Protecting your energy is important.
How do you feel about your business right this very moment? Do you enjoy it? Are you fulfilling your passion? Or is it dreary and tough to get out of bed every morning?
In a perfect world, you would jump out of bed happy and energized, ready to tackle the day (and your clients) with ease. Your family would go off to school or work happy, your clients would love everything you had to say, and you would see the passive income checks come in every day from your book sales.
Do you desire this perfect world? Complete perfection is not attainable but that’s not to say you can’t aim for a strong balance between your work life and your personal life. When your life is balanced well, then your energy increases, you feel revitalized, and stressful situations don’t stop you in your tracks.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, every human body has an energy highway through which all energy flows. This flow of energy affects how we feel, how we think, and also affects our overall health. When there are no energy blockages, life is good and we can have a nearly perfect day. When we experience energy blockages due to stress, injury, trauma, poor diet, or other poor living conditions, our overall physical and mental health suffers dramatically.
Setting boundaries within your business is the key to maintaining your energy’s balance. Your energy is also your liveliness, and when you take on too much work or have clients who don’t meld with your business philosophy, you become stressed. This dampens your energy, thus dampening your outlook on life.
Let’s go back to remember why you became a coach in the first place. No doubt helping people was high on the list of reasons but many entrepreneurs state family and freedom as the primary reasons they started their businesses. Yes, hard work is certainly necessary to make a full-time living, but if you are constantly thinking about business and have a hard time focusing your attention toward your family members, is it really worth all your effort? At the end of the day, which will you regret more: losing a few clients or losing time with your children?
Working non-stop and filling your calendar to the max will also lead to burnout and eventually resentment toward your clients. Even the most dedicated coaches take breaks between clients throughout the day or take an entire day off. They also understand the importance of having set work hours and leaving work in the office before spending time with their families. Clients are certainly important but if you don’t set boundaries with them, you’ll be ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If your clients are taking away your free time, you will become resentful toward them, which leads you into a bad coaching relationship because you won’t be able to hear their concerns objectively.
Every coach needs boundaries to make money while enjoying their freedom yet fends off any resentment or imprisonment their clients may try to impose.
Step One: Decide What You Really Want
Close your eyes for a moment and think of your perfect world. If money was no object, where would you live? What kind of business would you have? What do your weekends look like? Do you travel for work? What activities does your family enjoy? What type of clothes or colors do you wear in this perfect world? Are you living in a house or condo? Do you have pets? What kind of car do you drive?
Your answers should be things that make you happy. Really happy. Maybe you take some European vacations in this perfect world. Maybe you dream of being on the New York Times Bestseller list. Maybe you’re driving an expensive sports car. Or maybe material things aren’t important and you’re dreaming of sunsets on the beach while the kids splash in the waves. There are no right or wrong answers here. This exercise is yours alone and your answers will be very different from your friends or family members. Daydreaming is a way for your unconscious to help you see what’s truly important to you.
However, now that you know what’s important, it’s time to take action so you can turn these daydreams into reality. That’s a pretty daunting task and with the pressures of day to day life, it’s easy to lose sight of those dreams, which is why our first exercise is to make a vision board to help you stay focused.
A vision board is a visual representation of everything that is important to you. Feel free to combine business photos with personal photos or keep each one separated by creating different boards. The choice is yours. By putting your hopes and dreams onto a board like this you’re able to focus and remember what it is you’re working towards. How depressing to think you’re working just to pay the bills. Get in the habit of working towards something fun, something that seems out of reach and special so you enjoy it even more. You only have one life to live so experience life instead of watching it pass you by.
To create a vision board, buy a simple piece of poster board and find pictures from magazines or online to cut and paste on to the poster board. Look for pictures specifically for items on your daydream list or glance through the magazines and cut out the photos that speak to you. You may surprise yourself by choosing photos of things or places that never crossed your mind before. Let your unconscious be your guide and paste the photos in an appealing design. You don’t need to be a graphic artist for this project nor does it have to look perfect.
When you’re done pasting the photos, find a prominent place to hang your vision board where you will see it daily, such as in your office. If you prefer to create a digital vision board, set it as your screensaver or make a point of looking at it every day when you turn the computer on. Work won’t seem so dreadful or bothersome if you know you’re working toward a fun goal.
Step two: Be Honest About What You Don’t Want
Equally important to know what you want out of life is knowing what you DON’T want. Creating balance is all about being honest with yourself and taking on clients, projects, or tasks that will bring you joy, not bring about stress and anger. Think of the yin and yang idea from Chinese philosophy. They are often thought of as two competing forces when in actuality they work together in a complementary way to create balance. Consider the vision board in Step 1 as your yin; now you need to explore what you don’t want, or your yang.
