Are you actually growing a business...or playing pretend?
How to quickly grow your online practice without being a slave to social media
You’ve decided to take the plunge -- you know you can’t settle for working in the healthcare rat race anymore.
You can’t work 9-7 or 7-7 or be expected to do notes on your lunch break any longer.
You’re done with it.
And you’ve decided the only way to get exactly what you want in your career is to do it your way and start your own business.
Hooray, congratulations! GO YOU!
You may be thinking “Where do I even start?”
Amidst all the ambition and excitement in the prospect of growing a business -- and even better -- doing it all online (because #COVID or #momlife or #workfromanywhere is the theme of your life!) -- you may start to notice some feelings of anxiety or ickiness start to creep in...
Maybe you’re not quite ready to go all in -- all that business and finance-ey stuff freaks you out.
Perhaps you’re afraid you won’t know how to tell people what exactly you do so they can see how you’re different (and...let’s be honest...better than most other people who practice like you).
It could be that you’re worried people won’t want to pay you cash or will balk when you tell them you don’t take insurance.
Maybe you’re afraid of online marketing -- you don’t love the idea of being a slave to instagram, facebook, starting a facebook group, doing ads, figuring out search engine optimization, making a website, writing blogs, or “selling” online.
If any of these sound familiar to you -- you are 100 percent not alone.
In my business and healthy mindset coaching practice, 95% of my clients -- who are health and wellness providers and entrepreneurs like you -- feel a ton of ambition.
But they also often feel completely overwhelmed, stuck and directionless when they want to start or grow a practice….and do it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Let’s be honest -- between student loans, kids’ schools, paying mortgages, paying for healthcare and the million other expenses that keep piling up, none of us have time to sit around and dream of building a business.
And chances are, if you’re anything like my clients, then you’re thinking that if you want to grow an online business--and grow it quickly--then it would make the most sense to use online marketing tools to do that, right?
Here’s the thing.
While it may seem a bit counterintuitive and maybe even counterculture these days, the hard truth is that social media is NOT the easiest and most efficient way to grow an online business.
For those of you instagram and facebook purists out there who are totally gawking at what I just said and thinking “Uh, Julie, you’re ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA and you have an online business,” I just want to say that marketing an online business is not completely all-or-nothing when it comes social media.
It 100 percent depends on where you are in your business’s “gestation period” and development and how much money you are ready and willing to invest. The more you want to market and grow through social media, the more you will need to spend.
Plain and simple, it is a “pay to play” system. This is why if you're just starting out and don't have a lot of funds to invest, then paying to play may take you out of the game altogether.
And I get it. Online business and online marketing is alluring. You don’t have to leave your house or put on pants some days.
And yes, there are some loophole ways to reach ideal clients through social media. They do require a lot of tending to and nurturing your social media profiles, and they are typically going to take 80% more time and energy than you actually have.
To those whose social media hopes and dreams I am currently crushing, I want to be clear that online and social media marketing absolutely has its place.
But, it has its place in a much more strategic marketing system -- one that won’t make you a slave to social media, leave you scratching your head about how to figure out and keep up with the latest and greatest in stories and reels and facebook groups and live videos and IGTV and algorithms and much much more.
In short, social media and website-only approach is perhaps the slowest and most inefficient way to grow your practice quickly and easily.
But this is a really hard pill to swallow, because our online world wants you to believe otherwise.
Look around and you’ll see no short of 3 million people swearing that if you just do this “one thing” on social media, it will bring you millions of followers, and millions of dollars.
And I want you to know -- it is all an illusion.
Let me tell you a story of my client Eleanor, who totally fell into the social media trap.
Eleanor had a full time PT job and was running an online PT and coaching “side hustle.” Her goal was to build up her side hustle enough so she could quit her PT job and go full time in her own job.
Eleanor spent 12 months in live business trainings, listening to business and mindset podcasts, subscribing to business growth facebook groups, and following the “gurus” on instagram. She posted daily on instagram, spent hours creating Canva-designed posts, had an constantly running instagram story that rivaled those of influencers, wrote blogs, and had a facebook group she constantly nurtured.
By the looks of it Eleanor was doing all the “right things” on social media to work on her business.
She had over 3000 instagram followers, over 500 people in her facebook group, and was being invited to be on podcasts.
People commented on her posts, sent her DMs, and asked her for help.
But in 12 months of religious social media practice and growth, she did not get one paying client.
She thought this was normal. She was under the impression that you have to invest a ton of time and money in your first year, and it’s normal to not make any money.
After a year of investment, she figured she just wasn’t doing enough online. So, she continued to invest in business trainings. She learned how to run her own podcast and do her own facebook ads. She created an opt-in (freebie) for people to download.
In 18 months, Eleanor spent over $20000 dollars and countless hours (on top of her full time job) in trainings and online marketing investment.
And in that time, she did get one client-- a friend of a friend who ironically wasn’t on social media). Eleanor made $900 off of that one client.
Do the math -- this is a negative return on investment.
A business is a business only if it’s making money. Anything else is a hobby or volunteer effort.
And yes, Eleanor got one client and made SOME money, which is awesome! But, she didn’t see any return from all of her social media “guru status.”
Eleanor -- in short -- was “playing online business” -- just like when little kids “play house” or “play school.” They play pretend -- go through the motions, and it all seems completely real … but at the end of the day, it’s all make-believe.
She thought maybe she just needed more training. Maybe she needed to invest in formal health coach training and that would bring in more clients once she was finally “credible” with a certification.
