In today’s episode, I’m answering the listener question, “What do you call yourself? Should you be a mentor, a coach or a consultant? And how do you choose?”
Let’s dive in!
Our question today comes from the fabulous Katerina Andreou. You can find Katerina on Instagram at @kat_andreou. (I think you might want to go and check her out when you find out what it is that she does!)
The question that I got from Kat was:
“What is the difference between being a consultant, coach and mentor? How do you get out there as one of those three things when people know you as something else?
For example, I was a VA who specialised in social media. And now I help people with social media and I think I should call myself a social media consultant. How can you choose which one of these three is right for you? And how do you start spreading the word when you have changed?”
There are a few layers to this question, but I really want to dive deep into what it is that you call yourself because this can be a sticking point for a lot of people. I’ve even worked with people who are in startup who have delayed getting their business set up and started for months because they still don’t know what to call themselves.
That is a big mistake! The most important thing you need to do is get out there as quickly as possible.
It is easier to change the direction of a car when it’s moving.
If you’re just sitting still and moving the steering wheel left and right, but you’re not actually going anywhere, you’re just wearing a bald spot in your tires, and you’re not actually creating any momentum.
I would rather you jump out there and call yourself the wrong thing, and then make some adjustments and changes as you go.
When I first started my business, I called myself a coach because that’s what everyone called themselves. I just thought that’s what everyone called themselves, snd so that’s what I did.
But once I became a little more consistent in my business and worked with more clients, I realised that coach actually wasn’t the right term for what it was that I was doing. But my solution was not to change what I called myself, it was to stop calling myself something specific.
Here are my four key pieces of advice if you’re unsure of what to call yourself:
1. Look at it through the lens of your ideal client or your niche
Would they be more clear about what it is that you do if you called yourself a social media consultant, a social media coach, or a social media mentor?
Those three words do have different connotations.
If I saw someone and they said they were a social media consultant, then I would expect that they give me mostly advice on what to do with my social media. They would go and look at all of my social media channels, they would do an analysis and give me some reporting and some direction on what I should be doing with social media.
If I saw that someone was a social media coach, I would assume that they more dealt with the mindset side of being on social media – some of the visibility challenges that might come up. A coach in its truest form doesn’t actually give advice. They instead draw the answers out from within you.
If I was looking for someone to give me expert advice on how to show up on social media, I would NOT hire a coach. I wouldn’t be looking for a coach, I’d be looking for a consultant or I’d be looking for a mentor.
A mentor does have a similar connotation to a consultant. But from my perspective, if I see someone say that they’re a social media mentor, it feels like more of a one-to-one intimate relationship than working with a social media consultant.
A social media consultant feels like it’s a little more distant to me.
The most important part of this tip is that you need to review this through the lens of your ideal client. Just because that’s my interpretation of what those words mean, does not mean that that’s what your ideal client’s interpretation of those words is the same.
They might see a coach as someone who does give them directions. If you think about a soccer coach or a football coach, they don’t ask their players how many laps they feel like running, they tell them to go and run ten laps.
There are lots of different fields in which these words have different meanings, and they are open to interpretation.
There’s no actual hard and fast definition of each of those words.
There is certainly no authority figure or no hard and fast requirement for you to be able to meet certain standards in order to call yourself any of those things.
You can call yourself whatever it is that you like – whether that’s a mentor, coach or consultant, or something else!
That’s my first tip: look at it through the lens of the client, and see which word most resonates with what it is that they’re looking for, and most resonates with what they would describe that particular thing as.
You may even ask some of your current ideal clients: What do you think of when you hear the word social media consultant? What do you think of when you hear social media coach? And what do you think of when you hear social media mentor?
Please don’t just ask them what you should call yourself – don’t go and crowdsource your business strategy and your marketing decisions. But you can ask them what they think of when they hear those words.
2. Go a little further outside the box
If you’re more focused on social media strategy and giving people advice on the specifics of how to show up on social media and what their strategy should be, you might like to call yourself a social media strategist. If you really have specialist expertise in a certain platform, you might call yourself a specialist or an expert.
