Not quite making a living with your business? Here’s where you need to focus.

man with blueprint

Hmmm. If I follow these instructions to the letter I can build a 12 figure business based on my unique personality, skills and expertise. Step One: change business model to “selling blueprints for creating 12 figure businesses.”

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of conflicting business development advice out there.

If you’re earning less than about $50,000 per year in your coaching, consulting, freelancing or wellness business, you’ll also hear a lot of advice that you’re simply not ready for.

This includes topics like automation, scaling, creating online courses and pretty much everything that promises to show you how to build a 6 or 7 figure business quickly and with minimal effort.

As much as people would like to skip the hard work of building a solid foundation by following someone else’s “proven” blueprint, when you’re in the early stages of your business – which can often last a few years – you need to focus on getting the following 3 things right.

This is especially true if you want to build a YOU Shaped business instead of being a copycat of someone else.

1. Figuring out who is going to buy from you

woman with cach and credit card

They like you? They need you? They have money and are ready, willing and able to pay? Woo hoo! Sounds like an ideal client to me.

Your potential clients are not “everybody” or “anybody” – regardless of how universally helpful your service may be.

Whether you call it a target market, a niche, a demographic, an ideal client – you need to figure out what kinds of people (or businesses) actually buy from you.

A good, solid service business is client-focused.

A client-focused business offers services designed to solve their clients’ problems or help them get what they want – and marketing messages focused on their needs, desires, questions and concerns.

To do this well, you need to get “inside their heads” and develop a deep understanding of who they are and the problems they are experiencing.

2. Figuring out how to talk about what you do in a way that results in people buying from you

agressive buy now guy

If you’re offering a service that people would gladly buy if they understood how it could help them – you do NOT need to use pushy or manipulative sales tactics.

There are 3 stages to this process.

You’ll want to start by developing a clear, confident and conversational answer to the “so…what do you do?” question.

If you attend networking events, you’ll also need a prepared introduction (often referred to as an “elevator pitch”) – and no! They are not the same things!

Next, you need to be able to describe the services you offer in terms of what your potential client will get from working with you. (As opposed to giving an in-depth detail laden description of HOW you do the thing you do.)

You’ll use these words both in conversation with potential clients – and on all your written materials (website, brochures, handouts, advertisements, emails, etc.)

Finally, you also need to be able to confidently conduct a sales conversation. You don’t need a pushy, manipulative script – but you do need to be able to build rapport, direct the conversation, ask probing questions and confidently ask someone to purchase.

3. Figuring out how to deliver exceptional services

happy doggy

A radical new way to get referrals: make your clients happy! (Oh…and ask.)

Ask any established coach, consultant, freelancer or wellness practitioner how they get their clients, and I guarantee you’ll hear this: “repeat clients and word of mouth.”

I have never ever ever heard a successful service professional say that most of their clients come from “posting motivational quotes on Facebook.”

Repeat business and word of mouth referrals come from providing exceptional service. (More here: how to get more referrals.)

It comes from caring about your clients. From having good systems and communication. It comes from packaging what you offer into a service that solves a problem for them or helps them get the results they are looking for.

It may mean bringing several modalities together into one special unique service. It might mean creating frameworks and systems for your clients. It could mean developing service packages or programs that lead clients through a step-by-step process.

It definitely means working extra hard in the beginning to make sure people are happy with what they are getting, being quick to resolve any issues that arise and asking for feedback on a regular basis.

And hello chicken and egg situation…

You won’t be able to do any of this well until you’re actually working with clients

woman dreaming

I wonder if my ideal clients are “cat people” or “dog people”? Maybe they like dogs AND cats. I should reflect on this some more. (Bonus: I can avoid the scary “talking to people” part for a while.)

You can spend weeks meditating on who your ideal clients could be and how they might describe their problems – and you’ll end up with a good guess.

You’ll then need to test your assumptions on real live people.

After you’ve worked with a few clients, you’ll develop a lot more clarity. You’ll see who shows interest and who is willing to pay. You’ll discover that some clients are great to work with – and you’ll experience the “client from hell.”

With this real world information, you can discern the traits that make some clients “ideal” and you can hone your messaging to reach more of them. (You’ll also develop the spidey senses to avoid the others.)

Your clients will tell you everything you need to know in order to effectively market your services. They’ll tell you their problems, they’ll talk about what they want instead, they’ll ask questions – all you need to do is listen carefully.

You won’t know if your description of what you do really lands with people until you try it out to see how people respond.

By working with actual clients and responding to their feedback and results, you can refine your services based on what they need and want. Together, you can co-create the kinds of service packages that lead to glowing testimonials, repeat business and word of mouth referrals.

All of this will take practice, experimentation and refinement over time.

Going from 0 to 50 isn’t quick and easy – it takes time and practice – and it’s messy

woman climbing mountain

There’s a reason why it feels hard in the beginning. It IS hard. The climb is uphill and it takes courage and energy to get out there and make it happen. Go you!

Getting a business off the ground will require time, persistence, courage and hard work. Some of this work will feel awkward and uncomfortable – at least at first.

You cannot avoid this part by buying a “proven shortcut” from someone. Some education and coaching can shorten the learning curve and get you through it faster, but through it you must go.

This first stage is where you gain clarity, confidence and the basic sales and marketing skills you need to succeed.

You’ll learn who your best clients are and where to find them. You’ll learn how to talk about what you do in a way that leads to sales. You’ll have experience delivering a service that people love and you’ll start to get clients by referral.

And when you get there?

You’ll have a solid foundation to build on and you’ll be able to implement that advice about automating, scaling up and developing courses.

Or you can simply take what you’ve learned already, continue to grow organically and create a decent income working for yourself on your own terms.

Want to shorten your learning curve? I made this for you.

An inexpensive program with videos and worksheets.

We’ll cover who your clients are, where to find them and how to talk about them. And more!


  1. Adrienne on August 10, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Patty, this is so so so true. I laughed out loud when I saw your image caption about dog & cat people! Love the way you write!

    • Patty K on August 10, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks, Adrienne! So glad you appreciated the caption – I have so much fun writing them. 🙂

  2. Karen Knight on August 10, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you for reminding me that I want a “me” shaped business, and that that takes work, and not just planning!

    • Patty K on August 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Yeah…it does take a lot of work. Then again…so does working in a job for someone else. The thing I’m trying to push back against here is the unrealistic expectations that a lot of people in my industry put forward. Endless variations of “get rich the quick and easy way” and it’s all bullshit.