My foray into life coaching as a side gig really was as on-the-fly as you can get
I never really sat down and put together a full-fledged plan for my life coaching business.
Based upon what I was learning in my studies and what made the most practical sense, I just cobbled together a business model while I continued to conduct my coaching.
I coached when I could or when the opportunity arose.
Slowly but surely, my coaching practice developed itself into Not Your Average Life Coach.
noun [ C ] mainly US informal
(also side gig)
a piece of work or a job that you get paid for doing in addition to doing your main job
How I differentiated myself is all in the name… Not Your Average Life Coach
I hadn’t made it.
I was not living my ideal life.
I did not have a successful career behind me.
I was not like other life coaches.
I did not start in a successful corporate career and one day find myself wondering how I had allowed myself to be swept along fulfilling the high expectations of others while slaving away at a superficial 9-to-5 flat-pack life that was leaving me feeling exceedingly lost, angry and burnt out.
Okay, a bit of a sweeping generalisation.
But do a Google search and you will most likely run into a life coach who started out this way.
They called bullshit on where their lives were taking them, worked their socks off changing their situation and became a life coach… telling you the story of how they started in a successful corporate career, so on and so forth.
That’s why I’m not your average life coach.
I did not start mid-career or with a mid-life crisis.
I started my coaching journey much earlier.
My differentiation and competitive advantage was established by taking the fundamental difference to all the other life coaches out there – the fact that I had started sooner – and combining it with my current alternative success pursuing lifestyle – as exemplified by I Built My Own Education and my self-declared MTA Portfolio.
I was a life coach who was in the midst of achieving his personal vision and ideal self.
I hadn’t made it yet.
I was working away at it just like everyone else and this made me much less intimidating to all prospective coaching clients.
I was at their level.
The only difference was that I had access to much more knowledge and more expansive ways of thinking… because of my prior history and current education.
Knowledge and thinking that was channeled through my coaching for the client’s benefit.
I was a different life coach precisely because I was different as a person.
Properly defining my differentiation also empowered my confidence as a life coach.
I no longer felt hypocritical towards the people I was coaching.
I felt like there was as a lot I could give to them precisely because I was a little unexpected, very unconventional and most definitely not their average life coach.
“What kind of time do you have to devote to your side hustle, and how can you organize your other job(s) around it? For some of us, this question is easily answered: compulsory hours at work, other time for side hustles. For people who are combining several or self-employed, though, things are a bit more complex.”
JR Thorpe, 7 Hacks For Balancing A Job & A Side Hustle, According To People Who’ve Done It, bustle.com
Side hustling around my other commitments
The great thing about offering clients one-to-two-hour sessions is that, unless you are intentionally aiming to fill up an entire day with coaching sessions, the odd coaching session can be very easily slotted into an otherwise busy schedule.
While I was life coaching, I had two other commitments – building my self-declared MTA Portfolio and my role as a supervisor on my weekend night job.
With my MTA Portfolio, I was in charge of it, so my time was completely flexible.
With my weekend night job, the only days I was locked into working were on Saturday and Sunday nights.
The only real obstacle that could arise is if I did overtime on my night job that extended into the week, which I did routinely on a flexible basis to bring in extra cash.
If I was doing overtime in the week it wasn’t too much of a problem to squeeze in one or two coaching sessions before I started a nightshift.
But it certainly wasn’t as flexible as when I had my Monday to Friday schedule completely devoted to my MTA Portfolio and my coaching.
You have to remember, if I am working a nightshift then that means I need to sleep in the day, which limits the window of opportunity I have available to meet clients during the day.
However, most of my clients were 9-5-ers anyway, so the majority would only ever want to meet up after work in the evening, which worked perfectly for me, if I was also going to work a nightshift.
Not Your Average Life Coach worked extremely well as a side hustle because it was so flexible in terms of its schedule.
I never had any set quotas in mind in terms of how many life coaching sessions I needed to do in a week or a month.
I also never had a set target of how much profit I should be bringing in each week or month
That was not a smart long-term plan and it is certainly something I am addressing my Career Brand Ecosystem and Fixing My Finances final projects.
Between my three commitments – my masters, my job and my coaching – everything was moving so fast, I just never really sat down to figure out the finer long-term details of my life coaching side hustle.
I just coached when I could and added whatever money I made from it to the rest of my monthly income.
“Creating multiple income streams allows an individual to have various cash flow sources that are coming in. This puts you in a better position to be prepared if one source of income fails. Now you have something to fallback on.”
Todd Kunsman, Why You Need Multiple Streams of Income Starting Right Now, investedwallet.com
Life coaching as an additional income stream
Possessing the business acumen to develop side hustles that generate additional income streams was always one of the incentives behind the creation of my MTA Portfolio.
I am very conscious of the vast life-long financial hurdles and economic issues facing millennials like myself and I know that adopting one source of income until I retire is just not going to cut it in the twenty-first century.
