In my darkest moments as a coaching start up, there were many times I would have happily swapped it all for a cosy 9-5 again. Self-doubt, struggles with marketing, no money and fear of everything that moved, literally kept me up at night. “What’s going on?” I would ask myself. “Where are all the people?  No wonder no one wants to pay you, you must be rubbish. Look at all those “proper” coaches on Facebook and LinkedIn, they know what they are doing. There must be a course I can go on to learn more, because at the moment, I know nothing”.

A big reason single start-ups fail is their own mindset. Limiting beliefs get in the way and when you are the product and the problem – this quickly becomes an issue.   

For coaches this can be doubly hard as the very skills required to be a great coach, are little help to us in the world of marketing, sales and advertising. For a long time, I believed that I was the only person suffering from a fear of selling. Struggling to name a price for my service, second guessing what my clients might think. Believing that if I charge less, then clients will expect less and that will take away the pressure to perform.

Spending money when you have none

I often describe the early stages of my start-up journey as “harrowing”. My mental health suffered. I had no income coming in and yet I continuously spent money I didn’t have. Constantly berating myself for failing as a coach swirling around a vortex of self-doubt, procrastination, overthinking and frustration.

In a moment of panic at the point at which I was about to throw in the towel, I attended a networking meeting with only one thought in my head: “What do I have to lose?”. At this meeting I met and spoke with many other start-ups, all of whom had a similar story to tell.

As far as I could see, the only real problem in the room was mindset. The rest was just a list of stuff you have to get done.

Find your ideal paying clients and forget the rest

Starting a business when you are the product is tough. Since coaching early start-ups, I have discovered that no matter what the business, product or service – my clients were all experiencing complex feelings towards money and the value of the “offer”.

Crazy right? I wonder how much time Kylie Jenner spent crying, trying to decide how much to charge for her new range of lipstick? Non, right. Because she has a huge team of people helping her to stay accountable and demonstrate the value.

When my youngest daughter wanted me to buy her one of these products I was shocked at the price. “Who would pay that?”, I screamed!  That’s more than I have spent on makeup in the last 3 years!!

So here’s the thing: I am not Kylie Jenners ideal paying client, am I? I don’t see or feel the value, yet for my daughter, to have and use this product meant so much more. And this is my point. Kylie Jenner will loose zero sleep by not having me as her customer, however I love my daughter. I want her to be happy and she has a birthday coming up. Surprising here with a Kylie Jenner lipstick pallet would be amazing for her and for me. I now feel the value.

Don’t question the price, demonstrate the value

Fixing a price for your product or service is hard when we try to do this alone. Its hard when we associate our own skills with the price. “What if people don’t buy it”? “What if they think it’s rubbish”? “If it’s cheap, more people will want it and that will mean I have succeeded.”

Nope. I can tell you first-hand that FREE only works to spark interest, it’s not a sound financial model for your business. I gave away group coaching sessions free for over 2 years and no one came.

I was experiencing the classic signs of a struggling start-up:

  • Fear of “selling myself” or appearing too pushy.
  • Reluctance to pursue opportunities or “close the sale”
  • Fear of placing a monetary value on my time and expertise.
  • Confusion about what I was offering and who I was offering it to.
  • Confusing money with success.

When the penny dropped

Through networking and accountability, I was able to work a process that enabled me to take my emotions out of the equation. To learn from those who have been there. To start to ask the right questions about who my ideal clients are. What do they want or need? How can I demonstrate the value of the coaching experience to them? Focusing only on the next conversation. Who can I help today?

The value or the cost is in the experience. Taking the time to find out what your product will mean to the client. How their life will be made better by the service or product you offer. Taking your emotions out of the equation and replacing it with a practical approach.

Imagine an expensive diamond necklace. To someone who can well afford it, the necklace is a luxury they can enjoy. It demonstrates their wealth and their status. They feel good. For someone who can less afford that necklace the value will be very different. The necklace might represent an achievement or accomplishment. It will be special. It will be precious. A prized possession or investment. An heirloom to be handed down. The price doesn’t change, the value does.

If I could change one thing.

It would be to have worked with another coach far earlier in my journey. Setting out alone is isolating and for me this had devastating results. Starting a business or practice is for many of us a “new experience” or “change” and coaching is as we know the ideal facilitation for that.

Working with a coach helps build mental resilience and it is this resilience that has helped me to navigate the journey.