Life coaches – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. What They Don’t Tell You About Starting a Coaching Business

Pssst did you know you can highlight any sentence to automatically tweet it? Give it a try!

I’m nervous writing this post. It’s going to offend some people. It’s going to hurt some people. And, it’s going to – dare I say it – crush some people’s dreams. But it has to be said. Because there are things they don’t tell you in coaching school about starting a life coaching business (or any business really, but let’s focus on the life coaches, because you are often the ones who have such big hearts — and dreams — and who are often most defeated by the reality of running a coaching business).

To preface all this, let it be known that I really believe in the power of life coaching. There’s a reason I spent over $8000 getting trained in several different modalities. Coaches do good work and change lives.

But.

 

Life coaching is a really, really tough sell as a business. In fact, I’m gonna go so far as to say that ‘life coaching’ is NOT actually a business.

 

Coaching is a SKILL that you learn. Like graphic design. Or organization. Or teaching.

It is not a business in and of itself.

I see SO many people quitting perfectly good jobs and ditching perfectly good skills because they have decided they want to start a life coaching business to help other people realize their dreams and become their most authentic, powerful selves.

And then they struggle to get clients because no one knows what the fuck they are talking about when they explain to people what they do as a life coachbecause all of a sudden they’re talking in higher level concepts when most of us down here are just trying to figure out how to get our damn problems solved.

And then they come to me asking me how they can make it work. How they can generate a full time income in 3-6 months (because that’s all they’ve left themselves for savings). How they can become overnight successes like so-and-so.

And it drives me up the wall.

Not the fact that they are coming to me asking for help. I LOVE that my clients are so passionate about building businesses and doing awesome work in the world. What drives me up the wall is that somewhere out there, someone is feeding us all lies about how if you’re passionate about something, you can turn it into a business. That if you just BELIEVE  in the power of your dream, you can do anything you want to do.

And I’m calling bullshit.

Passion does not = profit.

 

And, I totally understand where all the life coaches are coming from, and why they believe that it should be pretty easy to build their new coaching business.

Life coaches – don’t lie. We ALL sat in our coaching school classes with our calculators when we first heard how much we’d be able to charge as life coaches.

$300-500/month for one client? (Does some quick math). You mean I’d only need 9 or 10 clients a month to make some pretty good money? Sweet! I’ll be able to reel those in within the next few months for sure! Bring it on entrepreneurship!

When I first starting coaching at The Uncaged Life, I was stoked to have 4 clients. I remember thinking “5 more, and I’ll be smooooth sailing.”

And then one of them dropped off.

And then one of them kept cancelling and pushing back her sessions, so our one month fee was spread over 2 months.

And then another had to put her sessions on hold indefinitely.

And where the hell were the other 5 clients that I’d thought it would be so easy to get?

All of a sudden, the idea of getting and KEEPING 10 clients felt impossible. Especially if I was going to have 10 clients all the time, forever. It felt like a hustle that I just didn’t want to be a part of.

 

What they don’t tell you in coaching school? Is that “life coaching” is a really, really hard sell.

 

I know some excellent life coaches – they’ve written best-selling books, they’ve got 75k+ likes on Facebook, they’ve done everything right, business-wise – they have more of a reach than I will ever have in my business – and they still struggle to get clients. They are still living month to month. And they have to hustle every damn day to find new ways to make coaching a viable gig.

Why? Because they are generalized “life coaches”. And life coaching isn’t something that people really “get”.

 

The most important thing that life coaches need to understand is that coaching is NOT a business – it’s a skill that you will use, combined with your other expertise, to help solve a particular problem.

 

If you don’t have a niche, and you’re offering really vague, intangible results, you’ll be hard pressed finding and keeping enough clients to pay the bills.

I’ve seen it too many times – from the time I was in coaching school, to the clients I work with now – highly skilled, intelligent people, feeling inspired by the transformation that comes when you learn new coaching skills (because learning coaching is like a whole personal development course on it’s own!), who decide that they just MUST leave their jobs and become life coaches, so that they can help other people realize the power of coaching.

Do not – I repeat DO NOT – ignore all your past experience and knowledge. And don’t quit your day job just yet.

The other (hard) truth is that any tangible skill is about 10000x easier to market than coaching is, so for the love of buddha, don’t give those up completely to become a life coach.

If you want to make coaching work as a business, you need to bring in all your other expertise, experience, and skill, and use THAT to drive your business. And DEFINITELY being your PERSONALITY and strengths to your business.

If you have tons of experience going speaking gigs – focus your business around coaching other people through their speaking gigs.

If you’re a marketing genius, or a design ninja, or have other skills that are actually marketing and TANGIBLE – find a way to create a business around them, and use your coaching skills to help you develop better client relationships.

If you were in charge of hiring for a major organization and have experience writing and reviewing resumes that get you hired – focus your coaching around that in your business.

