Why Hiring a Business Coach is TOTALLY Worth the Money

I recently started doing business coaching with one of my personal heroes, Pamela Slim. I used to read Pam’s blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation, back in 2009 when I was trying to start freelancing and was stuck in a cubicle all day and wasn’t sure how to take the leap from the corporate world to solo-preneurship. I didn’t have any local role models; I didn’t know anyone in my own city who did what I wanted to do for a living. So I lived vicariously through Internet heroes like Pamela Slim, who showed me the possibilities of a magical world of people on the Internet, working from home on their own terms while wearing pajamas, and making a good living at it. That’s all I wanted, early on – I just wanted to work from home and be with my family. I had modest goals and simple needs.

Over the years, I’ve gone from those modest beginnings to become established as a freelance writer. I’m not bragging, but I’ve literally become more successful at this than I ever dreamed was possible. Quitting my job in 2010 to be a full-time freelance writer was absolutely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I’ve been home with my kids almost every day as they grew up, I’ve spent lots and lots of time with family and friends, I’ve traveled to New York and L.A. and San Francisco and Europe, we’ve taken marvelous vacations, and I almost never set an alarm clock. It’s a sweet, beautiful life.

And yet…now it’s 2017, and I decided to hire a business coach. Not because things aren’t going well, but because I wanted to see if I can re-evaluate a few things and realign a few goals and otherwise give my career a tuneup to make things EVEN BETTER.

Pamela Slim – My business coach!

And I decided that I wanted my business coach to be Pamela Slim. I’ve hired writing-specific mentors and coaches in the past, and it was always worth the money, but I had some particular goals and interests that I wanted to talk about with Pam this time. I’ve been feeling kind of down in a rut lately, feeling kind of directionless; I needed to rediscover my zest for work. I also recently had a few big projects fall through, and I realized that my pipeline of new projects was looking kind of empty – I hadn’t been doing any marketing in awhile to find new clients, because I’d gotten comfortable (and maybe a bit complacent) from lots of repeat business and referrals and random lucrative projects that landed in my lap. So I needed to think differently about how to find some new freelance writing clients.

Pam Slim has a great sense of optimism and abundance about her, she’s great at building community, and she’s a successful book author and public speaker and corporate trainer and business coach, all of which are things that I would potentially like to do.

So I signed up for individual coaching with Pamela Slim, and also signed up for a 6-week group class with Pam’s network of people called Giant Client Magnet – where we each commit to taking action on 3 or more Tiny Marketing Actions (TMAs) each day to move our businesses forward.

Let me say: BOTH of these business coaching programs have ALREADY been WELL WORTH THE MONEY.

Here is why hiring a business coach is (almost always) a good investment for your small business:


Even if I don’t get any new clients from working with a business coach, even if I don’t get any “new” ideas on what to do for my career by working with a business coach, working with a business coach is already a good investment because it’s helping me hold myself accountable.

Working with a business coach helps get you to actually DO THE THINGS that you ALREADY KNOW you should do.

Maybe this sounds incredibly simple, even stupid! But listen: sometimes when you’re self-employed, the hardest thing to do is to just DO THE THINGS that you already KNOW you should be doing!

For example: I had a whole To Do list that was like 15 items long that I already knew I needed to do – and knew how to do – in order to market my business and find new projects. Many of these things were very simple and easy, like “Send an email to a current client and ask for more work.” But I wasn’t doing the things!

But now that I’m PAYING MONEY to a business coach? I have skin in the game! I have a vested interest in actually getting done with stuff! And I have a new sense of inspiration, because…

New Perspectives

Your business coach will help you see the bigger picture of where you want your business and your career to go. A good business coach helps you think strategically and identify your own points of mental resistance – what are you struggling with, and why? How can you remove obstacles that are in your way? How can you drill down to the roots of what you really love about your business and what you really do best and what you really hope to achieve in the world? With my business coach, I am thinking more EXPANSIVELY about my career and my future and what kind of an impact I really want to make in life.

Business coaching isn’t just about technical/practical knowledge like “which email marketing software to use” (although there’s nothing wrong with that); business coaching, at its best, is CAREER THERAPY.

And that’s what I needed, was Career Therapy. Because sometimes even when you’re successful, you can still get into a rut; you can still get complacent, you can still start to get into a funk and feel like work and life aren’t as meaningful as they used to be; you can still feel human vulnerabilities and anxieties about the future.

The best thing about being a solopreneur is that your success is all up to you – there’s no corporate bureaucracy holding you back, there’s no ceiling on your success!

The worst thing about being solopreneur is that your success is all up to you – there’s no clear path of “next steps” and no higher-ranking people to mentor you and tell you that you’re doing a good job and that you’ll be rewarded someday with a comfortable career path.

Sometimes it feels lonely to be a solopreneur. Sometimes you need a supportive voice from someone more experienced who can help you find clarity and purpose and a more hopeful path forward.

