Having worked in mental health for almost 20 years Donna Liddle trained as a Life Coach in 2005 and later trained as an NLP Practitioner and Clinical Hypnotherapist. By combining these skills and a holistic approach Donna has worked with clients to achieve their goals around many different aspects of their life, including, career, health, relationships and improving their overall well-being.
Join Stephen in our interview to gain Donna’s insight into what it is like to own a coaching business and to navigate the successes and the lessons learned.
Tell us about your business
For 10 years prior to the end of 2019 I had an in-person life coaching business, whilst working full-time. Later that year I revamped and transitioned my business online, after quitting my job. This gave me the ability to work with people from all over the world. In fact, it revolutionised how I work and the valuable help I provide.
I tend now to work with coaches and therapists who are also transitioning into the online space. I am there to support them so that they can stand out as an expert, create an unstoppable mindset, with unshakeable confidence, so that they can grow, thrive and succeed on their terms.
What is your biggest frustration with your industry? And how do you solve that?
I would say my biggest frustration, which coincidentally mirrors my clients, is that an in-person business is very different to the online space. To give you some context, in counselling and therapy you used to work for an organisation, or you’d have a profile on a directory and people would seek you out from there. You could work in multiple niches. In the online world, by contrast, it is all about concentrating on serving one niche and making sure you have your marketing and your messaging on point so that you can build an audience and seek leads.
There’s also a lot of conflicting information about the right way to do this and business owners, like myself, get overwhelmed and confused. They also find that there is so much extra to learn. Suddenly you have to be a copywriter, a social media expert, etc. not just an excellent counsellor or therapist. It’s almost so much that they spend more time working on getting their marketing and messaging right, that they don’t have any time left to actually help people. I think this can be incredibly damaging to their mental well being because they start to doubt their years of experience and their own ability to carve out their careers in a way that works for them. It can quickly become a merry-go-round of negative thoughts and that’s compounded further by seeing others, maybe less qualified seemly doing better online than they are.
Our other biggest problem as an industry is that we are generally unregulated. This means you can set up as a ‘coach’ tomorrow if you wanted. This means that those of us who have spent years studying and gaining qualifications are now in a saturated market with a very mixed skill-set. This can leave those trained feeling very out of place and unsure about how best to cut through the noise with their expertise and message. Feeling like this generally leads to inaction, meaning that you stop making any noise about your business at all, which in turn means you stop gaining leads and new clients. One of the ways I work with my coaching and therapist clients is to help them gain their confidence back so that they can focus on delivering their own marketing and messaging to build an audience and client leads by sharing their expertise in a unique way.
Another thing that I am working on, with another coach, Charlotte Hopkins is the ‘creating a culture of excellence quality mark’, which is our way of starting to bring in that all-important industry quality assurance. This helps business owners in this sector attain a level of quality that is reassuring for clients but also benchmarks their expertise and business infrastructure.
If you could go back to the beginning of your business, what would be the one piece of advice you would tell yourself?
I wish I would have gone online sooner.
I was working full-time and running a business and over time burn-out hit me. It got to the point where I hated going to work and I was tired all the time. It almost cost me my mental health and my relationship. Fortunately, I found myself saying, enough is enough and here I am working in a very different way; ultimately doing what I am most passionate about, helping people.
I think it is a process that you go through, you know. Everyone is different. Whilst some jump straight in, others like myself hold back until we are sure all of our ducks are in a row.
I think I’d also tell myself not to be such a perfectionist. Sometimes it is ok to take that imperfect action and just do something. Those learning opportunities are important, whether it works or it doesn’t, because you can always use that new knowledge to your advantage later.
Tell us about your proudest moment as a business owner
For me, it was being able to go out to Spain (before Covid hit) in order to work with one of my clients. Essentially this was only a few months into my new business, I had quit my full-time job and moved from in-person coaching to an online version.
Arriving in Spain I found myself surrounded by everything I wanted this business to be, with all of the opportunities to help people. Here I was working with one of my clients, but because my business is online it also meant I could keep up with all of my other clients as well. The freedom and opportunity is amazing.
What would your advice be to someone starting out as a new business owner?
Just do it!
But make sure you ask for help when you get stuck.
I think we have it in our minds that we need to do everything ourselves, figure everything out, but that’s not the case. There is so much support and help out there. We need to let go of that fear of letting people know that we are struggling.
The caveat to seeking support and advice is to take it in, but then sit down and work out what fits for you and your business. Especially where you have so many different voices telling you how to do something. You will have your own way of doing things and you need to find a path that suits your needs, your vision and your values.
A final word
Donna Liddle is the owner of Donna Liddle Coaching, a passionate business supporting coaches and therapists to stand out as an expert, create an unstoppable mindset, with unshakeable confidence, so that they can grow, thrive and succeed on their terms.