Lockdown Economy Netherlands with Intimacy and Relationship Coach Marga Berlinski
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Anna Delicata
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview hosted by Rosie Allison, Marga Berlinski, the founder of TurnOn the Netherlands relationship and intimacy coaching tells us about how she moved her talks, training and lectures online during the pandemic. Marga discussed how her business is expanding after moving to online methods of coaching, as she can reach a wider audience and promote herself on different forums. She talked about the resistance she felt while initially creating her social media presence, and gave valuable insights into how business owners can move past this resistance to harness the marketing power of online platforms. Marga found collaboration and communication to be the most valuable resources available to her during the pandemic, seeking help from other entrepreneurs in the same position as she was, and always remembering that she wasn’t alone. For Marga, the three things she needs help with right now to move forward with her business are exposure, collaboration and personal support.
Could you explain a bit more about what you do as a business?
Marga: I am a trainer and a coach. I train and coach people to express themselves more freely in the areas of intimacy, relationships and sex. It ranges from workshops to personal one-on-one coaching where we really look in-depth into what’s stopping you from expressing yourself or creating what you want in life.
How long have you been doing this?
Marga: My business has officially existed for almost 4 years, and I’ve worked and practised in this field for about six years.
Okay, so quite a bit of time. Do you have any employees or are do you work on your own?
Marga: I am a solo entrepreneur. I don’t have any employees or staff working from me.
That must be difficult.
Marga: It can be challenging at times.
How many clients do you normally have at any one time?
Marga: It really depends. Sometimes, I give a lecture to about 15 or 25 people, or more if I do bigger events. Right now, I have six ongoing clients who are in coaching packages. In intimate workshops, I have between five to ten people. It really fluctuates.
Do you have clients who tend to come back, who book for a long period of time, or is it more individual workshops?
Marga: It’s divided between clients who sign up to coaching, say for 3 months, or people who either attend a workshop once or come for an extended period of time.
So, it’s a combination?
Your company is very personal. You rely a lot on face-to-face interactions and you talk about topics that have a very personal nature. So, how did you react during the lockdown? Did you have to go online? What was that process like for you?
Marga: It was quite a challenge in the sense that I used to do a lot of lectures and talks in person and didn’t do as much online. My focus wasn’t to really create an online presence in that sense; I did a lot of in-person talks, training and coaching. When that stopped, I had to shift my mindset. I already had experience on Zoom, and I’d done some training, coaching and transformational work online, so I knew that it was possible to adapt in this way. But I hadn’t yet done it with my own business.
I started playing around with it. I held more online talks and moved my monthly training program from in-person to online. It was trial and error, really. It was challenging because some people dropped out and said they’d come back when we come back in person again. But others said it’s great because they don’t have to travel anymore. Through playing and practice, I really discovered that the work that I do in person could be just as powerful online via Zoom. That was a great discovery.
Given that it’s a personal topic, did you find that there was a different dynamic on Zoom? Or once you and your clients had got them used to the technology, was it just the same as it is if you were face-to-face?
Marga: There is a difference. You can’t chat to the person next to you or have a quick side conversation. So, it feels different. You need to bring a different mindset to it, both as a participant and a coach or trainer. But the conversations went just as deep. People were just as open and expressive. They still shared to the level they were comfortable with.
Indeed, it is a very personal topic, but the great thing was that now people from all over the world could join. Suddenly I had an online talk that I promoted worldwide and had people attend from nine different countries, from all kinds of cultures. They shared their experience and how it was like for them in their culture, which was beautiful. I felt that people really opened up in the space I created. So, I think the same depth can be reached. It just has a slightly different flavour to it.
A different dynamic?
Marga: Yes, definitely.
You said that it was a bit of trial and error when you first started changing things to online zoom sessions. Were there any things that worked particularly well and any that really didn’t work at all?
Marga: One thing — which also applies in person — is how to name your event. I had to figure out what would spark interest from people. With any given workshop, if I put it one way, I attracted certain kinds of people, and if I framed it another way, I attracted different kinds of people. This made me ask myself who I actually want to attract.
The lockdown made me re-think the audience I want to attract and ask myself who I’d like to work with, and then be really clear in my messaging. This is important to any business, but I was thrown back to that spot. I’d been there before, but I had to reassess and look again at how to do that, kind of rebrand myself.
And focus again on who you’re attracting and how are you going to attract them?
Marga: Yes, and also on which platform. Some platforms didn’t work really attract the traffic that I had before. For example, on Meetup, the in-person meet-ups are great, and I had a lot of people showing up. But when I made it online people didn’t show up anymore. I don’t know why, but on another platform that was more sexually-oriented, I suddenly got way more response. So maybe that particular audience was more comfortable, already searching online and trying things out, and found me easier.
