I Quit My Computer Engineer Job And Now Make $10K/Month As A Nutrition Coach
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Selen Gulbahce, a qualified nutrition and lifestyle coach with a background in computer engineering. I help my clients to achieve fast, sustainable, intelligent weight loss without dieting.
I offer online coaching programs and subscription-based courses to my clients that empower them to break free of the diet culture and build lifelong habits that provide them with better gut health, stronger immunity, increased energy, improved sleep, better stress management, healthier hair & skin, and sustainable weight-loss, using my unique method, the Alka-Terranean Method™.
I founded my signature Alka-Terranean Method™ using the principles and biochemistry of Alkaline Nutrition (a focus on plant-based foods) with the flexibility of a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
Since founding it in 2015, I have coached over 4,000 people to reach their wellness goals. 80% of those 4,000+ clients I have coached reached their goals in less than two months, and 70% feel confident in maintaining them.
My coaching business started as a side job while I was working as an engineer in digital banking, and in less than a year, my income from my side gig already exceeded my full-time banking salary. After three years of working both jobs, I quit my corporate job and became a full-time coach. Fast forward 2 years, and I am now consistently making five figures via my online coaching programs & subscription-based courses.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I spent years in the ‘yo-yo dieting’ cycle, constantly trying to find ways to lose weight. I’ve gone from one diet to the next, losing weight and then gaining it all back again.
During the early years of my professional career as a Computer Engineer in Digital Banking, these frustrations consumed me mentally, becoming an added stress to my life and career.
After years of subjecting my body to fad diets and spending thousands on nutritionists, my health reached the breaking point. I began to suffer severe digestive problems and other health implications, and at the early age of 24, I had to undergo gastroscopy & colonoscopy procedures.
This was the wake-up call I needed to finally stop obsessing so much about dieting to lose weight and instead start to look after my health first. The journey to reclaim my health would lead me to transform my lifestyle and change my eating habits.
Through this process, I not only addressed my health concerns, but I discovered a nutrition and lifestyle method to achieve sustainable weight loss. I lost 14kg in the first two months of following this method and never gained the weight back.
The signature method I discovered for sustainable weight loss uses the principles of Alkaline Nutrition combined with a Mediterranean diet. I am from the Aegean Mediterranean Coast of Turkey and understand the benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle and approach to eating, so it was natural to incorporate these elements to make healthy eating achievable and accessible for everyone. I call this signature method, The Alka-Terranean Method™.
I went on to obtain numerous accreditations in nutrition to expand my knowledge as I became passionate about helping others experience the benefits of my method. The success through coaching others was so successful and so rewarding that I left my career as a Computer Engineer and became a full-time Nutrition Coach based in London and coaching clients all over the world, including the UK, Australia, the USA, and Europe.
I currently have two different offerings. The first one is personalized, bespoke & intimate nutrition and lifestyle coaching programs. This was the only program I was offering when I first started coaching. Via this program, I offer intimate daily online support where I track my client’s progress on a day-to-day basis and offer on-the-spot feedback so that they feel supported every step of the way.
This approach of unlimited daily support & on-the-spot feedback is unique in my coaching offering. When I started working on my wellness goals and trying to create new lifestyle habits, I noticed external accountability and support was the most important element of my success. During my journey, I had an accountability buddy (a friend) with whom I was sharing all my progress, and she was tracking me daily. I noticed this was the game changer in my success, and I wanted to incorporate this element into my coaching programs.
However, this method of coaching was not sustainable as it provides very hands-on support, and it requires me to be present to my clients all the time.
After offering this intimate coaching package for 3 years, I decided to launch a subscription-based wellness platform to be able to reach and impact more people’s lives in a more scalable and less time-consuming way.
So in 2020, after the start of the pandemic, I started creating content to be able to provide my nutrition and lifestyle coaching offering in a pre-recorded and pre-prepared way. I recorded explanatory videos where I explained the science behind my Alka-Terranean Method, created meal plans and recipes, wrote evidence-based nutrition information, prepared practical tips and tricks, and motivated coaching snippets. I also wanted the platform to have a Q&A feature where the members can ask their questions while following my programs. For this reason, I hired a team member and trained her so that she was qualified to support the platform members.
I launched this platform in November 2020, and it currently has 300 active monthly-paying subscribers. The platform is only available in Turkish for now.
I also still offer my bespoke coaching packages to my exclusive clients because I love it! They are mainly non-Turkish clients and are based in the UK, Europe, and the US. I recommend my Turkish clients to subscribe to my platform as there’s a huge price advantage for them (considering the situation of the Turkish currency! And my personalized coaching offerings are in Pounds).
