In this interview with Sarah Cooke we’re going to be talking about how to avoid burnout and grow your business on your terms.
Sarah is a business and marketing mentor for ambitious health and wellness professionals and Sarah really helps people in that space to grow their businesses on their terms. Getting ready to grow and scale their businesses with confidence. What Sarah and I are going to be talking about on today’s episode is how to avoid burnout to really focus on growing your business on your terms.
We talk about things like how do you go from being fully booked within five months, which is where Sarah ended up with with her business, to then grow multiple income streams, things like memberships and courses and programs. What I love about Sarah is she so, so passionate about helping people to scale and grow to really have that kind of lifestyle.
Sarah has had several different businesses prior to her marketing expertise, and I think that’s been really invaluable in her own journey. This interview is really relevant for you if you’re thinking about starting your own business, or perhaps you’re in your business right now but you’re looking at ways to look to grow so that you don’t end up in a position where you’re constantly exchanging your time and potentially getting into burnout.
I can say from personal experience, there’s probably two occasions over the last four years where I have definitely got very close to burn out. Some of the practices that I now implement into my business enable me to spot those red flags that come up. If I’m feeling low on energy or I’m feeling like I’ve been saying yes to too many opportunities, and just really creating strong boundaries around my time, my energy and the clients that I am choosing to work with.
A massive welcome Sarah to you.
Thank you, Catherine. It’s lovely to be here. Really excited to chat to you today.
Thank you so much for being here. Sarah, for those people who haven’t come across your work yet, who perhaps may not be in the health and wellness business, could you perhaps just give us a little bit of an introduction to who you are and how do you help health and wellness business owners?
Sure. Thank you. As you said, I help health and wellness professionals and that’s come from a culmination of what I’ve been doing over the last 16 odd years.
My background is corporate marketing within the health and wellness industry. Brand strategy through to business development and brand marketing as well. But I moved on to become a holistic health and massage therapist and quickly grew that business, and within a matter of months becoming fully booked I realised that I needed to create a future proofing business. So now that’s what I really help other health professionals do as well is if they’re looking to grow and scale their business, then that’s what I help them from a marketing the business side of things.
I know that you’ve had previous businesses in the past. Tell us a little bit about the previous businesses that you ran before your current business and what did you learn about building that business?
Absolutely. So as I said, I left the corporate world to move into something that was, I guess, to become more flexible. I actually set it up when I was on maternity leave and I was living abroad at the time. I didn’t have a family and friends network to rely on or help me with childcare or anything else and my husband was travelling a lot. So the corporate world with me travelling and doing lots of events didn’t work for a young family. I actually retrained on my maternity leave to become a holistic health and massage therapist.
I think I took for granted what I needed to do to grow that business. Because of my 15 years of experience in marketing within the corporate world, there’s so many similar transitions to that and just pulled all that learning across. I suppose, the usual thing with business of really understanding who my ideal client is, being visible in the right places, using testimonials, word of mouth, and putting myself out there and not being afraid to do that.
As I said, I became fully booked within five months, which was amazing. I know that that’s what a lot of people strive to do, is to become fully booked, but that led to other problems, in the sense that I’d left the corporate world, so I had that flexibility so that I could be there for my family. But I realised at that point that my business was very much driven by my client’s needs and their timings, and I wasn’t in control of my business. I’d also hit an income ceiling. I couldn’t travel, couldn’t explore, couldn’t go on holiday because everything was being driven by my client’s needs.
I think it’s one of the things, especially within the health and wellness industry, that you’re in there because you want to help people and you want to make people feel good. Quite often that comes at the expense of your own boundaries and lifestyle choices because you do just want to help as many people as possible. So that led me to thinking, okay, well what business model do I want to have? That obviously meant that if I wanted to continue to grow my income and still help people, something had to change.
So I created a product business as an offshoot to that. Most of my clients were sports injury rehab or pre and postnatal mums because that’s my experience having competed at really high level in sports, but also being a new mum, I understood what mums needed to feel good about themselves. That was why they were having their massage therapy treatments with me.
