Don’t “Sell” Life Coaching (Or Your 'Story') - Offer Solutions Instead

“Show your clients what they cannot see. Say to your clients what no one else would dare to say. And you will have all the clients you ever desire.” - Steve Chandler & Rich Litvin, The Prosperous Coach

Each year, a wave of new graduates emerge from life coaching programs across the globe. Coaching certifications in hand, ready to take on the world. There’s no doubt that both online business as well as the coaching industry itself are growing exponentially, and the data shows that demand for life coaches is only on the rise. 

As a new coach, the world’s your oyster… right? Flexibility, freedom, and the opportunity to get paid to do what you love while helping others achieve their highest potential. Dreamy stuff, no doubt. 

So how come getting started feels so difficult?

You’re good at this. You’re all in, and you believe you have what it takes. And yet… you’re struggling to sell coaching. You've posted on social media, spoken to more than one potential client, done free coaching sessions, and tried so many ways to get the word out about your coaching program. But your train still feels like it's barely inching out of the station.

  • Where are all those paying clients other life coaches keep talking about?
  • How do you build a sustainable coaching business that actually pays the bills?
  • Does coaching REALLY lead to prosperity and freedom?

If you're lying awake at night pondering these questions, then it's time for some home truths. Let’s take a look at what might be going on, what selling coaching really looks like, and the most effective things you can do to find more coaching clients.

Ready to pick up some steam in your coaching business? Let's go!

TRUTH: Nobody Hires A “Life Coach”

The first mistake many new coaches make is to talk about “what” we do. This might work for a lawyer, doctor, or accountant… but not so much in the coaching industry. What people are looking for isn’t a coach practitioner. They want a solution to a specific problem.

Fact is, they might not even realize that a coach can help them get there. It's your job to show them.

Notice we didn't say "tell"? Here's the rub: Leading with “I’m a Life Coach” is likely to produce the opposite reaction to the one you’re ideally hoping for. (Cue the groans, eyeball rolls, and chorus of “Oh yeah, there’s another one.”)

Sadly, there’s a reason for this. Coaching isn’t regulated - there’s no standard curriculum of best practices, tests to pass, or licensure. And "Life Coach" is itself an umbrella term, one that doesn't mean all that much to the Average Joe. As a result, there’s a lot of conflicting perceptions and ideas in the public square about what it means to work with a coach... or even to be one. 

If you’re here, we're willing to bet that you know what it takes to be a good coach.

That ain’t the problem. But to make a viable living, you’ll need to think beyond what you desire (“I want to make a good living as a coach” or "I'd like to break into online coaching") and embrace a business mindset. You need to become absolutely obsessed with this question:

"What transformation do I provide?”

Reach back and remember why you went to coaching school to begin with. The art of selling coaching successfully traces all the way back to that. Your job isn't to "find" coaching clients. It's to serve a select group of people who dig what you offer. Starbucks didn't take cups of coffee door to door trying to explain how their beverage might just change all our lives. What they did was create a product, one that an initially very small group of customers at a single local location in Seattle loved... passionately enough that their signature cuppa joe eventually became a global sensation.

TRUTH: It's Not About You

Of course you want to make a living! This is a business. However, if your primary focus is on figuring out how to advertise to potential clients in order to make your dreams of self employment work, then this all becomes about YOU in ways you may not even realize. Consciously or not, clients will pick up on that.

Time for a gut check.

  • Is it possible that you're entering the exchange too hungry?
  • Will you coach anyone on anything, regardless of whether you feel it's a fit?
  • Are you working outside your Zone of Genius?
  • When you meet with a potential client, do they follow up with enthusiasm?
  • On average, would you say you feel like you're "chasing" or "attracting"?

Here's what we know about sales: hungry salespeople unwittingly repel the very customers that they are hoping to attract.

Come at this thing inspired, rather than worried about who's going to pay your rent.

Hold onto the side-gig that covers your bills for as long as you need while you ramp up your coaching business. This isn't a race. If you're serious about this for the long haul, do whatever it takes in the beginning to keep from projecting responsibility for funding your aspirations onto each prospective client you meet!

And as you're developing your revenue models consider this: most successful coaches do not build their practice around 1:1 coaching alone. If you want the latest data from the ICF on the average annual life coach salary, hourly coaching rates, and how people really make their money, you'll want to read The Ultimate Guide To Life Coach Salaries and give our podcast series Can I Make It As A Life Coach? a listen.