If your life experience has been unique – you’ve lost a child, you’ve mastered the art of negotiating for a higher position or salary, you were a successful musician – bring that expertise into your business and use it to carve out your niche.

 

The truth is that people will be coming to you because of YOU and what you have accomplished. Your story is important. Your skills and expertise are just as important. And while coaching isn’t about telling people what to do – sometimes people will need guidance, advice, and hand holding. And you are 100% allowed to be their coach, their mentor, their teacher, and their advisor.

And yes – you might be veering away from what you learned in coaching school, but you will also be fast-tracking your business success by playing to your strengths and personality.

Let’s call out the elephant in the room: The majority of coaches who are killing it in business are doing one of several things:

1. They coach and/or mentor other coaches

2. They coach small businesses

3. They coach executives within organizations

In other words, they are coaching people who value coaching, and are willing to pay for it. This is not your average person. $500/month for open-ended, undefined results is a hard, hard sell for the average person.

 

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with coaching coaches, businesses, or execs. The only problem is that we can’t ALL be doing it, nor do we all have to do it to make coaching work.

 

There are definitely other coaches out there who are working with ‘regular’ people and making it work. It IS possible.

And those coaches who are doing it – they have realized that their OTHER skills are just as important as their coaching skills, and they’ve been willing to step away from the traditional “coaching rules” (i.e. never giving advice, the client has all the answers, etc etc). and have combined their unique expertise with their coaching skills to help their clients in a whole new (and very specific) way.

I also guarantee that those coaches who are making it work have paid their dues, niched the hell in, created custom packages, and worked their asses off learning everything they could about how to run a business – and then they stuck with it through the ups and downs, made sacrifices and let go of some of their idealistic visions of what it would look like, and gave themselves permission to show up fully as themselves – even if that meant breaking some of the coaching rules.

As my friend Kira (who has had her relationship/singles coaching biz for 6 years, and just went full-time with it within the past 1.5-2 years of that) said to me when I was discussing this blog post with her:

“This is hard as fuck. You have to be willing to throw tons of love, energy, money, blood, sweat, and tears into this before anything actually happens. Give it at least 3-5 years, and in that time, you’d better get to know about business. And don’t even talk to me if you you’re not willing to pick a niche”

^^ Spoken like a true hustler! And someone who doesn’t coach other coaches, or businesses, and has chosen to niche in and has made it work.

You do NOT have to coach other coaches or coach businesses to make it work. But you DO need to realize that life coaching in and of itself is not your business, and be willing to take some time to excavate what your true expertise really is.

Here’s what you can do to make the life coaching business easier on yourself:

  • Get specific about who you work with and what problem you solve for them.
  • Learn to talk about coaching in everyday language – drop the jargon STAT.
  • Stop doing open ended, ongoing coaching. It’s hard to sell and doesn’t get you known for anything. Learn the common mistakes people make in creating packages, and then don’t make them.
  • Create ONE specific package for a specific market (based on your unique expertise) and get really, really good at it. Build a solid client base, and THEN you can expand.

And in the meantime, keep your day job.

Or, do as I did when I started my business, and go GET a job. The hustle is SO much more fun and easy when you don’t have the pressure of making a full-time income on your shoulders. Especially if you have a family, or bills, or other financial responsibilities that you can’t just drop out of. I beg you – don’t stop doing what pays the bills just yet.

You CAN and WILL build a business that sustains you. But it will take time.

So here’s to celebrating coaches everywhere.

Celebrating life coaches who are ready to take coaching from hobby to business.

Celebrating creating a community of coaches who are changing the world with their coaching businesses in big ways.

Celebrating not having to do it alone.

Because I’m goddamn serious about life coaches turning their skills into a viable business.

Because passion and enthusiasm, despite what you have read, is NOT enough to turn a profit. Especially in the coaching world.

Here’s to coaches everywhere, changing the world one business at a time.

Screen shot 2013-02-15 at 8.24.14 AM

 

 

PS. If you are a life coach trying to figure out this whole business thing, join my free Facebook community and connect with thousands of other coaches and online business owners who can help support you. Enter your email here to get in.

Read 85 Comments & Leave Yours

  1. KateAnthony

    Becca – one of the greatest gifts to the industry. This needs to be posted EVERYWHERE. <3

  2. JohannaVoss

    Well said. Finally said. Coaching is a shitty business model and it takes more hustle, blood, sweat and tears that you might imagine. I’ve got my niche (nutrition coaching for runners and it’s taking off) but it’s a slow start. That being said, being in my niche DEFINITELY helps.

  3. KateAnthony POST AWAY!! Thanks so much for the support Kate. Coaches do AMAZING work, but coaching as a BUSINESS is a whole other story!

