Coaching session 1 - “I don’t have any paying clients”
Lucy* had worked as a team leader in a local company for more than 20 years and although she had mostly enjoyed it, she always had a nagging feeling that there must be more to life.
‘When I had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy, I jumped at the chance,’ she told me. ‘I’d always been interested in mindfulness and I decided to invest in training and get qualified so I could set up my own business. That was more than a year ago.’ Lucy tailed off at this point and I could see she was fighting back tears. I asked her gently what had happened since.
She told me that she’d spent all her redundancy money on training, a website, leaflets, advertising and converting a room in her home to a studio. ‘But after all that, I don’t have any paying clients. There, I’ve admitted it to you,’ she said. ‘I don’t have a business, really – just a few people who I see for free. I was so excited about setting up my business, now I’m probably going to have to look for employment again. I can’t afford not to be earning. I can’t afford coaching, but this is my last attempt to make my business work before I start looking for a job.’
My role as a coach is to provide time, attention and powerful questions to generate a sense of possibility in my clients. Ideally, at the end of a session, they will have more belief in themselves and feel able to make progress. They will have realised what they want, why it is important and how they want to move forward, without me having provided answers. For the rest of the session, we talked about what approach Lucy had taken so far to generate business. I gave her this question and asked her to write down all her responses to it: ‘If a successful business person reviewed your business, what advice would they give you?’
Coaching session 2 - An action plan for success
Lucy had filled a whole notebook with answers to my question. By looking at her business from another perspective, Lucy was able to see what she needed to do differently.
‘I now realise I have just been sitting and waiting for clients to find me. I busied myself designing my logo and website and decorating my studio, but the one thing I haven’t done is gone out and spoken to people and tried to sell,’ Lucy said, throwing up her hands in despair at herself. ‘I need to get over my embarrassment about selling and charging people for what I do, and start finding people who want to buy what I have to offer – because I know they are out there.’
Lucy was fired up! We used the second session to create an action plan for success. Lucy was determined to:
- Identify the types of people who would buy her services and where she would find them.
- Make at least two appointments every week to go to see potential clients.
- Create a workshop which she could sell to organisations and schools.
- Ask her non-paying clients to give her referrals.
- Attend some local business networking groups.
Lucy left the session saying she was 100 per cent committed to making it all happen.
Coaching session 3 - Two years later...
Lucy has stayed in touch with me and updated me on her progress. It was not all plain sailing, but she learned a lot along the way. Lucy now has paying clients, runs workshops, gives talks and has a regular column in a health and fitness magazine. She also writes a successful blog about being self-employed, which is called ‘Grasp the Nettle’ and talks about the courage required to set up in business.
*Name has been changed
Illustration: Andrea De Santis for Psychologies