Dr. Marvette Lacy Ph.D., (she/her) is the founder and CEO of Qual Scholars where she helps higher education folks finish their dissertations and start a profitable consulting business.
In this episode of Office Hours, Marvette talks about her journey starting a coaching and consulting business and goes over the steps you need to do to launch your own consulting business.
Hello, everyone. I wanted to come on because people have been asking me a lot of, um, um, students who come into the finish your dissertation program are, they tell me that the main reason why they wanted to become doctor is because they want to get into consulting and speaking, and believe that the letters, right: PhD, Ed.D, there’s so many letters, right? Not to go through all of them, but that they, they thought that having, being doctor would make them more credible or, or get them the respect to be able to get into speaking consulting, coaching, or business. And so I just wanted to come on here and share a little bit about my journey and what I’ve learned in get you some, some places where you can get started. So for those of you who do not know my story, I went to the University of Georgia and I was in the college student affairs administration program.
And I, my dissertation, by the time I got to the dissertation stage, I was over it. I was looking to start my own business. And I was doing a lot of research online about how do you start an online business? What is this Even this whole online business space? Um, it was just a whole new world. And, you know, I probably should have been working on my dissertation, but I was like, Nope, I’m not Higher. Ed can kick rocks. I want my own business. And so then I was like, well, I need to finish this dissertation just to be done with it. And my dissertation looked at Black women who were in graduate programs and simply trying to understand at this new level, how do you answer the question of who am I? Right. A lot of us just go to school because people told us that’s what we’re supposed to do. And they said like, if you go to school, you’ll get the good paying job. But that was quickly becoming clear that there was not going to be a good paying job on the other side of that degree, because I was in education. And for those of you who are in education or helping fields, you know, there’s not money even with a doctorate degree. But I decided for my dissertation, I wanted to look at how black women were doing that. And I used this methodology called sister circle methodology. And what that means is that essentially I wasn’t the only one leading the research project, my participants will also be involved. And so what came out of that was we were able to be in community. It was about 10 of us. We were able to be in community with one another, but yet being in community with one another, been in a community with other Black women.
Also those people who were participating were learning about qualitative research because they were designing the research with me and they got to ask me questions. And we were spending a lot of time trying to understand who, who are we like now that we, you know, we went, as far as we could for school, who are we? How do we answer that question? And so through that, we spent about six weeks together. And so much came from that. And I, and I was working with business coach at the time. And she said, why don’t you make that your business? You’re trying to do all these other ideas that don’t seem to quite be working out. You seem to be really good at research and bringing people together. Why don’t you do something around that? And thus, that’s how I started my business Qual scholars. And so I now want to share with you some things that will help you if you’re thinking about starting your business.
3 Main Areas of Focus:
So with business, I look at it. There’s three main areas that you have to focus on in order for it to be successful, right? So you first have and I’m looking down at my notes if you’re wondering. You first have to have a product that you’re selling, right? And your product can be something that’s physical, your product can be coaching. Your product can be consulting that you, you’re helping people improve programs or things of that nature. Right? You first have to have that on lock. You have to know that it’s a good product, right? Because people don’t want to buy janky products. So you first have to know that you have a good product.
The second part, you then need to learn how to deliver that product to the people. How are you going to get it to them? If it’s consulting, what does that look like? Do you have packages? Like how often will they be working with you? What is your workflow look like? Right. All of the things that go into helping people solve the problem that you said you would help them to solve. So that’s part two.
And then part three, you have to learn how to market and sell that product. You have to be able to tell people that your product exists and then you have to be able to help them understand that your product is the solution that they’ve been looking for. Those are three large areas. And let me repeat, you first need to have a product. You need to be able to deliver that product. And then you need to be able to market and sell that product. Right? And those are three big areas to there’s a lot that goes into that and to learning and what I seen, what I, the mistake I made and what I’m seeing other people do is you first want to start, you starting with a product that you don’t really know that much about, like you’re not, or you’re not, you don’t have a clear system for it.