TRUTH: People Invest In Possibility

According to the 2017 International Coaching Federation’s Global Consumer Awareness Study, paying clients typically hire a life coach in the hopes of producing a very specific outcome. The most common reasons include:

  • Change careers
  • Set strategy for career advancement
  • Get over a breakup 
  • Find a new relationship
  • Make new friends or build community 
  • Improve fitness and health
  • Explore purpose, meaning, and spiritual development
  • Start or scale a business

If you aren’t talking about how you produce tangible results as a coach, you are not speaking the same language as your prospective clients. To build a viable coaching business, you need to be able to clearly articulate your unique value proposition.

Friend, you are in the business of selling coaching.

This is why so many coach training programs recommend differentiating yourself by choosing a niche that aligns with your existing expertise and experience. You should be able to knowledgably speak to your ideal client’s pain points, and demonstrate specifically HOW you can help them get from Point A to Point B. 

This is easiest if you start with what you know. And yes, you CAN coach outside your niche, change specialties, and evolve your practice over time. Having a clear focus at the start is simply the best and most effective way we know for most new coaches to hone your messaging, packages, and offers in order to build your business.

What is your ideal client’s “Point A”?

Are they…

  • Busy working moms struggling to find a satisfying balance between work, family, community, and self?
  • Midcareer professionals who've got their eye on an executive level promotion?
  • Newly divorced men or women feeling at loose ends, not sure what comes next? 
  • Individuals and couples who dream of financial freedom and early retirement, but aren’t sure how to manage their money so they can actually get there?
  • Or... ?

What’s the “WHY” behind their goal?

Do you know how to tap into the deeper values, beliefs, and aspirations that make this particular goal or dream important to the client? Can you help make it come alive in their mind?

What’s the Obstacle?

Do you clearly articulate the most common roadblocks that get in the way of attaining that goal or desired outcome?

The particular challenges an audience of overtaxed moms will resonate with are likely to be very different than those that vex the professional looking to navigate their next career move, or the newly divorced seeking a fresh start. The more precisely you can speak to your ideal client’s pain points, the more likely you are to connect. 

What’s the Outcome?

What will it look like when your client lands inside their desired future state? Do you offer a coaching package that takes them there? Can you demonstrate those results through case studies and testimonials? How have you helped other people just like them achieve a similar goal?

If you're selling coaching without an endgame, you aren't offering transformation.

PRO TIP: It’s OK when you’re starting out if you only have one example. We all begin at the beginning!

REMEMBER: People aren’t “hiring a coach.”

They are investing in their own future self. Show them how you, specifically, can help them become the person they long to be.

Mindset Check: Are you interested in the business of selling coaching, as much as you are in coaching clients? If no, you might want to check in around the story or belief you hold about "selling". Done with integrity and confidence, the process of selling coaching IS coaching. It's a conversation with the power to transform a life.

TRUTH: Your Story Matters... Kinda

You’ve likely heard that your story helps to attract your ideal clients. And it does, but only up to a point. Your story is what led you to become a coach, and will help determine the particular niche you want to practice coaching within. 

If your story and coaching speciality line up, it will be personally relatable to your potential clients, and demonstrate expertise + credibility within your scope of practice. But if you want to specialize in an area where you don't have an existing professional background or a lot of lived experience, then that will take more time. To learn even more about what we mean by this, explore The Right Way to Let Your Story Lead Your Life Coaching Practice.

Your story is a marketing tool.

It’s a bullet point on your coaching resume, a useful threshold for connection and rapport. Life Coaches are the Living Product. You are Exhibit A, demonstrating that it’s possible to get from Point A to Point B.

But storytelling isn't the same as selling coaching.

Here’s the thing: it’s not so much “YOU” that people are intrigued by, amazing as you no doubt are. Unless they know you personally, what your ideal clients are truly drawn to like moths to a flame are the results you have achieved.

Results that they are hungry for in their own lives.

From a business point of view, your story isn’t actually about you at all. It’s a mirror, reflecting back the dreams a prospective client holds for themselves.

  • If you’re thriving after divorce… THAT’S what they want.
  • If you’ve found a great balance between work, family, and self care… THAT’S what they want.
  • If you climbed the corporate ladder of success in high style… THAT’S what they want.

Here's how to put this insight into action:

First, think about what dream or desire your story taps into for the client. Next, create tangible coaching packages or a program that moves people toward that desired end state.

