social post, your web copy, your free offer, your programs — are tailor made for that audience.

You KNOW exactly what they want and what’s challenging them.

And that intel, applied to every aspect of your coaching business, makes the difference between whether you succeed and earn well or not.

It also would solve David’s two problems.

Once a client is enrolled into a Signature Program and they invest up front for the whole thing, their mindset shifts.

No longer will they think “Okay, I’ve gotta pay for another session with David.” Instead, they are thinking:“I’m on a complicated journey and David is helping me get there, step by step with ease and grace.”

David agreed he’d drop the older audience he was working with because his passion was about helping young people emerging into international or policy based careers.

David reported feeling great after our session. His mind was buzzing with ideas for his Signature Program and he sounded determined to make the 2 shifts that would solve his 2 challenges.

If you are challenged with attracting, enrolling and keeping ideal clients, consider having a Strategy Session with me.

One session could make the difference between being paralyzed and confused and surging forward in your business with confidence.

I would love to work with you!

Ep 34 – Coaching Client Management the Free and Simple Way

This episode is part of the Smart Mindsets & Habits series. And it was inspired by a segment in the last episode called 3 Power Packed Online Tools Every Coach Needs.

That episode has been super popular so I’ll do a quick review to set up today’s episode. I covered 3 critical tools all coaches need:

  • A client-winning website preferably on a WordPress theme.
  • An email campaign service — Aweber (affiliate link) is my favorite.
  • And an online scheduler.

The main message I had for you was to invest wisely in your success. Not all expenses have the same long term value to your coaching business success. For example, it’s worth it to invest highly up front in creating a client-winning website with a conversion process to help you enroll clients.

But, investing in a lot of apps with monthly fees is not the best investment unless those expenses directly support you to earn more. For example, why spend $20 – $30 per month for an online scheduling system when you can spend 1/2 – 2/3 less using a great service like TimeTrade?

I also warned about those all-in-one online services designed for coaches that include a website with a client portal and a scheduler all bundled into one high monthly payment.

Beware of this kind of investment because at best, the websites are clunky and don’t allow for much customization. They’re set up as online brochures only without a conversion process to help you attract and enroll clients who pay well.

I totally get the attraction of a single solution offer especially when you’re new to running your own business and have so much to learn and do. It seems like the right thing to do. And I know that the idea of a client portal seems professional.

But, in reality, client portals are a hassle for clients and there are free ways to serve your clients well.

So, over the next few episodes I’m going to share my client management systems with you. They are ultra simple and work beautifully. At the end of the day, they cost little or nothing and are easy to use.

No client portal or expensive monthly fees necessary!

Client Management Starts with Prospects

Before I dig in to the actual moving parts of my system, consider this …

Connection, not selling,

is what will attract and enroll your coaching clients.

Client management actually begins the moment you have a first connection with a potential client. That might be through social media or a networking event. It might be through your blog or podcast.

Your care and attention comes across in absolutely everything you do when you do these 3 things:

  1. Your website speaks the language of your target audience and names their specific challenges and desires.
  2. You deliver unique value and invite a Discovery Session in your free offer and follow up emails .
  3. You hit the mark about what’s important to your target audience in your blogs, podcast episodes and social posts.

Before you can do those things, you’ll need to understand exactly who your target audience is, what they want and what’s been in the way of that.

When you’re crystal clear about those things and all of your efforts to build your business are centered around that knowing, you easily attract and enroll your clients.

If you’ve been struggling with this piece — to land a viable target audience and learn what it is they want so much they’ll invest in your help to get it — let’s have a Strategy Session and get that piece solidified in your mind so you can shift from selling coaching to offering a solution your audience will buy.

So … client management begins the moment you have a first connection with a potential client. And connection is not the same thing as selling.

I’m not a fan of the salesy approach.

I’m a big fan of what I call the high touch approach.

High touch means personal connection. It’s being a human being with the human beings in and around your target audience.

Creating smart systems help you free up time to connect with prospects in a high touch way.

Email is Universal

For the most part, my prospect and client management system is based on email.

Why? Because email is still universal. It’s a rare person that doesn’t use email.

I use my email program on my computer as my primary tool to collect and maintain important information about and for my clients.

Now, I’m a super organized person. I can’t stand having a bunch of unprocessed emails in my inbox. And, I hate to waste time searching for things. Also, I don’t want to have to remember everything. I want systems that help me access information when I need it to serve my clients well.

I use the touch-it-once method of time management. As much as possible, I read email once and process it fully. I check my email about 3 – 5x each day depending on the day. And I block time to do it.

The first part of this simple system is to set up folders in your email program. Here are the folders I’ve set up:

  • One named for each coaching client
  • Past Clients
  • Do Soon
  • Records to Keep
  • Handy Stuff
  • Templates

Let’s go through each of these email folders.

Coaching Client Folders

Any email connection I have with a client, including those that came before they hired me are pulled into that folder. I also put in that folder a copy of any email I send to my client. Email programs will keep back and forth emails in a thread of course.

Past Clients

When I finish working with a client I move all their emails into the past client folder and eliminate the named folder. Many of my clients come back to work with me after my signature program is finished and I want to easily access their history.

Do Soon

In the rare event there’s something I need to save to read and process later, I only leave it in my inbox a day or two. If it’s something I want to keep beyond that, it goes in DO SOON and I clean that folder out monthly.

For example, let’s say a prospect fills out the form on my Work with Rhonda page but our Discovery Session is a few weeks away, I tuck that form into Do Soon. That way I can re-read that before our session. And if they hire me, that info gets tucked into the folder with their name on it. Also, if I order something online I tuck the order confirmation into Do Soon.

