The Life Coach Gold Rush Is On

doomed life coachI’ve no idea what is going on at the moment in the Life Coaching world.

It seems to me that saying there is an explosion of new Life Coaches is like saying there seems to be a tad more obesity and type 2 diabetes than there was 50 years ago

Either people are clamoring to become Life Coaches at a rate not seen since 100,000 hopefuls set off for the Klondike River in 1896, or half the new coaches are contacting me looking for help.

Much though it’d be nice to think otherwise, I doubt very much it’s the latter.

As such, it seems from my groaning inbox that a saturated market place has just had a bunch of fire trucks turn up to give it a damn good soaking,  just in case there were some areas not yet under water.

The Life Coach Gold Rush is On

The gold rush figures make interesting reading when you break them down and compare them to Life Coaching.

100,000 people left home for the Klondike River in Yukon, Canada to earn their fortune

30,000 – 40,000 never even made it that far due to:

  • Running out of food and/or money
  • Difficulty in managing the terrain and having no real plan
  • Getting sick and/or dying
  • Being eaten by very large bears
  • Getting as far as Portland and thinking “wow this is going to be really cool in 120 years, I’d better lay a claim now”

Of those that did make it to the Klondike less than 10% struck gold

So from a start of 100,000 people, many of whom quit their jobs to chase their dream, only about 4% found gold and by no means did all of those became wealthy.

Not great odds in retrospect, and I feel sure many people would have stayed at home if they’d have known the hardship that was in store for them.

If you asked me to guess the likely success of any one person (who I have no knowledge of, therefore do not know their strengths and weaknesses) building a successful and thriving Life Coaching practice, I would offer similar odds.

And even then I’d have a strong hunch that buying a map and some panning equipment may be a more sensible investment for most people.

I get contacted by a new or wannabe coach most days and on one day last week 4 people e-mailed me on the same day asking for help.

And the question they ask me the vast majority of the time is some variation of the following.

I’m A Life Coach, How Do I Get Clients?

I speak to probably half those people either as a potential client or as a favor if they are looking for some free advice and prepared to talk to me whilst I’m out dog walking.

There is one question I’d love to ask to certified coaches and never do, and two I almost always ask. The one I want to ask is:

“What in Gods name made you think setting up a business when you had no clue as how to attract customers was a good idea? What’s your next plan, to set up a vegan restaurant in the middle of Wyoming 250 miles from the nearest town?”

But I really don’t want to embarrass anybody so instead I ask:

“Do you realize how incredibly competitive Life Coaching is and that most practices fail to generate sufficient clients. And are you prepared to do whatever is necessary to avoid becoming one of those statistics?”

The answer is always yes and yes. Nobody has ever said,

Really Tim? I never knew that. Shit, I thought it was going to be easy with low set up costs, no regulating body and a host of clients waiting to beat a path to my door”

Yet my guess is some were thinking that and wondering why in heavens name were they talking to a dream-crushing bastard like me.

Then I ask,

“How imperative is it that you generate a stable income quickly and what does that income need to be?”

The response to that question can vary from the very reasonable and sensible, to the downright ridiculous. One person once told me she needed to earn $100k in her first year – good luck with that!

Does Success Leave A Trail?

There is an NLP presupposition that suggests success leaves a trail. In other words if you follow and imitate what other successful people in your field are doing then you’re likely to get similar results.

This is a process called modeling and it is at the very heart of NLP (neurolinguistic programming)

In the early days of NLP, co-developers Richard Bandler & John Grinder decided to model family therapist, Virginia Satir, psychologist and hypnotherapist Milton H Erickson and the man who discovered Gestalt Therapy, Fritz Perls.

They wanted to see if they could achieve similar results by using the same methods and modalities that the industries leaders were using. They studied them for literally hundreds of hours each to the point of even moving in with Erickson to watch him work.

Any by and large it worked, they did get fantastic results when they started to apply their methods into therapeutic settings.

But, how do you spot which trail is the successful one, especially in a fledgling industry like Life Coaching?

Erickson, Perlz and Satir were already established world-leaders in their field and none of them saw the need to buy 20,000 Facebook fans from Fiverr to gain social proof.

Ok, so those sites weren’t technically up and running then, but you get my gist, these were highly respected and highly successful pioneers in their field, not just people who appeared successful because they had a cute website.

Pick A Life Coach, Any Life Coach

I have had a great many Life Coaches come to me with an idea of what they think will make them successful, and that idea has often been formed after a couple of days reading and studying other Life Coaching sites ((often training sites).

The theory behind that is not unreasonable until you realize many Life Coaches are on their arse, haven’t got two paying clients to rub together and the training companies are trying to sell you the idea of becoming a coach.

In other words, they start to implement a strategy that has already been proven not to work based on the advice of somebody who stands to make money on them doing so.

The net result of that can be a lot of time, money and energy wasted.

Irrespective of what the unscrupulous training companies tell you, there is no clear path to be a successful Life Coach, it’s far too individualistic and relies on too many imponderables.

To be successful you need a reasonable knowledge of running a business, social media, marketing, branding, sales, SEO, networking, an ability to communicate your ideas, a willingness to look like a total idiot on occasions, being comfortable in the public domain and all that comes with that, such as praise and criticism (if either make you uneasy, you’re entering the wrong job) and a lot more.

Do those sound like skills you can master in 6 months, or even 6 years for that matter?

And don’t scoff at 6 years because the greatest business guru of his generation, Peter Drucker said it takes most businesses 7 years to properly establish themselves.

The Internet can definitely accelerate that, but unless you’re incredibly lucky or have a huge sack of cash to spend on expert help, it’s still going to be a long hard slog without any guarantees other than you probably wondering what the Yukon is like at this time of year.

However, even though there isn’t an easily navigable route to success there are many routes to failure with some coaches opting for more than just one.

Modelling Failure

And (other than being unprepared and somewhat naive*) it’s really not their fault because they look at Life Coaching websites that to all the world look like they should be successful and presume that’s they way to do it.

They believe that if they replicate what that coach has done it will lead to the pot of gold when it’s probably more likely they will find themselves on a cliff top with a lot furry rodents all preparing to go for a swim.

I have talked about this topic a few times before and I know I am always risking looking like I’m a miserable old git who doesn’t want the competition, but that’s not the case.

The more brilliant Life Coaches there are out there the more delighted clients there are. And the more delighted clients there are the more the word spreads about the value of coaching.

Having thousands upon thousands of wannabe coaches milling around looking sad and wondering where all the clients are helps nobody.

It’s Not  All Doom And Gloom – Honest!

I really haven’t offered any solutions in this post because it was more of a gut reaction to my escalating requests for help and hopefully warning some people who are less than 100% committed.

However, if you want me to follow up and expand on this by looking at the mistakes I see most coaches make and how to avoid them, please let me know in the comments and if there’s enough interest I shall be happy to oblige.

In fact I am toying with writing an in-depth ebook that I can refer people to and I am definitely going to be working with more coaches this year and am in the process of setting a specific coaching package up.

*BTW, I was very unprepared and very naive when I set off coaching. I lucked out though because the competition was almost non-existent 8 years ago. New coaches don’t have that luxury.

Update February 11th 2013

I have started researching material for the ebook I intend writing for new Life Coaches and came across this frightening graph on Google Trends.

These are the searches for the term ‘Life Coach’ on Google since 2005.

There were actually more in 2006 than there were in 2012, yet my guess is there are probably 50 times as many Life Coaches.

I told you it was frightening.

Life coach searches