TRUTH: You Need To Prove It

Stories are a marketing strategy. But the process of selling coaching? That's all about outcomes. It’s one thing to experience transformation in your own life. To build a successful coaching business, you must also demonstrate that you’ve successfully guided others toward those desired results as well.

Testimonials are gold, and referrals are priceless.

A certification or degree does not in itself build a business, especially in the personal services industry. You need to offer coaching packages that deliver the kind of results that people will rave about. Word of mouth and affiliated networks are how most successful coaches build and maintain their practice. Growing by way of relationships takes time.

So how do you create a track record when you’re just starting out? How do you prove that you can deliver? 

Practice. Practice. Practice.

If you've gotten life coach training then you've learned “how to coach”. And you've practiced a whole lot in peer sessions. But how many real-world, multi-session engagements have you completed thus far?

Hang in there! Most successful coaches didn’t graduate with tons of experience in taking clients all the way through the process of getting from Point A to Point B. This next bit will take some more time and experimentation in order to learn how to do it well.

Consider this period as you would an internship or practicum.

New coaches leg up, just as people do in any profession. One-off coaching isn't enough to create a referral base of satisfied clients - you need to help people achieve lasting transformation. That requires booking as many end-to-end coaching packages as possible.

Again, this means you need to get really good at the process of selling life coaching. Not advertising. SELLING.

Here's the thing: it's not as hard as you may think. It should be happening with people you already encounter in your everyday life. Most successful coaching practices do not begin with strangers we've magically drawn in from the internet. It can happen, but we wouldn't advise building an entire businss strategy around it unless you've got a natural way to draw them in (such as: you've written a book, host a popular podcast, etc.)

If you are transitioning into coaching from another industry, explore where there may be overlap between your existing networks and your coaching specialty. Capitalize on the reputation and relationships you’ve already built. This is where your clients come from - the people you know, and the people THEY know. 

If there is very little overlap between your current circles and your desired coaching specialty, it’s time to get creative. Join groups in your niche or specialty, add value, contribute. Offer workshops, collaborate with others in your field to offer classes, hire a more experienced mentor to give you 1:1 feedback and support your growth as a coach. Coach pro-bono, work in trade for other goods and services, or offer packages at a reduced rate until you begin to get some traction. Consider a gig with a company that hires coaches in house to gain more experience.

Need more ideas on how to find clients? Check out these 11 Strategic Tips To Try.

TRUTH: This Is A Business. Run It Like One

Many aspiring coaches come into the industry without small business or entrepreneurial experience. If this sounds like you, it might save you time and heartburn to make additional investments in learning how to run a successful coaching practice. From the tools you’ll need, to the lowdown on how coaches actually make money, there’s a so much more to learn.

If you’re not really sure how to run a business, market personal services, or feel confident about how to set priorities that will help get your practice up and running, then by all means... bring in support. Know some coaches who've got rockin' businesses that you admire? Find out how they got there. If there's a business development training or program they loved that helped them achieve that success, check it out!

TRUTH: You Must Believe In What You Sell

You know what can be really powerful? Having a coach or mentor to help you meet your business goals. Yep. We said it. 

If you’re serious about your dream, what are you willing to invest in it? 

Many aspiring coaches enter coaching school without ever having worked with a life coach themselves. That’s not a problem per-se, though it might bear some examination if you’re struggling post-graduation to gain liftoff but have still never hired a coach.

Some coaches continue to bushwack alone… taking free webinars and swapping stories and ideas with other new coaches, but stopping short of laying down the cold hard cash that could help drive their business forward.

If this sounds like you, that’s OK. But ask yourself this: would you go to a therapist who’s never been in the client’s seat, and doesn’t believe they could benefit from therapy? Or a doctor who, um, never goes to the doctor? 

See what we’re getting at here? We cannot expect others to do that which we are unwilling to do ourselves.

We’re not trying to create a self-perpetuating industry, one where coaches just coach other coaches inside a neat little bubble. No thank you!

What we do believe (and know to be true) is that coaching WORKS, making human lives better and more fulfilling. And we know you think so too. However, if you don’t personally see the value in hiring your own coach and paying them well for the service, is it reasonable to expect others to recognize the value in hiring you? 

Want To Be A Coach?

A lot of talented people dream of having a life coaching business, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. We train and certify adventurous coaches, making sure you’ve got all you need to build a business you love and transform lives, on your terms. If you're ready to learn more about how to become a life coach, come check out JRNI Life Coach Training

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