The financial coaching industrial complex is not being 100% transparent with you!
And you know who I’m talking about… I’m on Dave Ramsey's coaching email list too… And I’ve already been through his coaching program, so I can share from experience.
If you’re anything like I was when I first got into financial coaching, you’re believing ALL the marketing mythology mumbo jumbo like: “it’s easy to get started, you’ll start making money on the side immediately, you’ll be a full time coach within your first 6 months-to-a year, the world NEEDS you RIGHT NOW” and my personal favorite, “people are willing to pay TOP DOLLAR to work with financial coaches just like you!
Well, I hope that's true. I have found it to be MUCH more complicated than that.
Now to be fair, there is SOME potential truth in all of those statements, but today I want to pepper in some reality checks, so that if you’re considering financial coaching as a side-hustle or as a career, that you can set some more grounded, realistic and sane expectations.
Case in point:
Hold onto your chair. These stats are shocking.
Did you know paying off federal student loans takes people anywhere from 10 to 30 years? You read that right—10 to 30 freakin’ years.1
How about this one: Americans have $856 billion in credit card debt alone. (To put that in perspective, if you saved $1,000 a day, it would take you over 2 million years to hit $865 billion.) 2
Or this one: Over 100 million working-age Americans have no retirement accounts. 3
These are crazy numbers, but what do they all add up to? The fact that there’s a personal finance epidemic in America. People are afraid, stressed and struggling just to get by.
And I add snarkily, "people who are stressed and struggling to get by are going be willing to pay you TOP DOLLAR to help them extract themselves."
Now, here's the thing... those stats are likely 100% true.
BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, what's the most important question here?
How many of those people are ACTUALLY going to be willing to engage with a financial coach to help them solve their problem.
In marketing terms, is this a viable market and is there a way to know?
I'll tell you the percentage, but first let's talk about some realities...
And as we're moving through these, let me know in the comments below which one of these was the most unexpected for you? If you’re a coach, what has YOUR experience been. Let me know in the comments and let’s continue the discussion.
Reality #1: Credentials Don't Count, Results Do
They don’t care who’s program you’ve been through or what your credentials are or how much money you spent on training.
What people REALLY care about is, 1) can you actually help me, 2) what kind of results can I expect if I work with you, 3) how are you going to pull it off and 4) who else have you helped (can I see some proof, testimonials)?
If someone is going to potentially pay you $100s or more per hour for you to help them with their financial situation, they want MUCH more than vague assurances that you can walk them through a general process they read in a blog post somewhere. They want verifiable, step-by-step documentation that you know what you’re talking about.
Side note: THAT’s why I believe that every financial coach should also create content, but more about that later.
Reality #2: Most People Want "A Pill"
One of the most shocking discoveries for me as a new financial coach was my observation that most people just want to “feel” better about their situation. It takes a special kind of person to actually want to “do” something about their financial situation, particularly if their beat down and broke.
Now, you probably want to become a financial coach because you’ve experienced (like I did) that there’s a HUGE benefit to following these principles and getting your money right.
That’s awesome, but that’s NOT most people.
The sad fact is that most people are not yet at (and may never actually reach) that point of desperation that caused YOU to wake up..
The sad truth is, not everybody REALLY wants to change. LOTS of people actually only want to “feel better”.
I started to see this so often that I actually started asking my new coaching students “do you REALLY want help or are you just looking to FEEL BETTER about your situation?” And some people are actually offended by this question. And you can probably guess what happened next…
Reality #3: 97% Will Say "No"
This one is related to the previous one. Most people will waste your time, dancing around the subject, kicking tires, asking questions and not really being interested in the real answers, not interested in rolling up their sleeves with you to do the hard work of reforming their minds, habits and even their personalities, which is what it ACTUALLY takes to win with money.
And honestly, this is precisely why I’ve had to steadily increase the barrier to entry into my 1:1 financial coaching practice. I just got tired of giving 30 minutes of my time to people that would ultimately frustratingly ghost the process.
Reality #4: Desperation Abounds
Another sad truth in this space is that the people who need what you do the most, are usually the least willing to put in the work and the least willing to pay you.
The more disorganized, chaotic or out of control someone’s financial life is, the more it requires upwards of a PhD in financial engineering to help them disentangle themselves.
THE MOST complicated students I’ve worked with are the ones who are the brokest, have the most financial obligations and simultaneously have the least amount of resources to deal with them. These are the ones that are staring down the barrel of a bankruptcy, can’t pay their bills and yet haven’t really seemed to “hit the wall” about the stark reality of their situation. They’re destitute but still not uncomfortable enough to “burn the ships” of their bad behaviors and right their economic ways.
It doesn’t matter how much “pro bono” time you give them or how much “discounted” coaching you offer them, they’re just going to suck the life out of you and still not be willing to change their core beliefs and behaviors.
To quote Nigel from the movie Spinal Tap, this is the “saddest of all keys”, but there’s really not much you can do for them but pray they have the proper awakening and point them to the best of your free content.
Reality #5: Tough Conversations Are Normal
You have to be okay with people not liking you. “People are NOT going to like you just because you’re you”. That was a word of wisdom from an older attorney buddy of mine back when I was a runner in college at a local law practice. People are not going to like you. Especially if you push back on any of their silly but closely held money beliefs or publish any kind of polarizing content. AND, especially if they’re a Dave Ramsey acolyte and don’t like dissenting opinions about his material or business practices.
You will have to fire students. It’s just part of the deal. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but you do have to have boundaries and set reasonable expectations with your students. I’ve fired many students partially out of my own conscience. “Hey Karen, I can continue to coach you and accept your money, but I’m really not seeing that we’re making any progress here.”
Reality #6: The Best Sales Tool - Content
This one is particularly important if you’re expecting that you’re going to build a profitable coaching business as a local 1:1 financial coach. In full transparency and honesty, I just don’t see that it’s possible. If there are other coaches out there that have ACTUALLY had success with this, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What I’ve found is that the more traditional ways of building a local small business, i.e. local “terrestrial networking events” (like chamber meetings and BNI) and just normal networking with other locally based professionals was just a gargantuan waste of both my time AND my energy.
I found that what we do as financial coaches is SO misunderstood or at least not well understood. AND in my experience, all of the people that regularly encounter people that need what we do who should be sending us leads like: insurance agents, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, divorce attorneys and financial advisors are too busy building their own businesses to even think about us. I don’t blame them at all. It’s just a reality we can’t really change, so why waste the time trying?
The reality is that you need to start creating content (blog posts, videos, social media) targeted toward your particular ideal student (or avatar). Yes, it is a LONG game, but in my experience it’s how you’re going to find the people that really need and want your help.
OH, and two FREE resources that will help you get started by laying out a step-by-step blueprint are:
1) My FREE START. An Online Business quick start guid guide… It outlines this entire "getting started" process in 6 easy steps.
2) This video here… that walks you through these 5 absolute non-negotiables your market must have if you really want to succeed. So click right here and I’ll see you in this video. I'm actually waiting for you over in this video, right here… :)
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