Beginning your business is an exciting time. You look forward to meeting your first clients, to making a difference, to applying all you’ve learned to your long-sought career vision. And, yet, there’s likely apprehension. You’re not entirely sure what to expect from session to session, how you’ll build your clientele and whether you have all the pieces in place that would make the most difference now. While everyone’s path differs, there are some principles that hold true for embarking on the coaching business venture.
1. Don’t Necessarily Rush to a Niche
In the business world, you often hear the call to differentiate yourself from the competition and declare your specialty right away. There’s truth to designing your brand around particular strengths, discerning a corner of the market you can focus on in your business. That said, it may not be a good idea to specialize yourself too quickly.
If you’re new to health coaching, you may not know what niche you may be most interested in or best suited for, and you may not have a clear window yet into what specialties offer the most business opportunity. Instead of delaying your coaching practice and resorting to hours of obsessive (and largely blind) research, begin your business and wait for the right niche to present itself.
Despite certain marketers’ bold claims, no one can identify the right niche for you. Experience alone will teach you what you have a knack and passion for, what areas seem to open up to you in terms of client connections and business building.
Be patient enough to see what unfolds. With time, you’ll come to discern your unique brand.
2. Seek Out Support
Don’t underestimate the importance of mentorship and collegiality to your long-term success (not to mention sanity). As an independent entrepreneur, you’ll likely need to seek them out, but the effort is worth it. Just because you’re running your own shop doesn’t mean you don’t need (and deserve!) others to bounce ideas off of or to help with troubleshooting when you run into questions.
Seek out a professional mentor in the field of coaching—someone with more experience who can give you professional feedback and even some well-considered guidance.
But don’t stop at a mentor. Find others in your field or in similar fields whom you can relate to, and connect with them on a regular basis. Some cities have meet-ups devoted to small businesses, or you might find organizations or businesses (such as co-working associations) that host lunches or networking events for so-called “micros” (independent entrepreneurs or businesses with 10 or fewer employees).
3. Don’t Forget to Be Your Company’s Leader
Being your own boss isn’t the absence of supervision: it simply means you become responsible for the supervisory duties. And they are as numerous as they are essential….
The best supervisors offer professional individual mentorship for their staff, but they also steward the bigger picture for a company. That means holding space for a business’s evolving vision and for the inputs, considerations, questions and opportunities that will influence or propel that vision.
As perhaps a new entrepreneur, this concept might sound wholly elusive, but it largely comes down to intentional practices. That means you should be scheduling time at least monthly for assessing the overall progress of your business, for asking what resources you need at this time to meet your current needs and to continue to expand, and for continually creating and gauging progress toward short-term and long-term goals.
4. Know That You Need to Invest in Your Business
In the interest of frugality, it’s tempting to do everything on the cheap—especially as you’re just getting started and working with a small client load. That said, be mindful of what you may be passing up by forgoing hired help, skipping business training opportunities, and doing without marketing tools or upgraded versions of initially free software/apps you use for your business.
Running a business, not to mention expanding one, requires investment. Resist the lure of perpetually downplaying your needs. Get professional feedback on your business plan, and take time to prioritize what investments would offer you the most return (e.g. pursuing an additional certification, purchasing a space at a local health expo, creating and maintaining an email marketing plan, setting up online scheduling).
If you feel you have no room in your budget for growing your business, it might be time to take on a side hustle—or, alternatively, hang onto an existing job a little longer—to put away more capital. Likewise, seek out information that may offer other sources of funding. Talk to an accountant familiar with small business, and get an assessment of what tax breaks or credits you may not be taking into account. Likewise, see what small business grants, discounts, low interest loans and other supports might be available from area organizations or professional associations.
5. Count on Strategically Outsourcing
Having your own business is an incredible opportunity—with extraordinary responsibility. But to be responsible for your business doesn’t mean you personally perform every single task. That’s a clear road to burnout.
Instead, make a list of all the duties associated with your business. Don’t hold back. Include everything, no matter how small. Circle the ones that play to your personal strengths or your core purpose. Obviously, coaching is the heart of your business. Your work with clients is likely your passion and the reason you began this business endeavor. And it’s what generates revenue. You want to protect your time and energy for this purpose.
But there are so many more tasks that come into play: scheduling, accounting, billing, insurance claims, web development, marketing, content creation and blog/web management, social media, graphics, just to name several. Maybe one or two of these might tap into a personal strength of ours, but few of us would likely enjoy or feel qualified to perform the full spread of this list.
Sit for a while with this list and be honest about what duties you’d like to give away. What would feel good to get off your plate? What ancillary tasks take the most time and energy away from coaching? Begin with these. Come up with as long a list as possible, but then prioritize 2-3 you’d like to outsource in the short-term. Look at your budget, and decide how you’d like to allocate funds toward this goal.
Keep in mind that technology (e.g. scheduling software, billing apps) may address your needs and be a cheaper option than hiring people in many cases. For certain tasks like web development, you probably just need to hire someone for the length of the initial setup and then have a retainer agreement for any minor follow-up work.
6. Finally, Don’t Forget to Invest in Your Top Resource—Yourself
Most health coaches find their initial inspiration in their own health journeys. They enjoy being fit, cooking healthy food, pursuing new athletic skills and living an active life. One of our richest sources of wisdom can, in fact, be our own stories, but we owe it to ourselves and our clients to keep evolving our own experience of well-being.
Instead of working so hard that you shortchange or dial back your own commitment to adventure, fitness, enrichment and self-care, use your coaching practice as further incentive to invest in these efforts and to expand your horizons. Doing so will undoubtedly renew your enthusiasm and provide fodder for inspiring your clients. In the end, you’ll all reap the benefits.
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