Four Rookie Mistakes New Coaches Make and How to Avoid Making Them.
I know, I know, I KNOW! You’re certified (or not) as a life coach and eager to make this coaching thang a business!! Whoop whoop! 🙌🏻 Exciting times!
It really is exciting! I remember that time in my own coaching journey, and it was damn near electrifying. Suddenly, there were so many things I wanted to do and learn about to get this new baby off the ground. With hindsight, I got lucky and did a couple of things brilliantly right. (Cue the “YAY!” sound clip). I also got a tad ahead of myself and made some rookie mistakes despite having decades of at-the-helm-and-in-the-trenches business experience under my belt. (Cue the sad trombone playing “wah wah wah waaaaaaah”.)
Without question, what I most love about coaching new life coaches from all around the world at the start of their business journey is seeing that same fire, passion, enthusiasm, and eagerness to dive unreservedly into their new purpose-fuelled venture. They are driven by their desire to change lives and infused with hopes for a future in which they get to make an impact and earn a great living doing it!
What I have found super interesting to notice, though, is how often those same rookie mistakes show up amongst life coaches in this “pre-business” stage.
To be clear, the pre-business stage lies between the becoming-a-life-coach part and the knuckling-down-to-build-the-business part. It’s kinda like the flirting-with-business-phase. You’re giddy with the idea of it and full of romanticized notions around how easily business will flow to you and how fun it will be, but you’ve not quite wrapped your head around what precisely it’s going to entail or how you’re going to get it done. In other words, there’s no definitive strategy or plan of action in place. Let me assure you - it’s natural and normal.
Without those initial butterflies and rose-tinted dreams, it’s highly unlikely that you’d take your first tentative steps towards starting this online coaching business, and while they’re not enough to build a sustainable business, it’s definitely where it all starts. Every great business starts with an idea. A dream. But it’s what you do to make the dream a reality that separates the hopeful from the successful.
So let’s dive into the 4 most prevalent rookie mistakes I see show up time and time again.
#1 Practice makes perfect!
You know how you can't get fit just by learning or reading about exercise? Well, the same thing applies here. It's called a Coaching 'Practice' for a reason. You really do need to practice it. Practicing coaching for free is how you build your confidence as a coach. It's also the most ethical way to test and tweak your effectiveness. It's how you experiment to prove the kinds of results you're truly capable of producing for paying clients. It's also how you gather your very first client testimonials (an extremely valuable asset when it comes to creating your website and marketing your coaching services down the line.
Check out my previous blog post on The Confidence Building Formula For New Coaches. Your Self-Imposed Coaching Internship – including a downloadable planner and template for collecting client testimonials.
Not only that, but often pro-bono clients become your first paying clients and are the source of your first referral business. Yup! All that free coaching really pays off!
Now you've probably heard a fair bit about the importance of finding your coaching niche. One of the common mistakes is the belief that you first need to pick your niche and design your ideal client avatar and then get coaching when the opposite is true. Most coaches will tell you that after their first 100 hours of pro-bono coaching, their ideal client avatar and niche changed.
There is so much learning that happens in those first 100 hours coaching anybody you can find and coaching them on whatever it is they throw at you. You'll quickly learn what areas of coaching light you up and what areas of coaching leave you feeling drained. You'll fast be able to identify the clients you can't wait to coach again and the clients you dread having to coach again. All of these things play an important role in helping you identify your niche and ideal client avatar.
In my opinion, those first 100 hours are one of the most important investments of your time you'll ever make in your new coaching business.
Speaking of investments, that leads me to the next mistake.
#2 Hold up there, Spendthrift Sam!
Close that wallet for a minute, and let's talk moola for a moment.
One of the best things about starting a coaching business (brick-and-mortar or online) is the minimal financial investment required. However, there are loads of ways to spend money "on/for your new business" that add up really quickly but aren't at all necessary in these early stages.
I recently had a new coach lamenting that she could no longer afford to keep her business going as it was a money drain. I found this curious because her coaching business, as is the case with many, if not most, new coaches, was a side hustle. She already worked from home in a J.O.B. that provided the basics she required for her coaching business. A great internet connection, a computer, and a smartphone. I asked her to elaborate on where the money drain was. She started rattling off a list of various apps and paid monthly subscriptions to software service providers, so I invited her to do a little exercise with me listing all these expenses on a spreadsheet. It rounded up to a staggering $900 per month, for a coaching business that was bringing in less than $400 a month in revenue at the time. And the thing is, aside from her web hosting and domain fees, none of it was necessary.
There are so many fan-frikkin-tastic apps and subscription solutions that offer everything from improved productivity, CRM and automation solutions that absolutely do help you streamline your business for efficiency and efficacy.
But you only need them once you are generating the volume of business that justifies the spend. There are no apps required when you have no email list and 50 or fewer clients a month.
She was paying for things 'now', that she might only need some time in the future. All but 3 of the technologies she was paying for, offered a free entry-level plan, which, when starting in your coaching business, is usually all you need to get going. The thing to remember with technologies is that they support your business activities. They don't generate business. Don't pay for things you anticipate you will eventually need. Pay for them at the point that your level or volume of business warrants them - and pays for them.
Another area I see coaches erroneously spending is on programs and courses. Now don't get me wrong. You absolutely should invest in yourself and your business for the rest of forever, and programs and courses are a very effective way to do that. What I'm saying is, don't randomly purchase any and every course you can find in the hopes that you'll find the one that holds the elusive secret to your business success.
