The Coaching Dream, Modified

Frank BallInsights0 Comments

Many coaches as the complete their initial coach training think, “I attended x, y, z coaching school, and it was a life changing experience, and it was so wonderful I want everybody that I can meet to have the same life changing experience I had, and I’m going to quit this dreadful job that I hate and has been killing my soul all these years, and I am going to be a full time coach, and I’m going to make a living making six figures, and I’m going to live happily ever after.” Well, that might be possible, but the true truth is that the experience of most of us who have built coaching practices is more like the difference between turning on a light switch to make the lights come on and building a wood fire in a fireplace.


We live our life as if I’m going to move in this new direction, and I’m going to become an independent coach, and I’m going to pay the mortgage and everything else starting right now. Whereas in fact, for most of us, building a coaching practice is more like building a fire with logs and kindling and matches and newspaper and it takes a long time and it kicks off smoke before bursting into robust flames. The fact of the matter is, it’s a rare person who can jump from a full time job to a full time coach without having other means of financial support. So I would encourage all readers of this article to give themselves permission to do something besides coaching to help pay the bills as they build their professional practice.


What that means is if you have been a nurse for most of your working life, and you now want to be a health and wellness coach, you might want to continue to do some private duty nursing here and there to pay the bills as well as to get access to people who might refer you to coaching clients. Or if you have been a facilitator, you might choose to become a facilitator-coach as you continue your transition to full-time coach. If you used to be a trainer, you might become a trainer-coach. Even to this day, after coaching for more than 20 years, I continue to do a lot of non-coaching things. I teach classes occasionally – sometimes the subject being taught is coaching, and other times it is not. I am a member of boards of non-profits and companies. I have found that doing things not directly related to coaching actually support my growth as a coach because I not only learn new things, but I also get exposure to new people. So my suggestion is that you give yourself permission to have a professional life that has a lot of pieces to it.


You might also consider defining your profession focus more by the people or organizations you serve than the specific activity of coaching. Doing so will allow more space for the hyphenated you – the nurse coach or facilitator coach. For example, these days I’m less likely to introduce myself as a coach. I’m more likely to describe myself in terms of the people I work with. In my case, I coach leaders in organizations and sometimes teams of leaders. Sometimes I consult to them, and sometimes I train them, and sometimes I teach them. But I have a space I know a lot about called the leadership space. And so I define myself as that market, rather than just one of the services I offer in that space — coaching. A client defined coaching practice is equally applicable to health coaches, relationship coaches, and life coaches.


If you’re at all intrigued by this different approach to thinking and talking about your work, you may want to get of Marketing your Services, A Step-by-step Guide for Small Businesses and Professionals, which is a book by Anthony O. Putman. The book is about how to market yourself as a professional. He has an interesting construct.

In it you start with:

  • who you work with,
  • what you do with them,
  • what the outcome is,
  • and then that’s what you call it.

An example he offers in his book is that of a chiropractor. Instead of saying, “I’m a chiropractor,” he suggests you start with, “I’m a healing professional who works with accident victims and people in chronic pain to help them live lives free of pain. I do that through the practice of chiropractic medicine.”

Someone hearing that might say, “Oh, I understand what accident victims are. I understand what chronic pain is. He helps them live lives free of pain. People will hear that and say, “I want to sign up for that.” Putnam suggests that if he started with the job title chiropractor, you might say, “A bunch of quacks. I’d rather go to a real doctor.” The difference in Putman’s approach is focusing on who you work for, what you do for them rather than naming the job or profession.

So when I talk about my work using Putman’s structure it sounds something like, “I work with leaders in organizations to help them be more effective at getting things done as well as find greater fulfillment through their work.”

We as coaches are committed to serving our clients, and that focus comes through more clearly when we speak of who we serve, how we serve them, and the difference we make. By doing so we also make clear that we are more client-focused than coach-focused in our approach.


Coach Development Groups, which are facilitated groups of peer coaches, are a great supporting mechanism for thinking through what your transition to full-time coaching could look like. For more information about Coach Development Groups and how to register to join one, look at more Education.

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