In this post I’ll share my thoughts on offering formal coaching or consulting services. Many people have asked me about this since I started blogging in 2004. If you have no interest in this topic, you can safely skip this post.
I’ve always turned down formal consulting requests because I didn’t like the idea of charging money for helping people one-on-one. I also figured it was more effective to focus on one-to-many communication outlets like blogging, speaking, or writing a book, since I’d be able to reach more people that way. But given my goal of making StevePavlina.com ad-free by the end of the year, I’m giving this idea serious consideration now.
I’ve been helping people on a one-on-one basis for nearly a decade, dating back to my computer gaming industry days. I’ve always done it for free and very informally, usually via email or the forums, but sometimes by phone or in-person. Since this isn’t a core part of my business and doesn’t generate any income, I never bothered to formalize or structure it. However, because of the volume of requests I receive each day, this means that I help people in a very haphazard and random way. On any given day, I might answer a few requests personally and then refer everyone else to the forums.
My contact form includes the line, “I respectfully request that you please DO NOT use this form to request personal advice or feedback because I don’t have the capacity to provide that.” But still many requests come through each day. Before I added that line, the volume of requests was just insane. With that line it’s still unrealistic for me to give personal guidance to everyone who asks, but at least it’s more manageable than it was before. I love to help people when I can, but it seems lame to have to put up roadblocks like that just to cut down on the volume of requests.
On the bright side, I’ve seen that even this random assistance-on-the-side has been very helpful for many people. I like that I can save people a lot of unnecessary struggle as they work toward their next breakthrough. Because I’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many different people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, I can quickly discern patterns that most people simply can’t see. This makes it easier to come up with practical solutions.
I recognize that my informal approach isn’t a good system. It’s too chaotic. I don’t think it’s wise to help people one week and then have to turn them away the next because I’m too busy. I know that some people have found this frustrating. I need a better system.
Professional coaching / consulting
If I’m going to keep helping people one-on-one, I should formalize and structure it into a proper coaching/consulting setup. To me that would be more fair than telling people in bold red letters: “Do NOT email me!” I wouldn’t want to drop this part of my life completely, since helping people one-on-one has served as tremendous fuel for my own growth. But I need some way of priotizing the requests, and the most sensible way to do that is to assign it a price tag. That also fits with my goal of shifting away from ad-based income.
Since my blog and the forums generate such incredible feedback, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of experience and insight into solving personal growth problems. This has enabled me to help people overcome all manner of challenges. It seems reasonable that I should formalize this process instead of just applying it randomly to people that happen to catch me at a good time.
Also, since I’ve been doing business online since 1995 and blogging since 2004 (very successfully), I could consult with people about online business and blogging, shaving a lot of time off their learning curve. I’ve certainly gotten a lot of requests for this over the years.
Additionally, while writing Personal Development for Smart People, I devised a system that has made it much easier for me to diagnose and solve problems, both for myself and others. This could easily be applied to coaching and consultations, both with individuals and businesses.
Since my book will hit the shelves on October 15th, I can anticipate even more requests for advice hitting my inbox. That’s another incentive to get this handled sooner rather than later.
Because of the wide variety of articles I’ve written, I’ve consulted with people on many different challenges. I’ve been doing this informally since 1999, when I began sharing ideas with fellow software developers to increase their personal productivity and their sales.
Here are some of the most common areas where I’ve helped people in the past:
- Breaking bad habits, adopting new habits, and overcoming addictions (especially becoming an early riser)
- Time management and personal productivity improvements
- Building self-discipline
- Building courage
- Polyphasic sleep
- Discovering your life purpose
- Navigating career transitions (“I hate my job” -> “I feel so free and alive”)
- Starting a new business (mostly online)
- Generating passive income
- Increasing your income (without violating your values)
- Dietary improvements (going vegetarian, vegan, or raw)
- Diagnosing and solving relationship problems (Should I stay or go?)
- Achieving more clarity and focus (creating a sense of direction)
- Setting inspired goals (separating your true goals from socially conditioned ones)
- Polarity decisions (lightworking vs. darkworking)
- Blogging and online business (especially building traffic and generating income)
This list of topics is way too broad to be considered a niche, but I’ve never been a niche person. I have a lot of different interests, but they all enhance and support each other remarkably well. The underlying pattern is that I want to help people live more consciously and courageously.
Some situations where I do NOT enjoy coaching people are:
- People who are too passive and powerless - These people either try to give me all their power, or they fail to summon the will to act on the simplest of ideas. Either way it’s a bad match. In order to help such people, I usually have to piss them off first (to get them to rise from apathy to anger). When I succeed, they typically run away or turn against me because they don’t interpret anger as progress, even though it’s a huge step in the right direction because they’re finally moving away from denial and falsehood. This only works well when there’s a high-trust relationship to begin with, and that often takes more time than most people are willing to invest, so there isn’t enough leverage.
- Depression - Dealing with people who are depressed or suicidal is tedious because most of them aren’t at the stage of accepting full responsibility for their lives. Therapy might be a good choice for such people, but not the kind of coaching/consulting I could provide. I prefer to deal with generally positive and responsible people who are looking to go from okay to good or from good to great… not from miserable to tolerable.
- People who don’t believe in personal growth - A reasonable degree of self-awareness, a sense of curiosity about life, and a commitment to personal growth are very important. Otherwise the person is still in the unconscious growth phase and simply isn’t ready for conscious growth yet.
I’m happy to consult with individuals as well as businesses. My preference is to come up with holistic, long-term solutions. I shun quick fixes that will only break later or that will create new problems in other areas. I like to solve problems, not manage their symptoms.
How much would I charge for coaching/consulting services? That’s a good question.
It’s clear that I can’t offer lowball pricing. Due to the traffic my website generates, I’d simply get overwhelmed with too many requests.
I intend to start at $500 per hour with a one hour minimum. In the long run, the rates will largely be determined by supply and demand. In this case the supply is rather limited compared to the demand, so that dictates a certain price level. I think $500/hour will be the low end. I doubt I’ll go lower than this.
Obviously at these rates, I probably won’t be coaching too many starving students. This service would be more appropriate for professionals, business owners, online entrepreneurs, etc. — people who are already in a strong position to leverage a personal or professional breakthrough. If these rates make you cringe or if $500 seems like an enormous sum to you, it simply means you wouldn’t be a good candidate for this. I’m sorry if that’s the case. It’s unrealistic for me to offer a lower price though. Even this rate makes me a bit nervous – I think it’s probably going to be too low.
Since I can’t accept every request for advice that comes my way, I need some way of filtering them. I think a price tag is a better solution than my current method of using a virtual scarecrow plus random luck.
In order to assess the demand for coaching/consulting services, I’m building an interest list. I’ll probably launch something official within the next couple months, but before I do that, I want to get an idea of the initial demand.
If you think you’d be interested in a consultation or coaching arrangement, please let me know as soon as possible, and I’ll add you to the interest list. You don’t have to commit to anything — just let me know if you think there’s a good chance you’d avail yourself of this service (at a minimum rate of $500 per hour) within the next few months. Also, please let me know what you’d seek to gain from it — i.e. short-term help with personal challenges, long-term coaching, business or blogging consultations, etc. This will help me tailor the service offerings to fit your needs.
Even if this service is out of your price range, the upside is that formalizing this process will help me improve the free articles I write. Helping people one-on-one has been fueling my articles since 1999. As I learn what works for people individually, I can generalize the solutions and turn them into new articles for everyone. I’m sure a more structured approach on the coaching side will enable me to provide more value compared to the random way I’ve been doing this for the past several years.