A good business coach will help you put your worries and indecisions to rest and redirect your focus to the present, and give you…

New Energy

Before I started getting business coaching, I was feeling stuck. I knew what I had to do to get new writing projects and get work done and make more money, but I wasn’t doing them. My list of To Dos was just sitting there, clogging up the system like a fatberg. (Do you know what a fatberg is? It’s an amazing new word that I just learned today – a fatberg is a large concrete-like mass of sewage mixed with fats and grease and garbage that clogs up sewer pipes. London has a massive fatberg right now that weighs 130 tons and is going to require a team of sewer workers to work around the clock with hand tools and power hoses to get it dislodged! Fun stuff! Whatever they’re paying those sewer workers, it’s not enough.)

But that’s what happens to your mind when you procrastinate for too long: you get a fatberg in your brain! Your mind gets clogged with a big blob of greasy, messy filth and you can’t move forward, and the longer you ruminate on it, the worse it gets! The filth just keeps building up and solidifying and getting bigger and scarier and messier and nothing can break through!

But now my fatberg is gone! I’m thinking clear and flowing freely! I’m open-minded and energized! I’m ready to see where this leads!

Actual photo of me after dislodging the Mental Fatberg

Here are a few of the things I’ve discovered about what I want to do next with my work as a result of working with my business coach:

  • Building Relationships With Writing: I love to write, I love the craft of writing, but what I really love on a more fundamental level is Building Relationships With Writing. It’s what I’ve spent my whole life doing, ever since I was a 6th grader writing the Gran Family Newsletter (new issues published monthly, printed with a dot matrix printer, and mailed to relatives all over America). Building relationships with writing is how I met my wife via online dating back in December 2003, and it’s how I’ve built lifelong friendships and a following of “fans” on Facebook. And of course, I love to build relationships with my clients and help MY CLIENTS build relationships with their key audiences with the power of the written word.
  • Teaching: I have teaching in my blood. Both of my parents have worked in education, all four of my grandparents were teachers and superintendents and college professors, and my first job out of college was teaching English on the JET Program in Japan. I want to try to do more with this – whether it’s working as a business coach to new freelance writers, or whether it’s incorporating teaching into my career by offering webinars, or whether it’s using a “teaching” approach to inform the content I create for my own website and for my clients.
  • Public speaking: In addition to writing, I love to speak to audiences. I do standup comedy, and I have a following on Facebook – I used to do comedy gigs around Iowa and the Midwest, and hundreds of people have paid money to come to my shows in Des Moines. I want to do more with public speaking, whether it’s as a guest speaker for local associations and networking groups, or speak at conferences, or maybe someday become a keynote speaker and author. I feel like I’m a better speaker than most writers, and I’m a better writer than most speakers. Surely I can do more with this.
  • Helping people find meaning: Ultimately, I’m trying to make the world a more meaningful place. One of the things that makes me good at what I do as a freelance writer is that I have a strong sense of curiosity and a strong service orientation – I can find something interesting about almost any subject. I can find something worth saying about almost any client’s business – and not in a superficial or sycophantic way; I really try to go deeper into what makes that client’s business meaningful and why that business matters. People make meaning of the world through telling stories, and I have been doing that all my life. Ultimately, meaning is what we’re craving. The world is full of bland corporate chain restaurants and cheap mass-produced junk and impersonal clutter and disingenuous marketing messages and lots of other stuff we don’t care about, stuff that’s meaningless to us – but what people DO care about, what people CRAVE, is finding messages that resonate with them, finding people who they “click” with, finding organizations with integrity and values and transparency. This is the great promise of the Internet that we have barely begun to explore: the Internet as an engine of genuine human interconnectedness and a vehicle for human meaning.

I really believe that the next wave of the Internet is not going to be about clickbait or copycat traffic-scraping content from too many sites chasing the same SEO keywords – it’s going to be about creating meaning and genuine connection with people through radical transparency – authenticity, humility, honesty. Just like people are making deep friendships on Facebook with people they’ve never met in real life, the Internet is still a wide open canvas for building relationships – if you’re brave enough to let your humanity through.

That’s been one of the great revelations of the work I’ve been doing with my business coach – I feel like something is opening up inside of me; I feel a great clarity of purpose, I feel completely unstuck. No more fatbergs!

I’m not sure how long these good feelings are going to last, but I hope it’s a long, long time.

3 Content Marketing Lessons From My Annoying Credit Union

Like most Americans, I get too much junk mail. Pretty much everything that arrives in my mailbox is annoying and worthless and just asking me for money. But it especially grinds my gears when companies send junk mail to their own customers. That’s what happened to me, once again, today when I got yet another letter from my credit union asking me to borrow more money on a home equity line of credit – they sent me junk mail with a bunch of blank checks that I could use immediately to write checks to pay for new purchases by borrowing more money on my HELOC.

This is annoying for several reasons:

  1. I don’t want to borrow more money from my HELOC – I have more than enough mortgage debt already, thank you very much.
  2. Even if I did want to borrow more money, I wouldn’t want to do it spontaneously by filling out a blank check that randomly arrived in the mail; borrowing against the equity in your home is not a low-risk proposition and it should not be taken lightly or done frivolously.
  3. Why are they sending me blank checks in the mail? I didn’t ask for this. What if that check falls into the wrong hands? What if someone steals your mail and borrows a bunch of money in your name? This whole situation is stupid and uncalled for and I wanted to stop getting this junk mail.

