Ellen Mackenzie of Dishing Up Digital: “The customer is always right”

The customer is always right. Your job is all about making their life easier! This is an important lesson I learnt way back in my university days when I worked as a retail assistant in a local department store to pay my way through uni. My boss would always tell me the customer was right […]

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The customer is always right. Your job is all about making their life easier! This is an important lesson I learnt way back in my university days when I worked as a retail assistant in a local department store to pay my way through uni. My boss would always tell me the customer was right no matter what and that I always had to make sure they were getting the best experience. Put your ego aside and make sure you’re serving your client in the best way possible. Customer service is such a huge part of coaching and you need to make sure you’re nailing this to succeed.


The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?

In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ellen Mackenzie.

Ellen Mackenzie is a 6-figure Social Media and Online Business Coach. She is a 25 year-old 9 to 5 escapee turned six figure business owner from New Zealand, helping female entrepreneurs master and monetize their Instagram. She went from dumped and jobless in the fall of 2019 to working with over 100 clients, selling out her programs and surpassing the six figure milestone in the span of just two years.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?

I was living out my “dream” in 2019 — I had the fancy apartment in the city and I worked full time as a magazine writer for one of New Zealand’s biggest women’s lifestyle magazines.

I should have been happy but in reality, the 9 to 5 world made me miserable. The dream I had as a 13 year-old to be a magazine editor suddenly didn’t seem all that appealing. I was at a huge loss for what to do next, until I stumbled across some podcasts and YouTube videos talking about social media marketing. After four months of biting my nails “thinking” about it, I finally took the plunge and launched my agency, DIshing Up Digital. Within four weeks, I’d made over $1000 and I knew I was onto something. Ten months later, I officially quit my job to go all in on my side hustle. It’s now been almost two years and I’ve grown my business to a team of three and am making over six figures.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • I’m the type of person that never gives up and Failure isn’t a word in my vocabulary. So many new coaches and business owners turn away at the first hurdle. They get scared when one thing goes wrong and they ultimately give up on their dreams. Since starting my business, my view of failure has completely changed. When I launched my first coaching program after working as a social media manager for a year, it was a complete flop. I had zero sign ups and no one was remotely interested. The program had “failed”, but I didn’t give up. I kept tweaking and developing a new idea and when I launched this over 10 months later, I sold out all the spots in two weeks. Failure is just an opportunity to learn and create something better. Once you embrace this mindset, you will unlock new levels of success.
  • You don’t have to be an extrovert to run your own business. This is a huge misconception so many people have and I always like to wear my introvert label with pride. I believe being a more introverted and empathetic person has helped with building my business. I don’t identify with “sleazy sales guy,” but rather I am a genuine person who can connect with clients on a deep level. I remember when I booked my first American client (as a girl from New Zealand, this was a big deal!), we initially ended our discovery call parting ways because my offer didn’t seem to be the right fit, leading me to be the one to suggest she hire somebody else. But four days later, she came back and said she had changed her mind and wanted to hire me. Why? Because of my energy and genuine attitude. She had interviewed a list of other candidates and just couldn’t get me out of her head. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t make genuine connects that lead to sales in business!
  • Self confidence and having an unshakable belief in myself. And no, by confidence I don’t mean you’ll see me singing on stage in front of 100 people. I mean I have confidence in my business and myself as an entrepreneur. I always say business is 10% skill and 90% mindset. If you don’t have your mind in a strong place and have that confidence in yourself, your business will crack. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had clients question my prices or blatantly tell me I’m running my business “wrong”. If I didn’t have the confidence I do, I would have listened to these people and let their opinions control me.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Every week I make time to work on personal development. I’m always doing online courses as well as going to the gym, getting outside and taking breaks. This habit of not being “married” to my job or business is so important. New business owners often fall victim to burnout. They get caught on the hamster wheel doing everything and anything for their clients at all hours. You need to look after yourself first, both mentally and physically, so you can show up as your best self for your business. Taking time for myself — whether it’s stimulating my mind through further education or stimulating my body through workouts — is the best habit that’s fed more energy back into my business and made it successful. We need to stop idolizing the “hustle” culture. Burnout doesn’t build a business!

This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples? Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Repetition and consistency creates good habits. Keep doing those habits or actions on the daily again and again. This will establish a new pattern and eventually these habits will become a natural part of your routine.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.”

This quote sums up my entire business journey! I was a journalist — in fact, I was a print journalist at that. Who was I to think I could work in social media? But I didn’t let my past define me. I had the passion and drive and I made it work.

