Today, I want to share with you my real, uncut thoughts on building a million-dollar coaching brand in the 2020s.
If you run a brand and plan to scale it this year, don’t miss the insights inside this blog.
As most of you know, I’m stepping into transformational coaching and education with a goal of being a leader in the coaching space for creative entrepreneurs that want to start and scale a 7-figure digital business sustainably.
(PSA: We’re also launching not one, but TWO amazing free new communities that you’ll be able to dive into. One is a podcast. The other is a Facebook group. Join us in Sustainable Business Owners. P.S. For more goodies – if you’re not on my email list, get on it!)
I was inspired to sit down and write this blog after reading a tell-all reveal that was just published by a 7-figure coach, Vanessa Lau. Let’s get into it.
The Problem We’re All Ignoring in the Million-Dollar Coaching Industry, Till Now: Coach Vanessa Lau Steps Up
A multi-million-dollar coach (Vanessa Lau) stepped up publicly on Sunday, January 2, 2022, with a tell-all blog about how she went from $2.5M in 2020 in her coaching business, smashing ALL expectations and having a million dollar WEEK—to sinking far below income goals for 2021, and not even breaking even many months. 😱
(This is a coach that recently went viral for revealing her Porsche 911 on Instagram.)
I’m not celebrating this for her. It was obviously tough and scary to have this experience.
But I AM celebrating her for what she’s done singlehandedly, in one day, in this industry.
Now it can be said that finally, finally, finally… a seven-figure coach shared the reality BEHIND their million-dollar story in 2021. She is not one of the first, but she is most definitely one of the first to be this public.
Emily Hirsh of Not For Lazy Marketers & Hirsh Marketing managed over $10M in ad spend in 2021. She has ran ad campaigns for the likes of Amy Porterfield.
In Emily’s recently-released 2022 Marketing Playbook, she says – and I’ll quote it all, because it’s that important –
“2021 was one of the most difficult years for online businesses to date. There have been paradigm shifts to the digital marketing sphere this year, from the iOS 14 updates completely disrupting Facebook’s tracking algorithms, to increased ad costs, to increased saturation, to Instagram’s push for video content, and more. If you’ve felt that uphill battle to profitability more this year than ever before, I’m here to validate you and let you know that you’re not alone in that struggle.
Unfortunately, there are still influencers that are promoting a false reality that starting an online business is easy, and all you need is their magic strategy or cookie-cutter template to achieve instant success. Let me be clear, that is NOT our reality today. What nobody is talking about when it comes to online business is that 100% of the entrepreneurs who are successful (especially after this year), are following a tried and true process that doesn’t change when the industry changes.
Nobody is talking about the fact they didn’t apply one quick template or blueprint to their business and wake up the next day with their Stripe account blowing up. Instead, they put in work, they followed a process that is able to be customized to their own unique business and after a while of sticking with that, that work started to pay off. On top of the fact that it’s harder to create success as an online business in general, we’ve also entered a new era of digital marketing where your marketing foundations are now more important than ever to your success.
That means dialing in and nailing your messaging is critical. …There is a great purge happening right now of businesses who don’t have strong messaging, who don’t have a unique angle, who don’t know their ideal customers, who aren’t delivering real value, and who are looking for instant, easy success, and they’re being deplatformed.”
Did you catch that?
The entrepreneurs that don’t have their basics down will be DEPLATFORMED.
No buts about it.
(By the way, this is why we start in my coaching system, the Skillset Phase, with taking a week on your messaging and market research. That’s right. To clarify: you’re taking one whole week to build one sentence that will carry your brand forward for years to come, with our live coaching help. I’ve had practitioners with two decades under their belt tell me nothing helped them achieve more clarity than the exercises we’ve built for this in my Content Transformation system.)
Now back to Vanessa, the coach going public with her scary 2021 tale.
Picture it: simultaneously revealing your dream car from your vision board on Instagram…
And also telling the world in the same breath that you failed, big time, in several ways in 2021. That you even cried on camera in front of your staff with the weight of it all.
Good for her for being this honest. 👏 I applaud her so much.
I’ve suspected for a long time, and heard grapevine stories of, the underbelly of unsustainability of these million-dollar coaches that do everything through a funnel 100% built with paid traffic on platforms they don’t own.
I believe there is an underbelly of complete unsustainability and burnout in the million-dollar coaching world that is NOT being talked about enough.
You know these coaches: the ones revealing their income numbers every two seconds, private jets, private chefs, high-rise condos, that list goes on.
Now friends, I’ve got NOTHING against buying nice things that you have every right in this country to go buy.
And for the rest of you envying these people without truly, really, and honestly striving for it yourself, please get it together and stop whining. Your success is one key decision and commitment away.
But here’s what I DO have a problem with.
A very big problem, and it’s why I’m here on the blog today:
The narrative and expectation in online business that’s currently pushed about hitting BIG numbers in your online business. I think it’s unhealthy and dangerous.
I know from experience that happiness is not found in the pursuit a long trail of zeros.
In fact, acquiring that long trail of zeros can be the scariest thing you’ll ever achieve, because it’s just as easily LOST as gained.
I shared this 100% realistic chart in one of my last blogs on Express Writers, before I exited:
We actually had to recover from that million-dollar year in 2018.
Systems broke. People broke.
2021 was our first close-to-2-million year, between all four businesses we run. Much of that came from the business sale in September of 2021.
I only share my income publicly because I want you to know I’m living proof that you CAN have sustainable businesses that do make $1M+ per year. In no way is this shared for bragging rights. I follow several business mentors that are hitting well past $1M/year, as well. Jay Owen is one I respect. I love his book, Building Businesses that Last.
