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7 Steps to Start an Online Business as a Coach or Consultant

7 Steps to Start an Online Business as a Coach or Consultant

Do you have an offline business, and you’d love to transition to a freedom-based business model? Or perhaps you’re not a business owner, but you have solid experience, expertise, and passion for your career, and you’d love to reach more people. Either way, there is a method to bring your knowledge online, and in doing so, skyrocket your reach, leverage your time, and take the ceiling off your income.

Gone are the days where starting a business means you need to write out a long, detailed business plan, meet with bankers, take out a large loan, and build a brick-and-mortar business, hoping that the people in your community will become your customers.

In today’s world, with a laptop and an internet connection, you have the ability to start an online business.

One of the great ways to maintain a personal touch in your business, yet greatly increase your impact, is by starting an online consulting or coaching business.

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How do you do this?

1. Choose your target market

You might know this right away, or you might narrow it down as you gain experience. Think about who you want to serve, and get specific. Do you want to help moms with newborns? Do you want to help single men? Do you want to help corporate leaders? Think about your ideal client.

If you don’t know specifics right now, that’s fine. Clarity comes from taking action. As you start offering your services, you’ll learn about who it is that you really love working with as clients, and you can get more and more specific about exactly who you serve.

2. Select a specific problem you want to help your target market solve

Are you unsure what problem you could help people solve? Think about your life. What do people ask you to help them with? Do you find that people frequently ask for your advice or assistance with a certain problem?

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As you choose which problem you want to help your ideal clients solve, the more specific you are, the better. This is for two reasons. First of all, when you’re specific, you can really become an expert at helping that group of people. You can learn a lot about your target market, and can niche your services to solve their specific problems. This leads to better coaching or consulting results. Also, when you are very specific about who you serve and what problem you help them solve, your marketing materials will “speak” to them. You want your ideal clients to hear about your services and know that you’re the coach who can help them solve their exact problems.

If you’re not exactly sure which problem you want to help people solve, check out this free workbook to help you choose your niche. Also, it’s important again to note that clarity comes from taking action. As you begin working with coaching or consulting clients, you will learn what you love helping them overcome, and what you don’t enjoy as much. You’ll discover where you’re getting amazing results, and what energizes you. Your business can evolve as you go.

3. Critique your idea

Just because you think you have a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean people will actually pay you for it. Think about the problem you want to help people solve. Does it enable you to use your strengths? Do you have knowledge in that area? Can you offer value to others and help them transform their lives? Are people currently paying money to have this problem solved for them? Will your coaching or consulting services help them solve a problem big enough in their life that they’re willing to hire you for help?

4. Put your idea to the test

You can put your idea to the test by offering free 15-minute consultations to people. In Born For This, author Chris Guillebeau suggests giving brief, free consultations to 100 people. Name your session something catchy that helps people understand what they’ll get out of the session. Then, hop on the phone with them, give them a ton of value, and follow up with them on a later date for feedback.

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While you’re doing your free sessions, pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel excited and energized by helping people solve this problem? Or, do you feel drained and exhausted after these conversations? Do you enjoy working with these clients, or have you discovered you need to change your target market? Also, are you helping people get their desired results?

5. Find your ideal clients

Now that you’ve tested and tweaked your idea, and gained some experience, it’s time to find real clients. Think about your ideal clients. Where do they hang out online? Where do they hang out offline? What groups do they belong to? Which social media platform are they spending time on? You can have the world’s best coaching or consulting services, but unless you know how to get your offer in front of your ideal clients, you won’t have a solid business. Although it can be intimidating, you’ll need to get visible online in order for your ideal clients to discover you and your amazing services.

6. Become a legit business

When you’re ready to make your coaching or consulting business the real deal, it’s time to become a legit business. I recommend testing your idea first, before you spend tons of time and money investing in something that turns out to be nothing more than an “expensive hobby.”

At conferences for entrepreneurs, I have met many people who have paid thousands of dollars to have websites and business cards designed for them, but they have not yet built their informational products or actually offered their coaching or consulting services to anyone. In my opinion, it’s better to get out there, take action, and see if you have an idea that people would pay you for, before you spend a ton of money and time making it look like a “real business,” only to discover later that it’s not a viable idea.

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When creating your legit business as a coach or consultant, you can build a simple website that looks professional, and states who you are, who you serve, and how you can help your target market. It’s also a good idea to have a formal contract for your clients to sign when they purchase your services. This legal contract can discuss things such as your cancellation policy, refund policy, and expectations of your client. And, it’s wise to treat your business like an actual business. Have systems in place to keep track of the financial aspects of your business.

7. Grow your business

Now that you’re helping your ideal clients solve their problems, and they’re getting amazing results from your coaching or consulting services, you can scale your business. You can continue to offer 1:1 private coaching or consulting services, and exchange dollars for hours. Or, to leverage your time, increase your hourly income, and reach more people, you can offer services in a group format. You can also build online products such as e-books or courses. With those, the work is ‘front-loaded,’ meaning you do a lot of work up front, but can then collect income for a long period of time.

The time has never been better to start an online business as a coach or consultant. When you bring your expertise online, you can reach people around the world and influence many more people than you could in a traditional business.

Featured photo credit: Sean and Lauren / https://flickr.com via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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