The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Make as a New Coach (Part 1) - International Coaching Federation
New Member-Exclusive Benefit: ICF Engage

The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Make as a New Coach (Part 1)

Posted by Amanda Alexander | October 27, 2014 | Comments (25)

When we start a new profession and learn a new discipline, we always make mistakes – that’s the nature of the learning curve.  But there are some mistakes that are best avoided as a new coach if you want to build your practice sooner rather than later!

Awareness is the precursor to choice, so in this post, I’m going to raise your awareness about the seven biggest mistakes that I have observed new coaches making when trying to build their practice.

Because I don’t want to wear you out (boy, I’ve got a lot to say on this subject!), we’ll start with the first three mistakes with the last four in part two of this post, next month!

Mistake Number One: You Hide Behind Your Computer

I’ve heard this so many times from my Mentor Coaching clients. It goes something like this:

“First of all, Amanda, I need to get my website done. I’ve just got to do this and THEN I’ll be ready to take on clients.”

NO, NO and Thrice NO!

When you put off coaching because you are working on your website, creating your social media profiles, setting up an email template, creating pretty memes and tweeting like a twitterer, what message do you think you are giving to the universe?

Are you telling the universe “I want clients”?

No, you are not!

What you ARE saying is something like;

“I want a perfect website/email template/nice memes/jolly tweets.”

By all means, work on your branding, your web presence and all that good stuff. But this is NOT a client attraction strategy – certainly not at this stage. If you think that your shiny new website will be seen by your ideal client as soon as it’s live, think again! It just ain’t happenin’!

Clients will come to you after you’ve had conversations. Your practice will grow, one client at a time, when you step AWAY from the computer and start talking to people, one at a time.

Mistake Number Two: You Lack Faith in Yourself

It’s understandable that you are not sure of your ability to make a difference in your clients’ lives. You doubt your abilities; you wonder if you can ever make it work.  When I ran a poll of my mentor coaching clients on a webinar a couple of years back, 100 percent of my clients said they lacked faith in themselves.

First of all, rest assured it’s perfectly normal to lack faith in yourself and I’m certainly not going to ride rough shod over your insecurities by insisting;

“You must believe in yourself, otherwise who else will?”


“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right”.

These are inane platitudes that won’t help you magically achieve self-belief, particularly when you are a new coach just finding your feet.

But what I will tell you, dear coach, is that there is only one way you are going to start believing in yourself as a coach and as someone who has the ability to build a sustainable coaching practice:

You need to get out there and COACH people. Coach coach coach! Coach your dog if you have to.  The only way you are going to increase your self-belief is by proving it to yourself.

You are most likely your own harshest critic. Nobody else will pick as many holes in your coaching sessions or your marketing efforts as you. So you need to convince yourself. And the best way to do that is to immerse yourself in the joy of coaching. The more you coach, the quieter the nasty inner critic in your head will become.

Mistake Number Three: You Try to Be an Everything to Everyone Coach

Picture if you will, this imaginary networking conversation:

Random Person: “So what do you do?”

Coach: “Oh, I’m a life coach and a business coach and an executive coach.”

RP: “Okaaaaaaay… so who do you work with?”

Coach: “Oh, I work with anyone. Yeah… humans mostly”

RP: “Do you coach them around anything specific?”

Coach: “Oh, anything, really. Anything at all. So… do you want me to coach you? You’re human aren’t you?”

Look, I’ve exaggerated for effect, but you get the gist!  How needy does that sound?

Do you think that person is going to reply with:

“I’m hiring you NOW… PLEASE, coach me on anything!”

No, I don’t think so either. They are more likely to make a sharp exit, making a mental note to avoid Ms. Needy “I coach anyone on anything” coach at all costs.

Your goal should be to position yourself as the go-to person in your niche, so you need to get really clear about WHO you serve and HOW you serve them as a coach. Furthermore, you will find it very difficult and very expensive to market to everyone!

Your marketing will become so much easier once you have defined your niche. And no, it doesn’t mean that you can’t coach people outside of your niche. Let me reassure you – I have been known as “The Working Mums’ Coach” for many years now. But I have coached many different people, not just working moms. I have recently focused on a niche within a niche – Moms Who Coach. Some people ask me, “But aren’t you missing out on all those other coaches who aren’t moms?”

The answer is no, because I will appeal to coaches who are moms because of my background (and the fact that I’ve set up my practice after I became a mother). I still coach non-moms, but by honing on a tighter niche, I have a much greater chance of my message landing.

The short version:

If you try to generalise and try to be an “everything to everyone” coach, you will end up being a “nothing to no-one” coach!

This is part one of a two-part series. Look for part two November 24. 

Amanda Alexander

Amanda Alexander is a multi-award winning Coach and Founder of Amanda has been coaching for over 13 years and has been cited as one of the UK’s Top Life Coaches in the British Press. Her personal clients are professional women who have big ambitions but who need to “get out of their own way” first.  Amanda works with her corporate clients primarily to help them retain talented women.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Additionally, for the purpose of full disclosure and as a disclaimer of liability, this content was possibly generated using the assistance of an AI program. Its contents, either in whole or in part, have been reviewed and revised by a human. Nevertheless, the reader/user is responsible for verifying the information presented and should not rely upon this article or post as providing any specific professional advice or counsel. Its contents are provided “as is,” and ICF makes no representations or warranties as to its accuracy or completeness and to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law specifically disclaims any and all liability for any damages or injuries resulting from use of or reliance thereupon.

