(In response to a discussion on the Facebook Group Kickass CTI Coaches.)
This is a conversation that has been going on for as long as I have been in coaching. There have always been coaches and coach trainers helping newer coaches learn their skills and get started in the business. This is the way it works in many professions. Bakers learn to bake by working with bakers. Lawyers learn how to be a lawyer from other lawyers.
And there has always been a significant number of well-trained, experienced, coaches, (most of whom are good coaches, good souls, and kind people) who have simply chosen to specialize in supporting other coaches. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is what they are called to do. However, over the past 10 years the total number of coaches helping other coaches has grown and grown – in large part because it is looks like a relatively friendly market for many coaches who have been frustrated in their attempts to attract enough clients, in the real world outside of coaching. And even though it is lovely to work with other coaches, it is my observation that this market is now quite saturated. This means that many coaches who have chosen to specialize in helping other coaches, are struggling to fill their practices amid all the competition.
What has also changed in the last few years, perhaps due to industry growth and tougher competition, is the sheer number of people energetically promoting seeming short cut, quick fixes, one-size-fits-all, expensive, seemingly guaranteed solutions to mega success as a coach. (Many of the worst offenders are not coaches themselves and know very little about the nuances of marketing coaching services.)
So, like any fast growing industry, we have our share of real challenges. And certainly if all you see is the world that surrounds your training environment, or coaching industry functions, it can look a bit like a pyramid scheme – in that many of the successful coaches you see are working with other coaches.
However, when you move out beyond “coachland” into the real world of people’s, lives, careers and businesses, the view broadens dramatically. And what we have seen in these markets is that aggregate demand for coaches has grown steadily for the past 20 years. (You can see one of the latest annual international studies on the topic by Googling “Sherpa Coaching Study.”) However, you can never appreciate the scale of the opportunities out there, if you never really learn how to market coaching to real world clients. And we certainly don’t learn what we need to know about building a successful practice in our coach training.
Thus, one of the regular soap boxes, that I get up on whenever I can, reminds newer coaches that:
1) You really do need to put equal time and energy into the business building activities/knowledge base growth as you do to into learning how to coach. Because for many coaches, getting to a break-even point can take between 1 and 2 years, even if you know what you are doing.
2) You really do benefit from finding a good niche, in that it gets you away from attempting to sell generic coaching (which is not highly understood and valued by the general public) and allows you instead to talk/educate/build relationships/market on the real problems/challenges/changes/solutions that your ideal clients are willing and able to spend money on.
3) Most of our first coaches are wonderful people who can help us master our coaching skills, but unless they are getting a good portion of their clients from marketing they do in the real world, outside of coaching, they may not be able to help you build your practice there.
4) In my opinion, you do not have to earn 6 Figures to be happy and successful as a coach. I do however know many coaches who earn over $100K per annum, but as a percentage of the pool of coaches my best guess is that it is less than 15% of all coaches. And most of the coaches that do earn the bigger bucks do have practices that include business/professional/executive clients. (From a recent Sherpa Coaching Revenue Study, the average exec coach is now charging over $350/hour, the average business coach is charging over $250/hour and the average life coach is charging around $170/hr. Obvious these are averages from the thousands of coaches who participated in the study, but you can see you would have to work twice as hard to generate the same income if you only work with life coaching clients.) Many coaches, and most coaches in business for less than a couple of years are still struggling to fill their practices. Not everyone is cut out to be in business for themselves. And even if you are, there is a start-up curve for everything, and over the first 75% of the business building runway, you will get very little altitude. Personally I don’t think there is something suspect in earning 6 Figures if you want or need to, as long as you always treat people with integrity, as you would want to be treated.
Personally, I do have a diverse practice with my share of exec and business clients, as well as many individual life coaching clients in personal or spiritual transitions. I have also always reserved a portion of my time to support other coaches. I love the variety in working in all these areas. A few years ago when I had 3 daughters in university, I chose to work a little harder and earn more. These days I love the freedom to work less and travel a little more. In winter I try to have between 15 – 22 client calls most weeks. In summer I cut back a lot. Most days I am still done by noon. (I only coach via the phone and most of my calls average 30 – 40 minutes. So I spend no time suiting up and traveling.) And as I have long ago figured out a few good ways that suit my personality to attract and connect to my ideal clients, I really do not have to work too hard to keep a net coaching income in 6 Figures.
5) As to business development programs, I do not believe there is one coach, one approach or one program that will be a good fit for everyone. There certainly isn’t one approach to marketing that will work for everyone. The coaches I see succeeding most often, are coaches who have worked with different coaches/mentors, learned different approaches/techniques, read all the marketing material they can find, and figured out what works for them.
Generally I encourage coaches to do their homework really well on potential programs or mentors. Some of the questions I think are relevant when researching are:
- Is the mentor/trainer a well-trained/experienced coach? (This is important because what works in marketing other well-known products or services, may not work marketing coaching – which is not as well understood by the market.)
- Do they have a viable, long-term practice outside of the work they do with coaches? (I have seen way too many coaches who are still struggling themselves, suddenly start offering business development programs to other coaches. This can lead to a blind leading the blind situation.)
- Do they let you pay as you go, or do you need to pay everything up front? (Seen a few too many coaches drop many thousands on a program only find out it is not a fit, or worse, the content is a complete waste of time.)
- Can you leave at any time if it is not a fit? (There is an argument to locking participants into a program so they don’t give up or get distracted when the inevitable challenges, or requirement to step out of their current comfort zone, shows up. However, I long ago decided it really is more important to hold everyone as NCRW and give them this choice.)
- Does the program offer past participants huge financial incentives to promote the said program to their contacts? (Some of these incentives are so big (in the thousands of $) that it completely skews objectivity and undermines the credibility of the testimonial.
Finally, I do encourage all coaches to keep connected to each other and support each other on this journey. We really cannot make in on our own. Even if every coach knew all the marketing best practices – there is certainly a lot of good books and reference material out there these days. I literally have years of free talks, videos, recording and articles on my site, and there are many other repositories of marketing info, such as the resources on the CoActive Network – the biggest obstacles most coaches face in building their practice is mindset/limiting beliefs related. It seems we all really benefit from revising our assumptions and beliefs and working through our accumulated mental habits and baggage.
The point is, information alone is rarely enough. We need each other, a buddy, colleague or a good 1 to 1 coach or mentor to help us navigate through these bigger adaptive changes.
Hope this helps,
Affordable Business Development For Coaches
I believe coaches do important work in the world, and that they need more affordable and effective business training. Too many coaches struggle needlessly.
So I have always reserved a portion of my practice to work with coaches and run affordable business development programs for coaches. These programs have legions of fans, and fill up quickly by word of mouth.
Like all my work, each of these come with a money back guarantee. Learn more here.