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Darlene Hawley – Personal Branding and Online Business Coach

Darlene Hawley is a brand strategist, business coach, and communication expert based in southern California. We hope you enjoy this interview!

Coaching Focus: Darlene Hawley is a Personal Branding & Online Business Coach. She teaches coaches, leaders, and entrepreneurs to confidently communicate their message, share their stories, and speak up for what matters most so they can attract dream clients and stand out online.

Location: Temecula, CA

Connect: You can find Darlene online at her website, as well as on LinkedInInstagram, and Facebook.

Tell us about your journey as a coach.

Almost 16 years ago, I made a decision that I thought was going to change… EVERYTHING. I left retail management for a career as a loan officer. And… I hated it. So, I made a pivot again—this time by looking at my strengths. Given my background as a manager, I become a coach.

I wish I could say starting my business was easy and I quickly grew my client base, but the reality is the first two years in business it was sporadic and inconsistent. When I think back, the thing that was so frustrating (especially as the president of my state’s ICF chapter) is that I saw other coaches graduate from their coach training, hang out their shingle, and bam—their businesses were full. Or, at least, that’s how they all acted, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t creating consistent income.

Then about two years into my business, I sat down and got crystal clear on who I wanted to work with, what my clients really struggled with, and what they truly desired and wanted from their life and business. I journaled like crazy for hours, and it was like the light bulb had finally turned on, and I had found the missing piece as to why I wasn’t signing clients.

That was really where it all came together and I got clear on how I wanted to run my business and who I wanted to work with. I stopped watching what everyone else was doing and really started to show up as my authentic self, and my business started to grow.

We want to destigmatize talking about money, including how much coaches make. Would you please share with our readers any relevant revenue figures from your business?

As I shared above, in the beginning, my business was sporadic and inconsistent for the first several years, and even now, sixteen years later, I have months that I make great money and months that I don’t bring any new clients.

I think the thing to remember is that it’s about consistency in showing up, putting yourself out there, and marketing your business. I can track my growth based on my visibility. When I’m pitching myself onto podcasts, reaching out to event organizers to be a speaker in a group or on a stage, or attending networking events, my business does well, and I see growth. As soon as I slow down my marketing and visibility, that’s when my sales stop coming in, and things feel slow.

What courses, programs, or certifications have you done? 

When I first became a coach, I purchased a Business Coaching Franchise and learned what tools, resources, and systems are needed to run a profitable business. 

I’m a certified Step into Your Moxie® Facilitator, where I teach rising leaders, executives, female leaders, and sales professionals how to strengthen their inner and outer voices so that they can speak up for themselves and the ideas and issues that matter most to their companies. 

I’m also a past SCORE Inland Empire Workshop Chapter Chair and past president of the International Coaching Federation of Nevada.

What advice or perspective might you give to a new coach trying to get their first clients? Any advice they should ignore?

Create a personal brand and show up as yourself as you grow your business. Don’t watch what other people are doing. 

When I started my business, I joked that “I felt like a little girl playing dress-up in her mom’s closet.” I would show up to networking events and meetings wearing business suits, carrying a leather-bound legal pad to take notes, and I felt so awkward and uncomfortable. I was out of alignment with myself and out of character, but it’s what I saw other business coaches doing, and I thought I had to show up that way, too. I see it with almost every coach I work with at some point as they start their business, and it’s a major form of imposter syndrome.

Create a personal brand and show up as yourself as you grow your business. Don’t watch what other people are doing. 

When I started letting people see the real me, dressing more like myself, and being true to myself, I finally felt comfortable. The best part was that I was showing up as my unique authentic self, not like what I thought I was “supposed” to be. During that time I realized how important it is to BE YOU! That is what connects you with dream clients. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not, because your dream clients will resonate with YOU… your personality, your stories, and your quirks because they will feel truly connected to you, your brand, and your business.

What are your thoughts on “choosing a niche” as a coach?

When I started my business I left my nearly two-week intensive training and felt on fire…..I felt like I could help everyone and every type of business there was.

Though technically I had the training to help any type of business create a profitable business, my mindset was completely wrong.

I’m one person; I can’t help everyone. Nor do I want or need to.

I struggled during the beginning of my business because my marketing and messaging were so broad that I wasn’t calling in my ideal audience.

I almost walked away from my life purpose to empower entrepreneurs to find confidence and clarity in their brand and business by sharing their unique life stories, all because I couldn’t see how I was hurting my own business by not niching down and clearly sharing my unique framework for how I work with clients.

So yes, I encourage you and all of my clients to pick a niche and get clear on what you want to be known for in your industry. Get super clear on your why, what you love doing, what your skills are, what pieces of your story matter, and identify what you stand for and what your business values are. Once you do this you’ll be able to communicate with your ideal clients and call in the right type of client and repel the rest.

