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Finding Your Way As A Professional Coach - Rasheed Ogunlaru


Life as a coach or NLP practitioner can be remarkably rewarding. The pleasure of helping people make huge leaps in their lives and overcoming major blocks is a joy and a privilege. But the path to finding yourself personally and establishing yourself as a professional coach can be a challenge. Every year I meet many professionals who’ve done their training and are talented and lovely people but who struggle to find their way, place and style. Many fail find to develop a practice that’s satisfying personally and that pays the bills financially.

Finding your way as a professional coach

Life as a coach or NLP practitioner can be remarkably rewarding. The pleasure of helping people make huge leaps in their lives and overcoming major blocks is a joy and a privilege. But the path to finding yourself personally and establishing yourself as a professional coach can be a challenge. Every year I meet many professionals who’ve done their training and are talented and lovely people but who struggle to find their way, place and style. Many fail find to develop a practice that’s satisfying personally and that pays the bills financially. his is not just a challenge for you if you’ve recently trained but can be equally true if you’ve have been around for a few years. So how do you establish yourself, stand out from the crowd and how can you go about building a profitable business?

Who are you?

Before you can find your path you need to discover who you are. Once you know who you are you will naturally be able to discover your own style and path. It’s also the case that you can be led up many a blind alley if you try to be someone else or merely emulate someone else’s style or career. So who are you? What’s brought you to this point in your life? What have you discovered about life along your path? What are you really passionate about? Are you doing what you are really passionate about? Are you living this phase of your life journey in a way that truly resonates with you? Sit with these questions. Often as we begin our career in personal development there are a few tweaks that need to be made in order that we are able to build our career that feels right to you. If you’re having a few dilemmas about this do not fear it is very natural. In fact many clients that will come to you will be wrestling with consciously or unconsciously with these questions. The fact that you’ve been through this journey of self discovery will be a powerful selling point in your attraction to your clients. Clients will invariably intuitively know if you are coming from an authentic place of being who you are or not. So let any lingering doubts of needing to be someone else drift away and be who you are. Modelling, studying and shadowing have their place but their place is in helping you discover your own magic. Finding yourself may be a very subtle journey or just accepting where you’re at and what does and doesn’t feel right to you or may be a far more pronounced experience. The mere asking your ‘self’ “who am I?” is powerful in helping you let go of the superficial and superfluous.

What’s your story?

I invite you to write down your life and career story to date. Summarise it in a page or two. Start off with your early life and then go through your career and personal journey to date. What have you learned? What is it that has brought you here? When I am coaching anyone about their career or business I always look for the patterns, and the tread that runs through it. I discovered over the years that when people really find themselves in their career that all the core ingredients of who they are, their skills and talents throughout their career come together in their new job or business. Just a few days ago I was working with an accomplished marketing manager who is setting up his own business. Over the last few months he’s dipped his toe in a few businesses and each time changed direction. Then as we spoke a few days ago he told me about what he now plans to do. Lo and behold it has elements of what he has always loved. His new business brings together his skill in marketing, his passion for the internet and his interest in software. And in some ways he had to sift through all the other ideas to arrive at what was really true.

This is likely to also be true for you. A current client of mine has a background in health and retrained as a coach and NLP practitioner. She had been struggling to find her niche for some time. So I asked her to tell me her story. From her teens she had developed an interest in people and their health and wellbeing. The journey had taken her overseas and then back to the UK to retrain as a health professional. Life events then took her to retrain in coaching and NLP. This blend of coaching and wellbeing is her niche. Was her story or any of this information on her website? No. Should it be? Yes. Your story, your magic, your unique take is all that you may have that may separate and distinguish you from others in this field. It will help attract clients. What’s more, your story will tell hold big clues about the path ahead. Action: revisit your website and ensure that it’s really selling who you are. What does the about me page say? If your website overlooks the fact that you have ten years experience working in for a major companies with people issues then you are missing a trick. From strength to strength ... build from your expertise Many practitioners feel that as they start to grow their new business and attract customers that they are starting from scratch. You are not; you are building on all the career experience you already have amassed. When I began coaching I had many years experience in working in media, communications, as a trainer and as a singer performer. In many ways it is this part of my career that is still most relevant for many of my clients so do not distance yourself from what’s been before. How can it serve you? In my case my background serves to make me relevant when media want a coach to write or speak in the media or when an organisation needs someone who understands strategy matters. I would not have gained these opportunities if I did not embrace them and if I don’t tell people about them. So let your background serve you first to remind you that you have years of experience that your building g on. And let it serve you to help make you attractive to audiences you might work with. Utilise your expertise to gain business A few months ago I was working with a young guy who was keen to launch himself in training and development. He had a website and had been networking for months to no effect. First of all his website was all technical speak and did not speak to ‘me as a human being’ so we needed to address that. Does your website speak about coaching in abstract terms or does it actually address the real issues that people will have. Next I got him to list all the areas that he wanted to gain work. As we went through the list of five or so different sectors we discovered one of the areas was engineering where he had majored in his studies. In fact he was a qualified engineer. Suddenly from being a new boy on the block with no expertise who would not be shortlisted ahead of others with years more experience in training and development, suddenly he became a front runner. What’s more is that his style and approach lends itself most to those industries. He now has focus and real way forward.

