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Your mission should you choose to accept it: becoming a professional coach


For a number of years now, coaching businesses have been on a serious rise! Helping and supporting (Wo)Man to surpass oneself and achieve one’s goals. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

It’s a fascinating profession, that is equally as competitive and demanding. You need to finetune your offering, understand and closely study your market and resist the temptation to dive in for the sole – and essential – reason that you want to give purpose to your life and help others find it too.

To help you along, we have compiled a list of points you can work on to become a professional coach.

What is coaching, in real terms?

The first thing is to know what it is we’re talking about. It’s a profession that is made up of everything – or nothing, as some light unfortunately say! A coach is a professional capable of offering support and guidance to an individual or a group with the aim of achieving one or more goals. You could say they guide, challenge and offer tools to shed light on questions and reach goals. They are there for support. Their role is to lead their clients to ask the right questions and mobilize the right resources on their own.

There are different kinds of coaching (this is a non-exhaustive list and other terms can also be used):

  • Life coaching: guidance on topics such as self-confidence, achieving goals, leadership, organization, etc.
  • Professional coaching or “business coaching” provided within a company or for individuals on topics such as manager support, professional retraining, orientation, taking on a new position, coaching for senior executives, etc.
  • Sports coaching, aiming to achieve physical goals
  • Entrepreneurial coaching, or in other words, support for starting a business

Not to be confused with:

  • Therapists: a coach doesn’t focus on “why” or on your past. They will look at “how” and put you in action to achieve your future goals. The two approaches are very different and sometimes complementary.
  • Mentors (2): a mentor is very similar to a coach and is someone who has been through the same experience as you. They can guide you with their expertise in more or less specific areas (sales, marketing, strategy, etc.). Mentors are often called upon in the world of entrepreneurship.
  • Consultants: their role is to solve more organizational and functional problems, generally professional ones.

So, it is essential to first define your role, your functions, and determine their limits. The boundary between these professions can be narrow… it’s thus important to delineate your intervention with your customers from the very beginning – both for them, and for you!

What degrees/diplomas?

Coaching is not an “officially” regulated activity, meaning you do not need a specific diploma to set up as a coach. Nonetheless, it is a profession that requires a certain degree of knowledge and “soft skills” (ability to analyze, listen actively, adapt, etc.). We highly recommend obtaining recognized certification (1) in the specialization you wish to pursue.

You can also seek training in the different levels of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) or any other technique that would help you better accompany your customers: tools related to professional orientation, motivations, communication, personality traits, etc. We encourage you to follow your training courses face-to-face to the greatest possible extent, as coaching is something you learn essentially through practice.

Like with any entrepreneurial project, it’s always a good idea to reinforce your skills and ability to manage all the facets of your business by getting training in areas such as: accounting, content creation, communications, personal branding, training, sales, company management, etc.

Who is your target?

To differentiate your business, it’s imperative that you set a clear target in order to respond to their specific expectations. Ask yourself this - who could be interested in your services?

  • Private individuals: what profile types, what issues do they face, etc.?
  • Businesses: SMEs, big businesses? Are you familiar with a specific sector? Do you have a network in a certain field?
  • A combination of the two: both businesses and individuals

To see more clearly on this point, you must conduct a market study to get to know and understand your target group and their needs. The work you do here will be infinitely valuable when it comes to positioning.

Another approach you can take to defining your target customers is the “persona” method, then prove or disprove your hypotheses on-the-ground via interviews with your potential customers. To do so, you can join dedicated groups, use professional social networks, use your network…

What can I offer to stand out?

There is now a very wide range of coaching services available. To differentiate your offering, you have to be clear on a certain number of points:

  • What “plus” can you offer?
  • Do you have specific expertise/skills that could make the difference?
  • What specific issues are you addressing?
  • Is there already a lot of competition? What do they do? How are they positioned on the market?
  • Do you have different coaching methods?
  • Can you blend different points of expertise, different fields or techniques to create your own method?

Think broadly when building your offering. Speaking from experience, we can tell you it’s very hard to make a living on individual coaching sessions alone. Make sure you take time to give serious thought to the following list of questions:

  • What will be the format of your coaching services? A package? Several weeks or several months?
  • How can you secure your income? With a mandatory number of sessions? By setting a price per session or opting for “packages”?
  • Can you create complete coaching programs?
  • Can you offer training courses? What topics are your comfortable with?
  • Can you offer online coaching? What would the format be? Do you know which resources and technical skills are required to achieve a qualitative result?
  • Is there anything other than “coaching” you could offer in addition (blog, videos, etc.)?

Being a “coach” or wanting to become one is not enough to make it your life’s work! You need real positioning. Look into all the relevant avenues that might help you build a solid offering with real value proposition!

Personal branding, what’s that?

You represent your business! This is even more true in this specific field… So, capitalize on your network and make sure you build an engaged community.

Build a strong personal brand image that will contribute to your legitimacy:

  • Be present on social networks and publish free content at first and to a lesser extent. Nothing is stopping you from selling content on the side, but you will need to make yourself known and recurrently show that you have quality expertise. There are plenty of ways to do so: via a newsletter, a blog, e-books, etc.
  • Work on your visual communication: charters, logo, colours… Everything should be consistent across your communication channels and media
  • Work on your messages and structure your content
  • Take time to create a professional website

Our advice: be authentic, don’t force things! And entrepreneurs, if you are not comfortable “wearing the hat” – one of many! – get training! Develop new skills and surround yourself with qualified people, experts in what they do.

Despite what some may think, coaching is not an easy job and few entrepreneurs live solely from their coaching activities. That’s why, before you head in that direction, you absolutely need to understand the market and find an offering with added value for your services!

And to take things further…

(1) Video testimonial by Annica Torneryd / (2) mentor  (website in French)

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