Starting your own coaching business is always a big step career wise, one that has to be made with in-depth research and meticulous planning. It is not a spur of the moment decision that can be executed in a casual or offhand manner. On one hand it is the realization of a long-held dream of being a business owner and on the other it is taking a dive into unknown territory, with no certainty about its success.
As a coach, if you are looking to start a professional coaching business, it will take more than just your coaching skills, experience, and knowledge to not just build a credible coaching business but to make it a success as well.
Having an inclination for helping people and enabling a positive change in their lives is at the core of being a good coach; without that it won’t be possible to sustain a coaching business. But it is also necessary to understand the challenges of coaching in order to avoid making mistakes that can impede your coaching business. Of course, making mistakes is an inevitable part of learning – you only evolve when you learn from your errors. But as a coach, it helps if you know the potential pitfalls beforehand so that you can prevent them to the maximum extent possible. Here are some of the most common mistakes that coaches make when starting a professional coaching business:
Not Selecting a Specific Niche
As any coach knows, coaching is a big umbrella that encompasses a lot of sub niches within – life coaching, business coaching, leadership coaching, career coaching, health & wellness coaching, and many more.
Many coaches often make the mistake of not identifying a specific coaching segment to focus on as they fear it might limit them, both in terms of their acquiring clients and revenues. On the contrary, having a coaching specialization that reflects your capabilities and experience can provide the necessary edge when communicating your offer to your prospects.
For instance, let’s assume you have a corporate background and some work experience as well as the talent to help people sort their issues. Life coaching is so common today that anyone who is capable of giving some basic advice calls themselves a life coach. So, you may think, let me be a part-time life coach as well as a part-time leadership coach, just to play it safe and keep more than one avenue open. But that is neither here nor there. With the constant juggling, you won’t be a good life coach neither a good leadership coach.
Your coaching credibility is not based on how many segments you can cover but how good you are in the one chosen niche, the relevance of the experiences that you share that can provide insight to the client to learn & overcome their own issues, how good your coaching program is and how much of a visible & positive difference it is making to the client’s journey.
Not Seeing It as a Business
At the outset, understand that it is a coaching ‘business’. Don’t mistake it for a hobby that you can dabble in when time permits. Which means that you have to research, plan, strategize and then execute accordingly. As an entrepreneur (or a would be one), it goes without saying that any business needs seed capital/financial investments. So, be professional about money and get experts to help you set up your finances right after careful deliberation of initial expenses and potential income. Invest in things that are going to aid your coaching business grow and expand – such as coaching management software, sales & marketing, business insurance, content management, and more.
Absence of an Executable Business Plan
Many coaches make the mistake of not having a detailed business plan in place before starting their venture and then end up floundering around in their dealings.
Having a solid business plan in place is the very basic foundation that needs to be in place if the intent is to succeed. Each section of a business plan (specializations, cost & expense analysis, market analysis, SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based), competitor analysis, pricing tactics, etc., helps you build a financially sound business and create a more sustainable business model that can last and grow long term.
Poor Financial Planning & Promotion
Sound financial health is the backbone of any business and a lot of businesses fail due to poor financial planning and management. As mentioned previously, for a coaching business to be successful, the coach needs to create a feasible business plan that covers set up costs, recurring expenses, and projected incomes to gain clarity on their financial position.
As with finances, the right promotion of your business is the need of the hour to reach your target audience. Absence of a workable marketing strategy can mean that you don’t reach your intended clientele, thus losing out on potential business avenues. A top-notch marketing and sales strategy, that can be realistically executed, can make a huge difference to your conversion numbers and aid in scaling your business. Optimum use of a sales funnel, social media, and e-mail and affiliate marketing strategy, amongst other things, are some of the marketing tools that can be used to connect with your prospective clients and eventually converting them into paying clients.
