This post was written as an answer for the many messages I get from friends and acquaintances around how they could become a coach.
I see and embrace coaching as a wide-open ocean: there needs to be many different kinds of coaches. Just like no two humans are exactly alike, no two coaches are exactly alike. And therefore, every person who wants to become a coach is probably a gift to someone out there.
I did this in my previous career as a music educator and held firmly to the belief that there was room for many music teachers, not just a small, gate-keeping handful from predictable backgrounds.
Let’s continue to encourage one another to do what feels authentic!
What are your qualifications?
Make a list of the experiences you’ve had and what you learned in each stage.
- For example, if you’re a previous founder, write out the strengths you had as a founder (e.g.: “I was really good at raising, and could teach people how to raise.”)
- Or, if you were a manager or high-contributing IC at a startup, it might be: “I was great at recruiting A+ players onto teams, and could teach people how to recruit from within their networks.”
Think about your credentialism.
- For example, if you took a course, why did you take that course? What about it meant a lot to you? What value does it offer, and to what kind of customer demographic?
- Are there people who can vouch for you and your skills? If yes, who, and what can they say about your coaching skills? (If you’ve never coached before, read “teaching” wherever there is “coaching.” Examples of non-obvious coaching include mentoring, teaching, advising, managing, lecturing, and so on.) What about your teaching made people grow from working with you?
- Have you taken a certification course, such as IPEC, Conscious Leadership, or something similar?
Once you know what your qualifications are, determine: what is the customer problem you’re trying to solve?
What kind of problems do your ideal clients have that you want to help solve?
What is their background/persona?
- What industry do they work in? (Examples: real estate, crypto, fintech, education, femtech, SaaS, enterprise) - pick the industries that are most interesting to you that you have the most experience in.
- What is their seniority level? (Examples: early stage, mid-level managers, c-suites) - not everyone has to work with c-suites, depending on your offering. Decide what you have the most relevant experience in, because that will help you carve out your wedge.
- Where do they live? (Examples: cities like LA, Miami, NYC; suburbs) - this is mostly important to determine how you want to offer coaching, whether online or in person. Both have pros and cons.
Then, identify your user personas.
What demographics does your ideal client fall into? (Here are a few tags that might be relevant to you: age, marital status, industry they work in, profession, location, hobbies, places they hang out, seniority at company, gender, level of education)
Why do you think you’ll work well with this kind of demographic? What is it about you that would make this kind of person choose you instead of someone else?
What stage company are they working in? (Early and late stage companies have very different problems. Some coaches therefore do better working with pre-PMF companies; others are great at scaling companies once they hit PMF.)
- You have to determine what you like working with. A good example of this is funds like YC and Hustle Fund love taking bets on early stage companies that are pre-PMF; others like Sequoia and Benchmark want to see significant traction and signs of already-achieved PMF before they work with those companies. You can approach this the same way.
Once you identify your user persona, decide what you’re going to offer.
Based on the kinds of problems they have and why you think you’ll work well with said persons, design a coaching system that works for you.
For some people, open-ended coaching sessions work, a lot like therapy. You might start with an open-ended question in the beginning and dial into what it is they want to solve.
For others, they want structure and a form of rigidity, like an agenda. You might have everything outlined from start to finish on what you want to cover.
There are pros and cons to either approach, but decide what works best for you and your desired type of client. (Do you want things written, yes or no? Will you have a document you share to collaborate? Will you follow an agenda, or go more freeform?)
Then, decide how often you’re going to offer your sessions. How long makes sense, and how often? What would your ideal client want, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly? 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes? There are no right or wrong answers for everyone; only the right and wrong answers for your desired demographic of client.
Based on your offering, decide what you will charge.
You can experiment with this. Start higher than you think; a good rule of thumb I used while starting my first service-based org was adding 20% to whatever I thought was reasonable.
You can decide if you will charge per-session, a set retainer, or something else. Cash, or equity, or a mix of both. You can always ask for the option of investing to own a certain % of the company you coach. There are many creative ways you can structure your offering.
Even if you don’t feel qualified, start doing it to gain the experience and testimonials. The best testimonials are ones that are hyper-specific on a story where you solved their problem.
Clients also make the best source of referrals. If you’ve changed their life for the better, they’ll go around and tell everyone about you.