Records to Keep

This is pretty straight forward. It’s official emails including receipts, payments, copies of invoices, emails from financial institutions, apps or software programs that I want to keep in perpetuity.

Templates

This is the gold mine. Templating is the simplest kind of system.

If you do something more than once in your business, template it!

I like to customize my templates to fit each prospect and client. So only the information that is always the same is in the template and I build in space for me to put in personal information to connect with the individual I’m emailing.

Handy Stuff

This little folder has 4 templates in it that I use nearly every day plus one more email to keep me organized.

1. A templated email to invite a Discovery Session.

When coaches arrive on my website, some navigate to the Work with Rhonda tab and fill out the application there. I receive that form by email, read it and reply. The template has some prepared copy that is always the same. To use the template I simply click forward and then customize it to respond personally to the coach who has applied.

Because my coaching business is so targeted and niched, lots of people fill out that application to work with me on my website.

2. A templated email to take notes during Discovery Sessions.

Rather than a sample coaching session I offer a Discovery Session which is a more effective way of enrolling clients. This email template has a set of questions I usually ask prospects and space for taking notes.

I have trained myself to listen deeply and take notes at the same time. And the electronic notes help me to remember what my prospects shared so that if they become clients I can recall those things to serve them well.

3. A templated email to send after the Discovery Session.

Although I tend to send this immediately after a Discovery Session, if I need to create it later, the Discovery Session notes help me to customize this template. It includes the details of my Signature Program including the milestones I help coaches achieve, the cost of the program, the number of sessions and other features included. Things I don’t want to type out every time.

Some of my clients hire me on spot. Most people need a day to think about it. This templated but customizeable email provides details they can look at after our call.

4. A templated email for Session Recaps to send to my Strategy Session and VIP clients after a call and store for my notes.

This just has a structure built into it. I take a lot of notes because I go deep into processes with my clients and each client is very unique. My clients have told me they appreciate the Session Recaps I send because it keeps them on track and accountable. And, they don’t have to take as detailed notes for themselves. It’s a gift I give to my clients.

5. A list of links that I use a lot.

Such as links to TimeTrade activities, to often referred to pages on my website, to affiliate links and more. I don’t keep passwords here. I used LastPass to keep my passwords. It’s totally worth $36/year.

To recap … your computer’s email program can be the centerpiece of your client management. I’ve never paid for any type of online service to keep track of what’s going on with my clients.

In the Next Episode I’ll cover other aspects of client management. Stay tuned.

Ep 33 – 3 Power Packed Online Tools Every Coach Needs

This episode is about the minimum online tools you’ll need to effectively run your coaching business. It’s part of my Smart Mindsets & Habits series. I think systems fit well into that topic.

I’m going to share my 3 all time favorite online tools. The kind of apps that save brain cells, time and money.

We’ll also talk about pitfalls new coaches fall into when they grab up lots of tools with monthly costs.

If you’re totally tech savvy, this might be remedial for you.

But most coaches I meet are a little tech shy. They don’t love learning how to use online tools. They just want to coach so every additional thing they need to use to find, attract and enroll their clients feels heavy.

I’ve heard many a sigh and fear in the voices of my clients who worry about how tech will impact their time.

If that’s you, I get it. When I started as a coach I was a total luddite — the last to know anything tech related. Now, on the tech savvy scale I’m somewhere in the middle. I know how to use a few things extremely well and most things at a small percentage of their abilities and that’s okay.

This may be a relief to you … you don’t have to be a techno geek to leverage a few choice tools well and have them help you attract and enroll clients.

I like tools that have depth and that I can wade slowly into. I want to learn what I need to know now, then learn more later once I’ve mastered the basics.

So let’s get this rolling …

First, I’ll cover a set of applications that all coaches need to run a smart business.

1. An Email Marketing Service

2. A Client-Winning Website

3. An Online Scheduler

Let’s talk about each of these and I’ll share my favorite tools for each.

Email Marketing Service

Sometimes called an Email Blast Company or Email Campaign Company, this service is all about getting your messages out to people who have trusted you by opting in on your website for a free offer. It’s also called a leads list but what I like to call your community.

This type of service helps you:

  • manage email addresses of people who have opted in for your free offer
  • get your emails delivered in a way that meets regulations
  • automates everything so you save time
  • build trusting relationships with followers

No doubt you’ve heard of Mail Chimp and Constant Contact, there are dozens more that get more and more technical and costly up the scale.

For a startup coach I suggest a relatively inexpensive and easy to use service. my hands down favorite is Aweber (affiliate link).

It’s been around a lot longer than most Email Marketing Services. Here’s why I LOVE them:

  • Customer Service
  • Customer Service
  • Customer Service

I’m the kind of person who wants a person I can talk to in real time if I need help. Most tech companies don’t share their phone number or at best only have an online chat. If they do let you speak with someone you reach an overseas call center. And your problem takes 3x longer to fix than it should.

Whenever you call Aweber you get to a highly trained person within a minute or two who will help you or find someone to help you in one phone call.

They’ll patiently teach you how to use their systems so it’s easy peasy. And no one says anything like: “I understand your needs, Miss Rhonda.”

The other reasons I like Aweber is:

  • They are highly respected by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) so emails from them get priority delivery.
  • They constantly improve their systems in a user friendly way. There’s never that feeling of disconnect between the way their online tool works and the way you think it should work.
  • Aweber is comparable in price to Constant Contact.
  • And, Aweber integrates extremely well with WordPress, which is my favorite for tool #2 …

A Professional Website

There are loads of debates in Facebook groups about which is best web platform … the venerable WordPress, or newer on the block Wix and Squarespace?

I always advise WordPress over the others for 3 main reasons:

  • It’s self hosted. Which means you own your website.
  • It has unlimited customization capabilities.
  • It gives you access to more 3rd party plugins.

