A client recently told me that our work together has inspired her so much that she wants to be a coach.
“Really?” I asked. “I thought you wanted to get into fashion merchandising.” This change of plans was news to me, as she seemed so excited about our plan for her to land her next job in fashion.
“I do,” she said. “But I think I’d like to do it as a coach…a fashion and wardrobe coach.”
These days it seems like everyone wants to work with a coach, know a coach, or even be a coach. Big U.S. corporations spend an estimated $1 billion per year on staff and executive coaching, and that doesn’t even begin to address the rapid growth of coaching in all fields, for corporations and individuals alike.
If you’re anything like me, the only sorts of coaches you heard of growing up were the ones on the sidelines of sports games. In this case, you’re probably wondering what a coach actually does in the business world.
Professional coaches help clients overcome hurdles and clear emotional, mental, and even physical blocks that are preventing the client from feeling fulfilled. There are countless types of coaches: relationship, sales, nutrition, wellness, organizational, among others; and there are also career coaches, like myself.
You’ll often find coaches either maintaining a private practice where they work with clients one-on-one, or scaling their business into online programs. The pricing varies from hourly rates to packages. In fact, a high-end coach can charge as much as $100,000 a year per client, coaching for as little as two hours per week.
The success of your coaching practice will depend on your vision and personality. It takes a lot to be a fantastic coach… You have to master both the coaching itself and the business side of being a coach. Far too often I come across coaches who love coaching and hate selling. As a result, they struggle in their practice. There’s nothing inspiring about that…both to them and their clients. Especially if they’re a career coach, as the trademark of a great career coach is someone who has visibly created a great career. I knew I was meant to coach because I loved helping people just as much as I loved business and marketing.
Here are some of the other surefire signs you should launch a coaching practice.
1. You are passionate about investing in yourself. Coaching is an industry that lets you write off attendance fees to spiritually-centered “woo-woo” events (think: brainstorming sessions interspersed with mini-dance parties), emotional educational conferences, and all the self-discovery books your condo can hold. In order to succeed as a coach, you must not be afraid to invest in yourself consistently. I’ve invested more than $200,000 into my own education and practice, and I channel all of that into my clients. In my experience, this is a trait shared by the best coaches. If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, why should a client invest in you? You can’t help others see their blind spots if you can’t see your own. The best coaches are constantly getting support from other coaches.
2. You have serious business acumen. Too many coaches only want to coach. That motivation and passion is critical, but as a coach, you’re also a solopreneur (until you can hire a team to support you). For better or worse, the stamina you have for coaching has to transfer over into maintaining the bottom line, and no matter what, running a business is serious work. This means personal branding, social media strategy, writing articles, speaking to audiences – and that isn’t even delving into the financial management and bookkeeping elements of the business. It’s not about whether you can do it, it’s about whether you can enjoy it enough to do it every single day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, business coaches and real estate agents share similar failure rates, not because they can’t coach enough clients or sell enough houses, but because they lack a strategic business plan. Seeing clients is a small slice of it… a good coach gets and enjoys that fact.
3. You listen even more than you advise. Studies show that listening skills can actually boost economic success, yet coaches often fail to apply this in their own practice. The worst coaches are focused only on feeding you information. A great coach has the skills to facilitate a shift in your mindset and perspective, which is only possible by really listening to you. Once that inner shift occurs, it is reflected back with massive power results. I worked with a client, Chandler, whose total lack of confidence was impacting every aspect of his career. We broke down all of the setbacks he’d been facing in the workplace until it was clear to him that he was the only obstacle standing in his way. Once he saw that, he saw results… to the tune of a $25,000 raise.
4. You know how to sell– authentically. Too often I find that service providers buy into the belief that selling is taking. To me, selling is serving… And that’s why I’ve never taken on a private client that I don’t believe in. A good coach knows to say “no” to non-ideal clients, and they know the importance of making sure their client is coachable. Great sales are all about your ability to tap into the pain a person is experiencing and help them see that you can show them the way out. It’s not about gimmicks or misleading sales strategy – it’s about communicating with people in a way that honors their integrity and makes them feel comfortable trusting you.
Launching any business requires you to have incredible faith in the service you are providing and in your ability to create results. Launching a coaching business is no exception.
There’s a story I often repeat to my clients who are forthcoming coaches when they are assessing their worth, and it’s one that applies equally to all of us who consider a career in coaching:
A woman in a café spotted Picasso doodling on a napkin. She approached him and asked if she could purchase the doodle from him. Picasso responded, “Sure. It’s $100,000.”
The woman was shocked. “But it only took you ten minutes to draw that!” she exclaimed.
“No,” Picasso said. “It took me my whole life.”
It’s not about hours for dollars – it’s about powerful wisdom that changes lives. Those of you who are meant to be coaches have been honing the skills to serve others for your entire life.
This article first appeared in Forbes.