  4. JohannaVoss amazing niche Johanna! I know people are resistant to niching, and I don’t think “niche” has to mean “demographic” or “certain type of person”. Your niche can be based on your EXPERTISE – but you’d better make damn sure that your expertise is specific and solves a problem for people!
    Keep us in the loop as your business grows!

  5. DoriMadsen

    Very well said Becca! I think this is one of the best blogs about how it really is that I have ever read!! Thanks for your love and support and for all the great ideas you throw out there as well as your AWESOME courses!!
    You Da Bomb!

  6. DoriMadsen Thanks you DORI, for showing up and doing the work!

  7. AlanShelton

    Nicely done. Being a corporate story and brand guy working with execs, I was surprised that your strategy wasn’t well known already. Most likely what I saw as obvious comes from years of trench work. That said, I don’t think you could have improved on these insights. So keep pounding this message because it is the one that will work for those who want to make money coaching.

  8. AlanShelton Thanks Alan! I don’t think that anything I wrote was brand new info to coaches… But there just seems to be a lack of successful coaches SAYING it. Everyone talks about purpose and passion and living your dream. Few people talk about what it really takes!

  9. Tina Bindon

    Brilliant Becca!  Reading it was like ‘being slapped in the face with a wet fish’ and just what I needed!  Has totally reframed my mind and intention.  Now to go back and refine, rework and redo…….thanks again!

  10. Kristen Walker

    I’m SO glad someone is talking about this! I seriously appreciate this loving bitch slap, and everything you said here is 100% spot-on (I’ve been living it myself for over a year!). I’m absolutely sending this to my other coach friends & clients. The truth is, even when you’re doing everything right (thank god for B-School!) and combining it with your other expertise, it can still be REALLY hard to turn coaching into a sustainable business — not impossible, but hard. Thanks for having the courage to talk about the uncomfortable!

  11. AnnetteKB

    As a brand newbie just starting out with a coaching program paid for and about to commence (this coming Sunday), and having just completed B-School this year, I was at first feeling quite defensive about your words. And also thinking like I’d just wasted a stack of cash I continued reading and the defences fell away. I couldn’t agree more and I’m impressed at your courage of expression. I also thank you for it. Your words speak a confronting (I speak for me, being so new to the coaching world) truth and the coaches I checked out prior to deciding on the one I did, all spoke the same words and promised the same dreams (the one I went with was quite different) so thank you again for being so awesome and honest!

  12. EllenErcolini

    I love this article so so very much.  You know I do.  I love that this conversation is getting louder, and more honest.  And I love being part of the solution helping incredible coaches build stronger businesses.  
    I wish this had been around when I was starting, and I am so damn glad it is now.

  13. LauraALifeCoach

    Plenty of peeps make a living as a life coach, changing lives … yes it’s a hustle. Anyone who tells you that business is easy is lying, if you are a coach keep coaching. I didn’t see life coach and say oh I want to be that, I saw it and said oh, that’s what I am! And when you do what you are called to do, your life’s work, your passion and you do hustle, you will be successful. Not everyone can figure out how to make it work and not everyone really wants to be a life coach when they realize what it takes. But there are plenty of successful life coaches. Ever hear of Tony Robbins? you know that general life coach, not a coach promising to make you xx dollars. Pretty sure he makes around $14mil/yr … P.S. I don’t coach other coaches and I do pretty well. My clients have lost 80lbs, started dream businesses like opening up their own Brewery and Fell in love and bought houses, and basically are kicking ass at life. And there are plenty others just like me … People reading, you can be a life coach if that’s your calling, you have to want it bad enough, just because not everyone can figure out how to make it a business doesn’t mean you can’t. Follow your passion despite what this post says!

  14. LauraALifeCoach THIS -> 

    Not everyone can figure out how to make it work and not everyone really wants to be a life coach when they realize what it takes

    This is so so true and I think this is at the core of coaching businesses – once you realize what it takes – do you still want it?
    Thanks for pointing that out as it’s an important piece of the puzzle

  15. AnnetteKB DEFINITELY not wasted cash! You will get SO much out of coaching school – WAY more than just coaching skills – and you will use your coaching in your ENTIR ELIFE, even if you don’t turn it into a business. That much I can guarantee!
    Best of luck in your new coaching biz, and let us know how it goes when you get started!

  16. Kristen Walker Thanks Kristen! And it’s not JUST coaching – ANY business takes a lot of time, love, and energy to make it work!

  17. KateAnthony

    EllenErcolini Ellen, you and Becca have given us the greatest service in speaking this truth so boldly AND creating such an awesome solution. <3

  18. Karen Wright

    AnnetteKB On the contrary, B-school is the BEST supplement to coach training school. With that combination you have a better shot of succeeding than anyone who thinks they can just take a coach training course and  “they will come.”  Do all the B-school stuff to build your coaching business and you’ll be off to a great start.

