Why “Me-5 Years Ago” is Probably NOT Your Ideal Client

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When I talk to coaches about who their ideal customer is (or ICA  if you’re a bschooler :)) , I often get the same answer:

“Me- a few years ago right as I was starting this whole wellness/personal development journey.”

While this answer SEEMS perfectly logical, I think can be seriously problematic in unexpected ways.

So before you go building you website, writing your copy and putting out a marketing campaign based around this person, let me explain what I’ve learned.

I was in the same boat as you.  I had this huge passion for health and wellness born out of a years’ long journey to heal myself from the inside out. I seriously showed up and did the work for 5+ years and am happy to say in a lot of ways, I have grown and made some pretty great strides in getting my life (and health) to a better place.

I decided that I REALLY wanted to help others get their stuff together too- and felt pulled towards beginning a coach.  A life coach with some health thrown in for good measure.  (Side note-Later I realized biz coaching is more my thing but that’s a story for another day)

So I began meeting with clients and I thought hey- I will teach what I know.  I will work with women who struggle with anxiety, I can teach them to meditate, be mindful, move forward to a life that feels really good.  I began to draw in people who had those same struggles as me when I started, or even me a couple years into the journey.

But here’s the problem: if they are truly that early on in their journey…

They will struggle to get their coaching homework done.

They will be challenging to listen to because well- things aren’t going so well in their life.  Every week, they are struggling with a lot.

And when you sit down to yet another session with someone who’s almost always going through a really hard time, you will likely feel yourself sympathizing with them. Which is only natural- you really care about them.  But it brings down your mood.

And in time- you will start to feel quite tired and drained by all these struggles. And that is just NOT sustainable if you are hoping to build a business that is fueled by passion.

You have to fill your own cup in order to help others. 

The other big issue is that they are probably going to have a hard time scraping together the money and FEELINGS OF WORTH to be able to PAY you.

So what’s the alternative?

Have you ever tried working with clients who are in a pretty similar place to where you are? 

I had a hard time with this idea because frankly- these people seem to be doing pretty well.  They are smart, they are moving towards their goals- they’ve got it together.  Why the heck would they need MY help? 

But that’s the thing- we still want (and need) to keep growing, even once we’ve made progress. Just look at you- are you done yet?  Do you still want more? I thought so.

It’s okay to work with people who are only half a step behind you.  I would even argue that it’s okay to work with people who are on the same darn page.  (Gasp!)

It’s ok to work with people who have a ton in common with.  In fact, it’s actually REALLY FUN.

Because even those people need a coach who can listen, help them sort through their thoughts and experiences, and can come up with a plan to help them take smart, consistent action.

And it really helps YOU as a coach to work with people who inspire you.  Energize you.  Challenge you to show up even more in your own life (and business.) 

Exchanges with these clients can fuel your passion and creativity like you wouldn’t believe.

I’ve seen it in my own work and also in my clients’.  At first, they are sure it’s also about “me 5 years ago.”  But when they stop and really think about how it feels to work with someone like them?  Light bulb moment.

Intrigued? Try this for homework:

  1. Gather a group of beta testers and do some free/discounted coaching sessions with people who are in a similar place to you. OR use your email list to offer a new coaching package geared towards these types of people.  The copy-writing should be easier because these people think like YOU.  You already have the inside scoop 😉
  2. Coach at least 5 people who fit this type.  Do some journaling or chat with a coach/friend about how it feels to work with them.  What are you liking?  What are you not liking? How do their sessions feel compared with the ones you were doing before?

And finally, All those lovely folks who are a little early on in their journey, the ones who aren’t quite ready to be your DREAM 1:1 clients?  They are probably going to love your blog, newsletter, and social media posts.  You can inspire them and help them grow and maybe one day, they WILL BE ready to work with you.  To show up and make some big changes.  But regardless, you can help them through your free content.  So keep creating and know there are people out there who need to hear what you have to say. 

Tell me in the comments: have you ever worked with clients like you?  How did it go?

And feel free to share this with anyone you think might like it using the buttons below.  Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Why “Me-5 Years Ago” is Probably NOT Your Ideal Client

    • Kirstin says:

      Hi Anna-

      I’m glad it worked out that way too, I loved your article and thought it was spot on.

      I totally understand you concern and I had the same fear. The funny thing is- I stumbled on to this by accident. I was beta-testing a new program and ended up working with a few friends who had relatively similar backgrounds to me. What surprised me was that when I showed up, gave them the space to really open up and asked some good questions- they had some big realizations. And I could offer insights as an outsider that were hard for them to see from inside their own situation. Interestingly, even when I took people through exercises that they already knew (because of of our shared background) they found these experiences to be very powerful in a way they hadn’t expected (nor had I!) Because we can’t fully coach and support ourselves. We can try (and it’s worth trying to do what we can) but in the end we all benefit from that support and perspective that another human being has to offer. Does that make sense?

      I would highly recommend doing the homework I laid out, because the truth is, I can tell you all day about how well it works, but until YOU try it, you won’t know if that’s true. I’m all about getting in there and testing things out. That’s where the big clarity comes in- whichever way things go. Thanks for reading and commenting Anna!


  1. Rach says:

    Great post. Not a coach but I find even in my business clients who are ready and willing to make changes are the best

    • Kirstin says:

      That’s wonderful Rach, I was hoping (and thinking) it might apply to other industries as well 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


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