Business Start-up for Coaches: Labels; Niche; Style
In recent sessions with start-up coaches, I’ve noticed some common issues around how coaches describe themselves and present themselves to the market place. Here is my suggestion, which may be helpful for new coaches launching their practice.
There are 3 related issues: what labels you give yourself, the niche you are aiming at and your coaching style. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
This needs to be clear and simple so people who are looking for the service you offer can find you easily in directories. Remember Yellow Pages? If you wanted a plumber, you simply looked under ‘plumbers’ and found those in your area. We may be largely on-line now however the principle is the same: make it easy for people to find you by using a label that is easily understood, such as Life Coach, Career Coach, Business Coach and so on. For example, what labels do you use on your Linkedin profile header? You may have more than one: I refer to myself as: Business Mentor; Career Transition Coach; Wellness Coach; Cancer Coach; and Mentor-coach.
This is your target market segment, the clients you want to work with. New coaches tend to worry about this but here’s the thing: the niche you first aim at is unlikely to be the niche you end up in. The best strategy to discover your niche is simply to put yourself out there and start coaching and see who shows up. Over time you will work out where your strengths lie, what energises you and who your ideal clients are. For example, I’m working with a start-up business owner (not a coach) who is aiming at women, but men are showing up. That’s a big clue that what she is offering is as useful, if not more useful, to men than women. A good question to ask yourself here is, ‘What problem am I solving?’. You know what your solution is, your coaching offer, but who else might have this problem? There was an excellent reflective essay on the Animas (www.animascoaching.com ) Learning Zone about finding our niche and the conclusion was: we don’t choose our niche, it chooses us. This is certainly my experience. I started as a business mentor in 2011 and stumbled into coaching by accident thinking my niche was military service leavers (I’m ex-Army) but that’s not how it worked out. My niches are evolving. At present I mentor start-ups and business owners up to £1M turnover who are muddling through; I coach professionals in career transition who are stuck in a rut, feeling lost; I coach people for Wellness and Cancer who are stuck and living under a shadow; I mentor coaches who are seeking a professional credential with the International Coach Federation. This is a journey so who knows what niches I’ll end up with?
Another issue that new coaches get caught up in is determining their coaching style. There are any number of coaching styles: Existential; Ontological; Solution-focused; Holistic and so on. As with our niche, it takes time for us to work out our strengths and preferences. Every time I did another Animas CPD course I’d wonder if that was my style. I gradually became aware that I was coaching very much ‘in the moment’ and using my intuition to guide me during coaching sessions over what questions to ask, what to reflect back to the client, when to reflect back and when simply to be with the client in silence. I became increasingly aware of my clients’ energy and vitality. It was about 2 years after completing the Animas Diploma that I reached this understanding and concluded that I was probably an Existential coach. I was wondering what to do with this awareness, where and how to develop myself as a coach, so I called Animas and by chance Nick Bolton [Founder, Animas Coaching] himself answered the phone. After a quick chat, Nick told me that my coaching style was Transpersonal, which is about working with the client’s values, energy, vitality and spirit in an intuitive way. It was refreshing to have this understanding of my coaching style however taking the time to work it out has been an important part of my journey and I’m glad I didn’t rush it.
Coaching is a journey on many levels. We develop our coaching skills, we develop ourselves personally and we develop our business skills. My suggestion is to approach coaching as a journey rather than a destination: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take the time to know yourself and figure out what works for you. Here are my 3 tips:
1. LABELS. Choose a clear, simple label for yourself so that most people will understand immediately what type of coach you are, such as Life Coach, Career Coach, Business Coach and so on. You may have more than one.
2. NICHE. Don’t worry if you don’t know your niche to begin with. Simply put yourself out there and start coaching; over time your niche will find you.
3. STYLE. Don’t rush to conclusions about your coaching style. Experiment, play around, have fun and you will gradually work out your strengths and preferences. One day you will have a ‘eureka’ moment when you identify your coaching style – it’s worth waiting for 😊
© Ross Nichols 2018