In early 2018 when I launched my consulting & coaching business, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the prospect of clients filling my roster, people lining up to sign up for my sessions and money flowing in without abatement.

I had a few loyal clients (by that, I mean 4) who signed up because they’d known me in another capacity.

They loved the work and I enjoyed what I did and it was all hunky dory for a while. Until it wasn’t.

Turns out I didn’t know the first thing about what actually went into the volume of work involved in the process. Neither did I understand how to work without burning out or how to say no when I couldn’t do anymore.

It was only in June 2020 (over 2 years after I launched) that I began to refine what my work was, who my ideal clients were and how I could reach them.

9 months later, I now manage to:

  • Sleep better (7 to 8 hours every night)
  • Make time to do my morning workout and meditation every day
  • Wake up without an alarm at/before 5 AM
  • Sell my courses and products
  • Fill my calendar with just enough clients for each month
  • Work on my most favourite thing in the world: Writing and creating content for my audience
  • Bring in a steady and sustainable income without the stress, every single month

Today, 3 years later, I’m sharing my learnings on this journey. If you’re thinking of becoming a coach or offer services of any kind, follow these guidelines before you do.

This 5-step checklist is what you need before starting an online business.

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Phone and two pencils against a white backdrop

Stop being everything to everyone

As a coach it can be very tempting to try and do it all. Ever found yourself in that pickle?

As a blogger with over a decade of experience, I find myself reasonably well-versed in the tech side of blogging while my strengths are really the idea of creativity and audience building, the organic way.

When I began to offer services I didn’t do the research necessary and wound up being a bit of a do-it-all handywoman.

  • Needed help setting up your WordPress theme on your new website? I’d do it for you.
  • Wanted someone to handle your email marketing and send emails for you every week? I was your gal.
  • What if you wanted a person to write out all those extensive blog posts for you- double spaced and well formatted? Hey, I could do that too!

But I wasn’t actually doing what I was good at:

Teaching creators how to grow their audience and DIY their blogs and their social media management

Instead I was being the go-to person for everyone who wanted a quick fix on their blogs or be their social media manager. This wasn’t me and this wasn’t what I’d signed up for when I launched my business.

Once I changed that by clarifying my purpose and letting my audience know, things began to improve.

Additionally, I managed to rework my service pages and update them to reflect exactly who I’d be serving.


Only commit to that which you can deliver

This is a trap most coaches and consultants inevitably fall into: The danger of over-committing to a project with unrealistic timelines.

For this to actually work, you have to be clear on what your specialization is and how long it will take you to work on the chosen project.

If you’re worried about doing it faster than your competitor in this space, you risk doing the job badly or burning yourself out in the process. Both scenarios are less than ideal.

Here are the changes I made:

  1. If it meant that the same service could be conveyed in an e-book instead of a personal coaching call, I directed them there first.

2. I started offering more realistic timelines for progress.

3. If they were on a tight budget, I suggested that they sign up for a group session instead

4. If I knew someone else in my niche who could handle their work instead of me, I would readily direct them there. This is collaboration and a form of networking called ‘Netcaring’ that is practised wonderfully by my own coach, George Kao.

More importantly, I reminded my clients that my role was to help them with a roadmap. Results would emerge only if they chose to show up and put in the hard work necessary to see progress.


Do the Market Research

Offer  a service only after testing if it has viability

Listen to your audience’s needs and design a solution

Many coaches and consultants make the mistake of creating a service first before finding out if there’s a market for it.

There’s a market for everything much like there’s an audience for everyone.

But if what you create or offer has no scope for making an income then it’s going to quickly turn into a hobby.

One of my clients asked me specifically for a recurring session since she felt it would help clarify where she was on her journey. More than that, she wanted some form of accountability with her coach, whom she could reach out to, if things got sticky as she moved ahead.

Within two weeks of launching this idea, I had two clients sign on for the recurring client model!

This was such a simple request and it was amazing that I hadn’t thought of it myself!

The good news is that kind of recurring client model also helps keep my calendar comfortably full each month, without over-extending myself.


Offer Free/Low-tiered Discovery Calls and Sessions 

This is such an important tip and I highly recommend that every single coach follows this model before diving into services and offerings.

Especially if you’re new in the marketplace, it would really help if new clients can get a feel for the kind of work that you do.

Now, obviously, you can’t be doing all free calls, even if you’re  a beginner in the coaching space.

Instead, offer a few free calls a month in your calendar so that people can sign up and figure out if it would be worth the time spent. If free is not manageable, price it really low and reasonably, such as $5 for a 15-minute call.

Similarly, when launching a new course or service, offer a couple of free beta sessions where students can potentially share their feedback and suggestions.

This ensures that you’re spending some valuable time listening to what the audience wants and tailor the product to those expectations.


Create Systems For Your Business

As a solopreneur, I was in danger of burning out from overwhelm. That was before I created systems and automations for some parts of my business.

Here’s what I did to ensure that I could work comfortably, earn a sustainable income every month and steer clear of burning the midnight oil.

  1. I created automations between my booking client (Acuity) and Zoom so that client calls would automatically be configured and set up.
  2. As part of the sign up process, I linked to a client intake form and requested clients to fill it out prior to our session.
  3.  I set aside time blocks in my day to work on different parts of my business. For this, I use Focusmate. Focusmate is a productivity accountability tool where you get paired with another individual for a 50-minute period and work diligently on a specific task/ set of tasks.
  4.  I stopped working on Sundays. That included replying to emails/posting on social media/ responding to messages. Setting those boundaries ensured that I was making time for myself while keeping my focus laser pointed during the work week.

Doing just these 5 things has helped my income grow steadily and comfortably since August, 2020.

Your work doesn’t have to be a strain and it doesn’t have to keep you up at night, burning the midnight oil.

Find a good rhythm that works for you and find your ideal clients in a way that makes you look forward to your work day without stress.

In this video, recorded in March, 2021, I share my progress as a coach. In it I talk about how I went from getting just one or two clients a month to filling my client calendar every week.


Shailaja V

I’m a blog, social media and content coach with over 13 years of writing, blogging and social media experience.

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Laptop and notepad. The post talks about how to start a coaching business without the stress.