Let me set the stage. It was a muggy mid-August day in central New York (read: hot, humid and over-all icky). I was sitting at my home office and I was feeling amazing.
I was super-pumped about my new venture: business coaching.
I already had years of experience as a successful business owner running a web design firm, I had 12 eager people lined up for practice coaching sessions and I was positive that this was my life calling.
You could feel the enthusiasm in my body. I was electric. I was on fire. I was motivated. I was… in a single word… passionate.
For years my family, friends and existing clients said I should get into coaching. It was a natural fit for me and the lifestyle I craved.
You know the lifestyle I’m talking about, right?
The kind of morning where you roll out of bed around 8am and have the most delicious cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted. Your breakfast is so yummy that you forget it’s also healthy. Double-win!
The kind of day where you’re totally jazzed and on some sort of lifestyle high as you effortlessly support your clients and solve all of their problems. The kind of day where you take an extended lunch with your best bud and then head back to your super-awesome office to help a few more rock star clients.
The kind of late afternoon where you stop working around 4pm so you can meet up with your super-hot spouse, grab a decaf latte and take your black lab, Romie, on a walk around the neighborhood.
The kind of day that ends with a savory dinner. You have the best glass of chardonnay that’s ever been produced and it pairs heavenly with a perfectly cooked salmon fillet with a side of lemon touched asparagus. Delicious.
Your day was amazing, you felt amazing, your clients are amazing, your life is amazing and you get to have an amazing night’s sleep and do it all again tomorrow!
Yeah, that’s the day I wanted and knew I was going to have. I visualized it. I could feel it. I knew this was the life I was creating. I was creating a life of creativity, of helpfulness, of support, of growth. I was in the abundance mindset for sure.
So I Did What Any New Coach Would Do…
- I got a website.
- I did practice sessions with my 12 eager test subjects and rocked them all.
- I sent out an email and did a few posts on social media that I was now taking on clients.
- I kept refreshing my screen waiting for the first of many sales to come in.
- I kept refreshing my screen…
- I double-checked that my e-commerce cart was set up properly.
- I checked my inbox and saw a few people responded to the email I sent out – whew, I was getting worried there for a minute!
- They were interested but the price was too high.
- I negotiated a lower rate with them.
- I waited for them to agree to the newer and lower rate.
- I kept refreshing my screen…
- No one bought… that day… or the next day… or the day after that.
My amazing buzz was gone. I was really confused.
What In the Hell Just Happened?
Clearly these people are not good business people. If they were they would have invested in my program. Can’t they see they need it? Can’t they see that without it their business was going to continue spiraling out of control?
I took a second look at my website… it looked awesome. Like for real awesome. So that wasn’t the problem. I had a list of existing clients (remember I already had a successful business for 10+ years) so I had the upper hand there too. I blasted my social media accounts and told my followers, friends and fans that I was now officially open and taking clients. I negotiated lower rates with those that said they were interested.
But still nothing. What in the hell?
I found myself drowning in frustration, self-pity and overwhelm for the next few weeks and months.
I read every single article I could about getting more Twitter followers, about YouTube marketing, about copywriting, about selling digital products, about changing my mindset, about lead generation, about sales techniques…
I read every other business coach’s website that I could find. I read the about pages, the testimonial pages, the program and pricing pages, I even read the damn contact pages.
I signed up for this business coaching course and that practice-building video series. I joined newsletters of people who claimed they could help me. I read everything that came to my inbox. I was determined to make this business a success.
I was a smart, creative, driven woman who clearly had a passion to help others. And I heard so many people say that passion equals profits so I knew the answer was just around the corner. I just had to research a bit more, keep digging until I found that golden goose… that golden nugget tactic that would make all the difference.
I knew that if I just hunkered down, if I just focused, if I just tried harder that I could crack the code and get at least one client. From there I knew I would just simply repeat what worked and grow into a profitable business – I just had to get the first client.
I noticed that my energy level was low… like real low. I noticed my passion was gone. I noticed that what was now ever present was this little script saying things like “Who do I think I am? No one wants business advice from me. I’m not good enough… just look at all of these other experts there.”
Over the next few weeks I noticed that I was more easily distracted by my life. Instead of building my business I was running errands. Instead of getting more clear and focused from all my research I was feeling overwhelmed and confused. I heard all of these voices in my head “Do this, do that. Dear God, definitely don’t do THAT!”
I didn’t know if they were my voice from past experience, or my intuition, or one of the dozens of experts and gurus I followed.
Looking back I can see that I just didn’t know what to do next. I felt totally alone. I felt totally lost. And whoever said passion equals profit… well eff you. I was passionate and I didn’t see a dime of profit from this new venture.
Ultimately I let the business die off… I mean I had more important things to do like my other job, laundry and commiserating.
You know… that perfect day I was envisioning wasn’t really real anyway. I totally prefer being unfulfilled and passion-less in my days. What was I ever thinking? Me a business coach. Psha.
A Few Years Later…
Well a few years later I can honestly look back at this experience and pull out some real tough life and business lessons that I’d like to share with others who may be experiencing something similar.
It’s true that I had a successful service based business for over 10 years so you would have thought I knew a thing or two about starting a new coaching business. Truth be told… I did literally everything wrong.
