How to Create a Successful Coaching Career

How to Create a Successful Coaching Career

As I begin this article, I feel a big gulp. This is a pretty big topic! 

I want to start by saying I am going to offer not just one way to create a successful coaching career but to lay out instead the general flow of this particular career from my viewpoint.

The first step to success as a coach is to decide if this is the career you want. That may sound simple—perhaps elementary—but it is actually an essential step that is often missed. 

It can make it so much harder, or derail the whole process, if you do not make a conscious commitment to coaching as your profession.

Otherwise, it may become a dream that never materialized, a side gig or a hobby, not a career

Make the choice, commit and then begin the journey!

The next step in the process has a variety of paths. Having worked with thousands of coaches over the years as a coach trainer and as a business coach, 

I can tell you there are no two pathways that are alike. This is what makes having a coaching career so exciting and worthwhile. This is not a career that ever gets stale!

In a coaching career, you get to do it your way! Bring your unique self-expression forward in service of helping others.

That said, there are basic steps for you to take that you can then integrate with your own style, experience, passion, values and vision for what you want your career to look like.

I am compelled to include—in the basic steps—the steps NOT TO TAKE.

These come from the school of hard knocks, for sure!

Do not build a website or do your branding first. You do not have to have a name or even a legal structure at the very beginning. Does that surprise you? 

Although you will need these things, and it may be soon, they can distract you from taking the steps that will anchor you solidly into this career.

The best steps to take when you are starting out are:

Take time to Vision. 

What does your unique career look like? What kind of coaching do you see yourself doing – one one-on-one, groups, teams, teaching, in-person, online, the list goes on? Who are the people you envision yourself working with? 

What is the situation they find themselves in that motivates them to call you? Are you working solo or for an organization? What about executive coaching? Do you see yourself creating your own programs, workshops, or products?

This is not the time to nail things down! 

Begin to envision the big picture of this career. Look out 10 or 20 years to see what you really want this career to include and, just as important, what you know you don’t want.

After getting your initial vision (it will evolve), it’s time to get some training so you can be the best coach possible in your new profession. 

Your coach training will focus on you developing coaching skills, but you can also begin to put some of the foundational business elements in place.

This is a great time to connect with other coaches and find out what kind of legal structure you want. Gather the materials, templates and other materials so you are ready for sample sessions, discovery sessions, and an ongoing coaching relationship.

Once you have these things in place, the fun really begins.

Here are some examples of coaches I know who have created successful coaching businesses.

Joon had a vision for a coaching business that included leveraging her success as a brand manager for big brands in South Korea. 

She had connections in the Co-Active Community and was an asset in helping to bring Co-Active to Korea. She even translated a coaching book! She also had a passion for helping women to stop working so hard and burning out.

Once she had completed her training, she signed up for a business development program because she realized that, although she was very experienced in business and had great connections and training, she didn’t know how to use these in a coaching business. 

This is often where coaches get stuck. 

The coaches I train are amazing people. They often have impressive backgrounds and achievements. They are smart and committed. They have the right stuff to succeed!

Yet translating that knowledge to success in a coaching career requires new learning. Just like the training they received as coaches, they need guidance in crafting their businesses.

Joon used that guidance to create a program she called Redesigning Productivity.

This program helps women executives and entrepreneurs create a balanced work life that makes them happy.

Once she was clear on her niche and what she most wanted to help them with, she created a website and did some branding to match her vision.

She started a blog and used her love of design to make it beautiful and functional. She began posting on social media on topics relevant to the women she wanted to coach. She joined a networking group and started her own book discussion club.

She worked hard at this, and it took time. Then, it began to pay off. Clients started coming her way.

She took time to keep visioning as she went. She realized her original vision needed to be retooled now that she had success, and had also experienced some failure. She could better see what was going to work for her, and what wasn’t. 

Another coach I know went in a very different direction. 

She used business coaching and training to identify her niche and message. For her, though, the issue was how to market her business. She had spent her whole career in academia, reaching a high level of success, yet finding herself burned out. 

She fell in love with coaching. She was passionate about helping people who had built their lives around the expectations of other people, not their own desires. 

What she discovered in her training program was that she didn’t like social media at all. Her love was to speak to a live audience.

She came alive when speaking, especially when she used some of the transformational exercises that worked with one-on-one clients to give an audience a taste of coaching’s transformational impact. 

Like Joon, this took time to develop. She had to find the organizations and the conferences that were right for her. She had to take all those steps of applying to speak or present. To fill out the forms to have a booth.

Once it started to work, she had the consistent marketing activity that she needed to promote her coaching program and to make coaching a lifelong career!

One of the very first clients who came to me for business coaching was as passionate as I have ever seen anyone be about bringing coaching to nonprofits.

She had been successful as a nonprofit executive, and now she wanted to help her colleagues achieve success without the stress she had experienced.

Her marketing plan was simple. She reached out to everyone she knew who was in the shoes she once wore—people she knew, people who were referred to her, and people she found online in those positions.

She invited them for coffee or lunch, simply to learn about them, their challenges, and their dreams. She was curious and engaged, interested in cultivating relationships and learning about them. 

There were times she wondered if she was getting anywhere. Months went by without a new client on the horizon. She kept inviting people to lunches and built a website with her message clear and bold. 

Then she received an invitation from one of her lunch partners to give a small workshop. After that, she was invited to apply for a coaching contract, also by a man she had taken to lunch. Then she was approached by someone who was a colleague of a person she had spent an hour over coffee with. They were looking for a coach to join their staff.

It took about a year for her to launch her coaching career. In two years, she was earning a good income.

She kept on having those coffees and lunches, only now some of them were to talk about her coaching services! 

And now, 15 years later, she is enjoying her coaching career as much as ever.

So let me lay out some of the basic steps these coaches took:

  1. Decide you want coaching to be your career & commit to creating a successful business
  2. Get training to be a masterful coach
  3. Vision what you want your career to be 
  4. Connect with other coaches for tips and tools
  5. Get business coaching and training
  6. Set up your coaching business structure
  7. Decide on your niche, reach out, and get curious about their circumstances, problems and dreams
  8. Craft your message and business model from what you learn and what you love to do
  9. Market your way! Find ways that you enjoy letting people know how you can support them and take bold action to have a conversation with these people
  10. Take it one step at a time, with realistic expectations for the time it takes to create a sustainable business
  11. Manage your finances as you learn the craft and the business of coaching
  12. Keep Going!

There are so many ways to create a successful coaching career. It’s a powerful question to explore and to discover your unique answers. 

I hope you find the examples I’ve described in this article will prime the pump for your exploration. 

Being successful means that our impact will ripple out to more and more people. The world needs the transformation that coaching evokes.

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