What’s your plan for building a coaching business in 2022? Let’s talk about what you can consider doing and thinking to grow your coaching business.
When it comes to your business plan, I recently learned from a member of my audience that she was advised by other business coaches to prioritize spending the majority of her time on marketing and sales activities.
She was thought to focus more on activities such as creating and repurposing content, lead generation, and engaging with people through cold direct messages (DMs) or outreach on social media.
It seems that many coaches emphasize the importance of investing time in the areas of content, marketing and sales, because that’s supposedly going to move the needle forward in your business, especially in the early stages of your business.
Here’s my take on this. Yes, marketing and content and sales are one hundred percent important and necessary for your business. You can’t have a business without them.
However, I have a slightly different perspective on this. Let’s say that I have unlimited time to work on my business and can create my own schedule. In that case, I wouldn’t allocate over 50% of my time to marketing, sales, and content creation activities.
Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. I think many coaches often strive to work with around five or six 1:1 clients at a time. That’s a common number I come across, but it’s important to note that people’s perception of being fully booked with 1:1 clients may vary or evolve once they reach that number. Some may realize they have the capacity for additional 1-2 clients, while others may feel the strain and choose to book spots in advance or create a waitlist for future clients.
For example, you have five 1:1 clients right now. You have weekly coaching calls with them, so that’s around five hours of coaching calls a week. How else would you want to structure your week? What will your weekly or daily or monthly plan be?
Here’s my personal recommendation for the areas you could focus on in your business and the suggested amount of time for each:
Specifically, I guide my clients to make decisions with the mindset of becoming the CEO their business needs and the content creator, marketer, and coach their ideal clients need. I emphasize these two perspectives because I’ve witnessed how easily decisions can be influenced by our own ego.
One example I can share relates to my niche, which is business coaching. It is quite common for coaches in this field to emphasize the concept of passive income and offer digital products such as courses.
However, I’m committed to becoming one of the best business coaches in the entire industry. My business needs to make the decisions that will push me to continue growing my coaching skills.
This means I need to intentionally make the decision to continue selling my coaching programs instead of passive income products so that I can continue to refine my coaching skills and help clients get results over and over again.
Likewise, it is my responsibility to continuously create content that showcases my thought leadership for my ideal clients who seek to work with the best in the business coaching field.
While it may be tempting to look at my peers and feel pressured to discuss the same topics as everyone else, I understand that my ideal clients are not looking for the same information. Instead, they are seeking original content and honest perspectives that only I can provide.
Therefore, in my content and marketing efforts, I remain authentic to my own beliefs and intentionally create content that demonstrates my unique thought leadership and positioning within this industry.
Here’s what I recommend when making decisions: Keep it simple. Whenever you’re confronted with a decision, whether it’s about your offer or content strategy, just make a decision.
Make it quickly and base it on the needs of your business and ideal clients, rather than what your ego wants. For instance, I personally enjoy creating PDFs and slide decks, and I could easily produce multiple ebooks to sell. However, that’s not what my business or ideal clients need from me.
So, I’ve made the decision to offer my 1:1 coaching programs and group coaching program because I know that those are the containers that will truly help my clients get results, and that’s what I want to be known for.
Make decisions. That’s all there is to it.
If you’re in the process of building a business, you’ve probably experienced the all-too-familiar sensation of spinning out, feeling discouraged, succumbing to self-doubt, comparing yourself to others, doubting the potential of your program, and even experiencing moments of envy.
It’s incredibly easy to think these thoughts, almost like a natural instinct or reflex. And that’s exactly what thought work means – it’s about actively choosing thoughts that differ from your default patterns. Here’s the thing: it’s not always easy to shift your thinking, especially within the context of your business.
Now, let’s talk about self-coaching and getting coached. When it comes to working with a coach, I recommend paying close attention to how they approach mindset work. Nowadays, many coaches claim to incorporate mindset in their programs.
However, based on feedback from clients who have worked with other coaches in the past, it seems that a lot of coaches primarily focus on motivation and boosting confidence rather than genuinely challenging clients to explore uncomfortable thoughts, consider alternative perspectives, or unpacking the many layers that are often involved when a client isn’t getting results.
For instance, instead of simply attributing a lack of results to a client not putting in the work, I personally prefer working with a coach who actively listens and helps untangle all the stuff that could possibly contribute to me not getting results, instead of making a blanket statement or conclusion about why I’m not getting results.
When it comes to looking for a coach who is the right fit for you, here’s what I suggest: Don’t just look at their branding, marketing or the shininess of their Instagram or popularity.
Rather, look at the quality of their thought leadership. What unique value are they bringing to their niche or industry? Because I think for most of us, we want to work with the best of the best when it comes to investing in our business and in ourselves.
Also, pay extra close attention when you hop on a sales call with them and try to identify whether they’re really listening and trying to unpack your situation and understand you, versus just trying to say things to hype you up.
