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Qualifying Your First Coaching Clients

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 25/08/2015

You’re a newly-minted coach looking for your first clients – or soon, about to be. Stop scrambling and start strategizing!

Teresia LaRocque is the former Business-Building Mentor for the Erickson Business Center. She has been a pioneer in the coaching world, receiving the International Coach Federation's Master Coach Credential in Canada and she also co-founded the Vancouver International Coach Federation chapter. We chatted with her recently about how the coaching sector is changing and how new coaches starting out need to refine and adapt their process for winning clients.  

Q. What’s important in getting your name out there as the coach to hire? What can give a new coach an edge?

What really leverages one's marketing efforts is getting crystal clear on your identifying your ideal client. For example, do you want to work with executives, entrepreneurs, people in relationships, children with behavioural challenges… the list goes on. Years ago, when I started coaching, it was OK to create success as a generalist. 20 years ago, people were still asking, ‘what is a coach?’. Now it's 'who is your coach?' It's really valuable to position yourself with an area of specialty.  

Q. Can you give me an example?

I just did an interview with a person who started coaching recently and has 10 different clients already. She has mastered her process. It wasn’t an instant success, though. She was working for 10 months as a generalist and had zero clients. Then she got into the Erickson Business Center program and learned to leverage her passion and background as a career advisor. She’s focusing on supporting people who are going through transitions and has partnered with a clinic that helps people transition into new careers.  

Q. How do you get clients to sign on when you’re so new that they might not know what they’re getting?

Offering a complimentary coaching session is valuable. It’s like a brochure. Many coaches starting out don’t do it right, seeing those initial sessions like they’re sharing a gift. You have to have a strategy to make the end of that session a business conversation. You’re qualifying them upfront and they’re qualifying you, experiencing you as a coach. In this session, you get clear on goals they want to achieve and if it works out, you can talk about if coaching makes sense as a next step.  

Q. What’s one of the challenges for new coaches that you think many of them don’t foresee?

Time management is a big issue. One of the biggest distinctions, when we're starting our coaching business, is how many hours a week we'll dedicate to working on our business rather than in our business. Think about what specifically are the activities you need to undertake to directly build the business, not just doing the actual sessions.  

Q. New coaches often seem to face that familiar hurdle of not having credibility or experience – making it more difficult to gain that credibility and experience through working with clients. How do they overcome that?

If you really niche yourself around your specialized experience, whatever that is, you bring that credibility and value. New coaches can actually have an advantage in potentially moving effortlessly into a niche. For instance, someone who has already worked in a corporate executive culture can parlay that through their network to start coaching executives.  

It’s not just about creating credibility but owning that internal confidence. It can take some time to create that – but it comes from the passion you’ve got for making a difference in the people you’re going to help.