What I Wish I Knew When I First Started My Big-Hearted Coaching Business

Being a coach is wonderful, challenging, fulfilling, hard, scary, and so damn meaningful all at exactly the same time.

I’m over 18 months into running my coaching business now and there have been so many lessons that I’ve learned along the way so far. If I could go back and tell myself then what I know now I would have saved myself a whole lot of overwhelm, fear, and sleepless nights along the way

Today I want to to share with you 10 of the things I would have loved to have known back then when I was first getting started in my coaching business, in the hopes it can be of some encouragement and insight to you in your own coaching journey too. 

1. It’s not our job to have all of the answers

There can be this fear when you’re first starting out as a coach that your clients are expecting you to wave a magic wand and have every single answer whenever they need it. We put a whole lot of pressure on ourselves to be the “perfect” coach and deliver above and beyond for every awesome client that we work with. The secret though is this - it’s not our job to have all of the answers.

It’s our job to hold space. It’s our job to bring our expertise, experience, and energy to the table. It’s our job to listen, to ask good questions, to show compassion, to use the tools and gifts and strengths we have available to us to help our clients bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.

The minute we take the pressure off to have all of the answers, that’s when we can start doing really impactful, effective, and meaningful coaching work along the way. 

2. Imposter syndrome comes with the job title

Every client I’ve worked with who is also a coach battles with imposter syndrome, especially when they’re first getting started. I battle with it too. The fear that we’re frauds, that we’re not good enough, that nagging doubt of “who the hell are we to be a coach?” going over and over again in our minds.

Imposter syndrome comes with the job. It doesn’t mean you are incapable of doing incredible work along the way. You have to question it, to move forward even when self-doubt and lack of confidence is trying to hold you back, and do the hard work of really finding your voice and feet as a coach.

The best remedies I’ve found to imposter syndrome as a coach? Talk it out with people who know you and your work. Revisit past work you’ve done with clients that you’re proud of. Keep a folder in your inbox of messages of thanks and praise from clients. Read through your testimonials. Then just shake it off and get back to doing what you do best. 

3. Clarity comes from getting stuck in and doing the work

Every business owner wants 100% clarity when they’re first starting out with their work, but the fact is that true clarity only comes from getting stuck in, doing the work, and paying attention to the a-ha moments and lessons you learn along the way.

The services that will suit your business model best, who you dreamiest dream clients are, your big-picture plan for your business, what to charge - you figure this out as you go, as you learn more from each and every client engagement, and as you work more in your business and see what feels good and what doesn’t.

Don’t be afraid if you don’t feel 100% clarified on your business vision straight away - you don’t need that 100% to get started. Even just 50% will do. 

4. It can take time to find the best schedule and routine

It took me over a year to really find the best schedule and routine for me - before that I either felt overwhelmed, burnt out, or scattered most of the time. Whenever I work with new coaches just starting out, one of my biggest pieces of advice is to take control of their schedule as early as possible - to put boundaries in place when it comes to their time and when they're available for coaching sessions, or sooner or later their coaching practice will feel wildly out of their control.

The reality is though, it may take you months or years to find the best groove for you. Pay attention to what feels good, tweak things when you figure out what will work best for you, and embrace that things will probably change and evolve as you and your life changes and evolves too. 

5. Coaching is fulfilling and draining at exactly the same time

It’s taken me a while to really feel comfortable with how draining coaching can feel sometimes - for a long time I worried that it meant I just wasn’t cut out for the job. Coaching in many ways is an exchange of energy - to show up, hold space, ask the right questions, listen and support, encourage, and guide our clients we have to give a whole lot of ourselves to the process. It can be exhilarating and exhausting at exactly the same time. Especially if you’re an introvert like me, sometimes your brain can feel completely fried by the end of a day full of coaching calls.

But I also feel crazy fulfilled too - and that’s how I know that this is the work for me. It’s okay to feel drained and fulfilled at exactly the same time - it doesn’t mean that you’re bad at what you do. The secret is to take care of yourself, build in white space, and give yourself enough downtime to recover and recharge so you can show up and give 100% for each and every client along the way. 

