I’m now in my fourth year of being a creative coach and starting this business is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I’ve worked with over 150 awesome, incredible, and inspiring human beings who are making amazing things happen in the world right now (you can find out a little more about some of them and the work we’ve done together here).
I’m able to have full control over my time and my schedule so I can make my business work around my life, my family, and my health.
I have an awesome community who I create content for and I have met so many incredible humans through my Weekly Letters, my blog, and my podcast.
And I’m able to make a sustainable income from my business that has enabled me to be the breadwinner in my family, to live in a city we love, and travel to some amazing places all over the world too.
It’s a privilege and a joy to do the work I’m able to do in the world, and I’m so grateful every day for my business, for my crazy-awesome clients, and for this life that I’ve built for myself.
I've coached many other awesome coaches over the years - from life coaches, to health coaches, business and creative coaches, relationship coaches and more - and I also receive lots of emails from budding coaches with questions all about building and running a coaching business so today I'm taking 12 of my most asked questions and answering them for you here on the blog. I hope they can be of some encouragement and guidance for you if you're starting to build your own big-hearted coaching business or thinking about taking the leap soon.
And before we jump in, here are also some other posts I've written over the years for big-hearted coaches:
- Hey, Coaches: You Need A Business Plan That's Tailored To You
- What I Wish I Knew When I First Started My Big-Hearted Coaching Business
- So You Want To Start Your Own Big-Hearted Coaching Business?
- Ten Things To Read, Watch, & Listen To If You're A Big-Hearted Coach
- Five Steps To Discovering Who You Are As A Big-Hearted Coach
- Hey, Coaches: Ready To Feel Inspired To Create Content Again?
- How To Keep Falling In Love With Your Coaching Business Over And Over Again
1. What's the difference between coaching and mentoring?
For many coaches, including myself, we may use both coaching and mentoring techniques and skills in our practice depending on how best we can serve the client. In my experience, coaching is about helping your clients find their own answers and solutions to their problems - so you gently guide them to their own self-discovery. Coaching can be a big deep dive into the clients hopes, goals, fears, and biggest dreams - and a tool for self-discovery around the things that may be holding them back and the areas they would like to improve and grow in. As a coach, our job is to facilitate that discovery for our clients and offer up exercises, tools, techniques, and strategies to support, guide, and empower them in the pursuit of their goals.
Mentoring, on the other hand, is a lot more based on sharing experience, first hand knowledge, and guiding the client with more specific ideas and advice. In my own practice, for example, I both coach and mentor my clients - I use coaching techniques to hold space for my clients to dive deep, find their own answers, and empower them to listen to and trust themselves more, and I also step into a mentoring role when I share with my clients the lessons I've learned from running my own business, living my own creative life, and from working one-on-one with hundreds of clients too. This is the blend that I've found has worked best for me - my own personal coaching/mentoring sweet spot - and what's important is that you discover what works best for you. Maybe you're best suited to solely coaching, or just mentoring, or maybe a blend of the two will also work best for you. The most important thing is that you know your role, what your boundaries are and what you and your clients are each responsible for, and that you develop confidence in your craft and in your role as a coach or mentor.
2. Do I need a qualification?
This is the question that can split the industry down the middle - some people will say yes, you most definitely need to have a qualification, and others will say it depends on what type of services you're offering and your experience in that subject. I fall into the second category - I think the most important thing is that you are offering coaching services from a place of integrity. So can you actually deliver what it is you're saying you will deliver to your clients? Do you have the skill set and knowledge to walk with them in this journey? Training and a qualification may best help you get to that place of integrity, whereas for others your first hand experience and self-learning may be enough, and for many it's a blend of the two. It completely depends on what type of coaching services you're offering, and what I think is most important is that your sales copy and offerings honestly represents what knowledge and experience you're bringing to the table and what clients can expect from working with you.
For example, I don't have a traditional coaching qualification. I have a social work degree, which isn't entirely related but gave me a whole lot of skills when it came to listening to, supporting, and working alongside other humans, and I also have a whole lot of first hand experience in the industry and subjects that I coach around - and I've dedicated, and continue to dedicate, a whole lot of time to honing and developing my craft and toolbox as a coach through self-learning too. My clients don't hire me because they want a coach with a specific qualification, they hire me because they connect with my message and my coaching style, they trust my process, my testimonials, and my experience, and because I just feel like the right coach for them. I've also seen for many of my clients who are coaches how empowering and game-changing their coach training has been for them as a jumping off point for discovering who they are as a coach and developing their coaching techniques and toolbox.
So it's totally up to you when it comes to deciding whether or not to pursue a coaching qualification - if for example you want to be a health coach, having the tools to actually deliver that service may only be gained from investing in further training - but my biggest advice here would be that your development as a coach should never end. We will always have so much more to learn, have so many more areas of our coaching craft that we can develop, and we owe it to our clients to never stop learning and developing along the way.