Did you do any research, or was it really just trial and error and seeing what works?
Martha: It was more trial and error. I’m doing more official research now, working with a strategist. But in the beginning, it was really a case of seeing what works and what doesn’t.
That’s the best way sometimes.
Marga: Well, yes, and no. I really got to see what works and figure things out myself, but I found that getting support from someone who is skilled in that area is really helpful. As an entrepreneur working alone, you need to pull in resources. Doing everything alone is a pitfall.
That’s such a great tip. How is your business going now, given that we might be going into a second lockdown? What’s your situation right now?
Marga: It’s expanding, which is great. Before lockdown, I wasn’t so consistent online. That was my bad — I knew I had to but I didn’t. I was doing a hundred thousand things at once and that that wasn’t really on my radar. But suddenly, I had nothing else but my house and my laptop, so I had to expand, show up online and put myself out there. And it’s been expanding from there.
I did some social media training as well and tackled the things I find challenging about it. This made me realise that social media can be for everyone. You have to find where you’re blocked or the thing you’re scared to do. For me, social media was all ways associated with having had a perfect fake image, and I didn’t want to be a part of it. The training flipped my mindset to realise that I have a personal message that I can bring, and social media is a tool to share that message, I don’t have to fake anything. That was a massive shift to me. From there I started to play with different platforms. So, discover your resistances, work with them so you can actually find power in them. And develop the freedom to try things out. Otherwise, you’re only dealing with resistance, and that costs energy.
That could be excellent advice for the people who are a bit resistant to social media. There’s often lots of negative press about social media. It’s an interesting idea to change your mindset to instead have positive thoughts about it.
Marga: It was also about showing myself. I wasn’t so comfortable just introducing myself on video, I felt so uncomfortable. I had to go through that awkward stage. But it gets better. It’s a process to go through and it does support you when people can find you.
Tell me about the future. What is your outlook for the coming months, with your business?
Marga: To keep the expansion happening. My biggest challenge is to stay consistent. Before lockdown, I could get away with not being online. I had other events and things I could do, so I was visible. But now, keeping a consistent flow is the challenge. If I maintain that, I believe I will just expand the followers I have, the people I engage with and with the presence I’ve created. That’s a very exciting thing to be working on.
How do you plan to keep this consistency? Do you have deadlines or targets to meet each month, with your social media presence?
Marga: I create a plan each month, which I learnt in my social media training. I plan my week and month and work with that. I also have a buddy I share with daily. We update each other on what’s happening. She has her own (totally different) business, and we support each other. You really need it, especially when you’re on your own. You need to create a structure. You cannot do it alone. When I wake up and don’t feel like doing it, talking to my buddy makes all the difference. We inspire each other, lift each other up. You have to make sure you have a support system around you.
I think that is brilliant advice. And where did you find this buddy, is this an organised thing or is it to someone you knew?
Marga: This with someone I knew from an earlier event. It might have been the Amsterdam entrepreneurial meetup or another network. We connected and became friends. I’ve also done a lot of training for personal development and find a lot of people there I can connect with. I’d say, find someone who is on the same path as you, with their business. Or somebody who is willing to listen committedly, or happy to check in with you and tell you what they do every day and help each other focus on the next thing. If you do that, it keeps the momentum going.
That’s really invaluable, having someone there to support you in that journey. So the final question could you name three things that you need help within your business right now?
Marga: It’s definitely exposure. What I said about the presence so that people can hear the message that I have. All the things that I offer and the training from the coaching that I offer. Also, collaboration. It’s really important to find people to work with or do events together. And that’s also fun. It really is important to bring that fun. I love to work together with people. I don’t know about you, but if I’m alone in my office, I kind of wither and die at the end if I don’t speak to people. I’m a flower that wilts. So finding people to work together with is really important. I want to expand on that. And my personal support, to keep myself clear, keep developing and training myself.
Thank you very much Marga. I think that was a really interesting and insightful interview. Do you have anything to say, to finish?
Marga: Just thank you. And I really appreciate and loved this interview. I think it’s really great, we have to work together to get through this together, so my appreciation goes to you, for doing all these interviews, and for the organisation that is creating this.
About the Guest
TurnOn the Netherlands offers a combination of coaching and powerful exercises that help you discover self-imposed constraints around sexuality and relationships. You will learn a new set of tools and strategies to go past those limiting beliefs. This will leave you empowered and able to take new actions and behave differently in situations you felt stuck in before, creating relationships you really love.