Initially, I wanted to name this episode something super click bait. I was considering titles like “How Business Coaches Are Screwing Up The Coaching Industry” or “Screw Business Coaches” or “Dumb Things That Business Coaches Made Us Believe”…
But then, honestly, these types of titles might sound super intriguing and it might make you want to listen to the episode, but it doesn’t reflect the full picture of how I feel about business coaching and the work that business coaches do.
I want to zone in on some general things that I see business coaches talk about or teach, whether it’s indirectly or directly, that I don’t necessarily agree with.
I want to start with the big disclaimer that I’m not referring to any coaches in particular. But rather, I’m more so referring to general themes that I’ve observed in the past few years since being in this space.
I want to say that: I think there are incredible business coaches who are really leading by example and changing the industry in a positive way.
I’ve worked with such coaches before who have left a profound impact on me, and they have inspired me to do even better for my own clients and audience, to continue sharing my work and what I believe in, and to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
Long story short, coaching, and also business coaching specifically, have helped me tremendously on both a personal level and that then carried over into my business results as well.
That said, there are a few particular things that are prevalent within the business coaching space that I personally don’t agree with.
So I’d love to take this space to share my own viewpoints on three of these things.
We’ll be talking about:
1) The idea that there’s a timeline in which you can start to expect to see results in your business
2) putting the money and metrics on a pedestal , and
3) the illusion that life is perfect about you hit certain milestones in your business
For each of these observations, I want to mention that I too might have in some way contributed to these types of narratives in some way.
But overtime, I’ve been increasingly honest with myself about whether these are messages that I actually believe in, and where am I simply saying things because I thought that’s what business coaches are supposed to say.
I’ll share where and how I’ve made changes in my own business for each of these things.
Let’s dive into the topic of timelines and how the business coaching industry has created a narrative that fast results in your business are not just expected, but the norm.
Meaning, if you aren’t hitting 10k in 90 days or creating six-figures by your first year or latest, your second year, then you’re behind and hence doing something wrong.
One thing I’m extremely curious about is that we see all this marketing from business coaches that promote some sort of timeline or what you can expect, but like, I’m sorry, who made that shit up?
Why are we making it seem like building a brand new coaching business seems like it’s all sexy and flashy and you can get results quickly and flex it on social media and tell all your family friends about how great your business is?
Is building a business really as simple and easy as business coaches online make it out to be? Really question that marketing narrative.
Because I’m not questioning whether it’s possible to create a highly impactful and also highly profitable business. That’s something I have seen countless examples of and I’ve seen it for myself and our clients too.
But I’m much more curious about how this is represented within the marketing that business coaches put out, especially in terms of how they represent the expected time frames in which you can start to see “results” or “hit certain income goals” within.
I actually once heard a quote by Gary Vaynerchuk, where he said something along the lines of “brand is earned”. Meaning, you have to build the brand and it’s not something that happens overnight. You’ve got to put in the work to build a brand, to build a community, to build relationships with your audience, and to build brand awareness for your offers.
I view branding as something that’s both earned but also commanded.
While I do agree that a highly impactful and recognized brand, and hence also business, is not something that we should expect to be able to build quickly, meaning, even though it is possible to build brand awareness in a short amount of time, I don’t believe that this should be expected or be seen as the norm.
Rather, if you really want to do this, are you willing to be in it for as long as it takes?
If finances are a genuine concern, are you willing to find other means of supporting yourself while you take as much time as you need to build up your business?
I don’t think this is only limited to online coaching or service-based businesses. I’m sure that the same level of uncertainty and trial and error, and the time you need to put in to build brand awareness in order to see more “consistent results” are the same in brick and mortar businesses, product based businesses, and everything else.
So if no business is an exception to this, why do we think that coaching businesses are supposed to start to see certain results by specific timeline?
When we decided to start a coaching business, we signed up for the uncertainty and lack of consistent income.
We signed up for the self doubt and ongoing questioning of whether things are working, but we still keep doing it, even with all the spin out and mind drama, because we believe in the value we have to offer.
But if we were to impose some sort of arbitrary timeline that, quite frankly, has no statistical or research backing to it, I’m curious why you would even subject yourself to this and start a business in the first place.
