Welcome back to the 185th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today's podcast is Christine Teh. Christine is the founder of Teh Financial Coaching, which provides tax consulting and financial coaching services to high-income individuals and couples still struggling with money in the San Francisco Bay Area. What's unique about Christine, though, is the way that she is building a successful financial coaching practice by not only systematizing her coaching packages for clients but also systematizing her marketing process via LinkedIn to scale her reach to be able to get a high enough volume of clients to make the coaching business work.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about how Christine structures her financial coaching services for clients, why the focus of her work is on short-term cash-flow tracking for clients and not necessarily their long-term retirement plans, the reason she insists that clients track their spending manually in a spreadsheet and not use online tools like mint.com, the four- and eight-week financial coaching packages that Christine created for clients to be more scalable than hourly coaching and that also helps her find better-fit clients, why Christine's philosophy is to teach her clients to fish, and how she tries to graduate them to become self-sustaining and not to remain her long-term clients.
We also talk about how Christine markets her services given the reality that she may need to find 1,000 to 2,000 clients to work with in the coming decades to achieve her own business goals, why she chose LinkedIn as her social media platform of choice to build her personal brand and market herself, the daily LinkedIn routine that Christine goes through to maintain her marketing presence, and the tools that Christine is now using to add live streaming to her weekly LinkedIn marketing routine.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Christine shares how she made the transition and took the leap from quitting her stable corporate job for the entrepreneurial path of becoming a financial coach, why she chose financial coaching and not the traditional RIA business model as her approach to working with clients, and the mindset shift that she had to go through in order to start building a successful financial coaching business.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- The Importance of Money Mindset And Financial Literacy [00:04:17]
- How Christine Encourages Her Clients To Track Their Spending Habits [00:09:21]
- Money Dates Help Christine’s Clients Pay Conscious Attention To Their Relationship With Money [00:26:57]
- The Four- And Eight-Week Packages Christine Offers Her Clients [00:34:36]
- Why She Trains Her Clients To Do The Work Themselves [00:37:28]
- Why Christine Uses LinkedIn As A Marketing Presence And How She Markets To Her Clients [00:41:54]
- The Mindset Shift She Went Through To Build A Successful Business [00:49:35]
- What She Is Doing To Reach So Many Clients [00:59:39]
- How Christine Has Systematized Her Marketing Process [01:09:04]
- How Christine Uses Live Streaming Into Her Marketing Process [01:22:59]
- What Surprised Christine The Most About Building Her Financial Coaching Business [01:32:01]
- Advice For Newer Coaches And What Comes Next For Christine [01:43:47]
- How Christine Defines Success For Herself [01:51:05]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Christine Teh
- Teh Financial Coaching
- Personal Capital
- Acuity Scheduling
- Certified Money Coach (CMC)
- Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP)
Michael: Welcome, Christine Teh, to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Christine: Hi. Thank you, Michael. I'm so glad to be here.
Michael: I'm really looking forward to today's episode and our discussion. You live, at least in our traditional industry’s framing, in I guess I would sort of call it a ‘financial-advisor-adjacent’ role. I know you market yourself as a financial coach, which for at least some who follow the industry, is sort of this dividing line of money and financial-related advice that isn't necessarily done under the industry's FINRA brokerage or Registered Investment Advisor realm. It's not about financial services products or even portfolios. It's just literally the money advice and coaching itself.
But this is an area that I see just blending together more and more in what we do. More growth in financial coaches as a business unto itself, as financial advisors, we increasingly move away from a product-centric world and into a world where our primary value is not just the raw technical advice, but the coaching and helping clients implement it.
I'm really excited to talk about these kinds of intersections of what you're building, living, and seeing in the financial coaching world, what we're doing in the financial advisor world, how these are maybe even blending together into sort of one unified value proposition around just helping clients get better about their finances and actually do all that financial change stuff that we talk about in trying to help them get to better outcomes.
The Relative Importance of Money Mindset And Financial Literacy [00:04:17]
Christine: Yeah, thank you, Michael. So, the premise of my work is really on building your relationship with money, because, at the end of the day, it's all about how is your relationship with money? Is it bad? Is it good? Do you get stressed about money?
So it's really funny because I just interviewed Dr. Brad Klontz. I don't know if you know him. He was on my live stream on Monday. He was telling me that he did a study of two groups of people, one group of people he only taught them financial literacy about just everything practical, right? And another group of people, he taught about all just money mindset and stuff like that. What happened was that the people in the financial literacy group, Group A, increased their savings by 20%, and the people in Group B increased their savings by 70%. That tells me mindset is so important.
When I work with my clients, I marry the practical aspects of money, as well as the relationship with money, the emotional side of money, because if I don't marry the two, it's very hard for them to succeed. I started in September 2016, and when I initially started, I was focusing more on the practical aspects of money like budgeting and cash flow; at the end of the day, it's quite simple, right? Pluses and minuses, but a lot of people are struggling with that.
After, I just realized that it's very hard for people to succeed if I don't really go over their money history, their traumas, their history of money. So, we really have to deep dive, and I have to address like, what are their mindsets around money? How were they raised around money? What were they thinking around money? So, as soon as I integrate that, a lot of my clients have succeeded even more.
Michael: And so, as you get into those kinds of questions with clients, are you just literally asking those questions? How do you even start opening the door to that? I'm imagining someone just coming in saying like, "I've got some debt problems, I need to get a handle on this." You're like, "Tell me about your money mindset." It's like, "I had debt questions. What?" How does that flow in practice? How do you get someone there quickly to have these conversations?
Christine: Yeah, yeah, great question. Part of my intake is that I'll have a form that asks them all these money history questions, and they have to fill that out. I read through that. And then, the foundation of my work is around budgeting. So I teach them budgeting. Basically, what happens is that things just pop up. Like when we do the budgeting, I make them do money dates. They have to track every single thing that goes in and out.
And then the reason for that is for financial awareness. I do not want them to use any automated product. I need them to follow my system to actually manually track it. And the big reason for doing it manually is because then they're proactively managing and paying attention to what they spend. Every time they spend on whatever, Starbucks, or whatever, they have to track that. And every week, when we meet up, so I ask them questions, "How did that make you feel tracking?"
Usually, for a lot of my clients, initially, they always said, "Yeah, it stressed me out. I'm like, I hate doing this. I hate looking at my money. I hate looking at my debt." Then that's the time it opens up conversations like, "Why do you hate looking at your finances? Where did that come from?" And also, we go about talking deeply into all the money history questions. It's a lot of questions. And sometimes some of my clients, we have to do a money bio. Like for example, we go through age by age, year by year, just talking about how their life is. It really depends on the client how in-depth I work with them on those money issues.
Michael: So you had a lot of interesting pieces that you just mentioned there of what parts of this process look like. So I want to understand these a little bit more because we just...I think in our traditional financial advisor world, we so don't live in the realm of budgeting, in part because it's very hard to have those conversations with clients.
I sometimes sort of jokingly say, overgeneralizing a little like, there are two types of clients that we end out working with, those who are really financially organized and know where all their money goes and don't have a lot of budgeting questions, and those who have absolutely no idea where their money goes and really need help with budgeting that we can't help them with because they have no idea where their money goes, right? It's like either they already know, and they're organized, or they're so disorganized I don't even know how to give them advice about in the first place.
So I'm fascinated just this is the center of your work and where it starts, including right out of the gate just making them manually track their money, and recognizing that they're going to hate it and that's part of the process and the conversation. So, how does that even get started? What do you actually ask them to do to start manually tracking their money?
How Christine Encourages Her Clients To Track Their Spending Habits [00:09:21]
Christine: Yeah, so very simple. Basically, the intake form I ask them to do before we start working together. I review their tax return because I'm an IRS enrolled agent as well. I make them fill up this spreadsheet that... My tool is really just a simple spreadsheet that I built over time. They have to fill up all their non-discretionary expenses, all their assets, all their liabilities. Then they also fill up a Word document for all their money history. I review their paycheck. That's pretty much it for the most part unless they have other things they want to show me like their RSU, ESPP. That's more so I can just read them, and then I can just see the overall picture where they're at.
In our first session, we're going to build their budget based on what they told me. Then I'll just guide them, "How are you going to track this?" You have to track this manually. And then the challenge for a lot of my clients initially is that they just hate doing it. And I told them like, "Every time you spend any money, any money movement, you earn money, money comes in, or money goes out, you have to track every single penny."
And I'm not joking; you track every single penny. And then like, actually, it is... And I was telling them, "This is actually easier than losing weight." Because with calories, it's like, you don't exactly know how many calories are in food or how many calories you're burning, right? So I tell them, "This is actually a lot easier than losing weight in terms of tracking." When I tell them in that sense, they're like, "Yeah, you're right." I can actually get to the cents, to the penny how much they've spent.
That's usually the first problem I have with my clients or challenges, is just to get them to track because they just hate it. But that's just part of the work that I do. I transform the relationship to budgeting because a lot of people feel like, "Okay, 'budget,' that's such a yucky word." They always feel like they're, I don't know, suppressed or something. But then I tell them, "No, with budgeting, you are training your money that you are becoming the boss. Money is your employee." So that's all part of it. And then having a budget, you are in control. You tell money where to go. There's so much power when you actually know how to budget. I think over time they realize that.
And there's just so much conversation every week. Like, during the tracking, it's unbelievable; some people just have so much issue with that. They don't know where their money goes. You can't believe how many subscriptions they have that they just don't know about.
And then they always tell me like... Because one of the big categories for a lot of people is food, right? They always say, "Yeah, I don't spend much on food, whatever. No, it's only $400 or $300." And by the time they do track, usually, sometimes it's double that amount. And food is usually the biggest category that people spend on. It's just basically anything you consume, right? Whether that's alcohol, drinks, snacks, everything.
And I live in the Silicon Valley Bay Area, right? People here, most of my clients who came from here, they love eating out. I love eating out too, but I make sure I have enough money in my budget to pay for eating out because that's one of the things. I hate cooking. So I'm happy to put a lot more money in my food category. In the Bay Area, like even some people, they overspend. They can spend up to $1,000 or even more per person on just food. And I think that's... I don't judge my clients. If they have the budget for food they love eating out, for sure, then fine. Then you have to make sure that you can afford the food category.
If you're going negative, then I have a problem with that. If someone wants to drink every day, whatever, go to the bars every day, now they can't, but if they do want to drink every day, I'm not going to judge them on that. I'm not their health counselor or whatever. They're not going to AA meetings. So as long as they're on positive cash flow, I'm not going to judge them. I only will have a problem...if they're going to negative cash flow, then I'm going to have to tell them, "Yeah, you can't afford this lifestyle."
Because the most important thing, they have to be on positive cash flow. That's my number one thing. They have to get to positive cash flow. And then after that first step, if they're able to build that foundation, that they're always aware, they're always on positive cash flow, then we're going to focus on what other things can you work on? Like maybe start increasing your retirement, then maybe start investing. Then I usually guide them to like, "There's Betterment, there's Wealthfront if you don't want to do it yourself." So yeah, it's a step by step progress, but the first foundation is really to get to positive cash flow. That's very, very important. And then there are a lot of people who struggle with that, just getting to positive cash flow, they just don't understand.
