written by Emily Nelson of Home (emilynelsoncoaching.com)
Starting my coaching practice
In August 2020, when I officially launched my coaching practice, I naively thought I had captured all the to-do’s of building a business in my neatly organized notes document aptly titled “Coaching Business Next Steps.”
If only it had been that easy!
After two years of toiling through different systems, marketing strategies, and service offerings, there are more than a few lessons learned (and many more notes and documents created) that helped me create a sound consulting practice for my personal and professional coaching clients.
Here are three things I learned, that if I had to start all over again, I would focus on first:
Just In time processes
Despite my initial urge to do the tasks that looked like building a business – a well-branded website, professional photos for social media, expensive systems for scheduling, and newsletters – I knew I wasn’t ready for those. I needed clients first. I needed to first test and confirm that I had an offering that was valuable and could help people, before going down the long (and pricey!) path of implementing various business accouterments.
I started with one client, one referral, and one sales pitch at a time. I implemented processes as needed, but not before they were needed.
To illustrate this “just in time” philosophy – in the beginning, I was offering mostly free coaching sessions to get valuable practice and experience. After one such session, my client asked for an invoice and I (somewhat) confidently said I would send it to them after the session. We completed our call and I quickly created an account with a payment processing site, got everything set up, and emailed my first invoice. Just in time.
The same is true for things like scheduling apps, email accounts, and DIY websites – I initiated each task when it was needed, allowing me to grow the business organically without getting too far ahead. It did help that I had researched the various systems so that when it was time to implement, I was ready to go.
Tracking business leads
This may sound obvious, but it was over a year into my business before I put pen to paper and tracked where my clients were being sourced from. Seeing the raw numbers was eye-opening.
Despite feeling constant pressure to post frequently on social media channels, I had one client from Instagram and two from LinkedIn. The vast majority came to me from referrals and free mini-workshops I offered to professional groups.
Having the data allowed me to be more strategic with how I developed new business. I stayed active on social networks, but without the “always-on” pressure. I invested more time in designing and hosting free webinars, curating monthly newsletters for my existing network, and connecting with people who were likely to send client referrals my way.
The result? Streamlining these efforts allowed me more time and mental energy to focus on what matters most in my business: being great at what I do.
Be a really good coach
Early on, a friend and colleague of mine gave me this piece of advice – he said the best marketing strategy for a new coach is to be great at what you do. Providing extraordinary value to my clients, he said, would lead to both retention and referrals. He was spot-on.
However, maintaining a strong focus on developing my craft was harder than I thought it would be, especially in the beginning phases of building my practice. It was easy to get caught up in business minutia – I had mostly manual processes (see above!) and each one had its own learning curve. But I knew that I could make the biggest impact on my clients by prioritizing developing my craft.
On a weekly basis, I scheduled non-negotiable times to research topics that were coming up in sessions, met with colleagues to talk through best coaching practices, listened to teaching podcasts, and reviewed video courses for additional tools and strategies. I said yes to opportunities to attend specialized training and observed how others in my field were reaching mastery levels.
Giving myself permission to take off my business owner hat for several hours each week has served me and my clients well.
As I embark on year three of my coaching business, I’m already seeing early signs of this cycle repeating. The need for up-leveling systems and branding, expanding my client reach, and diving deeper into training is apparent. With these lessons learned under my belt, I look forward to seeing what comes next.
Emily has been a guest on our podcast: Wedotalk with David Jaques where she talks about her different careers and her most recent one as a coach:
If you are in the process of building your own coaching practice, check out Wedo and these posts: