Coaching Schools, Please Prepare Us

Fruit at a stand

When I left my corporate career of 35 years I thought that starting a coaching business, with my extensive professional experience, would be easy. 

I’d been in the human potential, leadership and organization development world for most of my life. Furthermore, I was creative, competent, big-hearted and wise (older). So now that I had a coaching certification and designation, clients would come flooding in.

What was I thinking?

I had no business skills. No sales skills. No online marketing skills. And in addition, I was an introvert. It was not pretty.

Oh, how susceptible I was to the online marketers with their promises. Like a cornucopia of fruit at a juice stand, many people could and did sell me their programs. Some were great, others unnecessary. I could have used a bit of cautioning or direction.

I kept thinking that one course and then another (and another) would take me to the breakthroughs I needed. More desperate as funds got lower, I believed that learning could be done online. I now know that it can’t in all cases. You still need the expert to help with application.

Years after my training and certification, one of the facilitators told me that one couldn’t earn a living from coaching alone. I was shocked. I had never heard that. And I didn’t want to believe her. (I’d have gone down this path anyway.) I’d show her, I thought. I was ready to do whatever it took.

I was a hard worker who never gave up. How could I know that working hard was not enough?

Dear me. I had sorely overestimated what I could do. Seriously underestimated the learning curve. Probably through arrogance, and mostly from naïveté.

Hard work that didn’t result in income was wearing. Demoralizing.

Tell Us the Facts

FACTS

Surely coach training schools could have provided us with some direction about what we would require, especially those of us who didn’t have previous business skills. It isn’t the same for internal coaches.

Though some programs do teach business fundamentals, mine unfortunately did not, even though I was trained by two different schools. A spreadsheet with do’s and don’ts or even a process map would have served well.

To warn us. To recommend to us.

Avoiding the conversation is not just a disservice. It’s unconscionable.

The monies so many of us spent to find the right next steps could have been used more wisely. I wasted a lot of time and energy fumbling around and became dispirited. And I am not alone.

Yes, I could have done some research. I’m not a victim of my circumstances. I know that this situation faces graduates of all kinds of programs – people in the arts and sciences all have to figure out next steps. Those institutions too could do a better job of preparing their graduates.

Enchanted with programs that had been so highly recommended and with coaching in general, I was caught unprepared by what was unspoken. 

Coaches are for the most part lovely, idealistic people. The training experience was great from many perspectives, but lacking at helping the non-business person become aware of what to expect. We don’t know what we don’t know and that makes us naive and vulnerable.

I’ve wanted to tell this tale but hesitated to reveal how tough and unpleasant it has been. I have spoken with too many coaches who find themselves in this situation after graduating and I hope things change or have changed. 

A Gentle Plea

gentle request

So to those competent and serious coach training schools out there, I’m asking gently that you have the conversation with us about the challenges of starting a coaching business.  That’s responsible leadership.

Don’t avoid it. If you don’t talk about it, it’s easy to blame ourselves when we run up against the many different walls. And then we lose hope and courage. That hurts us and the profession. 

About that value of transparency that you teach us. Use it here, please.

It won’t hurt your business. We’ll trust you more.

Be the leaders you are, and point us in some direction. 

To help us manage expectations, you could tell us that for those of us thinking of making this into a business, we’ll need a host of other skills that won’t be covered. 

Coaching is powerful and transformative. I see what happens for with my clients. It’s both humbling and awe-inspiring every time they have a breakthrough.

I see it as I work with my own coach to keep stretching, learning and experimenting with other approaches and tools.

Of course, coach training schools teach coaching competencies. That’s why we pay them. And I happen to love the people who trained me and their programs. 

But I never heard them say what it would take to make a viable living. 

We leave programs enamoured and drunk on possibility.

Reality is cold and sobering. 

Over To You

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4 Comments

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  1. So glad you’re speaking this out, Miriam – it could equally apply to many complementary and holistic therapy trainings too.

    Being good at what we do is just one of the wings needed to lift a practice off the ground and make a sustainable living at it, so it would be good to have access to that information right from the start!

    Many of us in the helping/healing professions also have some out-dated programming around marketing and sales (as in ‘icky, manipulative’ etc) that really needs clearing, because actually they’re just about letting people know who you help and what you help them with, and then inviting them to work with you in exchange for some money (if you’re a good fit).

    When we don’t learn how to do this effectively, we fall down on the first part of our service, and the people who need our help either don’t find us, or don’t feel safe investing with us. And we end up going back to a j.o.b. just to pay the bills and our life’s work is relegated to the sidelines as a hobby – which is such a waste and drives me crazy!

  2. This is such a great post Miriam – I am not trained as a coach, but being trained in Shiatsu/Cranial/Yoga etc is much the same thing in a way. The schools are full of wonderful people, on a mission to share their magical tools – which for me, have been life-changing – bit which don’t prepare you for having a business.

    Alas, like you, I’ve learned the hard way that it simply isn’t a sustainable way to earn a living. I became a bodywork therapist first and a business owner second. I got lucky because I had a line of word-of-mouth clients before I qualified – almost all of them stressed and overwhelmed colleagues from my former NHS days. I soon realised that I couldn’t keep working at the same rate unless I wanted to burn out however… and that’s when the ‘real life’ learning began!

    I did it all backwards, and despite that, I’m one of the few I know that stuck at it. It is 10 years later now – I love my work, but to this day, I’m rebuilding what I do, because I have to in order to reach and serve people in a way that doesn’t deplete me. Like you, I’m now doing it my way – but it would’ve happened so much earlier, with me serving far more groups of people, had I been taught those business essentials from day one.

    People who help people are rare and precious souls. I hope that in future, they all find an easier way to reach and serve those that can benefit from their skills – as soon as they walk out with a certificate in their hands, so that they get to use it, and not just let it collect dust whilst they return to their ‘day job’.

  3. Dear Helen, I hear you, and I feel that angst in the last paragraph. I know that there have been moments of sheer paralysis for me, and I am grateful that I have stayed the course this long. I don’t give up and there comes a moment when it’s easy to think, maybe I wasn’t cut out for this entrepreneurial life after all. I am not out of the woods yet. Not. Yet.

  4. I understand you thoroughly. I have found that feeling comfortable marketing has been deadly challenging. There are people out there who don’t model anything I’d want to emulate and it’s taken years to find a style that works for me and to let go of worrying about someone will become a client. I have lost that issue and I am ever grateful that when we are right for each other, there’s no selling needed. There’s only a need to be filled. Thanks for your years of ongoing support. I so appreciate you.

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