If you are a self-employed service-based professional – this interview is for you. With me today is Ana Melikian, an Elite Level Book Yourself Solid Coach personally trained by the New York Times Best Selling author Michael Port, creator of the Book Yourself Solid system.
Ana loves to share clear, precise and straight to the point knowledge about marketing, social media, web presence and networking through informative talks and workshops. Her PhD in Psychology comes in handy when she speaks about the Mindset Shifts necessary to make it as a solopreneur.
In this Interview, Ana shares:
- Whether you should start with free or paid coaching or consulting sessions during the start-up phase of your business.
- The difference between a self-employed service professional and an entrepreneur.
- The most important thing you can do to gain leverage in your business.
- The biggest mistake she made during her entrepreneurial journey and what she learned.
- Her secret to truly making a difference in the world.
Download the Audio Master Class
In her highly informative Master Class, which you can download for free at EntrepreneursForAChange.com/48, Ana reveals her secrets on how to succeed as a self-employed professional. In this Master Class, you will learn:
- The core principles of marketing and why marketing alone will NOT get you clients
- The step-by-step blueprint of the Book Yourself Solid System.
- How to establish a sincere relationship with joint venture partners effectively.
- The difference between ‘Target Market’ and ‘Niche’ – and why you need to figure this out if you want to succeed.
- The four foundational building blocks of any service-based business.
- And much, much more..
Mentioned in this interview
Where to Find Ana
- Ana’s Website
- Follow Ana on Twitter
- Join the conversation on Ana’s Facebook page
- Connect with Ana on Linkedin
Full Episode Transcript
Lorna Li: Hello, amazing Changemakers. We are here today with a powerful business coach, Ana Melikian, who loves to work with self-employed professionals who hate marketing and selling. She’s originally from Portugal and before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, she lived in England and in Spain. So as you can tell, she loves traveling, and she loves learning from different sources and experiences. What she brings to her coaching program are all her studies in psychology including her PhD to help her clients focus on growing their businesses while making a difference.
She is now Elite Level Book Yourself Solid coach who’s been personally trained by the New York Times bestselling author Michael Port, the creator of the Book Yourself Solid system. So if you’d like to learn more about Ana, you can find out about her at AnaMelikian.com. That is A-N-A-M-E-L-I-K-I-A-N.com. Alright, Ana. I would love to hear more about what inspired you to get into business coaching specifically coaching for entrepreneurs who hate marketing and selling.
Ana Melikian: Because I was one of them.
Lorna: Hey, what a great way to get started huh?
Ana: Yes, you said it. It’s interesting when people ask me, “Are you a business coach?” Honestly, if we’re having this conversation 10 years ago and somebody will tell me, “You are going to go to United States. That’s about 10 years that I’m living here and you are going to become a business coach,” I will laugh until I could not laugh anymore because it was a joke for me.
My background is in psychology. I was a clinical psychologist working with anxiety, pain problems. I was teaching in college in Portugal before I moved in the United States. And the idea of business for me was, “Now, that is not for me.” But when I moved to the United States and I really decide – I got married, I was starting a family, and I have to decide what to do with my professional life now in this new continent and in this new beautiful country, I decided to change a lot and focus on one of my subject that I truly love. That is personal development.
So from psychotherapy, I went to life coaching. That was my first transition when I moved to the United States. I did some extra training. I became a certified life coach. I was certified by the International Coach Federation and all of that I was loving every moment of the work that I was doing with people. And when I decided to make to make my own home-based business, that is when I start to accept challenges. I was getting clients; it was in a very cheap rate or bartering.
It’s very easy to get clients. People are speaking wonderfully about the work that we are doing but getting people on the web, getting people that did not knew me to pay the fees that I wanted, I was not getting there. It was from that challenge and I think it’s from my academic background or like problem solving kind of thing. Okay, so the people are succeeding, manage to do this online. There must be a way of doing it. Let me learn how they are doing it.
