The coaching industry is only growing by the day and if numbers are to be believed, it is estimated that there were about 5,86,292 coaches in the world as of 2019. Out of this number, 92% are believed to be actively coaching (source: ICF).
One would imagine that the industry has far reached its saturation point, but every day there is an influx of new coaches getting certified and added to that number. Moreover, the coaching industry is also believed to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.
If the industry is in such boom, surely every independent coaching practice or business must be thriving? Sadly, that’s not the case. While some do see success in their respective coaching ventures, many are not able to pull their coaching businesses to the desired heights of success. Why is this so? Well, just like any new business, starting and running a coaching business is no easy feat and has its own set of challenges that new coaches usually run into.
Let’s talk about the 7 common coaching business challenges that are coaches face and how they can potentially overcome them.
1. Struggling to find clients
Perhaps the most common struggle that almost every coach has faced at some point in their coaching career is that of not being able to find enough clients to coach. This is particularly true for newbie coaches who don’t have any prior experience or a vast network of people they can reach out to and speak about their offer. As a new coach with little to no experience in hand, it is hard to be able to convey one’s expertise to the world and convince them to sign up to get coached.
To overcome this, two things are essential:
- Social proof
Now, of course as a new coach, having prior coaching experience is impossible. And without the prior experience, there’s no social proof. So how does one solve this? By coaching pro bono and collecting testimonials in return. Convincing people to get coached by you when you don’t have any backing can be difficult and can lead to your prospects having valid hesitation since they can’t be certain about putting their hard-earned money on something they have no guarantee will work. So, by removing the equation of money (in the initial stage only), it is much easier to get clients who have nothing to lose by being coached by you. This way you also get to practice your craft without the pressure, and if things go well, then you can ask your clients to give you a testimonial in return – which becomes social proof that can help convert future prospects into paying clients. Doing this with a few beta clients in the beginning (5-7 is a good number) can help bring more confidence as well as the social proof necessary to convince future prospects to sign up for your services.
2. Being afraid of selling
Unless selling is something one naturally does for a living, it is not a craft that comes easily to most people. On top of that, with terms such as ‘salesy’ and ‘pushy’ being commonly associated with the act of selling, a lot of people end up having an aversion of selling – as they fear that they too will come across the same way to other people. Thus, coaches often end up retreating and never wanting to talk about their offer or expertise. And this then ends up directly affecting their business.
A way to get rid of this aversion is to reframe the way you look at selling. Instead of thinking of it as being something intrusive, forceful, and pushy, think of selling as a way to bring value into people’s lives. Without letting people know about what you have to offer and how it can potentially affect their lives in a better way, it would be a disservice to those who actually need and could use your service.
And you don’t need to hard sell! Those days of cold calling and obnoxious style of selling are long gone. All you need to do is think of how you can add value to people’s lives, share information that can help them in the short term, and talk about your coaching offer consistently so people know what you do, and eventually, people will come to you.
3. Failing to have a clear offer
One common misconception that new coaches have is that if they niche down, they will lose out on the number of people they can reach – that they’ll have a smaller pool of people to coach. And when they do that, they try to be an ‘everything and anything’ kind of coach. What this does is that it confuses the audience in terms of what the coach actually does. Do they coach people who have time-management issues or do they work with relationship aspects or can they help people with anxiety or are they equipped to coach leaders and managers in companies? When people are confused about what a coach does and how specifically they can help them in their lives, they are not likely to take them up on their offer. Like the saying goes “Jack of all trades, master of none” – dabbling in everything ends up getting you nothing!
To ensure that people are clear about what you do, first you need to finalise a niche for yourself. Think about areas that you have experience in, what you enjoy doing, and have a genuine interest in pursuing. And then stick to that in all your communication.
On top of your niche, think about who your ideal client is and what you can offer to help them in a specific area of their life. So, for instance, while a ‘marketing coach’ niche is fine, it still doesn’t communicate your offer clearly. Instead, if you say “I help creators and artists get visible and get paid” – here the offer is a lot clearer and very specific, thus letting people know exactly what you do, with no room for error.
4. Absence of systems to maximise growth
Another coaching business challenge that a lot of coaches face but sometimes aren’t even aware of is that they don’t have systems & processes in place for their coaching business. For any business to thrive it needs to have systems in pace, otherwise it’ll lead to burnout.