Think about your coaching practice in general and take a specific inventory of what you offer and what backend tasks you do on a monthly basis. Do you work one on one with clients? Do you offer group coaching? Do you offer webinars to get leads? Do you have a signature program created? Do you have a published book? Who is your ideal client? Do you want to work with startup entrepreneurs or those already making 6- or 7-figures? Do you send out a monthly newsletter? Do you write your own social media posts? Are you the only administrator for your private Facebook group? Do you do your own bookkeeping? What other tasks do you complete every month?
Now go back and analyze which of these things brings you joy and which ones drain you of your energy. Remember, your answers will be different from your other coaching friends and your coaching mentors. Just because they get joy from doing one on one coaching doesn’t mean that has to be a part of your business model. Just because they go on public speaking tours doesn’t mean you have to do that, too. Let them find their own joy. You be selfish and focus on YOU right now.
After you have two lists – what you want and what you don’t want from your business – it’s time to create a plan to bring them into balance with each other. For instance, if you no longer want to offer one on one coaching, don’t just drop all your coaching clients without notice. Not only will you damage your reputation when those clients complain about you on social media but you’ll also want to set up a plan for obtaining that income from another source. Does your monthly bookkeeping take an entire day to reconcile? Consider outsourcing this task to a bookkeeper or accountant. Is social media driving you crazy? Hire a social media manager or virtual assistant. There is always a solution to every problem.
Want to write a book, online class, or create your signature program? Choose the one that makes you excited and schedule some extra time into your days to create. If your budget allows, hire a ghostwriter, editor, or virtual assistant who can help bring your creation to life in a quicker time frame than doing it by yourself.
Do you want to be the next Oprah Winfrey and coach on a national level? Ramp up your marketing and networking skills and get your name out there. Remember to market yourself offline, too. Business networking opportunities are abundant in most areas; you just need to do some research about which groups would be most beneficial to you as well as know what skills and talents you have to offer to the group. Once you know what you want and don’t want, your plan of action will become clear.
Exercise: Make a list of things to STOP doing and make a plan for getting rid of it
Step Three: Set Boundaries With Yourself First
One of the best and easiest ways to set boundaries in your business is to start with setting business hours. Take note: this is not just for your clients to follow; this applies to you, too!
For example, if you set your hours as 9am-5pm Monday through Friday and you’re busy enough that you only have time for a lunch break, shut down your computer at 5:01 pm and start to decompress. No answering emails after dinner. No working on your book until midnight. Enjoy your dinner; enjoy your family or friends; enjoy a hobby. Turn off your work brain before you suffer from burnout.
Did you get an awesome brainstorm idea while preparing dinner? Keep a notebook handy or type notes into your phone. You can review those notes tomorrow during business hours.
Not able to keep standard business hours due to family obligations? No worries. Use the time block philosophy where you schedule certain tasks during certain hours of the day. For instance, if you’re working early in the morning while the kids are still sleeping, use that time for writing your book or catching up on emails. Save your quiet time while the kids are at school for client calls.
Time blocking can also work to schedule one task for specific days. For example, there’s a popular podcaster who publishes new episodes DAILY and he schedules up to 10 interviews in one day to keep up with this schedule. Plan out a month of social media posts on the first of each month or plan out the next 4-6 months of newsletter topics one day each quarter. If you have a slow day with only one coaching call, devote the rest of that day to planning your signature class or next webinar.
If weekends are sacred family time, tell your family that you’re unplugging each weekend and have them hold you accountable. Your business will still exist without you being plugged in constantly and it’s so easy to schedule social media posts while you relax and unwind.
Once you set up your work boundaries, it’s time to tell your clients. No, you can’t text me at 11 pm and expect an answer. No, I will not answer emails or help you strategize your next step over the weekend. Your boundaries – whatever they may be – will only work if you tell people what they are and you force them to adhere to them.
It’s not enough to say you don’t want to work 60 hours per week. You have to hold yourself accountable to that rule as well. Set reasonable boundaries on your own time and stick to it.
Exercise: List the activities that MUST be included in your dream day; then create your dream day on your calendar
Step Four: Create Policies (and stick to them)
Now that you have your own boundaries set in terms of office hours and how to spend your work time, creating written policies in a company handbook will make it official and easy to reference. Does that sound silly, given that you’re only one person? It shouldn’t. All business owners, no matter if they work by themselves or have a crew of 50 people, should have their company policies in a handbook, even if it’s a short file stored on your desktop. As your business grows and as you hire team members, handing them a company handbook with your policies spelled out will ultimately save you time in training them.
