For coaches starting out, the ultimate dream is often to have a full practice. For coaches with a full practice, the ultimate dream is often to have a full life!
Far too many coaches get their ‘success’ only to find that their lives become so busy, the hours so long, and their energy so depleted, that all of the joy is sucked out of what they once loved.
(Well hell Jo, this is meant to be a coaching blog – you know, positivity and all that? And to be honest, this is sounding like a bit of downer!)
Bear with me – I promise this gets better.
You see, on the one hand, having too many things on the go and not enough time might seem like a good problem to have. But I know a fair amount of coaches who give up along the way to exhausted and making money because they’re exhausted and not making enough money (a less good problem to have!)
I’m here to argue that there are some simple changes you can make early on in your practice that will save you time, money and a whole lot of angst later on.
OK, in the sprit of full disclosure, this is my second time around having my own coaching practice. When I first started as a coach 12 years ago my typical daily schedule looked like this:
7.00 am Networking event
8.00 am traveling home
8.30 take son to childcare
9.15 back home
12.30 lunch (a bowl of soup or something else quick)
3.00 teleclass (part of a training programme I’d signed up for.)
4.00 collect son from childcare
4.30 – 7.00 Do Mum things like feed, bath, read, play, finally put son to bed.
8.00 – Newsletter writing (which usually involved tinkering with ideas whilst watching a bit of TV and not getting a lot actually written.)
9.00 – Client
10.00 – Fall into bed exhausted whilst feeling guilty for not finishing my newsletter.
I know that I’m certainly not alone in attempting this sort of scheduling. I’ve seen some coaching and marketing programs suggest that this is workable. I’m here to argue that it’s not – in fact, it’s the surest way to burnout and giving up – which is exactly what I did. Here’s how to practice self care for coaches:
To be fully in the space with our clients requires an energy exchange between you and them. Even if the subject matter isn’t particularly emotional, it takes energy to be in that space fully.
Good coaching = the kind that takes deep listening. Deep listening requires maximum levels of concentration and focus.
To be at the top of your game you have to think like an athlete – they push themselves to the edge but then prioritize recovery time as an essential part of their training regimen.
As a coach we need to bring our A game to our clients every time. So we need to train AND recover with this in mind – and stuffing your schedule so full that you’ve no time for recovery will stop you from doing that.
There was a key issue that led to my own overscheduling issues and that was the face that many of the coaching sessions I was doing for free or very low fees – even though I had completed my training and was a certified coach. This meant I had to do a lot of sessions to be able to cover my expenses and pay my bills. Which leads me to my next point:
Value Your Time
Many coaches feel guilt or ‘stuff’ (you, know – that technical coaching term) around adequately charging for their time. I used to feel that if someone really needed my help, then there was something a bit ‘unclean’ about charging money for it. Somewhere in my psyche I’d misconnected the ideas that if the work I was doing vocational for me this meant that the icky subject of commerce couldn’t taint it.
But the fact is, the price you charge isn’t just for your coaching time. It needs to reflect your recovery time too. (Oh, and training, planning, blogging, marketing, invoicing, accounting time too!)
Many emerging coaches forget to take all of this into consideration when setting out their fees. This means that like me all those years ago, you have to do a lot of sessions, meaning:
a.) sooner or later you’re going to burn out
b.) Your clients aren’t getting the best of you. They’re getting a tired, less than focused you.
Charging a rate that means you can work effectively and to your real capacity may mean taking a step out of your comfort zone but in the long run it will serve you AND your clients far better than charging a lower (or non existent) rate.
I now charge a rate that allows me to earn a good living taking on no more than 3 clients a day. And I only coach 2 days per week because I find that easier to have other days where I can be focused on other things for my business (like writing, delivering workshops and the odd bit of nurturing myself too.)
Walk Your Talk
When Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and living a whole hearted life when viral, she was invited all over the world to speak. At first, she jumped at every opportunity but says she soon realized she was in danger of spending so much time talking about living a whole hearted life that she was in danger if not actually living one.
That’s a real danger for coaches, too. We can spend so much time helping our clients that we forget to apply those practices to ourselves. It can be tempting to be in service mode all of the time. It can feel good. But what’s even better is being able to practice self-care for yourself and therefore provide a good model for your clients.
Practicing self-care, developing self-awareness, and doing your own inner work aren’t things you can charge an hourly rate for so it’s easy to put them to the bottom of the To Do list.
But incorporating these into your life will make the difference between you working as a coach and actually being an authentic, effective and happy one.
And ultimately that’s what your clients are paying for.
Jo Casey is a trainer, coach and the creator of The Work Happy Podcast. She works with aspiring and emerging coaches to help them find more joy, confidence and impact in their work. She’s written for MindBodyGreen, Tiny Buddha, Brazen Life, Dumb Little Man and Finer Minds. You can find her at www.jocasey.com and sign up for signature programme The Map Of You where you’ll discover the meeting point between your unique strengths, passions and talents, and how you really make a difference in the world. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+