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12 Mistakes New Life Coaches Make

life coach magicianMy last post on Life Coaching generated some really interesting feedback both in the comments, on social media and especially via e-mail, so I have decided to bat on and do the follow up as requested.

Apologies if you have no interest in ever becoming a Life Coach, although as Lu a massage therapist astutely pointed out in the comments of my previous post,  this information isn’t necessarily confined to Life Coaching.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, I’m not criticizing people (well not many anyway) because I have made some many, of the same mistakes.

However, I was very, very lucky that I could screw up more times than Lindsey Lohan and still recover.

Life Coaching competition back in 2005 when I went full time was thinner than in the annual Delhi to Bombay drag a live hungry crocodile with you race.

I also realize that not every new coach will make these mistakes, they are merely the ones I see the most often.

So if you’re a wannabe Life Coach, you’re a Life Coach already or you just want to see how much I’m going to wind people up and swear (a lot probably) settle yourself in for part 2 in a series of 2.

1. Telling The World You Love Your Life And Love To Help People

The anomaly with this is that to be successful as a Life Coach you do have to love the thought of helping people. In fact it’s the best reason to want to become a Life Coach in the first place.

However, pretty much everybody loves life and if you don’t believe me stop 12 random strangers on the street, place a gun to their heads and ask them if it’s ok to pull the trigger*

*Don’t really because that will play havoc in building your Life Coaching credibility, I was just making a point.

Focusing your core message around the fact that you love to help people is ridiculous. It’s like a mechanic having a tagline on his website saying, “I fucking love mending cars I do

People don’t care that you love to help people because that’s a given.

It’s not a niche, it’s not a USP and it doesn’t serve any value. Will it lose you clients? Probably not, but it will waste precious real estate that could be put to far better use.

2. Starting Off With Little Or No Money

The training companies have done a brilliant job of suggesting coaching is a zero sum start up. After all, if you have some pajamas to slip into, a computer and a phone, (all things you probably already have), what more could you possibly need?

The answer is, a lot.

This is what I spent in January 2013 without taking into account my time, or utilities etc.

  • Aweber newsletter cost – $50
  • SEO support – $250
  • Books and audio programs on coaching- $90
  • Web hosting – $20
  • PayPal Pro – $30
  • E-junkie – $5
  • Transfer Big Files – $5
  • Technical, design and development help – $500
  • Vonage (telephone) Worldwide – $30
  • High speed Internet – $85
  • Cell phone – $100
  • Production of the video for Amazing Facts About Your Brain – $250 (check it out at the bottom of the page and see if you think it was worth $250)

You can cut corners with those costs. For example until you get over 5,000 subscribers Aweber is only $20 (I think) and there are companies like MailChimp that offer free services up to a certain level.

You can also get cheaper web hosting, although I’m not sure I’d advise it, and you don’t need to keep learning if you’re lazy, don’t care about your clients and think the world stands still.

And I only use PayPal Pro because I want to be able to swipe credit cards and I was starting to see a resistance with some clients to using PayPal.

Also the video production was a one-off (but then again there are one-offs every month) and I’d still have the phone and Internet costs even if I wasn’t a Life Coach.

Even removing phone and Internet it still comes to $1,200, or over $14k per annum and I’m pretty sure I’ll have forgotten something.

3. Pouring All Your Available Resources Into Training

You could get the best training in the world and be an awesome coach, but without everything else in place you’d be an ex-coach quicker than you can send me an e-mail saying, “I’m a Life Coach – how do I get clients…..quickly?

My opinion has shifted in the last couple of years from thinking formal training is a necessity, to thinking formal training is a ‘very nice to have’.

I’m not going into detail why now (I’ll do that in the forthcoming book), but in a nutshell I see too many coaches who have spent everything they have on training and are running on fumes.

All coaching skills can be learned in the following way:

  • Working with an experienced coach and seeing how he or she operates
  • Burying your head in lots of books on all aspects of coaching (here are some great self development books to get you started)
  • Watching other coaches work on places like YouTube – just make sure they know what they’re talking about because there are some very poor coaches on YouTube
  • Conducting pro bono coaching  (just not friends or family, you can NOT coach people you know well, PERIOD) for as many people as you can
  • Asking for honest feedback from your pro bono clients and learning from that
  • Trying to get a mentor (just not me at the moment I’m all mentored out)

I’ve learned way more working with clients (and hiring 4 other Life Coaches myself)  than I ever could have got from training, even though my training was excellent and very useful.

