How to manage the business (of coaching, consulting, change agent)?
This is a question that is discussed in our Coach training programs to coaching with entrepreneurs, including aspiring entrepreneurs. Some random thoughts… for coaching business, but applicable to all those who want to transition from a corporate role to an entrepreneurial role.
- Coaching a client and managing the coaching business are two sides of a coin. (Dr. Marshall Goldsmith reminded us at ICF, Dubai event)
- A good coach need not be successful in managing the business of coaching. For becoming and being a coach are very different from becoming and being an entrepreneur? (same with an entrepreneur, CPA/CA, artist)
To start, basics of marketing are essential. Segmentation, positioning, USP, et al.The starting point is to decide the prefix — Do you want to be a life/executive/leadership/spiritual/business/wellness/yoga/communications…. Coach?
What is your niche?
This Branson quote is not for just coaches or change-agents. But for all in business, small big. Master calls it #I2We2He
4Ps of marketing:
Product: You got to be a good coach. This business works primarily on word-of-mouth. To be a good coach, the starting point is to be a trained, certified, ICF credentialed and, experienced, coach. And that is just a beginning. Coaching is a life-long journey in learning, like peeling the proverbial onion. There is a saying in the South of India. ‘A pitcher filled with water to the brim will not spill’. It is a marathon. Hence, no short-cuts here.
It may be a good idea to decide early on the type of business entity (commerce students may fondly remember Salomon vs Salomon from their mercantile law book). Do you want to be a freelancer/proprietary concern, a partnership/LLP or a private limited company? Get professional help (a chartered accountant) to help you make the choice. The CA can also help with legalities, such as service tax, PAN no, incorporation of partnership/pvt ltd, etc.
Some of us struggle to promote ourselves. But we may be comfortable to promote our corporate brands.
Place: The advantage of coaching is it can be done face2face and virtual. Many of us stick to F2F for the first chemistry/discovery meetings. Then it is all virtual. So, a good internet connection and a zoom.us account are essentials.
Promotion: Most of the coaches come from HR, L&D, Training, therapy, counselling, teaching, etc. There is an inherent reluctance to promote ourselves. There are coaches who are against any kind of promotion. They feel, the client will find them. If the coach is in favor of the idea of promotion, then these are worth considering…
Phase-1: This is a list of simple items. Starting on with these will give the confidence to move on to phase-2 & 3.
- Linkedin: This perhaps is the most important platform for professional networking for coaches. Linkedin is a very user-friendly platform. But with a lot of hidden features. Invest time on LinkedIn by creating a good profile, connecting with target-audience, looking at & using various features based on personal comfort (eg Premium account), be part of relevant groups, and maintain a dignified presence. I personally would update my LI profile when I make the transition to let the world know me in my new avataar, a coach.
LinkedIn posts are very important. Mere sharing of updates, commenting on others posts not be sufficient. Be authentic….
Check out this podcast
[Podcast] Mark Williams on the Big Upcoming Changes in Linkedin http://j.mp/2jcVnUQ via @ianbrodie
- Facebook: It might be a good idea to update your profile on Facebook. Let the world know you are now a coach!
- Facebook Page: Create a FB page exclusively for the purpose of the business. Don’t confuse LI with FB, FB page with FB. It is integral to managing the personal brand on-line.
- Twitter: It may be a good idea to go on twitter. Some of us (esp gemini’s) maintain two twitter accounts, one personal and another in for business.
Stating the obvious, social media can be very addictive. So a avoid the ‘addiction’. Let us focus on clients who want to overcome addictions, through coaching.
- Groups, Volunteer: It may be a good idea to identify and join groups which are relevant. For example, HR managers, CEO club, IT professionals, etc. Identify the right group(s). Join the group with no expectation. Be a giver… volunteer. You will get more than what you would have visualized. Never measure the ROI of networking events by the number of people met/cards exchanged. Focus on quality, depth. In this era of gadgets and distraction, deeply connecting with people is more valuable. As coaches, it comes naturally to us.
Phase 2: If you got a hang of phase-1, you may be ready for phase-2. It is also important you enjoy this part of the beautiful journey as a coach. And,
Go with the #Flow…
- Website: A simple website to start with. Weebly, WordPress are popular platforms.
- Blogging: All good websites will have their own blogging options. Just as blog-posts on LinkedIn (like this one), blogging on the website is very important to build the personal brand, integrate, reflect as a coach, and connect. Write original stuff. Use some key words relevant to the business, segment, and your own area of interest. It helps to build your search engine optimization (SEO).
Phase-3: That brings me to the 3rd phase. SEO is a pure marathon, no Usain Bolt-like sprint. SEO is a journey. It is important to commit to the journey, plan ahead and stick with discipline. For example, if a weekly-blog is part of the plan, let is be weekly!
- SEO: This is a topic that can be dealt with later. Do a bit of google search. I would also strongly recommend working with someone else who understands this bit better. That would help me focus on my core-competence, coaching-related. As Tom Peters would say (In Search of Excellence)
“Stick to the knitting — stay with the business that you know.”
4. Pricing: This is one area most of us struggle. Get your pricing strategy right, ab initio. And stick to it, come what may. You are in the business, not charity. Don’t confuse both. We don’t need to struggle to price our services. ‘Time is money’. What you are today, as a coach, is the culmination of several years of learning, experience, expertise, efforts, et al. You deserve it. The industry, your peers deserve it.
As part of our on-going education, it may be a good idea to connect with fellow coaches to specifically discuss challenges, if any, among these.
Our business itself is beyond profit! #I2We2He
Conclusion: As coaches, we are living our life purpose. Managing the business of coaching is an integral part of it. Connect with the life-purpose every moment, in everything we do, including managing the business. Bliss Guaranteed! Choose Bliss!