Bottom line … if your intent is to succeed in your business and be in it for the long run, WordPress beats the other platforms hands down because it can grow as your business grows.

WordPress templates can easily morph into a home for your blog or podcast, a membership site, an online store. You can add sales page builders, survey or forms builders, advanced analytics, SEO builders, Live Chat, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for WordPress plugins.

By the way, I recommend A2 Hosting (affiliate link) to host your website. I used with Bluehost, which is far more recognizable but they were bought by a big conglomerate and try to sell you stuff you really don’t need. A2 is pretty much set and forget it.

In another episode I’m going to talk about 3 Agonizing Mistakes Coaches Make with Their Website. For now, let me just say, don’t go cheap with your website. This is the place to invest in your success. And hold off on creating a website until you are crystal clear about who is your target audience and what specific problem your help them solve with your coaching niche.

Any site you create without that as the centerpiece will be a waste of time and money.

3. An Online Scheduler

There are places to spend the big bucks (your website) and places not to. When you can find a tool that does an excellent job serving your needs and keeps your overhead low, that’s a place to save.

I came across TimeTrade a decade ago and I continuously sing it’s praises. Why do I love it so?

  • Customer Service – They are well set up to solve challenges with local, positive and knowledgeable support.
  • Price – Compare Time Trade for $6.50/mo or $78/yr with Acuity, which is $15/mo or $180/yr.

Sure Fire Ways to Reduce the Profits of Your Coaching Business

Monthlies can add up and steal your profits. I know coaches who have 10 – 15 tools they’ve purchased that they don’t really need and that stack up their overhead horrendously.

Yes, there are so many wonderful tasty apps out there and it’s easy to go crazy on them at first. But most people don’t have time or inclination to fully leverage those tools.

My goal for the financial aspect of my business is high profit and easy cash flow. Believe me, I’ve had a high tech, low profit coaching business before. It’s a lot more work and no more joy.

It’s also tempting to purchase systems you may use someday.  Consider another approach, only invest in what will help you succeed.

Free Apps that Pack Value

Dropbox (affiliate link) is wonderful if you have an assistant, web designer, colleague or others you want to share files with. Google Drive is good for that as well.

Another free tool is Zoom. That’s my choice for a free online video or audio calls that you can record. I have a lot of international clients. And this tool is a great solution for sessions. I sometimes use Messenger for those calls if a recording isn’t needed.

The last thing I want to say is I’m not in favor of those supposed all-in-one solutions that are marketed to coaches. I won’t name names but it’s those services that say they’ll give you a website and an online portal for your clients. They’ll host the site for you and provide other client management tools.

I have never seen one that provides a client-winning website. More often those services are very expensive and simply not worthwhile on any level.

It’s very easy to do client management in low tech ways using email. I’ll talk about that in the next episode and plan to have a couple giveaway documents that you can use to organize and manage your clients with simplicity and efficiency.

Ep 32 – Would YOU Buy Your Own Coaching Program?

This episode is part of the Smart Mindsets & Habits series. I hope it inspires you to make a shift in the way you’re thinking about coaching that will help you attract more clients. The kind of clients who will invest more to work with you.

I’m all for less selling and more connecting authentically to attract clients.

Let me ask you this …

  • Have you ever felt weird trying to convince someone about the value of coaching?
  • Have you ever told someone about your coaching business and you can see their eyes glaze over?
  • Have you ever had an incredible sample coaching session with a prospect and they loved it but they didn’t enroll in your ongoing coaching program?
  • And what about this … have you ever gotten a single client from your coaching website?

Well, that was me for the first 3 years of my coaching business. I know, that’s crazy, right?

When I came out of coach training school I was what I call a Pure Coach. Episode #12 is called What Coach Archetype Fits You? and it has a description of the Pure Coach archetype.

I thought that coaching was amazing and that everyone else would think so too.

After struggling for too long to earn enough as a coach I began to realize something kind of shocking … most people don’t readily buy coaching. They don’t know what it is. They mistake it for therapy. They assume they can’t afford it.

For me, it was a sort of loss of innocence about coaching. I just couldn’t understand how something I loved so much could be the topic of such indifference to other people.

It felt like my friends and family and potential clients were humoring me whenever I would talk about it. They didn’t really GET the value of coaching.

But then I realized that what’s really going on is they haven’t connected the dots between coaching and something they want or a problem they want to overcome.

I had not connected the dots for them.

And I see the same on most coaching websites, which are just online brochures about coaching.

I think we, as coaches, are unwittingly confusing people that we’d like to enroll as clients.

If you haven’t heard my episode called Why is Coaching a Hard Sell? I highly recommend it.

It’s an eye-opener. And if you can make the mindset shift I believe it will dramatically change your results — how many clients hire you and at higher prices. They stay longer and refer more people to you.

And it all comes down to one paradoxical thing.

Do Coaching But Don’t Sell It

Here’s what happens when you stop selling coaching and start offering a program that helps a unique target audience reach a specific outcome that audience truly wants:

  • You become crystal clear about the value of your services.
  • That means you can easily articulate what you offer in a far more compelling and non-salesy way.
  • So it’s far easier to enroll clients into longer programs at higher prices.
  • You get more referrals because people understand who you serve and the problem you solve.
  • And, you get to coach more and help more people get where they want to go.

It’s really true. Shifting your mindset and actions away from selling coaching will boost your confidence way up.

You may be thinking … Well Rhonda …

If I Don’t Sell Coaching What Am I Selling?

First, try to get the word ‘coaching’ out of your vocabulary for now. I know that seems radical but you’ll understand in a minute.

