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Conscious Business Building

How do we pick a niche with certainty? How do we build conscious businesses for our coaching, consulting and facilitation work when we are 100% sure about our products, marketing methods or niche markets?

“Certainty is the lie. Certainty can get you in trouble.
Trying to be certain could be the barrier you didn’t know you were facing.” ~ Colleen-Joy

The truth is we’re not certain, especially in the early years of developing your brand and carving your path through the jungle of self-employment.  

In this in-depth article, I’m declaring upfront what I want to inspire you to do.

  • I want you to trust yourself and your skills enough to make friends with uncertainty.
  • I want you to free yourself from the prison of the Pick a niche, Perfect a product, then Promote trap. I call this the PPP prison.
Build a Coach Business

My Invitation to you

Beautiful Coaches, Consultants, Guides, Leaders, Colleagues and Friends. Growing Our brands, careers, and businesses is not easy. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

So when you struggle, your self-doubt triples because you think you’re doing something wrong. 

How many times have you looked out there at the world, comparing yourself to others, and asked with frustration, “How do I do this?”

I’m going to put something important on the table today. But something that goes against what most people tell you to do. So brace yourself.

 A lot of the marketing voices, (not all of course) push for being certain, for putting yourself out there with this attitude.

When we’re told how to build a coaching business, a consulting business or a career in service to others, the message is that you need to be certain at each stage. We’re even told to pretend to act certain, to pretend to be sure—this is supposed to be good marketing. But is it? I don’t think so.

You are told to do this with certainty.

  • #1 Pick a Niche
  • #2 Perfect your Product or Service (at your desk)
  • #3 Promote with certainty (to convince people to buy)

You are told that certainty will sell. But Certainty is a lie.

For many of us, you can let me know if this is landing, but this “Act certain” style feels unnatural and simply not true.

  • You don’t feel certain about your niche market, so you get stuck.
  • You aren’t 100# sure about your product, so you get stuck.
  • You don’t feel right about pretending to be certain to promote and sell, so you get stuck.

It took me decades to see that the problem is not that we are doing anything wrong; it’s that we are trying to be certain.

I’ve seen talented coaches and incredible consultants with skill and credible certification wobble for months because they’re trying to be certain about picking a niche. When the truth whispering in their heart and soul is, “I don’t know what Niche to pick.”

So they either give up, beaten by decision fatigue, or they pick a niche and bet the “farm” on it, putting in too much time and money in their hope that they were right. Then, months later, gutted by disappointment, they give up or feel like they must start again.

The amount of Noise online just about choosing a Niche can be overwhelming. It’s not your fault if you feel unsure.

 

Here is the video of this full teaching and guide.

The traditional way – Pick a Niche

I call a “Niche” a “pocket of people.”

So instead of positioning as “I’m here to serve everyone,” a niche target market means you are here for specific small groups.

This often sounds like the typical LinkedIn Bio, “I help … to … in … way.”

But the idea is that you’re meant to be certain, and so while you’re not certain, you’ll wobble and keep hoping to be sure or even pretending to be certain—which never feels good for anyone who wants to work ethically and naturally.

Okay, so let’s say you do make a decision, and you can say, “I’ve picked my niche finally.”

The traditional way – Perfect a Product

So now you are told that you need to perfect your product before you launch it. You may feel, “I need to be certain. I need to be certain about the price. I need to be certain about the product.”

The agonizing process of what I call “faffing over fonts.”

How many of us have gotten stuck on details and perfection? But is a font going to make or break your business?

No.

What will break your business is being stuck at your desk, trying to be certain.

Too many coaches (from life coaches, to business, executive, and enneagram coaches) want to be certain and agonize over the details of a product, so making brochures or websites is a maze of confusion.

But you may ask, “How do I know that the thing I create is good enough for people to want?”

The truth is you won’t know for certain, and you can’t know, especially at your desk. And that is Okay!

And even worse is pretending we are certain. We make a product, pour our hearts and souls into it, then promote it and fail to make sales.

