I am reqularly asked,
“What’s the best way to become a professional coach?”
If you are interested in becoming a coach and starting a coaching business, I’d like to offer you some practical success and training tips, do’s and don’ts, timing, cost and income information to save you time, money and suffering.
This information will help you to check out this profession, appreciate the real challenges and, if you think it might be a fit for you, get started on the right track.
– Steve Mitten CPCC, MCC (Master Certified Coach)
Professional coaching is a calling. It is all about helping others. So if you enjoy people, and would like the flexibility that comes with running your own business, coaching may be a good career fit for you.
As a coach, you work one-on-one helping clients; discover what is truly important to them, bring out their best, make changes they cannot make on their own, and achieve the outcomes they most desire. It is wonderfully rewarding work which is can be done over the phone or in person. And with the proper training (in coaching and business skills) and a consistent effort it is possible to create a profitable business and a comfortable professional income within a few years. With the right approach you can begin to work with clients, and generate income within the first couple of months. And while a few coaches fill their practices within the first year, for the vast majority, it would be wise to assume it will take you longer. More on timing later.
Coaching is growing quickly. Due to its popularity, high client satisfaction levels and growing demand, the coaching industry continues to grow quickly. The fact that 98.5% of all clients are satisfied with their coach (ICF research) speaks to the value of the process and is a good indicator for the future of the industry. And as more evidence-based research comes available, showing the efficacy of coaching, the profession will continue to grow.
However, just because coaching is an very effective service does not mean it is an easy business to get started in. There are real challenges in creating a commercially viable coaching practice, and if you are coming into coaching you will need to have your eyes fully open.
Top Reasons Why I Love Coaching
- It allows me to really make a difference in people’s lives.
- Coaching allows me to connect with a dynamic and diverse group of interesting people all over the globe, every working day.
- It provides the freedom to work flexible hours from my home in winter, and the family cabin in summer. (There is never a commute, and I am always close to my family.)
- It allows me to make a comfortable 6-figure income working about 25 hours a week and take off about 185 days a year.
- It allows me to continue to learn and grow, and keeps me in a supportive professional community of open, caring and dedicated people.
The 3 Key Success Indicators
What separates successful coaches from the many that struggle?
I came into coaching in its infancy. And watching and working with hundreds of coaches over the years, I have come to a few conclusions about what it takes to succeed in this business. What separates the really happy and successful coaches, from the far too many coaches who struggle, essentially boils down to three main areas:
1) Good Coaches enjoy coaching
Make sure you actually enjoy coaching. After all, as a coach you will be doing this every working day. Do you enjoy talking with people? Do you get excited when you see them succeed? Do people naturally come to you for advice? Would you enjoy the freedom of self-employment?
If these statements are true for you, you may want to consider actually hiring a coach for a few months – to get a first-hand feel for this profession that you are considering joining. Is this for real? What is the experience of being coached like? What are the benefits you see in your life, career or business? (Just make sure your coach is ICF certified, will chat with you for free – to answer questions and see if there is rapport – and will not require any long-term contract.)
If money is really tight and you cannot afford to work with a coach, you can at least explore some of the free orientation calls or courses that many of the ICF accredited coach training schools provide.
2) Good Coaches get great training
If you are going to do something, it pays to do it well. As to learning how to coach, you will acquire your training two ways.
You will learn a little about coaching by working with a mentor coach. Your coach will help you experience the benefits of coaching – so you really know how it all works – help you understand the profession, choose the best school and assist you in the building of your practice. (More on the value of this later.)
However the main way you will learn your coaching skills is by finding the best ICF accredited training school for you. And you would be well advised to do your homework on the various coach training schools. There are now over 250 “coaching schools” and more popping up each week. As of this writing, 44 are actually accredited by the ICF (International Coach Federation.)
Be particularly wary of any school that is not ICF accredited. I have had many clients who have dropped a bundle on schools that gave them little value. The ICF sets the highest standards of credentialing and accreditation in the profession. Any school with an ICF accredited coach training program has proven that it has the minimum content, number of hours, instructor qualifications, etc. so all of your training will count towards ICF certification down the road.