  • Realize that coaching is part of your skills not an outcome people will buy.
  • Get that word out of your company name and brand.
  • Get that word off of your website, business card and all of your social profiles.

So what goes in its place?

Well that depends on who your target audience is.

See, everything you do should be centered around your target audience.

Let me illustrate this for you by having you think of something visual …

Have you ever been to a website that totally captivated you? Not because it was pretty or a slick design, but because the words there were addressing you. It almost felt personal.

  • You land on this website and immediately you feel understood.
  • You spend time on the site, browsing, reading things.
  • And that inspires you to opt in to get a free guide or something that give you a big AHA!
  • You actually learn something useful from the site.
  • There’s no salesy stuff there. Nothing to shut you down or turn you off.
  • In fact, it feels like it’s meant for you.

Now this episode isn’t about websites. I’ll have a whole series about websites down the road. But you can stop and ask yourself now …

Does your website do what I described? Is it a home for your target audience? Do they want to hang out there?

Most coaches will say ‘no’.

It’s ironic how oriented around people we coaches are. But when we throw up a website, design a program, create marketing, we often forget about the most important thing — the people we’re serving.

Or, we try to serve everyone so it’s hard to say anything compelling on the site because everything is so general, vague, non-specific. And those types of sites aren’t client-winning.

As you know, I talk a lot about target audience and niche because after 20 years as a coach and 16 of those years helping other coaches succeed, I know this for sure …

If you aren’t targeting a unique audience and focusing your entire business —social posts, web copy, freebie, paid programs, everything — on serving that audience about their top challenges and desired outcomes … you will have trouble earning well as a coach.

And I see it every day, most coaches sell coaching. So much so that most coaching websites all pretty much look and sound the same. And they aren’t helping the coach.

So, your next step, once you flip your mindset and stop selling coaching is to choose a viable target audience. One that’s easy to find and connect with, eager to evolve and willing to invest in their personal or professional growth.

It helps if it’s narrowed down rather than broad and vague. So not all women, not all businesses, not all leaders. Get specific.

Or, if you’re going to have a big broad audience then narrow down on the specific challenge you help businesses with.

Because the way you’ll do best is if you stand out in the crowd. Targeting a narrow audience helps you:

  • Speak about what’s most important to them (not coaching).
  • Attract their attention.
  • Engage them.
  • Build trust and connection.

Because you attract them through relevance, you don’t have to sell. They are pre-sold on the idea of working with you and you’ve not even mentioned coaching or pricing.

Wouldn’t you love that? If you could stop trying to convince people to buy coaching?

This episode is called Would YOU buy your own coaching program? because chances are you would not unless you’ve done a good job targeting and audience and gearing your business to serve that group’s top goals and challenges.

I want you to think back before you became a coach. Before you knew how great coaching is. Now, imagine meeting you or going to your website as it is now … would you buy your coaching program?

I would buy mine in a heartbeat.

That’s because it’s designed around what I, as a new coach, could not find out there and desperately needed. Private VIP support to step through and solve all the start up problems coaches face for their coaching business.

  • What’s my niche?
  • Where do I find enough clients who get the value of coaching enough to invest in it?
  • How can I earn enough?
  • How can I feel confident in what I’m offering?

And all the details in between.

See how that works? It’s not general coaching for anyone or coaching on a specific topic. It’s solution oriented for a very specific audience.

If you want help to shift from selling coaching to a much easier and more lucrative approach that isn’t salesy, let’s have a Strategy Session.

It’s a great way to get my support on a first foundational step — a step that until you’ve taken it, you’ll feel stuck — let’s nail your audience, your niche, your branding or something foundational for you. It will give you a solid sense of direction so you know exactly what you’re doing.

The Next Episode Is: 3 Power Packed Online Tools Every Coach Needs

Ep 31 – The Coaching Niche of Least Resistance

This episode is another ON AIR Coaching Session where I coach a coach to help her click on the certainty button for a unique target audience and then we formulate their coaching niche.

It’s clear from reviews that you really like these coach the coach sessions, so it’s my goal to do one every month.

Ellen Fowler has worked in the field of training, organizational and leadership development for over 25 years. Her experience includes work in the public and private sectors as well as academia.

She lived and worked in Ireland for 12 years, so she has firsthand understanding of the challenges of cultural diversity and radical life change.

She is also an ordained Christian minister. Ellen’s career has always involved working with individuals whether as a counselor, teacher, consultant or coach.

When I help coaches choose a profitable coaching niche, I always start by asking about their background so I can guide them to pull in experience, expertise, interests, gifts and passions into their niche.

Ellen’s background includes:

  • Itinerant minister
  • Training and organizational & leadership development
  • Change & diversity management
  • Teaching adults returning to the workplace on how to make their companies more efficient

Want to Be An Entrepreneurial Coach?

Then, I asked Ellen if she was interested in being an entrepreneur because it’s a certain type of person who does.

Ellen wants to run her own business because she wants it to be portable so she can travel. However, she feels a bit intimidated by the marketing side of things.

I was intimidated by marketing at first but when I learned to put the spotlight on exactly what my target audience wants, it became fun.

Two Potential Audiences That Seem Equal

Ellen had 2 main ideas for her target audience:

  • Mid-career professional women
  • Church leaders

I asked Ellen if it was okay with her if we focused on Church Leaders as a possible target audience first.

I made this choice for 4 reasons:

  • Ellen is an ordained minister and much of her career has been as a church leader. I felt that gave her credibility and gravitas with this audience.
  • Her faith is very important to her.
  • She’s currently coaching 10 clergy and staff from a church group in Pennsylvania and getting more referrals from that group. So she already has a toehold there.
  • She loves the work she’s doing with this audience.

