Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Entrepreneurial Success Today”
Running a coaching and consulting company over these past 15 years that’s dedicated to helping women build successful careers of significance, I meet and hear from thousands of people who want to reinvent, many of whom are considering launching a coaching or other small business of their own. Many hope to transition away from corporate life into coaching for solid reasons, and others come with great, top-level corporate experience they wish to leverage.
Back in 2001 when I made my big decision to leave my 18-year corporate marketing career and transition to the helping professions (first as a marriage and family therapist and then as a career and leadership coach), I truly thought I was fully prepared to be successful as an entrepreneur, given my marketing and business experience.
Unfortunately, I made some huge mistakes and missteps that thwarted my success for quite some time. It took me years to get on the right track, determining the best niche in which to serve, creating an ongoing funnel and pipeline of potential clients, developing strategies to vet potential clients, doing the networking required to connect with influential “ambassadors” for my work, leveraging teaching and thought leadership in my work, offering more than one-on-one coaching as a revenue stream, and more.
In looking back, there are 5 critical things I wish I knew before leaving my corporate career that would have been so instrumental to understand, and they were:
- Get intimately familiar with your tendencies around money, spending and saving, and address them.
- Be very careful about who you partner with – they can uplift you or hurt you.
- You have to learn to be a leader and visionary for your business, not just a manager or “doer.”
- Change and pivot more quickly when the need arises. Don’t keep your head in the sand.
- Get necessary outside help but in the end, have the courage to do it your own way. Don’t follow all the “gurus” whose approaches feel “off.”
As I was writing my first book, Breakdown, Breakthrough back in 2008 all about the 12 hidden crises working women face, I’d begun to ask my clients, “What do you want, and what do you really want, in doing this?” and the question would reveal that, for many, they weren’t sure what they really wanted, but they did know they wished to escape from the pain, challenge, exhaustion and unhappiness of their current career or corporate life and thought that coaching would be an easy route out.
Years ago, after such an assessment, I might have said something like:
“Looks like it makes sense at this time to move forward, and that you’ve got a strong grasp of what’s required and a readiness and excitement to do what’s necessary. Go for it!”
Now, do a deeper dive
Today, all these years later, I would do a deeper dive with them, and help make sure that the pursuit of becoming a coach isn’t about fleeing from the pain of a former life they didn’t want, or running away from themselves and their own habitual patterns and behaviors that continually blocked them from greater success, happiness and reward in their careers.
In fact, I now explore with my clients the reality that, if you don’t take steps now to empower yourself in your current direction or career, you’ll find that those deep challenges will repeat again and again, no matter what new path you follow. It’s committed internal and external work that’s required if you want to shift to become an “energetic match” to the great success you want.
In these intensely challenging and competitive times, I now ask new questions, including: “Are you ready and able to do what it takes to make this successful? Are you 3000% committed?” Have you tried this new direction on fully — physically, emotionally, financially, behaviorally and spiritually — and feel clear that it’s right for you? Have you interviewed people who are both succeeding greatly in this new direction but also those who have “failed” or left the field, to learn exactly why?
About the money
According to Salary.com, the average salary for a career coach in New York City is $54,807 with the typical range being $45,050 to $68,086. In other cities, such as Rochester, New York, the salaries are significantly lower (the average is $44,912).
From what I’m seeing and hearing directly, thousands of coaches (particularly in more general niches such as “life” or “transformation” coaching) are making significantly less than this, on average. Sure, some make well over six figures, but most don’t come close. And due to the growing competitive landscape of coaching and that so much of it is now done virtually (not locally, in person), many coaches are failing as they don’t have the online business or coaching know-how to: 1) consistently deliver the outcomes clients need and want, 2) identify a niche where they can stand out, 3) engage in effective package creation and pricing, 4) share great content and thought leadership that moves people forward, 5) create free tools and resources that generate an email list and social following, 6) engage in powerful networking, and other key initiatives required to build a successful business.
The truth is, it’s not an easy path, and clients won’t simply fall into your lap. Success requires time, action, commitment, and a good number of top-level skills to differentiate yourself and to generate a large enough community to continue to fill your pipeline of paying clients.
Is it easy to get clients?
A coach from one of the largest coaching organization in the world once told me that of all the folks that reach out to them to explore coaching, only 40% are truly “coachable,” and of those, only 30% really want coaching, and of those, only 30% have the financial means for their services. In the end, only about 10% of that final subgroup actually sign up (that’s 3% of the total who reached out).
For coaches and service providers who don’t have a recognized brand, thought leadership and content, a range of services at different price points, and a significant reach, as well as a filtering or application process that weeds out potential clients who aren’t a fit, those stats would likely be even lower.
In addition, coaching for professionals such as career, executive or leadership coaching is targeting folks who are at high levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – the level of self-actualization. But today, our economic and financial challenges have pushed millions of people down several levels of the hierarchy – to the level of “safety” — so that their primary focus now is on financial and emotional safety and security. Meaning, fewer people will be engaging with you as clients unless you can serve them in delivering the outcomes they most need.
What’s it all mean?
If you’re interested in starting a practice/business as a coach during these challenging times, it’s important to seriously evaluate your goals and visions, your abilities and talents, your passion for this, your risk-tolerance, and your commitment to launching and maintaining a thriving entrepreneurial venture, as well as your financial readiness for this. If you’re not quite there yet, there are questions to ask and steps you can take to further you on the path, if you wish.
Here are several key questions to ask yourself if you’re considering launching or growing a coaching business or any entrepreneurial or consulting endeavor as well:
Ask yourself the following questions:
1) What must I earn each year, to achieve the standard of living I need? What have I earned before (and if I want to top that, what will I do differently)?