3. How do I find clients?
I would encourage you to flip this question around and ask yourself instead: how can I help clients to find me?
It's a brave decision for someone to decide to invest their time, money, and energy into working 1:1 with a coach. It's our job then to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to discover our work and decide whether or not we're the right coach for them. We can do this by creating a clear and engaging website, by creating and sharing content and resources, by being available on social media, by getting offline and connecting with people in our local community, by offering discovery calls for potential clients to find out more about working together, and so much more.
You're never going to build a booked out coaching business overnight - it takes time to build that know, like, and trust and cultivate a community around your brand. That's the work it takes to build the coaching business that you're dreaming of. I encourage you to focus on putting yourself and your ideas out there, so you can make it easier for potential clients to find you and engage with your ideas and your work, and to be patient with your business as it starts to slowly thrive and grow along the way.
4. Should I offer free sessions at first?
This is another topic that can split the industry, some will say that you should never work for free, others will tell you that it's a great way to build up your experience and word of mouth. I've seen for many of my clients who have transitioned into coaching without any formal training that offering free sessions at first has really helped to build their confidence, experiment with their process, and get some initial testimonials to help them get started too. If you've never coached someone before and you start charging straight away, you may find yourself on that first coaching call completely out of your depth and unsure of how to proceed - so offering pro-bono coaching at first to build your confidence and hone your craft can be a great first step. I did this before I launched my first services, and then when I did launch my services I charged quite low prices while I built up my confidence and honed my process and I really do think that played a huge part in supporting me to become the coach I am today.
I think this can come back to coaching from a place of integrity - will offering free sessions to build up your confidence and approach and get some initial feedback help you to feel more ready to start charging for services? And even if you already feel confident and ready, offering a few free or discounted calls at first can be a great way to build up some testimonials and just get you coaching instead of waiting for those elusive first few clients to find you.
It's totally up to you and whatever feels right for you and your business, and my biggest advice for anyone who is thinking about offering free sessions at first is to have very clear boundaries and a cut off point too. You don't want to be stuck offering free sessions forever - so seeing it as a short season and then having a clear point where you will transition into charging can help you to keep moving forward.
5. What kind of programs and services should I offer?
This is totally up to you and what will help you to best serve your clients. My biggest encouragement would be to not just copy what you've seen others in your industry offer - instead think about what type of transformation you'd like your coaching services to offer your clients, or what type of journey you'd like to take them on together, and then think about what type of offering would best enable that. It's also helpful to think about how sustainable your programs and offerings will be too - so does it actually make sense from a business plan and schedule point of view to offer this, or will you find yourself overworked and struggling to reach even your baseline income goals with this offering?
Something else to think about is that when you're getting started, sometimes it can be helpful just to start with something simple so you can just get coaching and then discover what works best, and then over time you can hone and evolve your coaching programs once you have more experience.
6. And how much should I charge?
Again, this is totally up to you. Take a look around at your industry to get an idea of your peer landscape and just play around with numbers for a while. Something to remember is that your prices will always be growing and increasing as your experience does - so it's okay to start off with introductory pricing or a smaller amount and give yourself room to grow. It's also okay to start off with more premium pricing too if that feels like it best represents your work - you've got to do whatever feels best to you. Sometimes you've just got to make a decision, pick a number, and then trust that you will tweak it and evolve it as and when you need to. My biggest advice would be to make sure your pricing and availability for offerings actually enables you to reach your income goals in the long run - this post may help you get super specific about what those look like.
7. Is the industry too saturated now?
The short answer? Yes, of course it is. There are lots of people offering lots of types of coaching services out there now, that's just the magic of the internet and the doors it opens for us all to get our ideas and our work out there. But the truth is, the cream always rises to the top - so be the cream. Build and run your coaching business from a place of integrity. Do incredible work with your clients. Commit to becoming the best coach you can be. Share your ideas and get your message out there. Just be awesome - don't take short cuts, don't compromise your integrity or your brand for a quick win or sale, and try not to worry too much about what everyone else is doing. What's going to make you special as a coach is you - your own communication style, your own strengths, your own story and experience. Lean into that and don't worry about the rest, it never serves you to obsess about someone else's business.
8. What if I have an unhappy client?
It's not if, it's when. Every business owner at some point or another will come across an unhappy client, it's just the nature of being in business. It doesn't mean you're awful at what you do, or that your business is falling apart, but what does matter is how you handle it and how you learn from it.