Ellen shared that the work she’s doing with the Church Leaders is based on an instrument called Human Synergistics that she’s certified to use. It helps people identify effective and not so effective behaviors in the workplace and to develop action plans for changing those.

Is The Target Audience Viable for You?

I also felt that the audience — mid-career professional women — is not the most viable audience for Ellen because:

  • They are in corporations and hard to access.
  • They might expect their company to pay for coaching, and that’s an uphill battle to get a foot in the door with corporations.
  • There’s a lot of competition and marketplace noise for that audience already.

Passion and Fit Are The Best Coaching Niche Indicators

I asked Ellen:

What do you love about working with clergy and what do you enjoy about the Human Synergistics instrument?

As Ellen described how she uses Human Synergistics in her work with clergy, I heard her enthusiasm louder than her words.

Then, I wanted to check whether Ellen was earning well with this current gig with clergy because more and more it was sounding like a viable audience for Ellen.

Ellen explained that she felt blessed because the way she was connected with this particular group was that the church leader who hired her was part of the Human Synergistics training she took. He said:  “I’d like you to do some work for me.”

And he gave her carte blanche about what she’d do with the staff and how she’d price.

Right time – right place opportunities happen when you target a unique audience and focus your niche on their big problems.

So, I bee-lined to the bottomline question:

“Ellen, of the two audiences — church leaders or mid-career professional women, which is more attractive to you?”

Ellen said that she could go both ways. Her inability to commit comes down to how she’ll get in front of the audiences.

I spoke to the difficulty with gaining entry to corporations where with her background and current active church leader clients she already has a strong entry place.

I pointed out that if she were to have an international business, especially with her desire to travel and her experience in other countries, that the pond to fish in would be bigger. She could target larger churches and religious organizations with bigger coffers.

I explained that the Church Leader audience would likely mean more offline marketing than online marketing. I asked how she’d feel about that and she said:

“Oh, I like that!” More enthusiasm.

I pointed out that that’s the old fashioned way, right? Not everyone has to use social media channels to build their business.

  • Ellen knows this world.
  • She understands their challenges and goals first hand.
  • She’ll be able to speak their language.
  • They’ll be more accessible because she’s been in their shoes.
  • And she’ll have testimonials from her 10 current clients.

For Ellen, the other audience is less viable. Viability is determined by 5 factors:

  • Easy to find
  • Easy to access
  • Eager to evolve
  • Willing to invest
  • Narrow enough (to help you stand out in the crowd)

Ellen added another key reason that Church Leaders are more ideal for her that spoke loud and clear:

“The spiritual side of life is really a bonus for me.”

I asked Ellen to do a check in with herself. Is church leaders the audience she can get fully behind with your heart, mind and spirit?

“Yes!”

Beautiful!

Then we shifted to talking about her niche for a moment … I asked Ellen what is the number one challenge and what is the number one tangible desired outcome that church leaders want?

Ellen said the most acute thing is how to avoid burnout. There’s always somebody needing something and they’re often understaffed and overworked. They feel called to the work, so it’s a burden of responsibility. They get into it because they want to help other people transform.

Burnout can begin to wear away their faith, which is critical for their position.

She felt the Human Synergistic instrument is a so effective in uncovering what’s really going on for the leader and the team.

Each time that Ellen spoke about Church Leaders and working with them I heard passion and compassion — a depth of understanding and certainty that she could help them thrive with her knowledge and the instruments she’s trained in.

She said: “Thank you, Rhonda, for helping me think it through it. It’s been really enlightening.”

The Next Episode is: Would You Buy Your Own Coaching Program?

Ep 30 – How to Transition from Your Job to Full-Time Coaching

This episode is part of the Start Smart series. It’s worth the listen because this topic is eye-opening. And, if you’re planning to transition from your job to full-time coaching, I’ve given you a 5-step plan near the end of this episode.

Creating a smart transition plan to move into full-time coaching is an important step. If you’re serious about making your dream happen, this is something you’ll want to do with the help of someone who has transitioned.

Sometimes coaches hire me when they don’t have a current job. They’ve been raising kids or were laid off or they quit a job to create their coaching business. They have plenty of time to work on building their business foundation and launch in a systematic, organized way.

Obviously, there are some huge advantages to that scenario. But there are also some hidden challenges. If you’re not currently in the rhythm of working for a living, you might have trouble finding that rhythm and dedicating time to your business.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the person who currently has a full-time job, kids, and a busy life who wants to become a coach and shift to full-time coaching “someday.”

If you’re this person, you’ve put time into training as a coach and into business development but haven’t made the shift.

Maybe you’re dabbling at coaching and have a low fee client or two.

But leaving your regular paycheck and benefits, especially when you have a family, is a risky step to take. It requires a big dose of courage and chutzpah.

Some coaches never get off the bench and into the game. That’s not you! That was the apt metaphor used by a coach I spoke with recently.

The truth is that entrepreneurship — and that’s what becoming a coach is — is risky business.

No doubt you’ve heard the odds. They say 1 in 5 make a sustainable livelihood and that goes down over time.

Entrepreneurship has a bunch of rewards that frankly I wouldn’t want to live without.

  • Freedom (I truly set my own schedule and work a lot less than I did in corporate.)
  • Being your own boss
  • Getting to bring your whole self to what you do
  • Innovating and creating
  • The huge feeling of accomplishment

A Common Myth About Coaching Business Startup Busted

The beauty of a coaching business is that there’s no real barrier to entry except having the grit and focus to take the risk. The truth is you don’t even have to have training or certification, although I think it’s a good idea to be a trained coach.

There’s a common misconception that I run across and it’s what inspired me to do an episode on this topic.

