After years of running a successful coaching and consulting company focused on helping women at midlife step into the life and work they're meant to do in the world, many of the women I work with consider leveraging their skills to launch coaching or consulting practices of their own. While it sounds relatively simple, it's a bit more complicated than just deciding to start your own business.
I consider myself a career strategist and professional development coach, but my work does not solely focus on job search, resumes, or recruiting. Because I use a holistic and cognitive behavioral methodology in my practice, some would consider what I do similar to life coaching because I believe everyone should have career/life alignment. We should all have and deserve a liberated living, which for me encompasses the three Fs: freedom, financial reward, and fulfillment. The question is whether or not your liberated living means a career as a coach.
Once you've conducted a thorough assessment of their goals, skills, gifts, passion, preferences, values, purpose, and long-term vision, you should have a better idea if you're ready to become an entrepreneur. You also have to ask yourself if you're really ready to do whatever it takes to succeed. So, in addition to assessing the above, you'll want to gauge your resiliency, risk tolerance, and need for consistency and stability. Finally, get clear on your motivation and be sure you have a powerful "why" for becoming a coach.
If you're currently employed, like most of my clients who are exploring this option, you must understand being a successful entrepreneur requires you to shift your employee mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset. For example, employees have a fixed, safe, and limited income, they follow other's rules, they trade time for money, and their job keeps them in their comfort zone. However, entrepreneurs can create their own income and make an unlimited income; they set the rules and direction of their business, take risks, frequently push themselves out of their comfort zone, and trade value and results for money.
There are also some other basic practice things that employees are used to and take for granted. Things like a fully stocked supply room, co-workers, a furnished office, health insurance, retirement plan, and possibly an assistant/support and an expense account all come with the job. Of course, when you run your own business, it's your responsibility to secure each of these things. However, the benefit of it being your responsibility is choosing the best options for you and your family.
It's important that you consider these differences and weigh what's most important to you and most aligned with your values.
If you're ready to move forward after this deep self-analysis, spend some time answering these next questions.
1. Are you coachable?
Unlike other professions where you learn the skill and practice first and then go out and perform, the best coaches are those who have been coached and are themselves coachable. In fact, the best coaches have coaches. If you're open to expanding your mindset, receiving support and feedback, and making improvements in your life or career, then you'll be better equipped to help others do the same. So you have to ask yourself, am I coachable?
2. Are you willing to initially do more business building than coaching?
We all think that once we declare to the world that we're in business, the flood gates will open, and we won't be able to handle the number of clients that will come our way. If only that were true! You must prepare yourself to spend a considerable time building your business. If you don’t find the business part as interesting and rewarding as the coaching itself, you'll have a hard time staying motivated and focused on your goal of launching and maintaining a thriving practice. So while you must take the time to seriously evaluate yourself, your abilities and talents, and your passion for this, don't forget to evaluate your commitment to learning to become and growing as a business owner.
3. Are you prepared to get additional training?
While you may bring many technical skills and prowess from your industry, coaching is a skill unto itself. It's also important to understand the difference between coaching and consulting.Consultants bring their acumen to the table to advise their clients on their next steps, whereas a coach helps the client find their answer within through powerful questions. I've been both a consultant and a coach in my career, so I'm intimately familiar with the difference and when to serve in those roles. Training will also help you understand the difference AND help you figure out which you really want to be.
The coaching profession is unregulated, so you're not required to gain additional training or certifications, but it's helpful. The ICF, an International Coaching Federation, has set some standards and ethics around coaching; however, there are multiple coaching programs and schools of thought around how to coach. While most clients won't ask about your certification, I personally think it's wise to do your research and seek out a few reputable training programs to find one that's right for you. I've listed a few recommendations below. Your values and philosophical viewpoint will help you make the right choice.
4. Are you ready to choose a niche for your coaching practice?
While you may train as a life coach, you must figure out what part of life you want to coach your clients. Career, marriage, finances, business, leadership, parenting, etc. Take time to ask yourself where you want to spend your time, which topics excite you, and who you want to support (meaning what type of clients you want to work with?) At first, this may feel like a trial and error process, but your first coaching clients will help you determine specifically who and what you want to coach on, but you should definitely choose the ballpark you want to play in. Consider who you want to work with, what areas interest and inspire you, and what conversations you want to have with your clients daily.
5. Are you ready to support yourself while you're building your practice?
I often recommend to my clients to launch their coaching business while they're still employed. This gives you a financial safety net and allows you to discover the answers to the above questions and whether this is the right career pivot for you. But, of course, anytime you launch a new venture, you never know what to expect. First, it's important to know that the average income of a life coach in the U.S. today is between $30,000 - $40,000, and only about 10% to 20% make multiple six- or seven-figure incomes. And it can take anywhere from 3 to 10 years to get there, and a lot depends on you. In the meantime, however, gain a thorough grasp of your finances, have a goal for what you want to earn, and have the resources to sustain you while you're building your practice. That's why many career professionals become sidetrepreneurs starting their coaching practice while they're still employed, and as I've said, that's not a bad idea.
Over the past two decades, female entrepreneurial ventures have grown by over 114%, with black women and Latinas becoming the fastest-growing part of that sector, starting 50% of those businesses. But it's important to note that 20% of businesses fail in the first year and 50% by year five. To avoid being in either statistic, follow the steps above, and you'll position yourself for success.
Finally, I recommend you talk with other successful coaches, ask them about their business and their work, think through your business structure and the way you want to work and set a timeframe so you can reach your desired goals. Then, reach out to your local SBA (small business association) or SCORE, which supplies the largest network of volunteer expert business mentors, to discuss your ideas, learn more about business formation, and build a strong, sustainable business.
If you're looking for life coaching programs, here are a few I recommend you explore:
I'm Dr. Carol Parker Walsh. If you're seeking career clarity, to pivot, transition, or advance in your career and build a compelling brand you're in the right place. Everything here was created to help you find career freedom, fulfillment, and financial reward.
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