5 Lessons I Learned About Building a Successful Coaching Business That You Won’t Hear In Coach Training School

Kathy Caprino Posted by Kathy Caprino.

Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized women’s work-life expert, executive and career coach, author, and speaker specializing in helping women gain empowerment and self-mastery to navigate successfully through major challenges.

  After 9/11 when my 18-year corporate marketing career ended in a crushing layoff, I took a huge turn professionally, and became a marriage and family therapist.


After 9/11 when my 18-year corporate marketing career ended in a crushing layoff, I took a huge turn professionally, and became a marriage and family therapist. I threw myself into the helping profession, and after earning my Master’s degree in therapy in 2005, I embarked on coach training as well. After several years of career coaching, and writing my book Breakdown, Breakthrough, I found my “calling” in supporting professional women to reach their highest goals and visions. And I’ve never looked back. But I made some HUGE mistakes as I was building my coaching business that cost me dearly.

Years later, having overcome these serious bumps in my work and business, then launching a successful 16-week online course The Amazing Career Project, and now embarking on training new coaches how to build thriving practices, I’ve heard from hundreds of coaches around the world in a wide range of niches and specializations who are ashamed to admit it, but they’re struggling hard, out of money, and wondering how to get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves (and if they should just throw in the towel).

I’ve thought long and hard about what these new (and seasoned) coaches need to know, and also what I needed to understand when I was just starting out that would have changed everything for me had I known it. What would have saved me so much heartache and financial challenge on my coaching journey?

Below are 5 critical concepts that professional coaches need to understand, and be trained in, to build thriving coaching businesses (online or otherwise). Sadly, the vast majority of coach training programs today – either those offered independently or given through universities and colleges — don’t cover this key material in great enough depth. Knowing this information can be the difference between losing everything in the pursuit your BIG dream, or succeeding at a very high level and making a huge impact (and living) with your work.

The 5 critical concepts coaches need to understand to succeed are:

1. What coaching really is and how to help your clients make the changes they long for

I see so many new coaches come to the field with misguided ideas about the act and process of coaching. These ideas make it very hard for them to conduct their coaching effectively, and sustain it. Many coaches are trained that it’s in the nature of the questions they ask their clients that will transform their clients’ lives. Others believe that sharing what they’ve learned throughout the process of their own lives, and giving specific advice and guidance to the client, is the way to go.

Neither of these approaches is effective coaching. Superior coaching involves bringing to your client an effective “model for change” that’s been proven, vetted and researched over many thousands of individuals, outcomes and scenarios, and is designed to help the client see her life, her problems, and the way in which she is operating in the world, differently. Then the client can see and understand how to act, relate, and communicate differently to achieve her goals. Change is an internal process first, and if your coaching doesn’t facilitate the process of internal change, it simply won’t be effective.

2. The key essentials to building the best coaching relationships involve you speaking up and standing up

New coaches, especially Millennial ones, often flounder in their coaching business because they haven’t learned what they need to know about boundaries, time management and how to communicate with power and authority. If you don’t know how to say “no” to your client when he or she is demanding something that is ridiculous, and if your boundaries are continually being violated and impinged upon by the needs of your clients, you’ll struggle every single day. Secondly,  coaches, like all business leaders, need to understand how to identify, and focus on, only the “vital few” tasks in their business to succeed, and not be distracted by the “trivial many” items on their plate that will block them from getting to their goals.

3. How to engage in the necessary online marketing and social media endeavors

To be a successful coach today, you have to be not only a great coach but a savvy online marketer because you’re in global competition for clients and business. Coaching is no longer a local experience – it’s done via the phone or Skype primarily, so you will be in steep competition with other coaches from around the world. Your communication, writing and marketing chops have to be finely honed as well (or you’ll need outside marketing support for that). You’ll need to identify clearly the niche you wish to serve (it can’t be “everyone”), and reach thousands of people around the globe who are in that niche.

It’s a social world today, and if you’re not leveraging social media, you’ll fall behind  and won’t compete. Further, in order to make a great living in your coaching business, you also need to offer a range of programs, services, and materials above and beyond your one-on-one coaching, to allow you to support your specific audience in a number of critical ways. The reality is that you need to be of service 100 times more deeply and widely than you initially understand, and you need to offer free programs and materials that will serve your audience well, before you see a dime from them. Finally, it’s essential to continually engage with and help your core audience (not just “sell” to them), so you can build a loyal, enthusiastic support community whom you can serve regularly and frequently.

4. This is a business and needs to be run like one

If you are coaching for a living and self-employed, it means you’re running a business. To run a business successfully, you need to have a powerful, transformative experience, service or program to sell, as well as a firm grasp of the key financial, business, accounting, marketing, business development, product development and other endeavors that are required to thrive. So many women I work with and train as coaches haven’t had the financial or business training to manage and grow their money, and invest wisely. They chronically undercharge, and sadly, they fail to understand what’s required in terms of investing in their own growth so that their business will, in fact, continue to grow and sustain itself (and you) over time. Finally, they have to avoid the pitfall that so many small business owners fall prey to – the fatal assumption that offering a technical service (like coaching) is the same as running a business that offers this service. They’re very different and require different skills and focus.

And if you’re focusing ONLY on your marketing (the front-end of your business), but fail to develop value-rich content and programs that teach, inform and transform (the core of your business), then your marketing will be empty and generate nothing.

5. You need to be a thought leader as well as a coach

In 2012, the International Coach Federation (ICF) estimated that there are approximately 47,500 professional coaches worldwide, but the numbers are growing quickly. I have the sense from my work on Forbes and as a media expert on women’s careers (and the number of new coaches I hear from daily) that there are literally thousands more “online coaches,” many of whom are taking entrepreneurial “business school” training and programs from other business experts, but still aren’t finding the in-depth, hands-on help they need to launch and grow successfully. So, the competition is very steep.

The reality today is that, in order to become known as a coach and attract business, it’s not just the quality of your services and programs that will help you stand out. You need to develop your own brand of thought leadership, and share that thought leadership online. From writing blogs and articles, to conducting proprietary research that informs your work, to public speaking and offering high-quality training and workshops, there are many avenues through which you need to demonstrate your expertise. (And take a look here at what thought leadership is not).

To build a large enough community that will allow you to flourish financially as a coach, you need to share your thought leadership and expertise widely as a way to attract, support, and engage with the great people you hope to help.

In the end, only when you’ve honed your craft, been of service to people through a proven model for change and built a solid, beneficial relationship with them over time, will you be granted the opportunity to serve them in a deeper way.

For more information on how to build a successful, lucrative coaching business, click the button below to download my FREE Report: 10 Most Crippling Mistakes Professional Coaches Make.




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