Sometimes, on sales calls, clients would come to me and ask how long it usually takes my past clients to start seeing results. Which really is another way of asking what is the average timeline to success among clients, and using that as a benchmark to gauge whether they’re ahead, on track, or behind.
Here’s how I have been answering this question on my calls lately:
“There’s a reason I’ve decided on a six-month program, rather than, let’s say, three or four months. It’s because we’re focused on building a solid foundation for your business for the long-term.
Over the past 3+ years, I personally feel that six months is usually a good amount of time for my clients and I to work on building out certain skill sets and mindsets.
During that 6 month period, our clients will start to see results at some point during our time together. Some might see results very quickly, and some might start seeing results later on.
That’s also why when I work with clients, we take as much time as we need during our time together to set you up for the long run, and everything we do in our six months together will compound over time, so that results start happening faster and faster.
And because everyone’s progress is so unique to them, that’s why I personally cannot offer concrete data or averages or even range or medians or whatever statistical measurement I can possibly extract from my client data. Nor do I think it would be helpful to offer such data.”
Because what usually happens is that the more we follow business coaches online, and the more we see business coaches saying, “Inside my program I will help you create your first 10k in 90 days”, or some other arbitrary income number and timeline, it perpetuates the belief that if you’re not ahead or on par with this arbitrary timeline, then you’re slow. You’re doing something wrong.
But let’s be really honest. How accurate is such “data”? These timelines?
Is it even representative of what entrepreneurship is like? Actually, let’s not even say entrepreneurship. Let’s talk specifically about coaching businesses. Solopreneur coaches.
Let’s say I collate all of the data from clients I’ve worked with, since January 2021 till today. And I was able to give you some general trends. How is such information going to help you feel calm and productive?
Because in entrepreneurship, feelings of self doubt, anxiety, questioning what you’re doing, comparisons with other coaches, feeling like you should be more ahead by now…. These thoughts and feelings are only going to be amplified if I gave you an average or expected timeline.
Let’s take it a step further. So I gave you an average or expected timeline, and let’s say you’re slightly behind the average among my clients. Then what?
Or what if you’re way behind? Then what? Are you going to quit the business entirely? Are you going to find a new course or program to invest in instead of continuing to improve on what you’ve already been working on for the past few months?
This is also where that elusive philosophical debate between “If I’m not seeing results then I’m doing something wrong and I need to fix it.” versus “Okay but what if it’s not so much about the strategy I’m doing wrong, but it’s that I’ve not done it long enough to understand how to fully implement the strategy in a way that resonates with both myself and my ideal clients?”
The reason I bring this up is because I think many of us have heard people say “all strategies work”, and that it’s more so a matter of figuring out how to make a strategy work for you.
For those who firmly believe that you’re currently not seeing results because you have to figure out what’s wrong with what you’re doing, the question I want to offer is, “If you’re already doubting your process and questioning what you’re doing, then it’s a lot harder to make it work. Because you’re already doubting it, so how much more creative problem solving or troubleshooting can happen here if you’re already halfway given up on the process?”
Just something to consider. Maybe we can talk more about this in another episode.
The last thing I want for anyone is for you to get discouraged about your own progress and growth, and then call it quits altogether, simply because you were given the false impression that if you aren’t making X amount money by X timeline, you’re doing it wrong.
This leads naturally into my second personal observation, which is how the emphasis on money and metrics is embedded within a lot of business coaches’ marketing.
Before any of you come at me in the DMs and say, but Cheryl don’t you do that too?
Yes, for those of you who have consumed my content prior to 2022, you may have heard me also include monetary client results as part of my own marketing.
I used to say full-time income and also talk about how our clients make 5-10k months even as side hustlers. Which is what our clients have done before.
But here’s why I have very intentionally decided to lean away from using that verbiage in my own marketing in recent months.
When I observe my own business growth, and that of my clients as well as peers in the industry, I am seeing that the monetary results we create in our business is more so a by-product of the internal work we do as entrepreneurs.
The inner work comes first, and only then do the monetary aka signing client results happen.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that talking about, “I help my clients create their first 5k month” simply isn’t reflective of what I believe in.