With a background in banking as an Engineer, I am obsessed with numbers, data, and statistics. Tracking my clients’ progress and results closely is my way of providing the best guidance and support to keep them accountable and motivated throughout the process. Since 2015, I have coached over 4,000 people to achieve their weight-loss goals. The results have been so positive, with all my clients losing between 4-12kgs in their first month. I am proud to report that 80% of my clients have reached their goals in less than 2 months, and 70% feel confident in maintaining the new habits they have learned when working with me and sustaining their new healthy lifestyle.
Being an entrepreneur and being a boss is tough. There are many things you want to do and many opportunities you want to pursue. It is so easy to get overwhelmed. So prioritization becomes very important.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
It was always on my mind to build an app where I can provide my meal plans, nutrition information, and coaching services in a more scalable way too many more people. But I was contemplating the cost of developing and marketing a mobile app on the app store.
One day, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is also an entrepreneur and has a mobile app. He suggested that I use an online course platform that would allow me to do it much easier and cost-effectively. Up until that point, I have never thought about using a course format to offer my meal plans and coaching services.
After speaking to him, I decided to give it a try. I enrolled in an online course platform called Teachable, which was 120 USD a month.
I started writing down the most common things that I always explain to my clients. The information and tips that I always bring up in our client sessions. The science of nutrition, the psychology of behavior change, easy tips and tricks, etc.
Then I started recording these with my computer camera as if I was giving a client session.
My MVP was a 10-day nutrition program that kick-starts weight loss. I uploaded explanatory videos of mine, meal plans, and recipes to Teachable and created a “10-day course”. This was my pilot study. My ultimate goal was to create a long-term subscription platform that would allow me to scale my one-to-one coaching services.
400 people bought my 10-day course. I got great results and feedback from them and seeing that they were getting such good results gave me the confidence to build the actual membership platform.
I built the whole platform on Teachable. It has a subscription course feature that enables us to do that.
So over the pandemic, I kept working on new content for the platform and turned it into a 360 wellness platform that helps support sustainable weight loss without dieting. The platform doesn't only have nutrition information, meal plans, and recipes but also guidance on exercise, managing stress, improving sleep, increasing energy, and so much more.
Describe the process of launching the business.
For my one-to-one bespoke coaching packages, there wasn’t any launch. I decided that I wanted to coach others to help them achieve what I had achieved myself and offered my coaching services for free to 4 people I know. While picking these 4 people, I focused on two things: the first was, did they need and wanted my services and whether were they ready to commit. The second one was their network. Did they have a good network, and would they be willing to refer me to their network if they are happy with their results?
I offered them my coaching services free of charge for 2 months and told them that they will have to pay me if they were willing to continue after 2 months. I have also kindly asked them to refer me to their friends & family if they’re satisfied with my coaching.
Looking back, it was a great strategy to start. They got great results and referred me to others who turned out to be new clients. And new clients kept referring me to their networks, and my business grew via word of mouth.
Working with my initial clients free of charge made me feel more confident in my coaching offering, and I was already an experienced coach when I charged my first client.
In the meantime, I opened an Instagram account to share my knowledge and expertise with the world. My Instagram account grew organically as well. And then Instagram became my second biggest channel to gain new clients. The first one was always word of mouth/reference.
I created my first website on WordPress. I found a developer who needed my coaching, and we negotiated a barter agreement. He developed my website, and I offered him coaching.
For the platform part, it was also a soft launch. When I first launched the platform, I already had more than 20K highly engaged Instagram followers and an emailing list of 3K people. So I shared it with my audience first via Instagram posts and emails.
I haven’t spent any money to launch my business and my platform other than the education and training I received. And other than a 120 USD monthly Teachable fee!
The biggest lesson I learned during the process of launching my platform was trying to overcome my perfectionism. Initially, I procrastinated for 2 years about developing an app because I wanted to do it perfectly. But after, thanks to my friend’s suggestion, I leaped and opened the first course on Teachable. The first program I launched was nothing close to being perfect. But I still did it, launched it, sold it, and refined it on the way with the feedback of my first members.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
As discussed earlier, my main channel to gain clients has always been word of mouth for my one-to-one coaching offerings. My coaching is my marketing. The way I provide my coaching services and the results my clients get ensures they refer me and my coaching services. So delivering great results to my clients has always been my main focus and the leading factor that helped me get more clients.
The second thing that worked well was collaborating with other wellness experts and influencers aligned with my values. I also had multiple clients who are social media influencers, and they organically shared their experiences and results with their audience. The fact that these people already have a hotly engaged audience base helped me to grow organically.
