Where Are You in The 3 Stages of Building Your Coaching Business? | By Marcy Nelson-Garrison

Child with Colourful Paints

The following article is updated and adapted from an article that first appeared in choice Magazine V8I1, March 2010.

Building a coaching business is a creative process and it's helpful to know that it will go through predictable stages of creative growth. Artists don't create masterpieces the first time they pick up a lump of clay or a paint brush and the most successful coaches didn't start out as stellar entrepreneurs, they grew into it.

So when I heard Todd Henry from The Accidental Creative outline the 3 stages of artistic growth, the artist in me immediately recognized the 3 stages I'm about to share.

And the big "Aha!" came when I realized these stages are also true for business growth and product development.

The 3 Stages of Creative Growth—and What it Means for Your Coaching Business

STAGE 1 - Exploration

In the first stage of artistic growth the artist is exploring materials, mediums and techniques.

Similarly, new coaches are engaged in learning how to master coaching skills and build a business. In this stage you are just starting to take yourself seriously as a coach.

In terms of business growth, the new coach has their hands full as they experiment with things like pricing, length of sessions, what headset to buy, basic marketing and a first website.

During this phase you might even try your hand at an ebook, workshop or webinar.  This is exactly what you should be doing in stage one—you get to explore possibilities and try new things.

STAGE 2 - Imitation

The second stage for artists is about imitation. Artists copy the masters and imitate different styles. Because huge learning can come from studying those who are successful.

In the same way, once a coach gets a beginning foundation in place it's really helpful to find role models. It's okay to emulate those you admire.

This is the time to try on different business models, begin to create products, offer paid webinars or workshops and package your offerings in ways that are similar to your chosen role models.

You may even purchase ready made programs to deliver.

This stage is about building confidence, generating revenue and beginning to find your core message and style.

STAGE 3 - Differentiation

It is not until the third stage that the artist begins to develop their own voice and artistic style. This is the business growth stage.

This is true for coaches as well. This is where you really begin to differentiate yourself from others—including your role models and mentors.

Outwardly this might translate into developing a signature program, creating a system or your own unique process. What strikes me as core to this stage is the message: What you take a stand for becomes crystal clear and everything you now create reflects that stand.

This stage is about knowing clearly who you coach and what your unique message and gift is.

How do I get to Stage 3?

So, what creates the shift from imitation in Stage 2 to differentiation and full authentic expression in Stage 3?

In Stage 3 business growth, the real work, the real shift, happens from within. It involves a shift in your relationship with your own value, a clear understanding of your clients and full ownership of your own deep wisdom.

In the process of imitating others you will begin to hear your own opinions bubbling up. You may question the approach of your role models. Underneath that you will hear the hunger—and the call. There will emerge something in you that wants to be created, something that is uniquely yours.

So, creating from Stage 3 goes deeper than your previous creating, and it's more intentional. It reflects a powerful sense of congruence, confidence in who you are as a coach and a passionate stance for your clients.

A final thought: It's important to note that these three stages are not entirely linear. As the authentic voice is taking shape, the coach, like the artist will cycle back into the first two stages as needed.


People naturally want to hurry up and get to Stage 3. But building your business is a creative process and it cannot be rushed.

There's a natural rhythm for this process and it will be different for each person. There are however steps you can take to be more intentional about your progress towards full authentic expression in your business.

Here are some questions for you to ponder:

  • Where are you in this creative process?
  • Are you trying to run before you can walk?
  • Or perhaps you need to get out of your comfort zone and show the world what you're truly made of?

And know that wherever you are in this process, it's OK, you are where you need to be.

If you liked this article on creativity and building your coaching business, you may also like:

In the next article, we explore this in more detail: Learn to Trust the Creative Process and How to Use the 4 P's to Intentionally and Authentically Grow Your Business.

Contributing Author:

Marcy Nelson-Garrison is a transformational product mentor, certified professional co-active coach, visual artist and the founder of the Coaching Toys online store. Coaching since 1999, Marcy has a passion for applying creative processes to personal development. She is the Author of Creating Aha Moments, Creative Right-Brain Coaching Exercises for Individual, Group and Team Breakthroughs, The card deck: Q? Basics, Open-Ended Questions For Coaching Mastery and the popular Card Deck Master Class. You can sign-up for Marcy's newsletter and download the eBooks Creating Aha Moments and 10 Ways To Profit From Creating a Card Deck free here >>

Learn more about Marcy & see all their articles here >>

Image of Child with Colourful Paints by Thomas M Perkins via Shutterstock

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