I got business and life coaches to fill out about 100 surveys and interviewed some of the higher income ones. At the time, I was interested in possibly working with coaches and also using talking to them as a proxy for solo consultants that do the expert-author-speaking thing, because directories with their info is easy to find.
Predictors of success vs struggle for business/life coaches
I learned that for this type of personal brands, that things like long-term personal network strategy, speaking for free if it was their target market, and not thinking too hard about marketing things were the biggest predictors of success. For them, digital marketing is a series of tools to stay in touch and be top of mind what their existing networks.
Aside: a less strong pattern I found was income was correlated with those that transitioned from consultants that coached to coaches that consulted. Consultants, realizing their recommendations weren’t getting implemented, would try coaching, see they had a knack for it, or some immediate results in client orgs, and then laid out and accomplished a plan to transition from consultant to coach. This was only true for three of the coaches I interviewed, but felt worth a mention.
All the coaches making under $150k on the other hand, were often looking for immediate returns on their marketing activities. And the things they tried were pretty mixed, social posting, blogging, ads. The execution always varied, but the thing they seemed to have in common was an attitude that if they try something, it should work right away, and if it doesn’t, they should move on. It’s interesting to see such a successful approach for lean startups be such an unsuccessful approach for individuals.
But I digress.
I also talked to a fair amount of ideal client types over the past year: proper solo consultant type experts with lots of content.
Jury is still out on whether they are still my ideal clients, but I’m finding they can’t execute on my recommendations, at least not quickly enough.
Even having spent a lot of time coming up with ways to make those recommendations as easy as possible to implement, and even if they had a VA or developer resource, the cognitive burden is too high. They just hyperfocus on some project or thing and everything else goes dark. (Editing this, I’m realizing I could have this backwards, that my recommendations are too abstract, or complex).
And then the really good ones, the more ideal these ideal client types are, the more quirky they are about their stuff.
I’m reminded of a friend in middle school who had really cool collections of baseball cards, Coca Cola memorabilia, Absolut vodka ads carefully cut out and plastic coated in binders. He was so cool and his stuff was so cool. But he wouldn’t let anyone touch it. You quirky experts are like that.
The cool thing about working for ourselves is we all get to do whatever we want and lots of those choices are pretty harmless.
I could change my logo to have a banana in it. It wouldn’t hurt anything (unless I spent 10 hours tinkering with the “C” to make it look like a banana where the banana stem is the stem of the “C” without also hurting the rules governing the font style). Salivating thinking about trying it.
For expert consultants, the more solo-y they are, the more rigid they seem to be in their thinking. The more successful the soloist, the more validated they are by having been uncompromising.
I used to think that these more successful solo consultant types were just uncompromising about work quality and that’s how they got successful. But its more a global personality trait.
Their future is sort of set.
And that’s the other thing I learned this past year.
Most things are inevitable.
Spending time learning about network science and graph analysis for insights about communities, content, influence, has showed me that we already have the data we need to make incredibly trajectory altering decisions, or at least, catalyze further success.
I should rephrase that. Unlocked, you already have enough data to predict where your current approach will take you.
For those types we can catalyze that success. We do it by improving execution (optimization) or network efficiencies, e.g. “who (in my network) can change my life? let’s start that process now instead of waiting for it to happen organically in a year.”
And for those not on the trajectory they want to be on, we can accurately predict what adjustments would result in the most direct line to a process begetting success would mean. But the attitude of most solo consultants is that they don’t need better tracking or a good handle on their data.
Success is all about processes and processes are really about attitude and personality.
The coaches that use marketing to give without expecting immediate returns are great at playing the long game. If they get slow, they just reach out and see how past clients are doing. It’s like they just slow down, express the concern that drives them to those they care about, and that results in them getting busy all over again.
But like I said, they’re outcomes are relatively fixed because their approaches and what they want and how clear that path is for them is relatively fixed.
The coaches that expect returns on things they do are often fuzzier about the future. So they get left chasing tactics. “Facebook ads don’t work.” “I tried building an email list.”
Neither (probably) should be doing SEO.
It really pains me to say that.
I love SEO and my vision for experts that do things that matter to have control over their own site performance, over amplifying their messages, expanding reach, and serving more of those they seek to serve, and having such a leg up or head start on the signals that matter for search, those things are all there.
But I’m finding it hard to get experts to do these things, or at least the experts I’ve been talking with.
To significantly alter your current trajectory, you need to significantly alter your current trajectory.
That’s a good stopping point.