If you’re considering becoming a life coach, chances are you’ve heard something like this along the way: “Coaching offers a surefire path to attaining personal freedom!” Sounds nice, right?
We bet you’ve probably wondered if this is really true. Let’s drill down into this common belief about the coaching profession to see what may be hiding beneath the surface.
But first, it’s important to make one thing clear! Coaches work in a variety of contexts - from solo practices, to serving under the umbrella of a larger coaching company or corporate employer. The amount of lifestyle freedom you experience as a coach depends in part upon how you choose to put your skills and talents to work.
What Is “Lifestyle Freedom”?
When we talk to aspiring coaches, there are common elements that define the type of freedom most people are seeking. We imagine it’s likely the same for you! How many of these resonate?
- Autonomy to set your own hours
- Flexibility to work at your own pace
- Working from wherever you want
- Laboring fewer hours for better pay
- Choosing what projects to work on
- Deciding which clients you’d prefer to work with
- Ability to take time off when you want, without asking for permission
- Creative control over your workload priorities and outcomes
- Final decision-making power
What this all adds up to is the freedom to design your own life. Lifestyle freedom is about having control over how and when you work so you can live in alignment with your own personal rhythm and balance. True flexibility boils down to the ability to self-determine when you will work, play, and rest.
You may be thinking at this point: “Where do I sign up?!” Here’s an insider’s secret: coaching itself doesn’t provide these benefits. What actually makes such a lifestyle possible is self-employment. Coaching is just one way to ditch your 9-5 grind. And we’re here to tell you that yes, it can be a viable one IF you’re willing to put in the time necessary to launch a solo practice.
What’s A Solo Practice REALLY Like?
The good news is that there's never been a better time to make the leap into entrepreneurship. To launch a coaching practice, the primary tools you’ll need beyond coach training and experience are a laptop, phone, and reliable internet connection. With these resources, you’ve got the fundamentals in place to set up shop!
The reality of building a successful coaching business is a little more complicated though. It takes more than just great coaching skills to make a reliable living.
Here’s the skinny: you'll need to know how to market your services to attract clients. It’s important to consider how you plan to draw in people to work with you. Once you get bookings, you’ll have to continuously feed your prospective client pipeline. In other words, as one client finishes up, you’ll need another new client lined up to replace them on your schedule.
As a new coach, you might dedicate 20% of your time to working directly with clients, 40% on marketing and communications, 20% to developing and managing any products/courses/groups you wish to offer, and 20% to business operations. As your coaching practice and reputation grows, these ratios may shift into less marketing and more client hours, but you’ll always need to have a certain amount of your time dedicated to getting the word out about your services.
What does marketing include?
It might be maintaining your website and publishing regularly to a blog. It could include social media posts on Instagram and Facebook. Maybe you’ll have a YouTube channel or podcast. For some, it means maintaining an email list and sending out periodic newsletters. You may choose to do advertising. Whatever communication channels you pick, behind every one of these activities lies a strategy.
You’ll spend hours working on your brand and messaging. Expect to invest a lot of energy into figuring out how best to articulate the problems people are facing within your area of focus, and how you are uniquely positioned to help them navigate those challenges.
How about business operations?
This is the nuts and bolts behind running your business. It includes managing your payment system and other technology platforms, bookkeeping, and all other tasks associated with running a small business. Depending upon how complicated you want to get, this can be a meaningful initial outlay of time. Once you’re running and have all your systems sorted out, it can become more automated and eventually take up much less of your time.
How Much Do I Need to Earn?
We’re going to start with some math. You may already have done these calculations, and if so... bear with us. It’s important! Let’s say you’re starting out as a coach, charging $75 for a 60 minute session. If you anticipate working full time, 40 hours a week translates to 2080 hours a year. $75/hr x 2088 = $156,000.
Sounds like a pretty good salary, huh? Yeah, we think so too! Running this simple calculation is how people get the idea that coaching is a very lucrative field. But don’t put your calculator away just yet! Those who stop here can quickly get into trouble.
Here’s what you need to know: 40 client sessions a week doesn’t translate into 40 working hours. When it comes to running your own business, billable client hours are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more work underneath the surface.
Let’s try this again, using what we know about how your time might actually break down as a new coach.
In this calculation, assume that you may work 3 hours on your business for every 1 hour you spend in session with a client. Those 3 hours will be spent working on the marketing and business operations tasks described in the previous section.
If your goal is to work 40 hours a week, and client work constitutes 20% of your time, that’s on average 8 hours of client time per week. This translates to 416 billable hours a year. $75 x 416 = $31,200.
For some, this could be the sweet spot to achieve the level of financial stability and lifestyle flexibility they’re looking for. For others, this amount may not be enough.
How much money do you need to earn to maintain a standard of living that’s right for you? Remember, these figures are a simple calculation of net income only. It’s what you might earn before taxes and business expenses. That’s why it’s important to play with your numbers and project a variety of income scenarios carefully.
$75 per session might sound great at first blush, but how many client hours will it take to earn the income you need, after expenses?
Is It Worth It?
We think so! Working as a coach really can give you the autonomy and flexibility that you’re looking for. We know coaches who graduated from the JRNI Coach Training Program, left their 9-5, launched successful coaching practices, and are loving every minute of it! The important thing to know is who you are, and what's most likely to make you truly happy.
Want to be the pilot of your own ship? There are no rewards without risk. A steady paycheck brings with it a certain level of perceived security. It also means following someone else’s rules. That exchange works well for some people. How about you?
Many people dream about having the ability to write their own rules. Living on their own time, and setting priorities based on their values and aspirations. Only a few will actually take the leap and do it. Why? Because there are no guarantees. It’s hard work to be your own boss and generate a sustainable income.
Striking out on your own requires courage. It may mean sacrifice along the way, and facing down your own fears and uncertainty. Successful coaches cultivate a community to lean into when things get hard. People who’ve been there, know the terrain, and are there to cheer one another on.
Knowing other people who have broken away from the herd to forge their own path helps us see that we can do it too. If you are dreaming about a flexible lifestyle, surround yourself with people who are doing it, or actively working toward it.