So I created this product business, as I said, mum and baby gifting which did really well. It won many awards, was featured by lots of national and international magazines like OK, Daily Mail, Mirror etc, which was brilliant. I sold that earlier this year because I had to reassess my business model again and just work out what I wanted.
I think that’s a really exciting thing about being your own business owner is that you can make these changes and you can tweak what you want from your own business model depending on your lifestyle and your financial goals. That really led me, I had that tipping point of people asking me how I’ve become really successful as a holistic therapist, as well as a product business owner. I realised that actually I could help far more people if I moved more into the coaching world.
My bigger mission is to help as many people feel good about themselves, whether that’s through health and feeling stronger. I can’t do that on my own as a holistic therapist. I need to help other people in order to help us as a collective health community to be able to help other people feel good and feel stronger, healthier about themselves. That ripple effect is something that I’m really enjoying doing at the moment.
What did you learn growing that product based business and how did that help you when you then went to establish yourself the coaching business?
Anyone who’s just starting out with business or has an idea, it’s really understanding who is your ideal client and what they need and then putting together, whether that’s products or services, that really help them with their problem area and you as that business owner, providing that solution for them.
Ultimately having that relationship with them, really getting to understand who they are, what they need, how they do things and what they’re looking for will really help you from a success perspective.
How did you start that journey into understanding who your ideal client was and what their challenges and pain points were?
I think there’s so much around that that sort of passion and purpose. For me, I’ve always been really passionate about helping other people. Having my own personal struggles with becoming a mum and not just from being abroad and not having that support network. I went through a really tough labour. I nearly lost my son at the end of it and I think that was a real tipping point for me of going, I’ve got to create something that means I can be there for my newborn baby.
At that point, obviously I wasn’t in the head space for setting up a business, but I think I always refer back to that thinking, that was probably the worst position I could have been in. Becoming a new mum, nearly losing my baby, not having any support around me, physically, emotionally struggling and that was a version of hell that I would never want any other new mum to be in. So what could I do that could help them feel good? What was it that they need?
And I think one of the other things, and it sounds silly looking back at it, but I received loads of presents for the baby, which was lovely and really thoughtful but actually no-one really took the time to think about me as a new mum. I think so many people do that, that we forget about the mum sometimes and what they’ve been through. That’s who I really wanted to help, new mums and create with my product business, was something that was for mums to help them feel and look good, and that was, obviously, baby safe, baby proof. There were a lot of baby proof jewellery and accessories, as well as self care kits for pregnant mums, all the way through to early motherhood. It’s really lovely to be able to help people, help that audience.
I love how your ideal client, at that point, was almost a mirror version of yourself. It’s almost like people get very lost, don’t they, in finding their niche and finding who their ideal client is. In probably 99% of cases, it’s normally just a reflection of who you are because often we’re driven to create businesses because we’ve had a problem ourselves, or we’ve had a personal challenge and we want to help other people.
I think as well, for female entrepreneurs particularly, we do have a very giving relationship. We’ve spoken on the podcast before about how we have a very giving relationship with money and we very freely give our money and time away to everybody else. But giving to ourselves makes us feel too guilty.
I think that in the space of building a business, if you can find that passion, that purpose, it’s often just a mirror version of yourself.
Have you found that with working with business owners as well, Sarah?
Absolutely. And one of the things that I teach is really going back to who you want to work with, not who you think you should be working with. It almost sounds quite an obvious thing to do, but I think you go through your training as a health and wellness therapist or holistic practitioner, and you’re told who you should be working with, but there’s nothing in there really about the sort of business and marketing side of things.
For me, it is taking that step back to the beginning, building the right foundations for your business and so much of that is really understanding who your ideal client is and who you actually want to work with, who’s coming through that door that lights you up, that you look forward to treating rather than doing it just for the money. It’s important that we have both, I think.
I almost got tingles down my back as you were talking about nearly losing your child during labour. That’s exactly what happened to me with Thomas.