When it comes to coaching, reference is the most important thing, I believe. In the process of finding the right coach, I don’t think anybody just googles a coach and decides. They wanna hear from others. They wanna see their results and their experience. For this reason, I believe that the coaching industry, especially if you’re selling high ticket offerings, collaborations & influencer marketing, weighs so much more than paid ads.
My initial members also came organically for the platform side of the business. Because when I launched the platform, I already had a highly engaged community, and the ones who couldn’t afford my bespoke coaching packages became members of the platform right away as it had a considerable price advantage.
After that, to grow, I started utilizing paid ads. Facebook ads have been great for gaining platform subscribers as it is a low-ticket offering compared to my one-to-one coaching packages. For Facebook Ads using clients, testimonials have always been the best ones to attract new people to the platform.
Being an entrepreneur and not having a boss to report to is tough! Use a good project management tool that you feel comfortable with. Also, since we are only accountable to ourselves as entrepreneurs adding some external accountability element is great to help our businesses grow faster.
Email marketing has also been really good on both sides. (coaching packages and the platform). It is especially very effective for bringing previous clients back. For example, when a platform member cancels their subscription, they get an automated email with a special discount code if and when they want to continue their membership. And this is working well.
Whatever marketing channel we use in the sales process, I notice that people want to communicate their needs and ask questions before subscribing to the platform. So making this communication and customer support easy for them is the key. There’s a Whatsapp chat feature on the sales page of the platform where my team member answers their questions and helps them with their decision-making process.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I have two main focuses right now.
The first one is growing the platform. It currently has 300 active monthly paying subscribers, and our goal is to make it thousands in the next 6 months.
Below is a screenshot of the platform's last month revenue. You can also see that it costs approximately 30 USD for us to acquire a new subscriber to the platform via Facebook ads. And the average lifetime revenue of a customer is approximately 85 USD. So Facebook Ads are very profitable for us.
However, we kind of reached a plateau with Facebook ads. When we increase the budget, the customer acquisition cost also increases, and it stops being profitable.
So to scale more and reach our goal, I want to start utilizing Google Ads, and I also want to invest in PR.
Adding other experts and their content to the platform is also one of the goals. As richer content increases retention, those experts can market the platform to their audiences.
Once we achieve that, our goal is to expand beyond the Turkish market. First, launch the English version of the platform, and then in other languages to other markets.
My second focus of mine is to work on my branding and PR in the UK and US markets. Especially to get the message of my coaching and my signature Alka-Terranean method out there. I also want to focus on getting more UK and US-based clients for my bespoke coaching packages. To focus more on organic growth with word of mouth and reference.
Just like how it was initially when I started in Turkey. I want to follow the same path I followed in Turkey before launching my platform in English. Once I have a stronger audience and a more engaged community in the UK and US, launching the platform in English will be easier. To be able to do that, I want to start investing in a UK-based PR agency as well.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned that delivering a good service is the best marketing you can ever do for a service-based business, especially in the coaching industry. People buy after hearing from others. So word of mouth, collaborations, influencer marketing, and PR are the key strategies and channels to focus on.
Being an entrepreneur and being a boss is tough. There are many things you want to do and many opportunities you want to pursue. It is so easy to get overwhelmed. So prioritization becomes very important. This is something I am still learning. Getting good at prioritization and having a clear big picture is the key to not getting lost in everything you can or want to do. Having clear short-term and long-term goals and getting good at focusing on them is a skill I had to learn.
Whenever I want to venture into something new or whenever a new idea or project comes to my mind, I had to learn to ask myself: is it aligned with my goals and where I wanna go right now? If yes, focus on it. If not, get good at saying NO and refocus on whatever your focus should be. There’s this quote I heard somewhere that I like to remind myself always: “I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.” I feel all entrepreneurs should be reminded of this because entrepreneurs are multidimensional, excited, and passionate, and we like to take quick action. Those are all good qualities, but they can often make us feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Another skill I had to learn in this journey was being able to delegate. I had a really hard time with this. I kept feeling like, since it is my business, nobody can do the job as well as I, and it is very difficult to trust others with your business. Since your business is like a baby to you, it gets hard to hire others and trust them with their jobs. However, to scale and grow, you HAVE TO learn how to delegate, and you have to get rid of your perfectionism and be okay with things not being perfect. This was one of the biggest challenges in my business journey, but I feel I am improving.
On the other hand, the skills that helped me in my business journey are my analytical thinking skills and the fact that I love science and data. Being data oriented helped me to grow my business as for business development, you have to get good at analyzing and understanding your data. The fact that I like science enabled me to create my nutrition method and coaching algorithm.