  19. Karen Wright

    Love it, Becca!  Well said – every last bit of it.  And, for what it’s worth, the same issue exists even for those who have a credible platform for executive coaching.  It still takes focus and clarity and f##$ing hard work to build and sustain a practice. I’ve actually spent years not wanting to be a coach who markets to coaches because I’ve felt that the only way the profession would grow is if we turn our attention outwards rather than inwards, but your point about the fact that not enough people are telling the real truth about this issue has me launching my own products and programs to help executive coaches.  Keep up the great work – I’m a fan!

  20. Becca, this blog set me on fire. Within seconds I clarified my expertise and found the hook that I had missed … until now.
    Your willingness to lead us out of the comfort zone lead me into my wheel-house.
    XXOO, Nicole

  21. mindfulconnections Amazing Nicole!! Wanna share what your expertise is!?

  22. AnnetteKB

    Thank you – I will!

  23. AnnetteKB

    Hi Karen,
    I have nothing but brilliant things to say about B-school as it has changed my life. Marie Forleo and B-school have provided me with many tools to take my business and fly and I will do just that! I was referring to feeling unsure about the new coaching course I’d just paid for and am about to start. However as I kept reading the article I could see the point Becca was making and I applaud her for being so truthful and thanked her for her wisdom. Thank you also Karen for confirming my thinking that the combination of B-school and coaching training is a fantastic platform to build my successful business.

  24. JulieParker1

    Wowee!  Thank you for a truly great read Becca – I loved it AND this is coming from someone who actually RUNS a life coach training course.  This is straight up truth and it needs to be heard and understood and actioned more.  Thank you!

  25. JulieParker1 Thanks Julie!! Means a LOT coming from you!! xo

  26. Karen Wright AnnetteKB Absolutely! B-school teaches you how to market yourself. Coaching school definitely doesn’t!

  27. DanielleLouiseRoss

    Kudos to you for laying it on the line. I’d rather read a bold, raw blog any day, rather than one that is polite and not trying to step on any toes. There are a lot of truths in there, AND it is possible for life coaches to do great financially (even if they aren’t coaching small biz owners or execs) but it DOES take A LOT of marketing mojo, drive, and ongoing commitment. Thanks for stirring it up and being unafraid to share real-life struggles of coach training vs. coaching business success!

  28. TimBrownson

    I thought I was the only person banging on ad nauseum about how hard Life Coaching is. I

    ‘d been coaching 5 years before I even had a clue what i was doing in terms of acquiring clients. Fortunately for me when I started almost 10 years ago there was hardly any competition and I did ok in spite rather than because of myself.

    There is a shit load of unscrupulous training companies selling the dream. One rather large one tells people on their website that coaching is the US’s fastest growing industry. Er…well if you mean in terms of new coaches you’re probably right. 

    However, supply far exceeds demand and there were actually less searches for the term Life Coach in 2013 than there were in 2007 on Google. They hold back that interesting piece of information.

    If my experience is anything to go by, 99% of coaches are either struggling or failing. I have worked with about 200 and not ONE was even close to being full.

    I’m hoping at some stage people will cotton on that there is a distinct lack of gravy on this train and then the industry can settle down and gain credibility in the eyes of the general public.

    PS I doubt you offended anybody with this except maybe autocorrect who refuses to believe I ever want to type fucking and insists I mean ducking.

  29. MelisoulaMills

    Love this Becca. And totally with you! Before working with you I hadn’t even seen how vague the whole notion of ‘life coaching’ is. Now I am indeed niching the hell in and each month it seems to be getting clearer and clearer :-) I know I will get there. And am gonna live in India whilst I sort it so no heavy bills for me :-) yee heee <3

  30. BrandyMiddleton

    This was great! Thank you Becca! 

    I had never thought of “coaching” as a skill and not a business. That is genius. And so, true. 

    I have said many times to friends and others while building my practice; that to tell someone that I am a “life coach” means nothing. How do I convey the results that I provide and the problems I solve.

    Brandy xo

  31. BrandyMiddleton Thanks Brandy! Life Coaching is such a fantastic skill to have and I wish that as a business it was an easier sell! I think life coaches are doing great work in the world! Best of luck with your business!

  32. MelisoulaMills LOVE THIS!! India!! I didn’t know you were moving there! #uncagedlife xoxo

  33. TimBrownson haha i LOVE this Tim! 
    You’re So right – 10 years ago coaching was a whole different ball game, and the coaches I know who do generic coaching all started back in the day when coaching was new. They have built up a client base since then and often run off referrals.
    Thanks so much for your insight – super appreciate hearing from someone who has been at it for a while!

  34. DanielleLouiseRoss You are welcome Danielle! Thanks so much for chiming in!

  35. Thank you so much Becca for your no bullshit approach and reality check. You’ve put into words what I’ve been thinking for quite a while. I have a successful career, which I have no intention of leaving, and I am a certified coach. I heard the same sales pitch – with just 5-7 clients per month I can leave my full-time job. Hell NO! Maybe with 5-7 clients ongoing for a few years..