The truth is that today, we’re in a world where the dust is settling from the pandemic and trust is actually HARDER than ever to earn.
You absolutely CAN earn it, but the flashy approach isn’t often the best to do so.
As I’ve studied the industry for three months and talked real-time with dozens of real people that buy coaching, before building my new transformational coaching system in the works – there won’t be anything like it in existence to teach creative entrepreneurs how to run a sustainable business, and that’s a guarantee not a brag; I believe that tried-and-true mediums that have worked for years are now going to work BETTER than ever.
Writing a book that establishes you in your industry. Showing up weekly on your own blog with valuable insights. The power of vulnerability in telling your real overcomer story in books and stages.
On the other hand, the overnight persuasion-fueled, tactic-filled funnel—people trust less and less.
Entrepreneurs: I don’t know about you, but I’d MUCH rather work towards a sustainable million dollars a year that won’t happen for me until I build everything to MAKE it happen.
Instead of working for the bragging rights of a $1 million week with a launch that I can’t for-sure count on again.
Vanessa is doing us all a favor by showing us what it really looks like, post the million-dollar-week glamour.
3 Rookie Mistakes Coach Vanessa Made
I want to summarize some very rookie mistakes I noticed, after reading Vanessa’s tell-all blog today, that are completely avoidable by every single one of you coaches and service providers.
1. Thinking you’ve made it, after you hit your first 7-fig year; expecting to double this the next year.
From experience here, I can tell you it’s actually HARDER to hit higher income goals again after you’ve hit that original goal.
I built and sold a digital biz with a 10-year growth pattern, but it looked like ups and downs, never a steady guaranteed up. In fact, the year after we made the 7-figures, next January we netted a grand total of $10,000! Our income tanked, because we’d lost some key accounts unexpectedly, and not because of any fault of our team.
But we rebuilt. We didn’t give up. Imagine if I’d assumed we arrived!
Assuming you’ve arrived is business death and slowdown.
2. Buying expensive things because you “made it” this year, on the anticipation of an even bigger next 12 months.
Vanessa thought a 4M year was in the bag for 2021; and on the anticipation of that, ordered a new Porsche 911s on a payment plan, went into a 2.5M home mortgage, and paid a near $700k tax bill without consulting a single tax attorney or wealth advisor first.
One of the BEST things I have ever done was to build our first family foundation this year.
We spent months and five figures on specialized consultants that truly knew how to help us wealth plan and had law degrees to back up their knowledge. We exponentially saved on taxes, and created a repeatable strategy to consistently save on taxes legitimately while simultaneously re-investing into our American economy. 🇺🇸
You do NOT have to blanket-pay giant tax bills from the government without questioning it. Remember, your tax accountant plays defense, never offense. They will always advise you on what is “safe” for them, if they are pinned in your audit. They do not pay your bills.
Get a wealth advisor. Stat. And let them tell you how much you can save, by purchasing and acquiring assets that lend back to your local economy. I recommend Maria Puche, who has helped us out quite a bit, and works with a team of qualified tax attorneys.
3. Last and worst: Hiring employees because “you’re supposed to.”
This by far cost Vanessa the most in terms of sanity, revenue, and goal-smashing in 2021.
That the people you hire can actually hold you back?
Friend, I’ve experienced this myself, and it’s one of the most heartbreaking lessons to learn in business – that the majority of people you want to hire and actually pay good money to, won’t care half as much as you. It’s hard to find someone that does. (But it’s worth it.)
Vanessa hired FOUR new full time salaried employees without testing out a single contractor first. In her own words: “I felt like I was working harder and getting LESS from my team after I did this.” She allowed these people, none of whom had real experience or grit from the looks of it, to sway her gut business decisions and ultimately cause big revenue losses.
As we unveil the Growth Phase this month in my five-phase coaching system (which my students only begin into AFTER we get their market messaging clarity established, and a targeted, fun, high-ROI content marketing strategy built for platforms they own)—I’m teaching them how to operate ANY 7-figure coaching or service based online business with elite, high-level, on-call contractors.
You can go one of two routes:
- Hire a project-based agency with YEARS of collective experience you’re not going to get anywhere else (yes, I’m actually for hiring teams/agencies if, and only if, they are solid).
- Or, build your own team of contractors.
…But employees? Heck no. Nope. Yikes. You don’t need them for a long time.
And I’ll prove this in my Growth training, Phase 3 of my Content Transformation System.
It’s mindblowing how much your company can GROW when you have the right people placed inside, with the right margins to guide them. You literally cannot grow without them, but not setting this up right can ultimately also cost you everything and set you back for years to come.
(I’ve already been privately live coaching one of my CTS students through my repeatable framework to find, hire and manage incredible contractors and agencies — she desperately needed to hire and grow before this curriculum launched — and she is seeing success!)
The Future is Bright, But Only If We Settle In For the Real Work
Will I still follow and listen to Vanessa?
I think she will come out of this experience an incredible businesswoman, and hit even new heights.
Sometimes the toughest lessons you learn from the down years are what propels you to do your biggest, boldest moves.
I started and built my own hundred person agency to $5,000,000 in sales in the last 10 years.
Then, I sold it for just over one million last fall. Some told me to push for much more. To patent the software. Or at least to license it, and not include it. While I agree with the thinking behind that advice— we WERE as a brand, honestly, a lot more valuable than what we sold for—I was happy. And that’s what mattered.
And being authentic about your journey is a RESPONSIBILITY, when thousands if not millions of people look up to you as a leader. Proud of Vanessa for this level of vulnerability.
Your success is ahead, but only if you settle in for the real work involved.
Don’t let the flashy misguide you.
Cheers to you,