Here are some things you need to think about putting in your policy handbook:
When can clients contact you outside of their scheduled coaching call or class and when can they expect a response? If you’re taking your weekends off, tell them only Monday through Friday during your business hours. Allow yourself at least 24 business hours to return calls. If your afternoons are booked with other clients, then tell them to call before noon. Or hire a virtual assistant who can take messages if they call during your sessions.
How can clients contact you? Email only? Personal cell phone? Office phone? Facebook Messenger? Skype? Choose the option(s) that work best for you. Be aware, however, that if you give out your personal cell phone, clients may try to take advantage of after-hours calls or texts. This is where you’ll need to show restraint and send the calls straight to voicemail or not respond to the text until your business hours start again. Likewise, with Messenger and Skype people expect immediate responses so be sure your clients know that if you are in the middle of a coaching session, they will have to wait for a response.
Billing questions also need to be addressed in your policy handbook. How do you bill your clients? By invoice? Recurring credit card charge? How quickly do you expect payment? Is there a grace period or do they need to be paid in full before their next session occurs? Even if the small details seem obvious or like common sense to you, spell them out so clients can’t feign ignorance later on.
Once you get all these policies on paper, let your clients know about them. You don’t owe anyone any explanations as to why the policies are being enacted or why things are changing if you’re implementing something different. Big companies change their policies all the time as the need arises, so you can say that, too.
Now, to make your life easier, find tools to automate and implement these policies so you don’t have to think about it every day. Google Voice offers “do not disturb” hours for your office phone and Boomerang for Gmail allows you to schedule when emails go out (aka during your business hours) and also pauses messages from going into your inbox while you’re with your coaching clients. You also have your choice from dozens of bookkeeping and invoicing software programs to ease your billing frustrations.
Exercise: Write your business policies
Step Five: Where Are Your Time Wasters?
Distractions are a part of life no matter where you work but if your goal is to work fewer hours while maintaining your full-time income, then it’s time to identify your distractions and time wasters.
First and foremost, do you have an office and does it have a door? An office door can act as a barrier to distractions and subconsciously tells your brain that it’s time to be productive. No office or door? Try moving your workstation. Instead of reclining on the sofa with your laptop, move to the dining table and sit upright in the chair. Experiment with working at the coffee shop on days you don’t have client calls. Oddly enough, even if there are multiple conversations going on at the coffee shop, it can act as white noise which can help with your concentration.
Enforce your business hours with your family and friends. No more phone calls from your bestie when you’re supposed to be working. Tell mom you have limited time for lunch. No hair appointments during work hours. You set business hours for your clients to follow; now it’s time that you follow them, too.
Turn off your computer notifications and shut down computer windows you don’t need for work. If you’re focused on writing your book, you don’t need to know what your Facebook followers are doing every two seconds. Likewise, shut down email and Skype. Enforce those boundaries you set with your clients and check email messages only at certain times during the day.
Your smartphone is likely a distraction so try keeping it out of arm’s reach to avoid checking notifications all the time. Better yet, turn the ringer off while you work for your scheduled block of time. If you’re worried about missing an emergency call from the kids’ school, keep the ringer on but set it across the room or in a hallway and use the caller id before answering.
Are household chores your nemesis? They are a necessary evil but should not take up your work hours unless you have the time blocked in your day. However, save the big, time-consuming chores for the evenings or weekends; business hour chores should be easy and quick, like emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the counters, or doing a load of laundry.
Decluttering your workspace will also work wonders for your psyche and productivity. Clutter is a visual distraction and can sap your energy immediately upon entering a room. If your office space is a throw-all room, take time on a weekend to find a place for everything and enforce this boundary with your family and with yourself. Don’t just drop a bunch of papers on the desk; file them immediately, toss in the garbage, or shred them if they contain personal information.
The key here is to set yourself up for success with a dedicated work space and an atmosphere that makes you happy and calm. Maybe that’s playing your favorite music in the background, burning a scented candle or meditating for 15 minutes before starting your work. Experiment to find your optimal work atmosphere.
Exercise: Track those distractions
Step Six: Consider Your Rates
It’s nice to say you’re going to work less, but if that means earning less money it may not be realistic. Are your coaching prices in need of an update? Now is the time to review your rates.
