130. A Beginner-Friendly Guide To Starting A Health Coaching Business feat. Michelle Ellis

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It can be extremely overwhelming when you’re in the beginning stages of your business. You have a laundry list of things you think you need to do to get your health coaching business up and running. But honestly, you just need to keep it simple. Show up, be consistent, and build visibility so your dream clients can find you, connect with you, and trust you to help them with their health issues.

In today’s episode, Michelle Ellis is back on the show to talk about how to start your health coaching business. We’re deep-diving into the common struggles of starting a new business, what elements are actually necessary versus the nonessentials, and why you should go simple in the beginning. We’re also giving our best tips on saving money whenever possible as you grow your new health coaching business.  

Rachel: Hey there, guys, it’s Rachel. I asked my good friend Michelle to be here. You have probably seen her in other episodes. She’s an amazing copywriter. But she also attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is where I attended. 

So I was telling her the other day that all these coaches have been asking me where do I start? I’m really overwhelmed. There are so many moving parts. Even the coaches that I’ve been interviewing have said, I wish I would have known that it’s in the beginning stages of my business, because it was so overwhelming. I knew I wanted to be a coach, but I didn’t know I would have to know so much about business and start in business. 

So in today’s episode, we’re deep-diving into the places you can save money when you’re first starting your business. And what are also the things that you really need to have in your business verse, the nonessentials. So Michelle, back when you graduated, when did you actually graduate? What year?

Michelle: Oh, geez. 2013. Yeah, so I was in the class of September 2012. But I graduated in 2013. No, I think I graduated in 2010. I don’t even know. But I remember it was a long time ago. 

Rachel: So I remember when I first graduated, I had all these friends in my little mastermind, which we had put together and all of these coaches that I knew at school, they were going crazy over these branding photos, or website or logo. And at that time, I had no money, we had just lost a lot of money in the crash of the stock market, which affected my husband’s business, which we lost everything. And then I decided to leave commercial real estate and become a coach. So I sat there and did not have those choices, or maybe just thought, it’s not where I want to place my money. But I would say that there are a lot of coaches that did similar to the ones that I was just talking about, what would you say was your first feeling of overwhelm or not knowing where to start when you first graduated?

The Common Struggles Of Starting A New Business

Michelle: The biggest thing for me was online presence. I really wanted an online and offline presence. To be honest, I wanted brochures, I wanted business cards, that was the offline stuff. I wanted a website, so people could find me online. And with that, were all the decisions I had to make of brand colors, and which photos to use and a logo and all the pieces that they asked for when you go to create your business cards. 

I wanted everything to be consistent. I didn’t want everything to look all over the place. I wanted to look professional. And so that’s where I started. Let me get all these things in a row. Yeah, and I went through a couple of logos. I was unsure about what to do and the tagline and all these things because it was a lot of decisions. I just wanted to make sure that I stood out and I looked professional as a business. Those were the things that I struggled with in the beginning because I was indecisive. 

Rachel: When we talk about taglines, we talked about really setting ourself out and having that powerful tagline. But what I for so many coaches, myself as well, is getting stuck in certain places. Because there are so many decisions to be made. And you want to have great colors. My first business card was green? I’m not even sure. But Vistaprint was the only game in town. That’s where I went. 

I would suggest if you’re doing a business card, go to moo.com. You can even go to Canva. But moo.com has so many great templates. My first was a green, awful, ugly business card. I don’t have the design skills. I would say I’m a great creator and visionary because I can do the Dunphy programs that we have. I choose all the covers and images. But for my business card, I fell flat. 

So let’s even break it down and go piece by piece because I love that you brought up brochures as well and are really thinking about those essentials that we need, so that we can build that presence online and offline. Let’s break down branding photos. What did you actually do for your branding photos?

What You Can Do With Branded Photos

Michelle: The first thing that I did was take the pictures myself. That was definitely the first thing that I did. I had a good camera. I was into Photography before becoming a health coach, so I would go and do events and things like christenings and things for other people, family portraits and stuff. 