Michael: And so why...still just I'm interested, why do they have to track it manually? Right? At least if they want to get a handle on where their money's going, we do have some tools, mint.com. And I know there are other modern tools starting to crop up now. Why the insistence they have to do it manually?
Christine: Yeah, that's a very, very good question. I do have clients who complain about that. They're like, "I have Mint in my bank account." And I said, "No, it's not going to work." Because what happens with Mint is that people just become reactive. They're like, "Oh, I don't know, after a week, how much did I end up spending?" It's not a proactive approach.
When you do manually, like for example, today, after our call, I'm going to go out and then go to the grocery, buy $30, then I'm going to track that in my sheet, like, "Oh, I already spent $30, how much is left for the month?" And then I also use my budget to confide in it. For example, in my fund category, I only have $300. Then, for example, oh, I want to buy these shoes that's $100, for some reason, like a sale, whatever. So if I put $100, okay, how much more do I have left? It's like, "Oh, I still have some money, $100 left."
And then let's say they come up, like for some people who have problems with like shopping on Amazon, they're like, "Oh, I want to buy another $100 hoodie or something." Actually, it's a recent client who did that too. So I said, "You have to confide in your budget. Can you afford another $100 hoodie?" They have to confide in that. And then when they manually track it, then it forces them to like, "Yeah, I think I'm going to go negative already."
It's more like, I just need them to be proactive. The tendency with the automated stuff is that some of my clients they become reactive. And I really don't want that. I need them to always be on top of their budget. And then like, there's a difference, I think when you actually manually do something versus you're just looking at how much have you spent so far? It's a different mindset.
Michael: So the idea is if I'm tracking this in Mint, like, okay, every week or few weeks or whatever it is, I'll go in and be like, "Huh, I spent a lot of money on restaurants over the past few weeks," as opposed to when you're manually tracking it in real-time, and the moment you go over your planned budget, you're going to see it because you're manually tracking it in real-time. And so, I guess it would force you to be more self-aware of the problem, behavior, or spending and change it more immediately because that's what happens when you are hands-on tracking it as you go and not just looking later at whatever the technology captured.
Christine: Exactly. And then Michael, this is not applicable for everyone, of course. I think for some people who are already always on positive cash flow, they make very good money, then I think Mint might work, but I'm talking about clients who come to me who's on negative cash flow, to begin with.
They need a system when they're always on top of their finances because that's the most basic thing; they need to be aware of their finances. And how do you make them really aware? I make them track it manually because they have to see where their money is spending. They have to confide, can they afford it? So it's a whole exercise trying to transform someone's relationship with...someone who doesn't know where their money is going, someone who's on negative cash flow. They need a system where it forces them to actually look at money.
And then, of course, forcing them to look at it and forcing them to look at the emotions that pop up. What are all the negative emotions? Like, how are you feeling? Like, why do you have this need to constantly buy on Amazon? Because I have a couple of clients who are Amazon...I think they just like to spend, spend, spend. And usually, the issue with that is because...
Michael: When you just like to click, click, click. You click, and it shows up, and you click, and it shows up. It's a glorious thing. I think we have a pretty healthy Amazon habit around our house as well. It's addictive in the modern era; I thought of a thing I want, I click a button, and Amazon makes it appear in a few hours.
Christine: Exactly. And it's a Prime membership. Like, "Oh, okay, deliver in like a day or two." And the things that if you click, click... And then I warn them, "If you click that button, you better put it in your budget spreadsheet that you just spent that money, and then know how much you've spent and how much you have saved." So then it just forces my clients to actually really look at their habit.
And then it's just like, there's just so much more awareness. And then usually the reason people are addicted to shopping is that they don't know what else to do. Sometimes they're just not fulfilled with their life. And then we address that. Part of my work is also I do some sort of life coaching with my clients too. For example, one of my young clients in her 20s, she's a single mom. I actually got her to quit her job; she was working at Tesla doing graveyard shifts, so I encouraged her to find another job closer to home. When she found another job closer to home, she got a $20k increase, and she was much happier. Once she graduated (that means that she became positive cash flow), she was on her way to paying her debt. She's very happy, and she's now graduated to using a credit card again.
Because when she started working with me, she had credit card debt and a bunch of other loans, right? So now she got rid of them. She only has a car loan now, which is like a five-year term. She's not qualified to refinance that yet. But that's an okay loan, right? So she got $20k more, and now she's going back to using credit card now because she's always on positive cash flow.
So then she was asking me about how she wanted to do some... Well, young women in their 20s, they sometimes struggle with their self-image. She was starting to gain weight. She wanted to do some surgery like liposuction, whatever. So we got into talking. I'm so glad she opened up with this. That's part of my work with my clients. I need them to open up about this topic. She could easily hide it, right?
She said, "Yeah, I only have a few thousand dollars, right, I can spend it on like liposuction." I'm glad she talked to me about it. She's like, "Christine, I'm thinking about that." She could easily just spend on that one, right? But then the thing is that it's not really going to solve your self-esteem issue. We needed to look deeply; I encouraged her to actually read some books and then do some more work internally. Because I have been there, right? I'm almost 40, so I know how it feels to be a young woman in their 20s suffering from self-esteem and self-confidence issues.
So we worked through that. I told her, "Give yourself a chance, maybe six months to work on your diet, work on your exercise." Because I asked her, "How's your diet? How's your exercise doing?" She said, "Yeah, not too good, whatever." I said, "Focus on that first. Focus on self-love, taking care of yourself, and then your spiritual growth. And then just promise me that, do that for six months, and then let's see how it goes."
She's actually doing well. She's listening to what I'm telling her. She's one of my favorite clients because she listens to my homework, does everything I tell her. She's just doing all that. She's exercising now, trying to eat healthily. I don't think she's ever...she might not have to do that liposuction. Because that's the thing, when you do those types of surgeries, it doesn't really solve your internal issues. A lot of people who spend, their issue is really internally as well. They don't find fulfillment in something. And that's my job, to really dig deep, like, "Where is that? Let's find fulfillment in that." Like, some people, they might not be fulfilled with work, right? They might just shop or do other things because they're not fulfilled in something else. Like I know a lot of people, they're just not happy being an employee. I was not happy being an employee. So I was happy to quit my job last year. And I couldn't be happier. I love being an entrepreneur.
Michael: Yeah, I understand. I sometimes feel like I'm borderline unemployable myself. Definitely, definitely get it.
So, as you're doing this kind of tracking with clients, how literally do you have them track it? Is this like a smartphone app, a pen and paper thing, or a spreadsheet you give them? Just how are they actually supposed to track it, since you're asking them to do it manually?
Christine: Yeah, yeah. It's basically Excel and upload to Google Sheets. You can just open it from your mobile phone and then just update it from there.
Michael: Okay. And that's like a spreadsheet template you give them?
Christine: Yes, yes. Yes, yes, exactly. I have an online course for budgeting. It's basically Excel. The funny thing is, I don't really need to use so many cool tools. I do use a tool called Personal Capital. That's just more for my investments because there's no way you can track that manually, right? For my budgeting, like, I even have my own budgeting spreadsheet since, I don't know, 10 years ago. I've been doing this for 10 years because there's no way I can keep track of this in my head as well. So I need to write that down.
And also, when I did my own retirement model, I basically just used Excel too. When I did my modeling, like, I even had two CFPs review my retirement model, "Hey, did I miss anything?" That's how it gave me the confidence to quit my job. Because when I did my retirement model, it was based on like me not being profitable till I'm 70 years old, meaning I'm only making enough money to get by, and then I'm going to start taking money out from 70 till 90, although I only did my lifestyle till 90. I did my retirement model on that, and then it gave me the confidence that I do have enough money and finances to actually live till 90. And then, fortunately, I've been profitable. So I've been putting more money and growing more money for my retirement fund.
Michael: So, what happens if...do you get clients that just say like, "I'm just not manually tracking it? I'm not going to do it?" Either they won't, or they say, "Look, Christine, I'll use Mint, I'll do something automated, but I'm just not doing your manual thing."
Christine: Yes, yes. There was one client; she was working for Amazon. She's making very good money, and then she really didn't want to do it manually. So I was okay with that because she was...as long as she's aware of where her money is going, at the end of the month we look at Mint. But for the most part, everybody, all the rest of my clients, they track it.
And then the reason, Michael, they even come to me is because they don't know where their money is going. And usually, they're more than happy. And then they're more than happy to do any work I tell them to do. And then when they do the work, and then they're usually pretty successful.
And then what happens is that after... I told them like, "During our fourth session or eighth session together, I just need you to try this system out and see how you feel. Okay? If you end up hating it, then okay, we're going to talk about something else." But for the most part, most of them are happy with the template I give them because it's very easy. It's not a hard template. It's not like you have to track so many categories.
If you think about it, after you do it for like a month or two, once you gain the habit, if you spend something on Amazon, how long does it take for you to type up something on a spreadsheet? It only takes a few seconds. That's why I always tell them, "It only takes you a few seconds, but then you have so many benefits." And then when they grasp that concept, then they're like, "Yeah, you know what? It's actually not that hard."
And then I think one of the questions I get asked by my clients, like, "Oh, after we finish working eight months, can I stop tracking?" I ask them, "Well if you're trying to cut down sugar or whatever, trying to be healthy, do you stop being healthy after working with a health coach?" You don't, right? This is a forever thing. I said, "Money is something you have to take care of forever. Just like your health, you have to take care of it forever." So they're like, "Oh, okay."
I'm trying to instill in them a habit that doesn't cost them a lot of time. It only takes them a few seconds. I think once they grasp that, that, "Hey, it's actually not much work." And then I tell them, "With your spreadsheet, you can use that for a lot of things. You can use that for your taxes, you can use that for your retirement planning, you can use that for a lot of things. And you’re not using the spreadsheet just to track your investments, no way, because there's no way you can track your investments by there. But this is just for your budget, day-to-day cash flow management." And then, when they grasp it, then they love the spreadsheet.
Like the clients who are successful with me, they're still using it even till now. I do have maybe one or two who hated it. One actually found YNAB, which I know Garrett Philbin came on your show. So yeah, he did use...decided to use YNAB. But the thing is that I'm not a big fan of using the app because I love spreadsheets. Maybe it's just me. And then I tell my clients, "I work with spreadsheets. I love spreadsheets. And then I make sure the template is easy for you."
So it depends. One of my clients, he found YNAB, and it helped him. I'm willing to work with them too if they can find it. But for the most part, most of my clients don't know anything. I usually just introduce them to spreadsheets. And then if they don't have spreadsheets, it's Google Sheets. It's really free. They don't have to spend anything.
Money Dates Help Christine’s Clients Pay Conscious Attention To Their Relationship With Money [00:26:57]
Michael: Well, you make an interesting point that when the people you're working with are folks that are having budgeting and financial money problems and they don't have a good handle on where their money is going, and that is an actual problem for them that they are trying to solve for, the whole dynamic starts to look a little bit different because they are seeking a solution. That's why they came to you in the first place.
So presumably, it gets a little bit easier to manage and say, "Hey, if you really want to get control of your finances, here's the thing you've got to do," because they came to you and said, "Tell me what I have to do." So you're just telling them. It's not like you're imposing a thing out of the clear blue sky. They started with a problem and a pain point for which they're looking for a solution. And this is the solution that you're bringing to the table. What do they do with this tracking? I think you had briefly mentioned a money date and weekly meetings. What happens in your process once clients start tracking their money and their finances this way?