Creating my Business:
So to give you an example for me, my first business that I started was that I wanted to work with women who experienced childhood sexual abuse and who were now trying to maybe years later figure out like, what does, how does, how do they make meaning of that? But the reason why that business wasn’t working out is because yes, I experienced that, but I hadn’t done enough for work to fully help myself. So I couldn’t help someone else. And so when that coach came to me and said, why don’t you focus on research and helping people with that? I was like, Oh, I know that I could do qualitative research in my sleep. Let me start there. And so then that took away that, that steep learning curve of trying to figure out how to deliver that, because I knew how to help people design a research project. I knew how to help people understand complicated research terms using everyday regular schmegular language. So that was good. And I didn’t have to stress out about that. And then I could just focus all of my attention, learning how to deliver that product and learning how to market and sell. Now, I have some experience about learning how to deliver that because I was helping other friends. Right. I had my dissertation project where I was helping other people learn about that. So I kind of had a flow of how I would do do that. There was some, some pieces I needed to really flesh out by making a, a system from start to finish. But I kind of had a handle on that. The marketing and selling piece though, I was like, Oh no, I was so scared to post on Facebook. My coach kept saying, you need to just let people know that you are available.
And y’all like, just a post on Facebook. I would just break out in sweats. I had all these thoughts about like, well, what if people find out that I don’t know what I’m doing? What if people come on like on Facebook and say, how dare you say, you’re going to help somebody with their research and you’re not even finished with your program. Like, I have all of the stories that I was telling myself. And for months I was afraid, or I would like post like a quote on Facebook and Instagram. And I know, I see y’all doing the same thing. I would post like motivational quotes. Cause I’m like, Oh, okay, that doesn’t involve me. I don’t have to take a picture of myself, but I could still do the assignment that my coach told me, which was to post online, but that wasn’t helping anybody to know that I had this wonderful dissertation coaching business. Right. And so, but I needed to do that, to like build up my courage.
Tapping into my Strengths:
So then I started to think like, what am I good at? I’m great at writing. So I started doing blog posts. I started writing things. I’m like, here’s some common questions that people ask me about qualitative research. I know that I’m scared to show up on social media, but I know I feel more comfortable writing. And so I would write blog posts about 1500 words. And then I started to post those on Facebook and Instagram. And people started to find out about my business from there. And that just started to develop over time where I could get more comfortable and more people could find out. It still took me a good eight months to get an actual paying customer. But we all have our journey. And I want to be transparent because I want you to know that most people are not out here being like I’m going to start a business.
And then it just, boom is an overnight success. No, those are unicorns. Most people are learning and feeling their way through just like me. And I’m not saying that it has to take you that long. I’m just, just sharing this story with you. And so learning to market and sell by posting and like giving good value through blog posts helped me to understand that. And then right, I started to grow in my confidence and started to be like, okay, I can practice courage. I can tell people that I’m taking one-on-one clients. I can tell people that I have this one day workshop and I just kept showing up and telling people and getting more and more comfortable with that. And now fast forward three and a half years later, having a multiple six figure business, I just My brain can’t even like wrap around that because I know where I started, but I wish I would have had somebody just give it to me straight.
Starting as a Doc Student:
So if you are a doc student and you’re like, yep, I’m thinking about this. Here’s where I want you to start. I want you to first start building up an audience, right? Building up an audience of people who know that what your product is, who know that you are available to deliver said product and who are ready to sign up with you. But we’re not going to even get on like, you know, getting people to sign up. I want you to first just like tell people that you are available. Start telling people that like showing people like, you know, your shit and the easiest way that I can think of for you to do that is to start with your dissertation. You’re sitting on a gold mine. You have put in countless hours and energy into creating a dissertation that you can then start to transition into a business, right. Because when you’re writing any research project and especially your dissertation, you first have to start out with, what problem are you addressing? Right. What are the gaps in the literature? What has been done around this problem already? What’s missing and where your research fits in. Right?
I’m thinking about Khalia on a call, right? You have Black women, right. Who are, you know, looking for faculty positions and what is that process like? Right. You have to identify like, yeah, we have a lot of literature about faculty life, but not specifically like a holistic view of what their journey is from transitioning from a doctoral programs to becoming someone’s junior faculty member. And what does that do to someone’s whole body. Yeah. It’s great that they’re going to get a job. Like what did, what did they, what did that cost for them in the process? Right? Khalia is looking at that. She can then through her research and as she starts collecting data and starting to speak to women who have recently gone through the job search process and they, whether they have a job or not, they can share with her real life experiences. She can then use that information from those participants, from her data and when you get to your chapters four and five, which is you saying, this is what I found. Here’s the data. Here’s what it means. Here’s what we should do next. You’re essentially then building your business because you identify like these Black women are not getting the full support that they need. Here’s exactly what they told me happened. And based on this information I found, here’s what I think we need to do.