You’re absolutely right. Often the focus goes on the child and not on the mother. I had significant PTSD after Thomas was born and incidentally, that’s also when I built my business.
Actually sometimes that trauma and pain can fuel you to find purpose in your life, to create a business that you really want to create because you want to help people.
Once you found your ideal client, what did you do next? How did you get fully booked within five months?
I think it’s really about showing up in the places that your ideal client shows up in. Obviously the social media world is a huge thing that we’re all living with and so many people are on social media in different ways and for different things. A lot of people rely on word of mouth and not just from friends, but also in support groups and networks.
I took that time to spend really thinking about where they were, where they were hanging out, what they were doing, why they were showing up, and being visible in the right places and providing not just therapy treatments, but also content that was speaking to them.
One of the things that I did that had the biggest traction for me was asking in different groups or in my audience, which area of the body are you finding the most stress intention. I created a poll and said, look, I’m going to give you some tips on all of these, but you tell me which ones to start with.
I did a video on each of those and gave them some tips that they could do at home, but throughout that led them to the fact that they’d get much better results if they came in for a treatment.
That had amazing reach and audience growth, but also led to me seeing the bookings coming through as well. So it’s not being afraid to give content out there as well, but recognising that if they want to get the full results, that they need to work with you. That’s the same, whether it’s product or service I think.
Yeah, In fact we were talking about this very subject with Janet Murray recently. Janet was saying that if you were to give all of your content away for free on your podcasts or your blogs, on social media, that doesn’t matter because people pay for the hand holding, the accountability, the results, the do it for you services, those kinds of things, because we’re limited on time.
That was really interesting for me because there’s a lot of fear sometimes when you’re growing a business as to how much of your content should you be giving away versus charging?
So when you’re establishing your services and your business, Sarah, what tips would you give for people to think about if they’re looking to create lots of different income streams?
I think so much of it goes back to looking at your experiences and what you spoke about passion and purpose as well. Most people have a lot of experience that they don’t necessarily translate into what they’re doing right now, but actually there are so many things that you can kind of crossover.
I’d really recommend doing something like a SWOT analysis. I know that’s a bit of jargon, so strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats but it’s a really simple tool. Actually something that can be a bit of a game changer for business owners because it really takes that time to look at it from a CEO perspective. If you can strip out the emotion, then you can go into solution mode and really create something that works for you.
I think that’s what is really important about your own business is that you have those decisions that you can make, which is really exciting. You don’t have to be guided by red tape necessarily or the kind of corporate hierarchy that you have to get decisions passed through. So really taking that time, looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, but doing that from an internal perspective, as well as an external perspective.
I think especially given the last few months’ situation with Coronavirus, obviously a lot of things we’ve not been able to control so rather than focusing on those, focusing on the things that you can control whether it’s you as a person, whether it’s more training that you need or whether it’s actually plugging holes.
I know you talk about it from a financial perspective, but one of the things that I’d really recommend is to not stop your marketing. I think so many people have been worried about kind of putting themselves out there and even selling, but actually so many people, especially with the health and wellness world really, really need that support. We’re going through a health crisis and that’s the time that as health experts, we should be stepping up.
Even as business owners, there’s so many things that you can do and focusing on those to really keep your business going, but also look at opportunities to help you thrive as we start moving through lockdown and things start easing up a bit as well.
Can you give us any examples of what you mean by “there’s so many things that we could do as business owners”?
Yeah, definitely. I think if you look at that SWOT analysis framework really thinking about what you can do in the sense of what value you can offer to your customers, your audience, what tips you can provide. Maybe you’ve got a distribution service that even though you can’t use it in its traditional form, maybe there’s a way that you can deliver products or, if your audience is local I’ll use a client example. She has a beauty business. She runs facials mainly, but she has her own skincare and she’s been doing letterbox deliveries.
People can’t get to her to have their facials. They want to have those products. And she’s created that as another revenue stream. Potentially it’s only suitable for that time where people can’t come into her, but it’s that solution focus I think of just looking at what is possible. A lot of clients have moved things online, so yoga classes are now happening online.
