As a new coach, it can be frustrating. You’ve had your training, practicing your new skills with your peers, and can see just how valuable the process can be in helping people find their own resolution to their problems and difficulties and yet, when you offer your services more broadly, no-one is biting.
Unless you’re in the fortunate position of being employed as a corporate coach with a pool of people awaiting your services, which is pretty unlikely if you’ve only just started out, finding people to coach can be pretty tricky. Don’t feel as though you’re alone in this. When I first started out in coaching, I had to practically beg people to let me use my new-found skills with them and even then, because I basically twisted their arms, our coaching relationship didn’t last much longer than three sessions consisting of introduction, recap and conclusion.
There are some things that you can do at the start of your career as a coach to start to find people who might want to work with you. Here’s just a few that I’ve found have worked for me.
Spread the word
Letting people know that you’re a coach is a good idea, but you’ll be surprised how many people have no idea what that actually means. As you may have learned through your training, coaching has different meanings for different people ranging from mentoring to psychotherapy. While we may pick tools and techniques from both of these approaches, amongst others, coaching isn’t defined by either of those things.
Identify the people with influence in your place of work (or in companies you’d like to work with if you’re working as a freelancer) and meet with them to explain what coaching is all about and the benefits it can have for individuals, teams and the whole organisation. If you’ve done some recognised training, you’ll probably have spent time talking about the benefits of coaching and how to sell this to prospective clients. If not, do a bit of homework and put together a short sales pitch for the value of coaching.
Choosing people who have influence in an organisation is important because that way, they’re more likely to be in a position to point people in your direction. Targeting individuals that you think would benefit from coaching is more like door-to-door selling. Going straight to the top is like taking out a billboard.
Be generous with your time
This can be a tricky one in today’s busy workplaces, but give your time to talk about coaching to whoever is prepared to listen as often as you can. If you’re a freelancer, be prepared to do a little pro bono work before you start to take on paying clients. Offer taster sessions. Put yourself forward to talk about coaching at meetings. Anything that raises the profile of both yourself as a coach and of coaching in general will sew the seeds and put you in a better position of securing some clients.
Form a network
Networking as a coach is really important for a number of reasons. Being in touch with fellow coaches gives you a community of practice with whom you can share your techniques, acquire new ones and talk about some of the trials and tribulations of doing the business of coaching. However, it can also be helpful as a way to generate new coachees.
Not every coach is going to be well-suited to every coachee. Not every person is in the best position to coach the people they work with. This can be particularly true if you work in an organisation and the people you’re trying to coach are those in your immediate or closest related teams. Forming a network gives you access to a broader range of people that you can feasibly and ethically coach without a conflict of interest.
Talk about your successes
One of the things that we Brits are often really bad at doing is making the most of our own successes. When something goes well, we will often find a way to minimise it or say that it was down to the tools we used, the other person, the prevailing weather conditions or anything else that doesn’t make it sound like we’re bragging and being immodestly proud of one’s own performance. However, if you’re not prepared to sell yourself and your own abilities, no-one will want you to coach them!
One of the ways you can do this is by asking for feedback from your coachees. Seeking feedback on your performance is good practice as a coach in any case, but asking your coachees if they are prepared for you to use their testimonials – either anonymously or with their names attached – can help you build a profile for yourself.
If you haven’t formally coached anyone yet, you can use the feedback you’ve received through the process of your peer coaching sessions during your training. Use this to identify your strengths and your strengths as a basis for persuading people to commit to coaching with you.
Of course, these are only a few ideas and others will have plenty of views on what has worked for them. Feel free to chip in below in the comments!