Starting with this post we’ll begin a series of Q&A to answer your most burning questions about doing business.
The first question comes from Deborah Forzanini, who also celebrates her birthday today: a very Happy Birthday!
I saw the post in which you talk about your move to Singapore in May 2014 and how you started out, beginning with your life coach training. How did you then go about getting your work off the ground? And how have things gone during these past couple of years running your business?
Thank you Deborah for this excellent question. Many people have asked me how I launched my coaching business, so I’ll take this opportunity to reply to you and to everyone else.
1. Get some solid training
First of all, I needed to get some solid basic training. Despite my existing experience as a trainer, doing a proper life coaching course really opened my eyes, because it provided me with the specific tools of the coaching trade.
In the training room the focus is on transmitting content (not exclusively, but in general), but with coaching the approach is non-directive, which is to say that the coach doesn’t give suggestions or advice, but supports the client on a journey of self-discovery.
The ability to do this is an essential skill for coaching work. I therefore advise getting training, and, better still, training from a school that’s recognised by the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
And, once the training is over, keep on trying out new coaching approaches rather than focusing on a single style. This will enable you to create a sort of ‘toolbox’ and to choose the most appropriate strategy for the client you have in front of you.
2. Get some hands-on experience
Another aspect that I consider fundamental is putting the skills you learned into practice and throwing yourself into experimenting, even when you don’t yet feel ready.
You’ve no idea how many times I ended up getting paranoid because I was afraid of not being capable, of not understanding what the client was saying to me (when I gave coaching sessions in English) or of not being good enough to help.
To take a bit of the pressure off, I offered my early sessions for free, but always conducted them professionally. In the autumn of 2014 I set up a competition and informed my mailing list subscribers that they could win one of three coaching courses available.
Anyone who wanted to take part had to fill in a form giving details of their motivations, the objective they wanted to reach and other information that I still request today before working with a client.
I picked three names at random and began a coaching course of six sessions with each of them. Was I afraid of failing? Yes, terribly afraid! But doing this allowed me to gain self-confidence and to improve through practice.
3. Treat your work like a business
It sounds trivial, but it’s been a fundamental aspect of growing my business. When I started off, I worked on the business erratically, when I wanted to or when I was in the mood. And I was afraid to sell myself.
I very soon realised that to get the business off the ground I would have to treat it as a business, and not as a hobby. This meant a significant change of mindset, and it pushed me to deal with my own resistances where marketing was concerned.
But not only that. I had to face up to my limiting beliefs about money: at first I had the idea that it wasn’t fair to earn money from helping other people. In other words, how could I ask for money in exchange for help that came from the heart?
I then realised that if I kept on thinking like this I’d never have a business and that in fact I’d very soon have to find employment for myself, which wouldn’t leave me any energy for coaching and actually helping others.
4. Describe your offer
When I started out I was offering my services as a generalist life coach and was prepared to help anyone with anything.
You’ll have heard of the importance of finding your own niche and targeting it. I agree, however, if I could go back and do it again, I wouldn’t change things.
Let’s be clear: it’s very useful to know who your ideal client is, who you want to target and how you can help them. But – particularly in a job like coaching – how can you figure this out if you’ve never tried before? How can you work out who you want to help and how if you don’t experiment?
OK, so this period in which I worked with all kinds of people was extremely useful for me. It allowed me to work out what kind of work I preferred and what, on the other hand, I didn’t enjoy at all.
I’ve always wanted to do a job that excites me. Even when choosing who I wanted to help I found it useful to ask myself, ‘Am I excited about working on this objective? Am I passionate about working with this client?’
In this way I came to understand that I love helping women, particularly when their objective is to launch their own business. So, allow yourself this time for experimenting, so that you become clear on what you want to offer, to whom, how, and so on.
5. Define your prices clearly
At first I was afraid of making the price of my coaching packages known. On one hand I was worried that people would be scared off, and on the other I thought I would need to adapt the price to the client.
This caused a lot of confusion. Not only were customers confused, but I was, too. When I found myself talking about prices I was very uncomfortable and was constantly wondering, ‘Can they afford it? I’m not asking too much, am I? Or maybe it’s too little?’
This didn’t make me look at all convincing, of course. If I myself had doubts about my prices, how could the client have faith in them?
I performed a thorough analysis of the benefits the client could obtain and the concrete results they could achieve, and then the turning point came when I decided to publish the prices on my website in black and white.
It was an act of courage, a symbolic message I was sending to the Universe. It was like saying, ‘Yes, this is what I can offer and this is what I deserve in return for my assistance.’ This helped me attract people who were seriously intending to improve themselves, and put off time-wasters.
6. Keep up your training
Now, you may think that after spending all that money on becoming a coach, that would be it. Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s not the case, or at least it isn’t for me. Because in order to keep growing your business you also need marketing and business skills.
I’m not telling you to spend thousands of euros – on the contrary! You can start just by following the blogs of people who, every so often, make free and extremely valuable material available.
I took Marie’s B-School, an eight-week, online programme that showed me how it’s possible to do business in an ethical and spiritual way. It only opens once a year and requires a non-trivial investment, but I’d do it again without hesitation. In fact, I’ll do it again next year and again the one after that, because once you’ve subscribed you have access for life.
Whether the resources are free or cost money, the point is to keep up your training and keep putting it into practice, again and again, all the time.
7. Stay strong and be persistent
Finally, dear Deborah, you need to stay strong, be persistent and keep on going. Even when things don’t seem to be going at all as you want them to, and even when nothing seems to be working.
I started coaching people for free in 2014. In 2015 the first, sporadic paying clients came along, and only this year, in 2016, am I seeing more regularity in my income.
Particularly in 2015, by the evening I was often tired and low on energy, wondering: ‘Why am I doing this to myself?!’ And it’s precisely in these moments of frustration that it’s useful to remind yourself of the reason you decided to start doing it all, by reconnecting with your vision and mission.
The road ahead is still long, but it’s by shifting my focus from the goal to the journey, from the final result to the day by day, that I was able to enjoy this fantastic entrepreneurial adventure.
There will always be difficulties, and the further you move forward, the bigger they can become. Yet, at the same time, your ability to deal with them will also grow. It all depends on how you decide to react and on where you decide to focus your attention.
Keep fighting for your dreams and never give up!
Here we are at the end of this response. To Deborah and to everyone else – if you found it useful don’t forget to share it and ‘like’ it on Facebook! Thanks!
See you next week!
P.S. Have you taken a look yet at the new self-coaching book Master the Art of Life?