Christine: Yeah. I like to make it fun for them. I say, "Spend time with money." It's called a money date. Like with anything, Michael, in your life, right, it's like you build a relationship, okay? So how do you build a relationship with money? You nurture it. You spend time with it.
It's the same thing with building a good relationship with yourself. You spend time trying to get to know yourself. It's actually quite funny, right? Like some people, they don't even know themselves. It's the same thing with money. You do money dates so that way you can spend time with money. You sit down, I don't know, if you want to have a candlelight wine, that's up to you. With couples, I joke with them, "Have money dates. Tell me a date you can actually commit to having money date."
I think in the beginning, I try to make it easy for them. I say, "Okay, you need to have money dates at least twice a week." Because some of my clients who hate tracking, they literally track it like an hour before a session with me. I said, "No, that's not going to work. That's not the purpose of tracking. You have to track as you go, not like homework an hour before seeing me."
That's the problem I have with some clients because they literally think it's just homework for me. I say, "No, this is not for me; this is for you." At the minimum, twice a week. And some of my clients will actually end up loving the budgeting, so ideally, I'd like them to do it as they go. Like for example, if they have anything that happened today, then they're going to have to track that. They're going to go on their phone and then type it in, or if they're in front of their laptop, they type it in. Or like, if they really don't want to do that, then I have to kind of slowly make them like the budgeting as I work with them. So at the minimum is twice a week, to begin with.
Michael: And so, what does it mean when you say you're doing a money date? Because I admit, when I first heard you say this, at least, my head was, where I've seen a few other coaches talk about money dates, this is like me and my spouse sitting down and talking about our money and our finances. But it sounds like that is not your context here. Money date just literally means like, you sit down with your spreadsheet on a date that may or may not involve candlelight and get a little more familiar with each other.
Christine: Yes, yes, a money date just involves anything to do with money. Because for a lot of people, the ones who come to me, they just have problems even looking at their finances. When you frame it as a money date, it just means anything to do with money. When you look at your money, you look at your bank accounts, and you look at your spreadsheet. So those can be money dates. You're just spending dates here and there. It doesn't have to be a big date.
A big date could be maybe between you and your spouse; you're trying to, I don't know, buy a Tesla or something like that, then that's a big money date. Then maybe you need wine or whatever, then talk about it and then look at your spreadsheet. But yeah, you can have money dates as frequently as you can. I think as much as you can whenever there's any money movement so you can confide in money.
Michael: But in essence, a money date just means taking 15 or 30 minutes and sitting down with your spreadsheet and applying some conscious thoughts to something. Maybe you're just looking where your spending is going. Maybe you're making an actual spending, conscious spending decision. But just a money date is taking the conscious time to focus and say, "I'm going to pay attention to what's going on with my money for a few minutes here."
Christine: Exactly. Exactly. Just like when you have a date with a new person, a new girl, a new guy, then you're paying conscious attention to the other person. So this is honoring money, honoring the time, and then really paying attention, "Where's my money at right now?" Just like when you're having a date with a new person, you're honoring that person, you're putting aside the time, you're putting your phone away, whatever, because you're trying to get to know the other person.
When you do the money dates, it’s only for 10, 15 minutes when you're getting to know your finances. It's really important that people understand you have to honor money, because if you don't learn how to honor money, how can money honor you? If you don't know how to take care of money, how can money take care of you? That's a very important concept some people just struggle to grasp. But I think as they continue to work on this budgeting, they get comfortable with it, then it just becomes easier over time.
Michael: Where does your role then come into this? Like, what is your sort of part in this process? If you've set them up, say like, "Okay, we did an initial meeting. I'm going to have you start tracking your spending on an ongoing basis. You have to do it manually. Here's the spreadsheet, I want you to spend at least twice a week with money dates where you take a little time and just get a little more familiar with your money."
Where do you come in next? How does the actual coach-client process work?
Christine: Yeah. For people who struggle with negative cash flow, we'll meet weekly to begin with. For some clients who are doing better, we kind of space it out to every two, three weeks. Basically, the next week they come to me, and then we'll review their finances, their budget. I ask them a lot of questions, like, "How was the process? How did it make you feel?" And Michael, usually the first two sessions for my new clients, they do everything wrong. They just don't do the homework right. So that's the first problem.
The second problem is that once they figure out how to do it right, I have to ask them, "What's going on? What are the challenges you have to track?" And sometimes, for a lot of them, they just have no idea. They have like maybe three or four credit cards. They're like, "Oh, I don't know." I said, "You have to look at everything." And then through that budgeting system, we'll go over, "Do you need all three credit cards?" Then we talk about maybe cutting two of the credit cards and putting them on the side. But we're trying to organize their finances, so they're not everywhere. Like, they don't have multiple savings accounts. They don't have multiple checking accounts unless they’re really needed. They don't have multiple credit cards. So it's a mix of practical and also the emotional aspect as we work through that weekly.
And then also things come up like their taxes. They also ask a lot of questions about that. My role is really about the budget; we revolve around budgeting. A lot of the questions do come up from there, like all their struggles. And then through that, after we review their budgeting stuff, then we go through their money history, then we start talking about their history around money. Then that will give me a better understanding of why they spend the way they spend, so as I kind of alternate between both of them throughout all our sessions.
The Four- And Eight-Week Packages Christine Has Put Together For Her Clients [00:34:36]
Michael: And so, you kind of framed these as ‘sessions’. How many sessions are there for clients that go through this with you?
Christine: So there are two types of clients. There’s the one client who really struggles, and they just have literally no idea where their money goes. And they're on negative cash flow. For these clients, I recommend a minimum of eight sessions.
For the clients who are kind of like, "You know what? I'm on positive cash flow, and I do save money every month," then I think four sessions might be enough for them. Because for them, they literally just want someone to review their finances just to see where they are at. Like, educate them on taxes. Because a lot of people don't understand taxes at all. Usually, when I explain to them, I explain to them in a way that they actually truly understand it, like, "Just the first two pages of your 1040, how's that connected to your paycheck? What is the withholding?" And sometimes just the most simple stuff they don't understand.
There are four sessions, and then they also just want someone to teach them a new system for budgeting. Because even though they're on positive cash flow, they sometimes feel like, "Oh, I don't know, some months I'm positive, some months I'm not." They just want to have more control over it. Usually, the people who feel they're on positive cash flow, their main concern really is that they don't have much control over their money. They still don't know like, "I don't know how much I'm saving or whatever. I know I'm on positive cash flow." The concept really is around just being in control of money. They know exactly where the money is going.
So it's either four or eight sessions, depending on where my clients are at.
Michael: And these are like one-hour sessions that are happening weekly? So this is essentially like a four-week one-hour-a-week engagement or an eight-week one-hour-a-week engagement?
Christine: Yes, yes. They're, give or take, one hour by Zoom video conference.
Michael: Okay. So you're doing this virtually, not even necessarily bringing them together in person.
Christine: Nope. Before the coronavirus, people around my area who find me on Yelp, because most people who are in my area, the Silicon Valley area, they will either...they find me on Yelp. So if they're close enough, then I do meet them at the local library. I'm very cost-efficient. There's a conference room at the library that I can just borrow for free, and we just meet them there. That's very rare.
It's probably only 10% of my clients who actually want to meet in person. I do notice that the young ones, they're just okay with remote. The older ones tend to say, "Oh, yeah, I want to meet you in person." Unfortunately, now because of the coronavirus, they're forced to just do it virtually.
Actually, for my preference, I do prefer virtually because I don't like to have to change to go out. That's just me. I love working from home. I love remote work, but I do have to honor, some people just feel more comfortable to see you in person.
Why She Trains Her Clients To Do The Work Themselves [00:37:28]
Michael: So you do these weekly meetings for four to eight weeks, and then when they're done, they're done? Like, "It’s been a pleasure working with you for the past eight weeks. It seems like you made some great progress, and I wish you the best going forward," and that's that? They've got their tools and hopefully are moving forward on a positive basis from there?
Christine: Yeah. What I'm proud of the work that I do is that I get them to the point... I follow the philosophy, "I will teach you how to fish." I want them to get to a point where they know their finances. Because I truly believe no one should care about your finances but you. I'm just a guide.
So you know after our sessions that you're on top of your finances. But I do have clients who want to continue working with me after because then they want someone to hold them accountable, they just want someone to talk to. The two young clients, one that I just told you an example of, and I have another young client, both of them are continually working with me. Actually, my other client came on a live stream with me. I was so happy that she agreed to come on the live stream to share her experience.
But both of them actually...because I think they kind of see me like an older sister, they want someone to talk to, just even like life coaching. Because money is so connected with life, right? A lot of your decisions around life have to do with money.
I basically just meet with them every three weeks now. Even three to four weeks, as long soon as we touch base once a month, and it's very short, like 30 minutes. But that's only for some people. Some of the other clients, actually, most clients, they're okay. And I have no problem with that because I wish you the best. If you have any questions, for example, any big decisions they have to make, for example, they want to buy a house, whatever, for the first time and they need someone to just walk through all their finances. And I’ll say, "You can just pay me...pay per session." And some of my clients do that.
Then I have other clients who come to me to do their taxes. I just started offering taxes for the 2019 tax return. And I had some clients who reached out to me and said, "Hey, I want you to do my taxes." Then we kind of catch up on what's going on with them. Typically, ideally, that's what I want. I don't want my clients to be dependent on me. I want them to have the foundation, to know what they’re doing and to always have positive cash flow, to be confident about their finances, and to just come to me when they have a big decision to make, or when they need someone to do their taxes. That's what made me feel like I did my job as a coach because I don't want someone to be dependent on me.
Michael: So talk to us about the business then of how this works. What do people pay for four weekly sessions, eight weekly sessions? What's the business model behind this of how you get paid?
Christine: Yeah. So before I quit my corporate job, I was pretty much selling pay-per-session. But when I quit my job, of course, that wasn’t going to work. Otherwise, if I did pay-per-session, then I would literally need like 10, 20 clients or more each month. And I'm like, "Yeah, that is not going to work if I'm going to have a profitable business." I only sell packages now.
I started initially on the lower end, and now I’ve gotten to the point where I figured out what the right pricing point is for me. Because what happened when I was charging at the lower end before, I was attracting clients who were not serious. Like, first of all, you have to find...some clients, if they're on negative cash flow, they have to come to the point where they're really ready to make the change. And sometimes when you charge on the lower end, it's actually kind of...like, they come to me, they need help, but if they didn't pay enough, they're not willing to do work.
It's actually kind of funny. And I would get a little frustrated because I wanted to help them, but the thing is that they're not doing the work and then we're just wasting each other's time, right?
I kind of got to the price point of doing the 4 sessions for $1,200, and then the 8 sessions, $2,000. And I don't offer discounts but I do offer installment plans for people who can't afford it. So literally, I will work with whatever is on their budget. As long as they can commit to the down payment upfront, then we will work some sort of installment plan so they can afford the rest of their four sessions or the eight sessions.
