Are you tempted to start your own coaching business? You enjoy coaching as part of your regular work or as a part time hobby, and are thinking of making it your main income. Perhaps you have more time on your hands or you want to step out of fulltime employment. Whatever the reason, moving from a regular employment with a steady salary to running your own business is a big change.
Here we discuss some additional factors that you may not hear in business start up training. Before you take the leap, it’s crucial to reflect on whether it is the right career choice for you.
Starting a business is one of the most exciting and creative endeavours you can embark upon. It may be the first time in your life that you’ve fully ‘owned’ your work and defined the contribution that you want to make to the wider community. Getting clear on your ‘why’ will help you ensure you’re building a business on solid foundations and for the right reasons. If you’ve spotted a business opportunity that excites you – and it feels like the right thing to do all other things considered – grasp it while you can. Here are a four questions to consider.
1) What’s changed? Key drivers for starting a coaching business
The desire to make any sort of career change arises because something’s shifted for you in your work and/or your life more generally.
External factors such as a pandemic or changes in economy may have got you thinking about self-employment. And those broader environmental factors may link with others that are specific to your personal situation such as needing to relocate, dealing with an unexpected health challenge, financial pressures, or receiving an inheritance.
There might also be internal factors that are making you consider self-employment such as a desire for more meaning and purpose, or greater autonomy, creativity, flexibility, recognition, etc.
In addition, as we progress through life, our roles change and how we divide our attention between them shifts e.g. starting a family, juggling the demands of family and work mid-career, caring for aging parents, retiring or semi-retiring. At each stage, we may consider self-employment as a way to balance work alongside other responsibilities.
Essentially, what we’re talking about here is values, and the need to take stock before we take action. Having identified what some of those values are, we can begin to prioritise them and think about whether having a business is the best way to address them.
2) What are your professional priorities?
However, it’s not just about personal needs and values. Our professional identity evolves as well and it’s crucial to ask yourself whether self-employment is what you need at this time in terms of work satisfaction, learning and growth.
There may be knowledge and skills that you’re not using in your current role that you’d like to be using. You may feel that you’re not realising the full potential of your strengths. You might be developing new interests that you cannot pursue in your current work role. Could self-employment provide a way to address those unmet needs.
If you’ve recently completed certification as a strengths coach, it’s tempting to want to go straight into self-employment as a consultant. But if you haven’t worked as a coach consultant in the past, you will need to build experience one way or another. Is self-employment the best approach? Would you benefit more from getting affiliated to an existing business that offers coaching services? This enables you to gain experience and develop confidence in your coaching skills?
Finally, if you haven’t run a business before, you will need to learn how to do that. Is throwing yourself in at the deep end the best way for you to learn? Or would being part of another business that offers coaching give you the insights into business practice that you need before you start your own coaching consultancy?
3) What’s important for you in the longer term?
One final question to consider is what you want for the longer term. How might self-employment or having a business fit into your life vision?
Taking yourself through some sort of envisioning exercise is an important preparatory step before starting a business so that you’re clear on what you’re aiming for. It provides a reference point against which to check whether you’re on track with what you’re seeking to achieve, and it keeps you going when the going gets tough. Perhaps surprisingly, it also stands as a reminder to take a break: if you allow the business to take over, it may undermine your health and wellbeing and that in turn could sabotage your longer term vision.
4) Why you need to do a reality check before you start a coaching business
For many people, the basic premise underpinning a desire to go it alone is along the lines of: “I’d like to do the work I want to do…in the way I want to do it… and be paid for that.” However, no form of employment is going to be perfect and that goes for self-employment as well. It’s prudent therefore to take a close look not only at the benefits but also at the costs and likely challenges.
Such challenges include obvious ones such as always being ‘on call’, overwhelm, feast & famine work flow, steep learning curve, long hours, and financial instability. But they can also include unanticipated challenges such as health issues for you or your loved ones, bereavement, strained relationships, pregnancy. And there may be surprising external events such as a pandemic or recession.
It’s advisable therefore to work out what Plan A is but also consider what Plan B will be if it doesn’t work out. How long will you give yourself to test Plan A before moving to Plan B if you need to?
Of course any type of career decision will have an impact on those closest to you and may generate fears and doubts in them. Take time to work out and discuss both plans and the potential challenges so that you are all clear about what may lie ahead.
Think carefully as setting up a business is a big step. Consult with others who are further down the road and seek advice from specialists. In particular, seek help with the legal and financial aspects. A business consultant can be invaluable to guide you and help you avoid costly mistakes.
Make an informed decision so you can enjoy the journey!
Written by Charlotte Whitehead who is a specialist in helping people make career decisions.