And Khalia is a wonderful about creating community experiences and bringing people together. What if her business was about having, you know, like quarterly retreats, where she brings Black women in higher ed together, whether that’s virtually because we are in a pandemic, but when the outside opens up, they can come to a physical location and spend three days with her getting all of their needs met, having someone to listen to their story, having someone who understands being around other Black women, learning how to continue to take care of themselves and be balanced and in harmony while they’re continuing their faculty journey. That’s a whole business. And so what Khalia can do right now, because she’s still working on her dissertation to start letting people know that this is what she’s thinking about. She could just simply start showing up on Instagram or recording herself on her phone and just saying what she sees, like documenting her journey.
I had this participant today, we talked for two hours. Here are some of the larger points that came out and you just show up on a live video, or you can make a blog post, or you can make just a little small post on Facebook. Just saying, here are the five points that came out of my interview today. Right? That’s not breaking any confidentiality. Right? You don’t have to give any name or any identifying information. You’re just talking to people about what you notice from this one participant who shared with you about their journey of getting their job. So she could just start talking about that. Or she can say, I found this one article. These researchers said that, you know it, folks who are looking for a faculty job should do X, Y, and Z. Yeah. That’s great. But let me tell you what else I could add to that. Right? You’re just giving information. The stakes are real low. You’re just showing up, telling people. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been deep in the research, but I’m not going to talk to you like an academic. I’m going to bring it down and make it very tangible. Right. And I’m going to share, I’m going to just share with you what I’m learning. That does a few things. One that helps Khalia get very clear and it helps her to, um, in her analyzing her data. It also helps Khalia when she gets to chapter five, when she has to do her discussions and implications and future research, she’s been practicing. Cause she’s been showing up and telling people what to do. She can, she can write that chapter really quickly and be done with the dissertation. And then that’s also telling people like she’s building an audience and people are going to start looking forward to her content.
And so when she is ready to say, um, um, I’m going to start my first retreat. Here’s the link for you to sign up? People are already aware that that’s happening. I think one of the biggest mistakes that I think, like I know the biggest mistakes that people are making is that, you’re trying to do all three of those things at the same time that I mentioned earlier. You’re trying to create a new product. You’re trying to deliver the product and you’re trying to market and sell the product all at the same time. And that’s just, that can be very overwhelming, especially when you’re a whole ass doc student trying to finish your dissertation. But instead, if you could just right now, while you’re still trying to work up the courage to have a business, you’re trying to learn more about what online business is. You can just focus on giving out content. Now I’m just using Khalia as an example to give y’all a framework to work from, but truly I will. I’m going to tell you, we don’t need to be in all the clubhouse rooms. We don’t need to be watching all the labs about how to do this trick and this hack to get more followers.
All of that means nothing. What matters at the end of the day is that you have an audience of people who know what you provide. They know that your product is good because you have demonstrated it to them and you tell them how to sign up. All the other stuff is just keeping you busy and wasting your time. Instead, just show up and let it be easy. And if you want extra brownie points cause you’re doing a qualitative, um, project. You can use you showing up on social media, telling people about your research as a way to triangulate the data, or as a way to say, I gave back not only to my participants, but I’m making the world better, which, which goes into this piece about validity. Now I’m getting real deep into research, but just, just in case I have like doc students on here listening, there’s way to work smarter. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m not saying it’s gonna be an a, a walk in the park but there’s a way for you to like combine your efforts, to meet your goal of becoming a doctor and having your own business. And I just would strongly encourage you to start at the place where you’re giving out as much free and valuable information. And you may think, well, people don’t want to know what I’m doing with my dissertation. That’s boring. No people love a good journey. Especially other students who are in their journey with you. They just want to know like, somebody else knows what I’m going through. They know this, this grind of participants and data and finishing this up in a whole ass pandemic.
Just Show Up:
You just showing up and sharing your story will do wonders. I’m wondering, let me know if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them. So Khalia says, yes, I agreed a problem trying to do it all at the same time. It’s so exhausting that way. Absolutely. Um, and you said a few times, you do say stuff on social media, people end up in your dams. Yes. People come to you. That’s what I teach my clients in the business program of let people come to you because y’all all know the DMS you get. And I’m, I’m picking on clubhouse. I’m just, I’m seeing all the rooms pop up of just people being like predators and like hounding you to buy their stuff. Or, Oh, I got the juicy secrets. But in order for you to get the secrets, you got to pay all this money and then you pay the money. You like what girl I could have got that off the Googles. You did not help me do anything. When you come from this point of view where you want to help people, like you’re coming from a place of service and you’re giving great information out, people will naturally be like, please just take my money and help me because you have demonstrated to them that you truly want to help them. And that, you know, like you have a process, people are not looking for you to have all the answers. They just want to know, like, somebody has a process that I can follow. That will get me further than where I am right now.