So I had a little bit of a background with that. I was able to take the pictures myself, but they still weren’t the quality that I wanted, because I didn’t have all the essentials. I didn’t have the tripod and the certain different things but I did what I needed to do to get the pictures. 

The other thing that I did soon after, within the first year, realizing the online presence of other health coaches, and the ones that were successful, had different styles of photos, you could tell that people were taking pictures of them in certain scenes whether it was on the beach, or whether it was forever, it just looked different. 

So I asked a good friend of mine, who was a photographer. I didn’t spend a crazy amount, a couple of $100. But I had those pictures for six years on my website. And the crazy thing is, they actually transitioned with me. So I went from health coaching to copywriting and I still stuck with the same photos. They still look like me. Obviously I didn’t change that much over the years. It was only maybe until a year and a half ago, I got new photos. 

But the easiest place that I found was to look for those home family photographers, people who are looking to grow their photography. This is a biggi, look for a photographer that lets you keep every picture and doesn’t charge you for five pictures. You can always go right on Facebook and find somebody. You can go to a college and see if they have a photographer but I love asking around and seeing who is a great photographer and not investing that ton of money.

Rachel: Yeah, because you can really invest in them. Some of them are anywhere between I would say $1500 to $5000 or more.

Michelle: Yeah, absolutely. And me being in New York I was seeing a lot of that especially New York City photographers. But honestly, I think family photographers that have a knack, you can tell when you look at the pictures the way they edit, the way they do things, the way they position/ When they do those lifestyle shoots outside, family outdoor fun, then that’s when you know okay, they could just do me standing there. 

So the first time around I picked our family photographer and she was open to it. The next time around I picked a similar type of photographer because ours had moved and she was great. She gave me all of my pictures. Make sure that that person isn’t going to charge you by photo because then all of a sudden you’re paying so much money by photo. 

Investing In Hair & Makeup For Branding Photos

Rachel: Let’s even talk about makeup. If you’re great at doing makeup, which I’m not, you can say I barely wear any because it’s not my skill set. But I would say it’s definitely worth getting your makeup done. On average that can cost $100 or a little more. You can also go to the mall and have somebody at Mac do your makeup or have another place that you love in there another makeup company. Do you have any other suggestions?

Michelle: I love makeup I would say I have a decent amount of it. But what I had done back then, I used it as an opportunity to stock up on makeup. I’m gonna do my own makeup, but I got better quality. So I went to Ulta and picked out certain makeups that were certain foundations and stuff that wouldn’t harm my skin but we’re also photo ready. 

I forgot the ones that I had used, but they had said it was Photo Finish and things that are great for photography. There were little bullet points listed on the items so that helped me a ton. Like translucent powder, just getting the oil off that sort of thing. If you love makeup, and if you don’t want to get it done someplace else, do what I did. 

Also beauty schools. If there’s any local beauty schools around. We have a lot of them here in New York and the students are always looking to test their skill set and you can always do a test run before. I really would suggest always doing that before the actual photoshoot because you want to make sure they’ve gotten your foundation color and all that going on. But they do really great things and they do it for practice. So I mean, that’s a really great

Rachel: And your hair. I mean, that’s another one I totally forgot about. You can get hair and makeup done. There are a few different companies that you can get to come and do your hair and makeup. They’re local makeup artists, local hair salons that you can call and they will have a makeup person. 

You can go to the mall, and if you’re getting your makeup done they’ll test it on you. Then there you go, you got your makeup done, photoshoot. It could also just help you to test the different products, see what you like. Maybe you’ll buy it and then you won’t have to think about your photos. 

Michelle: Some of the behind the scenes stuff. Pick out five different outfits that really make you feel great. Pick power outfits that can show different sides of you. Some people love to do shots in the kitchen. Some people love to do shots in grocery stores. Some people love to have green juices, green smoothies, salad, their computer, open eating meals. Really think of those different shots that you need. 

