This column was written by Emma-Sue Prince, founder of Unimenta. They have just launched the first in a new mini ebook series, The Advantage for Mid-Lifers, based on the seven soft skills popularised in Emma-Sue's book The Advantage.
I recently went to a business networking session for women – at least half the people were coaches of one sort or another and, it seemed to me, all trying to get the other half of people at the event to become their clients!
It was confusing as I could not really distinguish between one coach and another and the language they used to talk about their business was all the same i.e. “transforming your life”, “unleashing inner potential”, “driving business results”.
An unregulated industry
There is no doubt that coaching is powerful and makes an impact. However, it is still an unregulated industry – the barriers to entry are low and there are probably around 20,000 or so independent coaches in the UK alone.
It does make me wonder how many are actually making a decent living from it and I suspect only a few are. Coaching is a saturated market but there are still thriving coaching businesses out there and the reason for this is that they are likely approaching their work as a business rather than an independent freelancers like the coaches at my recent networking event.
A coaching business is like any other start-up – it needs about 18 months to take off properly requiring a lot of work to really understand the market and potential competitors, build a paying client base and deciding whether your website is merely for information or a real shop window.
Building that client base alone takes huge proactivity and energy and an ability to express clearly what makes you different from all the other coaches out there.
Coaching is an art and a skill and there are many talented people out there offering a something that does tangibly make a difference. But this alone isn’t enough to create a viable and profitable business.
Too many credentials?
The industry is unregulated and that in itself is a problem.
It results in many coaches having “too many” credentials and everything from NLP, psychometric testing and details on their coaching qualifications. Naturally, because in an unregulated industry it’s important to show that you are qualified.
But actually clients don’t really care about any of this that much which is why it is so easy for anyone to set themselves up as a coach if they have a great network and a great website and a clear target audience. Clients also won’t necessarily be aware of the quality and credibility of one coaching qualification over another.
It is far more important to be clear about what practical results you can offer your clients, be prepared to offer plenty of taster sessions and to go from there.
The importance of value and interest
It’s also important to be offering value and interest whether that is through interesting articles and free downloads or podcasts on your website or through social media platforms to build the relationships that will hopefully bring paying clients.
Even that is a long game though and can take many months without having expectations!
So coaches setting up a business also need to have at least 18 months’ worth of working capital so that they don’t go bust and so that they can finance marketing and networking activities and their websites.
Most successful coaches mix coaching with facilitation, training and consultancy which can lead to establishing a good client base.
Perhaps though, what is really needing is more collaboration among coaches rather than so many individual freelancers. How about a group of coaches working in various niches setting up a coaching practice much like a lawyer practice or consultancy pooling resources, skills and expertise?
I believe that here is where the real opportunity for business success lies in a saturated market of individuals. What do you think?
The Advantage Licensed Trainer is a three-day workshop led by Emma Sue Prince to train the trainer in delivering ‘The Advantage’ soft skills programme. The programme introduces vital soft skills we all need to succeed in work and life in a highly interactive way. Training Zone members get 10% discount on the course with coupon code TZ1016 (on all payments made before 1st September).
About Emma Sue Prince
Emma Sue is author of The Advantage – the 7 key soft skills you need to get ahead published by Pearson Business. She has designed an experiential learning workshop based on these skills: adaptability, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive, critical thinking and resilience and is currently licensing trainers to deliver these.
Emma Sue provides consultancy in emerging economies and travels regularly to India, Bangladesh and Tanzania advising on a range of large funded projects. She runs a free membership site – Unimenta – for practitioners working in soft skills. When not working Emma Sue runs a local gospel choir in her home town of Godalming, Surrey and is an avid baker.