In the corporate world, people are now at home, they’re not commuting, which means they’re probably not taking lunch hours in the way they should. Their office set up is probably pretty bad cause it’s a makeshift desk set up that their posture’s not so good. So contacting corporate companies and offering to do training to help their employees feel good and be more efficient and more effective in their roles. I think it’s just looking outside the box a little bit of what your experience is, but also what the world needs right now and that is changing quite quickly. But if you look at those opportunities, there are always going to be things there that you can do.
I love that analogy, thinking outside the box because sometimes that’s hard to do isn’t it? Often I find it’s hard to think outside the box when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re reading this and feeling overwhelmed in your business right now then looking at things like the threats in your business, what do you need to remove from your businesses as much as what you need to add into the business.
Do you find working with entrepreneurs, that often the overwhelm can set in, the procrastination then starts and then our boundaries get kind of dropped and we don’t practice self care and the skin care routine goes out the window.
Absolutely. I think we’ve all been tested with our boundaries over the last few months haven’t we? It’s one of the things that I kind of quickly had to reassess that with the kids being at home, trying to juggle business, that my self care just went to the bottom of the pile. I love to do exercise and that stopped happening and I realised that actually, I was changing as a person and exercise for me is my stress release. It’s my thinking time. It’s generally my me time, especially over the last few months and I needed to get that back in.
I almost needed to go back to the top of the priority list to make me that better person and person I wanted to be. It almost flips back to when I became a new mum going actually that realisation that if you look after yourself, you can look after the people around you in a much better way. I think so many, especially mums, especially women, we do look after other people probably more so. We push that out and forget about ourselves in the same way of spending money on ourselves that we talked about earlier.
So really resetting your boundaries and having that check in with yourself. One of the things I love to do is have that monthly check-in. Both from a business perspective but also a lifestyle perspective because I think they’re really key foundations. Have you hit your financial targets, but actually what expense has that been? Have you been working longer hours to hit those financial targets? Have you been eating worse or less? It really is important, I think to nourish ourselves, look after ourselves as a person. Even just to do some fun things and get outside I think is a really nice reframe and that’s the same with business.
What do you do during your monthly check in I’m intrigued?
Well every quarter I will set out financial targets, but I will also have some self targets, whether that’s through learning and development, whether it’s trying some new recipes from a food side of things, whether it’s from an exercise side of things. How many sessions do I want to do? How many runs do I want to do?
With having holiday plans cancelled and so many other things that have been cancelled over the last few months, it’s been really important for me having things to look forward to. What my husband and I have done is to have regular Saturday night date nights where we’d put the kids to bed, we’ve got dressed up, cooked a really nice meal and just have that time for us. It sounds really silly doesn’t it, but actually it’s been really nice to have something to look forward to every week. It’s not just a status update, but it’s something that we enjoy doing as a couple really.
As a health and wellness expert, Sarah, what tips would you give to anybody listening to this thinking, yeah, I definitely need some more self care in my life right now. Are there any particular little gems that you can share with us around what would that look like for somebody?
Yeah, sure. There’s so much of it. We’ve talked about boundaries a little bit and for me that’s a really big thing. It’s knowing where you can flex those boundaries, but also knowing what you need as a person at different times. It might be different times of the month. It might be different times of the day. I know that if I do cardio exercise in the evenings, I’m not going to sleep until like three in the morning. My endorphins just go wild. I have to do more cardio in the morning otherwise it ruins my evening and relaxation time.
I think just going back to that check in with yourself, what do you need? What is your body telling you, you need? We said these boundaries have been tested somewhat over the last few months, but taking that time to think about who you need, but also to who you spend your time with, I think is really important. Especially business owners. As much as our family’s love and want to support us, sometimes they’re not the best place to go to for business advice. In fact, some of my closest friends, when I said that I was retraining as a holistic health therapist, were like, what are you doing? Why are you leaving the corporate world?