Should we pretend to be certain, agonizing, changing our mind on Monday and then on Tuesday feeling, “That’s it,” but on Wednesday going back to “I don’t know?”

No. This is unwise.

It’s even potentially unwise to call yourself a Life Coach, for the same reasons. It’s too limiting, especially when you’re starting.

The traditional way – Promote to Clients

Should we buckle down and put all our money and time into promoting a product we are unsure of for a niche we don’t know will work?

Should we promote with fake certainty to get sales?

In my opinion (backed by decades of helping coaches, consultants, and leaders get free of their blocks to get out there and make a living making a real difference) is absolutely not.

The saddest thing I see with the “PPP” approach (Pick a niche, Perfect a Product and Promote with certainty)…

…is that your Apple Tree (your true purpose-filled nature) is never free to do your work, like an apple tree wasted in the desert.

When I’ve asked for inner wisdom and coached myself, hoping for certainty,

My inner wisdom has responded, “Only cult leaders are certain.”

That’s truly the thought that resonated within me. It’s realizing that certainty isn’t our ally. And while it might seem like an exaggeration, think about psychopaths; think about the charismatic, cheesy, sleazy infomercials with aggressive marketing. They often carry this tone of “I know what you need, you need this. I can do this for you in two months. I can do…” For many of us, that doesn’t work because, deep down, we understand that the voice of absolute certainty isn’t truthful.

So if this is resonating with you, you might ask, “But what else can we do? What’s a different way? How do we grow our brands without picking a niche? We’re trying to perfect a product at our desk. How do we promote the work we love without feeling confident and certain?

Here is a way that has worked for me and for many others whom I’ve had the fortune to guide and lead over many decades.

The conscious, natural way to build a coaching business

I’m inviting you to experiment with what wisdom showed me years ago. Read these words and feel how they land.

“Let a lack of certainty live in your heart, next to knowing.
The knowing that you are a natural coach and that this is an expression of you. As natural as an apple tree making apples, this belongs to your purpose and who you are.”

Can you see that this doesn’t need certainty? There’s no need to try or exaggerate. This just is. It’s confident truth.

Make doubt and procrastination your friends. Let uncertainty be there. In fact, thank it. It keeps us honest, humble, and wanting to grow and improve.

This mindset shift was a game changer for me, and I hope that it does the same for you. It helped me to have the right state of mind to build InnerLifeSkills, a multinational coaching and training business.

So what’s next?

Well, the big question is, what does Business Building look like when we embrace uncertainty and when we’re honest about not being 100% sure? You could drown in coach marketing systems, and still be stuck.

I’m not saying that you should swing to the other side of the pendulum and be in a state of doubt. Do have confidence in your apple tree purpose.

Here is the InnerLifeSkills Way to build a conscious coaching business and brand.

Marketing your Coaching Business

The InnerLifeSkills way – Discover 3 Niches

Instead of trying to pick a niche and be certain, I strongly recommend that you stay in the discomfort of not being sure which niches will work so that you’re willing to do something different. So that you’re willing to discover them.

You’re taking your blinkers off to discover new pockets of people to serve. You’re showing up willing to experiment.

I recommend setting out to discover at least 3 different pockets of people.

Compare these two statements.

  • “I’ve chosen 1 niche. I’m putting everything into focusing on it even though secretly I’m not sure.”
  • “I’m willing to discover new pockets of people out there that I might be able to serve.”

Can you see the difference? Can you feel the freedom of the second approach?

When you try to pick a niche with certainty, you can become blind to the many other pockets of people out there who need you.

It’s very likely you don’t even know about them yet.

When you’re willing to discover them, it means your eyes and heart are open.

And there’s going to be more than one.

Imagine all the small groups out in the world that are just waiting for your solutions. Waiting for you to discover them so that you can show up to serve them at the highest.

So, guess what?

It’s okay not to know yet. And even if you know tomorrow because something starts working, guess what else? It can change.