    And the sell is the most difficult for me. I absolutely love coaching and partnering with my clients, watching their growth, experiencing their “AHA” moments. There is nothing better! Most have been from referrals, for which I am very grateful.

    Thanks again, Becca. I look forward to your future blogs.

  36. Farah

    Uncaged Indeed! #LoveIt!!!

  37. I agree that coaching is a skill and being passionate about your skill will help you overcome those tough moments. Now with that said, business is business and if it was easy everyone would do it. Being in business means you will need to put those boots on and get too steppin. If your not willing to step in it, through it, over it and/or around it, you could get chewed up. However if you stick it out, you will not want to do anything else and yes it can be profitable.

  38. Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling for the last 12-18 months. I have felt a bit duped by my coaching school, thinking that I just have to want it bad enough and the clients will come knocking.

    I love what you said about coaching being the skill behind the business, not the business itself. I’ve known this in one way or another for a while, but it has just hit me in a new way reading your post.

    Thank you thank you thank you for saying it out loud :)

  39. SO grateful for this post and I’m so glad that you mention that you GOT a job to launch your coaching business because that’s what I need to do. Financial stress is keeping me from being creative about my business and creating something kickass that people want to buy. Thanks for writing this <3

  40. Hey Becca, what a great article! I have finally caved and have been applying for jobs (part time to start). I have been so burnt out trying to build my business while struggling financially. It just hasn’t been working and I haven’t been able to get any traction due to stress. I am now feeling like I would much rather build slowly and constantly over time then try to “make it big” short term (which is an illusion anyway, no on is an overnight success >> a lot happens behind the scenes beforehand).

    I have one question though >> my niche is women healing from eating disorders. My program is called Happy In My Body >> my biggest block is this thought I have that those women are broke and can’t afford my services. I know that is not entirely true because I have enrolled a private client for a $3500 program… but none since then (well small one off sessions which I don’t offer anymore). How can I move past this block OR how can I position myself so I only attract people willing to invest in their recovery? (Many women can’t even afford to go to treatment – it all depends on their situation)

    Thank you so much, I really appreciate your feedback!

    Hugs,
    Blake <3

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Hey Blake!

      Thanks so much for your question. I loooove the idea of the slow build – highly recommended!

      Ok, so hate to tell you but the “these women are broke” thing is not a block – it’s an assumption. It’s no good just sitting here assuming, and it keeps you from really working towards anything in your business if you’re operating from the assumption that no one can afford it anyway.

      Your work now is to go out and find out whether or not that is true, with some market research.

      You want to be finding out whether people are 1) able to pay and 2) willing to pay.

      Positioning yourself will involve some killer copywriting and branding work, AND there will always be people who can’t afford you, whether you charge $5000 or $5. If you feel compelled to help the broke folks, create a lot of free content (blogs, free resources etc) so you can feel good about helping that market AND get paid for what you do,

      Hope that helps! I love what you’re doing.

      xo becca

      • Sonja

        OMG I like a year + late but on time! This article and this comment is my “block” you’re right Becca. I can help those who can’t afford pricey packages with free content, but position myself for those who armor than willing to pay. My very first client said ” I want to work with you. Send me your rates and payment options” BOOM! I was at a wedding reception. I’d love to hear from the poster how she is doing now. Decca you’ve got a new fan with this post!

  41. John

    Hi Rebecca.
    Just finished reading your article and I’ve found it very interesting. I must say that niching down does work for a lot of coaches but it shouldn’t be taken as gospel. There are a lot of motivators/coaches out there that they are extremely successful without being in a specific niche per se but rather focusing around a specific process/technique that successfully addresses various problems. Also coaching is not a business and it shouldn’t be taken as one, it’s a humanitarian action, an individual’s value adding to society. Once you start seeing coaching as a way of making money all the relative stress that come along with this, will affect your coaching greatly and make it extremely hard. If you’re finding it hard to get clients it’s usually because you’re focusing too much on the business side, people can smell this and they become harder to convert.
    I personally don’t advertise, I don’t market myself through typical marketing streams. Instead I go out there and I talk to people, I share my story, I try to help people with their small everyday problems, I don’t see them as potential clients I see them as my chance to add value. I’ll approach anyone, anywhere. From the frustrated mother dragging a screaming child at the grocery shop, to the obese teenager at the icecream parlor. I’m a helper 24/7. This is what makes me happy and fulfills me no matter if I get clients or not.
    That approach of disconnecting myself from the money making mentality has actually created more business and quality business.
    But I agree with you and I also advise people not to quit their jobs or other businesses to become life coaches. If you are financially stable from a different source it’s easier to become a great coach. Monetary detachment is key to life coaching success.
    My best regards to you all.
    John

  42. Kassy Scarcia

    I have recently signed up for a year-long coaching program that will start in August. My coach paid for her entire program from working as a coach right from the beginning. Your article is making me feel like that is completely unrealistic, but I don’t know how I will pay for the program without getting clients quickly. I truly believe this is what I am meant to do and it will only help me with my full-time work as an advisor for college students, but I still have to be able to pay for it. You article is really making me think hard about how to be successful and what happens if it doesn’t happen as fast as I am being told it might. I really hope i can figure out a way to make this work as a side business though because I truly do have the passion for it.