What books have significantly influenced your life? What are your key takeaways from these books?

One of my favorite books is Atomic Habits by James Clear. One of my biggest takeaways from reading his book was that you can stack habits. Take a look at what habits you already have in your business and, if you’re adding new ones, stack the new habit with a habit that you already are great at. 

For example, about three years ago I knew I wanted to start a podcast. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would fit that into my schedule. Since I already was creating content each week on Mondays for my newsletter list, I added uploading my podcast episode to my content creation day. I stacked the steps for my podcast and built that habit up to where I can release new episodes each Tuesday. My virtual assistant does this for me now, but when I started it, I did all the steps to get it going. Now it’s just a part of my team’s weekly schedule. If you’re looking at adding something new, look at what current habit you can attach the new habit to so that you can get into the flow.

If you received an extra $10,000 to spend on your business, how would you spend it and why?

I would use the extra cash injection to give back to my local community by hosting a three-day retreat for rising leaders and startup business owners. It would be centered around developing the right mindset, skill set, and habits to boost their communication confidence so they can speak with power and impact and move people to take action.

The leadership trainings I lead are so powerful inside of organizations, and with entrepreneurs I would love to be able to give back to the new generation that is stepping in so they can be a part of the change we desperately need in the world.

What are some of your favorite affirmations or mantras currently? Why?

  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made
  • I do scary things
  • I am worthy
  • Money flows easily to me
  • It’s safe for me to up level
  • It’s safe for me to be more visible
  • I am allowed to be successful
  • It’s safe to earn more money

I say or journal these affirmations/mantras daily to remind myself that I am worthy of attracting and calling in the next level version of myself.

When you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or have lost your focus or motivation, what do you do?

When I left retail management I was burned out from working 60+ hours a week. Part of my strategy for growing my coaching business has been to make it as easy and fun as possible. I have gotten extremely strategic in my scheduling with clients, how I market my business, and how I handle my admin tasks, so I never have to go back to burning the candle at both ends.

I recommend you map out a strong client attraction marketing plan and schedule for your business so that you know what you’re focused on each day, and set boundaries for yourself and others.

I also create white space in my calendar. This time is blocked out just for me to relax, refresh, exercise, journal, sit out back, read, head to the zoo, bake cookies, watch a show, swim, or take a beach day… basically whatever I feel inspired to do.

When was the last time you blocked out white space on your calendar so that you could just be? What would it change if you truly allowed yourself to rest, reflect, and revive?

Some weeks it’s a few random hours throughout the week, and other times it’s an afternoon or a few full days each month.

When I allow myself to have white space and just be, I show up more creative and true to myself.

When was the last time you blocked out white space on your calendar so that you could just be? What would it change if you truly allowed yourself to rest, reflect, and revive?

Do you have any examples of how a “failure” set you up for later success?

I think we never really fail. Things will often not go our way, or the outcome might look different than we had planned originally, but I think what’s important is how we look at things, how we shift, pivot, and learn from those so-called failures.

My advice to a new coach who is worrying about not getting it right or making mistakes is to focus on the action you take, not the result you get from the action taken. One thing I’ve learned is that results don’t always look the way I think they will.

At the end of 2021, I spent a ton of time pitching myself for speaking opportunities and lining up clients to start working with me after the new year. I ended up making zero money in January as all of the clients I had lined up decided not to move forward, and I only landed 4 out of over 30 pitches to speak. It felt like a failure. 

Then between mid-February and the beginning of March, I had seven new clients sign up for my six-month 1:1 coaching program out of nowhere. These were people that were not on my radar at all. So trust that God or the Universe has your back and will take care of you.

Leslie Odom, Jr. says, “When you find yourself on the ground after a big leap, you dust yourself off and commit to failing smarter next time. The path to moments of greatness in your life will be paved, in part, with your spectacular failures.”

Do you have any embarrassing (at the time) stories from your work as a coach? 

When I started networking 16 years ago, I would introduce myself as a business coach at networking events and constantly would get asked, “Oh, what sport?”

Thankfully times have changed, the coaching industry has grown, and people understand what a coach is and how powerful it is to have a coach in their corner.

If you could put a message on a huge billboard—getting a message out to millions—what would it say and why?

I believe in you. You’re allowed to stand out. You’re allowed to shine. You’re allowed to BE YOU!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

You’ve got this! Focus on building a strong foundation by getting clear on who you serve. Create clear messaging that calls in your ideal client, and don’t worry about comparing yourself to other coaches. When you share your story the way that only you can, you’ll grow a business that you’ll love and will be proud of.

This article was written by the Life Coach Magazine staff. We cover everything from personal development, to coaching tips, to how to grow your coaching business. Follow us on Instagram or sign up for our emails!

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