2) What’s my risk tolerance? Can I tolerate a lack of stability, fluidity, and security for a given period of time? How long?
3) What is my true relationship with money today? How do I deal with it, earn it, save it, invest it and grow it? Are my actions around money, and my feelings and views about money empowered and healthy?
4) Do I believe I’m truly “worthy” of having great, rewarding success in this new direction?
5) Am I clear on the steps required to build success in this new endeavor, and committed to taking those “stretch” steps that are most likely outside of my comfort zone today?
6) What is motivating me deep down – consciously and subconsciously – to want to be a coach? Is there anything I’m running from that needs to be addressed in my own life and career first, so I can be a strong role model for others, as one who’s done the internal and external work to close my own power gaps?
7) If I do everything I can to make my practice work for three to five years, and $40,000 is what I’m earning, will this be acceptable and viable for my life and family? If not, what will be my plan to grow myself, my knowledge and skill set in business-building or what other professional directions can I add — so I can be part of the minority segment of high-earners in the coaching field?
8) Do I have the abilities, courage, confidence, perseverance and commitment to undertake all the facets of running a thriving practice/business, including: client development, networking, social media, marketing, branding, speaking, workshops, writing, business and financial leadership, and providing top-notch client services? If not, where will I get support, learn new skills, and how will I fund this growth?
9) Am I ready to let go of a “build it and they will come” mentality, and step up to what it actually takes to run a successful business/practice?
10) Is there any internal “narcissism” in me that I need to heal, that makes me think that I’ll thrive where others have failed, but yet I’m not doing what’s necessary to BE highly successful in this work?
11) Finally, what am I really looking for – a job or a calling? And if it’s a calling, do I have the risk-tolerance and fortitude to do the work a calling demands?
These are critical lines of inquiry I ask my own clients to consider, not to discourage them from following their dreams, but to present a realistic picture of what’s involved in running a successful business today, and to make sure their eyes are wide open to what’s required.
If you do wish to move forward into coaching, I’d say it’s time for you to explore it further.
Here are some helpful first steps:
Research, research, research
Treat it like you’re a student of the field. Learn what it will take and explore training programs, resources, and other coaches’ businesses and models. Find a successful coach to hire who could serve as your mentor business coach.
Consult with a career/business coach, consultant or advisor who has already achieved what you long to, not someone who claims to be” successful” but never achieved what you want.
Get more powerful with your money today – don’t wait
Gain a thorough grasp of your financial situation – what you need to earn, what you spend, what you can cut back on, exactly how you will fund your reinvention if it takes several years, and so on. Work with a great financial consultant to help you sort out your situation, and set realistic, stretching goals. Get out of denial, and heal your money story once and for all.
“Go where the energy is” – observe yourself in the process of exploring this path
Does it feel exciting, energizing, enlivening, or daunting and discouraging? For you to make a go of this, the predominant feeling needs to be excitement, possibility, and passion. If you feel frightened by moving forward, what small steps can you take to address your specific fears today?
Receive great training and education
Nothing moves us forward faster than powerful training and education to help us be and know more than we do today. Don’t skip that step, and think that because you helped people in your corporate life, you understand what great coaching is and entails. Coaching training and business skill development are absolutely critical to give you mastery and teach you how to be the best coach, and business owner, you can be.
Develop a sound business plan with concrete marketing strategies
Find a great non-profit organization such as SCORE, or a Women’s Business Development Center (such as the Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council) in your town, or check out the Count Me In Revival, to help you create powerful business and marketing tactics, and a plan, to make your endeavor successful.
Finally, close your power gaps
In working with thousands of professionals, I’ve seen that most professional challenges are related in some core way to a lack of internal or external power that causes steady “leaks” in our confidence, vision, and authority. These leaks affect our ability to make headway towards building a more authoritative and rewarding professional life or business with the impact and fulfillment we long for.
I’ve made it my key focus today to help professionals close those power gaps for good, and my latest book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, addresses each gap in depth.
These power gaps hit women hard today (98% of women have reported having at least one of these gaps), and women process these challenges differently from men. But men suffer from them as well. These gaps prevent us from reaching our highest, most thrilling potential.
The seven most damaging power gaps I’ve experienced in my own life and witnessed in thousands of professionals and entrepreneurs around the world are:
Gap 1: Not Recognizing Your Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments
Gap 2: Communicating From Fear Not Strength
Gap 3: Reluctance to Ask For What You Deserve
Gap 4: Isolating From Influential Support
Gap 5: Acquiescing Instead of Saying “STOP!” to Mistreatment
Gap 6: Losing Sight of Your Thrilling Dream for the Future
Gap 7: Allowing Past Trauma To Define You
All of these gaps will work to keep you from the ultimate success and reward you are hoping for.
Ready to close your gaps?
The strongest gap-closing step you can take is to review the 7 gaps above, and if any resonate with you, choose the one that generates the most internal pain and shame. Then, starting today, take small, doable micro-steps to begin to close that gap so that it’s no longer secret, painful, or shameful. (Check out my Power Gap survey to help you identify which gaps you may be facing.)
Face these gaps bravely, get help to be accountable, and take actions that will finally help you recognize and leverage your special talents and abilities, and feel more confident in all that you are and offer, as a coach or in any field that calls to you today.
For more information about building a successful coaching practice, check out my new Amazing Career Coach Certification training course, my FREE webinar training “6 Key Steps To Helping Professional Women Thrive AND Building Rapid Growth In Your Own Business,” and download my free 4-part video training “The 6 Critical C’s To Building a Successful Coaching Business” and my report “The 10 Most Crippling Mistakes New Coaches Make.”