10 Key Qualities You Need to BE to HAVE a Successful Coaching Business...

Qualities to Be Successful Coach shown by Women on Racetrack

In this article we explore key qualities you need to make a good living as a coach...

There are plenty of resources out there to help you run and grow your coaching business: articles, ebooks, courses you can attend in person and online courses you can do from the comfort of your own home. But there are some things they won't teach you—and that's who you need to BE to succeed.

In the last two decades of growing successful business/es in the coaching arena, I've learned a lot—the hard way... And I'd love to share that with you, so your way might be a little easier.

We all know the Be-Do-Have coaching truism. You need to BE who you are, so you can DO (act) in alignment with who you are—and then HAVE what you truly want.Well, find out who I believe you need to BE to have a successful business. And while you're reading, perhaps you'll ponder which of these traits you already have, and which you might need to grow...

How to Have a Successful Coaching Business—You Need to BE:

1) Determined

This, for me, is the number one trait you need to succeed. As you learn to run and grow your own business there will be many successes—and when you have a success it's easy to keep going.

But (unless you're very lucky indeed) it's overcoming the inevitable difficulties and setbacks that you'll need lots of determination and perseverance for.

Here's what Karen Lukanovich, who has 25+ years of experience as: a small business owner in manufacturing and distribution, a Sales & Marketing executive in STEM, and working with performance and leadership mindsets as an Olympian, has to say:

I've developed markets in different industries for start ups and 3 years is usually the time it takes to build sustainable sales with a lot of hard work and if all goes well. It's helpful to begin our coaching journey with clear eyes around this to maintain positivity and growth. Karen Lukanovich

2) A Marketer

Yes, you NEED to be a marketer. I don't care how hard you find it, how distasteful it might seem at first—without learning to market yourself no-one is going to know you're there. And, more importantly, no-one is going to care!

Unless you pay someone to 1) figure out and 2) do your marketing for you (which is an option), you must learn enough about marketing to effectively market yourself. And even if you pay someone to help, they will still need you to tell them who you serve, how you help them, what you do, the journey you take your customers on... So there isn't any way to avoid this.

And for those of you who see marketing as "Bad", it's only "bad" when people are dishonest/manipulate or trick people. That's not you!

Marketing is simply deciding 1) WHO you want to help (your target market), 2) understanding their problems and goals AND 3) learning where they hang out so that you can 4) build a following and/or tell them who you are, what you offer and how you can help. Finally marketing is 5) doing this in a way that a) your target market notices you, b) understands what you're saying and c) trusts or believes what you offer! Emma-Louise Elsey

3) Discerning

We all have so many choices, and so little time. As a business owner, you make choices all day long—big, small and everything in between. These choices could be which emails to respond to, which offers to accept, how much is enough to pay for a website or logo, which tasks to work on next, what colour scheme for your presentaion etc.

You need to know your priorities and stick to them.

And you also need to learn when to "stop flogging a dead horse". It's a horrible expression, but there will be always be some tasks and goals where, despite the effort and hours you've already put in, you need to accept that it's just not working. In other words you need to learn (and discern) when to stop and move onto something more time/energy and/or financially profitable.

4) YOU!

Running your own business, especially a coaching business is a challenging Hero's Journey. The Hero's Journey is about the universal human life journey to discover who you are—and be that person in the world.

When you start coaching, you usually pick the kind of coach you want to be, who you coach and make the best guess as to what this should be. But as time goes by—and if you want to be really successful—you'll embrace who you are and bring that into your coaching practice. This will change or deepen the type of coaching you do.

And if you're willing to bring YOU into your coaching as you learn about yourself; to be vulnerable and try things; to use your unique learnings and experience IN your business, you may just find your success grows accordingly.

5) Willing to Let Go of Trying to Do Everything

For a while you'll try to do everything yourself. And at the beginning when you're trying to save money, that's probably a good thing. You'll find out what you're good at and what you're not good at, what you enjoy doing and what you don't.

Then you'll reach a point where you realise you're not getting the important stuff done (the actions that absolutely need YOU to do them) like following up with enquiries, working on your client journey, or creating that product, program or workshop.

To succeed, you need to recognize you simply don't have enough time to do everything. You'll need to delegate what you're not good at/the repetitive stuff that requires less skill—so you can focus on what's really important.

6) Courageous

Can you let go of your security blanket? There are countless ways you need to be brave when running your own business. Here I'm talking about how we use some activities as a way to avoid the more challenging tasks we should be doing to grow our businesses.

Are you fiddling around on email, social media, or "wasting" time doing something you enjoy—but isn't making you money? You need to learn to let go of tasks that don't serve you. (Learn more about your unique time-wasters with The Urgent Important Matrix).

If you're not actually making money DOING coaching, you should be PLANNING how you can make money. And you should be taking ACTION towards something which makes you money or working on your MARKETING. If you're doing something else, some kind of "security blanket" activity that stops you from stepping up, you need to be brave and STOP!

Which leads me into:

7) Comfortable Making Money

Yes, you need to get over your money issues. Wanting to make money is nothing to be embarrassed, guilty or ashamed of. The purpose of running a business is to make money.