That’s how nature works, doesn’t it?

In nature, everything is flexible but strong. When the roots of a tree hit a rock, they go around. A river bends with the mountain.

There is wisdom in being willing not to know yet. There is courage in being willing to find out.

So is niche marketing never relevant?

Absolutely not. It’s all about timing. When your business is like a seed or a small sapling tree, you have to treat it differently. It needs different things from a fruit-bearing mature apple tree.

Only after you have discovered a handful of niches that have proven themselves to be your ideal clients, the idea of niche-focus is equally important for messaging and marketing.

Marketing and messaging work well when they are targeted to certain pockets of people. I call this your shop window, but your shop window is different from your shop.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you find 4 pockets of people who love you, and you love serving them. They’ve put money on the table, you’ve learned a ton by coaching them, and now you want to scale your business.

If they are very different and have unique problems, you might want to make different shop windows, such as different marketing messages and campaigns for each pocket of people.

Let’s say that the four pockets of people and the four niches you have discovered are:

  1. Corporate professionals in the IT space who want to become managers
  2. Parents with young children at private schools
  3. Couples who love each other but all having problems in their relationship
  4. Corporate leaders struggling to motivate their teams to be more productive during stressful change

These are all examples from my top most successful Certified InnerLifeSkills Master Coaches.

Can you see that to speak to each of these groups, you would need to have a different shop window?

For groups one and four, you could run marketing and messaging on LinkedIn. For group two, you might offer talks at the local private schools. An Instagram or tick-tock account with regular content for couples as a relationship coach could work well for group #3.

What I’ve learned from our most successful master coaches is that the shop window needs to be targeted. However, once you talk to the parents with young children at a private school, you might discover they have a team at work that needs motivation, they’re struggling in their relationships, or they want to become managers.

And that’s where you could become their go-to Coach if you’ve remained flexible and open.

Do you want to know the smallest niche market you need to be focused on discovering?

It’s the person in front of you.

This means putting yourself out there to show up to be available to help guide and be generous in sharing your expertise and wisdom.

The smallest pocket of people is the human being in front of you who has a name, struggles, suffering, and possibly needs your help.

A tree grows to give and gives to grow. If you take that attitude and put yourself in online and offline rooms to give, you’ll find new people to serve everywhere.

Every day, ask yourself, “Who else can I serve?” And go find them.

How do you know you’re ready to start charging for coaching?

“Colleen, how do I know I’m ready to be professional? How do I know I can start charging?”

When students ask me this, I have a simple answer.

“When you can facilitate meaningful change. Then you’re ready.”

Because that’s what people are looking for. If you can facilitate valuable, meaningful change in the eyes of your clients, they’re likely willing to pay for it.

They don’t want coaching—they want change. If a client is not looking for a change, they’re not coachable.

 

The InnerLifeSkills way – Discover Products Clients love

“So Colleen, does that mean we step out into the world without a definite product to sell?”

Brace yourself for the answer. Yes.

As long as you have genuine skills, a reliable big coaching toolbox, and credible certification with the flexibility to Coach anyone anywhere, yes.

If you have limited skills, a small toolbox or poor certification then no. Because you’re going to struggle, so I’m assuming that you’re committed to mastering your skills, and building up your toolbox so that you can really help people to make meaningful change.

Once you’ve got those three things in place, you can make magic happen by being willing to discover winning products. And the best way I know to do this is to Co-create customized products for the person in front of you.

I can’t tell you how important it is to be able to do this. And if you think about it, it’s what real service looks like.

Instead of, “Here’s my perfectly polished product, and now I’m going to convince you why you need it.”

Imagine a conversation that starts with, “Based on what you’ve told me about that challenge, I’m not 100% sure, but I could possibly have a solution for you.”

Are you surprised? Maybe relieved?

The second approach starts with a natural conversation. You listen, find out exactly where they’re hurting, and connect the dots between their problem and the solution you can create for them. You remain flexible.

