Successful Coach Solopreneurs FLEX! (Lessons Learned Serving as a Startup Executive)
What does it take to be a successful coach solopreneur? Think BSDSP and FLEX like a startup executive.
Lesson 1: Be Scrappy!
Judiciously invest time and money.
Question: What are the two highest uses of your time when launching your practice?
Answer: Business development AND coaching. Ask yourself, How can I minimize distractions so that I can immerse myself in BD and coaching?
Outsource where possible and on the cheap. Use free services/trial offerings in your first year. Many customer relationship management (CRM) programs have great trial offerings. Try loading 10 contacts into two programs to get a feel for their functionality and true benefit. Then you can invest real time and money when needed based on evidence. In my first year, I used a free bookkeeping program. I was mostly incurring expenses, could track mileage by hand and did not (yet!) have need to link to bank accounts and send invoices.
Takeaway: Pace your investment and stick to the bare minimum. “Rome was not built in a day!”
A Second Idea
Be purposeful about your social media strategy and tactics. Don’t spend time developing content for LinkedIn. Instead “like” comments and share relevant content others have developed. Social Media can be a slippery slope regarding time.
Takeaway: Be intentional about the depth, breadth and timing of social media that you want to create and must curate.
A Third Idea
Organize a panel on the topic of “best practices launching a coaching practice” (perhaps through your local ICF Chapter). Yes, the organizing will take work. BUT how great will it be to have others offer lessons learned about scheduling software? On effective CRM? On searching, selecting, buying domain names?
Takeaway: This is bartered knowledge. We will all win by being scrappy!
Lesson 2: Drive for Scale!
How can you organize yourself to repurpose as many templates, tools and processes as possible? Have you developed contract templates that are your go-to? (Or asked others for theirs?) Have you developed a perfect SHORT pitch paragraph that you can use in both BD outreach (to introduce yourself) and in emails, post-discovery call (to reinforce who you are as a coach)?
Warehouse these items and pull them off the shelf as needed. Exercises around your clients’ values, goals, and priorities are prime contenders for your warehouse. Be rigorous about curating and simplifying all your materials.
Lesson 3: Prototype!
Educators from Stanford’s Design School (Bill Burnett and Dave Evans) champion the notion of prototyping to “build your way forward.” The underlying idea is to develop a prototype, test, learn and iterate. This is akin to the work we do with our clients encouraging them to identify, then test, new behaviors that move them towards a goal and assess their impact, adjust and retest. I employed this notion of prototyping in determining which networking events had a strong ROI.
I identified a networking event where I knew high potential clients would be. (A Girl Scout symposium run by local senior level executive women who are investing in the growth of future female leaders). Was it a reasonable marketing tactic/prototype? YES! Effective? NO! I was a floater in a sea of 1,000 women with no natural way to access my targeted clients.
I recalibrated! I needed to meet these women in a space and place that would allow for genuine rapport building in a calmer environment. I spent 10x the amount of money to attend a more intimate event in a smaller venue and was able to connect with them about coaching in general, and about my philosophy and approach (ultimately attracting two new clients).
A coaching solopreneur (you!) who thinks and acts like a startup executive and follows the principles of BSDSP will be successful through Being Scrappy, Driving for Scale, and Prototyping your way to a healthy business.
Combine these practices with those offered by F50 Executives, and you will develop a robust, profitable and sustainable coaching practice! Good luck!
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Wonderful article. Great tips and realistic examples. A valuable read for anyone starting their own business. Jill is a talented writer who understands what it is like to start a business.
TY. The Lessons Learned keep building. My newest one is about managing ‘overinvest’ in the beginning stages of a launch.
Jill’s beginner’s mindset offers a straightforward and understandable approach for new coaches to use and subsequently benefit from Jill’s experience and expertise.
TY. I want to save those launching a practice precious time and resources. I am glad that my approach resonates. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” (attributed to JFK)
Good job. Keep going
TY for the encouragement. I have new ideas percolating that I hope will help each of us building our practices. Stay tuned!
Wow. Thank you. I have already made several mistake on spending too much too soon, but am learning. It’s the belief that I will get there by pacing myself – without frantic activity – that I continue to work on. Your comments are really useful, appreciate your sharing.
I know. Use a prism for prioritizing of ‘what will have the highest ROI attracting clients soon?’ The answer most often will be ‘network and pound the pavement!’ Good luck. It’s a slow build. The projects I was ‘sure’ I landed often never materialized. And many of the ones I did land came from non-traditional sources. Go figure!