Like any fast growing profession, coaching has a number of groups offering inferior coaching programs to the unsuspecting. Some of these programs are well packaged and well marketed. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. This even applies to those schools that are accredited by the ICF. They all have different philosophies, approaches, training styles, costs, etc. Some train in person, some do it over the phone. Make sure you pick the right one for you. Having taken training from a number of schools, my personal preference is for those that train in person. (I took most of my training at www.thecoaches.com. ) I just found the experience of being immersed in coaching – learning a skill then breaking into pairs and practicing it, getting feedback, and learning the next skill – was a more powerful learning environment.
3) Successful Coaches pay sufficient attention to the business side of their practice, and work to understand and master marketing – Please pay attention here.
This is where far too many new coaches drop the ball. If you want to be very successful as a coach, you will need to learn about the actual business of coaching. Here I am referring to the actual setting up, operating and especially MARKETING your coaching practice.
There are simply far more good coaches, than there are good coaches with full practices. The missing ingredients for many struggling coaches are; marketing/business know-how, a good support team, and budgeting sufficient amounts of time and money to build a profitable practice.
In my opinion, many coaching schools do no where near enough to educate and support coaches to succeed in the business of coaching. Many underplay the real challenges of building a profitable coaching business. Expect to put in a lot of time to find the best, most natural, cost effective and easiest way of sharing your coaching gifts with the world, profitably. (This is an area you will want to talk through with any mentor coach you may work with.) Even if you are strong in marketing, as coaching is a relatively new profession, some of the traditional ways of promoting your services may not work well. (Click for more specific tips and useful marketing info to help you build a successful practice.)
Also note that not everyone is cut out to be in business by themselves. In my experience less than 50% of the population has the attributes to succeed in business all on their own.
How long does it take to become a Coach?
Regarding timing, it is different for everyone. And like any new endeavor, the first few months will be very slow. Typically you will be spending 90% of your time learning to coach and doing your marketing.
However many diligent coaches – i.e. who follow the above guidelines – are able to begin coaching and generate some income within 3 to 6 months, and make a transition into full time coaching within a year to 18 months. However, if you do not pay attention to learning the necessary business and marketing skills, you can struggle for years.
Some people have launched successful coaching practices with less than $5000 dollars. However, for most coaches; who want to do it right (i.e. get the best coach mentoring & training, set up a good home-office, marketing materials, web site, etc and thus stand the best chance of future success) you would be prudent to budget at least $12 – 17K for direct expenses over the first year. (Note- if you are not transitioning into coaching from some other income earning activity – that will continue to carry your lifestyle while you are becoming a coach – you will need to budget for all your ongoing personal and living expenses for at least a year.)
If you have never started a business before, this may seem like a lot. But when you compare it with the cost of buying an existing business, coaching is very inexpensive to get into. And keep in mind that you can be generating an income within a few months, and this coaching income can go to offset your costs. When you really hit your stride as a coach, you can recover your investment quickly.
Coaching is so young a vocation that reliable income numbers have been challenging to come by. I have seen claims from a variety of sources saying that coaching is an easy way to make a good living, quickly. Don’t believe it. In my experience 40% of the profession does the lion’s share of the business. These are generally coaches that love what they do, are well trained, and have put in the time to learn the basic entrepreneurial and marketing skills needed to attract their ideal clients. And conversely there are too many hobbyist coaches, and far too many well-trained coaches who simply did not pay enough attention to the business side of their practice, that are struggling to make a good living as a coach.
A successful full time coach, coaching 20 individual clients a month at $350 per client, would gross $7000 per month. If you work with 25 executive or entrepreneur clients at say $700 per month, you would gross $17,500 per month. Overhead and expenses for a coaching practice are usually quite small, rarely over 15% of sales. However, don’t let the numbers dazzle you. Currently only about 15% of coaches earn over $100K per year.