Over Planning Due to Fear of Failure
A detailed business plan is a must for giving your coaching business a chance at success. But going overboard with excessive planning can also have detrimental consequences. Too much analysis and strategizing, due to fear of failure, can trap you into constantly second-guessing your plans, thus preventing you from actually moving forward in your coaching venture. Rigidity of plans may leave no room for changes. And let’s face it, there is no such thing as a perfect plan; sometimes situations do come at you from left field, forcing you to take necessary corrective actions that may not be included in your business plan. So, don’t make the mistake of being so stubborn about set ideas that you end up miss out on opportunities, all due to lack of flexibility and an open mind.
Inability to Delegate
One of the most difficult things in life, be it personal or professional, is learning to let go. As a coach you may have had to wear all the hats yourself – coach, administrator, accountant, marketer, and more due to limited resources. But as a coaching business owner, with the expanded scale, it will be very difficult, not to mention energy sapping, if you insist on doing all the work yourself.
Appoint experienced individuals, who are well versed in their respective fields, and trust them to do their jobs. It will not only save you a lot of unnecessary work, but also free up your time and energy to concentrate on your core job, which is that of growing your coaching business.
Lack of Confidence in Coaching Skills
Right at the beginning we saw that many coaches make the mistake of not choosing their coaching niche and offering coaching services in multiple segments in an effort to cast a wider net for clients. This indicates a lack of confidence in your own coaching skills as a specialized coach, that you deem it necessary to dabble in many segments just to get a respectable number of clients. Also, there is a real danger of diluting the quality of your coaching services when you spread yourself in numerous coaching areas, leaving a question mark on your credibility as a specialized coach. Not only that, when it comes to marketing your offers and services, dipping your toes in multiple niches will confuse your prospects on where your expertise really lies.
Thus, it is better to select and stick to a niche area of coaching that plays to your strengths, education, qualifications, interest, and experience.
Taking On Every Client & Not Understanding Your Ideal Client
Rejecting a paying client, especially one who has walked through the door themselves, is the hardest thing that you can do as coach. After all, steady clientele is the lifeforce of your coaching business. But in some instances, it is necessary to refuse a client as they are a total misfit to the services that you are offering or are just not ready for coaching. It is a lose-lose situation for both the coach and the coachee to embark on a journey together in such a scenario.
Creating value as well as positive outcomes in the client’s journey is at the heart of any successful coaching process. But this is not possible if the client is not a right fit for the services. For instance, if you are a business coach who specializes in sales conversions, promoting your coaching business among college students is a complete misfit. They don’t need your services and you don’t need them as clients!
Conducting proper market research about your potential clients based on their suitability, spending power, and demographic status (gender, age, profession etc.) and then creating a feasible plan to connect with them via suitable mediums is important because understanding who your ideal clients are will determine how to pitch your coaching programs, services and pricing options. You must select only those clients who you think will truly benefit from your coaching programs and who are willing to put in the work and take responsibility for their journey.
Expecting Clients to Line Up Outside Your Door
You start a professional coaching business and from the next day there is a line of clients waiting to sign up for your coaching packages…this fairy tale does not happen in real life! It takes sustained effort, lots of hard work, a dedicated marketing & sales strategy, making constant connections with prospective clients and plenty of near misses to get that crucial paying customer.
Clients have lots of options to choose from in the coaching world, so understand that you have to woo the client with unique service offerings, convince them that your coaching programs will provide valuable and transformative outcomes to their professional/personal lives, reach out to prospective clients with real testimonials from ex-clients, share your own journey & experiences to convey your authentic credentials, and prepare for hits & misses on your client acquisition and business growth journey.
Trying Too Hard to Ensure Client Success
Many coaches make the mistake of thinking that ensuring their clients’ success is their responsibility. Coaching is a collaborative process between the coach and the coachee. The process only works when both the parties are equally invested and make the effort to ensure success. Remember, any success or failure the client achieves is their own. As a health coach, if your client wishes to get a toned and fit body, then you can only encourage the client to commit to their scheduled exercises and follow their diet plan – you cannot do the work for them!
