Permit me a moment to be blunt.
I’m always wary of getting caught up in semantics, but for this I’ll risk it.
You don’t have a coaching practice. You have a coaching business.
And understanding the distinction is the difference between creating a sustainable, profitable and enjoyable livelihood, and having a hobby that brings in a little extra cash once in a while.
We, as coaches, understand the power of perspective. Every day we coach our clients to shift out of unhelpful perspectives into more personally powerful ones that allow them to move their lives forward.
Well frankly, calling your coaching a practice is just another limiting perspective that keeps your business from growing and burnout not far away.
I remember when I was halfway through my coach training with the Coaches Training Institute. I bought a brand new orange journal to document all my coaching practice plans. I can still remember sitting on the couch, seven months pregnant, and mapping out scenario after scenario — inspired by the possibility of what could be.
“If I only have three days to work, I can probably fit in five clients a day, for $300 each per month, for a total of 15 clients and $4500 per month. Or maybe, I could sneak in seven clients a day, or charge $325 instead.”
All these scenarios were written out in detail believing that it was really just this easy to fill my coaching practice and create a sustainable income post-corporate exodus only a few months prior.
This all sounds fine in theory – especially to the new coach who’s still just hoping to get a few clients – period. And many coaches do run their practices like this – X many clients for X many dollars each month.
The problem is that nowhere in my scenario planning, did I account for ALL the other details involved in running my ‘practice’. I was so focused on the coaching, that I completely disregarded what it would take to actually attract, retain and grow my client base.
In short, I was thinking like a hobbyist not a CEO.
As you can imagine, and perhaps have experienced, it doesn’t take long before reality sinks in and you’re face-to-face with the truth that the clients aren’t rolling in and you’re just hoping that you can land one more this month to pay your bills and how on earth do you even find these clients anyway?
If this is you, or if you’re aspiring or brand-spanking new coach–stop calling it a practice and start calling it a business.
Your Coaching Business
You are a business owner who coaches.
Over the years, I’ve coached many coaches. From the fresh-out-of-school coaches, to the struggling coaches to the six figure plus coaches. And I can tell you unequivocally, that what separates the struggling from the successful has little to do with a particular strategy, a focused niche or the latest social media trend.
It has everything to do with this one perspective:
You’re not in practice, you’re in business.
Yes, it may feel like semantics, after all – don’t lawyers and doctors and massage therapists — service professionals just like you – refer to their practices? Yes. And in my view, it’s a mistake.
When you’re locked in a perspective of running a practice, you limit your thinking, your efforts and by extension, your growth. It’s all about finding the next client, and then the next one, and then the next one in hopes that you’ll keep your coaching roster filled and your bank account in the black.
In practice, your focus is simply, and often solely, in service. Strategic planning, joint ventures, systematization, effective marketing and leveraged business models are probably not happening, which means, you’ll probably not moving much beyond a handful of 1:1 clients. And it also means, you’re likely not building a strong brand for your business — you’re simply one of many hundreds of thousands of coaches (just like the lawyers, massage therapists etc) that a prospective client will have to choose from.
I get that I may ruffle some feathers here, but the word itself also draws sentiments of a casual, part-time service professional – one who’s probably great at their craft, but certainly not a contender in the business world. When I hear a coach refer to their ‘practice’, I assume she’s either fresh out of coach training or a hobby-coach. Hard truth? Words matter. And calling your business a BUSINESS (which it is, let’s be clear) is the first step in cultivating and evoking trust, authority and credibility.
Semantics and labels aside, this perspective may lead you to burnout, an income plateau and a lot of frustration (I’ve witnessed it hundreds of times with clients and colleagues). Unless you’re a coach who truly wants to just have a handful of clients and isn’t fussed about growth, holding onto a ‘practice perspective’ keeps your business small and completely reliant on the next client.
It’s only when we step into being the business owner that we can invite and incorporate more leveraged, high-impact, profitable elements that will help us transcend the “where’s my next client coming from?” fear that many coaches have and open us up to a more lucrative, systematized and focused way of bringing in business.
So if you have your heart and head set on a bigger, bolder vision, then this is the first point of entry. Because, circling back to how we coach our clients, when we inhabit a new perspective, we immediately start taking actions that align with this more powerful consciousness.
And that’s just good for business.
Business activator + leadership coach Stephanie Pollock is devoted to helping talented women in business GO PRO with their dreams, stepping into the spotlights — and revenue streams — they so richly deserve.
She’s the publisher of Going Pro Magazine, a Top 40 Under 40 changemaker and creator of Beyond PRO: Claim your place as CEO – a leadership program designed specifically for entrepreneurial women. You can find her online at Stephanie Pollock Media Inc and on Twitter at @steph_pollock.