What your business coach isn't telling you

The truth about the coaching industry

As a marketing consultant turned life coach turned business coach, I’ve been in the coaching space since 2014. (That’s the year I signed up for my coach training program with IPEC and a year later in 2015, I launched my coaching and consulting business.)

The coaching industry has changed a lot since 2014. In fact, I hired my first coach in 2010 when “life coaching” was still not very mainstream. I found her on Yelp and met her in person in San Francisco. (This was years before the Instagram influencer-coach persona!)

At that time, most coaching was done in person and was marketed as general life coaching.

Since then, the rise of online coaching has made it possible for coaches to serve clients all over the world, increasing both the amount of coaches and the number of people utilizing coaches. 

That demand has led to more specialized coaching in very specific niches. Instead of relationship coaching, career coaching, or life coaching, there is now niche specific coaching, such as divorce coaching, C-level coaching and coaching for introverts.

Whatever your niche or personality or problem, there is a coach for you!

More coaches = more business coaches

In addition to more niche coaching, the global coaching market has grown. In 2014, it was valued at $2.2 billion. In 2020, the global coaching market was valued at $4.5 billion. According to an ICF report, it is expected to reach $9.3 billion in 2023.

So coaching isn’t going away any time soon. And with more coaches comes more business coaches. This can be a GOOD thing — as long as the business coaches are qualified to help and ethical in their promises.

However, the rise of the Instagram influencer coach has given way to many unscrupulous business coaches. People who have no real background or expertise in coaching have now entered the market — motivated mostly by $$$$ and less by helping their clients.

Every week, I hear from people who’ve had bad experiences with business coaches. From taking their money and outright ghosting them to not delivering on their promises to forcing them into sleazy marketing tactics, these business coaches are doing more harm than good.

When I made the transition from life coach to business coach, it was my aim to be as honest as possible with clients, in both my marketing and my sales consultations. Instead of overselling them on coaching and promising results, I offer insights what they can expect when starting a coaching business based on my journey and my clients. 

That’s what prompted me to share this list — so you have a realistic worldview of what to expect when you decide to start a coaching business.

12 things your business coach isn’t telling you

No more rose-colored glasses! Let’s talk about the real world of coaching and what you can expect in your business journey.

1. Growing a coaching business takes time. 

Growing ANY business takes time. Overnight success is not the norm, despite what you might see on Instagram. That said, there are some things that may help you speed up the process. Hiring a coach, taking business training, or even very well-optimized ads can help you speed up the process. (And sometimes they won’t! There are no guarantees in business.) The people who are successful in business are those who have stayed in business long enough to see success. It often boils down to persistence and how willing you are to stay the course.

2. Building your coaching business takes effort. 

There are a lot of manifestation coaches out there who will tell you that you just need to “feel good” and watch the clients roll in. In truth, you need to take action. You can take aligned action, which is action that is aligned with your values and authentic self. Many times, this action will still be scary and uncomfortable, simply because it’s new or because it’s triggering parts of yourself that are unhealed. You get to decide what aligned action looks like for you, and when and how you take that action. But action is required to get clients and grow your coaching business

3. It takes money to start a coaching business from scratch. 

It’s a common misconception that it is free to start a coaching business. There are costs involved. At the bare minimum, you’ll need to pay for website hosting, a website platform, a calendaring service, and a payment processing service. Other common costs include business formation costs, business insurance, legal and contract fees, and more. (And this doesn’t include any training to become a coach!) The truth is, most people who start a coaching business will need some business or marketing training. This is all to say: Starting a coaching business isn’t free! (Get a list of everything you need to start a coaching business here.)

if you build it they will come

4. You can’t expect to get coaching clients immediately. 

It’s not the norm that you push your website live and clients start flocking in. It’s much more likely that when you start talking and sharing about your business, you get some interest from your network. Then you start engaging in conversations in your niche and offering discovery calls. Then you start experimenting with marketing and book more discovery calls. You start building partnerships and getting in front of a larger audience, and you book even more discovery calls. But because you announced your website or started an Instagram account does not guarantee clients. (Plus, you want to find ways outside of social media to market your business!)

5. It will bring up all your trauma and childhood sh*t. 

Sharing your gifts and talents can and will bring up A LOT of stuff, especially when you’ve decided to ask for money in exchange for offering those gifts and talents! This can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be painful to face the hidden thoughts or beliefs that you have about yourself. On the other hand, witnessing the underlying forces that have been controlling your life can be extremely liberating and empowering. Starting a business is one of the biggest personal development journeys you’ll ever go on. You’ll be confronted with your fears about the world and about yourself, and you’ll need to navigate challenging territory when it comes to showing up and sharing your gifts. (This is also why trauma-informed business coaching is so important in this journey.)

