March 30, 2007
I had a very special experience yesterday evening. I had called in for a Q&A session with Valerie Young, the “Dreamer in Residence” at ChangingCourse.com and designer of the “Fast Track Your Dream” program. I joined the program to help me define the new direction for my practice and get started.
Valerie had this Q&A session to get feedback from us and to hear our questions about applying the program to our specific situations. The creative career consultants who monitor the member forum have answered many questions already and the group members provide each other buckets of ideas and loads of support, so there weren’t many questions about “now.” We asked some about the future, thinking down the road to when we are established but adding new income streams.
Since the questions were answered before the allotted hour was up, Valerie very graciously indulged my questions on a different topic. I wanted to hear a little about her experience in putting together “Fast Track Your Dream” and what she learned that could benefit other people planning information products and considering membership sites.
Valerie’s program is amazing. It includes workbooks to help members understand their unique gifts and passions, compiled articles on ways people discovered joyful work and transitioned from an unfulfilling j-o-b, online resources with creative work examples and the steps to take for discovery and life change, audio CDs of workshops, idea planners….it’s a lot of stuff! I have a plan to be through everything by the end of the summer.
Basically, she put together many of her top information products and bundled them for this program, in addition to the members’ forum and teleclasses (2 per month, if I remember right). I had questions about a much less ambitious idea. I was thinking about a “package” that includes a series of teleclasses, like the 6 sessions of “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen” for parents, plus my feedback on workbook assignments, e-mail support, and maybe a members’ forum for sharing ideas.
You see, I’ve been wanting to have a different business model from the current coaching model of fixed length sessions at set intervals, which is based on the medical model of therapy. Valerie reminded me that it’s really up to clients to decide what model they like. She suggested I do some market research and ask people how they would be likely to use services.
I’ve helped conduct market research so I should have been thinking this all along. But I wasn’t, and Valerie helped me get focused on the best way to define my service model.
I would probably have suggested the same thing to another person starting a new business or considering a new direction. I’m working for FREE helping an organization determine their clients’ needs and preferences. I mean, I KNOW THIS STUFF! But it took the perspective of someone else to remind me to apply it to my business.
Valerie gave me some other useful insight and pointers, too, and I am very grateful. My lesson? When you’re pretty sure you know what you’re doing—prove it! Prove it by talking to someone else and explaining what you’re thinking and planning. I bet it will help you remember what you already knew but forgot along the way.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
March 24, 2007
I’ve been using this blog to write about my professional life, starting with my transition from therapist to mentor and coach. That change requires a lot of positive thinking and hope and optimism. Those things are in me–even though I have to look pretty hard sometimes to find them. But that’s not all I am!
I decided to create another blog to house my thoughts from others areas of my life, and from the other parts of me.
My new blog is at www.StevesNotNice.com. My first post there is an essay I wrote for my web site, which I never uploaded because I haven’t finished my web site rewrite. It’s called “I Am Not Nice.” It might be the most civilized thing I post there.
I have a heart that seeks after the good of others. I believe in the Law of Love as explained by Jesus the Christ in the gospels: The first commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s powerful stuff, but he says something even more incredible next. He says all the religious law and all the commandments are really about those two laws! Know where you come from, honor your Creator, and care for each other. Wow!
That pull is definitely in me, and it’s a big reason why I value mentoring relationships that help people find their gifts and develop them. It’s a big reason I like to see groups develop into welcoming places for people to find and develop their gifts. It’s why I believe in redemption and restoration, and here I mean in relationships between people. It’s a big part of why I learned to be a therapist and still want to help people who feel lonely and lost.
But I’m not really that good very often. I’m not “sweetness and light,” even when I am most attuned to the goals and beliefs of caring for each other in community and fellowship.
I believe in the “corruptible soul” because I have one. I believe in redemption, or salvation, for that corruptible soul because I need it.
And if I only post the thoughts from my professional life and professional development, I will be giving a very narrow, and ultimately deceptive, view of who I am. So I started the other blog.
I have posted on a weekly schedule here. That may change, but I will be more inclined to follow a schedule here, meaning a set day for posting but having possible additional posts–like this one.
With the other blog I will post as I feel inclined. It will be more random, kind of like the less disciplined and more corruptible way I feel much of the time. Follow along if you will.