If you can afford it, then by all means, do it. If it stretches you to the limit and puts your house at risk, don’t.

Note: If you want to do executive coaching then formal certification probably is a necessity because HR departments are picky like that.

Another note: I almost feel like I’m encouraging people to just dive in there. I’m not, dedicate the 12 months or so it would take you to get accredited to work hard on your coaching skills.

Another bloody note: I almost never get asked about my qualifications.

There are no more notes.

I said no more notes, so stop looking.

4. Having A Crap Website.

Your website is your shop window and if it sucks people will think you suck.

Guess what?

Most Life Coaches websites suck.

Doing your website yourself unless you’re a web designer transitioning into Life Coaching, is no more of an option than building your own office.

Don’t get Bob the supposed web genius who is a friend of a friend to do it free free either, because in 3 months time when it’s still not finished you can hardly kick his arse if he’s doing you a favor.

Get a professional and if you can’t afford one, you can’t afford to be a coach.

Also avoid the following like the plague:

  • Stock images of people jumping up with their hands in the air – you’re a coach not a trampoline instructor
  • Stock images of piles of zen-like pebbles – it’s been done to death, then reincarnated and then done to death again. If you want such a picture at least get an original and not use the one I have seen on 4 separate websites in the last 24 hours (not yours Paige)
  • Making false claims regarding the efficacy of Life Coaching – we’re coaches, not magicians
  • Running Ads that are either irrelevant or too relevant  i.e suddenly you have an ad for another coach you don’t even know running on your site or one for an insurance agent
  • Pages that say “Under construction”
  • Being bashful and not having a photo of yourself – people need to see you to connect to you
  • Too many pages that are difficult to navigate – if your cat can’t find his way around your site then it’s too difficult
  • Using way too much copy on your home page – granted for SEO that can be helpful, but the human mind hates seeing huge blocks of text
  • Having testimonials that are too long
  • Having testimonials that end with John, Australia or Bob, New York unless you want to make people suspicious
  • Having one or two testimonials only because this will act as social proof in reverse. Wait till you have a few.

Note: I do list my prices for coaching on my site. This is very much a personal choice and there is a lot to be said for not doing so because you can build on value not on price.

5. Not Understanding SEO Basics

You may have noticed that I pay $250 per month for SEO help, and for the quality of help I get that is cheap, so why am I saying you need to know SEO?

You just do alright.

I see so many sites that are blowing opportunity after opportunity by not knowing the basics of SEO.

A crap Life Coach with a handle on marketing and SEO will kick the arse of a good Life Coach who doesn’t have a clue on those things from here to somewhere a very long way away and then all the way back again.

Then they’ll do it again, just for fun whilst probably laughing all the way to the bank and back and mixing as many metaphors as possible.

Yes, yes, yes I know it’s sad that the world works that way and in a land of Unicorns and rainbows it wouldn’t happen.

But unfortunately the last time I looked the world wasn’t fair and unicorns were just short horses who taped horns to their heads to feel important.

Learn the SEO basics and then get a professional to do the back end work, and if you can’t afford one, you can’t afford to be a coach.

Note: This stage is a lot less important if you intend to acquire clients through picking up the phone and off line networking, but I don’t do either of those things.

6. Not Understanding Marketing

See above, only more so, much more.

7. Trying To Do Everything

I coach, I write, I do social media and I do my own marketing, everything else I outsource. If I didn’t, I’d have no time to see clients.

Successful coaches have a team of people around them that allow them to get on with what they do best. Unsuccessful coaches think they can do everything.

If you’re a coach, it’s essential you work out what your hourly rate is. Not just with clients but throughout the day.

Then see how much it cost you to set up a Facebook page, install that plug-in, or design that new ebook.

Then when you have awoken after passing out from shock get yourself some help.

If you can’t afford help, you can’t afford to coach.

8. Not Understanding What A Niche Is

Somebody recently tried to tell me career coaching was a niche.

Yeh right and so is opening a hamburger joint strictly for the use of people who like meat.

  • Coaching women is not a niche
  • Coaching using the Law of Attraction is not a niche (it is a con though imho)
  • Coaching women entrepreneurs is getting closer, but still not quite a niche
  • Coaching women entrepreneurs who think the Law of Attraction is a con most definitely is a niche – hurrah!