Who do you think you’re talking to?

Like most small business most coaches and NLP practitioners gain their opportunities a result of word or mouth, referral and contacts. At my regular business workshop at the British Library I often ask those who’ve been in business for a while how much of their business comes from these direct and personal routes. Usually the answer is in excess of 70%. If this is the case who should you be talking to? How much time do you spend talking to clients, contacts, out networking etc? Does everyone you love and trust in your network know what you do or the kind of clients or projects you are looking for? I remember running a business development workshop early this year at which one delegate was a landscape gardener. He’d been in business for a while and cash was a little tight. It’s also a business that can be seasonal with ups and downs. Perhaps your business is the same. I asked him what kind of business and opportunities he was looking for. He said he wanted to do more ‘high end’ landscaping for those with a higher disposable income. So I asked the obvious question. Who do you know who is well? Sure enough he knew two people and as we explored it further they both had gardens and might benefit. Are you so busy looking far afield that you are missing what’s under your nose?

Build your network, be kind and be creative At the moment I’m coaching someone who could make a good livelihood in their chosen niche but who feels very isolated. It’s no surprise because she has not invited anyone in. Step into the world. Identify all the help and expertise that you need and go and seek it out. You may need someone to help you with your website, someone with admin skills to help support you and someone who is good with finance. Go out, network, and spot others who have differing skills and styles but who share your values. How can you help them how can they help you? Be advocates and ambassadors for each other. This will help all sorts of avenues and doorways. The power of collaboration and mutual support suddenly multiplies opportunities. This journey will help you as it is beginning to help my client. Look for ways to give people tasters of what you do invite them in. Few people buy clothes without trying. Of course you need to mindful of valuing what you do but the right ‘test drive’, ‘taster’ or free consultation can work wonders. In my own case I ask myself what is the potential value of this clients and their network as I look at each opportunity. You may have a policy of no freebies but if the CEO of a large company is curious about what you do what is the potential value in giving him a complimentary session in terms of good will and potential business? The important thing here is to find the balance that allows you to value you, what you do and your client too. To me it is this area where the magic really resides. All three must be honoured as you do this and as you find your balance magic will happen.

Step into the world

Once you know who you are and what’s dear to you then it should become all about your clients. It is this dialogue that will lead to connections, conversations and business. Ironically as an NLP practitioner the question may be ‘are you speaking your language or theirs? Who cares about coaching or anything else unless it’s their hobby horse? Potential clients are most apt to care about issues like their redundancy, their lack confidence, their lack of focus, low staff morale. Speak their language first before introducing foreign words.

Forge your own path

As you move forward continue to gently ask yourself what you want and be clear of the kind of career and pieces of work that resonate with you. I coach many consultants and business owners who feel overwhelmed by all the day to day emails, networking and opportunities. This is largely because they lack clarity of what is really important and what opportunities that is truest to them. The clearer you are the clearer the path ahead will be. Be mindful to be aware of what you need financially, personally and vocationally or these things may not manifest. If you are mindful of them you will make them at the heart of what you create and the opportunities you seek out. There will continue to changes but as you embrace you embrace life you will feel it embrace you. Rasheed Ogunlaru