So that is how I start to study marketing to help me to emerge with my home-based business as a life coach. I studied many of the big names out there and I start to belong to mentorship groups. In one of these groups, somebody spoke about the book, Book Yourself Solid. I like what I heard and I decided to get the book, and I fall in love with it. The system really makes sense for me and I start to apply it. I start to see results. I start to speak about it to other people and helping other colleagues that were with the same struggles and we are seeing something happening.
At that time, Michael Port, that is the creator of the Book Yourself Solid system, was doing some intensive courses. I did that. I was seeing more things happening and then, he opened the certification to Book Yourself Solid coaches and I jumped on the opportunity. I really was, “This is something I see that I can be doing to help other people and really make a difference.” And that’s the time, I was not really sure that I was going to keep with the life coaching or become just a business coach.
But then I realized that business coaching has a lot of life coaching. When we are in our way of being entrepreneurs, we really have to deal with blows of personal stuff and the skills as a life coach and a psychologist, it really come very handy for that. So I was like from psychotherapy to life coaching to business coaching.
Lorna: I definitely would say that if you are an entrepreneur and you’re facing challenges that most people will never face as employees, a lot of your personal stuff will come up. I found that a lot of the coaches that I’ve been speaking to, they definitely step in the role of helping their clients manage the emotional drama that will come up during the process of a launch, for example, or even just raising your prices.
I’m very excited to hear more about how you would recommend folks get started to become self-employed entrepreneurs in your master class which we’ll include in our show notes as a free download. But I’d like to first take you back to the beginning of your business when you first started coaching. How did you get your first clients?
Ana: The first clients as a life coach, honestly, were people that already knew me from social friends and they knew that I was doing this program as to become a life coach. I was speaking a lot about that. I ask you, “Would you like to start with some sessions with me?” They said, “Of course. Why not?” So we’re friends and people in my social sphere that I start to coach as a life coach. Then as a business coach, it’s really when I start to belong to many online groups when I was looking for different models and then I was belonging to many online communities. So people knew me from that online communities.
When I start again speaking – because when I like something, I’m passionate about it and I speak about it and people are, “How is that working for you? Can you tell us more about?” From that interaction, I got some clients. From a local networking group of the International Coach Federation, I belong to the Phoenix Chapter here. That was the first when I see that the system really works then when somebody comes to you. I still remember a colleague in the end of the meeting came to me and say, “I would like to speak with you because I want to have you as my coach.”
Lorna: Okay. So when you were first coaching your friends, the people in your immediate network, how did you find it in yourself to ask them to pay you? I know that some coaches, they start off by giving away free sessions and whether you did that or not yourself.
Ana: I was one of them. I did all of the mistakes in the book. In the beginning, we really have to practice as much as we can. When we are in the training, I think in deep context makes sense to do some freebies without any doubt. So I start to do free coaching. Then I start the charges almost as a symbolical fee, as a way to get to the hours that I need to accreditation. I still remember there was a person that I was charging like $5 per session. That was important for me emotionally because it was like I can charge for this.
From that, I start to $80 and then I was in the $300, $400 a month for the life coaching. Then when I transitioned to the business coaching, I was much more comfortable with saying, “My work deserves this fee.”
Lorna: I’m curious to know for folks that are just getting started because I know a lot of our audiences are in the early stages of their entrepreneurial journey. What do you do if you feel that your value is, I don’t know, like a few hundred dollars an hour, for example, but then you don’t have an audience that is hungry to hire you at that rate?
Do you have any recommendations on how to overcome that hurdle which I know a lot of people do have especially if they’re transitioning from a corporate scenario where they might have been making like a six-figure salary. Of course, they are aware of what their industry value is, but then they’re going to now being a self-employed consultant or a coach and then they don’t have an existing audience. I would love to understand how to get over that hurdle that I know a lot of us have been presented with.