Why Christine Uses LinkedIn As A Marketing Presence And How She Markets To Her Clients [00:41:54]
Michael: So that's like a healthy-sized number at the end of the day, of $1,200 or $2,000, which I guess if these are nominally like1-hour sessions that you go through, you're talking about $250 to $300 an hour for the work that you're doing. I guess in packages like this, as you said, you don't need 10 to 20 clients a month to make the math work now. Like, we can have a handful of clients a month and still have it add up well. And you don't even need new clients every month because the eight-week sessions last two months, so you only need them every other month to make it work.
Christine: Exactly. My business model is really around targeting to have, give or take, four new clients every month. And then it's not that hard, as long as... I always show up on social media. LinkedIn is my go-to. Every day you show up, you engage. And now, I'm trying to grow on Instagram. Of course, I haven't figured Instagram out yet. But LinkedIn is still my main thing. I just want to be very good at two social media, so LinkedIn and Instagram, because I don't want my Facebook to become a business thing. Because I know some business coach told me, "Yeah, if you're going to be successful on Facebook, you kind of have to market on your personal page." And I really don't want that. I want my personal page on Facebook to be personal, so I can just share whatever I want to, even like flood my entire feed with all dog pictures. And I really didn't want that. I decided on LinkedIn and Instagram only, and they're primarily just all business.
Michael: So you aim for kind of taking on four new clients a month that work with you on an ongoing basis. So not a horribly heavy client load. I guess at the end of the day, on average, that's 4 clients, 4 sessions, this is 16 hours a month of active client meetings. Obviously, there's some prep and other stuff that goes on, but like, got a lot of flexibility on this. We're not burying ourselves here and slaving away on work. It's easier to do that when you can charge $250, $300 an hour.
So help us understand just, I guess the dynamic of taking people who are already having cash flow issues and charging them $250, $300 an hour or $1,000 or $2,000 for coaching and advice, right? I'm sure there are at least some people who are probably listening to this and saying like, "How can you take someone who's already got debt and negative cash flow problems and charge them $2,000 for help? Is this like giving a drowning person an anchor to help them swim?"
I'm not trying to pick on you for it, but just how do you think about that or even just talk through with people that are saying, "I know I need help, but I've already got money problems. I don't know if I can afford you, Christine?"
Christine: Yeah, very good question, Michael. Yeah. Well, I always ask my clients or prospects who come to me, "If you don't hire me, where will you be? Can you figure this out?" So sometimes...most of the time they realize they're better off seeking help. And then I have clients who actually are on negative cash flow. They have a lot of debt. And then what I will tell them, "Hey, if you start working with me, yeah, you might have to charge $2,000 more on your credit card, but after you start working with me, we're going to get you in place, and then we're going to organize that. We're going to refinance that." I have several clients who were on negative cash flow, and then they literally have to charge on their credit card. But they believe in me. They know my work, and I've helped them out.
They need to realize...I think that's a part, too; I want to attract only serious clients. I can't convince them, right, like, they need to sign up with me, but they need to realize from their...you know when they're ready, when they realize, yeah, they really need someone to get them out of here. Because if they don't, that, whatever, that $10k debt might become $20k debt later on if they don't work with me. If they start working with me, that $10k debt might be $12k debt, but then when you start working with me, that's going to shrink pretty quickly, as long as you do the work I tell you to do. You're committed to this, you do the work, and then you're going to get out of it faster. So yeah, why do you want to spend money when you don't have money? But you know what? I can help them. And I've helped people who are on negative cash flow.
I also offer a budgeting course for people who are just not ready to pay for that. My budgeting course is only $49. That way, they can kind of get a sense of how I work with them. And also, I have come...someone actually gave me this idea. I think I'm going to do another online course for financial literacy. So at least it will be at a lower price point because I'm big on financial literacy. I think it's so sad, how our education system doesn’t teach finances in school. It's literally a life skill that's so important. We live in America, where [obtaining a] credit card is so easy. I'm Chinese. I was born and raised in the Philippines. When I left the Philippines, I immigrated here back in 2000. Before 2000, nobody was using credit cards yet; everyone was using cash.
The concept of a credit card, of maxing out your credit [and making] minimum payments, is something we're not used to. That's why people like from the Philippines or people who were born in Asia or raised there; they're just generally very good with their finances because they don't use credit cards. But people who are raised here, credit cards are just so easy. You're not being taught like, "Okay, you max out on credit card, $800, $1000, then, okay, your minimum payment is only $25." So, of course, it makes it easy for people to just overcharge. And then to add to that, [there is] no financial literacy. Then yeah, our debt in this country is just going to grow. I'm very big on that. And I'm trying to think of a course, do like something that's not too expensive that I can actually sell to maybe, I don't know, high school or college graduates as well so that we just teach them about all the basics as well.
Michael: But I get the point that if you're doing one-off sessions, even for, call it a few hundred dollars, if you have someone whose problem is impulse buying decisions that have caused them to be cash-flow negative, like, "Hey, come into me for an hour, and I'll start talking about your debt or your spending problems," you may not necessarily get the most committed people yet because we already know they may have problems with impulse buying for things that they don't stick with.
When you amp up the stakes and say like, "It's going to be $2,000," well, now the odds are very good that you're taking this very seriously. And if you take it very seriously, it might actually be easier to change someone's trajectory to be positive in $2,000 than it is to make back a $300 one-hour session because they don't actually change their behavior after a $300 one-hour session, they just spend the $300 and are $300 further behind with the same behavioral problems.
Christine: And I had a reason why I set it up that way, the one, four, and the eight, because I'm trying to encourage people to sign up for the eight sessions. But I did have people who did pay for one session around this area. Like for example, I had clients who just want a one-off, like they wanted to buy a house, especially in the Silicon Valley or Bay Area; they needed someone to talk through like, "Is this a good decision? Will it work with my finances?" I've had some one-offs, but they didn't really struggle with any issues like negative cash flow. Those are typically the people who buy my one-off session. But for the most part, all my other clients are either four sessions or eight sessions.
The Mindset Shift She Went Through To Build A Successful Business [00:49:35]
Michael: And so now talk to us about just how you look at growing and building this as a business. I think for most of us advisors, even when you talk about things like, "I need four new clients a month," by traditional advisor world, that's a big number. Like, just that's a lot of people to be marketing for and getting on an ongoing basis. I think that's part of why for a lot of us as advisors, we tend to skew in the direction of maybe not trying to make clients dependent on us, because that doesn't sound positive, but trying to find clients that want to be in long-term, permanent relationships with us.
I feel like, as advisors, we have this natural tendency and bias towards accumulating client relationships. And maybe part of that is just that we like those engagements. But I think part of it is, if it's so doggone hard to get a client, you want people who are going to stick with you in the long run so that you won’t always be needing to go out and get new clients.
And so I'm fascinated by this sort of view and philosophy of yours of, "I don't want my clients to be dependent on me. My goal is to teach you how to fish, and you move on." And like, "Oh, I've got to go get four new clients every month to keep the model going? Like, no big deal. I'll just go get four new clients every month." How do you think about that dynamic? Do you ever get the temptation to have long-term models, or how do you plan to keep pace with four-plus new clients a month indefinitely?
Christine: Yeah. So Michael, I know that's one of the things the naysayers have told me. It's like, "Yeah, how can you keep up? You have to come up with four new clients every month." See, the thing is that I shift my mindset to one of abundance. Either you will have an abundance mentality or a scarcity mentality. I was telling you before our recording was that... If you think about four new clients every month, I'm almost turning 40 right now. If I'm going to work till 70, that's like 2,000 new clients for the entire lifetime of my business to be profitable. So if you think of 2,000 new clients, how many do we have in our population? How many are in the Bay Area alone, in Silicon Valley alone, in California alone, in the United States alone? There's such an abundance of people.
I'm not even worried. I don't go about my month to month, thinking, "Oh, I need four new clients." No, I go with the flow. I show up every day on social media. I make sure I give value. Because I think I've grown so much on LinkedIn was because I always provide value every single day. Like my clients come to me, the prospects, they message me, they're like, "I love your content. It really speaks to me." So they come to me. You have to provide value.
And I trust...I'm a very spiritual person too. I trust in the universe. I trust in having that abundance mentality. I trust that the right client is going to find me, as long as you do what you're passionate about, you keep showing up, you show value, you provide. And then, every time when I talk to my prospects, actually, some people are surprised, like, I don't really follow up with my prospects because then if we talk and if they're really interested, then I kind of just expect them to come to me and then, "Hey, I'm ready to sign up the next day." But if they don't come to me, then I just focus on putting my energy on new clients, on providing value, on showing up everywhere just so...and then people can find me. And then I focus on attraction marketing, like, what can I do to attract the right people to me?
Yeah. It has never been a problem. And like I was telling you, Michael, I quit in May of last year. I have been profitable since I quit. The only one month I was not profitable was in July of last year. And that was during the summer. But that was about it. But then I made enough in the other month to pad that negative month. So, what does that tell you? I just passed my...May 3rd was my one-year anniversary. I haven't had a problem.
I might not make as much as I was when I was working as an employee, because I was working at Visa. We had great benefits. I was making good money there. But you know what? That's why I did a post about how you have to find your happy money number. It might not be six figures, it might not be millions, but you need to figure out what makes you happy. What kind of lifestyle you want to live. For me, the most important thing is that I'm profitable, and then I'm living a lifestyle that I'm very happy with. I get to be my own boss, and I don't have to deal with anybody but myself when it comes to like trying to figure out the business rules and policies and stuff.
Michael: And when you talk about just kind of being profitable and happy money number, do you have...are there expenses of the business? Or when you look at profitability, just am I making enough dollars to cover my personal expenses to live the lifestyle that I want?
Christine: Yeah. So profitable means to me after...I made enough money to pay for my business expenses, that's including self-employment taxes and whatever other things. But you know what? In my business, I don't have a lot of business expenses. My overhead is very low. I pay for Zoom, I pay for Acuity, the scheduling app, and then I pay for this live stream app that I have to use so I can stream in multiple places. But it's very, very low. I don't have a lot of expenses besides the self-employment taxes. I pay for it. I don't even hire coaches. I didn't even hire a business coach because I'm very good at figuring stuff out for my business. I feel like I was just meant to be an entrepreneur. Everything just goes with the flow. Yes, it pays for business expenses; plus, it pays for all my personal expenses. And then once that pays that off, any extra that...anything above that is all profit, then yeah, it goes to investments or savings.
Michael: So talk to us then about, like, where are you going to find four new clients a month on an ongoing basis? You sort of mentioned in there a label of attraction marketing and trying to attract people to you. And I know in practice because I've seen like you are very, very engaged on LinkedIn as I think your primary social media marketing platform of choice. So talk to us more about just what is marketing to you? How have you gone about starting, and from scratch, being able to get a flow of clients that are coming in at four a month so that you're profitable from the first day when most of us have very slow ramp-up periods when we launch our businesses? Like, how does this attraction marketing, LinkedIn thing work for you?
Christine: Yes. So, Michael, I started my business in September 2016. So I was working full-time at Visa, and I was working nights and weekends for my business. And then if I have to recommend everybody else if they want to start a business, please keep your day job. So at least you can start doing this on the side; always do that on the side. I will never advise anyone anything else. Because I have two friends who literally just quit their job thinking, "Oh, clients are just going to come to me, whatever, I'm going to be profitable," but it didn't work. They end up having to find a part-time job after a few months. If you really ask any entrepreneur who is very honest with you, it's very hard to ramp up. You're starting from scratch. It's going to take you time.