May You Find Authenticity,
March 23, 2007
After my slightly whiny post last week, I realized something very important. While I was struggling with having to work for free for a while, I wasn’t even prepared for getting paid.
Coaching and Distance Counseling (like my professional lingo?) are usually paid by credit card. The “professional” uses some sort of credit card processing system, and if they don’t have a merchant account it’s pretty easy to start with PayPal. I hadn’t even taken the steps to set that up for the time when I have paying clients.
I had a simple PayPal account for the corporation (The Knowledge Store, which I’m still planning on changing) but hadn’t set it up to process credit card transactions. I had nothing tied in to the business account I used as a Professional Counselor. Now I’m set up with both accounts. When I have products to sell, I can put them on a website and get paid through PayPal when people buy them. When a client wants a consultation, I will be able to charge a credit card.
I’ve also signed up with Clickbank so I can choose to sell my e-books there—whenever I have e-books. I spend time looking at sites that have materials related to the theme of my practice, mentoring and mentorship coaching to develop people’s gifts. I can become an affiliate and display other people’s products on my website and receive a commission when my web visitors buy.
For some of you, this is basic stuff. For others, it might be completely foreign. I feel like I’m still in the beginning stages of learning about internet based commerce, but I talk to people and read forum posts from people who don’t even know these basics. I think it helps to learn these simple steps you can take with no cost and no risk.
Now that I’m set up to receive payments, I’m thinking a lot about how to offer services. The standard in coaching seems to be asking clients to pay for four sessions at a time in advance and offering limited e-mail support between sessions. Structure like this helps the professional with planning, I’m sure, and helps clients focus on their goals and the steps they committed to taking. But it’s patterned after the medical model of psychotherapy, where clients come in on a regular basis for a planned amount of time.
I need to start some “market research,” which means asking people, about how they might use the help of a mentor or coach. There might be some who want more phone time and don’t want e-mail support, some who want lengthy e-mail communication a few times a week and little or no phone support, and some who will have varied needs from month to month.
The idea of finding new paradigms for offering service is intriguing to me. It falls into the expanding idea of organic learning and development that keeps appearing as I go through the creative process of defining what I do. I interact with an idea and learn more about it by trying it out in different ways. I change to accommodate something new I discover through that interaction, and then I learn something more about the idea when my perspective has changed. It’s a discovery process.
I will be planning different ways to offer my services because clients will need different types and different levels of interaction at different times. I want to be ready to offer what they need.
And now, I will be ready to receive payments—because It Won’t Always Be FREE.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
March 16, 2007
I have discovered that, when you are chasing wisdom, it will sometimes turn around and bite you. It gathers one tooth at a time.
I first learned from career counseling guru Barbara Sher’s books that one great way to begin to transition to a new career, or to try out a new field of work, is to develop your own “internship.” I put the word in quotes because the real word would be practicum. An internship is usually paid, although very little, because it offers on-the-job training. A practicum is unpaid. During graduate school I had practicums (practica? practicii?) to learn psychological assessment, consultation, behavioral intervention, and therapy. I paid the school for the class and provided my services to the partner organizations for FREE.
My wife, a family practice physician, had an internship after completing medical school. She was paid. With the crazy schedule it worked out to less than minimum wage, but it was money.
Back to my point, or Barbara Sher’s point: spend time working in the field and you will gain knowledge and experience that will make you more valuable and help you see ways to transition to paid work.
Another tooth in the bite: students getting training for life coach certification are encouraged to have a few “pro bono” clients at the beginning. “Pro bono” means “for the good,” specifically the public good. It does NOT mean for your own financial good, because it means for FREE.
Joanna Rowling, AKA J. K. Rowling, finished the manuscript to her first novel while “on the dole” in England. That meant she was getting government assistance because she was not working. Why wasn’t she working? She has a master’s degree, for goodness sake, and had been teaching in Portugal before that! She wasn’t working, meaning getting paid a salary, because she was dedicating herself to writing. She did not get paid while she was doing it. At the time she was actually doing the work, she was doing it for FREE.
She did, of course, eventually get a publisher and some royalties, and a multiple-book deal and a multiple-movie-rights deal. And she is now worth about a billion dollars, because Harry Potter is phenomenally popular. But she built up her worth by working for FREE.
