Online coaching isn’t all meeting clients at your dining room table and “commuting” to your kitchen or home gym for your next session.
While these are, indeed, some of the potential perks of coaching your clients online, there are also multiple traps and challenges that can keep you from having a productive, satisfying day at work.
Here are the traps of an online coaching business and some suggested fixes so you can stay on top of your meetings, sessions, and tasks.
Coaches with online businesses have two big challenges when it comes to scheduling. The first is scheduling sessions with clients and collaborators in different time zones, and the second is a variability in work schedules from day-to-day.
If you have even one client out of your time zone, it can make for some crazy coaching schedules. It could mean you are getting up early in the morning or staying up late, or even have big gaps in your schedule.
Additionally, your day-to-day schedule may vary greatly depending on client availability, booking, and other responsibilities you may have not related to work (like taking your child to get new shoes or meeting with your tax guy).
At the end of each week, review your schedule for the following week and set your work hours, schedule appointments, and most importantly, write it all down in your calendar. You may want to combine paper calendars with digital calendars to keep everything visible while still getting automatic meeting and session reminders on your phone and desktop.
To manage time zone differences, use digital tools to get in tune with your clients’ and collaborators’ time zones. Get in tune with everyone’s time zones using Every Time Zone, World Time Buddy, or Timezone (iOS), and then schedule meetings across time zones, only displaying the times you are free with apps like Doodle and Schedule Once.
Some apps designed for coaches will take care of scheduling issues, including time zone and your availability, for you.
Bad Wi-Fi Connections
Pixelated videos and shoddy audio when your client is opening up to you about the challenges they are facing with their new meal plan can mean a missed opportunity to make important strides with your client.
A bad Wi-Fi connection is the epitome of the downfalls of digital communication. When the Wi-Fi is down and you don’t have a backup plan, work and communication freezes.
When possible, schedule your work time when you are in a place with a dependable network. Avoid situations where the Wi-Fi is more likely to cut out, like if you are using data in your car or if you are using public Wi-Fi in a restaurant or café.
If you’re having trouble with your home Wi-Fi, make sure your router is close to your computer or tablet, move obstructions away from the router, install a Wi-Fi extender, or invest in fiber optic services, where available. Additionally, prepare a backup plan in case your home Wi-Fi fails in the middle of a meeting—know participants’ phone numbers or have your phone hotspot configured to make a quick switch.
Many online health and fitness coaches work from home or share spaces with other professionals. Since there are other things going on in your workspace (kids doing schoolwork or playing, chores needing to be done, meal prepping, needy pets, chatty family members or roommates), it is easy to get distracted.
Set up a dedicated, private workspace with a door, if possible. If a home office isn’t realistic, set up a space at home where everyone knows that they cannot bother you when you are working. Also, define a daily work schedule when you will be dedicated to your coaching business. Note that your schedule can change from day-to-day to reflect your needs, but you should block off that time to work.
When your work is in the virtual world and your workspace is in your living space, it is easy to lose track of your appointments, lose documents, and clutter your workspace. When you are working through digital platforms, it is your responsibility to remain motivated to stay on top of tasks.
Create daily and weekly priorities and get the most difficult or least fun thing out of the way first so you’ll have the satisfaction of checking that off your to-do list. Be realistic when you are listing the things you can do in a day. One idea for this is to do one big thing, three medium things, and five small things in a day—called the 1-3-5 rule.
For digital disorganization, you can use a virtual assistant service, go paperless and keep files organized in the cloud, and use client management apps. To keep your space tidy, try to find a workspace separate from your living space, or take time to create a space with nothing but the absolute essentials for the service you provide.
Not Taking Breaks
When you aren’t commuting to work, there are no break rooms, and you’re always in the zone; it can be difficult to remember to take breaks. Whether you are at your desk or in your home gym, not taking breaks can quickly lead to burnout.
Schedule in breaks and set reminders to take them. Not only will you avoid burnout, you’ll also see your productivity skyrocket. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, calls for you to work for twenty-five minutes, undistracted, take a five-minute break, and then work for another twenty-five minutes. Every two hours, take a longer break. Whether it is the Pomodoro Technique or simply scheduling in a break every hour, make sure to fully step away from your work when you are taking a break.
Collaborating with Other Professionals
Whether you have partners, employees, a boss, or you’re working on a short-term project with other professionals, collaboration can be tricky when everyone is working remotely. Not only do you have to deal with the time-zone issues mentioned above, but you also have to keep track of others’ progress or work on tasks together simultaneously.
Use an online collaboration space, like Basecamp, Chanty, Slack, or Asana. These tools allow you to manage online teams and see how far along they are with different projects. Cloud-based file tools, like Google Docs, Airtable, and SmartSheets, allow teams to contribute ideas to the same document in real time.
Staying On Task
Health, nutrition, and fitness coaches have a tendency to fill gaps in knowledge they might have and stay up-to-date with best practices and the latest research. Since online coaches often spend a significant portion of the day at the computer, it’s easy for a simple Google search about the best plant-based protein supplements to turn into an hour-long research detour trying to determine how your diet influences your immune system.
Not only can these research detours lead to a tendency to procrastinate your priority task list, it’s also easy to slip into a compulsive need to stay informed, inevitably overwhelming yourself in the process.
If you’re having trouble setting boundaries with the types and amounts of information you are looking up during the COVID-19 pandemic, this guide has several useful tips for you.
Rather than following the impulse to immediately find the answer to your questions or stay up-to-date with research daily, set aside time every week where you can be dedicated to answering questions you might have or staying up-to-date with the latest research.
As questions or topics of interest arise, or if a client asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, write them down, but commit to staying on task.
Additionally, limit the time you spend researching, especially when you are looking up information that can cause you anxiety. Having a short list of trusted, authoritative information resources can help synthesize important information for you so you can make the most of your time.