I started in September 2016. I was working and doing this on the side on nights and weekends for two and a half years before I quit my job. I quit my full-time job in May of last year. I already have enough traction. I already have enough of the presence. Actually, I was not much on social media at that time. I was kind of on LinkedIn, but I wasn't really marketing there. Most of my clients actually, during that time, came from either referrals or from Yelp. I have a lot of reviews on Yelp. There are actually a lot of my clients who come from Yelp.
But then I realized, when I quit my job in May, I'm like, "I don't want to just have like one big referral source." I don't know; Yelp could go away, whatever. And then plus, I'm not really too happy with Yelp. I think if you talk to a lot of other entrepreneurs, Yelp doesn't really treat business owners very well. I'm not going to get into that. But after May, I realized I needed to be on social media, right? Because social media, if you know how to use it, you have the entire world at your fingertips. Everyone's on social media, on the internet, whatever.
I had a choice between trying to either go on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. My ideal client was a working professional. I actually love working with young employees. So I said, "Where would they hang out? Where would professionals hang out?" They're on Instagram too, but then LinkedIn is more oriented towards professionals. So then I'm like, "You know what? I'm going to give this my best shot." I think in September of last year, it's funny, yeah, September 2016 and September 2019, it's like, around that September, it is like a magic month or something. I started fully dedicating myself to it. I just start showing up, I start engaging, I start really learning the platform.
It just went from there. I started with, I think, 3,000 followers in September, and now it's already the end of May, and I went to 52,000 followers. And that's mainly from showing up every day, and then just giving value and then networking. You have to think of LinkedIn as a big networking platform. There are so many people there. You can't come on LinkedIn, thinking you just want to pick up clients, whatever. I don't see it that way. I show up there to provide value. And then, of course, primarily it's still for business purposes, but I show up there to show value, and then engage with people, help people, and let them come to me. And for the most part, most of them do just come to me.
What She Is Doing To Reach So Many Clients [00:59:39]
Michael: So that, like, just from sheer engagement and following in LinkedIn to propel from a few thousand people to 52,000 in, what are we now, like, 8 or 9 months into your process is just a monster number for how many people are following the content you're putting out and what you're doing? So, can you talk to us a little bit more about like, what literally are you doing on LinkedIn that makes a zillion people show up and start following you? What exactly do you do?
Christine: Yeah. It's very simple. My daily routine is basically, I wake up usually, give or take, 8 a.m. PST. And then I post my content. And then usually, I don't plan my content weeks in advance. It's usually like, I go with the flow. The night before, I'm like, "Oh, what do I feel like sharing the next day?" I'll write up my content the night before, prepare it. The next day all I have to do is just copy and paste. And then this picture, video, whatever. I try to alternate between different contents, pictures, and texts. And not so much on video now because I have a live stream. People always see me on video now through my lives, and they know I'm a real person; they can interact with me and stuff.
Yeah, that one. I post content every single day. And then I engage with them for the first hour. Because it's very important that when you post, and then you have to be on there to respond to all comments the first hour because then you want to show...because I nurture my audience. Every time they comment, I always make sure to respond to them. Because that's how you nurture them, because you just never know, one of this audience, like, they might need your help. Because I've gotten some clients just from the comments, and it wasn't because I went to them and said, "Hey, message me, DM me." No, it wasn't that. Like, when they have a question regarding my content, and I answer it. And I usually go like, "Yeah, if you ever need help, just let me know." And then I let them come to me.
So those things. And then with that, it's sort of like you're finding leads as well through that. And also just to nurture everybody else, like I'm networking, building relationships, responding to comments. And make sure...I always thank them because they took the time to comment on your post. You need to also respond to that. And also, it's not just me responding to my own content, I go out of my way to actually support other people, because then...it's a give-and-take relationship, right? You're not just there to respond to your own content. You have to go out there and support others. Like I said earlier, it's a big networking platform, so you have to go out engage. Networking is about engaging, getting to know other people, letting people get to know you.
I do maybe...every day I probably spend maybe, give or take, two hours on LinkedIn. I do a lot of interacting with people. It's not just through my content. There are a lot of private messages, too, going on. And that's coming from either my audience or people who just reach out to me because they want me on their podcast or whatever, or to write an article. So yeah, it's for many reasons. I do a lot of backend work there.
I try not to spend too much time because otherwise, I'd be going to be in the rabbit hole of LinkedIn all day. I try to manage my time in between, but I do show up there every day. It's really quite simple, post content, engage, support others, and then come from a place of like, you're there not for a quick fix or for a quick client. I showed up there in September, but I didn't really start getting continuous leads until probably January. It took me three months to build my brand.
Some people come on LinkedIn, and they're like, "You know what? I want to start finding leads. I want to start finding clients." And what they do is that they start doing the shotgun effect, literally like, message a bunch of people and then hoping some of them will get back to them.
Michael: Yeah. I think a lot of us have gotten those LinkedIn direct messages, "Dear Christine, I noticed we have a lot of acquaintances in common on LinkedIn. I'd love to tell you about yadda, yadda, yadda." Yep.
Christine: Yeah. I know. Yep. Yep. Exactly. I don't do that. So when I interact with my people, they're on LinkedIn, it's usually because they already made some interaction with me. Either they liked my content, and they commented on my content. Then we can have an offline conversation, too, just outside the public comments. We have private messages, and sometimes they're interested in getting on a call with me. Then I just put on...send them the link to schedule a time with me.
But yeah, no, I don't do those spammy messages because I hated that. I have been on that side. You hate it too. A lot of people hate it too. But they just don't understand. They just want a quick fix, like, "Okay, I'm going to go show up on LinkedIn. I want to have all these clients come to me." But it's so tiring. You do the shotgun effect. I think a lot of salespeople do the shotgun effect, and I don't want that. I want attraction marketing, like, people come to me. And it's not because out of pressure, out of like, okay, like when you get on a call with them, you're trying to get them to close the sale.
I don't come from that place anymore. Like if I get on a call with you, you're my prospect. I don't get on their mindset like, "Oh, I've got to close this deal before we get on the call." No. I tell them, "If you need to take some time to think about, then think about it and then just let me know what you want to do." And then I say, "Hopefully, I can hear back from you." And then usually the serious one, they will come back to me and then let me know that they are interested in moving forward.
Michael: And so when you talk about just regularly putting out content, putting out daily content, what does that mean in practice? What are you actually putting out as content?
Christine: Yeah, exactly. So I make sure that...because I'm not an investment advisor or financial advisor, I don't put anything...you will never see content from me that will say, "Oh, yeah, this is how investments work, blah, blah." I steer clear from that. I mainly focus on money mindset, on behaviors, and stuff like that. Like for example, I did a post about, you can be broke making $150k, and you can be rich, making $40k.
That actually got a lot of engagement because a lot of people connected to that. It's stuff like that. Like for example, I also did something about if you have not learned to manage $1,000, then you won't be able to manage $10,000. So financial literacy is not a side effect of wealth. Wealth is a side effect of financial literacy. It's like education like that. And then sometimes I do post inspirational stuff. So, Michael, this is what I try to tell people, teach my clients like, you're on LinkedIn or social media to have a personal brand. So, what does a personal brand mean? It doesn't mean you talk about business all the time, because then people want to get to know you, who are you as a person? Right?
I do share some of my content. Eighty percent of my content is around money because I want to share with people what I know, that I'm a subject matter expert, but 20% of that is like, I post stuff about inspiration because I'm a spiritual person as well. Anything that lifts you up and that makes you feel good, I also post that. Like the other day, I posted something about how competition is self-defeating, comparisons are self-defeating. Because then I do get clients who keep comparing themselves like, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? The person has a bigger house, whatever. So in a way, it's inspirational, but at the same time, I connect that to what I do, to my clients, to money. I do try to tailor it wherein like it's storytelling, but at the same time, it makes the other person feel good.
So whenever I do post, it's always around...I always ask this question like, "What value does this provide my audience?" Because you don't post stuff like...oh, I don't know. You say stuff like, "Oh, I got 10 clients today. I made $10k today or whatever this month." Like, it's about you, but then it's like, what is the value to the audience? If you're going to say something like that, then say something also that will provide value to the clients. Maybe you can say, "Oh, I made $10k this month. What did I do? What can the audience do? What have I learned so it will provide value to the audience as well?" Mostly it's around that. And also sometimes personal stuff. Like for example, I have two dogs. I share stuff about my pets as well. I share pictures, but that's only once in a while. Because I don't want it to be like Instagram, right? You do want to show people who you are as well, but at the same time, you also want to educate. And you want to be crystal clear, what is your personal brand? What do you stand for? What do you want people to know you? Like, when they think Christine Teh, what is that?
So, Michael, it's actually quite funny. If you saw my headline, I changed it. I added "Money Queen." So I didn't come up with that name. I did not come up with "Money Queen." Some of my followers gave me that name. I did a post and then like, I don't know, there's this one follower of mine said, "Oh, that's so awesome, Christine. I love your content money queen." And then a lot of people just jumped in, "Yeah, Christine, you're the money queen," whatever. And I'm like, "Oh, that's so cute." And I said, "Should I change my headline now to money queen?" They're like, "Yes, you should." So because of them, I just changed it, and then I just added that because they gave that to me. So that tells me I already have a personal brand on LinkedIn. And then I didn't even come up with the name; they gave it to me.
How Christine Has Systematized Her Marketing Process [01:09:04]
Michael: So when you talk about creating content and posts, are you literally writing? Are you writing something every day? How long do you write? What's the process? Just that's...it's a lot of stuff. It's a lot of content to put out.
Christine: Yes, it is a lot of content. And sometimes, when I feel like I'm starting to burn out, then I do take a day off here and there, but for the most part, I do post daily. What I do on LinkedIn, there's a 1,300 character limit, unless you're doing an article, but for a post, it’s really 1,300 characters. You have to be very concise and then straight to the point, and then it gives value, right?
How I get my post idea is just everyday life. Like when I walk my dogs, and then if something pops up to my mind, like, I get inspired by something, I write it down on my notepad. It's like, on my mobile phone, on the Notes app, so I write it down. Any new idea I write down as a draft. Like, for today, let's say, oh, I get inspired by fear or whatever, or comparison, then I'll make one note for that.
What I'll do, like the night before, I'll go through all my drafts and like, "What do I get inspired to write about? What gives me an idea?" The night before, then I'll write that up. Then I'm like, "I feel inspired to talk about comparison." I'm going to write that up the night before. And it's really only 1,300 characters. And sometimes I do tend to go over, then you have to know how to compact that to less than 1,300 characters.
Michael: Okay. Okay. So, right, we're not writing giant books, we're not writing huge, long things. Just 5 to 10 paragraphs or something to get through, just like, here's the beginning of a story, a couple of points, and the conclusion kind of thing.
Christine: Yep. Exactly. Exactly. And you always make sure in any of your content, what value does it provide the audience? It's all about what value. It's really all about them. It's not about you. Because then if the audience...like, if you're going to post content there and then nobody sees it, you only have like a few people liking it or commenting, then you're not going to have visibility.