As a coach, you are a facilitator who gives advice and guides the client on their journey of self-awareness to enable them to understand their realities, identify issues, think of solutions and take accountability to implement them & attain their desired objectives. Taking the burden of responsibility that does not belong to you will result in burn out and frustration.
Unnecessary Comparison with Competitors
There will be many instances when you cross paths with your competitors; after all you all are eyeing the same pool of clientele.
It is human nature to be sometimes more fixated on what the rival is doing rather than focusing on what you need to do. It is always better to play to your strengths rather than focus on your opponent’s weaknesses. One thing is for sure, your competitors are not really paying attention to what you do as they are busy making a success out of their business. And you should do the same!
Look at your competitors as your teachers, study their strengths and try to incorporate the things that you think can benefit you. Similarly, learn from their mistakes and weaknesses as pointers to avoid those pitfalls yourself.
Figure out your USP and compile a comparative analysis of your offerings against your competitors. These will come handy while convincing clients how it will be beneficial for them to engage in your coaching services.
Not Networking with Fellow Coaches
Connecting with fellow coaches – isn’t that a bit like the horse befriending the grass? After all, how is it possible to be friendly with your competitors? But in reality, this is a common mistake that a lot of coaches make – not networking with their peers. Instead of looking at them as just competition, why not look upon them as fellow contemporaries going through roughly the same grind, having similar experiences, fears and struggles?
Becoming part of a coaches’ network or community can be one of the most beneficial decisions that you can make to scale your coaching business. Not only will it provide access to shared knowledge about the industry, latest coaching tools, techniques & news, but it can also provide valuable support from people who are going through a similar career journey as you are. Regular communication and exchange of ideas can lead to building genuine rapport among like-minded individuals, opening up avenues for client referrals and getting unbiased, frank and real feedback that can benefit your professional development.
Undercharging for Your Services
You are starting a professional coaching business, the operational word being ‘business’ – meaning that the venture has to return a profit for all your investments – of time, energy, finances, intellect and emotions.
A lot of coaches make the mistake of pricing their services a cut under their competitors or prevailing market rates. On the surface it may seem like a sound strategy to divert more client volumes to your coaching business, but in the long term it may not be the smartest way to build your coaching business and hope to turn it into a profitable venture.
By pitching your pricing below the standard market rates, not only are you taking a loss for your business, but you are also setting a precedent where your clients will expect your prices to always be a bit lesser than market rates. No business can survive by constantly offering lower prices. After all, you do have operational costs and recurring expenses to pay, and what gets left after deducting those might not be enough to sustain, let alone expand a business.
Another problem with undercharging is that it creates a perception of being a low-end business. Whether or not it’s true, people still have the perception that a higher priced service will deliver more quality and value than a cheaper one.
The best option is to have multiple pricing packages, affordable for various income groups. A lower priced package will have standard services, whereas the higher priced packages (combined with longer duration – 3 months, 6 months or yearly packages) will offer more individualized benefits to the clients.
As a coach starting out a professional coaching business, you have the potential, skills & tools at your disposal to truly bring about a change in an individual’s life. Once you truly understand the challenges of coaching, you can consciously avoid the common mistakes that coaches make that can scupper their business ambitions. Making mistakes in your professional journey is common, but if you already know some of the difficulties that you need to steer clear of, why not take advantage of that advice and give yourself a better chance to succeed in your coaching business?
1. What are the challenges when starting a new coaching business?
Starting any business is tough, for it requires a lot of monetary investment, time, hard work, patience and perseverance from the business owner. The rewards are not instant but the challenges while starting a coaching business are at almost every turn and need to be navigated skillfully.
Some of the most common challenges that new coaching businesses face include lack of clients, not having enough brand presence on social media, getting initial interest from client but not being able to convert them into actual paying clients, not being able to communicate the USP of coaching services to prospects, content (blogs, vlogs, videos) not create the desired impact, and more.