They weren’t becoming new mums at that point and we were just in different life stages. So previously they had been my confidantes, but actually I realised that they were not going to be going forward from an entrepreneurial side of things. There’s a lovely phrase that I love to use.
“Being self employed doesn’t mean that you have to be by yourself employed.”
I think it just sums up that you need to be surrounded by people who not just light you up from an ideal client side of things, but have that group, whether it’s business besties or whoever, but just people that you can trust that will listen to you when you’re feeling a bit low and will help build you back up again. But are also there to celebrate the milestones with you. I think that’s really key that quite often, when you’re working on your own, you move on to the next thing. You forget to celebrate those milestones and just having the right people around you for different things it’s really important and it’s such a big part of self care that, I think, quite often we forget about.
I’m so glad you’ve raised that. It’s one of the things I love about our Inner Circle Mastermind is that every week we have a group accountability where, and I do this myself is every Sunday, we sit down individually and we do a review of our week.
So we look at our wins, our challenges, our lessons, and our focus of the week ahead. I think it’s really important, as you said Sarah, to look at the successes week by week because it’s the small steps, big wins, isn’t it?
It’s those small steps of action, imperfect action that we take that can make the biggest difference. I know, Sarah that you talk a lot about this in your work about focusing on your own journey, not anybody else. It’s not comparing yourself to anybody else’s journey, focusing on your journey.
Yeah, definitely. So much of that is also creating a business that works for you on your terms. Whatever someone else is doing doesn’t mean it’s going to work well for you because we’ve all got different lifestyle choices. We’ve all got different family setups. We’ve all got different financial goals that actually having that business that works for you and also recognising that potentially you’re not going to move at the rate that someone else is because you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Sometimes that comparisonitis comes in, doesn’t it, seeing someone that looks like that overnight success. You shouldn’t compare your chapter three to someone else’s chapter 23, because we’re just at different places, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get there. I think that’s really important to recognise that just because I became fully booked five months doesn’t mean everyone else is going to be. And that’s okay because it might not suit anyone else. I might be in a different life stage in different situations for everybody else as well.
Really creating that business that works for you, creating that lifestyle that you want, that works for you, and that is going to be different for everybody. Taking that time to celebrate those wins, as you say, imperfect action is better than no action at all. And just working out if you are wanting to grow or scale your business then working out where you are, working out where you want to get to, and then kind of fitting out those steps to help you get there.
Working backwards, then?
I think so. Yeah. And it was, in some ways, it was a massive learning for me, of becoming fully booked because I think so many people set out on this journey because they want to become fully booked and that’s their idea of success, but that led to more problems for me.
Yes, it was great to be fully booked, but actually it was that realisation of needing other revenue streams, that didn’t rely on me being there completely in person. Whether that’s offline or online, depending on what niche you’re working in, is really, really key to have that sort of multi-tiered business that we’re talking about.
What would be your definition of success, Sarah, how will you know when you’re successful?
That’s a good question. I think for me, it’s about having that lifestyle that you want. And that’s why I’m really keen, and when I work with my clients, is creating that life and that financial goal.
It’s not about just from a financial perspective, because you can have all the money in the world, but you don’t have the time to spend it or use it in the way that you want it to, to make the choices that you want it to. So it really does have to have that sort of double sided thing for me.
For me, it comes down to choices about when and who and how I spend my time. That for me is my definition of success, having the freedom to choose and be where I want to be and who I want to spend time with.
I love that. And actually a client I was speaking to yesterday talked about having financial freedom and this term financial freedom is bandied around a lot, isn’t it?
Everyone wants financial freedom but then when I actually asked her what does financial freedom mean to you? She then went to share: “I just want financial choice for my family.”
As soon as she said it out loud, she was like, Oh my God, that’s it. That’s why I want to create this business because I want financial choice for my family.
I think sometimes when we hear these words like financial freedom, financial choice, passive income streams, your business being fully booked, we have to actually relate it to what does that mean for you individually?
