September 13, 2013
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

Are You Already Doing Unpaid Health Coaching Work? Quite Possibly

Note: The story I’m about to share with you lit up our community when I first shared it. Since then, this topic keeps coming up. In case you missed it, you’ll definitely want to read on… (And even if you didn’t miss it, you’ll also want to read on because I’m going to cover the main hurdle that came up for people around charging for advice.)

Tell me if you’re like me. (Hint: If you’re reading this, you probably are.)

When I started helping people eat healthier (more than 30 years ago), it was kind of a hobby.

People around me noticed that I looked healthy to them. I was careful with my food choices. My body was in decent shape, and it was clear to others that I knew a lot about what to eat. It provoked a natural curiosity in others, especially because just about everyone struggles in some way with their personal health.

Before long, I became the designated “person who knows about health”.

Friends, colleagues, and friends of friends started asking me questions about everything from weight loss to digestion to allergies to you-name-it….

As a giving person, I enjoyed giving away free advice. Especially since I loved talking about eating well and living a healthy life. It was a topic that was easy for me to talk about, and it came naturally to me.

Then, I noticed three things:

1) People seemed more likely to follow bad advice that they paid for while ignoring good advice that was free.

2) I was struggling to make a living doing a job that I didn’t care about, while not earning a dime from what I was most passionate about (healthy living).

3) While pretty much 100% of people are confused about what to eat--spending billions on fad diets--there’s almost nowhere to turn for real practical help.

As I thought deeply about these things, I decided to try an experiment.

I started charging for advice.

Now before I go further, you might be thinking, “How can you charge your friends and family for advice?” I’m going to address that hurdle in a moment.

What amazed me with my first paying clients was how they started following my recommendations once they were paying for them.

“This seems too good to be true,” I thought to myself. “Not only are they paying me, but they’re finally following my advice.”

I have to admit, at the beginning, I wasn’t comfortable with charging for advice. 

And I wondered if people would really pay me for teaching them what foods to eat. (That’s why it started as an experiment.)

Once I discovered that knowing what to eat is very valuable to the right people, and that they actually followed my advice when they paid for it and got better, it inspired me in a big way.

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Over time, with lots of trial and error, I figured out how to create a practice around coaching people.

As word got out, I became really busy with more clients than I could handle. As people got better--clearing up their health problems and feeling and looking healthier--word spread, and that brought in even more people.

I started getting referrals not only from clients, but from massage therapists, chiropractors, and even medical doctors.

That last one shocked me. My little experiment turned out to be so important that even doctors were sending me clients.

Why? Because my clients would go to their doctors for a routine check up after working with me for a while. The doctors almost always had the same response: “What on earth have you been doing? Whatever it is, keep doing it!” Next thing I knew they would send me other patients who needed to work on their health habits.

With a healthy income from my paying clients, I was able to devote part of my practice to helping people in need.

People were getting better, my income was growing, and I was helping way more people than in my days of giving out free advice.

It was a dream come true.

Once I figured out how to help people get better with the knowledge I had about health and make a great living doing it, I realized that other people would want to do the same thing.

If I could help people make careers out of this with a proven system for getting there, I dared to think that we could actually change the world.

And so the seed that led to Integrative Nutrition was planted.

More than 30,000 graduates later, the system has been refined through and through since those beginning days 30 years ago.

Now let’s address the hurdle that came up for people:

Do I have to charge friends and family for advice?

The simple answer is no. You’re not going to a build a real business by charging your family and friends. In fact, students are recommended not to work with close family as clients in the beginning.

So what do you with friends and family who are used to your free advice? That’s covered in depth in the training program. When you do the program, you receive step-by-step instructions to explain your professional transition to your friends and family. If you do this right (we’ve been refining this over twenty years), it’s quite likely that they will not only support you but refer some of your first paying clients to you.

You see, once you begin to feel confident about your value to others, you begin to see that it doesn’t serve anyone to give out casual and free health advice. Lawyers and doctors don’t do it, and the same applies to health coaches. It becomes crystal clear once you realize that the clients get better results as part of a structured program.

Now, I’d like to share with you a class segment where I talk about going from giving health advice without getting paid to making a living and earning a real income doing work you love: 

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