You’re ready to start your solo business — you’re craving the freedom, the versatility, and the chance to put your passion into play — but you’re not quite sure where to start. You’ve come to the right place. In our So You Wanna Be a… series, we highlight entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses doing what they love.
This month, we’re chatting with four coaches — Rachel East of Clarity on Fire, Danielle Dowling, Lindsay Smith, and Mira Joleigh — to get their inside advice on how they got their life coaching careers started.
So you wanna be a life coach? Here’s what you need to know…
Tell us exactly what a person in your role does.
Rachel: The best way I've ever heard coaching described is something I totally did not come up with, but that I'll gladly repeat for you now: Coaching is about removing everything in your life that's NOT you so that what remains is purely, authentically who you are. Most people tend to think life coaching is about addition -- strategies for succeeding, action plans, and doing more -- but at its core it's about subtraction. First and foremost, a coach helps their client remove all of the beliefs, falsehoods, and fears that have accumulated over time and that prevent someone from living and working as themselves.
Danielle: I specialize in helping intelligent, self-aware yet often “stuck” clients attain personal freedom and more fully realized potential. What that means varies from client to client – love, work, family, finance – there are a wide range of critical aspects of modern life that can cause us to stumble, or leave us standing still. I believe my special gift is the ability to know my clients, help uncover those blockages, identify why they are there and then apply actual steps to overcome them.
Lindsay: I meet with clients individually, in groups and over the internet and walk them through my proven program Seven Steps to Rock Your Twenties.
Mira: As a life coach, I partner with you to overcome the challenges that have you feeling stuck. Together, we clarify your passions, increase your confidence, build your social network and give your personal brand a makeover. Coaching involves taking personality and career assessments, completing personal growth exercises (as needed) and engaging in deep reflection. The most powerful element, though? It's the accountability. You can SAY you want something but easily let yourself down. When you have a full time cheerleader in your corner - you'll be shocked how much more you can accomplish. As your coach, I will match the energy YOU put into the process. Coaching pays for itself as long as you're committed to the work.
How did you get your start? What are other ways someone else can get started?
Rachel: I thought I wanted to be a therapist, and got *this close* to enrolling in grad school before I discovered coaching. I decided I was more interested in helping people move forward than in exploring their past. I enrolled in coaching school without EVER having experienced coaching for myself (something I wouldn't recommend, if I had it to do over). The absolute best way to know if coaching is something you're seriously interested in is to work with a coach, yourself.
Danielle: I have been the informal therapist and coach for family, friends and co-workers my whole life. I formally got my start when I went back to graduate school about eight years ago to earn my masters and doctorate in psychology. I launched my blog and online business after the completion of my masters and partially into earning my doctorate.
There are many amazing coaching programs out there; some of my favorites are iPEC Coaching (The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching), Coach U, and CTI. As far as programs regarding how to build a successful online business, I like Marie Forleo's B School and Gala Darling's Blog Academy.
Lindsay: I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology and wanted to find unique ways to apply it to help high potentials grow quickly and efficiently. I continued my schooling at iPEC and built a program based on what I learned there.
Mira: I got started by earning my coaching certification with Coach Training Alliance and becoming a member of the International Coach Federation. These two organizations offer the education and ongoing support needed to be an excellent coach. (I've also heard great things about iPEC and CTI coaching schools). Beyond the formal certifications, being a coach involves mastering sales and marketing to get clients. I've invested tens of thousands of dollars in my ongoing education in order to master the entrepreneurial element.
Is there a certain kind of person that would thrive in your role?
Rachel: Naturally intuitive people make for the best coaches. Maybe you're the person your friends always come to for wisdom. Or maybe you've always felt like an old soul who's "known things" without knowing *how* you know them. Or maybe you've been perpetually dissatisfied with "the way things are," and feel like you've been seeking "more" out of life. All of these qualities make for a great coach. Above anything else, I think the BEST quality in a coach is open-mindedness. Coaching isn't something you learn as a skill; it's someone you BECOME, as a person.
Danielle: Someone that has a natural propensity towards high levels of compassion and empathy. Also someone that is really comfortable with their own baggage and past. Working with clients will often trigger some of your own insecurities and fears and having a fairly good knowledge of what those fears are and the patience for working through them can help one be a more present coach. I recommend hiring your own coach to address irking pain points before beginning to work with private clients. I am not suggesting that you have to be fearless or have all your pains perfectly squared away, because this isn't possible, but rather give yourself the opportunity to become more familiar and compassionate with your own "stuff."
Lindsay: Someone with an entrepreneurial spirit. A strong communicator who loves watching people grow.
Mira: I recommend taking the Myers-Briggs assessment. In my experience, the best coaches fall somewhere on the "NF" spectrum. This means that they lead with their intuition and are excellent at relating with other people. If you've always been the person that your friends come to when they need to talk through a challenge, you're likely a good fit for coaching. Another valuable character trait is being naturally organized and goal oriented. Being a coach is very much a “lead by example” profession.