The fact that you're in a helping profession is irrelevant. Doctors and nurses get paid. Everyone has bills to pay.

No guilt! No shame or embarrassment!

Instead go ahead and ask for that sale—and be proud that YOUR business makes money helping others...

8) Focused (Like a Laser Beam) On Your GoalsRoy T. Bennett Quote

As long as you run your own business, there will ALWAYS be more to do than time allows. So you must learn to prioritise and focus. To decide which actions are most important—and do those first. But until you know what you're aiming towards/what you want, how can you prioritise and focus?

So, FIRST set goals for your business starting with longer term goals, then medium and short-term goals that get you there. Then review your goals regularly: Are they still relevant? Are your actions and short-term goals taking you there?

So, know what you want and be willing to reprioritise as many times as it takes to be successful.

And if you need to, hire a business coach to help you with this, because without focus on your goals, your business will go nowhere, fast.

9) Willing to Learn...

...a lot of new things. As I said earlier, when you start your business you'll be doing everything yourself—purchasing, marketing, sales, invoicing, finances, HR (think about your own training, pay, feedback etc) as well as the coaching itself.

You're the CEO, Finance Director, Operations Manager, Secretary and every other role needed to make your business work.

Not only will you learn to do these roles, but you'll also be learning new skills, new ways of thinking and new ways of being. It's exciting AND it's a big challenge. And half the "battle" of creating a successful business is simply being willing to learn everything you need to!

10) Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last but not least, when you run your own business there is NO ROOM FOR SHRINKING VIOLETS.

You have a ton to learn—new knowledge to gain, skills to develop, apps to learn, goals to set, money to ask for, personal development opportunities galore. And they all mean getting out of your comfort zone, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

And know that if you decide to stay safe, you're holding yourself back from the successful coaching career you deserve.

OK, so I thought of another one—often the best answers come out at the end!

11) Trusting of Your Self!

Call it trusting your gut, following your intuition or heart, but I found the more I do this, the more successful I am.

These days when my gut tells me something, I listen. Period. I don't necessarily act—but I listen and then make a thoughtful decision.

So use your head and your heart—and trust your self!

Wrap up

No-one said it was going to be easy. Many people don't "stay the course" and that's absolutely OK!

If you have a family to feed, a life to live, if you're finding it too hard—maybe running your own coaching business isn't for you: Sometimes it takes the greatest courage of all to quit.

And for those of you who do stick it out, you'll never be the same again. You'll be invincible!

Optional Homework

  • Grab your journal and write about what came up for you while reading this. What did you agree with? Disagree with? Why? What are you already great at? What do you need to face up to? What might you do differently?
  • Or use the Free Action Brainstorming Worksheet, brainstorm and write down what you need to start, stop, continue doing, do more of and do less of—to achieve success in your business.

So, let me know what you think. Did I miss anything? After reading this, where do you need to make a shift in how you ARE in your coaching business?

You may also like these articles about Running Your Own Coaching Business:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

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  1. Amelia Barnes

    Great article. Feel renewed as I read it. Perseverance being determined is certainly the number one quality that it takes to be successful. to keep on even on the days when I don't feel like it. - It's easy on the days when I do. building momentum is so critical in silencing those fear voices.

    • Emma-Louise

      So glad you found this article helpful! Perseverance/determination SO necessary - and believing in YOU! Thanks for commenting! Warmly, Emma-Louise

  2. Sandra Hill

    I see this was written in 2014 but the words ring true still in 2017. Excellent information for those of us who are new at entrepreneurship and the business of coaching..not a coaching practice. Thank you for clearing the " landmines".

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Sandra, thank-you for your kind words - and for taking the time to comment! Sadly we see many coaches who don't realise that once a coach, we are also an entrepreneur. That involves a lot of hard work and persistence, and self-growth too - it's a real journey! So glad you like this article 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise

  3. Jeffrey Reid

    Before going to tell anything, I just want to say that the coaching is an integral part of leadership in the organization. By enhancing the potentiality, competence, and talents anybody can flourish at the professional. Here, in this context, I would like to say that you need to be conscious of the key rules including- 1)Listen with inquisitiveness, 2)Bluff what you actually hear, 3)Reflect with exactness or by paraphrasing, summarizing, and questioning, 4)Provide the response for the enhancement etc, to become highly successful in your coaching vocation.

  4. Brenda Scott

    A very inspirational and humbling article. Thank you so much. Each of your points resonated strongly. A very helpful checklist to stay focused and ride the crests and troughs along the journey. Very empowering.

    • Michela Phillips

      So glad you found the article useful, Brenda 🙂
      - Kindly, Michela

  5. Kenn

    Solid list. I like "Be A Marketer" and especially the points about knowing who you serve. I find that getting clear about WHO helps coaches by leaps and bounds.

    I'd like to add to this — market in a way that honors you, you feel good about, and even look forward to — be it write, speak, network one-on-one, support someone else, draw cartoons.

    That might take a little discovery. Get with your coach! ;D


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