I tucked my tail between my legs and got really real about my process and my journey of opening a new coaching business.
Here’s what I learned:
- I did zero niche work. I thought I had a niche. I thought I had narrowed it to a specific audience. I thought I knew the words they used, I thought I knew the problems they had, and I thought I had the solutions they wanted… but I was flat out wrong.
- I put the cart before the horse. I’m a web designer by trade and as soon as I got my idea for the business I ran out and registered a domain. I built the site and it was live. My site looked AH-MAZING! But I know that what your site looks like doesn’t equal leads. It’s a secret not all web designers want you to know – and even though I knew this… I still fell into the trap of getting a website way too soon. Getting a domain and setting up my website should not have been on my To Do list for at least the first 3 or 4 weeks of full time intensive audience based work and equally as intense research into my business goals and plan.
- I thought I tested the niche. I had 12 eager small business owners that agreed to do a session with me. They were all in need of my services (I pre-qualified them by making them fill in a questionnaire). After doing the individual sessions I could clearly see that they needed my help but they didn’t agree. How do I know? Not a single one signed up. I learned that testing my niche is an art form and there are very specific rules I should follow. I had great sessions with each practice client and they were all interested in my services to some degree, but my offerings were not tested and my practice sessions were not a place I should have been selling. Re-read that last line as it contains pure gold.
- I let the voices get the best of me. You know the voices in your head that say things like “You aren’t good enough” or my favorite “Who are you to coach others”. I also let other people’s voices get stuck in my head. One expert said this and the other said that. They were both trying to sell me something and both options felt like a band aid when what I really needed was a damn full body cast. All of these voices and not a single one seemed clear, focused or targeted. Worst of all was that all of these gurus and experts had absolutely no prior success in building a legitimate business. Their business was selling to struggling folks like me. Something felt off about that.
- Over all, I learned that it’s okay to fail. Failing makes us better and it makes us smarter. Clive James said “Failure has a function. It asks you whether you really want to go on making things.” I knew I had a passion in me to help businesses and I knew I was good at it. I knew it because I had family, friends and clients telling me so for years and because when I “unofficially” coached people I got amazing results for them.
What I didn’t know was that just because I was good at something and just because I had some previous experience in building a successful business it didn’t mean that starting this business was a walk in the park.
I learned that failing is part of the process and is to be expected and welcomed. I also learned to try again, but to try differently. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
One of the biggest factors in my success in opening my coaching practice was that I reached out and got the support I needed.
I’m so happy that I reached out for a coach. Yes, it sounded somewhat odd to need a coach to help me start and grow a coaching business but when I stepped back and thought about it all successful entrepreneurs have coaches. We’re talking small business owners to fortune 500 companies – they all have coaches. Even Olympic athletes have coaches. Even therapists have advisers and counselors. Even business coaches have coaches. In fact, I’d go so far as to say all great humans have a coach of some sort.
I learned something about humans. It’s hard for us to separate our head trash from our reality. We can try and we can make small gains, but largely we stink at “fixing” ourselves. Have you ever been in a bad relationship or a bad job and your friends keep saying “Just leave! Seriously why are you being so dumb? Just leave!” and you look at them like “They just don’t understand!”
But then days, or months or years later you leave and you think to yourself… “Damn it! I should’ve listened to them years ago! It would have saved me so much hassle and grief and heartache.”
Now like I said earlier… failing is a good thing and we can learn so much from it, but reaching out for support and guidance from a trusted and reliable source is part of what we’re put on Earth to do. We are all here for one another. We are all here to give our gifts and our talents to others who need those exact specialties at this exact moment and we’re here to receive those gifts from others.
We’re all here to support each of us from getting out of our own heads and moving forward into the goals we set for ourselves. So if you’re thinking about starting a business or have already started a business then consider these 3 tips:
- Get laser-focused on exactly what you need. Don’t chase shiny objects… you don’t need more Likes or Followers. You don’t need a prettier website. You don’t need more SEO. You need to go back to square one – your audience. I guarantee it. It doesn’t mean you have to throw everything away and start all over… but you need to go back to the source of your business and learn how to properly analyze your perfect client, find where they are, find how to talk with them and then go from there.
- Get support. More than likely you’re building your business alone. It can feel like you’re sitting in a silo. You have no one to bounce ideas off of, you have no one to help focus you each and every day, you have no one to brainstorm with, and you have no one to reach out to that has been there, done that, and moved beyond it. You cannot solve problems with the same mind that created them! Get support and move forward. Make sure the support you reach for is not some hyped-up motivational rah-rah pep squad. Make sure it’s built on solid business structures that have produced results.
- Get passionate again. This isn’t some woo-woo mantra. I believe you can turn on your passion like a light switch. Let me repeat… I believe you can turn on your passion like a light switch – even if you just spent weeks being unmotivated and confused… I believe you can easily get your passion back. You do it by getting clear on your purpose and trusting that this time you have the resources to succeed in your dream business.
Rinse and repeat. And then rinse and repeat again.
Get dialed-in on what matters to you and your business, reach out and get support, and passion will come back. As you move forward keep repeating this cycle of success and you’ll be living your perfect day in no time at all.