How Good Do I Need To Be?

Way back in the stone age of the internet, I think it was 2008 or so, I ran a blog post called When Fine is Plenty. In that post, we talked about how you could make a very nice living being the dictionary definition of “good enough.”

There was a time when I said you didn’t have to be great. But that was before everyone and their schnauzer paid $2,000 to be told “You don’t need talent to succeed.”

That was before the market became flooded with people who well and truly believed that showing up was the same thing as “good enough.”

Now I’ve changed my mind.

Nowadays, you probably do need to be great. Or at least very, very, very good.

But how good do you need to be?

The answer to this question begins with when you enter the market.

Imagine a town with no plumbers. (Ridiculous, but just imagine it. Pretend it’s back in the days before indoor plumbing was mainstream.)

Now imagine you are the Very First Plumber. You are going to be rolling in the proverbial clover. People are saying, “Oh my God! Finally, a plumber!” They didn’t care as much how good your work looked. If it wasn’t perfect, at least it was a pipe, and now it was theirs.

That was what 2008 was like for coaches and bloggers.

Now, imagine that same sleepy town 50 years later. There are quite a few plumbers in town. Some are great. Some are terrible. Some look great, but they’re terrible.

Now you walk into town, and this is your competition. And they’ve all been around longer than you have.

You can’t just throw up your shingle and say “I took this certified plumber training! So hire me already!” and expect it to work just because.

You also can’t charge premium rates (because your Platinum Mastermind Plumbing Mentor told said “you were worth it” and “you have to respect what you bring to this world”) and expect it to work “just because.”

Yet this is what a lot of the coaching industry trains you to believe. And in 2008, they may have been right.

But they’re not right anymore.

Here are the things your potential clients think about when they are sizing you up.

Imagine your ideal client – or at least a perfectly good client – looking around to figure out who they are going to hand their money over to today.

They are thinking about whether you show any signs of longevity – basically, have you been around long enough to prove that you have been doing this for a living?

They are thinking about whether your website, content, and newsletters communicate a level of expertise that makes them confident you can solve their problems.

They are thinking about whether they can see evidence of clients you have helped who are similar enough to them to inspire confidence in your services.

They are thinking about your reputation, and whether they’ve heard enough people talking positively about the paid work you did for them. (Case studies can count here.)

They are thinking about the level of hustle you put into your business – are you visibly showing up, or is your website or list a ghost town?

They are thinking about how you communicate your deliverables – in other words, what they get for their money – in terms of the concrete things they care about paying for.

They are thinking about whether your rate is even worth it in the first place. Most surgeons cost less per hour than most coaches, and insurance will pay for your surgeon. Your coach comes out of your own pocket.

And, possibly most importantly, they are thinking about whether you can make their problem go away.

(Note: “Can you make their problem go away?” is not synonymous with “Can you support them through their time of transition?” Only the very rich and very self-aware will pay for the latter. Pretty much everybody will pay for the former.)

However! It is very important to know this:

This is not an “all or nothing” list of things that you need. You can mitigate weaknesses in one area with strengths in another.

If your reputation is strong enough, you can be the most intermittent blogger in the world, and you don’t need a regular email schedule.

If your deliverables are attractive enough and you have the case studies and testimonials to back up your abilities, you don’t even need a blog.

If you don’t have a reputation at all yet, but you deliver so much content via your website and list that your potential clients can see you as amazingly talented, you can still book clients handily.

In other words, if you can shine in one or two areas well enough, you can get clients even if the other things they’re looking for aren’t necessarily present in any real way.

The important word here, of course, is “if.”

And, I guess, “shine.”

Your guru may say you’re worth $375 an hour. That’s not your guru’s call to make.

Your guru doesn’t have a clue in hell what you are worth, but they will probably tell you it’s a really high number.

But it’s not their mortgage on the line if you can’t get clients at $375 but you can’t back your rate down without committing branding suicide.

It’s yours.

It’s not their reputation on the line if you don’t have the key pieces of the puzzle in place to support your rates, or fill your books.

It’s yours.

You can’t get a client to happily pay you for your services “just because” you feel like you’re worth the money. It doesn’t work that way.

”Worth the money” is determined by the client, not the coach.

You don’t have to be Tony Robbins to make a great living as a coach. But you do need to be a great coach, and be able to communicate – however you do it – to your potential clients that you are not the average schlep hanging up a shingle.

Think of the rate you want to charge your clients.

Now think of paying that rate to someone else. For a block of 12 hours.

What would they have to demonstrate to you to get you to pony up the money happily?

That’s what your potential clients need to see from you.

Today’s homework:

Look through the list in the middle of this post. Ask yourself how you’re faring in each of those categories. Be honest.

Then think about what you might need to ratchet up a notch to get people to feel more than comfortable paying your rates.

Remember, you don’t have to be great at everything.

But you do have to be great in at least one area. Two is better. Your security as a coach is directly proportional to the number of areas in which you are visibly and demonstrably great.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.