I have a desire or calling to either be a mentor or coach. How do you become an executive coach even without an MBA? Is it worth it to get that executive coaching certificate? – Media professional
A knowledge-based business, such as executive coaching or consulting about something you know, is a great business to launch. You can use your existing experience. Hopefully you have some existing credibility to jumpstart your marketing. Unlike a product business, you don’t have to worry about manufacturing, shipping or inventory.
This media professional-turned-aspiring coach is looking at training for her first step – i.e., MBA or coaching certificate. Either a graduate degree or certification might be helpful and even necessary, depending on the type of business she ultimately builds. However, both of these come with a significant investment of time and money (here are 10 questions to help you decide on graduate school as a next career step).
As a new entrepreneur, time and money are in short supply. Before spending either, you need to have a clearer sense of the business you will ultimately have. Here are three steps to launch your business, without requiring any big investments in advance:
1 — Land your first clients
You don’t need a certificate, degree, business cards, website, or any of the fancy trappings of business to land your first clients. People ultimately buy from people they know, like and trust, so your first clients are probably somewhere in your network already. You already have experience for the knowledge part of your business – just not as a business owner.
Think of people you already know who could use what you offer, and ask them to be your beta clients at no cost. Announce to your well-networked friends that you’re launching a coaching practice and ask them to pass it on. Or post on social media that you are offering complimentary consultations.
This first pass at self-promotion is also a good indication of whether going into business for yourself is something you really want to do. A lot of building a knowledge business comes down to self-promotion since people are buying your expertise and credibility. Luckily, you can promote yourself without being arrogant or pushy by focusing on facts (i.e., what you have accomplished) over hyperbole.
2 — Home in on what you like doing and who you like serving
These early clients will help you refine what your business offering should be based on what concerns people have — and are willing to get help for! You also get a better understanding of what concerns you like resolving. For executive coaching, there are many different areas you could cover – communicating effectively, managing teams, advancing your career and much more.
Your first clients will also give you an indication of who you like working with. As an executive coach with media background, you may assume you want to coach other media professionals. But you might find yourself working with people who aspire to enter the industry or who are adjacent to the industry (e.g., PR, advertising). Your clients might all be non-media people, which tells you that industry overlap may not matter for what you’re working on. Other issues to consider: what stage of career is your ideal client? What are their backgrounds and demographics?
3 — Confirm what skills, expertise and experience you need to do the work you want
As you serve your early clients and attempt to get more clients, you’ll learn more and more about the work you want to do. Looking for similarities in the clients who gravitate towards you will help you refine your value proposition and messaging. Objections you hear from people who don’t work with you (here’s how to get feedback on the jobs you don’t get) can help you identify gaps in your own skills, expertise or experience.
If you’re losing potential clients to other coaches with a certificate or MBA, then this is one indication that investing in that additional training may help you with that particular client base. Keep in mind, however, that there are many factors that influence a purchase decision – how you structure your coaching, pricing, timing. Your credentials are just one decision factor
Keep doing the work while getting more work
Whether you decide to invest in a certificate or degree or not, don’t stop working with clients. Building a business is about doing the work, not just getting ready to do the work. If you happen to land a lot of clients early, don’t stop marketing for more clients. Staying in business requires having ongoing leads in your pipeline. You need to get comfortable with both doing the work and getting more work.
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