That said, we 100% have helped clients make money and sign clients. It’s what clients come to me for, it’s what my own curriculum inside our private client portal is all about. It’s literally an encapsulation of all of the lessons and insights I’ve gathered about building my business, all compiled into our private client portal.
Signing clients is what we work towards, but to put the income wins on the forefront of my own marketing. It simply isn’t reflective of the way I personally work with clients.
Being able to create a profitable business 100% does something for your identity. Because it sure as heck did something for mine.
However, the money I’ve created from the business is not what I’m most proud of. If someone asked me what my favorite things about growing a business is, I would say it’s who I’ve become. Not how much money I’ve made.
And this is now deeply entrenched in my own identity, for me it would be a discrepancy between my sense of self and my marketing if I continued to put greater emphasis on how I can help you make 5-10k months inside my program.
Because what I noticed when I was using that type of language in my marketing, was that I was doing it more so from a place of wanting to flex. I was subconsciously thinking I am a successful business coach because my clients are making money in their business.
And what that really means is, I was judging my own worth as a coach, the value of my coaching program, and perhaps even the validity of my clients based on how much money they were making since we started working together.
Also, I just want my clients, and all of you listening to this episode, regardless of whether you’re part of our coaching programs, to feel happier as both human beings and as entrepreneurs.
For myself, I’ve seen for myself what it’s like to build a business that makes me feel even more stressed and defeated and self loathing, and I’ve also seen what it’s like to build a business that has allowed me to be more of who I am and to become more of who I want to be.
I’ve been able to make money while being both.
Inside my coaching programs with our awesome clients, there’s a lot of deep conversations that go beyond surface level things like your content strategy and how to talk about your offers in a way that’s fun and resonates with your people.
I hope that through our coaching together, you walk away from the six months as someone who is genuinely happier, calmer, more resilient, more creative, and more committed than ever to create even more possibilities for yourself, through the vehicle of your business.
The more I sat with that realization, the more I realized this is not what I deeply believe in.
Naturally, there have been shifts in my own messaging and the words I use in my marketing. Now, I’m more aware of where I’m using certain verbiage simply to fluff up my own ego and posting for the sake of Instagram clout.
When I’m able to catch it, I’ll intentionally shift my focus back to the type of content and marketing that is reflective of what I actually believe in and want to be known for.
As a result, I have never felt more excited to talk about my coaching program because I believe so much in the work we do inside the program. And through those skill sets and mindsets that we work on, that will overtime compound into monetary wins in your business.
All that being said, even after we create some pretty awesome monetary results in our business, one thing I’ve learned, which seems to run counter to the image that I personally see among business coaches, is that life is not perfect even after I reach certain milestones in the business.
The truth is, creating a business hitting certain income goals, even if you’ve been creating success and wins for months or years, does not make you immune to the deep, deep pains and internal struggles.
Whether that be brand new challenges or ones that you might have faced even prior to reaching this level in your business, a successful business doesn’t take away the human experience or the natural highs and lows of life and business.
Life is still hard. Business does not solve your life problems.
Making a certain amount of money in your business does not solve the same business problems you might have had prior.
his was something quite prevalent for me in the past few months, as I was navigating several major life events or new challenges that I’ve never encountered before, in areas of my life outside of the business.
And because there was so much going on, I definitely found it harder during the past few months to do much for the business besides the bare minimum.
But here are a few most profound takeaways I gathered from the past few months while going through some sort of rut and low period in both my personal life and business, and now as I’m rebuilding momentum again.
First, I realized that I can feel like a mess, but I can still type on my keyboard and still speak sentences from my mouth. Meaning, I can always still create value and help people, whenever and wherever I want to.
I can continue building brand awareness and demand for my offers even if life feels hard. That isn’t to say you can’t rest or take breaks or take care of yourself.
But I just want to offer the thought of: These things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can choose to do both, or choose one or the other.
You have options. Your business isn’t game over just because you’re going through hard times in life.
Second, no one, not even the most successful entrepreneurs, have a perfect life, or the perfect brain that thinks the perfect thoughts, or the perfect business. Everyone still goes through really, really hard things. Simply because we are human beings experiencing difficult human experiences and emotions that are part of life.
I also want to offer another related thought for you to think about: the entrepreneur who makes more money in their business than you, they’re not better than you. Heck, they’re not even “better” than the non-entrepreneur who prefers to work in a traditional 9-5 job or career.
