Group coaching and sharing your story online, with Gillian McCollum

20 Jan, 2021 | Podcast, Season 5

How do you know you’re ready to create a group online programme? And how do you connect with your customers online in an open and honest way when it goes against your comfort zone? All these questions are answered – and more – in this week’s episode of The Whin Big Podcast.

This week Katie chats with Gillian, founder of Gillian McCollum Coaching Food, body coach & yoga teacher. They talk about connecting on a deeper level with clients and get into the nitty gritty of blogs, emails and social media.

Today’s episode is sponsored by our Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist will take you through all the most important things you need to get right in your Instagram marketing. Click below to sign up for the free training and download the checklist.

Gillian’s business journey

Gillian McCollum is a coach and yoga teacher who supports women who suffer with food and body issues. She set up her business in 2018, after spending a few years training on the side of her full time job.

With a degree in interior design, Gillian worked in the interiors industry for 18 years – working her way through the ranks to Director level. Her career taught her so much about running a business, particularly during the financial crash of 2008 which she helped navigate her £million company into calmer waters.

During this time, Gillian was struggling with chronic dieting and body shame. Healing from these experiences brought a new perspective for Gillian and she recognised the value in helping others overcome their own issues. She re-trained and became a yoga teacher and a health coach which brought about a new passion of wanting to work for herself.

“Once I became empowered, I decided I didn’t want a boss anymore. I wanted to work for myself.” – Gillian

Making the leap to self-employment 

Gillian had planned a slow transition from full-time employment, but she quickly grew impatient with the pace and recognised she had to go all in. Part of the issue was that her excitement and passion for being self employed was growing at the same time as her interest in being an employee faded. She struggled to show up in a way that felt authentic at work and handing in her notice was scary, but she felt caged. 

“In the morning when I was leaving to go to work, even putting my bag on my shoulder felt like putting on a mask of somebody I no longer was.” – Gillian

Managing the Covid pivot

Gillian McCollum Coaching, as a business, was fully online by summer 2019 so technically, there shouldn’t have been a need to pivot when lockdown began. However, her clients were experiencing stress and anxiety around life, and weren’t in the right mindset to continue their work with her.

Hitting pause on the 1:1 coaching, Gillian wanted to use the time to focus on her dream of running an online group coaching programme, but she had a new issue to tackle.

Having scheduled (and sold out) an in-person all day workshop around the same time as the national lockdown hit, she needed to find a solution to the cancellation of the event. Obviously, she wanted to avoid unnecessary refunds, and to support the clients who needed her.

Instead, Gillian turned the 1-day workshop into a 4-week online workshop series, which was a great success. She ran the 4-week programme again later in the year and used the materials as the foundation for a larger 8-week group coaching programme.

“Would the online programmes have happened last year if it wasn’t for the pandemic? No. I would still be sailing along with 1:1 clients with a dream of a group coaching programme without the impetus to go for it.” – Gillian

Pulling an online programme together

Over the years, Gillian recognised patterns of similarity in the conversations with her clients. When a theme came up she’d write it on post-it notes and stick it on the wall in front of her. The conversation collage grew over the weeks and months until it plateaued.

The post-it themes became the foundation for her programme and she was confident to go forward with it because she had the visual and experiential evidence that people needed support in these key areas.

Challenges of marketing the message

Despite having huge insight into the challenges and issues of her clients, Gillian struggles with avoiding jargon and industry language and speaking in language that connects with people who need her.

Gillian’s biggest hurdle is in the gap between the language her clients use (shaming language and negative speak) and how Gillian wants to communicate with them (positive, kind and action oriented language) because it’s the negative, shaming words that connect her to the people who need her help.

The real power is when they start to work together on moving away from it.

– “It’s that [work of] getting into the mindset of where your customers are at so you can connect with them, and then helping them to a place they want to be in the future.” – Katie

Marketing strategy for a food and body coach

Blogging & social media

Gillian’s spent the past 2 years trying out systems to get her message out. She has written a blog since starting out, but finds it very difficult to write. She’s much more natural when speaking, so she’s trying out showing up more online in audio and video as a way to show more of herself on Instagram.

She’s considering a podcast for the future, but right now prefers being a guest so she has more opportunity to speak.

Website & Email marketing

Gillian shares her blog posts to her email list, so when she struggles to write blogs she also struggles with her email list. She’s found that the blogs / emails that show her more vulnerable side are best for connection and engagement, but she struggles with the process because her corporate experience means her writing is formal and professional.

She believes that serious potential clients sit in her subscriber list, rather than on social media. Her connections and conversations go deeper through email so the majority of her sales and launch strategy takes place on her website, or email list.

Marketing plans this week

First on the list for Gillian is to write her next blog, and begin planning her next free guide. She plans to take her freebie PDF download and convert it into a free video series, with the same purpose of growing her email list.

Best marketing advice

“No-one can do what you do because nobody else IS you”

This mantra helps Gillian with her perfectionist traits. When she first set up in business she followed everyone who worked in the same industry because she wanted to learn from them. However, it pushed her into a negative space where she ended up caught in comparison and despair so she stopped following everyone who was remotely similar so she could concentrate on being authentic. There will always be someone out there who is more successful than you.

“If I get too caught up in being absorbed in [other people], I become more paralysed and self doubt creeps in. I want to create distance there. And trust in myself and knowing that my way might not be the same way, but my way is my way.” – Gillian

The books on Gillian’s book list

Latest read: Jen Sincero: You are a Badass at Making Money*. As a recovering perfectionist, Gillian felt empowered by this book as it spoke to the idea that you don’t have to have everything  figured out in business and life.

Next read: Seth Godin’s The Practice*. This book has been recommended to Gillian as it’s about the importance of showing up, particularly for creative people.

Resources in this week’s Whin Big Podcast:

Podcast 34: 4 lessons I learned about failing at blogging

Gillian’s website:

* Links marked with a star are affliate links to When you buy through these links, a small portion of the cost of the book goes to supporting your local bookshop, and a small portion comes to The Whin. The books won’t cost you any extra!

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