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Thanks for hopping in here Kassy. You are absolutely right that getting clients right away is a great way to learn faster and get started sooner. I would also recommend getting as clear and specific as possible about your expertise right away.

      I have no idea how much your program is so can’t say whether it’s “realistic” to pay it off with clients right away. Anything is possible – and learning the ins and out of the business side of coaching is an important piece that will help ensure your success.

      Best of luck – reach out if you ever need help!

      xx

  43. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I quit my Corporate Job and in my transition found a coaching academy that stated how easy it is to attract in $200 an hour for 1-2-1 coaching clients. I thought I can do this… I’ll just tap into my BS in Marketing, sales and customer service back ground and I can create my own job and make a great living being a life coach. I wrote a business plan, went back to school, rented an office space and started creating a Life Coaching Practice. My first year of business being a life coach I spent $16,000 and I made $152. I joined networking groups, interviewed over 20+ local coaches, I coached for free, I created group coaching events, and when I wasn’t seeing paying clients knocking down my door I altered my game plan. I was trying my hardest to find my niche what and who did I want to coach? Where was I going to find my target market? Who was going to pay me $200 an hour to learn that happiness comes from inside your heart not from the most expensive houses, cars, boats, recreational vehicles, or any other tangible items. That is when I realized it is not my job to create supply and demand for coaching. It is simple economics 101. SUPPLY AND DEMAND. There is a reason that nobody has created a corporation filled with life coaches that make billions of dollars in profits per year. If you are passionate about helping people and you are attracting in the clients to pay you to help them realize that happiness comes from within good for you. Keep going. If you are like any other entrepreneur that realizes that 50% of all start up business will fail the first year and 95% will fail in 10 years. Life coaching is not an exception to the rule. Find what you want to pursue and follow that dream. Have faith that you are here for a purpose and believe. It is not promised to be easy but it is promised you will reap what you sow. Good luck to all the life coaches out there. I’m pursuing business consulting and in negotiations with joining a consulting firm. I’m not much on being an entrepreneur I would prefer to work for somebody else. Keep the faith. – Katie

    • Nicki

      Katie, I understand it has been quite some time since you wrote this–but I wanted to thank you for this response. I have been putting in long weeks for about 4 months starting a coaching practice as well and selling people on “happiness comes from your heart and changing your perspective” is a very challenging way to make a dollar! I found my niche in personal finance coaching and small business coaching—thankfully I love business–not big corporate biz, but I find small business fun. All the coaching skills are great to learn and very beneficial—but monetizing them is an entirely different thing that NO coaching program is going to speak about because it hinders their growth. It feel so good to see all the comments here. As coaches, we all seek to be as positive as possible, visualizing, meditating, helping others etc.; yet coaching as a skill and as a money maker are 2 very different things!

  44. Farzana Ansari

    Okay,haha! slight panic attack! I am on the brink of signing up for a life coach course and after reading this, Im not so sure!
    I love helping people and motivating them. I have been since I was a child! So thought of taking it up as a side career! Now Im not so sure!Is it really that bad??

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Farzana, go for it! Coach training will change your life and is an amazing skill to learn. If you decide you want it to be a business, be sure to start thinking about your niche right from the start while you’re in the classes, and when you coach practice clients, try to find once that are in your desired niche. The business side of coaching is a whole other beast (the business side of ANYTHING really), but there are a lot of great resources and hep out there for when you’re ready to start your business. Good luck and enjoy!

  45. k

    Just an FYI-you would be come off as a lot more credible if you cut back on the swearing.

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Thanks for your comment K., I have actually found the opposite. The clients who really love me are the ones who are tired of having to be “professional”. I give them permission to be themselves, and it can be refreshing for those who have stuffed themselves in a box of appearances their whole lives. And I appreciate that everyone has different tastes, which is why it’s great that there are enough coaches out there for every personality!

      • Sonja

        keep swearing. PLEASE lol!

  46. Jenna D. Marks

    True. Life coaching is really hard to make it bussiness. And I think people don’t need to pay some people to just coach them for their Life problems. All people are not alone and they are connected in some ways whatever their friends will always beside them and they don’t just realize it.

  47. Zoran

    I respect what you told in this text. But many times we sabotage ourself.
    We think that something is very hard and takes years of hard work, so we live and work exactly that way.
    I dont say that results fall from the sky. I am just saying that we should be realistic, but also dont limit ourself by that.
    Many times life offer great opportunities. We need to be ready to see them. The only way for that is that we believe it is
    possible to achieve something faster and easier.