Ana: There is a sweet spot. When we are pricing, there is an art in pricing. We have to price our service in a way that it’s really in a sweet spot. There is our target market. Things like, “I can afford that,” and they deserve the time that we are investing in that relationship, in that work. What I want to say with this is that we cannot be unrealistic with the reality of our target market.
For instance, I know in my business model, I’m focusing with self-employed professionals. Those people that lead the corporations, they know that they are very good in what they do. They do extra training in coaching and they are skillful in what they do. But sometimes, they are aware that they burn the money that they have to invest in their business in training and now they have limited resources to make it happen in their business.
So I know that I cannot stretch my fees to these clients too much. It’s different if my target market were small businesses with five employees because they already see marketing in business in a different perspective as an investment and they will invest more in a business coach than a self-employed professional. Having said this, we should price ourselves in a way that the person lifting to the price is thinking, and even us, “Oh my gosh. That is a stretch for me.”
One of our functions as a coach is to enough stretch them. Sometimes, my pronunciation can be deceiving. Stretching in terms of exploring our limits and help us to grow. Even when we are pricing, we should price in a way that people say, “That is a little bit, maybe. Can I do it? Yes, I’m going to do it because I believe this. Yes, I’m going to invest this money and I’m going to make it work.” It cannot be a price where I’m-going-to-see-if-this-works kind of thing. They have some schemes in the game.
Lorna: I completely agree. I feel like if the person perceives a high value to what it is that they are investing in, so if what they’re investing is a bit of a stretch then, yes. Absolutely. Then it’s completely totally changes the level of commitment. It’s kind of like when you offer something for free, it’s like the recipient doesn’t really receive the perceived value of what it is that you offer. It’s almost they can take it or leave it. But if they actually give or invest or spend at a level where it almost kind of hurts, then it totally puts the fire under their ass to actually make it work.
Ana: Yes and it make things really happening.
Lorna: Yes, absolutely. I guess you have referred to giving away free sessions as a mistake. Do you think that it is possible to get started in a coaching profession without giving away free sessions?
Ana: Yes, without any doubt. Like I said, when you are doing training and you need practicing in the beginning, I would say, do it whatever it works. If you have to give it for free, do it or even if you charge $5 to a coffee pride, do it. But after, this is not a hobby. What you are doing is not a hobby. If this is a business, you have to make it to have a profit. Otherwise, you have to close your doors. Even if we’re no profit, we have to make a profit. No profit organization, at the end of the year, the book says they cannot be in their way. Otherwise, they are in trouble.
Lorna: Yes, absolutely. It’s just that all their profits go back into the business or the organizational programs etc.
Ana: But they still have to generate revenue. Otherwise, they have to close their doors and they cannot fulfill their mission that is helping people. I think in the area that we love to work with changemakers, we like to work with people that are making a difference. We are also making a difference. But yes, there is an economical compensation for helping and for creating a positive impact. It’s wonderful that we cannot have the thing that, “Yes, I’m helping others. I have to suffer. I cannot make profit.” No. If we make profit, we can help more people.
If we make ourselves successful businesses, then we can give our service away like in a scholarship or for a special person that we really see that they struggle and needs our help. We are in a much better conditions to do that than if we keep giving away, giving away, giving away. What happens is we have to close the doors because we don’t have money to pay the bills.
Lorna: Absolutely. I completely agree. Let’s see. In your journey from starting off as a coach from the very beginning to the point where you start to make a thriving income that you achieve the level of success that makes you deeply satisfied with that you’re doing in your business in life. How long was that journey for you?
Ana: It was about two years.
Lorna: That sounds like about right. I mean in terms of the many of the entrepreneurs that I’ve spoken to around what it took for them to achieve the level of business success that has given them a sense of satisfaction like, “I’ve made it.” Of course, there’s always different levels of growth but it’s kind of like that one point which is like, “Ah! This is what it’s about.” I would say a year and a half to three years has been the average time frame.
Ana: Honestly, the first year, it was like a very big learning curve. I did mistake after mistake but I learned with it.
