No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Coaching overload


As the rise in popularity of coaching continues, pressure is on to be the best coach you can. Hannah McNamara explores how coaches can add value to their offerings.

Coaching as a development tool has seen a huge growth in the past few years and as a result has attracted a large number of people into the profession. It has now got to the point where many people within the HR and Learning & Development fields are suffering from overwhelm – and this is from both sides of the fence.

Too many coaches...

Some professional coaches feel that there are now too many people with the word ‘coach’ on their business card, website or brochure and it can be hard to break into organisations where they do not already have a proven track-record. How can an individual coach hope to stand out or compete with the impressive client lists held by the larger organisations offering coaching as part of their portfolio of services?

Within those organisations being targeted by coaches, the people tasked with sourcing quality coaches are feeling just as overwhelmed because every other call seems to be from yet another provider saying almost the same things. It can seem much easier to stick with a panel of trusted coaches and automatically turn new people away rather than spend time in lengthy discussions with each cold-caller about whether there could be any opportunities.

"The challenge is greatest for the recently qualified coach in their first year of self-employment, but it can be equally tough for the experienced coach "

The challenge is that by their nature coaches are good listeners. They go with the flow of conversation and work to their client’s agenda. This is fine within the context of a coaching session, but can be fatal when marketing your services as a coach. Why? Because if you are a freelance coach hoping to win contracts, you need to be able to clearly communicate what you do, who you work with and what results people can expect from you. If you can’t do that, be honest with yourself – why should anyone hire you?

The standard approaches used by coaches of: “I’ll be whoever you want me to be” or “I’ll help you achieve your goals” are simply not helpful and could be costing you money. Yes, being able to listen is a valuable skill, but you also need to be able to tell people who you are and what you do with confidence. It is true that many coaches value freedom and flexibility so the idea of being put into a pigeon hole can make them uncomfortable. Also, as people’s coaching practices build up they evolve over time and their typical client might change. The challenge is greatest for the recently qualified coach in their first year of self-employment, but it can be equally tough for the experienced coach who unexpectedly needs to find new clients when their regular coaching work dries up through no fault of their own, e.g. because of budget cuts.

Become market savvy

If you are an independent coach looking for work right now, what can you do to market your services? Choose Your Niche – and stick with it. As the saying goes, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than the other way round. If you decide to specialise in a certain type of coaching or on coaching particular groups of people, it is easier to make an impact and be noticed by prospective clients. There are two ways to niche:

1. The type of coaching you do, for example you are an executive coach, a leadership coach, a career coach or a presentation skills coach.

2. The market you work with, for example you work in the charity sector, in banking, in local government, with accountants or with female senior managers/directors.

When you bring the two together, it is even easier to stand out and your marketing becomes much more focused. For example; you are the career coach for the banking sector or the leadership coach for female senior managers within national retailers.

Of course before you select any niche, you need to be confident that it is big enough to keep you busy and create an income for you! When you have chosen a niche, it becomes much clearer where you need to be visible. You know which networking groups to attend and which will not give you exposure to the right people, which publications to target with press releases, what to put on your website, brochure or business card and so on.

For the rookie coach just starting out, this can be especially daunting because at that stage in your development, you may find it hard to choose one market to concentrate on, so what can you do?

1. Get out your CV

Look at your achievements – which market is most likely to value your achievements and your knowledge? Who is most likely to take you seriously on the strength of your CV? Even if you are glad to have left certain jobs behind, what did you learn from them that could be useful for your clients? Think about the people you practiced on when training as a coach – what kinds of coaching work did you find most rewarding? Which kinds of people did you get the best results with?

 2. Take on private coaching work

When you take on clients privately rather than through their employer you can have a varied client list and work on a variety of different topics. As your experience builds, a pattern will start to emerge as to what you’re good at and you will feel more confident talking about the successes you have had when pitching for corporate business.

 3. Join a professional association

Don’t resign your memberships of professional associations just because you have recently gone freelance. Instead look at all the associations and groups where you might meet interesting contacts and then get actively involved. These groups might be coaching-related associations or they could be related to your role before you went into coaching – for example where you a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Chartered Management Institute, the Institute of Directors or another profession-specific association?

Effective marketing is not necessarily about whether you advertise in a particular publication or have a snappy opening line on the phone, it is more about knowing yourself. Knowing what you are good at and why people should hire you in the first place. Once you are clear about that, the small matter of getting the word out that you are looking for work is relatively easy!

Hannah McNamara is the author of ‘Niche Marketing for Coaches’ (Thorogood 2007) available from Amazon. You can find out more about marketing your services as a coach on Hannah’s website where you can download her free 17-page e-book ‘The Five Deadly Mistakes New Coaches Make with Their Marketing’. In addition to assisting coaches with Marketing, she has run her own successful coaching and training business HRM Coaching Ltd since 2004.

No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!