Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant portion of my time-management and productivity coaching business involved traveling around the country delivering workshops to corporate clients. When the shutdown orders started coming out in March, that work came to a halt.
Like most people, I assumed this would just be a temporary disruption and rescheduled workshops for later in the year. I was already working remotely with many of my one-on-one coaching clients, so that part of my business wasn’t greatly impacted at first.
Then reality hit.
Around May, my largest corporate client canceled all outside consultants at least through the end of the year. At the same time, other coaching clients were facing new stressors and challenges that no one saw coming—including me.
In my case, after working from home alone, suddenly my husband and our kids were also home all day. We had to figure out how to juggle our kids’ childcare and online schoolwork while we were both trying to work. From that personal experience, I saw new opportunities to help my clients while also growing my business.
New business model for a ‘new normal’
My greatest challenge since the pandemic started has been connecting with the people who need me and restructuring my offerings to better fit the new world that we’re all now living in. I realized there was a big potential opportunity in offering virtual workshops. My coaching has always been virtual, but most of my corporate workshops had previously been in person.
In 2019, I had published an online course called “Time Management Mastery: Do More, Stress Less” and promoted it through the platform Udemy. It generated some side income, and through March 2020, about 4,000 students had enrolled.
So this past May I created a second course: “Frazzled to Focused,” about how to work from home productively without losing your mind. I worked with Udemy to promote the course through its corporate subscription service, and by July, 11,000 additional students had enrolled in my online courses.
My revenue from online courses tripled virtually overnight, and I was getting fantastic feedback from clients on both the content and the ability to easily access my consulting expertise online.
Another, even larger challenge, though, was figuring out how to redesign my workshop business in a world where everyone was working from home.
Many of my clients’ priorities had shifted because of the pandemic. They now needed staff training on how to work from home and manage remote teams. So, again, I created a new online workshop around the challenges of working from home. Then I had to convince my clients that the online version would be as engaging and as valuable as live workshops.
I developed workbooks and planned activities such as breakout sessions and polls to ensure that people wouldn’t just be sitting in front of a screen for hours. I also had to adjust the presentations to accommodate shorter attention spans. When working alone on a computer, people have trouble focusing after about 90 minutes. So what used to be half-day or full-day workshops can now be broken into 90-minute segments that run over a number of weeks, if the client prefers.
What I didn’t adjust was my pricing. Sometimes people assume that virtual workshops should cost less than in-person presentations. But the method of delivery (live virtual or live in-person) doesn’t change the value of the experience. I believe that I’m delivering the same—if not more—value right now.
Retooling my marketing strategy
Besides referrals, many of my new clients have come through speaking engagements, primarily at human resources-related conferences and seminars. So when the four conferences I had lined up to speak at this year were canceled, I had to get creative.
First, I developed a lead-generation guide called, “A Working Parent’s Coronavirus Quarantine Survival Guide.” This was content that people were hungry for. Just by posting the free survival guide on my website and social media, I boosted my email list by a third.
I also started doing free webinars with professional associations, such as the Society for Human Resource Management. I speak on such topics as “How to Thrive with Work/Life Balance” and “How to Commit to Your Work and Your Kids at the Same Time.” I’m signing on new clients that I wouldn’t have reached before.
I’m also getting additional work from some of my individual coaching clients. Many of them are business owners or managers who understand that the rest of their teams also need help figuring out how to be productive from home now.
Right now, income from workshops is similar to pre-pandemic, but I believe that will grow over time as more and more companies start viewing virtual as a legitimate option instead of a less-than-ideal option.
When this is over…
After this pandemic is behind us, I hope to continue doing most of my workshops online. I’m providing the same value to my clients, and it’s a relief not to have to travel as much. I love being able to spend more time with my family.
I also plan to ramp up my online courses. They’re very valuable resources, they don’t require nearly as much time as the one-on-one coaching, and they are accessible to more people.
But do I want to stay 100% virtual forever? No. I miss the personal interactions, and I love going to conferences. I’ve met so many interesting people that I would never have met otherwise. Before COVID-19, I’d say about 75% of my workshop business was done in person, and 25% was remote. Ideally, after this is all over, I’d like to flip that mix.
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