Go Simple On Your First Logo

Rachel: So brand new photos, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Now let’s talk about the logo. I can’t tell you how many coaches say they spent $650 on a logo. What I would suggest is you can always go to Fiverr. There are lots of places. If you type in ‘health and wellness logo’, you’ll see a lot of different people that you can test out a logo. Hopefully it’s not going to come to $650. 

Because the truth is, you’re gonna change and your style may change. If you do this right when you graduate, sometimes you’re gonna end up not liking it later. I would definitely get a few variations. I know for the beginning, when I hired someone to do my logo, I ended up just doing an initial logo. Then later on, I ended up getting a logo, but it was just a big R. It was another script logo. 

So make sure that you’re really thinking about what you want somebody to experience when they see that logo. Don’t make it overcomplicated because you’re going to use this logo on brochures, business cards, your website, social media. You don’t want to make it too elaborate. Because sometimes I see people have a difficult time placing on social media.

What would you say your suggestion for the logo is?

Michelle: Back then I had gone to 99 designs.com. Use a little differently now. But I had gotten a premade logo back then for 99 bucks. I didn’t even do the whole contest thing where they compete and the winner, you get the logo. It was interesting. Back then, Healthy Cravers was my health coaching business name. I picked this girl. I went through a few ones though. But there was a cartoon, she’s holding a salad. I was like that looks like me. So I’m gonna go with that one. 

The Elements Of Your Brand That Are More Important Than A Logo

Then over the years, I went through all different kinds but ended up with a regular signature logo with my name. But the funny thing is I spent so much time at the beginning, wanting to look a certain way and thinking that, in all honesty, people would care that I had a cartoon character with a salad. It stood out, but it wasn’t as important as I thought. 

In looking at what’s most important, we talk about colors a lot with website, colors, fonts, I think that is so important. People change their logos. I have a client who just changed her logo after many years, I would say six years of using the same logo to make it just a little lighter. That’s the part that we have to know is we’re going to change our business. And the logo isn’t as important as we think it is. But the colors and the fonts are. 

Rachel: When you were looking at your colors and your fonts, how did you end up falling on the ones that you have?

Michelle: I’ve definitely stuck with the same type of color pattern or at least I’ve neutralized a little bit now. But I would say getting more Sandy type colors too. But there’s always this teal blue that I just fell in love with. It was something that I stuck with all throughout the years and all the ways it’s evolved. Really sticking with colors that you can stand to look at for however many years you have your business to represent you. So that was a big thing. 

Another thing for logos too is I’ve used Etsy before. They have a lot of premade things on our logos. $29 logos, a signature logo, things that you can get in Canva.Type in logo in the template, so you can really do it cost effectively, but it shouldn’t suck all your time. 

Your business is going to survive without a logo. As long as you have your business name, that’s all that matters. For fonts, I made sure it was easy to read. That was the biggest thing for me. I wanted people to be able to see exactly what it said. Google: best fonts for social media, Best fonts for website. 

The other thing is you can go to Pinterest and pull up brand boards. You’ll actually be able to pull up and get a visual. I know I’m not as great visually with colors, it’s very interesting for my site, I knew that I always loved black, red, and gold. Those are very bold colors that stand out. But we added in a hot pink at one point, to make an accent color, we added in a baby blue at one point to make an accent color. But those are the colors that I always knew I wanted. I definitely did get help from my graphic designer on the fonts. But you can easily go to Pinterest, if you’re a very visual person. Look at Brown boards, it will give you different colors, different fonts, it will even give you a suggested logo.

Making Your Website Simple, Affordable & Easily Accessible 

Honestly, just try to make sure that you love it but it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can change, it probably will change. Because also the trends change so changing the wireframe of your website or something every five years, sometimes it happens when other brands are starting to make these fashionable shifts online. You go with the trend. We’ve gone from overloaded websites to more simplistic looking websites even as far as sales pages and simplifying things. So really just making sure that you’re not too attached to it because it could change

Rachel: I think it’s really important for the website part, even though we sell done for you websites, and I’m all for having coaches having websites, I always encourage you to start a Squarespace or Wix. It doesn’t mean you even need to publish it. But play around with your colors, play around with your fonts, play around with pictures, because they always say pictures are worth 1000 words. You really want to see how that picture flows on the website to really make sure that you’re attracting your ideal client.

