To create a successful coaching practice, you have to believe in yourself, your clients, and what you offer. That’s it.
The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?
In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.
In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Christine Stuart.
Christine Stuart is an ICF certified Life Coach who helps people do what they love. Her clients are picking up their paintbrushes again, growing million dollar businesses, and creating the programs they’ve been dreaming about for decades. Learn more at www.christine-stuart.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?
My partner and I were living in a crappy apartment, I had said yes to a job I didn’t want (that paid me half of my former salary), and I didn’t have any friends in the town I’d lived in for three years.
I’d tried everything. Therapy, yoga, meditation, living in an ashram, complaining to my friends, networking, self-help workshops, reading the entire self-help section of the library — everything. I wanted my life to be different but I didn’t know how to get there.
That’s why I shelled out more money than I’d ever spent in my entire life and started working with a coach.
Within a few months my entire life started to change. I hated my job less. I got promoted. My relationship with my partner improved. I started making friends. I felt happier. I felt less like the victim of my own life. All of that happened within the first 3 months of being coached.
To me, coaching felt like a miracle. That’s why I became a coach.
Now I spend my days helping other people do the same, with one mission: No regrets on our deathbeds.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- I’m a people person from the Midwest. Which is to say: I’m warm and friendly. When I started my business, I began reaching out to old friends I hadn’t talked to in years. I didn’t sell to them, which feels important to say here. I don’t believe in cold calls and direct messaging for sales. Every opportunity that’s ever fallen in my lap has done so because of the network of people I have in my corner. When I began reconnecting with my community, I did it with the sole intent of strengthening our relationship so we could support each other. A lot of those early phone calls ended up leading to clients.
- I take a lot of action.And I’m willing to do it without knowing exactly what I’m doing. When I first started my business, there were a million things I thought I needed to do before I could work with clients. I thought I needed a website, social media marketing, to start an email list, etc. I watched as my peers spent months and sometimes years creating their websites and trying to do it all perfectly. I was willing to have a mostly-okay website, newsletter, and social media presence for a long time while I figured out what was important and how to improve. We don’t start with clarity and quality, that’s where we get to after we practice. It’s important to jump right in and start practicing.
- I’m frugal.I saw my business as a baby for the first $100k and decided early on that I wasn’t going to depend on a baby to pay the bills. It was my job to provide for my new business, not the other way around. I lived on the bare minimum while I invested again and again in my business, getting coached, and building a strong foundation. Investing in my business early on is a big reason I’m still in business today.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
I created a fail list and update it regularly.
As a recovering A+ student, it was hard for me to embrace that I would fail (frequently) as an entrepreneur until I noticed that there were a whole lot of things I wasn’t doing in my business that I wanted to — because I was scared I’d fail.
So I walked right into that fire. I created a list of the things I knew I’d have to fail at to get to where I want to go: a client quitting, offering a workshop where no one attends, offering live events that no one shows up to, etc,
Now I start every week by asking myself what I need to fail at this week to create the life and business I really want. I move toward the failure now, I don’t shy away from it. That fail pile is the receipt for all of my success.
This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
The future version of you is different from the current version of you. If we could put both versions of you in the same room, they’d be different. They’d act differently, speak a little differently, look different.
If you want the future version of you to be somehow different than your current self (wealthier, more confident, healthier, etc.), the fastest way to become that person is to change your everyday habits so you’re acting as if you’re already your future self.
I’ll give you an example.
I wanted to run a marathon in 2019. I’d never identified as an athlete or an endurance runner, I knew it’d be hard, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
When I started training, I could barely run 3 miles and I wasn’t working out at all.
I knew that my future, marathon-running-self would act differently than I was acting, so I made a list of who I wanted to be. I changed my diet, started drinking protein shakes, decided to start practicing yoga regularly, and made it a habit to check my training schedule a couple days before the run.
Those new behaviors took mental energy at first but quickly became habitual. That’s the power of habit-forming. Habits eventually become engrained behaviors that you no longer have to think about, and voila! You’re out there running marathons.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
You already have a lot of habits. You brush your teeth at the same time every day, you make coffee at the same time, and you likely have a ritual for leaving and arriving in your home.
