For New Coaches: An Epic FAQ on How to Do the Damn Work & Start Having an Impact
This post has been brewing for a long-ass time, and it's time I hit publish on it.
Below are some of the top questions I get asked from new and "just getting started" coaches. My answers are SO LONG but that's because I have a buttload of stuff to say on these topics, and I just couldn't edit it down any more.
I hope this is helpful to those of you who want to pursue this bodacious, magically rewarding career path! I love my job, and the entire field of coaching, so damn much.
+ How did you get started with coaching?
In my early 20’s I was working (and struggling) as an actor, comedian, and bartender in New York City. I was slowly falling out of love with the entertainment industry, and desperately cravinga creative outlet where I could express myself and feel in charge. I loved vloggers like Jenna Marbles and Anna Akana, and had some funny ideas for videos I wanted to make.
So I started my YouTube channel, and after a year or two of uploading semi-regularly, attracted a small following of folks who were especially interested in my perspective/observations on the difficulties and lol’s of dating in the 21st century.
About 2 years into my YouTube channel I faced a dark bout of depression (fueled by standard quarter life crisis woes) and made a sort of “coming clean” style vlog about why I hadn’t been uploading videos, and talked openly about my struggles with anxiety and depression. I received more support and feedback on that video than anything I’d ever created, and realized that I wanted to have a more authentic, honest connection with my online audience about real issues that mattered to me. Looking back, that video was one of many turning-points.
A little bit after that, a handful of subscribers found my email address from my acting website, and reached out asking for my input on some challenges they were facing in their dating lives. We fell into casual email correspondence, and the light bulbs started going off…
Side note but not a side note: I grew up in a family that is very, very into human psychology and behavior, as well as personal development, consciousness, New Age philosophy, etc... I knew about the world of coaching because my dad (www.dennisyoung.com) has been a coach for 30+ years, and my mom is a social worker and clinician. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that coaching was the most natural fit in the world for me.
So after much hemming and hawing and deliberation, I decided, “OKAY I GUESS I'M GONNA DO THIS.” I communicated to my YouTube audience that I was quitting acting and pursuing coaching, and devoted all of my online content creation to assisting women in navigating the muddy waters of dating and relationship building.
Within 18 months of that decision, I had a thriving coaching business, an ever-growing waitlist of clients who wanted to work with me, and cool opportunities to collaborate with new coach friends and fellow entrepreneurs.
It feels like I backed into coaching, but looking back? It’s pretty clear this has been the plan all along. I was just the last person to realize it.
+ Did you go through a training or certification program?
Six months after starting my coaching business I began my training with CTI (Coaches Training Institute) to learn some skills and pursue certification. I loved my experience with CTI and would recommend their program to anyone who is interested in coaching, but I don’t think it’s necessary or essential to pursue training/certification to be a professional or impactful coach. Many of the best coaches I know never attended a training program, and are not certified.
I happily completed my CTI training, but did not choose to pursue certification. At the time my business was booming and I would have had to slow down my work with clients to make room for the cert program, which just didn’t make sense to me. My lack of a certification has never been a problem for me in terms of getting clients or creating business opportunities.
Also, and this is a values-based factor: I’ve always been turned off by the idea of a piece of paper / some letters after my name signifying my competence or qualification to do anything. If me not having a certification is a deterrent from someone wanting to sign on to work with me, then I’m not the right coach for them.
At the end of the day, coaching is a meritocracy and if you’re a good coach and a smart business person, you’ll be able to get clients and grow a business without some precious piece of paper.
With that said, it was extremely helpful to learn skills and models for coaching in the beginning phase of my business! I’m definitely not a training/certification hater or naysayer, I just see a lot of new coaches pursue more certifications, more education, more training…and never really commit to just building a damn coaching business already.
+ How did you know you wanted to be a coach?
I was curious about it, and felt called. And in an intense, divine way, I remember feeling like everything that had ever happened in my life (especially the hard stuff) was positioning me to choose this path and do this work.
And once I started coaching? Fuck, I couldn't get enough of it. I remember getting off coaching calls and webinars in the early days and feeling like I'd taken a drug. It felt amazing. It felt like fulfillment. It felt challenging but not hard. I wanted to do it all the time.
Even now, days where I have coaching calls are always better than days where I don't. When I finish a long day of coaching work, I feel better than how I did when I woke up in the morning. Especially after years of coming home from various jobs feeling drained/lackluster/bored, the ass-kicking joy of doing this work, and seeing my clients' lives change as a result makes me come alive.
All of this probably sounds kind of intense and I'm not sure if other coaches feel that way, but that's how I knew, and continue to know, that I want to coach.
+ What advice would you give to coaches who are just getting started?
Start. Coaching. Now.
When I’m working one-on-one with new coaches in a mentorship capacity, they usually have lots of fears and concerns about what to call their coaching business, what their website should look like, what their “brand” is, how to describe themselves in an Instagram bio, yada yada yada. This stuff will PARALYZE you if you let it, and all of it is noise noise noise!
Remember this: Coaches coach. Period. Find some clients (or at least practice clients) and have as many coaching conversations as possible. Introduce yourself to people as a coach. Make it clear that you’re open for business, and be a professional. Get a website and a business card if you really want to, but understand that none of those bells and whistles matter if you don’t get the coaching bike out of the garage and take it for a spin.
Also—find other coaches and/or a mentor who can answer questions and provide support to you as you grow your business. If I didn’t have my Dad, coaching friends, CTI peers, and other mentors in my corner, this path would have been about 1,000x harder to pursue. It’s a lot easier when you already know and see people who are succeeding at it, and they see you and believe in you, to really feel like it’s possible.