  48. Lynne

    Down right practical, logical, and sound advice on life coaching.She told it like it is! Really great!!!

  49. This post was Amazing!!! I’m excited about starting coaching school and this gave me the right amount of balance in my approach to it. My niche is Balance. Thanks Becca! You rock!!

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Awesome!! So happy you found this before your training! It’s GREAT to go into coach training aware of the business side if thats the direction you want to go with your coaching. Enjoy!

  50. Victoria

    Wow. Straight up honesty. Really appreciate that Becca. I love the idea of putting coaching INSIDE of what problem I solve. Great insight. Thanks a bunch.

  51. Angela

    Loveloveloved this…. I have been doing some heavy research on this industry as I feel strongly that this could encompass many of my skills, interests, hobbies, passions, and innate desire to help every damn person I meet:)

    I’m curious if you would recommend a particular training course as that is what I’m struggling with most… There are sooo many coaches making money via training other coaches that it’s hard to weed through all of the promises. I am definitely looking to build a business that would allow me to eventually quit what I’m doing now. Also, would you recommend going with a more expensive training program that also includes certification in the price, or a less expensive program and decide later about certification?

    Thank you! And also cussing is my favorite:)

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Hi Angela! Funny you should ask this – my colleague Kate Courageous is enrolling students in her training program right now. It’s a full life coach training and also focuses on the business side of life coaching. I recorded an interview with Kate yesterday that will go out on the blog next week, but you can find her program here — courageouscoachingtraining.com

  52. Chester Hall

    This was a beast of an article! WOW! The funny thing about my training was that the coach DID tell us not to quit our day jobs yet, but there wasn’t the emphasis on coaching as being a skill rather than a business. I’ve had to find this out the hard way, and despite my desire to “coach,” I find myself blending all of my skills together daily from years in counseling, teaching, mentoring, youth sports coaching, and just being a parent into what I do. I’ve only been coaching “on the records” for about a year, but have discovered very quickly that it is a SKILLSET! You add it into what you do currently, making you more of an asset to the company you already are employed by…until you break away. Ultimately, I’d recommend those that have the newly acquired skills to use them as they normally would, on and off the job. Use this time as an incubation period, where you learn more about coaching, the industry, gain certifications, practice, and as you have said begin finding a niche. Your niche should be something that you’re really good at, or passionate about. I will tout passion when “niching” because you do want to enjoy your new endeavor once you strike out on your own. Thanks again for the great read!

    Chester Hall, Owner
    GOODLIFE!! Coaching

  53. R

    The coaching industry is akin to the personal trainer gravy train- the only people making money are the people selling the “you can be a personal trainer” courses.

    Also: people spend years in accredited graduate programs so they can be licensed professional counselors. Unless they live in NYC, none of the bill out at anywhere close to $200 an hour. Why would I pay someone with an online degree $200 an hour when I can get the same service for my $20 insurance copay?

  54. Eric

    I often troll the internet for articles related to building a coaching business. Even though I’ve heard some of the advice here a thousand times, you made it fresh. This is probably the most articulate and straightforward piece I’ve read on this topic. Take it from someone who knows …. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the kind words Eric! Are you a coach of thinking of getting into the business?

  55. Thank you for being honest and saying it as it is. You are right, those “killing” it are those coaching coaches rather than being a coach themselves. To me, it’s another subtle model of scamming even though you really have to read through and understand what is happening before you realize that you are being scammed.

  56. Steve

    A good point well made.

    When I was starting out as a copywriter I worked freelance to build up my experience, and had to work very hard to get established because running a business has nothing to do with the actual job of copywriting. Aside from your chosen day job, you also have to be your company’s business development manager, accountant, marketing department, secretary – and more besides. Paradoxically, these activities pull you away from your single area of expertise, while being intrinsic to your success.

    Also, it takes a certain type of person to succeed in business, and they aren’t necessarily compatible with the good-hearted, generous nature of most coaches.

    So think about the kind of person you are, read about the hard-arsed people who’ve made it (from Rockefeller to Jobs), and consider the vipers you’ve worked with who clawed their way up – then ask yourself some hard questions.

    Specialising in a niche area will definitely help your cause and articles like this are good for demonstrating the cold hard reality of running your own business.

  57. Katie

    Can I ask what type of insurance other coaches are using to protect them? About how much should I expect to pay monthly for liability insurance? Does anyone have a company to recommend? Thank you!

  58. Donna

    This is the best article I’ve read about the reality of having a coaching business. Thank you for telling it straight.