A study, commissioned by the ICF and conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers involving some 5415 coaches around the world found that the average annual salary of a full time coach was just over $82,000. This study found the average income of a part time coach was just over $26,000. If you are an ICF member you can buy a copy of this study from them.
In the end, what you achieve is up to you. And keep in mind that even if you have a full practice of say 20 clients, you will still have ample time to do other income generating activities that complement your coaching practice. Many coaches find workshops, writing and speaking as natural activities that both generate additional income and help build their coaching practices.
In summary, if you like working with people, have some entrepreneurial ability, and you get great coach training, and take a professional and consistent approach to the business and marketing of coaching, you stand a good chance of joining the top 40% of this profession. And you can become one of the fortunate souls that make a great living doing what they love. Just do not underestimate how long and how challenging it can take to get a new coaching business off the ground.
In the end, I think coaching is something you are called to do. And if you hear that calling, I am sure you will find the whole process one of the most satisfying journeys of your life. It won’t always be easy. You will have your share of challenges. But the lessons you will learn, the growth you will experience, and the huge satisfaction of having a positive impact on so many people’s lives will make it all worth while. Personally, I enjoyed the whole process of becoming a coach, immensely.
How do I get started the right way?
(And avoid the bid, costly mistakes.)
If you have done your soul searching and research, and are getting more and more excited about becoming a coach, and want to do it right, here’s something to consider.
Before you make any decisions about; quitting your existing job, signing up with one of the hundred coaching schools, blowing a bundle on advertising, or just hanging out your shingle, consider getting some experienced coaching and mentoring. The benefits you would be looking for include:
- truly experiencing the benefits of coaching from an experienced, certified coach – so you know what it feels like to be coached well.
- learning the differences between the myriad of coaching schools so you can make a good decision on the best, and most cost effective, training route for you.
- understanding the relevancy of the ICF and the process of credentialing.
- understanding the logistics of getting started; phones, office set-up, admin, etc.
- exploring and understanding the various ways of successfully marketing yourself. (Very important for your success.)
- appreciating what is necessary to become a very successful coach.
Many experienced coaches provide this mentoring service. I would suggest you simply make sure your mentor coach is:
- an ICF Credentialed Coach (has their MCC, PCC or ACC) with at least 3 years experience. (So they are bound by the ICF code of ethics and have been independently tested and shown to be very good at what they do.)
- great at marketing. ( And has a very successful practice to prove it, working with many clients outside of the world of coaching.)
- confident enough in their ability as a coach that they don’t try to tie you up with any long-term contracts.
- happy to chat with you and see if there is a good fit.
Alternatively, if you are really tight on cash, you might want to sign up to experience a little coach training directly. Some schools, such as www.thecoaches.com offer a first round of training for under $900. You can take that, find out what coaching is all about, and then decide whether it is a fit for you. If it is, you can continue with your training.
If you would like to work with me.
Generally Coaches are lovely people, and I love helping new coaches succeed. And even though it is the lowest paying work I do, there is always 20% of my practice reserved just to work with coaches.
My ideal coach client would typically:
- feel that coaching is their calling.
- have high integrity.
- love working with people and be coming into coaching because they truly want to make a difference in other people’s lives.
- know that true success is an inside-out job, and recognize you will need to change to get better results.
- be serious about making a successful transition into coaching and yet want to enjoy the process of growth and development.
- want to get the best training and coaching possible so that they can become a masterful and successful coach.
- be committed to do what it takes to create a very successful practice, in the top 30% of the profession.
If this describes you, I know I can make a huge difference in getting your coaching career off the ground quickly and successfully. Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s arrange a time to chat. My rate for working with coaches is $500 for a set of 2 sessions, which takes the average client a month, but you can spread the calls out on whatever basis best serves you. (I do not require contracts or long term commitments because I believe you should get a ton of value out of each call or find another coach.)
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For those of you committed to more success, but on a tight budget, check out my most popular group program at 6 Figure Practice.
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