When choosing how much to charge for your coaching services, don’t just pick an arbitrary number out of thin air; in most cases, that number won’t be high enough and you’ll devalue your services. Multiple variables should be considered before setting a rate.
In its simplest form, consider how much money you need to make in a month or year to cover your living expenses, and then divide that number by the number of hours you want to work in that month or a year. That’s your new hourly rate which you can apply to your coaching packages. But let’s consider a few more variables, such as all your business expenses, including estimated taxes. Add these numbers to your living expenses; now divide by the number of hours you want to work. Most likely, this new number is much higher than the first.
Even if you have a home office with little overhead, you still have business expenses. Hopefully you have a complete list already but if not, make a list now to include: electricity, computer, printer, ink, paper, any software you purchase, any private groups or forums where you pay a membership, autoresponder, shopping cart for products, estimated taxes, hired help (online team members, real-life assistant, or babysitters), advertising, marketing materials, and anything else specific to your business. As you can see, there are multiple variables involved in your rate and if you don’t include your business expenses, you’re cutting into your profits deeply.
Now do some market research to determine if your market will pay or can afford to pay your rates. Find out what your competitors charge. You don’t have to copy those rates nor do you need to be the lowest charging coach but you need to be competitive, or in the same range, as your competitors. Drastically higher rates will cause people to question why you’re so expensive and you may have to consider changing markets to one which has more disposable income. Charging the lowest rates may seem like a viable way to fill up your calendar but in reality, this is undervaluing your knowledge and may cast a bad light on your name because of the saying, “You get what you pay for.”
When it comes to creating group coaching packages or other products to sell, setting a price will be slightly different. Yes, you want to consider your time spent on creating the project but remember, you’re aiming to sell more volume of products so that production cost can be spread out among the ideal number of products you want to sell.
For instance, if it takes you 10 hours to prepare topics for an online class or coaching group, take that 10-hour rate and divide it by the number of people you’re allowing into the group or class. Then add your hourly rate, based on how many classes you’ll actually be present for, and you have your new price for this particular class or group. Can you see how group coaching can be more lucrative than one on one coaching?
Exercise: Review your rates
Step Seven: Learn to Say No
“No” is a word our toddlers learn at a very early age and continue to use as they grow during the teen years but somewhere along the way we turn into adults and all of a sudden we’re people pleasers who lose track of our personal boundaries and can’t say no for fear of disappointing someone or being reprimanded. In a corporate world, it’s harder to say no because your paycheck depends on you performing certain tasks. But when you have your own coaching practice, you’ll discover that not every client is a good fit and not every project is one you’ll love. Give yourself permission to say NO to those clients and projects that don’t light you up.
Developing a good instinct for knowing who will be a good client and who won’t takes some time and experience. Smart clients will want to interview you to hear about your experience and to get a feel for your coaching style. During this time, you should also ask questions to understand what they need, what their personality is like, and if these are tasks or goals you can actually help them accomplish.
Be careful about accepting clients because you need to get started or you need the money or you just lost another client. There are myriad reasons to accept new clients but learn to listen to your gut instinct for guidance. If you get off the phone and are excited at the prospect of working with this person, that’s a good sign that you should take them on. But if you get off the phone feeling gloomy or wondering if this is the right fit, follow that instinct and say no to them. As the old saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens.” The same is true with clients. When you lose a client or when someone doesn’t hire you, more room is open for someone else to come along who is a better fit.
The same is true for taking on new projects outside of coaching such as speaking engagements, writing a book, or a joint venture partnership. These are common areas of revenue for coaches but just because other coaches are doing it doesn’t mean you have to. When approached with an offer, think about the end result you hope to achieve if you accept the project and how much time you can afford to spend on the preparation. Also, remember that stepping outside of your comfort zone is a good thing and that may cause a little hesitation or make you feel anxious but those are different feelings than your gut telling you to walk away. Trying something new and stepping out of that comfort zone should also feel invigorating or exciting and may lead to new opportunities, expanded reach, and possibly more clients.
“No” is a powerful world in our personal lives as well. How many times have we volunteered for something only to dread it? Even with family members, we have a tendency to not want to disappoint so we agree to do things, rearrange our schedules, and then complain when it’s not as exciting or fun as we expected. You are allowed to say no and you don’t have to give an explanation. Enforce those boundaries in your business and personal lives and people will learn to respect those boundaries.