Michelle: Always say pick something that you can easily do. You should be able to, especially if you’re just starting out, run your website, make an update if you want to add something. Especially if you’re starting out. You don’t ever want to pick a platform that you don’t understand, and you have to hire somebody to do it for you.

Even if you are hiring somebody, you should still be able to know how to update and make changes. If not, you’re gonna feel overwhelmed in your business. There’s always something that goes wrong. But there’s always something that needs to be updated. Or maybe it’s not done right. You want to be able to go in and make those changes or you want to be able to go and lay out a sales page and then hand it off to a designer.

When I started out, I bounced around. So I had started out with Weebly and then I tried Wix. I ended up with Weebly for a while when I was doing my health coaching until I personally learned WordPress. I refused to move to WordPress until I learned it myself. Because I was just I’m not gonna have a website that I can’t log in and add a simple blog. So I had learned it myself and then I felt comfortable moving there. 

But before that, I picked what I was comfortable with. Nobody knows what your website’s on when people visit your website. They don’t know if you’re on Squarespace or Wix or Weebly or WordPress, they have no idea. They’re just going there to consume the information, to read more about you, to learn how they can work with you. So however you can easily put that information out there in a cost effective way. Especially if you’re starting out. 

To pick something that’s very expensive for example, Kajabi does websites too, and they’re $200 a month. You have your email platform and things that in there. But if you don’t have any courses or any things, is it necessary to have it to install overhead for your website when you can go and have a free version or $20 a month version? 

Those are just some things to think about when you’re starting out. Because they don’t make or break your business. No matter what you choose. It’s just getting the information out there. So keeping that in mind,

Why You Should Invest In First To Reduce The Overwhelm & Get Clear On Your Offer

Rachel: I think the biggest thing that I did was invest in coaches. I invested in coach after coach, one for mindset, one for self worth. Another I hired who is really great with niches and ideal client and packaging my programs. Our first session was what are your free offers? What are your paid offers? I’ll never forget. 

Then I had launch coaches, I had coaches that really had something that I wanted. There was not one coach that said, here, start at this place and then go to this place. I hired coaches more for specific reasons. But I would say that every one of those in a roundabout way said, How are you getting visibility? You need to have freebies, you need to have programs for your packages. What are your packages offering? Who do they fit? Who are they not for? What’s included?

Michelle: I invested in coaches, too. The biggest thing that I did in the beginning was I went with what I could afford. I did some group coaching things, six week programs that involve group coaching. I did hire a coach one to one, she was all about goals, and helping me with goals in my business as it relates to business. What do you want to do and how do all the things relate? It was really for coaches. 

We know this from health coaching, for accountability, and for someone to help you along the way, so you don’t feel a solo or alone. Especially as you’re growing and making those leaps and bounds. I think that hiring a coach is really important. I think Oprah said, every coach needs a coach, it’s just the way that the world works. Everyone needs someone to help guide them and be with them every step of the way.

Rachel: I think it’s important when you’re in the beginning to not enroll in courses where they’re teaching you such high level stuff. I had a client who had enrolled in a course and it was teaching such high level stuff with YouTube. But she didn’t know how to do the video. She didn’t know what the workshop was going to be.

I think that often we get so overwhelmed. Because in the beginning, there’s so many moving pieces, we need to have that freebie up, we need to know what our ideal clients’ pain points are, why they buy, what are the solutions they’re seeking. If we really can work with somebody in a group capacity, or work with somebody to really nail down that ideal client, that messaging that ideal client avatar, it’s much better than putting ourselves in some advanced course that is going to overwhelm us. Maybe it is a great course, but probably not at the beginning.