What does financial success look like, what do your financial goals need to be for you individually for you to feel successful and happy and not burn out, not overwhelmed.
I definitely think that those people who are in that giving profession particularly struggle with massively undercharging for their services.
We have talked about this previously with Denise Duffield-Thomas about valuing your worth and it being your time.
What would you say from a marketing perspective as a marketing expert, if somebody is undercharging for their services, what could they do to increase their prices or to maybe increase their value or their worth so that they can actually start making and creating a life that they deserve?
So much of it goes back to value, as you said, it is the thread all the way through, and it really is looking at it from the solution that you’re providing to that client, not just the actual time that you’re necessarily spending with them.
One of the things that I did actually was, within the health and wellness industry, it’s quite often key that you either do a 30 minute or a 60 minute treatment. I flipped that. So I twisted it into doing a 45 minute and a 75 minute treatment. Two reasons for that meant that I couldn’t be compared on prices so when people were looking at it from a competitor perspective, I was just going to be different.
But the value that I could offer was so much more because me, myself, having massage treatments, I used to get so frustrated that I’d go in and I wouldn’t have the service that I wanted. I’d pay for 30 minutes or 60 minutes but part of that session was the getting ready for that session because people are on a time schedule.
By me shifting it slightly gave me a 15 minute window of that full hour that I could then have that time to spend with that client to do that check in, for them to change, for the men to make themselves comfortable. If they were five minutes late, I wasn’t going to be running late for everybody else.
That was a massive game changer for me and that’s something that I always encourage people to look at is about the value that you’re offering, the service that you’re providing. So it’s on your terms. But it also enables me to increase my prices because I wasn’t going to be directly compared to anybody else and people kept coming back because they were getting that full treatment.
I was able to help them with that problem. so again, it goes back to just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean you can’t do something slightly different if it works for you.
That’s like completely just blown my mind!
If you’re worried about increasing your prices, just add more value because then if you’re doing things differently, you’re adding more value, you’re giving more solutions, you feel a bit more comfortable then with the value that you’re giving to that client and not feeling quite so uncomfortable about charging for your worth and your services.
Yeah, definitely. It becomes more about the value rather than kind of clock watching as well. You’re still going to give them that full service, but if you’ve only got an hour to work with them, as soon as that hour slot starts, you kind of go from there.
Whereas actually if it’s 75 minutes, you actually probably give them more value than they would do as a 60 minute because if they’re a couple of minutes late, you start that call then. So they probably get, like you said, more 70 minutes out of you rather than 60 minutes out of you. It’s a bit of a game changer.
I like that. I like that. Well, thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your story with us and some really useful tips there. If anybody would like to connect with you, Sarah, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you?
Facebook is kind of my main place of hanging out. I’ve got a free group so if you’re a health and wellness professional, then Healthy Business to Wealthy Business is my community where I hang out most.
Or my website is www.sarahcookemarketing.com. But feel free to connect. There’s a free guide on my website, which is a bit of a workbook. It will help you future proof your business, but looking at it from a SWOT analysis and also looking at what the world’s doing now and how you really can build that sustainable business on your terms.
It’s really important, really something that I’m really passionate about, whether it’s something that you weren’t expecting from a bad side, like coronavirus or something from a good side that you’re fully booked and you do you want to go on holiday and yes, you are allowed to take holiday if you own your own business!
Absolutely. It’s one of the things about running a business is that you want to be able to do it on your terms, creating your own boundaries, I think is really important. Having those non-negotiables, you are in control of your diary, not anybody else.
I love how you shared how that impacted on your business as well, Sarah, but how you actually now created a business for yourself. So thank you so much for sharing your pearls of wisdom with us and definitely like that last tip you just shared has just completely blown my mind. So thank you so much.
Nobody is an expert in their field, right? Everyone is learning from each other all the time and supporting each other. It is so important. Isn’t it to have people around you, cheer-leading you along the way and sharing your successes alongside.
You’re very welcome. It’s been great to chat to you today. Thanks for having me.
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