6. There are no guarantees, even in business coaching.

Business coaches (like any other coach) cannot guarantee success. There are too many variables, including the client’s time, energy, resources, network, skills, and more. The problem comes when 1) Business coaches guarantee success by offering promises like “Make 6 figures in 6 weeks!” but then can’t deliver on that promise and when 2) People expect business coaches to be infallible experts. We are still human! Just like life, there are so many variables in business that what works for one may not work for another. Every client and business is different. That’s why finding a business coach who can treat you as an individual and not a number is so important.

marketing is sharing about your businses

7. The more you embrace marketing, the easier business becomes.

Marketing is a non-negotiable in business, just like finances or operations. Marketing and sales are aspects of business you will need to learn to do well if you want to succeed. If you feel uncomfortable with marketing, you’re likely going to struggle. The best thing to do is to get to the roots of your concerns and fears around marketing. Is it that you don’t want to be “salesy” or “spammy”? Is it that you have fears around being seen or heard? When these root causes are addressed, you can change your mindset about marketing, finding a way to make it work for you, not against you.

8. If your business fails, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. 

According to a study by the International Coach Federation, 82% of coaching businesses fail within the first two years. That number is even higher than the traditional business failure rate! It’s hard to start a coaching business and often even harder to grow it. Your launch, new offering, or course may fail. This is part of learning and growing. It’s important to remember, if your business/launch/course “fails” or doesn’t garner the results you want, that does not mean anything is wrong with you. The more you can practice detaching from your business results, the easier it will be to navigate your business while maintaining your self-esteem.

9. If your business takes longer to grow, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.

Some businesses take longer than others to grow. Coaching and healing are intangible services that offer a variety of results depending on the client. That can make it very hard to market coaching services, especially if you aren’t clear on the value you bring. If you don’t hit your goals or find success right away, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It may mean you want to take a deeper look at your marketing activities, your messaging, your niche, your sales funnel, and your conversion rates. It may also mean that everything is working, but just more slowly than you expected.

10. There is no “silver bullet strategy” to grow your coaching business.

It seems like every business coach and their mother is selling “6 figures in 6 weeks”  programs. Many of them are telling you how THEY got to 6 figures. Keep in mind,  there’s a lot you don’t know ~ including where they started, how they got there, if they actually did get to 6 figures, and what they spent to get there. (I.e., if they’ve spent $101k in ads and earned $100k in their business, they still took a loss. And they’re likely not telling you that.) They may have a partner who is funding their business. Or work for a big name coach that contributes to their bottom line. They may have an extra $100k to spend on ads. Be skeptical about these promises, and at the very least, ask questions. Anytime something seems too good to be true, especially on Instagram, it likely is!

11. There’s a lot more math involved in coaching than people think.

It’s not as easy as starting a business and then just declaring how much money you want to make. Your business model has to be set up to receive that income. For example, if you want to make $100,000 a year, but you’re unwilling to charge more than $100 a session, and you can only take 10 people a week, the math isn’t mathing! In the same vein, if you want to get 10 people in your program and your email list is at 100, and the typical conversion rate of an email list is around 3%, you may need to adjust your expectations. (Conversion rates differ based on the business, the list, and the offer, etc.)

12. It’s OK to get a job or keep the one you have. 

Keeping your day job has really been vilified in the online business world. “Just leap and find your wings on the way down!” is pretty irresponsible advice. If you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you know that your physiological needs come first because you are a human being — needs like air, water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing. If your day job allows you to meet these needs while you are working on your business, more power to you! Needing to make money right away causes undue stress and prevents you from creating the business you really want to create (because you’re in survival mode). In these cases, I often recommend clients get a part-time job to supplement themselves and help provide for their needs. Taking care of yourself is priority #1!

to show up for others

Many different factors go into making your coaching business work

It takes a lot of time, energy, money, and deep inner work to make your coaching business work. Not everyone is cut out to start a coaching business, and it’s not always the right time to start a business. 

Starting your coaching business is personal decision based on your goals and your situation. No one should do it because it’s easy. (It isn’t.) No one should do it just because they hate their day job. (That’s not enough.) And no one should hire a business coach simply because they like the promises they’re sharing on Instagram. 

But if you have the purpose and passion, you’re willing to navigate the ups and downs, and you’re committed to your success, starting and growing a coaching business can be a rewarding path — both personally and professionally.

To learn more about how I work with clients, you can view my services here.