What do people need before they can get started in your industry?
Rachel: While I imagine this will change in the near future, there are currently very few restrictions on the coaching industry. Anyone can sell themselves as a "coach," and no one's going to police you for not having a certification. However, I strongly advise going through a program that's been accredited through the International Coach Federation. It's the governing body of the coaching industry, and you can trust any program that has their stamp of approval.
How do you currently seek out clients or customers? What are some ways you've considered seeking out clients or customers that you haven't tried yet?
Rachel: Most of our clients work with us after having become dedicated readers of our weekly blog, or after having taken our free quiz (The Passion Profile Quiz). We also write occasionally for bigger-name online outlets, which is a great way to gain visibility. At this stage in the game, we're less about seeking and more about allowing the right people to find US. My best advice is to have a message that you strongly believe in, and transmit it in a way that works for YOU. Maybe you're not a writer. That's fine! There are plenty of other ways to have a consistent presence (be it speaking, videos, Instagram, or whatever!) where people can find you and start to know, like, and trust you. As far as other ways we haven't tried, I might be open to doing sponsored Facebook posts in the future, if I can find a way to do it strategically, in a way I'm comfortable with.
Danielle: I currently post to my blog 2-3x a week to engage with clients. I share these posts across many social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. My favorite right now is Instagram as there is a real community feeling and lots of engagement. Facebook has lost that intimate feeling since they began curbing organic reach and charging for posts to show up in news feeds. (Editor’s note: Instagram is our favorite these days, too.)
Lindsay: I do a lot of public speaking events. I am involved in young professional networking groups here in Indianapolis. I partner with other coaches. (Yet another editor’s note: Want to make speaking part of your coaching business? Be sure to check out So You Wanna Be a...Professional Speaker.)
How do you normally work with clients or customers?
Rachel: All of our one-on-one personal coaching is done over the phone, which is very normal for the coaching industry. This allows us to work with clients all over the world. We also have a couple of online programs, which are more cost-effective and time-consuming than traditional 1-on-1 coaching. As a coach, you can have a business model that suits your needs and desires. A lot of coaches do in-person workshops or seminars, which is awesome and effective, just not something we're personally interested in doing at this time.
Danielle: I work with my clients one-on-one via phone, Skype or in person. I also launched a book last November called Soul Sessions: A 5-Week Guide to Crafting Greater Joy & Making Big Things Happen which I think is a really affordable way to work together!
Lindsay: Half in person and half online. Ecourses are my next venture!
How did you decide how to set your pricing when you were starting out?
Rachel: We started out relatively low, and have consistently raised our prices over time, as we gained more experience and had more years in the game. The best advice I've been given about how to price yourself is to start out *slightly* higher than you feel comfortable about. Nothing exorbitant or way higher than your comfort zone; just something to stretch you and challenge you to play a bigger game.
Lindsay: I looked at industry standards and charged at a reduced rate for the first six months.
Mira: When I was starting out, I offered a free initial coaching session and based my monthly rates on the industry averages. Over the years, I've begun charging for that initial session and increased my rates to match demand.
What are some great resources for people looking to learn more about your industry?
Rachel: I'd recommend checking out the International Coach Federation's website. And if you're looking to work with a life coach yourself, I'd recommend reading the website or blog of whatever coach(es) you're interested in working with. If you enjoy their tone on their site and can easily relate to them without ever having spoken over the phone, there's a good chance you're also going to jive with them one-on-one. Definitely don't settle for a coach who you can't relate to, or who you don't feel VERY aligned with. I'd also advise focusing less on price, and more on experience. The best coaches tend to charge more for a reason, and I've never seen anyone regret their investment.
Lindsay: Feel free to email me. I love to connect with people who are interested in the coaching industry!
Mira: If you're interested in becoming a coach, I recommend reading Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives and The Prosperous Coach: Increase Income and Impact for You and Your Clients.
What is something that someone getting started in your type of business would be surprised to hear?
Rachel: I am SO passionate about this point... Coaching is NOT a business. A lot of new, energetic coaches enroll in a coaching program and think they're going to come out the other side capable of finding clients and easily making high five or six figures as a coach. Coaching skills are NOT the same as business skills. They are two completely different subjects, and if you want to be a coach who runs their own coaching business, you're going to have to ALSO become a business person. Quitting your job too soon and having to scramble to make money kind of puts a damper on the coaching experience. It'll be challenging, but building a business while you have some sort of stable income is the best advice I never got, and what I feel compelled to emphasize to ANY new coach.
Danielle: I suggest keeping a day job for the first 2-3 years of your business. It takes time to build up a pipeline of leads and credibility in the marketplace. Also, having that regular paycheck coming in will remove financial pressure from your passion project and allow it to grow organically with less pressure.
Lindsay: There are two skill sets you need. Coaching skills but also business building skills. This surprises a lot of coaches because we get out of school and expect clients to appear.
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