How did you learn to be a business owner?

When I started my business, I had absolutely no idea what went into running a small service-based business. I went to school to study software engineering, with the intention of someday becoming a project manager for a software company.

While I didn’t really know exactly what path I wanted my career to take, I knew I wanted it to involve working in software.

I’m really good with computers, so I felt like this was the logical path. I’d taken a few business classes, but they were all focused on management. For example, how to be a good manager, how to handle a team, how to handle projects, project schedules as well as other topics based on the goal of working in a corporate space.

After graduating with my master’s in software engineering, I ended up getting a great job with a large corporation. I was fascinated by the products and services the company offered and found myself really happy there.

At the end of my four years with the company, it was pretty clear that if I wanted to move ahead to a management role, I needed some outside experience.

I left the position for one at a much smaller company. It was an extremely busy time in my life as I had started a family while all of this was happening. I found out the hard way that if you don’t have strong sales and marketing in a small business, that small business simply cannot survive.

Unfortunately, I was laid off and the company ended up going under shortly after. It was really unfortunate since it really was a great company and the software that they were developing had the potential to change the world.

What’s Next?

I ended up not knowing what to do next. I knew that I needed flexibility and even after a month or so of job searching, I hadn’t yet found anything that made me super passionate. This made me decide that I should start my own business.

I had always loved web design and had the background since it’s what I had originally planned on doing with my life.

I had always been designing websites for family and friends with small businesses. Reviewing websites was a passion of mine so I thought, “I can do this so much better than all these other people out there who’re doing this. If they can do it, why can’t I?”

So I started my own business with little to no idea what I was doing.

I knew I’d figure it out but I had no money in the bank, had been laid off unexpectedly, and had a small child. Let me tell you, they’re real money pits.

My thought was, “how hard could it be?” Well, anyone that’s just jumped off the deep end knows that starting your own business is extremely challenging and is extremely difficult.

Jumped Into the Deep End

I started off hiring coaches, a business coach, a sales coach, and a messaging coach. I even hired two sales coaches.

For many of these coaches, I read all of their content, watched every video, and enrolled in every course. I even hired people for a team because I needed more time to learn.

I learned bits and pieces along the way and was able to eventually gain a full understanding of what my next steps were.

Finally, I joined a program, about six months ago, that ended up seriously changing my business and stopped the endless cycle I found myself in.

The thing about all those courses I bought, books I purchased, and coaches I hired is that when I initially found them, they were geared towards coaches, service providers, and consultants. This tends to be a group that gets lumped together.

What I’ve learned indirectly through this new program is that I’m primarily a service provider and I provide a “done for you” service to each of my clients. I am not a coach.

When I began hiring coaches, I was hiring coaches that primarily worked with other coaches since they were the ones who were promoting themselves the loudest on social media.

They said they worked with service providers and consultants as well, but what they were teaching was mainly geared toward the coaches.

In fact, I myself have lumped those people together in the past. However, when it comes to being a “done for you” service provider who provides a certain level of service, and a coach, these are two completely different business models

What’s a Coach?

A coach will typically spend a lot of time creating resources such as loads of extra videos, workbooks, worksheets, checklists, and all other sorts of content.

These things usually take a very long time to create, so coaches will typically put in an extreme amount of effort, usually at the beginning of their coaching career. Often they’ll update elements as their skills improve and as the needs of their ideal clients change. This massive effort enables them to reuse a lot of what they’ve already created.

With this approach, they’re not making a custom course for each individual client that comes through their program. What they’re doing instead is creating one course and introducing more people to that program.

As a coach, it won’t matter if you have 10, 20, or even 200 clients. They’re typically going to receive the same resources you’ve created, assuming you sell your program the right way.

These coaching resources serve the same niche that shares, the same set of problems. Coaches are basically reusing a bunch of content that took a long time to create.

Because a coach is meeting with the client for a limited amount of time and they are spending the rest of their time redistributing resources and working on their business, they are able to take on a higher number of clients.

I’m not discounting the time it took to develop these resources and content, but in doing so, a coach is able to take on many more clients and is not as limited to time as a service provider would be.

What’s a “Done for You” Service Provider?

When it comes to a “done for you” service, it’s a whole different ball game. I cannot provide the same brand and website to multiple people.

Each brand has a different way to differentiate itself from other brands and unique messaging.  It’ll need specific colors along with a unique logo. Each website needs to have a different layout, copy, and messaging. Each of these components is created custom for each business.

It’s the same for other service providers. For example, if you’re a bookkeeper, you’re going to have a bunch of records that you’ll have to clean up. Every business owner is going to have different expenses and bank accounts, so your approach in providing the service will be in this context.

With my business, it typically takes me about a month to develop a complete brand for a client. This includes all the messaging, copy, logo, colors, website, etc. I know other brand strategists that will provide the same amount of services but will complete them over the course of six months.

I’m able to meet this time commitment since I only work with one client at a time whereas most other brand strategists will typically work with more people at a time.

It really depends on the business model for the service provider, but even with six clients at a time over say, a six-month period, it’s still far less than what a coach can typically provide.

What does it mean?

Looking at the difference between these numbers, it’s clear that these are two very different animals when it comes to the goals of branding and marketing a coaching business versus a service-based business.

When it comes to goals, marketing for a coach is very different. The coach’s goal is to get their message out to the masses in order to sell to as many people as possible.

This is necessary because, in the coaching world, you’ll need a lot of clients in order to make the money that you otherwise could as a service provider. A service provider works with fewer people.

They can typically charge more because they are giving people their time back; and what is their time worth to them? The goals of their marketing become less about getting in front of a lot of people, but more about getting in front of a small group of the right people. We’re going to explore this a lot more in future episodes.

Coaches and “done for you” service providers are very, very different. The marketing and messaging are different.

I wish I’d known that I wanted to be a “done for you” service provider and I wish I’d only hired coaches that exclusively work with service providers. I wish I hadn’t worked with coaches that work primarily with other coaches or with service providers who wanted to eventually become a coach.

The coaches I hired were great, but because the goals of these two niches are so different, I was applying the wrong advice and going down the wrong path for a while.

I got to where I needed to go eventually, but the point of hiring someone is to take a shortcut, not the long way around.

Coaches and service providers are not the same. They need very different things in their businesses and I wish I’d known that at the start so that I could’ve hired appropriately for my own business.

If you need help figuring out what you are, a coach or a service provider, take the quiz here!

I work with service providers to help get clarity in their branding so they can easily communicate what they do to attract their ideal clients. If that’s something you need help with, check out the Clearbrand Interview.


About the Author Jennifer Anastasi

I’m Jennifer Anastasi, an Engineer turned Brand Strategist. I empower other service-based businesses to find that clear brand and online presence using my background in tech mixed with creativity (I'm a lifelong creative after all). Unlike courses or group programs, I focus on each business as a unique entity and break down complex and intimidating concepts into easy-to-understand ideas for custom results.

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