Lorna: I’d love to hear what these mistakes are because entrepreneurs we’re no strangers to failure, right, and it all depends on how you define failure. A lot of people say, “That’s not really failure because I learned from it.” So tell me what were the biggest mistakes that you made and what did you learn from them and what would you differently?
Ana: What I can say that I think was my biggest problem in the beginning was believing that it was just enough to be a good coach. I really believed and I think it’s the situation of many people that’s starting with coaching or consulting. They know that they are good in what they do. They see the impact when they work with somebody. They think, “Ok, I can do this by opening my online place where I can do what I love to do.”
I thought I guess I have already loads of training of personal development. I guess I need more training as a life coach and I got it and I was enjoying it and I was seeing impact in people that I was working with. And I thought that is enough to make a successful business and that is what the big mistake in the sense that, “No. When we are our own bosses, when we are self-employed professionals, we are more than the coach or consultant of the service professional. We are the bookkeeper. We are the marketing director. We are the copywriter.”
We have so many hats and some of these hats is the first time that we are doing something that we don’t know about it. I didn’t know much about the business skills necessary to have an online business. That was what I have learned in the first year of not coaching because what I have learned before was how to be a successful business owner. One of the critical things that I struggle a lot and I’ve seen many people start to struggling a lot about it is I resist as much and as longer as I could to define a target market. From the moment that I defined a target market forward, things start to fall into place.
Lorna: So I can’t wait to talk to you about this during your master class on exactly how to nail your target market because I’ve spoken to many different entrepreneurs on how to do this and there are a lot of market research methodologies and even tools. So yes, I’d love to find out how you were able to define your target market in that segment that we’re going to hop into. Okay, great. Once you got your target market right, did the things change for you?
Ana: Things change because as I say I have a focus. The target market is a beautiful thing that helps us to give us the focus. I always use with my clients this image. Let me just press the pause button in a moment here because there is a distinction that I like to make because most of us we start as self-employed professionals. We know that we very good in what we do and we want to be our own bosses, control the things, and really doing what we love and become self-employed. That is different than being an entrepreneur.
We can survive and we can thrive as self-employed professionals having a nice practice, even getting book solid as self-employed and never really go to the full blown entrepreneur that we have to learn some of the skills that an entrepreneur have in order to be a good business owner. For me, I differentiate this from self-employed to entrepreneur because an entrepreneur is somebody that is not so much about selling their own services but organizing things to create a company, to create an organization that generates something that can bring profit.
Lorna: So you mean somebody who’s an entrepreneur has a team that they pull together, and together as a company, they create employment for those that work for in the team as well as profit for the business.
Ana: Exactly. Somebody that even as self-employed, when we do the transition to starting to have – even if it is a virtual team, we have to stop to be the doer to be the manager.
Lorna: It’s interesting because I’ve been self-employed since 2011 but even before like I was doing this, when I was doing consulting work for green businesses as a side hustle while I was employed in my day job, I still also routinely hired virtual teams. Is that the difference between self-employed and entrepreneur if you work with a team or not?
Ana: One of the difference that I make and why I make this difference because some people, they have decided to start their own business mainly online based business. When they start to get to the challenge, the frustrations, when things don’t work from the beginning, like the tendencies like, throwing the towel. “I don’t have the entrepreneur gene. I never was an entrepreneur. The friend of my uncle, they always have their thing to start a business, to start an idea. I never was. I was working in this corporation for 20 years. What was I thinking when I decided to go in business?”
I want to tell those people that you don’t have to be born with an entrepreneur gene. Yes, there are people that are much more in their tendency and their skills are almost inborn on them. But you can learn what you need to do to become a successful service professional that own their own business. That are skills that you have to learn. And then if you want to grow more and become more what tradition is called an entrepreneur, it’s an option for you that maybe you just want to be a solopreneur. Just have your own practice with your own clients and you are happy and that is what you want, go for it.