But at nearly a $10000 investment in health coach certification, she knew this wasn’t going to do it either. It was going to put her further in debt and take nearly 1.5 years to complete the training.
Plus, it would tear her family apart. Her husband was getting impatient that she had spent so much time and money on courses and trainings, yet there had been no return. She was constantly on her phone nurturing her facebook group instead of nurturing her own kids.
Investing in that program was also going to mean 1.5 more years stuck in her full time job and likely not getting too many more “side hustle” clients.
She felt so defeated, stuck, and directionless. And she couldn't fathom the thought of staying in her full time job that much longer (or worse...forever).
Eleanor had fallen into the trap that so many people -- and so many of my clients -- fall into as well.
She was comparing to and copying others who appear -- on the surface --to be “killing it” in online business.
But she wasn't realizing that for the most part, so many of them are “playing business” as well.
And, like most people in this boat, they were doing everything the hard way.
Social media is important, but what’s more important in growing a business quickly and efficiently is direct connection with humans.
This means identifying the specific population or populations of clients you serve, identifying their #1 problem and #1 desired solution, and then positioning yourself as an expert to be the #1 person to solve that problem.
It means tapping into the network of people who love and support you the most -- your friends and family -- and seeing if they can connect you with your #1 ideal client. And yes, you can do this via social media. But usually social media is only the first tool of connection with these people (like in a direct message), and the rest is handled off line.
It means being clear on your brand and message and consistently using your own voice (not copying buzz phrases from other people) to convey what you do, what makes you unique, why your services are valuable, and what makes you special. And yes, this can be communicated through social media, but typically it won’t result in people knocking your door down to schedule sessions with you.
Eleanor had completely missed this boat. So much so, she didn't even know the boat existed!
Obviously, she didn't know what she didn't know. She didn't know this was not a sustainable way to grow a business. But it definitely showed.
Eleanor was exhausted, burned out, extremely frustrated with herself, feeling stuck and confused, and not sure she even wanted to do her business any longer.
Here’s how we turned it around for her.
1. She got clear on who she actually wanted to help and why, and went out to find them LIVE, in real life.
She had previously told herself if she narrowed in on one ideal client, then she would get no clients. She loved and wanted to help everyone and had a variety of interests, so she was afraid to “narrow in.” She changed her message, profile, ideal client, business name, service offerings, and programs frequently because she wanted to be “all inclusive.”
After a little bit of work together, we identified 3 ideal clients she wanted to serve and created a strategic plan to go out and find these humans in person. During COVID, this meant setting up virtual coffee dates, 6-feet-apart walks in the park, phone dates, and more.
She was able to set up 8 one-on-one networking meetings (perfect for her introverted self!) over 2 months -- this fit her work schedule and allowed her to really “showcase” the “real” Eleanor.
She found her voice and got clear only on her branding or messaging. Before, she was having such a hard time conveying to others what was special about her brand or how to tell people what made her stand out or why they should give her cash instead of use their insurance for PT. So, she just created miles and miles of content to try and “wow” people and win approval up front. This got her lots of likes and followers, but she gained no traction and constantly felt anxious about what to say or how to “find her voice online.”
After working together, we created consistent messaging and branding that incorporated her story and passion. She was able to use it online, in person, on podcast interviews, and everywhere in between. She felt confident in how to “explain herself” and didn’t feel paralyzed when someone would ask “so, what do you do?”
2. She tapped into her closest, warmest network.
Before, she had told herself that her friends and family would judge her if she asked for connections to referral sources or clients. It felt too vulnerable -- because what if they didn’t approve of her or send her clients? She “hid” her profile from her parents and family and didn’t talk about her business with her friends for fear of sounding too pushy or “salesy.”
After working together, she got clear on the friends and family members who she felt most comfortable talking with about her business, and realized that the key to this was just sharing her “why” and talking less about the actual business.
3. She figured out how to make networking work for her.
She had told herself she was an “introvert” and “hated networking.” She told herself that she didn’t have time to go out and meet people -- and moreso -- she didn’t want her boss to find out what she was doing for fear of conflict of interest.
Eleanor and I worked on her confidence and mindset. Ultimately, she didn’t feel like she was “good enough” and was hiding behind the guise of “blaming time” and “blaming others” for her lack of progress. It wasn’t her boss’s responsibility to decide what she could or couldn’t do in her business. In fact, her boss was in full support of her running a side business. Eleanor was able to let go of the icky voices of sabotage that rattled around in her head, developed unshakeable confidence and eventually got 2 coaching referrals from -- wait for it -- her boss at her PT job.
4. She "stayed in her lane" on social media, and found a way to use it that fit her life and her passions.
She had seen other “gurus” making more than 6 figures in their businesses (or...at least saying they were) and saw how much they did on social media -- and simply emulated them.
As soon as we started working together, Eleanor set up a social media posting schedule that fit her life and reflected what she actually loved to do. She discovered that all the “noise” was simply a distraction from spending time and energy on actually growing a business and getting clients.
She got clear that social media (and websites) are actually more useful as a way for people learn about you after they’ve been introduced to you in a one-on-one type conversation or networking interaction. In other words--it’s how they confirm you’re the rockstar they already think you are … and not a serial killer!
And here's the best part. After working together in one of my Be the Boss of Your Career Business and Mindset Coaching programs for 6 months, Eleanor was able to a total of get 7 new client referrals, totaling a gross revenue of $22,000 and giving her over a 600% return on investment from working with me.
She did this by reducing her social media time down to 2 hours per week TOTAL.