I created my self-declared masters to provide me with the knowledge and practice I needed to become fully proficient in creating my own profit generating opportunities.
I just never thought my first side hustle would be a life coaching one.
Before my life coaching became a business and I was doing coaching to complete the assignments in my Inspired Leadership sequence of courses, I did my coaching for free.
When I decided to carry on coaching, I knew that I was going to start charging for my coaching services.
My thinking was always to charge a premium for my life coaching services.
But not to charge so much that it would drive people away.
I was only just starting out, I still had a lot to learn and I didn’t ever really see my life coaching as being a high earner anyway.
My initial pricing was £20 per hour with an average session being an hour long.
This is considerably cheaper than more established life coaches, but it made it worth my time because it was over double the hourly minimum wage rate in the UK.
Crucially, I was also not just charging for my in-session time, I was also charging for the time it took me to travel to and from different coaching sessions.
As my coaching progressed throughout 2018 and 2019, I increased my session rate to £30 per hour.
I also started to offer a two-hour session for £60.
I had always offered custom arrangements for my clients, so they could pay session-by-session or pay for a whole batch up front.
When I started coaching again in 2021, I reduced my session prices, so my one-hour session became £20 and my two-hour one £40.
Due to COVID restrictions, I did all my coaching over Skype, so I felt like that deserved a reduction in price.
Plus, I wanted to give either new or old clients an incentive to sign up for sessions.
And what better incentive is there than a reduction in price.
Location rental costs were not something I had to worry about because I did all my coaching in cafes (unless I was doing a walking coaching session).
Generally, the clients and myself would take it in turns to buy drinks across sessions, but even when I was buying the drinks, I still had to factor it in as a business cost… hence why I bumped up my original prices.
The building of my coaching website counts as a business cost, but I ended up covering this with what I was making from my coaching.
My coaching money was always extra money, it was not my main source of income.
Had I continued with my coaching beyond this final project, then I would certainly have revised my pricing again.
The goal would have been to build my reputation and pricing up to the point where I could use the income from my coaching business to cover the rent for coaching office space.
“Whatever business type you’re in, whether you’re selling a product or offering services, a workspace of your own helps you in fostering and facilitating rapid growth for more professional and developmental opportunities.”
Jane Payne, How Important is it to have Office Space?, opensourcedworkplace.com
Location, Location, Location
I did not have my own location in which I could conduct my coaching.
I did consider renting space to coach in, but ultimately decided against it because in order to cover the cost of renting a space…
- I would have had to significantly increase my hourly rate which I was hesitant to do because I didn’t want to deter potential clients with a high session price
- And/or I would have had to increase the hours I spent coaching, which I couldn’t do because I didn’t have the extra time on top of all my studies and additional nightshift job.
Therefore, I stuck with the system I had utilised when I was conducting my free coaching.
I just met up with my clients in coffee shops.
Meeting up in a public location is not always ideal, especially during rush hours which I always tried to avoid.
But there are still benefits to coaching clients like this…
- It meant I could go to them and meet them in public location that was close to their home and/or place of work, which saved them time.
- Being in a public location assisted the coaching process because it automatically and immediately pushes the client out of their comfort zone.
- It also pushes me out of my comfort zone too.
- I can conduct spontaneous coaching exercises using members of the public and everyday circumstances.
My long-term thinking was to see if I could eventually build my coaching (and other income producing work) up to a point where I would be able to rent a space I could use for coaching (and for my other creative work).
2020 and COVID_19 massively disrupted that thinking.
At the beginning of 2020, I decided to take a break from coaching to focus on developing my web design skills.
Then COVID came along and put to rest any hope of renting a coaching space because the whole country went into lockdown.
At the beginning of 2021, when I did start coaching again, I was only doing it over Skype because of social distancing.
Now that I have compiled this final project together, I have come to the decision that I no longer want to be a life coach.
Had I continued coaching, my thinking was to do it in a private rented space, but to also take it out into public spaces whenever benefitted the coaching process.
“Much of the cognitive science in the past two decades tells us that human beings often make subconscious, emotional, and sometimes irrational decisions in one place in the brain, and then justify those decisions rationally and logically in another place. So if you’re trying to influence buyers’ decisions, using facts and rational arguments alone isn’t enough. You need to influence them emotionally, and stories are your best vehicle to do that.”
Paul Smith, Sell With A Story, 2017:17
Marketing my goods
My marketing strategy was comprised of three elements…
- Word of mouth/referrals
- My website
I didn’t have a fully thought-out marketing plan and I certainly wasn’t investing any money into ad space online.
Again, it was just down to lack of time.
I figured that if my coaching was something that I would stick with in the long-run, I would figure out a better lead generating marketing approach, as my coaching business evolved and refined itself to focus on my niche.
That was another thing… I wasn’t even sure what my niche or market segment was!
I had never intended to start a life coaching side hustle to begin with, so I had not given any thought to who my target audience would be.
