I get asked a lot about how I got started as a health coach. And as a new health coach you are probably wondering about how to get those first few clients and how to market yourself.
And while marketing is not my area of expertise, it's sometimes valuable to hear what others have done.
So today I want to share a part of my story with you and what I learned as I reflect back.
Before I jump in it's important to note that things were very different nine or ten years ago when I was starting. There was much more opportunity for local in-person networking and connecting. Today, the focus is heavily online which of course has its pros and cons (topic for another day).
Anyhoo, let's get to it.
I enrolled in IIN's year-long health coach training program. And my goal was to have a biz set up within the year. I'm always a very diligent student, so I did exactly what the school told me to do and when to do it. I launched my website and business half way through the program. And by the end I had worked with about 12 clients through my 6-month program.
So how did I get those first clients?
Well I used the "throw-spaghetti-on-the-wall-to-see-what-would-stick" approach. I tried it all. Some of it worked, some of it didn't but I learned so much about myself as a coach.
Here are some of the highlights:
The first thing I did was start a weekly newsletter. I sent an email to all of my contacts announcing that I was now a health coach and open for business. I shared a link to my website and asked them if they wanted to be on my email list to receive weekly info and tips on health and well-being. From there I developed a separate email list, got a Mailchimp account and started sending weekly emails to share my perspective and nurture these relationships, to be top of mind for folks and demonstrate I was consistent and serious about this new chapter.
Another thing I did was join a weekly local breakfast networking group. It was a referral based group and I showed up every Tuesday morning keen and energized with my elevator speech ready to go. They were very supportive and a number of women took me up on my discounted student rate offer of $50 per session. I didn't want money to be a barrier. I was hungry to get experience as a coach and receive some testimonials.
Once I graduated, my husband who is an osteopath, was willing to share my info and offerings with his email list. We positioned it as, "There's a new practitioner in the clinic, here's her website, she offers a free intro session, check her out..." I stared seeing clients in his office when he wasn't using it and he'd promote all of my offers. I got a ton of new clients this way.
After that I developed a whole foods cleanse program and partnered up with a few local dance and yoga studios to offer it to their members. This helped me build my email list and get exposure to other audiences and people I wouldn't normally come in contact with. At the end of the cleanse, I offered a discount on my 6-month health coaching program and got a great response.
And then I got an opportunity to be part of a team our local marathon supported to help non-runners start running. I came on board as a volunteer health coach and did some talks and provided resources on healthy nutrition. At the end I offered my services and had a whole group of new people on my email list.
A contact I met through the running team, worked for our local newspaper and offered me an opportunity to write a column each week on health and well-being. It turned into a paid writing gig that lasted three years. This provided weekly opportunities to get my name out there, gather email addresses, offer free health history sessions and promote my services. I got a ton of new clients and some speaking opportunities from this.
From there I partnered up with a friend who is a local chef and we hosted a series of cooking classes. This exposed me to his list and eventually brought a number of new clients.
My husband and I also partnered up and led a series of paid workshops both here in Halifax and also in Newfoundland where he's from. Always at the end I'd offer my free intro session during which I would would pitch my 1:1 coaching program.
I also booked out rooms in local community centres and gave free health and wellness talks. At the end I would collect email addresses and offer my free intro session which led to some new clients. There's always an opportunity for the centres to promote your free event and expose you to new audiences.
This all happened in the first few years of my business. After two year I was honestly a bit burned out because I was working my butt off, seeing lots of clients, but they were all over the place. I had no niche target audience or ideal client. I basically worked with anyone willing to hire me. I knew something had to change and that's when I did additional training and hired a business coach to help me find a niche and develop a signature program (which is also a story for another day.)
So as I reflect on these first few years, here are my learnings and suggestions for you:
1. Build an email list. Nurture it. Be consistent with it. Above all else I think email marketing is the foundation. Always be gathering email addresses.
2. Identify the low hanging fruit. Who are the people you know, connections you already have and explore the opportunities to partner and collaborate to get in front of new people.
3. Put yourself out there. Be proactive. Even as a total introvert, I knew I needed to be visible. If you're going to do this you can't hide and hope people find you.
4. Use all the ideas, suggestions, opportunities and tools provided by your training program. Trust the process. It works.
5. Don't feel like you need everything to be perfect in the beginning. Just get out there and do something. Don't worry if you don't have an ideal client. Get some experience. Learn about yourself as a coach. This experience will allow you to identify the gaps and from there you can determine what other training or support you need. It's an evolution.
It's quite incredible to me when I look back and realize that I actually did all of this. If I can switch from a totally unrelated field (as an introvert in my 40s) and become a successful health coach, then I wholeheartedly believe you can too. It's never too late.
Here's my challenge to you: I know it's summer, you're in vacay mode and chillin' out. And this is the best time to be planning for the fall. We all know it's a great season for health and wellness. So what low hanging fruit, opportunity, partnership, ideas do you have to put yourself out there as a health coach this fall?
Tell me in the comments...