According to the International Coach Federation, the total market value of the professional coaching industry will reach more than $20 billion in the United States alone by 2022. Unfortunately, only about 20% to 30% of all coaches who enter the field are expected to succeed. Not only is this heartbreaking but, quite honestly, it is a completely avoidable outcome.
I’ve been in the coaching industry now for more than 22 years and I not only coach individuals, couples, and businesses, but I’ve also trained and coached nearly 2,000 coaches globally. Most of the coaches that I’ve worked with join the field because they truly want to help others improve their lives. They are smart, well-intentioned, good people who felt drawn to coaching to give back and/or express their greater purpose.
Unfortunately, coaches can also be very naïve and unprepared when it comes to the business side of coaching. For example, it’s hard to witness new coaches spending so much time and money on training that they often exhaust their resources before they even get started. Year after year, I see people fail simply because they didn’t get the support they needed, or they didn’t have the time or financial resources to invest in developing a sustainable business. That said, I know many coaches who are quite talented who also maintain full-time or part-time jobs who’ve made coaching their side gig. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I often recommend to those who don’t have sufficient financial reserves or other income options to grow their business slowly rather than take the risk of quitting their jobs too soon, which can be financially precarious.
In my experience, there are many factors that account for the low success rate among professional life, money and business coaches. Here are some, but not all, of the main challenges to avoid if you’re already a coach or thinking of joining the coaching field.
- Don’t overspend on training. Piling on more and more certifications to prove that you are, in fact, qualified and “good enough” is expensive and won’t solve this problem. It’s important to understand that you cannot gain the confidence you need to succeed by becoming overeducated yet lacking in real-life experience. The best thing to do is train in one or two related areas of coaching and then go out and coach as many people as you can. The more you coach, the better you’ll get and the more confident you’ll become.
- Most coaches that I’ve worked with have unrealistic expectations about the time, energy and costs associated with building a business. Let me be clear – starting a coaching business is not as easy as it may appear. It takes time, sometimes up to three years, before you really feel like you’re going to make it (or at least feed yourself!). It takes commitment, discipline and focused attention. It also takes money, although considerably less than many other businesses. But some financial resources and/or access to business credit are required and are equally important as your will and determination to succeed. Depending upon the nature of your business, you may be able to attract angel investors and/or qualify for a business loan through the SBA. Here are some resources that might be worth considering:
- Become aware of and handle the money issues that can subconsciously sabotage your business efforts. We all have money patterns and behaviors that we are blind to. The problem is those issues will follow you to the office and the consequences of not proactively managing these dynamics can be very hard to experience.
- Identify and work through any internal conflicts and/or aversion to sales and marketing. Let me just say this for the record – if you are self-employed, you are officially in “sales.” So, you’ll need to find a way to communicate your offering in a manner that people can hear you and want to hire you. If you build it … they will not come. You will have to find a way to enroll them, and yes, you can learn to do this without acting like a used cars salesperson.
- Hiring and overspending on “marketing experts,” who too frequently provide a boilerplate approach to marketing, regardless of your needs, desires and audience, are common problems and, in my observation, are getting worse by the day. Beware the marketing or business coach who promises “six figures in six months.” It isn’t going to happen so please don’t fall for it. Read the fine print to avoid the unethical practices of many “marketing” experts and their one-sided contracts.
- One of the main reasons any new business fails is due to a lack of capital or access to funding. If you don’t have enough capital, or you’re uncomfortable borrowing, spending and investing in key aspects such as marketing, accounting and support, you may find yourself overwhelmed or in constant financial struggle. It’s not just a cliché that you have to spend money to make money. It’s a fact. This is why every coach needs to do their research and create a simple business plan that includes financial projections before they get started. If you’re not sure how to do this, get trustworthy guidance and support to assist you with this important step.
The bottom line is this: None of us was born with the knowledge, tools or training needed to succeed. We need to invest time, energy and resources to develop these capacities. The more you embrace this and move forward accordingly, the better your results will be. Good luck!