“So interesting your perspective just shows that marketing for a business like this, it’s a different to other commercial business types.” Yeah. We’re not like we’re not, um, especially, I mean, physical products right are different. And we’re not like the targets or the apples of the world who are, who are trying to get millions and millions of people to buy their product. Most of us are here Like, just listen I just want to live a life that I can pay my bills, pay the student loans, have a little bit of money left over to eat out and maybe take a trip when the outside, opens up. Like most people are not trying to have a hundred billion dollar business. Like most of us just, we just want to be comfortable. And so when you think about it for easy math, say that you work with people, you’re going to consult with them. And your package costs $5,000, right? You only need 20 people a year to make a hundred thousand dollars. If that’s your goal, 20 people versus hundreds of people, that seems way more doable then trying to get somebody to buy a $25 ebook, no shade.
But I want you to think about where’s your time, most useful, what would be the most helpful to people and how can you do that The best so.
“Khalia: I have to get over not feeling like an expert before putting myself out there, I’m working to embrace the flow. And I’m realizing now that the goal is yes. They just want to know your journey. Khalia. Yeah. I want to know how you doing girl. What’s happening? Oh, you in the California, how has that life, like, how are you balancing your, you know, your assistantship with finishing the dissertation. Oh. And just throwing some skin routine in there too. Cause I’m still trying to get you to tell us what you do every day for your skin. I just want to know it all I want to know Did you find a new like software you could use to like manage things, right? Oh, you like, if you’re like, you know, you’re going to therapy, how does that, why did you just decide to go to therapy? How are you doing that? Right. You don’t have to share anything that you’re not comfortable with, but I just want to be along for the journey. I think about me. Like, I love watching a good YouTube vlog channel of people in their everyday boring life. I just love it. And other people love it too. Anique: that’s so uncomfortable not feeling like a pro, but I realize that that regardless, I know a lot more than persons now starting. Yes. An experiences is a gold thing.
Q: How many clients do you feel as comfortable per month? I, uh, I’m always scared to put myself out there for fear of being overwhelmed. I, so I started with, I was like, I just want three clients. I just want three clients. Um, I’m thinking about, I was working with a client Margaret, and that was what we worked on. I’m like, we’re just going to get three clients. She, she started off doing dissertation editing and I’m saying three clients, right? Three hours a week. Right? If you’re giving each client an hour, a week, that’s three hours a week. When you start working with people, you’ll start to get into a rhythm. And you’ll realize that people have the same, like a common issues and you’ll know how to help them. A lot of the work happens upfront, just getting people onboarded and letting them know how you work and what they can expect. And then if you have a good system, things just start to work. But to give You an idea of what I was doing, cause I want you to learn from my mistakes is that when I first started learning about online business, I was like watching all the webinars, watching all the YouTube, reading all the blogs. And I would be in Starbucks for like eight, nine, 10 hours a day, doing doing a bunch of nothing. But I felt like I was being productive and people would make fun of me like, Oh, you’re working on a new ebook. Oh, that’s cute. You still trying to make this business thing work. Oh, that’s Cute.
And that was Overwhelming to do that week after week. Cause that was a lot of time that it’d be truthfully. I should have just been working on my dissertation. But yall over it. But now on this side of the things, if you can just Focus on just showing up on a consistent basis, not even on an everyday basis, right? If you showed up once a week and you like, here’s what I learned from this week Y’all and you did that over and over. That will move the needle way more than you trying to like Hack and listen to all these other people. You just showing up, telling us a about your life, telling us about your research or telling us about your job because truth be told like a lot of you who are in, especially like higher ed, and You know how to whip up a program, you know how to evaluate, you know how to do all these 50 11 meetings that people keep putting on your calendar. People will pay you so much money to be their virtual assistant because you already, what comes natural to you. What you think, people just automatically know how to do it. They don’t, they don’t. And they will gladly pay you 20, 30, 40, $50 an hour for a good 10 hours a month to just help them answering emails, help them posting on social media, help sending their clients invoices, people will do that. And that, that doesn’t, I probably won’t even take the 10 hours that you, you have signed up for. It probably won’t even take you 10 hours to do that work. It might take you four or five hours, but you’re still getting paid for 10 hours worth of work.