Also also? Stop worrying so much about what everyone thinks of you, and focus on serving others. Help people. Listen to people. Love people. Tell people the truth. Share what you know. Offer assistance. Offer support. Ask questions. Get interested in others, and have their back. That’s what coaches do. If you’re in your head worrying about your own worthiness or impact as a coach, that’s energy and time wasted that could be spent helping someone else realize their dream, wake up to what they truly want, or get closer to becoming who they really are.
+ I’m building my coaching business but I don’t have a “niche” yet—is that important?
A few thoughts on niches:
If you’re trying to build up your brand and don’t have a niche yet, start creating a shit-ton of content (podcasting/blogging/vlogging/instagram-ing) on anything that's interesting and inspiring to you. Do this consistently for 6 months to a year, and you’ll start noticing themes and trends emerging.
I had no idea I would coach women in the realm of dating and relationships when I started my YouTube channel. It took me making tons of videos on those topics to realize, “Wow—it seems like I have a lot of stuff to say in this area…interesting…”
In my experience, you don’t choose your niche, you discover it. And it will change, so don’t get too attached, or worry too much about it being perfect/polished/marketable.
Also: Be prepared to coach outside your niche. Most of my clients come to me because they are interested in working on their dating lives, but if you’re coaching the whole person and not just coaching the problem (#coachspeak), you’ll come up against lots of different topics and issues that might seemingly have nothing to do with your niche. I coach my clients on career issues, health struggles, motivation, creativity, finances, family issues, you name it.
Niches are nice for marketing purposes, but in my opinion aren’t all that meaningful once you’re actually working with someone.
+ How much should I charge for my coaching?
I could write a 12-page essay on this topic alone, but in short, I'll offer this:
Especially when you’re starting out, just charge something reasonable. I asked for $55/hour when I first started, and my price has slowly increased from there over the years. People make way too big a deal out of establishing pricing and assessing the value of what they do, and it's exhausting.
Your life and your work will get so much easier once you just decide, “Okay, my hourly/weekly/monthly fee is X, and I’m gonna work with that for awhile and see how it goes.” Please remember that you can always change your mind!
If you don’t charge anything (or charge something ridiculous like $2/session), your clients won’t value the work you do or invest in the process. And for me personally, charging upwards of $200/hour when I was just starting out would’ve felt shady as shit. I was super freaked out about asking for any money, and didn’t really know what I was doing yet. So pricing myself on the lower (but still reasonable!) end of the spectrum made me feel comfortable, and let people know they could expect to receive some value from our time together.
+ What does it take to be a successful coach?
Again, could write a 12-page essay, but my top 3 suggestions are:
1. Purity of intent.
You have to really want to help people, and be of service to the world, more than anything else.
My initial intent as a coach was just to help people feel less alone. When I first started, just thinking about this pure intention brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t want women to feel crazy and unworthy, like I had felt before. I didn’t want people who were depressed and anxious to think they were freaks or broken. Thinking about it now still brings a tear to my eye.
If your intentions are pure, meaning you really just want to be of service and help others, people will feel it. If your intentions are impure (clouded by your ego, a desire to be “successful” or get rich, or fear of what your mom will think if you fail at this) people will smell it on you. And it will turn people off. There are a million and one coaches on the internet who all swear they have the solution to a potential client’s problem, and what will set you apart if how gloriously pure, authentic, real, and earnest you are in your desire to be of service. You can't fake purity of intent.
2. People skills.
My Dad and I have had disagreements about this before but as a coach I think it’s super important to be able to talk to anyone, about anything, at anytime. You also have to be at least kinda likable and trustworthy. When I was a barista at Starbucks or bartending in NYC, I surprisingly used a lot of the same skills I use in my coaching practice: listening, paying attention, reading body language/energy/tone, remembering important details, being curious, empathizing, putting others at ease, making people laugh. I never would have known what great training it was for my work!
If you don’t really like people, I think you’re going to have a hard time being a good or effective coach.
3. Crazy stupid drive.
Very few things about pursuing a coaching career is comfortable. It’s challenging and every day is different. Every client is different. There are always new decisions to be made. And being your own boss is both a gigantic blessing and an annoying curse, honestly.
In my experience in the world of entrepreneurship, you have to a be a little bit nutty (in the best ways possible) and/or sick of other options to do this kind of work. You have to really believe you have something to offer, and ignore the little voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t ready/good enough/wise enough/“don’t have your shit together”. You’ll have to ignore that voice for years, probably.
If you feel called to be a coach, just answer the call. Don’t worry about being ready. Don’t worry about having your shit together. Don’t think you need to do it perfectly, or even be great at it, because when you’re just starting out you won’t be. The important thing is to give yourself permission to just do it, and see what happens. If you like it, and it’s fulfilling to you, and others receive value from your coaching, you’ll figure that out pretty quickly and feel inspired to keep going. If it’s too draining/scary/challenging/impossible-feeling? It might not be the right time, or the right fit for you. That’s okay—it’ll lead you somewhere else. But just start, please.
+ Do you have any books or resources you would recommend to new coaches?
YES! Some favorites:
"The Prosperous Coach" by Steve Chandler (actually, anything by Steven Chandler)
If you are a coach who is just getting started, please comment below with other topics, questions, or concerns you have. I would love to be a resource to you as you grow your business. I believe that coaching is magical and transformative. I believe it changes lives, because it has changed mine, and I know it works for my clients.
So get started! And happy coaching. :)