Notice I said ‘a’ niche and not ‘your’ niche.

I know a lot of experts will tell you need to know your niche before you start and there is a good deal of merit to that.

However, you may not be sure who your ideal client is yet and that may only come from working with a few dozen clients and getting a feel for the type of work you like and are good at.

It’s possible to start broad and focus in on your niche as you move along. It is harder that way because the competition is more intense the broader your aim, but it’s how I started.

9. Trying To Appeal To Everybody aka Being Inauthentic

I think it was Bill Cosby who said:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody”

Billy Boy nailed it!

I’m pretty sure somebody feinted and/or stormed off in an apoplectic rage when they stumbled on the first ‘fuck’ in this post, but I really don’t care.

And by that I don’t mean I want to deliberately offend people (even though taking offense is a choice so in some respects nothing I say is offensive in and of itself), it’s just that some people will like my style of writing and get my tongue-in-cheek humor, whereas others won’t.

I want to attract clients who have a similar outlook to me because it makes coaching a load of fun and not a chore. It also makes writing fun because I’m not typing on egg shells all the time

I write first and foremost for me. Then a very close second is you. If I do it any other way I would sound inauthentic, get bored and end up readerless.

10. Having A Blog But No Newsletter, Or Vice Versa

You need both!

I love you my friendly blog reader and I am very grateful you are here reading this post.

But let me make one thing perfectly clear, I’m two-timing you, because I love my newsletter subscribers too.

My blog allows me to disseminate information quickly, clarify my thoughts, gain newsletter subscribers, enter into debate, try out new ideas and improve my SEO.

My newsletter allows me to build relationships over a period of time by providing worthwhile content.

By and large my newsletter readers are far more likely to hire me and buy from me.

By the way, I almost never cross pollinate from my blog to my newsletter. 95% of the material in my newsletters is new and exclusive so get signed up!

11. Not Knowing How To Get People To Sign Up For Your Newsletter

Sometime around 1998:

“Oh look a sign up box for a newsletter, how absolutely fabulous I must subscribe immediately. This is so very, very exciting. George open that bottle of Bollinger 52 and call all our friends I feel the need to celebrate.”

Sometime last week:

“Fuck me not another newsletter sign up, how do I get out of here before I put a gun to my head?”

I give 4 full length books away to my newsletter subscribers and 2 are exclusive, you can’t even buy them.

That is probably a tad overkill, but I want to demonstrate value so that people will want to sign up.

NOBODY this side of your mum and the village idiot signs up for a newsletter when there is no obvious indication of what’s in it for them. Offer value!

By the way, pop ups do work. I hate them and you may or may not hate them too so this is at your discretion.

I am lucky to have a designer who told me when I was considering getting one to find another designer to customize and install it because she wouldn’t.

That was the wonderful Naomi Niles and I’m grateful she made me realize it would have been inauthentic to impose on other people that which I didn’t want imposing on myself.

It’s a judgment call on your behalf, if you hate pop-ups then don’t install one, if you have no problem with them, then knock yourself out.

12. Being Afraid Of Competition

If you’re a Life Coach and you send me a great guest post I’ll run it, and have done many times.

If you’re a Life Coach and want help on Social Media with a product you’re launching and I know and trust your work, I’ll help you.

When I launched 70 Amazing Facts a number of people in the self development field helped me out including Steve Aichison, Michael Heppell, Barrie Davenport, Sandi Amoram, Paige Burkes, Adam Eason, Tamarisk Saunder-Davies and others I will have no doubt forgotten because I’m working from memory*

The above aren’t coaching from a position of fear and a ‘what I have I hold’ approach which too many newbies can be tempted to do.

I’m not fearful that by linking to them you may leave my site and go and hire them rather than me.

Weird though it sounds, I want you to find the best coach for you and if they resonate better with you than I do, then they are a better coach for you than I am.

On the flip side of that, two coaches who I gave pro bono coaching to when they were trying to establish their practices ignored my requests for help.

Who do you think I’m going to bend over backwards to help in the future?

*If you did a review or sent out to your lists and I didn’t include you, kick my ass in the comments and I shall rectify my error.

This post has grown a life of its own and I’m grateful you’re still with me, but I think over 2,500 words is enough for any rant, er….I mean blog post.