By the way, people love this. It’s honest, but it’s also premium. People are often willing to pay more for a custom solution than an off-the-shelf product.

What coaching clients are looking for

How can we sell a coaching program that we haven’t perfected yet?

 

“But Col, are you saying that when we create a custom product for the person in front of us, we just wing it? And dive in even when we haven’t perfected the product and thought it through?”

My answer to this is to start small.

Don’t jump into a big program. Don’t over-promise. Don’t take on massive risks.

Everything in nature starts small from a seed, and then it grows. When you intentionally start small and are willing to grow something from small, you will learn directly from your clients how to improve your coaching services and products. You’ll discover new ways to serve at the highest level. And every time you find a new client, you will increase the value of what you’re offering naturally. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll take years to get to 6 and 7 figure projects if that’s what you’re inspired to go for. The progression could be quick, within three to six months. But I do feel there needs to be a natural progression.

I’ve seen too many coaches perfect a product at their desk, spend a year developing it, think big, and try to launch massive multimillion-dollar product offerings, only to discover the harsh truth that when it came to putting money on the table, clients said “no.”

The truth is we have no idea whether someone is genuinely interested in our coaching and services until they’re willing to back up their interest by putting money on the table.

If you start small, you’ve got nothing to lose but a little bit of time and possibly a low-risk amount of money. You can adapt.

Starting small means that you can secure one client and learn from that one client. Keep custom building to blow their socks off and help them achieve meaningful change. You’ll learn so much that you’ll confidently step out from that experience to find more people like them to serve.

If you can find one client, you can find 10. If you can find 10, you can find 100, and so forth. Every time you scale, you’ll be ready for bigger challenges, bigger price tags, and bigger responsibility. So today focus on finding 1.

If you want to serve groups, intentionally aim for small groups, maybe 3 or four people. Keep it exclusive. Focus on showing up to help them genuinely.

Then, keep customizing and co-creating. Stay in conversation. Listen. Use your coaching skills all the time.

Be generous and give to grow.

If you do this, you’ll create unique, powerful coaching programs and products in the fire of Your client’s experience. You won’t need to guess anymore. You won’t need to sit at your desk agonizing about what to put into your programs. You’ll discover what you put in your programs from your clients directly. Not as surveys, which are often misleading. But by rolling up your sleeves and showing up in the room to serve the person in front of you.

And now, when that starts to work, it’s time to promote in a natural way.

The InnerLifeSkills way – Discover Connections to Clients

Instead of promoting to clients in a traditional, “You need this, buy now!” way.

Imagine showing up authentically to discover connections that lead to natural sales and conversions.

Your job is to put yourself out there in the world, but not in a way that feels unnatural and not with a tone of certainty.

Rather, let knowing live next to uncertainty in your heart. So that you show up for your potential pockets of people as a resource, willing to experiment with small seedling and sapling-size ways to connect.

You give a talk to a group of people who run a book club, run a demonstration, have breakfasts, start sharing helpful content, and get involved with conversations online.

You discover connections to clients, and you discover the connections between their problems and your solutions.

This is all good seedling, sapling-size getting out there.

Let’s say you’re having a natural, beautiful, human conversation. You’re listening attentively; they’ve told you where they are struggling, what they’re stuck with, or what’s causing them stress. I call these “Sticky problems.”

And now you discover connections.

This is the tone I suggest: “I’m not sure…” because that’s the truth, “…but I might have a way to help.”

One of two types of response happens. They reply, “No thanks.” Or they express interest.

This opens the opportunity to naturally strengthen the connection and continue to discover if what you have is a good fit for them.

The best conversations with potential clients are openly uncertain. “I’m not sure if I can help, but I’d like to find out.” Because neither of you knows yet, and that’s just the truth. That’s natural conscious business making.