Maybe you just weren't a good fit, maybe you made a mistake, maybe you didn't set the right expectations, or maybe your client just wasn't ready to engage in the coaching process. And many times, an unhappy client can still become a happy client - you may just need to communicate better with each other, or re-establish some boundaries and expectations. And other times, a client may want to end their time working with you or you may have to make the tough decision to end your working relationship together. Whatever happens, it's up to you to decide how to navigate these situations with integrity and grace - and it's going to look different in every situation. This is why having clear boundaries, terms and conditions, and a contract are essential - plan in advance your process for how you will deal with an unhappy client (refund process, terminating a contract etc) and be professional and polite even if the other party is not.
But once you deal with the client side of things, you then have to take care of you. Because unhappy clients can be really challenging to process - it can be a catalyst for a whole lot of self-doubt and imposter syndrome to come to the surface, and you may have to have some tough conversations with yourself about what you learned from this experience, what's on you and what's not your responsibility too, and how you can move past this experience as a better and improved coach and business owner because of it.
9. How do I develop confidence in myself as a coach?
It takes time, and experience, and dedication to your craft. You will be a better coach one year in, then two years in, and every year in after that. Doing the work, carving out time for further learning and reflection, asking for feedback and learning from every single coaching call is how you bridge the gap between the coach you are now and the coach you want to become. Be okay with being a beginner at first, and be okay with feeling uncomfortable at first too - there is so much you can only learn from actually coaching clients again and again and again. Give yourself space to be a beginner - don't demand from your coaching business something it can only give you one or two years down the line from now. Celebrate every tiny win - your first coaching call where you really felt in flow, seeing a client really start to overcome their fears and move forward in their journey, an email in your inbox saying thank you for being their coach.
Just remember: you can only get to where you want to go by doing the work it takes to get you there.
10. How do I make sure I don't burn out as a coach?
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Taking care of yourself is your number one job - you are the vessel through which your coaching practice comes to life, so you've got to be ready and able to deliver that on each and every call. So it's going to look like intentionally scheduling your workweek (I talk about how I do this here and here), building in white space and time to rest, making sure you have time to recover and recharge between client calls, and maybe even building in client-free weeks throughout the year too.
It's going to take trial and error to see what works best for you, and as your life evolves what you need from your business will evolve too, but I've found that actively deciding to build in those boundaries and intentionally plan your workweek is the best place to start.
11. What should my client process look like?
It should look like however you want and need it to look. Your clients need you to have a process that makes them feel confident and safe - it needs to be clear, and focused, and behind the scenes it's here to help you manage your clients and deliver the very best coaching engagement that you can. Think about all of the steps you will take with a client from enquiry until your very last call, what tools and resources can help you with each step, and pay attention along the way to what is working and what isn't and tweak your process as and when you need to. I've shared some tools and apps that help me to streamline my client process this way.
12. Am I actually ready to offer and deliver coaching services?
This is a question my clients sometimes ask me when they first want to explore the possibility of being a coach, or once they've started to take those steps to develop their business plan and model as a coach, and maybe even when they are ready to start launching and offering coaching services too. A whole lot of imposter syndrome can come to the surface when you're a coach, you may start to wonder: who the hell am I to think I can help people? These fears are normal, I had them too, and it doesn't mean that you're not capable of offering incredible services to clients and customers along the way.
So how do you know when you're ready? Can you picture yourself on a coaching call, with your clients bringing to the table the struggles and obstacles that you feel like you're here to serve, and do you know how you will walk them through a call together and how you will serve them along the way? That's what matters most. You don't have to have all of the answers (none of us ever will), but as long as you have enough experience, knowledge, and a toolkit as a coach to be of service to your clients, then you're ready. If you know in your gut that you're here to serve people, then you just have to trust yourself and take that leap and then commit to becoming the very best coach that you can be.
As a coach, our work is as much a vocation and a calling as it is just a job title. We feel wired to support people in this way - to hold space, to listen deeply, to guide and support others in the pursuit of their wildest hopes and dreams. And by stepping into this role, we grow so much as an individual too. I am not the same person I was before I embarked on this journey, and I know it will continue to push me to grow, evolve, and expand as a human along the way too.
& introducing The Big-Hearted Coach...
I also know that building and running a coaching business isn't always easy - it can be overwhelming, and challenging, and lonely at times too. Thats exactly why today I’m relaunching The Big-Hearted Coach, a 1:1 coaching program for fellow coaches and mentors who would like to spend four months together diving deep into your business and coaching practice so it can truly become the impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable business that you’re aching for it to be. I have just five spots available and if you'd like to find out more you can this way - I'd love to support you in your coaching journey if working together feels like a good fit for you.
More than anything though, if you're also a big-hearted coach or are hoping to embark on this awesome journey soon I am wishing you all the best moving forward and I hope this post can be of a little encouragement and insight to you in your journey along the way.
I'll be rooting for you always!
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