Work with a coach who actually coaches. That will be a coach who will help you break down your own thought patterns, fears and limiting beliefs so you can be open to seeing things from a new perspective, explore alternative options to strategies in your business, and continue to stay committed to your action plan and belief plan.
Self-coaching means to coach yourself as if you were your own client. Ultimately, we need to develop the ability to rely on ourselves, whether or not we have a coach.
While a coach can help identify blind spots in your thought patterns and provide guidance on strategies, it’s crucial to also learn self-coaching to navigate situations more efficiently.
From my own experience working with a coach, I’ve learned to do my self-coaching first by unpacking my thoughts and situation, and then bring that to my coach for higher-quality coaching sessions.
Here’s what my own schedule looks like for self-coaching and getting coached.
When I’m working with a 1:1 coach, that usually looks like one hour of coaching a week with my coach. Other times, in the mastermind, that’s 90 minutes of coaching with my mastermind peers every week.
I’d recommend getting coached at least 60 minutes a week, preferably with a 1:1 coach.
As for self coaching, I usually do a quick bit of self coaching in the morning, no more than 15 minutes. My morning session usually involves writing 5 affirmations, 5 things I’m grateful for, and one thought reframe, which is working through an unhelpful thought and coaching myself through that.
Then I might do a deeper session for 30 to 40 minutes per week.
Overall, I estimate maybe 2.5 hours of self coaching a week.
I suggest doing self coaching daily, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. Develop the habit of challenging your thoughts and consciously choosing to think thoughts that may be difficult to entertain.
When it comes to staying rooted in service, my core values, and my commitment to achieving the income and impact I’m here to create, it’s similar to developing any belief—it requires repetition.
I often refer to concrete things like my belief plan or the goals I’ve written down for the quarter.
Sometimes, I literally look at my clients and think about them.
Other times, I ground myself in gratitude and reflect on how far I’ve come in my life and business, realizing that the version of me from 12 months ago would be amazed by my current level of income and impact.
This part really just comes down to staying rooted to those reminders very often.
When it comes to developing your unique thought leadership, here’s what it generally looks like with my 1:1 clients.
First, we spend at least the first few sessions to understand what my client wants to be known for and why. I ask them a lot of questions and have them answer as honestly as possible.
Then we’ll analyze what they’ve answered and start to pick out their unique stance on their industry and the unique value or perspective they add to their niche or industry.
This process isn’t exactly a one time thing. Because I recommend my clients will do an audit every quarter on their messaging and assess how they’ve been delivering and showcasing their unique thought leadership.
Also, if you want to continue innovating with your thought leadership and lead your niche or industry, it’s also important to regularly think of new concepts, ideas or new ways of explaining existing concepts. Additionally, think about incorporating new examples that effectively support your message and key points.
This process requires some initial upfront work, but it also involves an ongoing commitment to continuously refreshing your thought leadership, elevating your expertise and being recognized for your unique perspectives and insights.
I suggest three things:
1) For now, do the upfront deep work to zone in on your unique thought leadership, and start creating content, concepts and frameworks that will let you articulate this thought leadership to your audience.
2) Regularly audit your messaging and see what’s working and what’s not. Audits can happen maybe once a quarter, and that’s what I personally do at the moment.
3) I also recommend regular thinking time. Literally time dedicated to thinking.
This is something I’ve incorporated for the past two-ish months and it’s been game changing. This is literally a 90 minute time block or two hour time block that I may do once every week or every two weeks. I literally just create, think and brainstorm.
I think of what type of thought leadership the next level version of Cheryl Lau will bring to the business coaching niche. It’s been so much fun and I really look forward to these thinking time blocks.
Here’s how this might look in terms of your typical week or month in your business: From my experience working with my clients, the upfront heavy lifting is to first start digging into your unique thought leadership. Give it a few weeks at least.
For those inside my coaching program, we don’t skimp on this. We spend quality time exploring what this could look like for each of my clients.
As for the ongoing audits of your messaging, I personally think once a quarter is sufficient. This could look like a 60 or 90 minute session, or maybe longer. But I personally don’t see this as something you need to do weekly or monthly.
You could also consider incorporating thinking about your thought leadership on a weekly or biweekly basis. This looks like time to actually think of new concepts, frameworks, intellectual property, and content ideas. Things you want to be known for. Think of ways to explain or showcase these things from different angles.
I also want to add that content creation or content batching could happen during thinking time, but I think they can also be separate things.
I typically spend separate time blocks for thinking and another block of time for translating content ideas into actual concrete pieces of content. But the reason why I personally separate them into two different sessions is because I believe that thought leadership is very important in your business.
Unique thought leadership is going to look different for everyone. Each of my clients have brought a very specific, unique and honest angle to their own industry or niche, and that helps them stand out in their space.