No one has a better life or is a better person or is better. They are all operating out of their own core values and are doing work they actually choose to do and believe in.
For anyone who’s thinking, “Okay, but if another entrepreneur makes more money than me, doesn’t that make them a better entrepreneur?”
I want you to think about how that entrepreneur developed the skill of making more money in their business. How much time did they spend working on that skill? How much trial and error has gone on behind the scenes? How many months or years of feeling confused and doubting whether things are working has taken place? How did they double down on their strengths? And so on.
It’s not a blanket statement that we can just throw around and say that this or that person is a better entrepreneur, but rather, I invite all of us to think about this in terms of a skill that you can take the time to work on and strengthen over time.
Third and finally, no matter what’s going on in life or business or anything else, I still always have so much to be grateful for. ALWAYS.
Another way of saying this is that the future isn’t better than where you are, right now. Life is still hard. So how can you spend more time being here, with what you do have right now, rather than thinking of working super hard and delaying any gratification so that it’s gonna be worth it once you hit certain milestones in business and in life and life will become so much better.
For myself, the past few months have brought with it a lot of changes and as result, a lot of emotions. For a good chunk of the past few months, I’ve felt a lot of feelings. The emotions that were most prevalent for me include grief, shame, anxiety, and loss of identity.
Quite honestly, I spent way more time dwelling on what I perceived that I don’t have or what I no longer had, instead of spending more time thinking about what I do have.
It got to a point where I wanted to quit my business entirely and I was constantly beating myself up for leaving the PhD to move to Singapore. I was spending so much time thinking about what has changed or what I no longer had, rather than thinking about what I have created.
And it wasn’t until my husband said something, that I finally realized that I’ve created so much pain for myself to the point where I completely forgot about why I made certain decisions, how proud I am of where I am today, and so on.
I was basically being a puddle of tears and my husband said, you know, I know that the past few months have not been easy for you but at least we are now able to be together whenever you are crying.
And I realized. Wow. This is all past-Cheryl has ever wanted for the past five years – to be able to physically be in the same place with the boyfriend, now husband, because we’ve been long distance for nearly five years and there was a period of 19 months where we couldn’t see each other at all.
And that’s when I realized, I made all the decisions in the past few months, just so I can be here, today, right now. I’ve arrived already. I literally made it.
That’s when I started to stop feeling sorry for myself and stop shaming myself. And instead start being absolutely delighted by what is here and now, and what else I can create.
For example, one of my favorite thoughts to think these days is, OH MY GOD COACHING IS AMAZING. I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT THIS IS MY JOB. I CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE MY COACHING.
Rather than feeling sorry for myself that I left my PhD and now I have to create a sustainable full-time income in my business.
Life may not be perfect right now, but nothing can take away how amazed and grateful I feel towards everything I do have, including all the decisions I’ve made that led me to be where I am now, and everything I have created up to this point and everything I will create moving forward.
I’ll be honest. There have been moments where I wanted to pivot away from business coaching because there’s a number of things in this niche that I’m not personally a fan of and we touched on some of those things here.
I’ve also seen many business coaches leave this space entirely. But the more I thought about it, the more committed I am to staying in this niche because I’ve seen how coaching has not only changed my life, but I also want to be an example of a business coach who is in this industry because I want to contribute to it and lead positive changes.
For example, I think many of us have likely heard of people calling business coaching a scam. Heck, I’ve literally been told that myself. There definitely seems to be some sort of stigma surrounding business coaches.
But the reason I’m still here is because, it’s either of two things, I can also quit business coaching and do something else, or I can lead change in the space.
Neither are easy, because pivoting to another business is definitely not easy and continuing to be a business coach also isn’t easy.
So if neither are easy and also, if there’s no right or wrong decision, then what do I want to choose?
Well, I’m choosing the latter because I believe in the impact of what we can do together, not just as coaches that help people, but also as entrepreneurs who create businesses that can change our own lives and that of people we care most about.
I’m beyond excited to see what amazingness we will create together moving forward, and that’s why you’ll be seeing more of me in this space for quite a while.
We’re only going to do better and better from here on out.
Sounds good? Awesome. Let’s get to work.
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