So I called the credit union to ask them to take me off the solicitation mailing list. I even called the 800 number at the bottom of the letter that they provided to me to “call if you have any questions,” etc.

Then my day got even more annoying. I was expecting to talk to a real person right away, since I was responding to a solicitation letter, but the 800 number had a long, automated voice mail menu with half a dozen prompts to choose from, none of which were exactly right for my situation. I finally got a customer service person. “Hello,” I said. “I need some help – please take me off your solicitation mailing list. I got a mailing from your credit union with blank checks in it today, and I’m tired of getting these mailings. I don’t want to get any more offers for home equity line of credit blank checks or any other solicitations from you. Please change my solicitation preferences.”

The customer service person talked to me like they didn’t know what I was talking about. “Well I’m sorry sir, I don’t really know what that’s about,” she said. “I can transfer you to a loan officer if you like, we don’t share our customer information with any 3rd parties so you shouldn’t be getting any solicitations from anyone else.”

I was instantly exasperated. I was calling about a specific problem that they had caused, and the company apparently wasn’t aware that they were responsible or had even sent me a letter in the first place.

“Well, this solicitation is not from a 3rd party, it’s from your company, and your number is at the bottom of the letter – I’m calling the very same 800 number that’s at the bottom of your letter that you sent,” I said. “Can I talk to your manager, please? I need to escalate this.”

I sat on hold for a few minutes and finally got to talk to a manager who helped me resolve the situation. Fine – all’s well that ends well. But here are a few content marketing lessons from this whole silly situation:

Stop Sending Junk Mail

It drives me nuts that in the age of the Internet, we still have all these companies who are sending junk mail that doesn’t even get opened by 98% of people (or more) who receive it. Yeah, I’m sure the Direct Marketing Association will tell you that direct mail still works, and that’s probably true to some extent, but why are you spamming your own customers? I already had a business relationship with this company, and I never asked to be on their mailing list, but they just ASSUMED that I wanted to hear from them with their annoying and invasive mail offer. Shouldn’t there be a better way to interact and engage with your own customers, especially? Instead of blasting out an expensive, wasteful direct mailing that’s not even going to be opened by most people – or that will actively annoy some of the precious customers who ALREADY CHOSE TO GIVE YOU THEIR MONEY – why not find better ways of getting the right people connected with the right offers? Junk mail is a bullhorn; content marketing is a magnet.

Opt In Marketing is Better Than Opt Out

I shouldn’t have to take time out of my day to call my credit union to demand that they stop filling my mailbox with crap. Just because you have someone’s contact information doesn’t mean you have their permission to contact them. Permission is PRICELESS. My credit union has an existing customer relationship with me, which they have now damaged by sending me junk mail and then handling the situation poorly. Instead of forcing me to “opt out” of their marketing, instead of assuming that I wanted to hear from them with marketing offers, my credit union should use “opt in” marketing to qualify prospective customers AHEAD OF TIME and GET PERMISSION in advance BEFORE they start sending offers to us. Stop wasting paper and squandering everyone’s time.

What if, instead of bombarding people with junk mail that they never asked for, companies spent more time and resources upfront on identifying the RIGHT customers who were truly open to receiving those offers? What if you spent more time cultivating an “opt in” culture of marketing where your customers were so engaged with your company that they actively CHOSE to receive your newsletters and mailings, because your content delivered so much value and was so fun to read and helped them learn new things? But doing “opt in” marketing is hard and time-consuming and requires creativity and courage, so instead, companies just crank out another mailing list and smother us all in spam.

It doesn’t have to be that way! Spend more time earning your customers’ permission and building an audience of customers who are happy – no, thrilled! – to hear from you, instead of annoying them with junk mail.

Be Ready to Receive the Customer’s Call

What if, upon receiving those blank checks in the mail, I was actually EXCITED about it? What if I had been really happy to receive that offer, and was thrilled to suddenly have an easy excuse to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy a new kitchen counter with my HELOC money? What if I actually HAD been the target audience for this junk mail offer, and I just had some follow-up questions that I wanted to ask before writing the checks, so I decided to call the number at the bottom of the letter?

Well, I would have been disappointed! Because the first customer service person I talked to didn’t know anything about the letter!

Even if I HADN’T been annoyed by the junk mail, even if the junk mail was a golden opportunity that I was thrilled to receive, then it’s STILL a missed opportunity because the company’s not set up to handle “success!” If you’re going to take the time and spend the resources to send a marketing message to your customers, MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY FOR IT TO SUCCEED. Don’t direct your new sales leads to a generic phone line of automated prompts and clueless customer service reps – give them a special dedicated phone number that takes them directly to a real person who is trained specifically to answer their questions!

Even if I had WANTED to do business with this company as a result of receiving their letter, this company wasn’t ready to do business with me! What’s the point?? Why bother sending me something if you’re not ready to talk about it???