For example, I recently had a follower come to me asking about joining one of my programs, and she shared with me some of the other entrepreneurs in her specific niche that she really looks up to. And one of those names was my own client.
I’m super confident in this. Helping my clients clarify what’s their unique voice or stance or value that they bring to their own niche or industry is one of my biggest strengths or skills as a business coach.
Now, creating content based on your unique thought leadership is super simple. One social media platform is the bare minimum you need. For most of my clients, that’s either Instagram or LinkedIn. I have seen other clients use Facebook Groups or Twitter as their main social media platform. But I do see most of my clients choosing Instagram or LinkedIn. Creating content for one platform shouldn’t take more than 3 hours a week.
I usually spend 20 minutes a day posting on Instagram Stories throughout the day. On days where I post video content on Instagram Stories as well, that might take up to 30 minutes for that day because captioning the videos takes the longest for me. Let’s just say 20 minutes a day, 6-7 days a week. I spend an estimated 2.5 hours a week posting on Instagram Stories.
As for Instagram feed posts, I repurpose some of my best Instagram stories from the current week or the week before into carousel posts. The entire process takes no more than one hour every week.
In total, I spend 3.5 hours max a week creating content specifically for Instagram.
As for my podcast, I will admit that the creation process took a lot longer particularly for solo episodes. In the first few months, it took me up to 6 hours to script one episode. But now, because I feel really confident and comfortable with my own thoughts and ideas, I don’t overthink or over explain things anymore.
I write the script usually in one or two sittings, which now takes up to 3 hours max. Then recording the episode will take a maximum of one hour on days where my voice or throat isn’t warmed up. But normally, it takes 40 minutes to record a solo episode.
Content creation has gotten so much easier compared to the first year of my business. It’s because I really trust my voice and ideas. I trust that all the ideas, stories, experiences and perspectives inside my brain are valuable.
I no longer stop to look at what others are talking about. The content I put out all comes from my own brain. I don’t do any research to get content ideas because I’m constantly inspired by things happening around me.
Also, I have thinking time blocks that allow me to be creative and think of new ideas.
Content creation is easier now because I’m so clear and confident in my unique thought leadership in the business coaching space.
I primarily do soft launching. This means I make offers at any point and throughout the year, whenever I want, without any deadlines about when I will open or close the cart.
All I do is literally make offers in my content. Both the podcast and on Instagram, you’ll hear me invite my audience to join me inside either our 1:1 or group coaching program. This looks like literally including a few sentences to make the invitation. I don’t necessarily spend extra time every week just for selling.
I also do not actively do outbound marketing. I don’t direct message (DM) strangers. I don’t purposely spend time “engaging” with people on Instagram.
All I really do is create value via my usual content and include call-to-actions (CTAs) whenever I feel called to make an offer. That’s all soft launching looks like for me in the simplest terms.
I go into way more detail about the nuances of my soft launch with my clients inside my program. For example, we have a workshop inside my program all about my five tier approach to creating my messaging and positioning. I offer a lot of screenshots and examples from my own soft launches and content so my clients fully understand how I’m applying the concepts I’m teaching them.
In the simplest terms, sales and marketing look like really just my usual content that demonstrates my thought leadership and adds value, in addition to adding CTAs and making offers. That’s it.
That’s why for those of you who use soft launching in your business, I don’t think sales and marketing necessarily needs to take up any more extra time in your weekly schedule, besides just adding a CTA when you feel called to make an offer.
That said, there are more nuanced topics I go into with my clients, such as their energy when showing up or selling, showing social proof, how they might want to make a CTA, and being a genuine human being who doesn’t just DM people and try to “understand their pain points” and then lowkey slide in how you can help them. We also discuss how to conduct sales calls.
Lots of other things we dive into on sales and marketing, but at the high level, making offers doesn’t have to take any additional time besides what you’re already doing, which is creating content. At least, that’s the way my clients and I do it inside our businesses.
1) How are you constantly bettering your craft so you can help clients get results? Whatever you’re saying you can help clients with, be sure to continuously improve your ability to coach clients to create those results consistently, client after client. This is something I’m continuously working on and it’s always an ongoing learning curve.
2) How are you embodying certain results or transformations in your own life? What this means is simply – how are you the coach that clients actually want to work with? Are you a coach that people want to hire? This could look like many things. For some coaches, this means being able to help your clients get results and also be able to create those results for yourself as well.
How are you living out your core values or messages that you talk about in your marketing?
If you talk about the importance of investing in yourself, are you also investing to get your brain coached or to sharpen a particular skill?
Or have you been telling your Instagram audience to invest in themselves but you have only bought a course yet have barely implemented it?
The key here is to think about where in your business you are potentially not in integrity. If so, how can we start realigning your words and actions?