The easiest way to create a new habit is to tie it to something you’re already doing and make it painfully easy and obvious. If you want to cook more, throw out your take-out menus and keep your most used cooking utensils out on the counter. Make it easy and obvious.
If you want to stretch more, tie it to something you’re already doing daily.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”
I read this poem right before I hired my first coach. For a long time, my mantra was: “I will not die an unlived life.” It propelled me forward.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m building an online subscription-based coaching community to help more people do what they love.
I used to design camp programs for kids with serious illness, which is to say: I love designing experiential learning programs for people. And I love creating joyful, inclusive places where people go to learn.
The misnomer I think most people have when they start is that they need to go it alone. We don’t. We can’t be successful without a community. On a very practical level, we need our network to share our work, refer us, and know what we’re doing. But it’s also really healing to do this work alongside other people. Hearing that someone you look up to is actually fighting imposter syndrome is a really powerful reminder that we’re all human and no one has anything you don’t have.
This is going to be the best place to learn, grow, and network on the community because it’s a place for all of us to win. Learn more here https://www.christine-stuart.com/the-collective.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Focus on who you’re being and don’t worry about how to do it. Who before how.
- Most new coaches and entrepreneurs feel paralyzed because they don’t how to get clients. Of course they don’t know how. They haven’t done it yet. We only know how to do something after we’ve already done it. It’s far more effective to focus on who you’re being than on “getting” clients. Here’s what I mean by that.
- When I started working with a Rachel (name changed to protect her privacy), she’d been in business for a year and had already made $20k. She wanted to grow her business but didn’t know how to do it without burning herself out. She thought she’d have to 5x her actions to 5x her revenue.
- For the first month we worked together, we focused on changing her thoughts about herself and her business. That’s it. I taught her how to believe that she was (1) great at what she did, (2) people would want to pay her money for it, and (3) people would want to work with her long term.
- She did the same amount of marketing in her business, booked the same amount of consultations, and ended up making $20k in the first quarter of 2021. She made her entire annual revenue in 3 months.
- She didn’t change what she was doing, she changed who she was being while she took action. Who you’re being is just what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
- If you’re nervous about your offer or your abilities to coach, people can sense that. That’s why newsletters work for some people and they don’t for other people.
- Who before how.
- Believe that it’s possible.
- When I began working with John (name changed to protect privacy), he wanted to build his coaching practice and leave his job. For the first month we worked together, he’d show up stressed and worried to our calls. He hated his job so much that he was spending all of his free time applying and interviewing for new jobs.
- Notice if you’re spending more time investing in your Plan B than in your coaching business.
- John didn’t have any reason to believe that he could be a 6-figure coach because he didn’t have the proof…yet. Because he didn’t have the proof, he was spending all of his free time doubling down on his Plan B. He was acting as if coaching was going to be his part time business, and so it was.
- The hardest part of beginning at anything is believing that it’s possible for you.
- But you have to believe that it’s possible and act as if it’s inevitable to create the kind of results that you want.
- I’m proud to report that John just put in his notice to leave his job and coach full time. If it’s possible for him, it’s possible for you, too.
- Redefine success.
- If you need someone to do something, say something, or buy something for you to be successful, you need to redefine success.
- When we tie our success to someone else’s behavior, we try to control their behavior. You’ll know this is you if you’re trying to figure out the right thing to say to convince someone to buy your offer.
- Other people’s actions don’t determine if you’re successful. Yours do.
- When I first started, here’s how I defined success:
- “I’m calm and certain on the consultation call, no matter what the client says.”
“I show up like there’s a thousand people watching me, no matter how many people log into the workshop.”
“I’m kind to myself, no matter how much revenue I create this month.”
- Define success by how well you’re being the person you want to be and notice if people start responding to you differently.
- Play the long game.
- My client wanted to make $10k in their first month of business.
- When they didn’t hit that mark, they told me that they failed. And they reported it like that was the news. It was just a fact. They wanted to make $10k and didn’t, so they failed.
- They asked if I thought they should quit.
- When you’re stuck in the minutia of building a business, it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a long game. This is an endurance sport, not a sprint.
- Missing your goal for one month is not an indicator that anything has gone wrong. It just means that you need to change who you’re being if you want to change your results.
