I often get asked the question of how I became a life coach. People are genuinely interested in how one chooses a profession such as this. The first life coach I met hired me to do her headshots when I was freelancing full time as a photographer. Even then when I met her, it didn’t click until much later that coaching was for me. While working as a photographer, I realized I wanted to help people beyond just taking pictures of them. I wanted to inspire and motivate them. Finding photography was life-changing for me and it wasn’t until I had gone through my own transformation of leaving my job to work for myself that I felt joy in teaching others to do the same.
Many of the coaches I know became coaches only after experiencing their own personal change that transformed them. Careercoach.com Founder, Tanya Ezekiel switched gears when she realized there was much more to life than what she endured in her demanding career as a Wall Street executive. Mark Schall, became a coach after the loss of a dear friend which helped put things in perspective for him. Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big became a coach when she grew tired of her B+ life and pursued her calling to help women play bigger in life and work.
Very rarely does one set out to become a coach but somehow coaching tends to finds us instead. We experience it first as a deep desire to help people and connect with them beyond the mundane. We hold a deep love and appreciation for humanity and the potential we all have for transformation and greatness. We have witnessed it in ourselves and find pure joy in bringing it out in others. It is a true privilege to be a coach. However it is also a big responsibility. Being a coach for the last six years and building a business coaching others, I’ve learned some hard-earned lessons around what it takes to be successful. With so many new coaches starting out, I’m passing along my top 8 lessons I learned about building a coaching practice.
While this list is specifically tailored to coaches, it can be applied in most businesses where you are providing a service.
Lesson #1 Decide if you want to get certified as a coach. There are a lot of pros and cons to getting the certification. The coaching industry is not regulated so anyone can say they are a coach without having the credentials. I chose to go through a coach training program to become certified. At the time, since coaching was so new to me I wanted to learn more about the methodologies used to be an effective coach. Having your certification also builds credibility. However, in all my years of coaching I have never been asked if I am certified but I have gotten amazing work opportunities that specifically wanted certified coaches. That said, it is up to you and ultimately it is a personal choice. If you do decide to pursue a coaching certification, do your research of the program that will be right for you.
Lesson #2 Coach, coach coach! I see so many new coaches make the mistake of getting their website done, having business cards, setting up Facebook pages and worrying about their niche first. When I ask them how many clients do they have, most of them say none. In the beginning of building your practice focus on building your craft first. Find pro-bono clients and even some paid ones and coach as much as you can. This will help build your confidence and know the areas you help people the most. There is nothing worse than a coach who is not confident in her abilities so focus on the people side of the business first then all the other things will fall into place.
Lesson #3 Don’t confuse your self worth with the value your clients are getting. Price accordingly. Another major block that gets in the way for most new coaches is devaluing their work. I did this in the beginning where I charged really low fees while trying to build a sustainable business. I constantly questioned my worth as a coach and whether clients saw me as worthy enough to pay a certain amount. This screws up the work that you do for your clients not just from a business standpoint but energetically, it creates a block both for you and for your client. When you use your self worth as a gauge for your fees you neglect to take into account the actual value that you are providing to your client. The work you do for your client should always be about the value they receive not whether you think you are worthy of being paid a certain amount. That kind of thinking stems from ego and gets in the way of truly serving at its highest level. I’ll give you a quick example:
One year while building my practice, I raised my rates to the highest I’ve ever charged. I quoted my new fee to a prospect that was interested in working with me. She was afraid of the price tag but I stood firm and she made the payment. The entire time I coached her, I was so worried that she would think I wasn’t worth the money she paid so I constantly felt like I had to prove myself in each session. This particular client ended up being one of my best clients and had the biggest transformation through our work together. At the end of our time she shared with me that although she was afraid in the beginning to spend so much money she quickly saw the shifts in her life and business that the money became a non-issue. She said the breakthroughs she experienced both personally and professionally were priceless.
So again, don’t let the money get in the way. Serve your clients by creating the most value for them.
Lesson #4 Surround yourself with successful coaches. There’s a lot we don’t know as coaches when first starting out. If you truly want to make the biggest impact and do good work seek out the best in the biz and learn from them. I was very fortunate in that I was able to make some really good connections with coaches and secured opportunities to work alongside them. I learned the nuts and bolts of building a coaching business, creative ways to secure steady streams of income, and also learned powerful coaching techniques. The key to any great success in business is spending time with people who have done the thing you desire to do.
Lesson #5 Walk your talk. The thing about being a coach is that it keeps you honest and constantly presents opportunities to develop yourself personally. The law of attraction is real folks. I constantly find myself attracting clients and situations in my own life that are the same as what my clients go through. This happens to a lot of coaches as well. Use these situations to practice your craft and transform yourself. If you don’t, how will you be able to do it for your clients? If you are a health/wellness coach you better make sure you are honoring your own health. If you are a divorce coach, you must be able to speak to how you successfully navigated a divorce yourself. If you are a life coach, you better make sure your life is perfect. Just kidding on that last part! Being a coach is not about having your shit together or being perfect at anything. It’s about being human. We have all stumbled and made mistakes but you must be in your integrity when working with other people. People can sense when you’re being disingenuous.
Lesson #6 Invest in your own coach. Many of us want to be coaches but we don’t want to hire our own coach. I hear so many excuses why this is the case. If you want people to hire you, they will have the same excuses that you have for not doing so. Even doctors need their own doctors and therapists have therapists. This is not a game you want to play alone. Left to our own devices we cannot bring out the best in ourselves, even the most successful. I resisted hiring a coach until my 2nd year of business and have worked with different coaches since. I wasn’t making a lot of money then so it didn’t make sense to me. But I was making the decision based on the level I was at the time, not the higher level I wanted to be. This shift changed the game for me. I hired a coach, relaxed into the process and more than double my income that year.
Lesson #7 Don’t be afraid of the hustle. In the beginning, I hustled like mad to network and get clients for my business. I told everyone and anyone that I was a coach and to keep me in mind if anyone was looking for my services. This helped me to get out of my comfort zone; it taught me to get myself out there and ask for what I want. Your clients can come from anywhere. Your only job is to constantly “show up” and be of service. The hustle never stops so find ways to enjoy the process. There are days when I spend hours on the not so sexy back-end stuff like making phone calls, writing sales pages, and prospecting. This is all apart of the work you are doing in the world to serve people. It’s not for everyone so be honest with yourself in what you are choosing.
Lesson #8 Find your own way. This was a huge turning point for me. In my first few years as a coach I tried doing what everyone else did to build a successful business. I was on social media, had a Twitter account (even though I NEVER used Twitter), went to BNI networking meetings at the crack of dawn because other coaches had done it, flew across the country to attend conferences from big wig coaches who had houses on the beach and bought their programs for thousands of dollars – I did it all. I got burnt out very quickly chasing down gurus to mimic their success. In the end, I stopped chasing and focused on the things I was really good at. I was always a good writer so now I focus my time on writing beautiful articles and essays. I love to speak and do motivational talks so I make sure to do speaking engagements as much as I can. I love having thought provoking, inspiring conversations with people so I carve out time to do this regularly. All of these ways have led clients to me, sometimes unexpectedly. My advice to you would be, listen and learn information from others who have been successful but take only what works for you and leave the rest. What worked for them may not work for you. Don’t be afraid to find your own way.
There is SO much more I could say about becoming a coach. I loved my journey. It wasn’t without its bumps and difficult challenges but the people I have met along the way, more than make up for it. When you choose this life you embrace it all.
Which of these lessons resonates most with you? What has been your experience as a new coach?