Internet marketing experts and internet business consultants point out that one of the best ways to start making a steady stream of income is by developing information products, like e-books and audio courses. Once they’re produced, you can sell them with little production cost if downloaded by the buyer, or a nominal cost if you produce copies to mail out. An information product that keeps selling, even one or two per day, can generate a steady stream of income for a long time. But if you’re not already established in your practice (that’s me), the whole time you are creating the product to sell, you are working for FREE.
Here’s how it all came together to bite me. I need to be looking for every reasonable opportunity to do what I want to do, which is to mentor people in discovering and nurturing their gifts and helping to developing welcoming and nurturing communities where people are able to mentor one another and help each other discover and develop their gifts. I have to start by doing the work, even if that means working for FREE.
As my competence builds and my experience grows, my value will become more apparent to more people and I will be in a position to charge for my services. As I gain experience, I will be able to develop relevant information products to sell. But I have to start doing the work and building up my value with the faith that I will be paid in the future for what I am doing and learning now. Which means I have to start by working for FREE.
So far, I’m doing great at not making money! But I am beginning to do the work and find my rhythm. I will be paid in the future based on the expert I am becoming today. Until then, I get to make sure that I’ve chosen work I love, which feeds my soul and helps me feel energized, because I’m working for FREE.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
March 9, 2007
Newsletters. Or E-zines. They’re important to a practice as a consultant and coach. I know, because the newsletters (or e-zines) by the consultants and coaches for consultants and coaches all say so.
They say a lot more, too. I’ve been gathering wisdom and useful knowledge about the way to put together a newsletter, what to write, how often to publish, and similar weighty matters. I will list some of the important findings I have made so the rest of you don’t have to dig through all the opinions to find the top recommendations.
➢ Publish your newsletter monthly at least.
➢ Publish your newsletter weekly at most.
➢ Publish your newsletter about once every 10 days.
➢ Publish your newsletter daily.
➢ Why in the world do some people publish newsletters daily? That’s way too often and will turn off subscribers.
➢ Follow a consistent format in each edition.
➢ Don’t get trapped by format.
➢ Have different sections that readers come to expect.
➢ Don’t overdo it by having different sections that readers expect you to put in each edition.
➢ Publish it for free because no one will sign up for an online newsletter.
➢ It’s best to publish a newsletter that people will pay for because you get recurring income.
➢ Publish a free newsletter but use it to promote your products.
➢ Publish a free newsletter and don’t talk much about your products or it will look like a sales letter.
➢ Give away lots of information for free.
➢ Give away tastes of information so people will be interested and want to buy your products.
➢ Just give quick “How to” or “What to avoid” kinds of ideas in a newsletter or you’ll lose interest.
➢ Tell personal stories about your life and your discoveries because people want to be drawn in.
➢ Make sure everyone has a double opt-in, where they ask to be on the list and then also respond to an e-mail to verify they want to be on the list.
➢ Take people who sign up for a free report and stick them on your list as a “freebie” without worrying about that double opt-in.
➢ Use HTML and nice graphics to look professional.
➢ Use simple text and a basic format so it’s not too showy, and so everyone can read it with their e-mail software.
➢ Send out simple text e-mails with links to your newsletter, which is actually hosted on your web site.
➢ Include lots of content; get other people to write guest articles, and look for articles to include.
➢ Keep it concise.
If I’ve missed any of the truly important discoveries, please forgive me. There’s been a lot to sift through.
It reminds me of the years I spent as a member of a professional writers’ group. Aspiring novelists would ask the published authors things like, “How many adjectives should I have in a sentence?” The helpful, detailed explanations about the purpose and use of adjectives would be ignored, so in frustration the authors would resort to the default answer: “One and a half.”
I subscribe to many different types of free newsletters or e-zines. I read a few and parts of others and toss out most of them. It’s not always the same ones I read or toss out.
The key? I read the interesting articles, even if they’re lengthy, and I skip the ones that aren’t relevant or aren’t believable.
Good thing I’m just doing this blog to track my transition to the world of coaching and consulting! Who has time to be relevant, interesting, and credible?
May We All Learn to Trust Ourselves,