In my coaching method, having a computer engineering background helped me approach every individual as a unique operating system. And my Alka-Terranean Method is my algorithm. So all I have to do is adjust the algorithm to the operating system so that it WORKS FOR THEM.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I used Teachable to build my subscription platform. It is basically via the membership course tool of Teachable.
I use Stripe for payments and Freshbooks as my accounting software.
I use Zapier to integrate all the platforms. For example, Zapier, when a new payment is made via Stripe, an automatic invoice is issued on Freshbooks. It helps you to make all the platforms talk to each other.
I use Activecampaign as my CRM system, and I use Leadpages to build and test new landing pages and websites.
I use Facebook Ads Manager and Google Adwords for my performance marketing ads.
And I LOVE using Instagram to engage with my community (I am @selencoaching on IG btw if you wanna say hello).
Oooh, one more thing!! I LOVE Trello!! It is the project management tool I use, and I can not work one day without it!!!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My university degree was in computer engineering, but I also took many businesses, marketing, and management classes during college. So I feel business strategy, marketing, and analytics are my strong suits.
However, I had to improve my mindset and mentality during this process. I had to overcome my limiting beliefs and mental blocks that dictated what I could or could not do. Especially as a woman entrepreneur, inner work is so important to excel in life and business. Strategic planning, goal setting, and KPI tracking are great, but it has to be accompanied by energetics, passion, manifestation, magnetism, and alignment with your soul.
You need to be setting goals from a place of abundance, not from scarcity. And to be able to do that, you need loads of grounding, trust, self-acceptance, mindfulness, meditation, breathwork, etc. So these are whole new areas I had to dive deep in during my business journey.
I started meditating, journaling, and reading more about psychology, and I also enrolled in a couple of different coaching containers from other great coaches.
Besides the countless books I have read about nutrition and coaching psychology, these books about mindset and manifestation helped me and my business:
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealthby T. Harv Eker → This book helped me improve my money mindset.
You are Powerful: The Secret to Everyday Manifestation by Becki Rabin → This book is manifestation 101. It is a simple, very quick read and helped me change my thinking patterns. Later on, I also enrolled in a couple of different coaching containers by Becki Rabin, and I also worked with her, one to one, for 4 months.
F**k Work Let’s Play: Do What You Love and Get Paid for it by John Williams → This is a book I recommend to anyone who is in corporate life and not happy with where they are at right now. Whether it is trying to find purpose and passion in your current job, start doing something else as a side job, or decide on new areas to venture into, read this book and do the exercises in it. I promise you, it will help clear your mind.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
As a person who is struggling with perfectionism, my biggest advice would be to just START doing whatever you want to do. Especially if you’re a perfectionist with unrelenting standards, it is easy to wait and procrastinate for months (if not years) before you even start doing the thing! Because you want the “perfect” conditions to arise, or you want to feel “perfectly confident,” or you wait until whatever you want to launch is “perfect” before you launch it. I love the saying: “Perfect is the enemy of good”!
So my strongest advice is: just please don’t wait to be perfect. Start doing the thing and keep refining it on the way. If you wanna launch an app, just launch the crap version, be okay with it, get vulnerable, get feedback from your initial users and keep bettering your product along the way!
Being an entrepreneur and not having a boss to report to is tough! Use a good project management tool that you feel comfortable with. I like Trello. Also, since we are only accountable to ourselves as entrepreneurs adding some external accountability element is great to help our businesses grow faster. Get yourself a mentor or a coach if you can afford it. If not, make sure you have an accountability buddy. This can be another entrepreneur who is on a similar journey to you. You can organize regular meetings where you support and challenge each other, track your goals, and brainstorm together.
Another important reminder: "Never compare yourself to others, run your race". Simple but very powerful! Especially with the abundance of posts and content around accomplishments and high achievements of others on social media, it becomes tough not to focus on others and let yourself down. However, reminding yourself that this is their journey, they're at different stages of their journeys, and focusing on your progress does wonder!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I want to invest in PR to help my branding and reputation in the English-speaking markets. So I am thinking of hiring a UK-based PR freelancer very soon.
I also want to start working with an influencer marketing and affiliate marketing agency as I believe this is of crucial importance to helping service-based businesses grow.
Also, I’m always looking for exciting collaborations with other brands and people.
So if you’re interested in any of these, let’s have a chat! Please email me here: [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
- Alka-Terranean Weight Loss Method
- 5 Easy Actions You Can Take RIGHT NOW to Speed Up Your Weight-Loss
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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