- The emphasis here is that you need to change how you’re thinking, not what you’re doing. That’s important. You can take a ton of action but if your mindset isn’t on right, it won’t matter. See #1.
- I asked my client to zoom all the way out and see this from the perspective of their future millionaire coach self. They did.
- They said this month wouldn’t even matter. So they kept going.
- And guess what?
- Two months later my client left their full time job.
- Your thoughts are more important than what you do.
- Everything you believe about money, business, yourself, rich people, and poor people will come up in the course of running your business.
- Every result you currently have (the number of clients you have, the revenue you’ve made, your engagement) — all of that is a reflection back to you of what you think and believe.
- Start to notice your habitual thoughts.
- Do you want to sell a higher package but you keep telling yourself that no one could possible afford that? Are you scared your clients won’t get results? Do you think debt is an awful thing and cringe when people say they’re going to pay for coaching on a credit card?
- Just notice. There’s no right way to think about anything. But everything that you think is a reflected back to you in your results. So if you’re not making a lot of money, dig into your thoughts about money and sales. If you’re scared your clients won’t get results, write down all of your thoughts about coaching and your clients.
- To create a successful coaching practice, you have to believe in yourself, your clients, and what you offer. That’s it.
- If you’re not making money yet, start there.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
You don’t need a website, a funnel, an email list, or a complicated social media strategy to start.
You just need to believe in yourself, in your work, and then tell people what you’re doing. That’s it. I personally know coaches who are making multiple six figure salaries and they created all of it with 200 social media followers and no website.
It’s really easy in the beginning to be sucked into the vanity metrics and compare yourself to people who have already been in business for years. The only thing worth focusing on is serving your clients powerfully and being the person you want to be (see #1!).
Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.
Create the package that guarantees your client’s success, not the package that you think will be easy to sell or affordable.
It’s not easier to sell lower price point packages. That’s a thought error. There are thousands of coaches out there with $10 and $99 offers that aren’t selling.
When I first started, I created the package I wanted to sell — and then I cut it in half. I thought it’d be easier to sell a cheaper package with fewer sessions.
My clients didn’t get results because we weren’t meeting often enough and they weren’t doing the mindset work on their own. None of those early clients renewed.
When I committed to the package I wanted to sell, my business blew up. People were willing to pay more if it meant their life could change in the ways they wanted it to. I’ve been growing my business from referrals ever since.
Overdeliver by creating the package that serves your clients best, not the one that makes you the most comfortable.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Build and strengthen relationships, but do it as a human being. Not a coach.
See people as human beings before you see them as a lead. Nobody likes to be sold to or manipulated.
Focus on reconnecting with the people from every chapter of your life, especially the ones who are in communities where your ideal clients might hang out. But don’t start the conversation with the intent to sell. Begin with the intent to deeply understand them, to listen, and to strengthen your relationship.
Your next client is already in your network. They already know of your work. They are the sister, cousin, or coworker of your old college roommate. It’s personal. Keep it human.
And for the love of God, no direct messages.
Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?
This one is a loaded question. Alright, here’s the list:
- Practice disconnecting your worth from the amount of money your business is generating. Your business is a baby. It is not your business’s job to make you feel good enough and confident, it is your job to feel good enough and confident and bring that joy to your business.
- Intentionally zoom out your perspective. Every coach whose been in business long enough has clients that quit, clients that don’t get results, and cringe worthy fails. Every single one. Zoom way out. In five years from now, all of your failures will be part of your story of success.
- It’s hard to turn off your brain when you’re done working, so prioritize taking breaks. It’s okay to work on the weekend if you’re feeling inspired and it’s also okay to take a nap in the middle of the week when you’re tired. Be the boss you’ve always wanted to have.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Everyone does what they love.
Instead of big factories producing millions of loaves of bread, we have corner bakeries led by people who know way too much about sourdough. Our food is produced by local farmers who love their land, their animals, and their customers. Artists can make a good living creating their art.
Nobody ever works a job because they have to. No grinding, no khaki cubicles, no fluorescent lights. We live in a world full of passion, beauty, and art — and it feels so good to spend our money supporting each other.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Seth Godin. I love the way his mind works.
(Hi Seth, let’s grab lunch?)
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!