Each week, I receive calls and emails from people who are interested in becoming life coaches. For various reasons, their hearts have called them to the profession, and they want to know more - what it's like, any tips I have, and what my experience has been like.
The tragic truth is that I see many brilliant coaches fail, or become so frustrated with their coaching practice that they abandon it altogether.
Here are three key questions to consider in order to increase your odds of success, happiness, and fulfillment as a coach.
1. Why Do You Want to Become a Coach?
The answer I hear most commonly is "to help people." While this is great and noble, I lovingly say that this is not enough. You can help people in your current job, you can help people by volunteering, and you can help people through a position with a nonprofit where you still get paid.
What is your deep, compelling Why that cannot be ignored? What is your Why that outweighs walking away from your corporate job, your salary, and your benefits? What is your "why" that makes paying $12,000 for a coach training and certification program a Hell, Yeah?
This crystal clear Why will be essential when you start telling people about what you're up to. It will be essential for creating content that feels 100% like you. And it will be essential on the days when building a coaching practice is damn hard.
Before moving forward with training, certification, or abandoning your corporate job for good, spend some time reflecting on your Why. If it feels squishy, or unclear, spend some more time. Journal. Get quiet and listen. Check out Simon Sinek's TED Talk for inspiration. This Why will be your home base for your business. It's essential.
2. How Do You Feel About Running a Business?
In a successful coaching practice, only a fraction of our time is spent actively coaching clients. The rest of the time is spent running a business: creating content, handling operations, building meaningful relationships, growing your skills as a coach.
New and prospective coaches often tell me, "I just hate the sales part of coaching," or "I don't really like the business part of coaching." If this is you, PLEASE proceed cautiously down the path of becoming an independent coach.
In order to have a thriving coaching practice, you must run a thriving business. And in order to run a thriving business, you need to either a) love running the business, b) learn to love running the business, or c) build out a phenomenal team of people to support you. who love running the business.
I invite you to spend some additional time thinking about how you feel about becoming an entrepreneur in addition to becoming a coach. The successful coaches I know run a business in addition to running a coaching practice.
If you decide that the entrepreneurial aspect of coaching doesn't thrill you, there are many ways to be a coach without it. I know several people who have built out roles for themselves inside their organizations, as internal coaches. I know others who are part of coaching collectives, where they are connected with fully vetted clients, in exchange for a commission. They just show up and coach.
We are most successful when we are working within our zone of genius: the place where we are doing what we are best at and what we love. Getting clear on your zone of genius, and specifically where "entrepreneurship" fits into your zone of genius, will increase your odds of success and happiness with your coaching business.
3. How Do You Want Your Life to Look?
Oftentimes, we start our own businesses because we desire more freedom, in addition to the opportunity to serve others.
Prior to starting a coaching business, take some time to reflect not only on how you want your business to look, but how you want your life to look. How do you want your business to flow with your life? Do you want to run your coaching practice as a lifestyle business, or do you want to build a global company? Do you want to work a couple days per week and spend the rest of the time with your kids?
Getting clear on this vision up front helps us make better decisions down the line. As my business has grown, I've noticed an unintended pattern of, at times, accidentally recreating my 'old life' from the corporate world in my 'new life' as a business owner: working from 7 am until 9 pm, back to back travel, and a pace that is unsustainable. These days, I love my work so it rarely feels like work; however, one of my values is freedom. At times, I've compromised this value by saying Yes to too many things.
When I get to this point, I find that it's helpful to take a step back to connect to my vision of how I want my work and my life to look. Doing this exercise up front makes hard decisions easier, and allows us to run our business in an intentional, rather than a reactive, way. Additionally, it allows us to set a clear foundation upon which we can build. For example, I know a number of new coaches who say Yes to taking clients at all hours of the day: 7 am, 9 pm, and weekends, because they are so desperate for clients. Not only does this create challenges up front, but it forces them to attempt to unravel this aspect of their business later on, when they decide it's no longer working. Clear agreements and boundaries up front make things easier for everyone: for us as coaches, and also for our clients.
This work is the most rewarding, fulfilling, and joyful work I have ever done. I love it, and it fills me up from a place deep within. And, it's hard. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. A business takes time, energy, sweat, and sometimes tears to build. When I moved to Iowa for two years shortly after starting my business, I knew exactly one person. Building my business in Iowa meant combing through the local newspaper each week to try to identify possible opportunities to serve, and it meant more coffee meetings than I can count. Ultimately these efforts paid off and allowed me to create a greater regional impact through my business. And, the path to get there was not glamorous. Being tethered to my Why, being committed to my business, and reminding myself of my vision for my life were essential.
What about you? What is your Why? How do you feel about running a business? And how do you want your life to look in this new chapter? For more on this topic, check out 5 Key Questions to Ask When Looking for a Coach.