Recently, I was having an On Air Coaching session —which hasn’t aired yet — with a smart, confident man who has been coaching on and off (more off), while raising a family and engaged in a successful mid-management career.

Odell was encouraged to become a coach by his pastor and friends. He took training and then found it hard to nail down his coaching niche. That’s what motivated him to start Googling for help and he found me through Prosperous Coach Podcast.

Odell said that he expected to replace his current income by coaching as a side gig for two years.

I wince when I hear people say that they’ll transition from their full-time job to full-time coaching when they replace their income from their current job.

Why? Because I’ve never seen anyone successfully do that.

When coaches hire me to help them build their coaching business from the niche up, one of the first things I do is to assess how well positioned they are to become an entrepreneur. I ask:

How much time can you dedicate weekly to building your business?

If I hear less than 20 hours a week, we’re having a different kind of conversation.

But I also check for their expectations.

How much money do you expect to make in the first couple of years?

Do you have savings set aside to invest in your business and to aid the transition?

That phrase “replace my income” as a condition for transitioning always stops me in my tracks.

Time is the ultimate limiter. So I asked Odell:

With your full-time job and kids to raise, how much time do you have weekly to dedicate to growing your business?

15 hours.

Uh oh. That’s a yellow flag. And possible a red one.

I felt for Odell because how could he or any new coach know what it takes to launch and run a business? Unless you’ve been an entrepreneur before, there’s no reason why you should know what it takes.

Sometimes, I don’t love being the truth teller, although it’s part of my integrity. I don’t like to see that “making a bundle is going to be fast and easy” lightness be weighted down by a reality check.

And that’s why there are so many people streaming into coaching because they don’t know the realities. And, it doesn’t have to be the dream killer. In fact, I believe that seeing a path clearly can raise your courage and make you more successful more quickly.

The average amount of marketing time you’ll put into your business to enroll clients is 15 hours a week. That’s true even for a veteran like myself. Although I do market a lot less than I did in my first 10 years because I’ve built up a leads list, collegial support, and expertise in marketing.

Here’s an eye-opener for you … producing my podcast with strategizing, recording, editing, writing, creating graphics, and promoting through social media takes an average of 12 hours each week. Sometimes it’s half that, sometimes it’s double that depending on what type of format I do.

I’m lucky because it’s the only way that I need to market to attract a steady stream of pre-sold clients to my website.

Odell was shocked by this news. Bless him.

He thought that because the barriers to entry are low and the word on the street was overhead is low for running a coaching business, that meant that earning a bundle quickly was also fairly easy.

It’s an understandable deduction. And yet, it’s not at all the average experience of a new coach.

That said, I’m not saying it’s not possible to become an overnight phenom and rocket to high six or seven figures as a coach. It’s rare though.

After 20 years, I don’t know anyone who has done that or replaced their income from their job before they step away from their job.

We often see a phenom and think their success was overnight, but it really was not.

Coach, Do the Math

Few coaches I met have done the math. I didn’t when I first started.

It’s smart to do the math, not just to plan for your startup, but throughout your business planning.

How will you achieve those stretch income goals?

What will you do, how many coaching clients will you get to ‘yes’, and at what price to make your vision a reality?

Back to Odell … I asked him:

How many clients could you handle while still working in a full-time corporate job?

10 clients was the number he always had in his mind.

His income is about $90,000 annually. So with 10 clients, one model would be to charge $9,000 per client per year to replace his income.

Now, those kinds of high-ticket fees are not unheard of if you have:

  • Gravitas
  • Enrolling savvy
  • A ready network of well-heeled people who already know, like, and trust you.

There are new coaches that have all those things. It’s a kind of privilege, whether earned or born into it.

But, even before Odell gets to that challenge of enrolling at high-ticket prices, there is the barrier of his time. 15 hours of leg work per week to find, attract, and enroll his target audience plus 10 hours minimum serving clients adds up to 25 hours each week.

He doesn’t have 25 hours, he has 15.

And, think about it … even if he had 25 hours to give on top of his 40-45 hour a week corporate job, he’d be exhausted and alienated from his family in mere months.

Not a winning plan, especially for a family person.

Odell and I discussed a more reasonable new coach plan which was to work with 20 clients yearly at $4500 each for a 6-month program. That earns his $90,000 annual income.

It’s still going to take 25 hours a week to build and maintain that business model.

Group Coaching Programs Take a Marketing Machine

Eventually, he could increase fees or perhaps do group work.

But it’s important to know that group programs, while they do extend your time and reach, actually take more of your time, money, and infrastructure to successfully enroll people. You need:

  • A significant leads list or someone to promote you
  • Smart marketing campaigns and conversion processes
  • Technical support to pull it all off

Doable, but it’s a down-the-road plan not a startup plan, unless you already have all of these things in place.

What are all the ways a coach could earn, let’s say $100,000 yearly —that nice round 6-figure income everyone wants at a minimum? You could enroll:

10 clients into a $10,000 program
20 clients into a $5,000 program
40 clients into a $2,500 program
200 clients into a $500 program

Interestingly, the simplest coaching business model is to serve fewer people for a higher price. After trying all the other business models, that’s what I do now. And I love the simplicity!

  • It takes less time to market and enroll.
  • It costs less in infrastructure and is lower tech.

Discovery Sessions are the most effective way to enroll people into high-ticket programs.  

5 Step Transition Plan to Full-Time Coaching

Now … do NOT let these realities of coaching business startup and what it takes to manage business models stop you from your dream of making a great living as a coach!

Instead, let it fortify your resolve, so you can wisely plan and be in that 20% who make it and keep making it happen!

If I can do it, you can do it! What I believe is, that if you’re listening to this podcast, you’ve been called. Don’t let yourself chicken out now. Put on your entrepreneur hat, step in to your CEO shoes, and take these steps to transition.