6. It will never stop being scary to do things against the grain

Building a big-hearted business means you put a whole lot of your heart and soul into the work you do. Your values guide you every step of the way and sometimes that means you’re going to do things a little against the grain. Maybe you want to market yourself in a quieter, less salesy way, maybe you want to build a business model that is a little different from the norm, or maybe you want to show up as a coach in a less-traditional way than other coaches in your industry do. Whatever it is, there’s going to be times when you’re itching to do things by your own rules instead of the standards in your industry.

When this happens, it’s scary. It will never stop being scary. You’ve just got to keep listening to your intuition and be brave enough to make purposeful decisions in your business that work best for you. Every time I've been brave enough to do things that my intuition is telling me to but feels crazy scary, it's always lead to my business being more fulfilling, impactful, and profitable too. 

7. Our growth as a coach is never done

We’re always growing and evolving in our coaching practice. Every single client we work with will teach us something new. The more clients we help, the more books and resources we read, the more tools we develop, and the more we up-level in our craft, the more we grow into our craft along the way. 

Next to the client work, this is one of my favourite parts of the job. Prioritising time for my own personal and professional growth is so fulfilling to me, and knowing that it’s fuelling and improving my coaching practice along the way makes it even better. 

Stay open to all the growth ahead of you. Trust in your ability to show up and do incredible work exactly as you are right now, but also lean into the fact that there’s so much more ahead of you too. 

8. Our business and coaching practice is going to evolve, adapt, and change

My business looks so different now that it did when I started - back when I first opened my doors for business I was only focusing on blog coaching and that has since evolved into the creative coaching business that I have today. It’s scary to sometimes think about all of the evolution ahead of us - so many of us just want to miss out the messy middle and be there already - but I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is not to fight it along the way.

You can do incredible things with your coaching business, you just have to be in it for the long haul and be brave enough to evolve, adapt, and change as you go. 

9. Dry patches happen, don’t freak out about it so much

I remember the first time I experienced a dry patch in client bookings and how I completely freaked out. I was sure my business was on the brink of falling apart and everything I had built so far was about to crumble in front of me. 

Here’s what happened next: after a few weeks of crickets, the client enquiries started to roll in again and I booked out for the next few months ahead. Slow patches are part of the job - they come and they go, sometimes for reasons we can understand, and sometimes for no quantifiable reason at all. What I’ve learned is this: freaking out doesn’t help at all.

Learn to navigate your slow seasons - figure out how to tell the difference between a temporary dry patch and bigger business problem. Trust that sometimes client bookings comes in waves. Figure out what’s going to work best for you when it comes to consistently attracting clients throughout the year. Dig deep and do the work it takes to build a business that’s stable and consistent. Whatever you do, try not to freak out so much - freaking out never serves us along the way. 

10. Don’t forget to make time to reflect 

It’s so easy sometimes to get wrapped up in the client work and managing our online presence and dealing with the nitty gritty behind the scenes of our business that we can forget to take a minute to step back and reflect. Building in sometime to coach ourselves a little and check in with how we’re doing and feeling in our work can be an essential part of our growth along the way.

Reflecting on our current client work, on how our schedule feels, on our bigger vision and the goals we’re working towards right now - this all helps us build the coaching business we really want to build. I’ve found that if I’m to go-go-go I can start to feel a little disconnected from the core of my business and my work - I need enough space to reflect and recalibrate from time to time if I want to stay focused, fulfilled, and intentional in this journey. 

To finish

The truth is, being a coach is damn scary sometimes. Our job is to show up and support, guide, and encourage others and that’s a whole lot of pressure on our shoulders at times. The biggest lessons that I’ve ultimately learned are this: take care of yourself. Do what you’ve got to do to be the best coach you can be. Keep moving forward and honing your craft. Listen more than you talk. Be brave enough to build the business you really want to build. Just go out there and do the awesome work you’re meant to be doing in the world.

Coaches, I’m rooting for you!

One last thing...

The Big-Hearted Coach

This blog post is the fourth in a 6-part series to coincide with the first launch of The Big-Hearted Coach, a 3 month 1:1 coaching program that’s here to help you feel confident, fulfilled, and stress-free in your coaching business. There are just 4 spots available and it starts in October 2016 - find out more this way