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In this episode of the GradBlogger podcast, Dr. Caitlin Faas from DrCaitlinFaas.com talks about building a business while being on the tenured track. Caitlin has an undergraduate degree from Kent State in Psychology (2008). She also has a Master’s and a PhD in Human Development, Family Studies from Virginia Tech. She started as an assistant professor of Psychology in 2013 at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland and has now earned tenure and had a promotion to associate professor in 2019. She became the department chair at the same time.
In addition, Caitlin runs a successful online coaching business aimed at helping academics achieve personal transformation. She helps them overcome self-sabotaging behaviours like procrastination, overeating, and drinking so much so that they can live a fuller and happier life.
Dr. Caitlin Faas began her online business alongside her academic career in 2016.
Caitlin recalled that in 2016, she had a “big career crisis.” She had always thought she was on a path to be a dean someday but began to question whether it was what she really wanted to do.
“At the same time, I was also putting a lot of energy and effort into helping my students but I was running into some brick walls,” she said. “I needed to back off a little bit to open it up and be a better professor. One of the ways I did that was by spending free time thinking about coaching and taking my mentoring to another level and figuring out what this side hustle thing was that people were talking about and what it would be like to build a business.”
In 2016, she joined a coach certification program through The Life Coach School, which is run by Brooke Castillo. She also started editing papers for clients found on Upwork.
“I started to think maybe there’s a way for people to pay me money to do something I’m already good at. Once I started to believe that, the vehicle emerged. But there’s no shortcut there either,” Caitlin cautioned. “It’s not a case of you get on (Upwork) and then you’ll be able to follow the same path. You have your own path in front of you. Me, I was quite surprised. I was like, “Oh this worked?” This was the thing helped me realize I could make money in a different way and bring in my own income.”
Caitlin continued to build her business while editing papers and doing statistical consulting.
“At first, it was also like, “Could I pay off my student loans? That would be great,right? And then let’s see where this goes.” The fact that my university wasn’t the only source of income was another part of the motivation there.”
Today, Caitlin focuses on helping other academics overcome self-sabotage. Procrastination, overeating, and drinking too much are the top three topics she addresses.
“Within that comes imposter syndrome and all kinds of other family issues that come up,” she said. “For a lot of my clients, I’m their general life coach and we talk about all aspects of life as we go through sessions together.”
Like a true academic, Caitlin did all the research before starting out.
She gathered all available books about side hustles. And she studied the habits and routines of successful ‘hustlers.’ Then she jumped in and did it.
Today, she coaches a lot of clients who are building a business and most of them talk about wanting to play it safe. They want to perfect their plan before they act on it, which leads to procrastination and possibly never getting their business off the ground.
“(I tell them) what if you leaned into just getting started? What if you started there?” she said. “That might teach you a lot faster than trying to do all of the research and plan it out perfectly.”
Her Life Coach School training taught her that you start with the circumstance, and then add the thoughts and feelings about your goals. They will motivate the actions that you need to take to get the results you want.
Caitlin conceded that this approach is the opposite of the way that academia works. At universities, there are clearly-defined steps you need to take to climb the ladder. Many of her clients insist that she simply tell them the steps they need to take, but she reminds them that once they do the belief work, the steps will emerge.
As a general rule, academics value credentials and certification – but are they necessary for building a business?
“It’s that difference between massive action and passive action that we talk about at The Life Coach School,” Caitlin said. “Massive action is like, “Oh, this is going to propel me forward in ways I can’t even imagine” compared to “I’m doing this because I’m trying to play it safe.” So for some people, certification is like, “I can go coach people and find out if I like it.””
By the time Caitlin obtained her certification, she had already been coaching people and knew that she loved it. She wasn’t using certification as a way to hide from the next step she needed to take. She viewed The Life Coach School courses as a way to serve her clients better.
“Are you [getting a certification] because you’re hiding or are you doing it because you know it’s going to propel you forward to your next best step?” she suggested, adding that in her opinion, certification is not essential to building a successful coaching business. It can make you better, but is not a requirement.
Caitlin’s current path is doubling down on her business.
She is focusing on two-month coaching packages with daily accountability and workbooks. She also offers free programs and articles through her newsletter.
“As I’m headed into the future, I know the ‘how’ and I’m focusing on one narrow thing because I know that’s in my zone of genius and will help generate income for my family,” she explained. “I can make a difference for my family and help my clients get those results.”
Caitlin added that her husband was laid off from his full-time job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After reviewing their budget, they are considering the possibility he might not have to go back to work at all.
“I thought maybe I could retire him someday,” she laughed, “and now we just sped up that whole timeline because maybe we can make that happen (now) and all because I started a business in 2016. So, we’re pretty excited.”
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