For those of you who find yourselves impatient, discouraged, frustrated – keep at it.
I’ve been coaching for over 20 years – one one one executive coaching, to be specific, and I run a company where I have a team of associate coaches (who get the work I can’t accommodate or work for which I am not suited). For most of that time I have also been the sole means of financial support (and everything else) for my two boys.
Once in a while someone, I’m sure in an attempt to protect me and my family, points out to me that there is no real way to “predict” my income. And that maybe I should get a “real” job (because THAT’s more stable????). And to be clear, my business is entirely 1:1 coaching. No products, programs, pre-packaged stuff, no streams of “passive” income.
Technically, they’re right (at least on the predictability part, certainly not the job part!) – sometimes I don’t know EXACTLY what’s coming in next – even after 20 years. EXCEPT when you look at the trend lines. They’re up most years, and stable otherwise. So the data suggests that I do have a “predictable” income when you look at it over the course of time (note: data is always more reliable than the emotion-based stories we tell ourselves).
And sure, there are times when things are slow (even after 20 years). When I can’t see the next client coming. When I start to worry, “Is my run over?” When my emotion-based stories sneak out…
But then the business comes in again, usually fast and furious. So I’ve come to understand that there are indeed peaks and valleys, and that I’m playing a long game (meaning almost nothing I do results in a bunch of great new clients tomorrow) – and that I need to keep doing what I’m doing.
So what am I doing?
I am a really good coach. I work hard at always learning, always improving my skills, always challenging myself. I am in service of my clients. I ensure they are clear about what they want to get out of our work together AND that they understand our respective roles in that process.
I know what work suits me and what clients I can serve best, and I quickly and happily direct a possible client to another coach when I’m clear I’m not the best fit for them. Which means I believe in abundance, and that there is enough for for all the good coaches.
I participate in communities of practice. I get feedback on my coaching from experts, so I don’t get lazy.
I have a coach. At least one. ALL. THE. TIME.
I constantly make it clear that I am interested in taking on new clients. I have a decent website, a pretty good LinkedIn profile and a big network.
And I plan for the ups and downs. I (usually!) remember that there are peaks and valleys and that if I operate based on the peaks I’ll get myself in trouble. Beyond that – I have learned what works for my clientele in my market. And I keep doing it. Over and over and over, for years and years.
I was prompted to write this because, particularly in the recent proliferation of “build your six figure coaching business” snake-oil salespeople and their programs I constantly see posts from coaches curious about a new tool or sound bite or program or app or book or (insert flavour of the moment here) – and I sense that the constant focus on toys and tools and “fast track” programs is either a distraction or an avoidance mechanism.
I’m crystal clear – no one likes it when I say that building a sustainable coaching business (or any business) is hard work over a long period of time.
I just want to encourage those of you who really ARE – or WANT TO BE – really really good coaches that as long as you understand that you need to constantly work at being a good coach, AND you also need to invest time and attention into the business of your coaching, eventually you’ll be all right.
Continuously learn and grow. Operate from abundance. And be conservative in your business planning.