My whole thing is like, start with where you are either start with your experience, start with a job you already know how to do, start with your dissertation or your research. Focus on that first, just to learn about business and learn about marketing and selling. And once you get a good handle on that and you want to change it, you can do that because now you know the skills, but let’s just not make it more difficult than it needs to be. Start with what you know. Doing a bunch of nothing, which I was for hours doing nothing. I do miss the days though I do. I miss being at Starbucks ordering all the stuff that I need to. I just should’ve put Starbucks and Panera in my acknowledgements or my dissertation because of how much time I spent there. But it’s All a learning journey. And that’s how I am. I’m here now. So let me know if y’all have any other questions. Let me check my notes to see if I missed anything.
Outsourcing myself otherwise I’m spending too much time on some stuff that doesn’t make sense for me to invest that time. And Ooh, tell me more Khalia, like what? I think about like your sister Khalia is just show up and doing makeup. I’m here for it. Right? Cause now I know, like if I go to the store and I go to Ulta or something and I’m thinking about like, should I get like this, this cream or this lipstick? I’m like, Oh, I know a channel or an account I can go look up and see if she used it. Or if she has something to say about it, that’s how you want people to think about you. They start to associate you with different things. Don’t let people out here, like have you out here thinking that you gotta do something so different out there and magical to start a business. Being somebody’s project manager manager the more I learn about this online business space, the more I start to network with other coaches and getting to see inside of their business. It’s just like simple things that people don’t know that they’re supposed to do. Simple things. Like if you’re going to hire someone, you should probably give them a job description and clear expectations of what you want or if you’re going to, um, or that you should have like something like Google drive or Dropbox where you’re organizing your files or that you should automate some of these things like email reminders to remind people to pay or to complete a process, simple things.
And I have worked in some I’ve worked I just left my job at a research center where we mostly did consulting work. And that meant I got to meet other consultants and y’all it’s a Hot mess. It’s a hot mess Just because people got the big names and they probably got money from university funding does not mean that the inside of the business is running well. They need people like you with the skills to keep them organized and keep them going. So that clients don’t always ask them for refunds and they go out of business. So how can you do what you love and just show up and help people and believe that the money will come, believe that people will want to sign up with you.
Have I had clients who ghosted me like, like they were supposed to pay. Absolutely. And here’s what my thought process is behind that. I have, I’ve had people who maybe I can count on one hand of people who did not complete their payment plans. And my philosophy is I’m not, I’m not about to spend my good time and energy trying to chase you. That’s great. Okay, bye. Deuces. I go focus on getting another client who wants to work with me. That can be a difficult switch to make, but you have to think like the time that you would spend trying to figure out collections or getting that person to pay, I’m not saying I don’t follow up with people. I follow up with them three times. If I don’t get anything and they don’t respond, I’m like, all right, I’m done. And I’m going to go find new clients because that time, those hours that you would be trying to hound somebody, you can just go find new clients.
You could just replace that money that you were counting on. I’ve actually had people pay me in full, right? My program is $3,000. I’ve had people pay me in full and not show up. I don’t know where they do that at. I don’t know why you got $3,000 to give and just not, you don’t ever show up. You don’t ever come back around because that does happen and it will happen. But you have to remember, you know what you’re doing and you know how to make money. You can always go get some new clients, people who want to work with you. I want to work with people who wanna work with me. I want to work with people who are ready to put in effort, follow the process so they can get to the finish line. I don’t want to spend my time on people who don’t want to like, I can’t want it more than you want it. And so if this ain’t for you, it ain’t for you.
And so I just, I switched my, my energy and my efforts. I’m gonna probably come back next week and just talk about some like three mistakes I’m seeing, but I’m also having a webinar on, um, Tuesday, February 23rd, where I’m going over, like the 10 steps in full of how to get started for you and your consulting business. I think Donald just signed up he’ll be there. And if you want to, um, join, just let me know your, um, email address and I will send you the information Just to reiterate, show up, just put out information That can help people using yoour natural talents and then the money will follow. Okay. Y’all. Well, let me know if you have questions even after this live and I’ll, I’ll answer them. I hope y’all have a good Monday and I will talk with y’all later. Bye.