Investing in courses needs to be a part of an overarching and strategic plan for your business, taking into account what phase of business you are in at the time of purchase. A simple case of first steps first. Once you have a clearly defined strategy for the step-by-step framework for building and growing your business, you will be able to select the right course at the right time in your journey to keep making progress in your business.
For example, I have had more than a few clients come to me frustrated by the fact that they've spent $1000 or more on a kick-ass Instagram course and despite the fact that they regularly hear things from followers like "I love your I.G. account!" nobody is hiring them. The reason for that is that they've not yet built out the foundations of their business or the marketing strategy that supports their business goals. So, despite having a drool-worthy I.G. account, they're not able to provide their ideal clients a compelling enough reason to hire them.
It's a bit (or a lot) like deciding you're going to build a new house, and the very first thing you do is head to IKEA to purchase the drool-worthy furniture and décor. A yet-to-be-built house can't possibly attract clients that are ready to buy and move in.
Again, this leads to the next mistake.
#3 Stop Marketing!
Yeah. I know. That's just crazy talk, Jay. What the actual…
Log out of Facebook and Instagram for a second and hear me out.
One of the biggest mistakes - and the hugest waste of time and money to boot - is marketing when you do not have the foundations of your business in place.
Let's go back to the analogy of the yet-to-be-built new house. You can't host a show day if the house has not yet been built. Social media is "show day". It's where you get to draw a clear picture in the minds of would-be buyers of what their life could look like living there. It's where you get to shine a light on the architect and the reputation of the builder. It's where you get to showcase previous work as proof of the quality of workmanship.
If you try to start marketing before you've got clarity around your business, your brand, your offer, and exactly who you're offering it to, you risk the chance of people tuning you right out and never doubling back around.
Everybody with an internet connection is being waterboarded with marketing messages. Your ideal clients are savvy and have become super selective about who they're connecting with. I can recognize life coaches who have not built a solid business framework just by looking at their social media accounts. And it has nothing to do with how many followers they have. (Insider secret: It's the size of your email list that counts, not the size of your social media following). I can recognize a floundering life coach by their content. They're re-posting motivational quotes and 'inspirational' stock imagery, and I have no idea what their core message is or who they're speaking to, or even what it is they're able to offer a potential client. They're vaguely offering a vague concept of transformational life coaching. 🙄
Trust me. Nobody in the history of the world has ever stumbled upon another dime-a-dozen inspirational quote on their social media feed and thought, "Wow, this coach really understands me! I'm inspired to pay that coach for some more inspiration". #notgoingtohappen
Look, I know that rolling up your sleeves and digging in to lay the proverbial bricks of your business is hard work and not as sexy as showing up, picture-perfect on show day to welcome guests in with a glass of wine but that's what it's going to take.
The successful coaches you see out in the world have put in the necessary work to succeed. They have a rock-solid business model, cohesive strategies, scalable systems and processes, intentionally crafted personal brands, and irresistible offers in place. Social media is but a tool they use to promote and attract people to it. Don't believe me? Drop them a D.M. or an email and ask them about it.
And speaking of asking, that brings me to rookie mistake number four.
#4 Ask for help.
Being a solopreneur does not mean having to go it alone. When you're still trying to figure out how to start your life coaching business, or you're simply stuck and going nowhere really slowly, invest the necessary time and money to find out what you need to build the coaching business of your dreams. To develop the framework for a sustainable business that suits your lifestyle, goals and plays to your strengths. A business that is YOUnique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating a successful business because there is no one-size-fits-all definition of success.
Despite unprecedented access to free information and free resources available to entrepreneurs today, the failure rate of small businesses has not changed much over the last 50 years. So many new coaches spend years out in the wilderness, drowning in a sea of free webinars and consuming every piece of free content they can lay their hands on.
The reality is that if all you needed to be successful was information, everybody with an internet connection would be a billionaire. Getting the help you need to develop informed and actionable bite-sized strategies that you can apply to see consistently improved, often immediate results in your business would be a far more worthwhile investment of your time, don't you think?
If necessary, find a business mentor or coach that will save you years of costly trial-and-mostly-error tactics trying to figure it all out on your own. I'm not saying this because I'm a business mentor and business coach for life coaches, but because it's the most inspired and brilliant investment you will ever make as a business owner starting out. Having a business coach in your corner that pushes you a little harder, helping you navigate the early pitfalls of starting a business, and acting as your accountability partner will most certainly provide you a competitive advantage in these early stages of your online coaching business.
There's a reason so many successful entrepreneurs keep the counsel of mentors and coaches—model that same success for yourself. Give yourself the very best chance at succeeding at this business of life coaching so that you can get out there, change lives and earn a great living doing it.
I see too many (way too many) life coaches trying to lone-wolf it, only to become so overwhelmed and frustrated that they throw in the towel and give it all up before ever getting to make their impact on the world. You can and should avoid taking that path at all costs because the world needs life coaches in every conceivable niche, now more than ever, and so life coaches must be set up to succeed.
It's a simple as that.
If you're trying to figure out what your next move should be on your pathway to profit, Zoom on over to grab a spot in my calendar and let's work out what your next move should be.
Your business will ❤️ you for it.