When it comes to coaching businesses, there can be multiple systems – a client conversion system, for starters. As a coach, in the initial stages of starting a business, it is okay to put a lot of effort in reaching out to prospects one on one. But eventually, there needs to be a system in place that allows clients to come to you instead of having to outwardly chase them all the time. Email marketing or broadcast messages for instance can be great ways to reach out to prospects, build connections, and nurture them. These are simply examples of there being better and more effective ways of converting prospects into clients compared to reaching out to people one on one which takes up way too much time and energy.
Like this, one can have several different systems in place for sales, finances as well as for the actual coaching process.
5. Having an undefined marketing strategy
One of the most crucial aspects of growing a business is having a marketing strategy in place. In the beginning stages, coaches – especially those who have little to no experience in marketing or selling – end up either not putting enough effort into marketing their services or they end up being so scattered in their approach that it doesn’t lead to any substantial or significant change in the way it brings in business.
Instead of being present on all channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and having a blog as well as a YouTube channel, and also using MailChimp or ConvertKit to send out emails and newsletters, take a pause and first understand who your target audience is and where they are. If your target clientele is leaders and managers in corporations, then being on Facebook or Twitter is perhaps redundant and you might have better chances finding them on LinkedIn. It is also important to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are to ensure you are using the relevant channels to your advantage instead of spreading yourself too thin by doing everything and anything just for the sake of doing it, even when you are not inclined to.
If marketing as a whole is something that confuses you, consider hiring an expert who can help build a strategy and execute it for you – so you can focus on what you do best – and that is coaching!
6. Ineffective scaling operations
When a coach starts their own coaching business, it is common that they are handling many operations to keep the business running – taking care of finances, marketing, sales, invoicing, contracts, scheduling, writing and sending newsletters…and so much more. In the very nascent stages, it is okay to be doing these tasks manually, but eventually, if the idea is to scale the business, then doing these repetitive tasks manually is going to be a huge burnout of time and energy, which would be better spent focusing on your coaching clients.
To overcome this, making use of a coaching management platform, that helps automate tasks like appointment reminders, invoicing, and sending newsletters to your email list can help massively. It enables you to focus on your business and reduce administrative burden, thus freeing you to spend your time doing what you actually want to focus on.
Drop the busy work
And focus only on coaching
7. Lack of patience in the process
This is perhaps the least spoken about coaching business challenges that a coach faces. Whether or not you have a handle on all the aspects of running your business – the marketing, sales, finances, administrative work, etc. – patience is going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you will run and scale your coaching business to success. Because even if you have a lot of things figured out and are headed in the right direction, starting a coaching business (just like any other business) is going to take its own time to reach a point where it is churning out consistent profits. The average time it takes to start and scale a business is anywhere between 2 to 5 years. But what ends up happening to a lot of business owners is that when they see little to no returns to their efforts in the initial few months, they end up getting discouraged and giving up on their business.
But if the intent is to grow a business, one needs to be prepared to let it take its own shape. As long as your systems are in place and you have figured out who you want to coach and what your offer is (which can also be an ongoing process of learning as you run your business) and are not afraid of switching up strategies when presented with data, then the efforts will eventually snowball and start showing effect.
Give it time! If you are passionate about starting your coaching business and truly believe that you have something good to offer that can positively impact others’ lives, then you just need to plant the seed of consistent effort and water it regularly and have faith that the flowers will eventually bloom!
1. What is the most difficult part of being a coach?
The most difficult part is not the same for every coach and can thus be subjective. Depending on what a coach finds challenging, this can differ. But one of the most common challenges that a coach faces is finding coaching clients for their business. When one is newly certified as a coach, they don’t have any social proof or expertise to back up their offer, thus bringing making it difficult to bring in paying clients into their business. This however can be addressed by doing pro bono coaching, getting feedback, and improving the craft – until they get more confident about their offer and have testimonials that show that they know what they are doing and can get similar results for other people too.
2. Who do coaches fail to make their coaching business a success?
There are many reasons why coaches fail to make their coaching business a success. These include:
- Not being clear about their offer and niche
- Not having systems in place to automate busy work
- Not having a well thought-through marketing strategy
- Being afraid of and thus refraining from selling and talking about their services enough
- Not putting in consistent effort into their business
- Not having enough patience