Michelle: I think knowing yourself too. Knowing if you have in the past, I’ve signed up for money mindset coaching, right? Because that was a specific issue I had. So if you have a specific issue or a specific problem go after that. Don’t always go with the trend. Pick someone who you can trust and feel supported by.

Rachel: What do you think is the biggest advice for beginners? I’m trying to think of what really helped me in the beginning, what set me apart. Because the fact that I made money in the first year, compared to a lot of people, I worked my ass off and didn’t charge my worth. I was charging $197 a month, which is insane. And felt that was even too much. So talk about that.

Charging Your Worth, Even In The Beginning

Michelle: Treat yourself the way you would your client. You don’t want to just give them the whole world for them to do what they have to do to get the results they want in their health. It’s the same way with your business. You can’t do everything all at once and expect to be okay. It’d be too overwhelming for anyone. 

So taking it step by step. The same way that we’ve coached our health coaching clients step by step if we told them everything that they really need to do to get their health in order. They probably won’t go running for the hills but if you do it little by little, you’re making progress without overwhelm. 

Rachel: I would say for me, the biggest thing that helped me was working offline, building a referral network, having signature workshops that I knew I could teach in my sleep. Ones that didn’t take me away from something that didn’t come naturally to me. Ones that also reflected what my ideal client was looking to solve and what I stood for as a coach, being a gut coach, and detox. The packaging of my offer because I know there are a lot of coaches that talk about the discovery call and not converting. 

I know that I spent a lot of time building out what was included in each of my packages. How many recipes? How many eBooks they were getting? What was that step by step process? What bonuses I was giving, because I would always send a tongue scraper. I would send a skim rush to really set myself apart compared to other coaches and what they were offering. 

I would say, if I was looking back, thank God, I spent that time figuring out my step by step process, my system, my method, and realizing that there wasn’t this one program for everyone, that I clients who had the same problems, but maybe one didn’t want to detox, which at one time was my signature offer. So then creating and creating a paleo program, which is actually the one we sell, but creating that paleo program, so that I knew I was still getting people off the mucus-producing foods and that that was a detox for their body. I think that’s the part that really helped me because I was getting people on the phone, people who were coming from offline workshops, people who are finding my workshops on YouTube, and just making sure that I felt that confidence from what I was offering. And I also had that clarity.

Michelle: I think that’s so important. Obviously programs made a big difference in the beginning of my health coaching journey. Spring detox is the first one I remember launching. Knowing what you want to offer, knowing how you want to help people and how you feel confident doing that. Picking what you feel attached to. 

Rachel: Well, guys, this has been a great episode, especially if you’re in the beginning stages of your business, it can be extremely overwhelming. Don’t forget that you have this whole place offline. I know we all want to make it online, and you will in time. Just remember, it takes showing up. It takes consistency. Having a freebie. It’s not just about your Instagram grid. It’s not just about what you post on your business page. Some of us need to really build up that visibility, it takes a little time to get those challenges going, where people are seeing that you’re consistently showing up. 

You can go into your offline market places that are local businesses, gyms, spas, your chiropractor, your acupuncturist, your doctor and start to build up that referral network so that if you do workshops for them, or you even leave them your business card or brochure that they have people calling you. That is how we create a sustainable business. 

Remember, don’t get overwhelmed in any of these sections. That’s why we broke it down to see what’s important and what’s not. Make sure that you’re saving money, make sure that you’re doing it in an economical way. Because all of a sudden, we have costs such as hosting for our website, we have costs such as our email marketing, we have costs, such as our client management system, which a lot of people love using. 

So just remember that you want to do this smart. You want to be smart with your time because your time at the end of the day is your equity. So don’t get overwhelmed in any one area because that’s going to bleed your energy and it’s the last thing you need to be able to show up online or offline. All right, guys. Michelle, thanks for being here. We’ll see you on the next one. Take it easy.

Additional Resources:

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