1. Start saving money.

2. Let your family and friends in on your plan. Ask for their support. Help them understand you’ll be happier working for yourself and doing what you love.

3. Do the math and create a transition plan. Reduce your expenses. Put away 6 months – 1 year of your income into savings. Or, whatever you can.

4. Clear time for your side gig.

Consider negotiating incrementally reduced hours at your job. I was able to turn my full-time salaried position into a part-time consulting gig and choose my projects. I told my boss that I’d train my replacement and be gone in 6 months. Who knew that she’d say ‘yes!’

5. Get VIP help to launch the right way from the get-go.

Yes, I’m talking about me as your VIP support. If only I’d found a person like me when I launched my coaching business, I would have saved 3 years of heartache and wasted investment in so many group programs and masterminds that were lovely and entertaining, but that didn’t help me build a solid foundation and momentum earning well.

If you want to test me out and see what all the fuss is about, grab a Strategy Session, it’s a great way to take a leap and see if we’re a good fit.

Know that building a successful business takes time and determination. All the businesses you know about and patronize put a lot of time, money, and energy behind the scenes into making everything work and still do.

When people say it takes money to earn money … it’s more than a truism.

But it’s totally WORTH IT!

I love my business. I love my clients. I would not work for someone else!

The Next Episode is an ON AIR COACHING Session called: The Coaching Niche of Least Resistance.

Now, stay inspired and make things happen!

Ep 29 – Set Smart Boundaries with Coaching Prospects and Clients

This episode is on a challenging topic that’s critical for all coaches. And it’s part of the Smart Mindsets & Habits series.

I’ve been a life long student of boundaries. That is to say, boundaries have been a core issue for me in the past and now it’s much less of an issue. When I sense myself leaning in too far, trying to do too much, to people please or over-deliver, I rein myself in.

Still, I occasionally fall into old patterns, even in coaching relationships.

I’m a 2 on the Enneagram. That’s “The Helper.” More than anything, I want to be of service to others, to help them better their circumstances. It’s a good fit for being a coach. And a strength overused becomes a weakness.

In the past, it’s often meant that I gave too much in all of my roles and relationships. And, I allowed some people to step on me… repeatedly.

Powerful Questions to Uncover Boundary Challenges

What about you? Do you like to fill in the holes and make sure everyone is taken care of? Are you a natural helper or people pleaser? A lot of coaches are.

Here are more specific questions to ask yourself:

With coaching prospects…

Do you reduce your fees habitually to suit prospects?

Do you bend over backward to prove your worth in Discovery Sessions?

With coaching clients…

Do you habitually go over time in sessions?

Are you charging enough to cover your investment of time outside of sessions?

Repetitive Over-Delivery Hurts You and Your Coaching Clients

Early on in my business I attended an International Coach Federation conference and met Cheryl Richardson.

She was asking a group of coaches… Do you want more for your clients than they want for themselves?

Bam! That was an aha moment for me. The answer was ‘YES’… always.

I learned from Cheryl that ultimately your client must choose transformation for it to happen. They must want it with all of their heart, mind and be willing to take action outside their comfort zone.

If you want something for them more than they do for themselves, it creates an imbalance in the co-creative relationship and the reality is, you’re going to be pushing them and they won’t appreciate it.

Later on, a friend of mine created a training based on years of research called Right Use of Power and I attended one of her first workshops.

Another huge aha. Let me explain…

When you are in a practitioner or authoritative or helper role, that role carries a certain amount of power. Hopefully, as coaches, we believe we are our client’s equals, but even so, they may hold some deference for us.

It’s up to coaches to do our best to equalize the power in the coach-client relationship. And this requires a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness.

Right Size Yourself

You might be kind of surprised that the answer to balance the power is not to give clients more, more of your time or make it easier for them by taking some of their responsibilities your own shoulders like giving them discounts.

Those kinds of things actually increase the power differential. And they do something to you too. You’re inflating your role and deflating your own power.

The answer is to invite the client to stand in their own power by making their role clear to them. And to stand firmly in your role without inflating or deflating your power.

Learn how to be right-sized.

Treat your prospects and clients as responsible people who are creative, resourceful and whole. That means:

  • Charge fees that pay you well. Don’t discount those fees to enroll a client.
  • Set and maintain time boundaries for sessions. If you’re about to go over time, acknowledge that you’re purposefully going over time and set a reasonable time boundary that you stick with.
  • Hold your clients accountable for paying their fees on time, showing up on time, being ready to coach, and doing their own work in between sessions. Don’t do their work for them unless that’s explicitly part of your program.

To know if you’re being right-sized, notice if you’ve over-inflated your role by taking responsibility from them or under-inflated your role by not owning your own power.

It is a dance that requires self awareness.

Set Boundaries Early On

If you clearly show prospects and clients your boundaries early on in relationships, you have a better chance at a mutually satisfying relationship.

If they are empowered, they will take leaps.

“We teach people how to treat us.”
Phil McGraw

With prospects, that’s as simple as holding the time boundary on your Discovery Sessions and by not stepping into the coaching role in that session.

  • Be transparent on your website and in emails about what they can expect from your Discovery Session. It’s a get-to-know-you conversation where you’ll each assess fit for working together.
  • During the session, ask them open-ended questions. Let them talk.
  • Understand what they want right now and what’s keeping them from it. Then apply that to your signature program.
  • Share your fees and stand behind them.

With new clients, give an orientation at the beginning of your first session.

  • Set ground rules about cancelations, showing up on time and time boundaries.
  • Tell them your role and responsibilities and explain theirs. They send a Session prep. They set the agenda. They show up truthfully. They take action between sessions.

