3 Myths about Becoming a Coach

Whether you’re already a coach or thinking about becoming one, you may have perceptions about coaching, coach training and certification, or the business of coaching that may or may not be true.

A myth, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone.”

For instance, you may have heard the story about the women who cut off the ends of the ham before she baked it. Her husband asked her why she did it that way and she replied “that’s the way my mother did it.” When she asked her mother why she cut the ends off the ham, her mother said “my pan was too small so I had to cut off the ends to make it fit.”

The Cost of Believing a Myth…

If you believe a statement or way of doing things is based in fact or truth, when it’s actually a myth, you may follow a less than optimal way of doing something. If you don’t question the statement or way, you may use it as an excuse for why you can’t do something.

For example, if you think you’re too young or too old to be a coach, you may let that stop you from exploring the profession further. If you believe the first myth, listed below, you may be disappointed or think you’re a failure if you don’t build your business quickly, quit your job prematurely, or budget inappropriately.

Three Myths About Becoming a Coach:

1. I just have to hang my ‘coaching’ shingle out and my business will fill up quickly.

This may be true for Oprah, Ellen and other famous people with huge followings or for marketing and sales experts, but not for the average person.  Coaching is a business.  According to Industry Canada1, 85.3% of micro-enterprises (1-4 employees) created in 2001 survived for three years and 70.4% survived for 5 years.  However, only 55% of businesses started in 2001 with revenues less than $30,000 survived three years.  The U.S. Small Business Administration2 states that “two-thirds of new employer firms survive at least two years.”

Coach and author Stephen Fairley interviewed 300 coaches in order to write his book “Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching.” He found that 73% of new coaches made less than $10,000 in their first year, which makes the above statistics more sobering.

Most businesses fail due to lack of money, lack of management experience and lack of planning3. If you’re serious about earning a living with your own coaching business, you need to learn how to operate a successful business – including sales and marketing – or find someone to do that for you. This is especially true for those who have been an employee receiving a steady paycheck in exchange for working a set number of hours from an employer. Self-employment is a vastly different mindset.

2. A coach training school will teach me everything I need to know about building a thriving practice.

The amount and depth of practice building instruction and support you will receive from a coach training school varies. Some schools focus mainly on teaching and supporting you to master the skills of coaching while others focus equally on teaching coaching and business building skills. Even if you choose an ICF accredited coach training program, you need to figure out which ones offer the level of practice building components or modules you need.

If you’re set on taking a coach training program that does not offer sufficient business building instruction or support, figure out an alternative way of learning the business side of things. You may be able to find local programs via the school board or college. Many entrepreneurs, including coaches, offer business building programs. If you choose the latter, find out if the leader built a profitable business outside the “teaching entrepreneurs and coaches how to build a business” niche first.

3. I need to complete a coach training program before I can start coaching.

There are no current regulations requiring you to have coach training or certification in order to coach. However, clients come to you to get results. Learning and mastering coaching skills can help you support your clients more effectively.

Most coach training schools encourage you to start coaching right away so you can practice what you just learned. You coach as you learn. Take a coaching course and use the skills you learn with your clients. Then take the next coaching course and use those skills with your clients.

In Summary…
These are three common myths about coaching. If you have any perceptions about becoming a coach or building a coaching business, question them to find out if they’re true.

1. Key Small Business Statistics – January 2009
2. U.S. Small Business Administration – FAQ’s (#7)
3. Five Creative Ways to Start a New Small Business in a Turbulent Economy (PDF)

2 thoughts on “3 Myths about Becoming a Coach

  1. Jerry


    In so many ways I have been coaching professionally for years and years, but without compensation. Obviously, I would like to have the certification to hang outside of a door but at this point in my life, my primary question is marketing myself. I do equally well in large settings (seminars) and in small groups/one on one but I am not sure how to get my foot in the door. Any suggestions? I would just love the opportunity to coop/piggyback on someone else’s seminar just for the experience.

    Jerry Gurrado

  2. Sue Post author

    Hey Jerry,

    Training and certification may teach you skills to enable you to be a better coach, but you still have to market yourself. Giving presentations to small and/or large groups is one way coaches can choose to promote their expertise and services. Instead of reinventing the wheel, learning from someone who is successful using that strategy is a great idea.

    One way to find coaches in your area is to go to the websites of the International Coach Federation or a coach training school and find a local branch. Then attend a meeting and find someone (or a coach who knows someone) who is successfully getting clients by presenting to groups. You could also use the ‘find a coach’ features on these sites and find local coaches who do this as well.

    Hope that helps.


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