And if you’re thinking this sounds amateur or only relevant for small individual coaching sales, think again. When I have pitched for multi million multinational coaching and training contracts, I’ve used exactly the same approach. I show up as a human being to have a conversation with a potential client. And I embrace uncertainty. I co-create and custom-build a product to exactly match their problems and biggest challenges. So I discovered the product that they need with them. And I discover connections to close the sale naturally. Connecting the dots between their problems and my solutions.   

The conversation can sound something like this.

“Look, I’m not sure, but how about this? One idea could be… (then you outline a possible program/service/product). And how about this … plus a little of …? And I’d really love to help you, this seems like a good idea, shall we chat again next week about it? And in the meantime, I’m going to put something together for you, and I’ll bring two or three options, and we can see what works. How’s that sound?”

And the client often says, “That sounds great.”

They actually appreciate you taking the time to really listen to them because, amazingly, so few coaches, consultants, and facilitators do this. This approach sets you apart from everyone else who arrives with PowerPoint presentations and polished products that they try to promote and convince them to buy.

When you go away to develop a customized idea, adjust your solutions to match their needs and use their specific words.

When I’ve had a client who didn’t like the word coaching, did I say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t help you!”

No. By listening to them, I found out they had bad experiences with coaching before, so the word coaching was tainted. But I still knew I could help them. So, I happily changed the name of my program and services.

I’ve even asked a corporate client, “What would you name your ideal program?”

They said enthusiastically, “Leading to influence.”

And I replied, “I love that. Let’s call it leading to influence”

I ran a leading to-influence training program for them for over 5 years.

It works well to bring draft but priced ideas back to a client in a natural tone: “Look, based on what you told me you needed, this was the problem I heard…. (repeat the exact things you heard). So here are 3 options, with different pricing structures.”

Then, connect all the dots.

Join the dots between your client’s suffering, struggle, stress, and stuckness with your solution.

Join the dots with, “I really think this could help… and we could… It could be like this, and it could be like that. We could start small, or you could jump right in, or you could have all the bells and whistles. Here are the prices for the options.”

I like to put prices upfront and early. I feel this is also an honest, natural way to do business.

How do you prove that you’re credible?

If you have case studies and proof that you can deliver your solutions, you need to weave this into the conversation. Show connections between your client and other clients who have had similar challenges. Having a few printed or digital slides with clients’ case study faces and a few important details is very powerful.

If you don’t have case studies or proof of credibility, you’ll likely need to prove you can help them by being willing to start small and even offering a free prototype. This could sound like, “I’m willing to run the first pilot at no charge to earn your trust. We can start small, and once you’re happy, we can talk about paying me fairly.”

finding life coaching clients

How to close the sale naturally

If you have followed this approach, you might find that the client closes the sale for you. They ask when they can start. If they don’t, this simple question or any variation is a lovely way to start moving the conversation from connecting to commitment.

Simply ask, “How’s that sounding?”

If they reply enthusiastically, meet them there with your inspiration, ask them who to invoice, get out your diaries and book dates.

If they still have questions or concerns, address them. Connect the dots between the new problems they’ve raised and your solutions. Then, show them that all the dots are joined; in other words, prove there are no more problems left and you’ve taken all the risks off the table by being willing to start small.

There’s nothing quite like following this natural approach to InnerLifeSkills way of creating a conscious business.

When you shake your new client’s hand with, “Thank you for trusting me, I’m looking forward to working together.” It feels good because it’s natural and honest.

This is how to co-create ways to help people at the highest level. Without needing to pretend to be certain or struggling to find certainty. You’re open to discovering new pockets of people to serve without needing to pick a niche. There is no agonizing in trying to perfect a product at your desk. Instead, you’re discovering the products your clients love by co-creating and casting them, building for the person in front of you. And improving that product in the fire of your client’s experience.

Instead of promoting to clients with aggressive fake certainty, you’re discovering connections to your clients and connecting the dots between their problems and the solutions you bring to the table.

 All without needing to be certain.

This is a natural, beautiful, organic way to show up in the world, to be of service, and to grow a service business naturally.

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