What's the point of being on social media if you don't have the visibility? You need to learn how to grow the visibility because that is very, very important. If I'm not visible, and then it's like, then you have less chance for more people finding you, right? I'm very big on how to make my content valuable so more people will like it, then it will expand to more reach.
Michael: And so this two-hour a day LinkedIn habit is essentially like, an hour is you write up whatever your post is going to be today, a couple of paragraphs of stuff, hit the "post" button. And then the second hour is seeing what people do, responding to whatever they comment or add to your post, getting whatever other interaction you have from people who send you messages on LinkedIn. And that's the two-hour process?
Christine: Yeah, yeah. Maybe I might be spending more than that. But then I like to think, okay, I'm only spending two hours, but that's over the span over the whole day. Maybe it's just the first hour I'm done, then I close my app. And then like later on throughout the day, like, I do check my notification, like, who's commenting, then I just go there really quick to just answer it. Then later on in the afternoon, if I have... Because for my sessions throughout the day, I do make sure that I have 15 to 30 minutes in between my sessions or any of my chat, podcast interviews. In between those times, I do respond to emails or check on my LinkedIn or Instagram, whatever.
I think throughout the day, I think maybe it's two, three hours if you add all that up. So I try not to go over that because I'm aware that I don't want to spend all my day on LinkedIn. So I make sure to close the app. Otherwise, it's just too easy to go down that rabbit hole.
Michael: And is there a particular time that you like to do this during the day? Like, is this your morning routine? Is this your afternoon routine? Does it just kind of depend on what your schedule looks like for the day?
Christine: Yeah. I prefer mornings to get it out of the way. I really prefer the morning, unless for some reason I get busy in the morning. But that rarely happens. Most of my posts are in the morning, around, give or take, 7 to 8 am PST. Also, there are posting times when people are the most active. Because if you think about it, like on weekdays, when people...nobody's going to work now, right, they're at home, but still, like, they're still maybe in the morning, they're eating breakfast, whatever. They might have time on social media.
You want to try to get it like between 7 to 9 a.m. of the time zone you're targeting. There are many different time zones, but for me, I mainly care about PST or EST because I'm trying to target mainly the U.S.
It's hard to work with international clients because they're going to start asking me tax questions or investment questions, and I'd rather just not have to deal with that. So I just focus on U.S. stuff. So PST or EST. So 7 to 9 am of the time zone you're trying to target. And then there's also the lunchtime crowd. So between 11 am to 1 pm is also a good time to post. And there's also after work when they're done. Sometimes they're like, "Done for the day. I don't want to work anymore." I think 4 pm to about 7 pm is also a good time.
Michael: And the idea is just because that's when some people are getting going or getting out there or are underway with their day. And so if you post then, there's a decent chance they'll see it, and they'll respond to it and like it or comment on it. And then you get to comment response, and now you're in a bit of a live, real-time conversation.
Christine: Yes. That's just one strategy, the time zone, but, of course, end of the day, Michael, it's really about how valuable your content is. You can have the crappiest content, and then you put on those time zones, but it's not going to have much traction. At the end of the day, you have to have really, really good content. Basically, if I post in the morning and people like it, if it continuously has activity throughout the day, LinkedIn is going to keep pushing that out. LinkedIn will make your posts come alive. Like last week, I had content that got over 1,000 likes, it's probably 1,500 likes now, and then it's still going. And that was last week.
I still see people interacting and liking and commenting. The algorithm likes it, like, if there's continuous activity, then that's, again, based on how valuable your content is. So if you still have continuous activity, LinkedIn will keep pushing it out to more new people, keeping it alive, because you do want your content to be alive as long as possible.
Michael: And so in practice, that's just...are you thinking like, "Hey, I think this is a thing that's going to go viral and a lot of people are going to click on?" How do you figure out what's likely to have a life of its own sustained?
Christine: How they figure it out is based on your first hour, the first hour after you post if it has a lot of interaction. That's why I babysit my posts. I babysit my posts for the first hour. I make sure I respond to all comments. And then I just make sure that there's a lot of activity on the content. I just make sure to always be on top of the post the first hour, because then, let's say your first hour you only got 5 or 10 likes, right?
Yeah, more than likely, it's going to die – regardless if a lot of people are going to start interacting with that later on – more than likely it's going to die in less than a day. So that first hour is very important. For me, I try to target the minimum; I get 50 or 60 likes, reactions the first hour. So I know if I get that minimum, of course, the higher, the better, right? If I get that minimum, then I know for sure I'm going to get at least 100 or 200 likes.
But in terms of, will I know how many likes it will be? I don't know. It really depends on how many people will find that valuable or something. But the most important thing, the first hour you want to have as many likes as possible. Because I noticed that I might have content that I was thinking, "Oh, this content is really good." But then in the first hour, for some reason, not a lot of people like it. It probably got 20 or 30 [likes], and then it didn't have much traction after. So your first hour is very, very important. You want to make sure that you respond to any comments in the first hour because that will trigger the algorithm of LinkedIn and think that, "Oh, wow, there's a lot of activity in the first hour." Maybe they're going to try to push it out to more people. That's how LinkedIn sees it. So you want as much activity as possible.
And how you get to the point where you're going to have a lot of activity in the first hour, that's the part of the coaching work I do. There's a lot of strategy because you have to build your presence first. Like, if you don't have an audience, then nobody's going to see your post, then it doesn't matter how valuable your content is. If you don't have that audience and you don't have those loyal followers, then it's a waste of time. So you need to build the following first.
I didn't come on LinkedIn just starting to post my content. I didn't. I built my following first. I supported people first. I show up for people. And then it took me time. And then I think when I got to the point, maybe, I don't know, after a month, and I started posting, and then like, people start coming to my content because they like you, because I've been supporting people. They liked me already.
And so when I start posting content, they just start showing up because then...you have to come from a place...if you keep supporting people, of course, people are going to support you once you start posting, because then that's just the nature of human, right? Unless you're a greedy person, you don't want to support back. But for most people, they will want to support you back if they keep seeing you always supporting them.
Michael: And how does this actually turn into business for you? Like, how do they...and I get, like, I posted an inspirational thing that has something to do with money. So they sort of get I'm associated with money and we may or may not have a little bit of a back and forth in the comments section. How does this actually turn into business and clients for you?
Christine: Yeah. I did a post actually one time of a breakdown of how many clients year-to-date I got from different referral sources. Year-to-date, that was in April, LinkedIn was actually the most clients I got. The second was Yelp, and then there's Instagram, Facebook, and referrals. But my two big referral sources are Yelp and LinkedIn. Yeah, I don't know. I think when I keep consistently showing up because... This is the thing, formula with social media, right? Someone has to know, like, and trust you.
So those three factors are very important. How do they get to know you? You show up. You show up on social media, and you interact with people. How do they end up liking you? Well, if they like your content, then they probably most likely will like you. And then how can they trust you? Then they trust you because you're consistently showing up. You show them that you can be trusted.
I think, because there are already the three things there, they will most likely come to you. Then they're more than happy to get on a call with you. Yeah, because of all the work that I do, I've gotten a lot of these continuous leads. And then we talk on the phone, and then, yeah, and then sometimes some of them sign up, sometimes some of them don't. But yeah, those are coming all from the work that I do on LinkedIn, like, leads just coming in and scheduling time with me.
Michael: And in essence, they see you on LinkedIn, at some point, they're clicking through to your website, and then they're signing up there, or do you literally get like...they message you through LinkedIn, "Hey, I've seen your stuff, how do I work with you, Christine?"
Christine: Yeah. So there are two ways, either they message me or...okay. Here's the thing with LinkedIn. I'm literally giving my secrets for my LinkedIn coaching. But anyway. Basically, the purpose of posting is that you want to just get a lot of value, right? You're attracting clients as much as possible to you. So what happens, if you have a really, really great post... a lot of people are nosy, right? What do you think they're going to do? They're going to come to your profile. And when they come to your profile, that's the time...you want to make sure your profile is awesome. Then that's the time you can sell on your profile.
Like, literally, like on my profile, if you read it, I tell them what I help them on, what their pain points are, how I can solve their pain points. And then, there's a link to schedule a complimentary through my profile. They can just click on that one. A lot of people don't even know how to use that, but it's on your profile. It's either through that they come to me...
Michael: So the profile, like, your little bio about you part, that specifically is what they click on, where they go.
Christine: No, no, there's actually a link on the profile. You can actually put a link at the bottom. It's called the Featured section. In the Featured section, you can literally put any links. You can put a link to an external website, and you can put a link to post, a link to an article, a link to any...actually, it's cool. LinkedIn just literally...this is a new feature. It just started a couple of months ago. I love it. Because before, it was just showing you the last article you posted, and then the last three posts you did. You didn't have control over what you want to show. So now you have absolute control of what you want to show.
You want to make sure the first two items that show on your Featured page are the two things you want people to click on. For me, that'll be scheduling a complimentary link. And then the second one is my LinkedIn coaching. So those are the two I'm promoting. So either my financial coaching or my LinkedIn coaching. So just click on those. Either they go there, or sometimes they'll message me if they're connected to me already – either one of those two.
How Christine Has Integrated Live Streaming Into Her Marketing Process [01:22:59]
Michael: And now, you had mentioned earlier you also do live streaming to LinkedIn, and that you have a software that you're paying for live streaming as part of what you do. So talk to us about live streaming and LinkedIn. Like, what are you doing? How is that different from the posts that you were doing?
Christine: Yeah. The live stream is actually only given to a select few. And then I know like when you apply for it, sometimes it can take you a long time to get it. That's what makes it special, because not everybody...first of all, not everybody has it. Second, the approval process can sometimes take a long time. I was lucky because there was a time where LinkedIn actually reached out to some content creators to interview them. I was one of the content creators that was interviewed for something. I think they were trying to build some sort of tool. I became friends and connected with the main lead who was interviewing me. He liked me, and then so he recommended me for LinkedIn Live. I think literally after I applied, two days later, I got approved.
Once I get approved... I use that because then, it's different, right, when you have a live stream versus a video is...you have live interaction. When I go on live, I see comments, people just asking you questions. And then people can actually see you live. Like, they know you're a real person. Because I know some people, they don't want to be live because they're freaked out or something like that. I'm not – I want to show people this is who I am. This is me. You get to see me live. You get to ask me any questions.
And then I'm going to invite people, different subject matter experts or people in social media, or like right now, I'm kind of having maybe any person who has an interesting person to share too. They want to be on my live stream if they have some money story they want to share. I welcome them as well to my live stream. So it's like, it's just really...it's a totally different thing versus when you're posting. I know it's semi-live when you're responding to comments, but it's different when you're like on video, and then like, you're responding to the comments right there and there. There's like a real interaction. I don't know; it just makes them feel, I guess, there's going to be more trust as well.
And then I have gotten some leads as well from my live stream. Like sometimes after a live stream, they're like, "Oh, I really love your live stream." I've gotten comments from people who really enjoy my live stream as well. I think it's working. I just try to make it...connect it to my overall business goal. And, of course, not just about business, and sometimes also for fun as well.
