Top 5 Tips For Starting Your Own Coaching Business
Over the last couple of years, I have had more and more messages from aspiring and newly-qualified coaches, asking for my advice on how to build a coaching business, and how to forge a successful career as a coach. I always find it immensely flattering that these people have sought me out to ask for such advice.
As I often seem to say the same thing to a number of these individuals, I thought it might be helpful to summarise this advice, and post it here for those of you who are interested in building a successful coaching practice in the future.
So, here are my top five tips for building a successful coaching business:
1. Define your niche really clearly.
When I started out, I didn’t want to target a particular niche for fear of narrowing down my income opportunities. However, I found that once I identified and was clear to others about who my ideal client was, and I worked out how I differed from other coaching providers, work picked up. In a saturated market, it’s important to become the go-to person for a specific need. With the right marketing, you can become known as the specialist in that area, and people are more likely to remember you for this and refer work your way.
In order to define your niche, ask yourself, who, specifically, do you want to work with? Be really clear, to yourself and others, who your ideal client and target market is. I’ve found it really beneficial that my niche stemmed from my own experiences (of a Quarter-Life Crisis and early career change), as you are able to relate more to the situation of your clients, and imagine the challenges they’re facing. I believe it also helps that the corporate coaching I do is often in the (legal) sector that I have direct work experience in. Your background, and the personal challenges you may have faced, could be a good place to start in working out where you want to focus your business development efforts.
2. Keep going.
It can be helpful to be aware that it may take a long time for you to build up your network and contacts to the point where your coaching income supports you full-time. It took me approximately five years before I was a full-time coach, and even then I had my husband’s financial support. I re-trained as a coach whilst working full-time in an unrelated field. I then slowly reduced my days, working part-time, whilst I built up my coaching profile and client base. I only quit my job when I felt that my coaching could provide the same level of income as my job, if not a little more. It felt amazing to get to a point where I could do that, and I was really proud of that decision. It took a lot of hard work, persistence, resilience, and patience though...but I got there. Just remember, it can take time. If you’re a worrier, like me, it might be useful to consider additional sources of income whilst you’re building your coaching business.
Inevitable really, but has to be said. Your network is so important. A lot of my higher profile work came through connections, many years after I met them initially. Keep in touch with those you meet, and keep reminding them you exist through social media and the odd email (GDPR compliant though, obviously!), reminding them of your specialism and what specific challenges you can help them with. That way, you are at the forefront of their mind when that type of work/client comes up.
4. Say yes...and no.
I love that quote by Richard Branson that says, “if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” I often taken that attitude, saying yes to opportunities that I’ve never done before, and that sound super scary. It’s these opportunities that have gone on to become the highlights of my career, and they are the ones I’m most proud of too.
At the same time, however, I would advise you to also have the confidence to say no to clients and opportunities that aren’t really reflective of where you want your business and career to go. I often said yes to things in the past that, if I’m honest, I knew deep down I didn’t really want to do, not because of fear or feeling uncomfortable, but because they weren’t in line with my niche or mission.
Someone once said to me, “never make a decision when you’re in a vulnerable place.” The times I said yes, when I should’ve said no, were times when work was slow and my finances were diminishing. I felt desperate for work, and I worried I’d be missing out if I turned down an opportunity to raise my profile or take on a new client. However, such an approach can often result in you resenting your business later on, and the direction it starts to take.
The beauty of running your own coaching business is the freedom you have to make decisions that work for you, and that reflect where you want to go in the future; so, be selective and make the wisely.
5. Try not to compare.
Comparison very rarely has a positive outcome. By all means, take inspiration and motivation from what other coaches are doing, but try to remember that you are only seeing the carefully-curated surface of their ‘success’.
I love that quote, “don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.” It sums up beautifully what I’m also trying to say here - focus on your own journey and be confident in the knowledge that you’ll get to where other coaches are in their journey, all in good time. They all started out where you are now, and there’s no reason you can’t go on to be the one inspiring new coaches in the years to come.
Obviously, these are bits of advice based on my own experiences. They worked for me, and still do, but everyone is different. Follow your instincts and you’ll be just fine. It’s so great to see more and more individuals in their 20s and 30s training to be coaches, and even identifying it as a career option straight out of education. The coaching industry is growing, which is fantastic for those who can benefit from coaching, and for those that are passionate about contributing to it.
I am now able to say what truly drives and fulfils me, and what my values are. I had spent so much time being flexible and slipping into roles, that I had lost track of what really satisfies me at work, and I now know that is. A truly supportive and caring person that I would recommend to anyone feeling at a crossroad in their careers.