I didn’t come from a wealthy school or background, my mum was just a teacher. But I didn’t let any of these things stop me from chasing my dream.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’ve currently just opened up my signature program, the Dishing Up Digital School for the third enrollment! This is a group coaching program I’m extremely proud of because I’ve had students come out the other side with the ability to start their business and quit their jobs. I had one former student who went from working as a nanny to now being a full time social media manager with her own company and team members. This is a coaching program that gets results and changes lives.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

  1. You need dedication and confidence — not money. One of my favorite things about the coaching industry is that you don’t need thousands of dollars or family connections to get started. I didn’t have a trust fund or attend a school with future billionaires. In fact, I went to the kind of public school that had rats living in the ceilings and never enough books to go around all the students. I come from a middle class family and my mum was simply a teacher. If you looked at my background, I was never really set up to achieve anything special. Yet today I run a six figure social media coaching business. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is, coaching is an industry that can change anyone’s life. What you need is the ability to keep trying, and the confidence to never give up.
  2. You need to find a transformation you can sell to people, not just an ordinary service. As a coach, you’re not just selling any old thing. You’re getting people to invest in a transformation. Ask yourself this: what change or transformation have you been through in your own life? Coaching 101 is to teach what you know so take a look in the mirror! Once you create an irresistible offer that your ideal client cannot ignore, this will change your business. My first coaching program flopped but my second one sold out in 2 weeks. The difference between the two was I created a transformation and sold an idea of how I could change people’s lives. Instead of telling them about the live calls, workbooks and all the program specifics, I told people I could give them freedom to live life on their own terms and help them create more money as a social media manager. This key shift from selling an ordinary service to selling a transformation is what made my business what it is today.
  3. Stop being afraid of failure. In business, failure is inevitable. But the difference between a successful entrepreneur and an unsuccessful one is they don’t give up at the first hurdle — or the second or third. They keep picking themselves up and pushing forward. This is the attitude you need to have as a coach. If something goes wrong, learn from the situation and then move on. If you get stuck on the little things or stuck on the failures, you won’t find success.
  4. Start building your online audience today. There is a huge misconception that social media is oversaturated and there isn’t room for new businesses. But this is just an excuse people use, perhaps because they are too scared to start or they don’t completely believe in themselves. There are new businesses taking off on social media everyday — what if you were one of them? If you want to create a successful coaching business, make sure you have that Instagram page or YouTube channel and you’re starting to connect with people. Show up, be consistent, offer value and start growing. Once you build an online audience, you have an amazing private pool of people to sell to. And no, you don’t need to have 10k followers to make this successful. I only had 3,000 Instagram followers when I hit six figures in my business.
  5. Success doesn’t happen overnight, you need to show up consistently and don’t give up. The internet is flooded with success stories of coaches who made $10k in their first month of business or others who made $200k in their first year. But this only happens to the top 2% of new coaches. Remember, I made a $1000 in my first month and it took two years of dedication and hard work to get to six figures. You might post YouTube videos that no one watches, have live streams with one audience member, or a Facebook group that sounds like crickets. Bu it’s all part of the process. Slow and steady growth will lead to success.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

So many new coaches get stuck in the planning phase. They think they need the perfect brand name, logo and website before they start making money. But the reality is, these things don’t matter and you’re using them as procrastination tools! If you want to be a coach, just start coaching. It’s that simple. I didn’t have a website for my business until almost a year down the road. I simply relied on my Instagram page and a quick PDF slide deck I put together to email interested clients. This meant my business got up and running fast and I began making money that I could then invest into making the perfect website later down the line.

Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.

The customer is always right. Your job is all about making their life easier! This is an important lesson I learnt way back in my university days when I worked as a retail assistant in a local department store to pay my way through uni. My boss would always tell me the customer was right no matter what and that I always had to make sure they were getting the best experience. Put your ego aside and make sure you’re serving your client in the best way possible. Customer service is such a huge part of coaching and you need to make sure you’re nailing this to succeed.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

There’s a reason I specialize in Instagram as a social media strategist and it’s because it gets RESULTS. If you’re a coach and you’re not on Instagram, you are missing out on a huge pool of potential customers ready to swipe their credit cards. Instagram is a really unique form or marketing because it really helps build a close connection and relationship with your audience. They get an insight into your daily life and they feel like a close friend. This connection is ultimately what leads to more sales. Utilizing Instagram and the framework I teach in my course, Get the Gram, is how I’ve built a six-figure business.

Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?

Boundaries are everything. Don’t reply to messages on weekends, create office hours, have set times for your client calls and take time everyday to do something for you. Burnout is rife in the coaching industry — especially with newbies just starting out. It’s tempting to work overtime when you are in the early stages of building your business, but it can create a dangerous habit that’s so hard to break. I make sure I have breaks everyday which includes walking my dog, going to the gym or watching Netflix to allow my mind to recharge. If I go through a particularly intense launch period for a new program that involves me working overtime and I cant avoid it, then I make sure I book in a holiday or 4 day break at the end of it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

When my mum was 16, she had 3 career pathways in front of her. She could be a teacher, a nurse or a receptionist. That was it. For generations women have been put in a box and have always had a limit on what they are allowed to achieve. But it’s not like that anymore. I graduated high school and had a whole world of possibilities in front of me. More young women should be encouraged to start businesses and grow their own wealth. I know today my mum is incredibly proud of what I’ve built, as well as my grandmother (a nurse) and I’m sure my great grandmother too. These women carved out a path for me to achieve greatness and I’m going to take full advantage of these opportunities.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow my entrepreneurial journey via Instagram at @ellenmackenziee or sign up for my group coaching program, the Dishing Up Digital School.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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