My intention is to take the last two posts, flesh them out  A LOT and make an ebook. If you’re interested then watch this space, if you’re not, thanks for reading anyway!

Now check out the book that has gripped an entire nation (in my mind).

41 comments to 12 Mistakes New Life Coaches Make

  • So happy to know that my zen rocks aren’t the ones that everyone else is using!

    I think the $250 you spent on video editing was totally worth it. I’ve been telling myself for ages that I’ll figure out Camtasia so I can do it all myself but know how ridiculous that is, even though I’m a techie type (I enjoy installing and tweeking new plugins). There’s only so much time in a day and my list of priorities is already too long.

    Thanks so much for the mention! I do truly love your brain fact book. While the tone is fun, there’s lots to learn there. The same can be said about your entire site. We love it when you’re so uniquely you, Tim.

  • “avoid like the plague images of people jumping up with their hands in the air – you’re a coach not a trampoline instructor”

    I did wonder if you had to own a trampoline to be a life coach :)

  • The 2500 words were full of great advice and wisdom. Thanks Tim for giving us specifics that are useful for everyone.

    My favorite phrase: “I’m not typing on egg shells any more.” That perfectly describes why I’ve been in a writing funk!

  • Newbie Life Coach

    Dear Tim. I want to start coaching in a niche of 1 person… you. Please agree for me to be your coach. I can coach in a wide variety of disciplines, including (but definitely not limited to): 1) arguing with strangers on The Internet, 2) finding cute pictures of cats, 3) making awesome Peanut butter on toast. I just need you to pay me $30,000/year. And be my mentor at the same time.

    On a serious note, this is a tremendously valuable post. I only hope that wannabe coaches will take it all on board. I know of one lifecoach-in-training who is so enamoured with their training company that they believe they don’t need to seek advice from any other sources. I’ve tried to warn them and advised them to check out your recent posts (and other sources), but they seem strangely belligerent (or brainwashed by the training company’s clever marketing). This makes me sad and I fear for their career.

    The video for 70 Facts is amazing. I’d love to see you do more of the same. Totally worth the money. I loved the out-take at the end! My only (minor) criticism is that the sound was slightly echoey. This is forgiveable if the video cost you nothing, but as you’re paying for it I think it needs addressing.

  • Laura

    This may present as something of a conflict of interest question, but how would one go about finding the right life coach? I have enjoyed your blog and newsletter but I actually happened here through a mistype on Google, not a dedicated search. If I were looking for a life coach on purpose, what would be the best route to take?

    Yours is the only life coach blog I’ve read consistently, so I don’t feel like I even know what other life coaches offer in terms of style and voice. Just curious what the field has to offer to clients in terms of variety.

    • That is a tough one Laura, but here are some things I’d look for:

      Experience
      Testimonials
      Visibility online
      Depth of knowledge – usually seen through blog posts on their site and others
      Training (I know I said it wasn’t a per-requisite, but it’s a nice to have if you know what you’re looking for)

      You could also download my free ebook via the resources tab called ‘What The Hell Is Life Coaching’ – but don’t hang around I’ll be removing it soon as I write the new one.

  • Thanks very much for this post. It is great to learn these lessons from your own experience.

    I hope the book sales are going well.

    Kara

  • I’ve definitely made most of these mistakes, if not all. But thankfully after a number of years I have gone through the fire and come out the other side a bit wiser.

    The ‘build it and they will come’ thinking didn’t help me end up with a business. Nor did any of my training. It was all the on the job learning that really fired things up.

    Great teaching here Tim. A must read for every aspiring Life Coach.

  • Good advice and an interesting and entertaining morning read. I’ve heard most of it before but it’s a worthy reminder. Thanks.

  • Thanks for the mention… and another one of those posts where you could just substitute “massage therapist” every time you wrote “Life Coach”.
    Especially the part about what it really costs to run a business. People in marketing can’t believe I’m spending $1000 per month on marketing… (they think it must be much more)… but people in alternative health just faint at the idea. If they believe me.

  • Your brain book is a classic Tim! I’ve never learned so much about the brain as I did from your book. NOw, I never shop at stores or look at sticker prices. I also never ever buy anything before negotiating first (but I negotiate without seeing the initial non-sale price so my brain’s not duped) It’s a book everyone with a brain should read.