  59. Chalene

    Thank f*&k for your honesty and openness. All your stuff is amazing Becca, thank you! I was totally lost but shit is starting to makes sense now. Cheers from a Life Coach in training that’s not about to quite her day job x

    • Rebecca Tracey

      Thanks Chalene!! Life coaching is so so awesome, don’t get discouraged, just know what you’re getting into and get some business sense about you as SOON as you can!! xo

  60. Vedad Grozdanic

    This was a nice article.

    A great takeaway, as you mentioned, is that, regardless of the profession or business which one pursues; it takes time.

    You mentioned 3 – 5 years; I would agree.

  61. CJ

    Interesting Blog! While that can apply to many and truth been told I would need to voice the reason why most coaches feel this way. Lack of business mind (do not want to be mean here) it is like asking a HR person to turn into a top sales man. Both share similar traits and skills however the outcome will not be the same. Why? Any businesses -not only life coaching- the concept itself has to be sold (products or/and services) e.g Web Design, Business Constancy, Pet food….. whatever business we are talking about have the same principles 1) what do you do 2) to whom is it for 3) strategy on how to promote the business to niche desired 4) how to position among competitions 5) once traffic is generated how to retain clients 6) how to generate referrals 7) how to generate more leads and etc.
    any successful business will understand the basic mentioned above and a strong business plan will emerge before flying from the nest. meet and create the demand!!! Any dreams can come true but with the right tools.
    I would say while mentioned in this blog is true (+ matching with your current skills sets)but only because most people do not understand the basic of setting up a business or/and know their future clients or/and know what they are selling.
    My advice would be, go for some training such as selling techniques & business set up and how to market your services that would be the your best investment after life coach certifications of course ;-) but you need to how to sell once you do the rest will be easy!
    I will finish with a true story. This young lady was very creative as a web designer and very good at her job for sure. anyway she was working on a new concept/ idea about a doll for children, while the concept she had was fresh, new and appealing she had, like most inventors, to find some investors (not much $35,000 that what she thoughts -will come back to that later-) she was the creator of this great new idea so you would think she would be the best person to pitch the idea, right?! Wrong! while she obviously understood the concept well she was unable to make it appealing to the investors. why? what she thoughts being a selling point what actually irrelevant, her pitch was boring and long and lacked business acumen! If that was not bad enough a business plan lacked of accuracy and strategy (ies). she lost the deal. the $35k was actually $110k investments. Why I am telling you this story, well because despite her great knowledge on her product she lacked on her business mind. She went for 2 courses how to sell and how to present as well as some books on how to set up a business ….. 9 months later she went back to pitch her idea and secured $135k investment. Food for thoughts

  62. Orisade

    I landed on this page because I’ve been asking looking to niche before I launch. Thank you for the brutally honest perspective.

  63. Kati Stage

    omg…. I’m a fan ♡♡♡♡

    Loved EVERY word.

    Becca, this is right on point! You tell it like it is, no sugar coating….

    I’ve been blogging for 3 years now (to make an income) and only RECENTLY found my niche.

    In adittion to that, (I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit) I have been sugar coating the entrepreneur life, as in, not telling the anyone that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows immediately – when I first got started.

    Not that I would lie, giving any sort of false claims EVER…. I’m just saying I didn’t share the struggle side of it.

    Well, now it’s time to start writting like this, to share my story …like I should have been.

    Thanks for the inspiration Becca.

  64. Lynne

    An honest-to-goodness account of the challenges a life coach faces, the do’s and don’ts…this is the most sensible piece I have read…Thank you Becca!!!

  65. I think this is such a great post, I am SO tired of seeing coaches post about how they made 6 figures in 6 months, I evenue had a client that achieved that and STILL was overwhelmed in her business because she didn’t know how to make money while being fully booked.

    The truth is you have to learn paid advertising if you want to make a BIG impact and I see so many times coaches hire other ‘high end ‘ coaches to help them make 6 figures in 6 months and simple things like a Retargeting pixel on facebook will be missing from their sales page. Why hire a Facebook ad expert for $1500 on top of the coach that charged you $25000 to miss a key part of modern day marketing?

    You are right it will take 3 -5 years to build a sustainable business and if you have the right systems in place you can absolutely achieve a successful business.

    And one huge piece of advice use technology to help you!

    And know that keeping your job to pay for Facebook ads and other courses is important. I made the mistake of quitting my job and then working part time to build my business and I did get clients but not consistently, so I went back to full time work with a plan and now have a sales funnel that does all of the heavy lifting.

    Invest in learning about a sales funnel!

    Love this post :)

  66. KHAI LIN CHUAH

    Thanks for this article. Finally brutal honest truth and not just all sweet fluff. Very sobering article.

  67. Aretha

    This is a GREAT article for a newbie such as myself. Thanks for “keeping it real”.

  68. Hallie

    OOOOOOOOH my god I have never needed to read anything as much as this article RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you FOR BEING THA REALEST. Wowowow. PRAISE U.

Voice your opinion