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  • Writer's pictureJay Manning

The Top 3 Personal Branding Mistakes To Avoid

- When you're building an online coaching business

When you’re starting out as a coach, experiencing a little self-doubt, trying to find your voice, figuring out your personal brand, and wanting to stand out, it’s incredibly easy to slip into making one or more of these mistakes.

Approximately three months after pivoting my brick-and-mortar coaching business online, my wife walked into my office early one morning to find me sitting on the floor. With my knees pulled up to my chest, my face buried in my hands. I was sobbing.

Worried, she sat down beside me, put her arm around my shoulders, and asked me what was wrong.

“I can’t do this!!!” I wailed!

“Can’t do what?” she asked, confused.

“I can’t do this online visibility thing!! It’s just not me!! I’m too old and too fat and too…. too…. I dunno, I just can’t!!”

“Then don’t do it,” my wife, ever the pragmatist, responded. “Nobody’s forcing you to do this. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do”.

Instantly I stopped crying, and I glared at her in horror.

“I can’t stop!! This work is important! This is my mission!” I exclaimed defiantly.

“Well then, best you get up off the floor, get over yourself and do what you need to do to see your mission through,” she said… “Want me to put a pot of coffee on?”

I got up off that floor and washed my puffy, tear-stained face with cold water. Then I sat down at my desk to answer the all-important questions.

  1. “What does my ideal client need from me?”

  2. “How can I extend the geofence on my comfort zone to show up for them authentically and in the way that serves them?”

  3. “What am I not seeing out in the world that I believe my ideal clients need and that I know I can provide?

You see, I’d spent the last couple of months researching and studying other coaches online. They seemed so confident and self-assured. Their content was brilliant and insightful. Their posts were so witty and funny. And their photos. Oh, my gawd! How much were they spending on photographers and stylists?!?!

I was so busy studying those coaches; I was losing sight of the real reason I was doing this. I was losing sight of the important work I set out to do and the life coaches I was so determined to help.

Since those early days, I’ve heard many life coaches I’ve worked with lamenting over these same things. Feelings of inadequacy. Fears of not measuring up. And as a result, I’ve seen them make three huge personal branding mistakes. Mistakes I urge you to avoid at all costs!!


Mistake #1 – Fake it till you make it!

Now I’m not saying that I’ve not employed this tactic myself over the course of my life. I remember the first time I was contracted as a location scout in the film industry. Having found a breathtakingly stunning spot for a particular scene, I called the director I was working with right away. He loved what I was telling him and immediately asked, “What’s your 20”? I froze for a second and then pretended to have an overly exaggerated coughing fit and hung up the phone. I quickly called my office to ask somebody to please google what that meant (mobile phones weren’t so smart back then). Turns out its film industry jargon for “What’s your location?” He’d asked me to share the location so that he could come out to the site I’d found. I called back, apologized for the ‘dropped’ call, and shared my location. I performed so many “coughing fits” during that particular contract that somebody once asked me if I had tuberculosis! 😳

On the upside, I now speak “Film Industry” fluently.

My point is, you can’t cough your way through discovery calls or coaching sessions.

Don’t be tempted to lie about your expertise or experience when you’re starting out. Be really honest about who you are, what you bring to the table, and what you’re legitimately able to help your client achieve. Clients are smart and can sense when something is ‘off’ or doesn’t quite ring true—and once somebody’s Spidey-senses tell them they can’t trust you, they’ll move along swiftly to find someone they can.

Have you ever seen a coach and thought to yourself, “But they’re so young” (too young to have much life experience). 🤔

Or perhaps you thought, “She doesn’t have any degrees or certifications”!

And yet, there they are, in business, attracting paying clients and raking in the money.

It’s quite simply because they are exactly what their ideal client needs and is looking for at that point in their life.


Mistake #2 - Copying other coaches.

There seem to be four main reasons this happens:

  1. The coach in question is out of their depth because they’re already making mistake #1.

  2. They simply don’t trust themselves or believe that what they have to offer is good enough.

  3. They’ve not practiced coaching, so they don’t yet know what they’re capable of with any degree of certainty. (see the blog on The Confidence Building Formula for New Coaches)

  4. They’ve not practiced creating content often enough, so they’ve not yet found their own voice.

Irrespective of the reason, this is not a mistake you want to make.

And again, there are a few reasons for this.

  • It’s exhausting when you have to try to be anybody other than yourself.

  • The best you’ll ever be is a 2nd rate version of the coach/s you’re copying.

  • You’re delaying the process of finding your own style, voice, and vibe. All of which are the very things that will ultimately attract those dream clients to you.


Mistake #3 - Hiding behind your content.

Let me explain what I mean. There are two fundamental ways in which you can hide behind your content:

  • Only ever create strictly “professional” content and never pull back the curtain on your life and personality outside of being a coach. In other words, they only ever get to experience your company brand. Becoming a really relatable and successful life coach depends on your ability to build a relatable personal brand. You are the face of your business. Today, clients want to know the authentic person behind the brand. Write about what you stand for, what you care about, what you celebrate. Your dreams, joys, fears and scars. Note that I said scars - “You don’t write from your open wounds; you write from your scars”—Elizabeth Gilbert - this is important. Your clients don’t need or want you to emotionally vomit on their social media feeds or in their inbox!

  • Hiding behind stock imagery and seldom using photos of yourself—whether on your website or social media. For someone to hire you as a coach, that whole “Know, Like and Trust Factor” really comes into play. I would argue it’s the ‘Know, Love and Trust Factor’ when it comes to coaching. Remember, the reason you create content in the first place is to speak into the hearts and minds of your ideal client in a way that connects and resonates.

You don’t write from your open wounds; you write from your scars - Elizabeth Gilbert.

Now I know you might not love looking at photos of yourself. If you’re anything like me, you probably agonize over every unflattering detail.

My Oprah-sized-butt (sorry, Oprah), my eyelids are too heavy, my mouth is lopsided, and my age shows as I cruise towards my 47th birthday. (yeah, sure… go have a look at my photos. I’ll sit here and wait for you to get back).

Here’s the thing, though. My clients could not care less about any of that. They care about how I support and help them get where they want to go.

If they wanted a supermodel, they’d have hired Heidi Klum.

Many of my clients are, in fact, women in my same age bracket (35yrs to 50yrs - it’s my bracket, I’ll make it as large as I want to) with many of the same body image and confidence issues. But the reason they’re working with me has nothing to do with any of that.

So I ask you – unless you’re a personal fitness coach, does the size of your butt really matter? Would you pass up the opportunity to work with Oprah because of the size of her butt? Would ya? I didn’t think so! Because, as a coach, it’s the size of your heart that counts.

For heaven’s sake, take photos of yourself, you gorgeous heart-centered woman! Sprinkle them everywhere! And every time you do, remember that there is someone out there desperately waiting for YOU to show up.


In Conclusion

Now, grab three sticky notes and a marker pen and write one message to yourself on each one:

🖊️ 🟨 I am the real deal.

🖊️ 🟨 I am an original.

🖊️ 🟨 I will show up fully.

Stick those notes up where you will see them often. And every time you notice them, read them out loud to yourself and give yourself a minute to let them really sink in. Be especially sure to do this every time you sit down to create new content.


If you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or perhaps a little confused about how to find your voice and create your own unique personal brand, then grab a cup of coffee, Zoom on over, and let’s talk about it!

Your business will ❤️ you for it!

Jay xo

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Hi! I'm Jay

Bona Fide Business Nerd

My job is to help new and startup life coaches just like you to not only make an impact in the world, but make money doing it! 

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