    I didn’t know who my ideal clients were when I started. I had hoped they were monks and priests at your local houses of worship. Unfortunately, the few that I pitched tried to get me to sign up for their services. I told them I would help them reach enlightenment. One told me he would help me reach it but for a large 5 figure fee. We fought. I changed my niche completely.

    All jokes aside and as someone who has an interest in helping others take their spiritual life to the next level and/or coaching, I appreciate the advice here. I’m working on most of what you’re talking about except this seo stuff which I’m sure works and will implement one day.

    You hit #9 on the head. I read your blog b/c it’s so different than every other personal development/coaching blog. I regularly leave here thinking – at least I’m not as nuts as that Brownson character. hahahah you’re probably saying the same about me. funny.

    But being yourself and authentic is the key to any business! That’s why you stand out.

  • Like you said, you don’t have to be a life coach to get a lot of benefit from your advice. Loved what you said about the website–the zen pebbles made me laugh out loud! I also thought it was very generous and interesting for you to share your expenses. I think folks need to have realistic expectations. And about the craze you mentioned in your earlier post, also interesting. More life coaches because of the economy? It will even out in a while. Great post.

  • I hate those pop ups (and no, I don’t use them, no matter how much they convert).

    There is a tendency to avoid expense if you cannot justify it. I once allowed myself to be convinced that I had to hire out design for an Event. The quote was $1600 (“special price”) even though quite obviously we were earning only $400…to be split between two people. The event specifically stated $50pp, maximum of 8, two hosts.

    It made me wonder why on earth someone would put enormous time and effort into a professional quotation when clearly I would have had to be dropped on my head to agree to it.

    Smart money would have simply said,”I am sorry but you cannot afford me at this time,” and been done with it.

    Common sense – where is it, Tim?

  • [...] 12 Mistakes New Life Coaches Make – The training companies have done a brilliant job of suggesting coaching is a zero sum start up. [...]

  • Francois Paradis

    Hi Tim,
    Thank you very much for your articles.
    It is very insightful and served me well in remembering the importance of not trying to do it all myself. A detail I sometimes forget/overlook. I like the mentality you have about other coaches and share that spirit with you. I believe if I help other coaches it’ll come back somehow anyways. I wanted to say your site is listed under “inspiring coaches” in my browser bookmarks. There’s not many in there either. I am just starting on that road myself and certainly enjoy finding little gems of knowledge like this.
    Cheers,

  • Great post Tim. Having been a coach for over 10 years and seen many a coach come and go, it has been for many of the reasons you mention.

    Oh and I love your comment in point 8 – The Law of attraction is a con! If it worked I’ll have a Ferrari, house in the Caribbean and a 6 foot model girlfriend by now cause that’s what I’ve been ‘putting out there’!

  • Nifty post, Tim!

    I should probably print it out and stare at it until it sinks in that I should really take action on some of these points you’ve been ranting on about. (Getting an SEO guy would be the next big one, I think. Can you point me to who’s your SEO guy/gal?)

    Also, looking over my homepage… it has a picture of *me* jumping up with my hands in the air. Hmmmmm…

    • That’s not even close to being the same thing mate. That shows your character!

      I’ll speak with my guy, but he’s really only doing this for me as a favor, he usually works on corporate stuff and charges a lot more.

  • karis

    I’m tempted to post the link to this article on so many coaches’ sites but I might get done for doing ‘social media graffiti’.

    Thanks once again for so much truth and humour! Tee, hee, hee!

    ‘Guilty-on-many-counts’

  • Theresa

    I found your website through a link on Cranky Fitnes(adore her and she spoke highly of you…so here I am!).

    I’ve signed up for your newsletter and am looking forward to diving in and reading your eBooks!

    Have a fantastic day :)

  • I’ve heard it said that the worst thing about making a mistake is not learning from it.

    But for some strange reason, very few of us like to admit we’ve made mistakes; something that can probably be chalked up to ego.

    Like it or not, mistakes do and will happen.

    The good news is you always can fix that the best way possible.

  • [...] to Tim Brownson’s article, “12 Mistakes Every Life Coach Makes,” your website is a key business tool and should show your best face to the [...]

  • [...] Earlier this year and before this site was even a glimmer in my eye I wrote a post on my A Daring Adventure called, ’12 Mistakes Life Coaches Make’. [...]