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Deborah Bulcock, Executive Coach, speaking to a client, sat at a table in an office

7 Tips When Starting Your Own Coaching Business

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It’s a Frequently Asked Question

Now then, I’m not a business advisor by any stretch and don’t pretend to be an expert, but I am regularly asked about my experience in setting up and running a coaching business, and what advice I would offer to someone just getting going.

I’m a big advocate of sharing openly, collaborating, and helping those in my profession. There’s nothing proprietary in what we do, and so why wouldn’t I gift that to others?

Full Transparency

I’m not a “7-figure” business owner who’s going to try and sell you a programme to help get you to x-figures months or years. That’s not my bag. And there are many amazing coaches and advisors out there who offer that.

But I am someone who’s managed to make a coaching business work – for me, my way. It’s commercially sound, consistently growing, full of repeat business and referrals, and I gain a whole load of personal fulfilment from it. And I guess you can call that success. Crikey, 3 years ago I would have given anything to know this was round the corner. I’m certainly proud of where things have got to – and are progressing towards.

There are also the parts which many gloss over, whereas for me full disclosure is important…

  • I’m still working it out as I go, because things change all the time, I’m responsible for the whole thing, and so there are constant puzzles to solve.
  • I work hard and plenty of hours – no working from a beach 2 hours a day here!
  • I personally find certain aspects of business challenging and know that will always be the case.
  • I often miss being part of a bigger team, inside in a big corporate infrastructure, where someone will have the answer for you.
  • And as you’ll hear lots of people say, what may look like an “overnight success” is anything but – rather, it’s years of hard work, resilience, and sacrifice.

These are all completely normal for anyone running their own business – just ask a few people. Prepare to ride the rollercoaster – and relish it all.

7 Tips

I’m regularly asked by coaches just setting up what advice I would offer. This list tends to be what I talk about. The list isn’t an oracle; it’s my experience. Please use accordingly.

#1 Forget the perfect shop window

You don’t need a perfect shop window to get started. We always think of needing a brand, a website and the perfect social media presence before we get going. And yes, people do need a way of finding us, and knowing what we stand for.

But at the same time, creating websites and the like can really hold you up – it takes a while to do things well and you need to nail your messaging to do so.

It can also feel a safe place to hide away, when what you need to be doing is getting some clients and income through the door. Create the shop window in parallel with that crucial early business development drive. And side bonus – your experiences will help shape the content for website, etc.

#2 Know your audience … to an extent

I do think it’s important to know who you can and want to help, what you can help with, and to what end / benefit, so that you focus in the right place and share the right message.

BUT, it is entirely possible to get lost in a gazillion ‘Ideal Client Avatar’ templates – before you really know who your client really is. Please don’t’ do this – it consumes so much time, and until you actually start working with people, it’s all your theory rather than factual knowledge.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, and likely against all expert marketing advice, nevertheless, I recommend having an idea of direction, getting started, securing some business, and intentionally refining your understanding of audience as you go.

#3 Use your network

Always, always, utilise your network first. They already know, like and trust you. And that’s the golden formula. Who can they introduce you to? How could they help you? Could you help them directly? As much as it makes you cringe, you must get in touch with your network, tell them what you’re doing, and seek support.

If you’re spending hours creating social media graphics for a whole bunch of strangers, and not contacting your existing network, your efforts are misplaced.

I found this the hardest thing to do. And got it wrong to start with. It’s definitely one of my biggest lessons in business. Nurture your network.

#4 Choose one marketing channel

With multiple social media platforms, email, ads, and more available to us, it can be overwhelming to know what to do and where to start. I started off with accounts everywhere, couldn’t keep on top of them, and they became a stress without any benefit.

The best advice I received was to just choose one. One channel that you will focus on, where your audience hang out, and where you are willing to hang out too. Get started, learn, build, do it well – and most of all, be consistent.

#5 Be selective in the advice you follow

There is undoubtedly a lot of brilliant content out there. There’s also not-so-brilliant content! It’s important to be selective. Soak up the free advice, invest in the courses that really speak to you – AND the important step – make them your own. If something resonates, go for it. If something makes your skin crawl, maybe leave that alone.

There are a lot of proven formulas out there, but things worked better for me when I created my own formula integrating various teachings and my own experiences / preferences.

#6 Let people get to know the real you.

Due to the nature of coaching, any client is going to spend a lot of time talking to you, sharing private information. They need to trust you. And that means they need to get to know you, your style, what you stand for, what you’re passionate about, as well as how you can help them.

As difficult as it might be, I’d fast track lowering the corporate/workplace mask you’ve been used to using, and get real. And even though many people advise that photos aren’t necessary on social media, I find they help with people connecting to me.

#7 Connect with your fellow coaches

This is a collaborative industry – you’ll be amazed at how open and supportive people are. Reciprocity really matters here, so be prepared to help others generously.

Here endeth the lesson

Take from it anything you find useful. Leave the rest. Make it your own.

And ultimately, action wins – progress is better than perfect 🙌