If I was serious about making something out of my side hustle, then the best way to discover who was my ideal coaching client would be to do some more coaching.
I already had a strong theoretical understanding in marketing on account of all the studying I had done in the Marketing and Brand Management concentration of my MTA Portfolio.
I built a marketing concentration into my self-declared master’s because I knew that the ability to conduct market research and to market myself and/or services or products I might sell would be an invaluable skillset to possess in the twenty-first century.
Building Not Your Average Life Coach was a perfect opportunity for me to exercise all my marketing learning.
Two Coursera specializations I had completed as part of my marketing concentration – Marketing Strategy and Marketing Mix Implementation – were invaluable for helping me to define the marketing approach of Not Your Average Life Coach, even if it was a slightly haphazard one.
The first thing I knew I had to was to define the specific niche of coaching client I would be best suited to aim towards.
By best suited, I mean…
- Clients that I was most qualified and comfortable coaching
- Clients who made up a sizeable market segment that would generate enough leads and income to make my side hustle a viable business
This is where the market research came in and by continuing to coach, I was conducting a very direct form of market research.
In the early days, not only was I coaching my clients, but I was actively questioning about the type of coaching services and products they were looking to invest in.
Ultimately, I discovered that the coaching client I was suited for coaching were females aged between 25 and 40 who were looking to augment, improve or change their careers.
I was not particularly surprised that I should focus my coaching on the career development sector because my initial free batch of coaching had been entirely made up of clients who wanted to look at their careers.
The age range of 25 – 40 was also not a huge surprise because that period tends be a career change hotspot, especially in today’s volatile job market.
What did initially surprise me was that all my clients were females, every single one of them.
Granted, later I did coach a couple of male clients, but the vast majority of my clients always proved to be females.
Based on what my clients have said, I think females are much more open to employing the concept of life coaching.
I find males are much more closed-off and operate along the lines of, “I don’t really see the point in it.”
Certainly, that was largely my attitude before I became a life coach.
I didn’t see much point in hiring a life coach to help me develop my career when I could just go and figure it out yourself.
While I did figure much out myself regarding career development, when I first started coaching, I never felt 100% comfortable with coaching other peoples’ careers.
If anything, I felt slightly hypocritical.
Aside from building my own self-declared master’s degree and starting my own life coaching side hustle, I didn’t really feel like I had much wide-ranging career development experience to call upon.
However, the more I coached, the more I discovered that my clients were not looking for someone who had a wide and varied career behind them.
Instead, they just wanted to talk with someone who was very open-minded and could help them get creative with their ideas.
In particular, they were looking for someone who could provide clarity on today’s increasingly complex and confusing career landscape.
Regardless of whether I had a lot of career experience behind me, I did possess a strong understanding of the evolving nature of career development on account of having studied it over many years as part of my MTA Portfolio.
Once I realized this and had coached a few more clients, I started to become comfortable with the practice of coaching others about their career development.
It was also hugely invaluable for my own career development, because I was learning a lot from my clients’ experiences.
I had my ideal client pinned down.
The next step would have been to take that ideal target persona and build a full-fledged marketing plan around it.
That would have been the smart thing to do.
But I didn’t do that.
Instead, I just focused on generating positive word-of-mouth from each client about me and my coaching services.
I started to design my website that would be the online extension of my coaching personality and style of coaching.
And I focused on improving my interpersonal style even when I was not coaching.
That way, if I encountered a potential client, I could sell myself and my coaching services to them in the best way possible.
The science and practice of selling is another subject I have studied at great length in my MTA Portfolio. You can find my Salesmanship and Sales Management module in the Business Administration and Finance concentration.
As much as I gained from the courses I studied on selling, I gained increasingly more from the book Sell With A Story by Paul Smith.
I frequently go back to his book because it has multiple templates for the types of stories you need to win over potential prospects or clients in particular contexts.
You just use your own information to fill in the blanks to generate your own stories.
I’m all about stories
I grew up immersing myself in stories
I studied a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing.
I get storytelling.
Not only are stories the best way to convey complex information to human begins, but stories are also the best way to connect with human beings on an emotional level.
And if you want a human being to buy something, you have to hook them emotionally.
It was perfect, Sell With A Story was exactly what I needed to get my head around the concept of selling and turn it into something I could practically do myself.
Again, my life coaching side hustle offered me the perfect opportunity to hone my skills.
This is why, if you look at my coaching website or read through everything I have written on the component pages that make up my Not Your Average Life Coach final project, I talk a lot about my personal narrative and how I have used coaching to overcome the obstacles in my personal story.
This is exactly how I presented myself and my coaching services to my clients, I connect with them by telling them my story and how self-coaching has empowered me to become the proactive author of my story.
Right from the start, I am very open about my narrative because I want the client to be a part of it and to benefit from my coaching.
On my coaching website, the way I have presented information on the main page is just a online version of how I would present myself in-person to potential coaching clients.