Michael: And so, well, I guess A, if you're essentially piloting some of the LinkedIn Live approach, then the rest of us would probably be seeing it soon if it's going to roll out as a broader feature. But I guess I'm just wondering, like, how do you decide what to do on LinkedIn Live? Like, is it always guests? Is it you talking? Sometimes it's just you talking? Is there a time or a way that you do LinkedIn Live as opposed to writing posts? Do you even compare like, are posts better than doing LinkedIn Live video? How do you evaluate and compare these as you're trying some of each now?
Christine: Yeah. So LinkedIn Live is also very new to me. I got it last month. I'm the type of person who, when I get something, I'm just going to try it out. Because I'm not going to like... Sometimes some people get into analysis paralysis. They're like, "Oh, what should I do? What should I figure out? Blah, blah, strategy." I just went for it. I didn't even think too much of it. I think initially I was going to do every Saturday. And then I already had a bunch of people wanting to be on my live, right? But then the thing is that when I let them book all my Saturdays, it was booked all the way till July. And I still have people who want to be on my show messaging me, it's like, "Yeah, I can talk about this and stuff like that." And then I felt bad. I opened up Tuesday and Thursday. So now, I do three LinkedIn Live with guests. And then Sunday, I sometimes show up. Not last week, but I try to show up every Sunday, like "Ask Me Anything Sunday," where it's just me showing up. And then usually I do a post the day before and say, "Hey, what questions do you have for me for 'Ask Me Anything' tomorrow?" Just in case not everyone shows up right away, then at least I can go back to the post and read all the questions and answer it right there on the live, and then more people are going to show up and ask me more questions.
Michael: And how long do you run with these? Is this like a 5 or 10-minute snippet thing? Is this like a full hour? What are you doing? What's the format of the live stream itself?
Christine: Yeah. At first, I want to try it for 30 minutes or only 15 minutes. But what happened, Michael, is that I actually end up having a lot of fun. Because then it's just like, you're just having like a conversation with people. I'm always interested in people's lives. I usually never run out of questions to ask. And then like, right there on the live, and I'm like, oh, new things come up, and I'll ask them questions. And then sometimes my audience jump in with a lot of their questions. So usually it ends up...I'll keep it 30 minutes, but all my lives has actually been almost an hour. All the lives I've done is all almost an hour.
Michael: And how do you actually do it and set it up? Like, does LinkedIn's platform that they're working on making it easy, or you need a special live streaming app, or just runs from your phone like Facebook Live and YouTube Live? How does it actually work? How did you set up to do it?
Christine: Yeah. LinkedIn doesn't have...they don't allow you to live right there because then I think they don't want you to save whatever your video on their server because they only have so much. Because then, if you post a video on LinkedIn, the maximum length is only 10 minutes. You can't go over 10 minutes if it's your own native video. Imagine live, right, I don't know if there's a cap on live, but I never went over an hour, but I've seen people do lives that are an hour and a half or even maybe two hours. There's not as much of a limit as a video.
Yeah, there are different external apps. They do recommend you different apps. I use one called StreamYard. Basically, StreamYard is sort of like Zoom, but it's more tailored to live. Zoom doesn't...I don't think Zoom does very well with live. It's better for video sessions or conferences. But for streaming live, yeah, I really love StreamYard. A lot of people who are also using LinkedIn Live, they also use StreamYard. And actually, that was recommended to me. The cool thing about StreamYard is that it's free if you're only streaming to one destination. But if you're streaming to two destinations, you have to pay for it. I forgot how much that was, but for two destinations, you have to pay. And then, after that, you can stream up to five destinations. So I pay for the one that streams up to five destinations because I stream to LinkedIn, I stream to Facebook, to my Facebook personal, to my Facebook Business page, and then to YouTube. Unfortunately, you cannot stream to Instagram. You have to really go on their app and do a live directly from the app. When I stream on Instagram, like if my guests have Instagram, we literally have both our phone and our desktop in front of us so we can stream in all places. It streams to five different places, including Instagram. But for the most part, like some of my guests, they don't have Instagram, then it's just streaming to their four different destinations.
Michael: Because the idea then is you're...like, just you only have to do one broadcast, and it propagates everywhere on its own with the technology. So you can just literally leverage one live stream, one presentation, one delivery and have it go out to a whole bunch of places at once, as opposed to making your bets like, "Ooh, is this one that's better to put out on YouTube or is this one that's better to put out on Twitter or is this one better to put out on Facebook?" Like, I'm just going to use StreamYard and hit the button, and it goes to all of them. And we'll see which one gets a lot of uptake.
Christine: Exactly. So a lot of my audience is coming from LinkedIn right now. Even when I stream like...like YouTube, I don't have a lot of subscribers there, but why not? Right? I might as well just stream to YouTube so I can start having more videos there too. When people find me, they're going to see me on YouTube. But for Facebook, I have some people come in, I don't know, like two or three, only a handful, but a chunk of all my audience is coming from LinkedIn. The cool thing about StreamYard is that you can see the live comments from all the platforms right on the application. I can just see, and I can even put the comment directly on the screen. Like, when people ask questions, you just put it on the screen and then...
Michael: Oh, very cool.
Christine: Yeah. It is so cool. I love it. I always have fun. I don't know. It's just like having a conversation with people. I think some people, they probably...they're intimidated going live. But to me, it's fun. It's just I'm having real, live conversations with my audience. I really know, what are they thinking? If they have any question right there, then they can just interact with my guests and me right there and then.
What Surprised Christine The Most About Building Her Financial Coaching Business [01:32:01]
Michael: So, what surprised you the most in trying to build this financial coaching business? And I guess going part-time for a few years, building up until making the switch to full-time a year ago? What surprised you the most about going through the process of building a financial coaching business?
Christine: Not much. I feel like I was born to be an entrepreneur. I think it's just like...I knew that I have to work hard because if you don't market, then you don't have any sales, right? You don't have any sales, then you're not going to feed yourself. I knew that I would have to hustle. I already knew that from the very beginning. So it was not surprising for me that... I think before I was working every day, right? I was accepting sessions even Saturday, Sunday. Now I’ve gotten to the point where it was a little overwhelming. I need one day to myself. So I blocked my entire Sunday, at least one day off wherein I don't talk to anyone, no sessions, whatever. I'm just posting on LinkedIn or live stream.
I think it's just like...you end up just working so hard. You work a lot more long hours. And I guess what surprised me was that I actually feel I'm working a lot more than versus when I was an employee. I feel like I had more time when I was an employee. Even though I was an employee, I was building my business on the side, but I was kind of taking it easy to build the business because I had a steady paycheck. There was no urgency to build my business. I still have money coming in.
When I quit my job, so, of course, I want to be successful. I told myself, "I don't want to go back to corporate." I worked really hard. I was working a lot of hours, Sunday. And there's not a lot of client-facing sessions. You say, if I only have a minimum of four new clients a month, I don't have a lot of hours on my calendar for client-facing. Most of it is like marketing and podcast interviews, the interview right now. Like, I do a lot more backend stuff, and also like learning new things. Like I was studying for my enrolled agent. So that took me six months. I'm always learning something new on the backend. But as long as I meet my quota, I'm profitable, and then...I do a lot of backend things as well to continue for business development.
Michael: Well, and it makes a powerful point that just when you charge your fair worth for the work that you're doing with clients, and you make a healthy dollar amount per client, it can free up a lot of your time and capacity to then go do more marketing, do more building, do more other stuff, right? Instead of doing like a high volume of small dollar amounts, which is hard because you don't have the time to do the volume and serve all the people that you need to serve at volume.
Like, what does it look like if you only need a few clients every month with larger dollar amounts? And then you can actually do something like, well, I can put two hours a day towards marketing and building my relationships and networking through LinkedIn. Lots of people do networking in various ways. But like, I can put more time to marketing and business development for my practice when I'm getting paid enough per client that I don't need a zillion clients, I need a healthy number of ongoing clients. But I don't need a zillion clients and a zillion hours.
Christine: Yep. Exactly. Exactly. That's why I did my business model around that. Because like, I know some people were telling me, "Why are you charging so much?" Whatever. Like, "Well, why don't you just charge, I don't know, pay per session, $100 an hour or something like that because there's not...people can afford it?" Then I said, "Well, I have my reason."
And then that's exactly why I'm thriving because I did this business model. I'm attracting the right people who are willing to pay me, willing to do the work. And then I have a lot more time to do marketing and other stuff, and also to learn new things. I'm actually studying for my CFP as well. I only have two more classes to go. I think I'm probably going to take the test as well. But I'm not doing that mainly so I can have the designation, because I don't really need it for my business, but I'm doing that because I want to learn new things. I always want to learn anything new about finances. Like I did my enrolled agent because I want to learn about taxes because if you can't run away from taxes, you might as well make it your friend, right? So, how do I make taxes my friend? By studying it. I did that, and then I was doing the CFP.
I'm also interested in retirement planning, and then learning more about Social Security, about stuff like that. So that's probably my next step. I want to try to get some sort of Social Security designation. Actually tomorrow, the guest on my live stream, he's...I forgot the designation, CRPC or certified retirement planning. We're going to talk more about Social Security, about retirement planning and stuff like that. And that interests me. I want to learn about that. I want to have more time to learn more about this. Because I love money, I love learning more about money. And I'm talking about personal finance, not corporate business finance, but I just love learning about it as much as possible. I want to have a lot of time to learn all of that.
And funny, it's like, I don't have a lot of time for other hobbies because there's just so much to do. There's so much to learn. I think, like, I don't think I will ever be bored. There's just so much to do. There's more marketing to do, like, I'm trying to grow on Instagram. And then that's going to take me a lot of time too. If you're going to try to be good at any social media platform, you have to commit to at least an hour a day, just learning the platform, getting to know like, how does this work?
It's the same concept as building a relationship with money. I'm trying to build my relationship with Instagram now by spending time there. Engaging, getting to know who are the people hanging out there? Where would my ideal clients hang out? I have to do all the research. The same thing with LinkedIn, I built my relationship with LinkedIn by spending time on LinkedIn. And now it has really...LinkedIn has served me very well because I have nurtured that relationship really well. That's why I always try to tell my clients like, "Every time you're trying something new, think about the way that you're trying to build that relationship. Like, how would you build a relationship so you can have a great relationship?" It's all about nurturing; it's all about honoring the time, spending time, and getting to know what you're trying to build a relationship on.
Michael: So, what was the low point on the journey for you?
Christine: Not much. I think July when I went negative last year. I think I was kind of freaking out a little bit. I'm like, "Oh, crap, am I going to repeat this again?" But luckily, it hasn't. But there wasn't any low point. I just love my journey. It's just like...I don't know. I think when you finally find your passion, and then everything just goes with the flow. I really truly believe that. Things just flow. Like, I don't know, just things just fell into the right place. I just can't think of any low point the past year. Things have just been really good. Yeah, I'm just so super happy and so blessed that I don't really see me going back to the corporate life any time soon.
Michael: Anything you do wish you'd done differently? Like, what do you know now that you could go back and tell you from five years ago, four years ago, in 2016, when you were just getting started down this path? Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell you?
Christine: Yeah. I think the only thing I would change, I don't regret what I did before, but the only thing I would change is I would probably tell my younger self in 2016 to actually take building my business more seriously. Because then the thing, I think I could have probably quit my job one year into building my business, but I kind of dragged it to two and a half years, right? And part of the reason was really that I was terrified of giving up my paycheck because my... It's like nowadays, as an entrepreneur, your income is going to go up and down, and you really don't know how much money you're going to make, right? It really depends on how much hustle you do, how much...whatever marketing or whatever other events that happen that month.