If they fail to bring an agenda, illustrate what an agenda is and reinforce it’s their role to set a specific bite-sized takeaway for each session.

These are small things. And they set the tone powerfully.

And still, there will be tests.

Red Flags That You’ve Inflated or Deflated Your Coaching Role

How can you tell if your boundaries need fortifying?

1. You feel desperate to enroll this prospect.

  • That desperation will deflate your power while tempting you to inflate your role and discount your fees.

2. You feel overwhelmed by a client’s energy.

  • The client may not be a good fit. Maybe you’ve said ‘yes’ when your intuition clearly said ‘no’.
  • Or, you might need to make requests for them to slow down. Consider doing a grounding meditation at the beginning of the session.

3. You feel emotionally tapped out after working with a client.

  • The client may not be a good fit.
  • Or, you were over-delivering. You might have inflated to prove your worth. Get right sized. Stand in your power. Hold your boundaries.
  • Try an energetic disconnecting exercise to release energy after the session.

4. You are beginning to feel resentful toward the client.

  • You likely inflated your role while deflating your power by taking some responsibility from the client such as charging too little or repeatedly giving too much for the fees you’re charging.

Only some people will be ideal coaching clients for you. And it takes time to realize what makes you a good fit for them and them a good fit for you.

Pay attention to ease and to your reactions to people to inform you. When you think of enrolling clients imagine your avatar — the ideal client for you.

The ultimate boundary is to learn how to say ‘no’ when you’re clear something is not right for you. Do it in an honoring way. Take it onto yourself. You might say something like:

“I feel strongly that I’m not the best resource for you.
And, fit is really critical in the work I do with my clients.
I’ve learned over time that I’ve got to listen to my integrity
and sometimes not take on a client, even if they want to work with me.”

Have some coach colleagues or other resources to refer those non-ideal people to. If they are not right for you doesn’t mean they won’t be right for someone else.

If you’re struggling with boundaries and need support, consider grabbing a Strategy Session with me. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a sounding board to set the best boundaries for you.

The Next Episode is: How to Transition from Your Job to Full-Time Coaching

Ep 28 – Getting into a Rhythm in Your Coaching Business

This episode is short and sweet. And it’s part of the Smart Mindsets & Habits series.

In these early days of your coaching business, before you are booked with clients, it may be tempting to fit your coaching business into whatever time you have left in the day.

The truth is that you can’t build a business on fumes. And you certainly can’t grow a business that way.

There’s a mindset that goes with that fit-it-into-the-downtime approach. And it’s usually not a conscious one.

It’s the hobbyist mindset. Or the perpetual student mindset.

Please know that I get it … if you’re a stay-at-home parent, adding in a new business to your day is totally disruptive. You have a rhythm of what you do day to day. You know your priorities. Now, you have to re-make that rhythm to a new beat.

It’s also super challenging to add a new business in when you’ve got a full-time job.

And, if you’re adding a business to a full-time job plus caring for children, it’s downright heroic, if you ask me.

Even so, if you want a thing to thrive, it needs regular care and feeding. It needs a rhythm. Find one that works for you now and build up from there as you can.

Coaching Business Office Hours

When I decided to become a coach, I negotiated my job into a part-time consulting position to have time to build my coaching business.

But, I’m embarrassed to say, even with the clear boundaries on my job and more at-home time, I didn’t use my “free” time well on behalf of my business.

And I didn’t make much progress for that first year.

I realized that I needed office hours. That I needed to think of myself going to work for my business. That made an immediate difference in my earnings and satisfaction as a coach.

Setting office hours was my first step into the CEO role of my coaching business.

It signaled to my friends and family that I was no longer in student mode. And it motivated me to get creative and productive on a higher level than I was before.

Now, you may only have one hour each day for your coaching business. If that’s the case, that is your office hour.

Tell your family, your friends and colleagues that you’re not available to them during that hour unless it’s a true emergency.

Then do the power hour.

Know before you sit down to your desk what you’re going to do with that hour. Make the most of it. Turn off your phone, close out your email and get focused.

Block Your Time

Obviously, the more time you find for your business day to day, the faster you’ll grow so that you can replace your job with coaching.

You’ll need time for serving clients, client management and in first few years, you’ll need significant for marketing and getting the word out to your target audience that you have something valuable for them.

Having a rhythm for your coaching business means you’re highly productive and work less.

Here’s my rhythm:

  • I’m open for client calls only Tuesdays through Thursdays from 8:00am to 3:00pm my time.

Sometimes coaches worry about having to work weekends and nights because they think that’s the only time their clients will be available.

I’ve come to learn that clients will make themselves available when I’m available.

  • I never take clients on weekends or after 4:00pm.
  • I use Mondays for creating podcasts and other projects.
  • On Fridays, I just check and respond to email, otherwise I’m free.

That makes it really easy to take a 4-day weekend whenever I want to. And I schedule doc and hair appointments only on Monday or Friday.

  • When I am working on tasks, I break my time into power hours.
  • I fit the small tasks in between client sessions.
  • I leave at least 1/2 hour between my sessions.

I check in with my body to determine what’s full for me right now. If a day or week is starting to look too full, I mark the day as busy in my Google calendar so that no one else can book the time with me through TimeTrade.

What could your coaching business rhythm look and feel like?

What would fit with your natural rhythms?

How could you set office hours and block time for specific tasks and appointments?

What boundaries will you set on your time to safe guard it?

If you’re in the Prosperous Coach Club, my Facebook group, chime in there about your set rhythm. And if you’re not in the group, you can easily join. Go to https://prosperouscoach.com/fb.

The Next Episode is: Set Smart Boundaries with Coaching Prospects & Clients