There are other ways that you can label yourself if you feel like consultant, coach or mentor doesn’t really capture what it is that you do.
My next tip is going to be even juicier if that is the thing that’s coming up for you…
3. You don’t actually need it
When I ask people what they think my job title is, I get different answers from different people.
The reason why I get different answers from different people is because I don’t actually have one title that I call myself. I haven’t landed on an answer yet. And that is after almost nine years of business now.
You don’t actually need to have one specific title that you hold onto.
Think about the times where you feel like you need to have that title of mentor, coach or consultant.
It might be when someone asks you what you do. You don’t have to say that you’re a social media strategist, you can say that you help online business owners reach more of their ideal clients with free and low-cost social media strategies.
As far as I’m concerned, if I was standing next to you at a conference and you gave me that answer instead of simply saying that you’re a social media coach, I would be far more intrigued and far more interested in finding out more.
If you just say that you’re a social media coach, it sort of just ends the conversation instantly. If I don’t know what that means, then I might feel stupid asking. But if I do know what that means, then that’s kind of the end of the conversation.
You’ve told me what it is that you do. That’s it.
Whereas if you talk about how you help people, who you help, and sometimes even how you help them actually do it, it is far more intriguing and I’m much more likely to engage further with you in conversation.
To me, it’s actually an amazing differentiator and gets nice and specific quickly, rather than trying to box yourself with a shiny, sparkly label.
I don’t want them to give themself a label.
The reason I get people to do that is because sometimes we hide behind that label and expect it to do sixteen different jobs in our messaging when it doesn’t do any of them.
Rather than finding yourself getting caught up in needing to label yourself, why not instead focus on experimenting with different words and ways to explain what it is that you do and who you do it for.
There might be other times where you do need to have a title. It might be someone wants to have you on their podcast, and they need your title to put in the show notes. Then experiment with something that’s based on context. And that is my fourth tip for you…
4. Change your title based on the context
If you’re at a conference full of coaches, and they ask you to write your name and title on your name tag, then you might decide to put social media coach because you’re in a room full of coaches. Everybody gets it, and that’s what they’re there to talk about. And so your specialisation is in social media.
You can actually change what you call yourself in your title based on the context in which you share it.
There’s no one who’s going to call you out if they see you using different titles.
No one cares! The only time that we care what your job title is, is when we’re trying to work out what it means to us.
Instead of trying to box yourself into one label, one word, one name, one title, allow yourself the freedom of changing it based on the context in which you’re sharing.
Try experimenting with not having a title for a little period of time and see the difference it makes when you talk about your work and when you talk about yourself.
I also want to quickly touch on how you get it out there that you’ve moved into a different space.
This one’s going to be important for you to consider in relation to your messaging ecosystem. I’ve done a recent podcast episode on messaging ecosystem that you can find here: tashcorbin.com/273
Our messaging ecosystem acknowledges that we have different audiences and different audiences have different heat.
Your hottest audience is closest to you. They know you, like you, and trust you the most. They might have already worked with you, or be close to working with you.
Your coldest audience is out at the edges.
When it comes to letting people know exactly what it is that you’re doing and that you have changed what it is that you’re doing, it’s important that you start at the center and work your way out.
Here’s the order that I recommend you do this in:
1. Immediate clients
2. People you’ve had conversations with in the last 90 days
3. Your mailing list
4. Share on your social media
5. Start sharing the new stuff out into the broader world
That way, you know that you’ve covered off on those layers, and you can explain the change and give reason for the change in context with the level of heat that that person has in your audience.
You don’t need to explain to your coldest audience why you’ve stopped doing VA work. But you do need to explain that to your VA clients.
You don’t need to explain to your mailing list why you’ve made the switch from calling yourself a VA that specialises in social media, to being a social media consultant. You don’t need to explain that in detail, all you need to do is tell them that the change is happening.
Think about the layers of your audience, and then communicate the change with the level of information and explanation that is required for each of those different levels. It will make sure that you’ve covered off on all of them as well.
One of the most important parts of being able to do all of this is understanding your niche.
If YOU have a question for me to answer on a future podcast episode, make sure you submit it here: tashcorbin.com/question
Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.