Comments (25)

  1. sas says:

    Very true wise words.
    Thank you

  2. Maya says:

    Thank you Amanda! This is exactly what I need to hear today, very simple but wise!

  3. Susan says:

    Thanks, this is helpful to me as a new coach. But, I see only 3 mistakes listed, not 7. How do I view the entire article?

    • Ah Susan..great spot! Thank you! There should have been a little note to say this is a 2 part post! All 7 would have been a looong post. The 2nd part will be out at the end of November which is my next “slot” in the ICF blog calendar. In the meantime, I’ll ask the moderator to add a note!

  4. begginer coach says:

    tx for your post, but, begginer as I am, I still do not get it..probably I have to pay some extra-coaching sessions to get it…so, coach coach coach, coach your dog…talk to people…don’t say general things like I coach everything for anybody, be specific but do not bother to address to a niche….and, of course , be very self assured cause you are fuuuuuull of experience…
    do not bother to make a site or whatever has a tiny jdea about who you are, cause you will suddenly become a marketing specialist… when?
    AFTER YOU get really clear about WHO you serve and HOW you serve them as a coach!!!
    I am cristal clear !! I serve my DOG!
    C’mon guys…
    well…maybe is just me…looking forward for the next 4 mistakes

  5. Hi Beginner Coach, sorry this wasn’t helpful to you and the “coach your dog if you have to” comment fell flat for you.

    As for me, my dog loves to be coached 😉

  6. Brigi says:

    Thank you Amanda! It was really helpful 🙂 “start talking to people, one at a time” and “.. you need to get out there and COACH people. COACH, COACH, COACH!..” Today these words were presents for me. Thanks a lot 🙂 !

    • Amanda says:

      Brigi, I’m SO pleased! It’s all about KISS.. Keep It Simple Stupid!
      We tend to get so caught up in all the things we have to do – and when we’re starting out, this is simply the best way forward!

  7. Heather says:

    I just completed my wellness coaching certification and I just opened my own business. For the past two weeks, I’ve totally been stressing because I don’t have my website up and running as I’d like yet. And, I spent much of last week working on logistical stuff for my business that I didn’t coach even ONE client, which stirred up significant doubt in my abilities, too.

    In short – thank you for this article!! I spent today networking and setting up client appointments! MUCH more productive thank last week!!!

  8. Gabriel Chan says:

    Your article is so spot on!
    I struggled with every of those points you highlighted except for the part on being “everything to everyone” coach. But I was beginning to lose sight of my initial plan to be focused on serving a niche clientele until your article showed me that I was getting needy (and quietly desperate) recently.
    Thank you so much for this article and I can’t wait to read your next article following up on this one! I’m gonna share you with my peer c

    • Gabriel, believe me, I have struggled with every one of the 7 mistakes too. That’s how I can write about them! Wishing you focus and lightness (and not an ounce of neediness)! Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Great tips Amanda. Thank you.
    I have to confess that I have done two out of the three mistakes that you mentioned.
    Waiting to read the rest of your article!

  10. partha says:

    Dear Amanada
    very simple and experiential addition to the resources shared.
    appreciate and have a lovely day!

  11. Thibaut says:

    Thank your for your article Amanda. I am a complete beginners and haven’t any certification yet. How important is it to position myself right now? Considering there aren’t many people I can coach right now, how can I coach coach coach and at the same time be picky on the clients I choose to coach?

  12. Tara says:

    Hi Amanda,

    How I laughed at myself when I read your article. Now five years in and I am still stressing that my web site isn’t right (because it’s not!) and I didn’t have one for the first four years yet have a great business. Would/should I do anything differently? Yes, take the damn thing off line and just focus on what I do well…. Coaching, not web designing nor writing! I have less business every time I get into online marketing, it’s a really clear pattern, what a great reminder, and timely too as I have just read a “how to write killer web content book” and was going to launch into a redesign.

    A big thank you!


  13. Thanks Amanda! Good tips!
    I’ll be waiting for the other ones.


  14. Glenda says:

    Thanks, so much. I realized as I was reading your blog one of the things that is bothering me about being a new coach. . . there are some types of situations I do NOT want to coach! The idea of honing in on what /who I do want to coach is exactly what I needed to hear. I know that now as I’m just learning coaching and getting started with actual real coaching I need to coach, coach, coach but over the next several months I’ll be alert for the clients I really love coaching and those that I do not.

    Great post. . . looking forward to the other half the end of the month


  15. Kim Martin says:

    I am sitting here shaking my head in agreement to everything that you are saying. I am a newbie to this profession and no truer words have been spoken. Thank you for saying what I needed to hear. I’m moving forward with confidence knowing that I am not alone. Good stuff!

  16. Thank you for this Blog. Now that I have completed my Practicum and am studying for my exam, I appreciate this advice. As I recently said to one of my mentor coaches, “I did better at coaching when I didn’t really know what I was doing.” Well, not exactly, although my clients were all happy. But certainly, practicing with my learned skills will certainly help with my confidence – and shrink my annoying little inner critic!

  17. Alanna says:

    Sooooo true! I had to force myself out from behind the computer and out into the world. Thanks for writing this 🙂

  18. Well said . . .So many more mistakes to mention: Not charging what you are worth (or failing to figure out your break/even), not developing a solid business plan with goals and timelines, not believeing that you are a business person first and a coach second . . .

Leave a Reply

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more