Exercise: Review past frustrations and create a plan of action
Step Eight: Implement a “No Discount” Policy
Always be wary of lowering your prices to fill your calendar or because one of your prospects can’t afford your new rates. Tempting as it may be, lowering prices doesn’t necessarily mean more people will sign up and you will likely come to regret the decision and become resentful toward that client, all for something you had complete control over.
When the client is ideal but her finances are not, consider a specialized package that works with her budget instead of offering your high ticket product or service for a lower price. For instance, offer a smaller coaching package (4 weeks instead of 12), create a group program, or offer a self-study course. These ideas can all have a lower price point because less of your time is needed. These options also place the responsibility on the client to follow through on the action steps and to show their dedication to moving forward. In many cases, the client who pays for a smaller package but sees improved results will sign up for the larger package because she has proof that your coaching advice has worked for her and she won’t want to give that up. Often, the proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes.
Another reason to avoid lowering your rates is that people will come to expect it. They will patiently wait until the next week or month when you lower your prices instead of paying your full price. Or, if they lose patience, they may find another coach who is cheaper but those aren’t the clients you want in the first place. Offering a payment plan is another option to help out prospects; just be sure they are up to date on their payments prior to redeeming your services.
Now is the time to set your No Discount policy in place. Write it out to make it more official and add it to the company handbook. Write out how you handle payments; if you want to offer payment plans, write out who is eligible and how the payments will be handled; add how long they have to pay; add a clause about forfeiting services if payments are not made.
Also add a clause about no refunds for digital materials or classes, even if the client has a payment plan. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for unscrupulous people to sign up for a payment plan, receive a digital product, and then ask for a refund. If you give a refund, they essentially have gotten the product for free since digital products can’t be returned. You have less control over whether their credit card will issue a chargeback but if you have a clear No Discount/Return Policy in writing and you made the customer aware of the policy, they have a tough battle proving otherwise.
Of course, this is your business and if you want to offer an annual sale or special holiday sale, that is up to you. If you have multiple products, consider holding a spontaneous fire sale for some quick profits. Some coaches even hold retirement sales for products they’ve had for a while but don’t want to update. Or for products that don’t fit their niche anymore or just want to retire them to their vaults. The key is to not undervalue your time and your services. You are a valuable asset to your clients; don’t discount your value.
Exercise: Review your services and add low- and mid-range programs where applicable
Step Nine: Journal Your Findings
Journaling is a fantastic way to document your hopes and dreams so you can create tangible goals for your business but it’s also a great way to document daily what processes work or don’t work, which products sell or don’t sell, and so on. Whatever you track and analyze can always be improved.
Make it a habit to write out your thoughts and feelings regarding your business every day. Include your energy levels, what you did well, and what needs work. If you notice a pattern of low energy levels, for example, try shifting your work hours to a time when you feel more energized. Be proud of the things that go well; pat yourself on the back and review if there’s a way to create a process for this task so you improve the chances of it going well again.
Analyze what needs help in your business and brainstorm ways to improve those tasks. This journal will be a fluid and ever-changing document to track those changes that work and those that don’t. Much like your vision board, this journal will be different from other coaches because you have different needs and goals for your business.
Journaling will also help you stick to your boundaries. If, for example, you give a discount to a new client, make note of how you’re feeling about this decision and how to better enforce that particular boundary in the future. Notice if there’s a pattern to when or how frequently you break a boundary; maybe that boundary needs to shift or change. Your journal notes will help you determine this.
Need a fresh new product? Start journaling your ideas and flesh out some details. Keep all this information in one place and work on expanding the idea until you have a clear path to its completion. Then hire the people necessary to bring this idea to life.
Have you heard of mind mapping? This is a similar process to journaling because you’re documenting and mapping out different steps and directions you want to take your business but this is more ‘big picture’ where your journal documents your day to day feelings. No matter which process you use, start with your big picture goal and then break that down into smaller, more doable tasks. You may find that you have different monthly goals, each one building upon the last, which lead you to your ultimate goal.
Once you reach that ultimate goal, it’s time to re-examine your business and figure out a way to leverage it even more. Refer back to old journals and laugh at the things that you feared. If you’re growing as a person and learning from your mistakes, chances are these old fears will seem minuscule compared to what you have since accomplished.
Journaling also shows you clarity about your life and your passions, and, ultimately, your business. It’s one thing to say you’re passionate about your business and go through the motions to grow it but when you write the truth in your journal, you may find your passions lie elsewhere. And that’s alright! Explore these old journal entries, reflect on how you’ve grown as a person, and take that knowledge with you into the future.
Dream big! Nothing is impossible.
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