I would tell my younger self in 2016 to actually take it more seriously. Maybe I would have marketed a lot earlier. I would have been on social media a lot earlier. I would probably have quit my work in like a year after I started my business. But again, I didn't regret that because then during the two and a half years, so what I did was that I switched from...I was in data analytics for a long time. I was in that career for a very, very long time, and I wasn't happy with that. I told myself, "Maybe if I switch to corporate finance, something in finance, I might be happy." Because again, I was really not ready to give up my steady paycheck plus the benefits and everything. I switched to corporate finance, I was in FP&A, Financial Planning and Analysis. I was helping with a big budget, Visa's huge budget there. I thought I was going to be happy. But I was happy the first year on switching, mainly because it's a whole new world for me. I'm like, "Wow, it's a whole new department, whole new thing to learn."
Michael: And you're like learning things. So it was a fun thing to.. a new thing to learn.
Christine: Yeah. But you know what, Michael? After a year, so the boss who hired me to switch to that, because it was a transition internally within Visa. It was easier for you to change your career if it's in the same company. At least Visa encouraged that. They want people to try a different career, whatever. The boss that hired me, he left Visa. I was so sad. And then when he left, I was literally...I was jumping to probably three different managers before I quit. We had a reorganization, so we had different managers. I think that triggered me into thinking, I'm like, "I don't want this life. I don't want to be at the hands of the corporate." You have no choice over who your boss is. You have no choice over your department, whatever. You always have to adapt to new bosses. I think that's just what triggered me. I'm like, "I can't do this anymore."
So I told myself that, then I made an exit plan. It took me two months before I quit since I decided that I wanted to quit because I had to go through all this emotional and mental processing of like, "Am I ready to do this?" Whatever. And I was looking at my finances. I wasn't making enough in my business to support myself. Michael, I was not making enough to actually tell myself, "Okay, I'm ready to support myself." I was making a fraction, or whatever, of what I was making now. That's why I had to totally change all my business model, my pricing, and everything so I know I could make it. And actually, I was very lucky. And I shift my mindset to one of scarcity, to abundance. I also shift, and then I also went internally and then trusted the universe that things are going to come. And you have to trust; you have to focus on giving value. And fortunately, even in May, my first month, I was so lucky. I probably got like 10 new clients that month. I was so surprised. Like, "Wow." It was just a sign I feel that I needed from the universe.
Michael: Because they had been following you for a while. They're like, "Oh, you're finally doing this full-time. I want to work with you now."
Christine: Yeah, yeah. Things, I don't know, it was just like a sign, either a message like, "You can do this." It was great encouragement. In May, I was like, "Oh, wow, cool, I can do this." And then things just fell into place after that. And then like May, June, July, I wasn't really on social media. Then I realized, "You know what? I can't just rely on Yelp." Then that's the time I focused my attention on LinkedIn in September. But I still didn't get clients till January. I had to...a lot of my clients for 2019; it was really mainly Yelp and referrals.
Advice For Newer Coaches And What Comes Next For Christine [01:43:47]
Michael: So, what advice would you give maybe newer coaches looking to get started with a business today the way that you have?
Christine: Advice I would tell them, keep your day job while building your business on the side. What other advice? Some people need more training than others, but for me, I just feel like it was just my gift. Like, I was just really...it just came naturally to me to coach people and stuff like that. I didn't really need to get training, but I think if they want to get training, there are so many training programs out there for you to go to and then sign up for.
Michael: I think I saw you had, what is it, the Certified Money Coach designation?
Christine: Yes. I did. And I think Garrett also had that. But I didn't get that till much later. I probably got that a couple of months ago. And that was only because I feel like nobody can ever be a great psychologist, especially with emotions and stuff like that. So I wanted to learn a little bit more about it. It gave me a little bit of a foundation to understand people more.
But I think at the end of the day, you have to do your work, you have to do your research, you have to read books, and then you have to do your own spiritual work because I cannot coach someone else if I have not done my own internal work. So I went through my own internal self-growth development back in 2016, that entire year. The reason I even decided to go this route was because of huge spiritual growth for me in 2016. I took classes in spirituality. I was meditating. I hired a spiritual life coach. Everything just fell into place 2016, when she encouraged me because she knew I wasn't happy. I knew I wasn't happy in the corporate world. So she encouraged me. It was like, "What do you love to do?" And I knew I love money. So she told me, "Just start doing this, start doing this on the side, you have no risk."
If you really love what you do, you really know you're passionate about money, then just start it on the side. Because you just don't know, you don't know if you're even going to like it. Start having clients, see if you even enjoy it, and then start looking at your finances, does this even make sense to you? So do it on the side.
Never ever quit your job. That will just be my number one advice to anybody starting out any business. But for coaches, to be a financial coach, I think, you really have to love what you do. You really have to be very passionate about money. You have to constantly want to learn more. And then if you don't have that fire to want to learn anything new or want to hustle, then entrepreneurship might not be right for you because there are certain attitudes toward entrepreneurship that will make you succeed in entrepreneurship.
At the end of the day, we still have to hustle. It's not a bad thing. And then you have to enjoy that because some people just hate it. They don't enjoy hustling. So they go back to the corporate world. So it's not for everybody.
Michael: Well, it's an interesting framing for coaching in particular versus, I'll call it, a more traditional financial advisor side. Like, it's really hard to do anything as a FINRA-registered broker on the side while you're working somewhere else because your broker-dealer wants to oversee everything you're doing and may struggle with you having what for us is an OBA, an outside business activity. Even in the RIA world, it's hard to get started on the side. There are more costs to getting it started on the side. You may, again, have trouble affiliating to a firm on the side.
I think it's an interesting angle around coaching that just the good and the bad, like, the barriers to entry are lower, the costs to set up and hang your own shingle are lower. And you don't have to go through the same level of regulatory compliance oversight. And so if you're trying to find a thing to get started with, it's to me just an interesting angle or path about how to do it. It's more conducive, I think, to side-hustling your way to get going than, I'll call it, traditional financial advisor world is for side-hustling to get going.
Christine: Exactly. So coaching is definitely much easier to get into. And that's also one of the reasons I didn't want to get into wealth management because I didn't want to have to deal with compliance and everything. And the other thing is your mindset, your attitude, and how much are you willing to do the work and hustle to survive? Because then, like you said, it's a very easy entry point with a very low cost.
There's not a lot of overhead to a coach. Well, at least for me. I only pay for Zoom. I don't even pay for any tools. I have a very, very low overhead; there are not a lot of expenses. You can't make an excuse that it's expensive to even try because no, it all boils down to you. Like, are you ready to do all the work?
And then, like you were telling me about the iceberg thing, there's a lot of work underneath it. Like, even when people see me, they see me, I look successful, whatever, but I do a lot of work in the backend. Clients don't just come to me; I have to market. Michael, if I stopped showing up on LinkedIn, yeah, of course, my leads and clients are going to stop showing up, right? So I have to constantly do all this work. There's a lot of work underneath this. And I'm not going to sugarcoat it. You might not make as much as in a corporate role, but then you have to focus... It makes me sad when I see people get sucked into like these business coaches, they always promise you, "I'm going to make you six-figure, five-digit amount," whatever. But it's not true. I actually know some financial advisor who thought they can make it, but what happened was that, if they're very, very honest with you, the real ones, they say they don't make much. Some of them are making $40k, $50k to start with. Like, it's very hard for them.
At the end of the day, you have to figure out what is your happy money number? For me, I don't live in a cheap place. I live in Silicon Valley; our mortgage is not cheap. I always have to make sure that I'm still making enough. And then if you're not able to hit the target, then it's probably not for you, or you're going to have to be a digital nomad or something. You don't need to have so many clients every month, right? It's still workable if that's something that you dream about.
Michael: So, what comes next for you?
Christine: I just want to keep growing. I think the next step is to actually get my retirement certification. I either want to do the RICP or the CRPC or some Social Security designation, because I'm really interested in that. I don't want to niche towards people trying to just retire, but a lot of my young clients, the serious ones, they want to learn about retirement, they want to learn, "Am I doing the right thing so I can... retire well and retire happily?" I want to learn more about that. I really want to understand more about Social Security. That is my next step. And then after that, it's really just to keep growing, keep learning. And there's always something new to learn. I will never get bored.
How Christine Defines Success For Herself [01:51:05]
Michael: So, as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success, and one of the themes that always comes up is even just the word "success" means very different things to different people. So as you've said, you found your happy money number and have been able to hit it very quickly in launching the business and now just growing and scaling your marketing from there. But how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Christine: Success to me is like, yeah, finding my happy money number, living a lifestyle I love. Like, what do I like to do? I like to travel. When coronavirus is gone or, well, if we get that in a stable place, then I want to go back to traveling again, at least twice a year. I really wanted to do the digital nomadic life, but I have two dogs, and there's no way I can do that, right? I will never leave them. So the best thing we can do is to actually travel two or three times a year to different countries. And I love eating out. I love my massages. When coronavirus is up, I'm going to go back to my regular weekly massage. To me, success is like, I'm profitable, I'm living a lifestyle I love, I'm very happy, and I can do whatever I want to. I'm happy 90% of the time. I'm not depressed anymore.
To me, that's what success looks like. It's not about millions of dollars. It's not about six digits. And I always remind my clients, "No, it's not..." They always think they need millions of dollars to retire. No, you have to figure out what your happy money number is. What makes you happy? Then let's work towards there. Are you on track? Are you saving enough for your retirement as well? Are you doing the things you need to do to reach there? And I always try to reframe that, "See what lifestyle makes you happy. Don't compare yourself to other people." That's why I did that post like, grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence, right? There will always be someone better or worse than you. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday or what you want. Look inside yourself, what makes you happy? What makes you feel? I think if you're very happy, you'll be able to afford the lifestyle you want. That, to me, is success. So that's success to me.
Michael: Well, I love the whole framing of finding your happy number and what works for you. It's what we talk to clients about and trying to help them maybe even sometimes step off the treadmill and get focused on what they really want to do that's meaningful for them. And I love, Christine, that you've assimilated the same philosophy for yourself in finding the kind of work you want to do in moving out of corporate life into an entrepreneurial world and saying, "This is what I like to do and how I want to serve people and how I can get paid for it and I can get my happy money number. So here we go. We're doing it."
Christine: Yes, yes. Thank you.
Michael: Well, I love it. Thank you so much, Christine, for joining us on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Christine: Yeah, thank you so much, Michael. It was such an honor to be invited to your podcast. This was such a big deal for me and I'm really excited we made this happen. I look forward to possibly having you on my live stream soon.
Michael: I will try to come out and get a feel of what this whole LinkedIn live stream thing is about.
Christine: Okay, Michael. Thank you so much.
Michael: Awesome. Thank you, Christine.
Andrew Bencivenga says
Great interview! Thank you for sharing your story. As an expat with family on two continents, I am keenly aware of the limits of being bound by and of the desire for to be free of those shackles. Being a true digital nomad is my dream as well, one that I am happily on the way towards achieving!
Tushar Mahendru says
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