To become a coach who is able to coach their clients to create results for themselves, I suggest that you create regular thinking time specifically to review client calls, notes from your session together, think of solutions to client questions, create a new framework that can help clients better understand something, and so on.
This is something I love to do in my business, and it’s allowed me to create brand new concepts and frameworks in my business, including The Cheryl Theory Framework and the 2×2 method.
It also gives me time to think and has helped me to map out, literally on paper, my signature approach to soft launching.
I also have thinking time to create unique thought leadership. Sometimes my thinking time blocks are dedicated to content, new ideas and thought leadership. Other times, it’ll be dedicated to honing my coaching skills which also ties into content creation and thought leadership because a lot of it are inspired by questions or challenges that come up among my clients.
My typical week looks like the following:
Disclaimer: When I say “doing things” for the business, I don’t include mindset related activities, self coaching or getting coached. Because I believe that getting coached and self coaching permeates all areas of my life, not just my business.
I’ll often do self coaching on my thoughts that are not related to my business. Other times, I’ll work on both business and life related matters.
In terms of hours that I spend doing things for the business, I usually limit myself to 16 hours a week, and that for me is building my business on part time hours.
This action plan is very manageable for where I am in life and business right now and this is what the bare minimum looks like for my business.
Stay committed to implementing your action plan and believing in your belief plan. It’s important to have both.
I like having a weekly list of what I need to do, for every area of my life. I check them off as the week goes by. Usually on Sunday night or Monday morning of each new week, I’ll spend 15 minutes writing out a list of action items I need to work on or get done for my business, PhD, health and wellness, and so on, inside my physical planner.
I also look at my Google Calendar and see what Zoom calls, meetings or events I have and I write that into my planner as well.
On a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis, I’ll have a larger goal that I’m working towards. In addition to the list of action items that it’ll take to hit that goal, I also write down a list of thoughts and beliefs that I want to think while I’m taking action.
Having a list of thoughts is really helpful to help me ground back into the right state of mind because it’s so easy for our mind to default into a state of catastrophe and thinking that nothing is working or that no one wants to work with us.
Having our mind consumed with these thoughts is thinking that no one wants to buy your program, simply isn’t helpful. Really think about it. How is thinking that going to help you or your business? How is it going to help you sign clients? So if thinking these thoughts isn’t helpful, then what do you want to think instead?
Mindset work or thought work is not about journaling prompts. It’s not about saying positive affirmations.
I’d argue that those are surface level because all it really does is give you a temporary sense of motivation. It doesn’t challenge your deeply rooted beliefs or prompt you to challenge your thought patterns.
Instead, thought work really should require you to think thoughts that you don’t want to think.
Creating both an action plan and a belief plan doesn’t have to take very long. My weekly action and belief plan take no more than 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning of the week. My monthly action plan and belief plan usually takes 20 minutes, 30 minutes max.
My quarter and annual action plans and belief plans take me more time to reflect back on the past few months or year. I ask myself a lot of expansive questions so this usually takes 60-90 minutes.
Creating your action plan and belief plan simply means making decisions about what you want to do and what you want to think.
Let’s go back to the hypothetical scenario we talked about at the beginning of this post.
Let’s say you have five 1:1 clients right now. You have weekly coaching calls with them, so that’s around 5 hours of coaching calls a week. On top of that, how else do you want to structure your week? What will your weekly or daily or monthly plan be?
Here’s what I’d personally choose to do on a weekly basis:
In total, that looks like 12.5 or 13 hours a week, up to 15 hours a week. This is basically building a business on part time hours, and keep in mind you can simplify even further if you want to.
Here are two things I’d like to leave you with:
1) Take what you like from this post and leave the rest. There’s truly no one right way of building your business, and I would highly encourage you to make the executive decision to apply what you think makes sense for you and your business.
Don’t feel like you have to apply everything you learn especially from business coaches including myself.
Always make the best decisions for yourself and your business, and commit to making those decisions work in the long term.
2) Even though there’s something super shiny and magical about the start of a new year, remember that your growth as an entrepreneur and commitment to your business and your people doesn’t magically restart just because it’s the end of the year. It’s constantly ongoing even though there’s 6 weeks or 6 days left of the year. Time is literally just a construct that human beings made up.
Creating value and impact doesn’t ever pause. It’s not like January 1 will suddenly blow up your business.
Every decision you make , every single day- they all work together and compound over time. Make every decision and every day count.
Your daily decisions and ongoing commitment matter more than a new years resolution or a shiny sexy goal you set for the new year.
Regardless of whether you’re reading this post before the new year, on the new year, or some time way beyond the new year, the decisions you make, your actions and your thoughts – they all count and they all matter.
Remember you can build a successful coaching business (even as a side hustler) and still excel in your career or make time for what matters most to you. And to do this, we focus on doing the bare minimum number of things in your business, but do it really really well.
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