If you decide to be your own boss, one of the reasons for this, you want to be able to write your own rules. Embrace that.
Lorna: Going back to your mistakes then, what were some of the biggest mistakes that you had made and what would you do differently?
Ana: I spoke about the mindset shift. That was important, to learn the business skills, not having a target market, and the lack of focus. I was starting to tell this because there’s so many good things to speak about. The people that we usually work with are lifelong learners. We love to learn. But because we love to learn, it’s so easy just to go following that red object over there and that shiny red object over there. It’s so easy for us because it’s learning a new thing. But then we are not focused on making things happening.
I always say that most of the self-employed professionals, we are like a traditional light bulb like the Edison’s incandescent light bulb. Imagine if you have 4-watt light bulb. During the day, there is 4-watt light bulb but you almost not notice any light because their energy goes everywhere. If there are lots of light around it, it’s like a grain of sand in the beach. You don’t see it.
That magical thing about focusing is that that same energy, and this is a physical fact, that same 4-watt of energy in the right alignment in the laser beam, you have traditional bulb and you have a laser beam that’s aligned so that the energy in a beam to produce the laser. With a 4-watt laser, you can burn a hole in a wall literally. It’s powerful enough to burn a hole in a wall. So I think that is what target market, having a system allows us to do. If we are everywhere, we really are nowhere. When we start focusing, we start to see results and create an impact. That was one of the lessons that I learned in that first year.
Lorna: Looking back on your entrepreneurial journey, is there any one thing that you would do differently if you have the chance?
Ana: A lot. Again, it’s something that we can go much in deeper in the master class part. Like so many of us, I still remember two mistakes that I did speaking about concrete things. When we start with the website that we think, clients will find you. Wrong! Clients will not find you. People selling you, things will find you. I remember I did my website. I was very proud of it and then it was very good for people that I knew and I was starting to have a sales conversation. They would check my website and they will like it. That was very good for my trust and credibility.
But when I also start to receive phone calls and e-mails of people trying to sell me services. I still remember that I got the phone call of a company that they were starting. It was a startup with a very nice concept about what will be a Google kind of thing for search. That was very cool and they have the demo and they have the thing going already. They were selling advertisement space. And you could still appear the first one to appear on the top of the page.
They were selling, “We are going to be the next Google and if you buy this space, you are locking the first thing that people see in the future.” I thought that I put some money there. I invest some money on that. And I was like, now thinking back, what a waste of money. Waste of money because there was no reason really to be sure that that company really will make it and waste of money because the principle of thinking. If somebody sees an ad, they are going to get me as their coach is a myth.
Marketing doesn’t get us clients. Marketing creates awareness that we exist. It’s what we do from the moment that somebody is aware that we exist and what we have to offer. The moment that they pay us for a service, that is what gets us clients not marketing itself.
Lorna: I can’t wait to explore this in the master class. Alright. Let’s just bookmark this, “Marketing doesn’t get us clients.” What does? We’re coming to the end of our interview time. I’d love to leave you with my last favorite question. What is the most effective way to change the world, Ana?
Ana: Believing that your contribution, even if it’s small, makes a difference. You really have to believe that you can make a difference and go for it. So many things here. You have to learn that it’s possible. Don’t give up because it’s difficult. Check people that are doing it, that are successful and learn from them and use a lot of critical thinking because there is also many fluff out there. But really, believe, work for it, learn, and keep trying because you can do it and you can make a huge difference.
Lorna: Thank you so much, Ana. How can we best stay in touch with you?
Ana: The best way is through my website, AnaMelikian.com. It’s A-N-A; Melikian is M-E-L-I-K-I-A-N.com. There is where you’re always going to get my more recent things that I’m doing and also you can e-mail me. I always love to get e-mails from people and e-mail is also very easy. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org and you can contact me that way.
Lorna: Fantastic. Thank you so much and you have a beautiful day.
[END OF RECORDING]
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