Six Reasons Coaches Make Less Than Minimum Wage

After being a coach for 18 months I was earning more than six figures (a somehow magical number for coaches) and yet I often connected with coaches who had:

  • multiple certifications
  • years of coaching experience
  • stories of amazing workshops
  • and ton’s of books on coaching and business on their shelves.​

And yet . . . many of them were making minimum wage. Sometimes they made a bit more $50k – $70k a year, but often they were baffled at why they hadn’t achieved the success of their peers. I get it. I’ve been in the coaching industry, what sells is fast, short cut, get rich quick trainings, and books.

I know a coach who teaches FB messenger strategies and his group is full of coaches. Another coach I know teaches big live workshops that are always sold out. But in the shadows of both groups and beyond the success stories that are on their websites, many coaches who continue to struggle blame themselves for not being successful.

After working with and training coaches for several years—many who have gone on to run highly successful coaching businesses and even become CEOs of major coaching companies—here are the six things I’ve seen that keeps coaches from being successful.

1) No Purpose and No Identity –

Often when I talk to new coaches the reason they go into coaching is because
A) they had a great coach or
B) people always come to them for advice.
While both of these are great reasons to get curious they aren’t enough to keep a coach going through the challenges of building a practice.

What I’ve noticed is that coaches who have a clear sense of themselves and a clear purpose for their work stay focused, work through resistance, and build their practices with consistency and creativity. If you want to be successful you need a good reason to be facing your fears and resistances.

2) An Inability to Create Commitment –

Building a practice takes personal commitment, but it also requires that you learn how to support others to make powerful and lasting commitments in their own lives. Some people call this skill “sales”, others call it “enrollment”, but behind it all is an ability to support people to make commitments that scare and confront them.

If you don’t know how to do this you’ll either set your bar so low that your fees won’t pay your bills, or struggle to get any clients at all. Learning to create commitment is a learnable skill (aka NO ONE IS BAD AT SALES), but it requires a willingness to learn to create clients with integrity and a little bit of fun.

3) A Lack of Connection –

Consistently the most successful coaches I’ve seen are the ones with pre-existing networks.

These coaches have professional networks that enable them to tap into a bank of connections they have built with skill their entire career. But if you don’t have this kind of network that’s not a problem. I didn’t have one when I got started. Before becoming a coach I was living at a monastery which gives me a cool resume but not a great place to look for clients.

You can learn how to attract and connect with people. Some people call this marketing but really it’s just about connecting with people. If you do this consistently and powerfully you can build a practice from nothing. But many coaches avoid connecting in the hopes of using brute force (aka bad marketing) as a way to get clients.

4) Not Enough Personal Integrity –

Most people relate to integrity as a moral issue. If you don’t have integrity you’re a bad person. I know because that’s how I used to relate to it. But for me low integrity is like a leaky boat. The boat isn’t evil, it’s just leaky. And while a leaky boat can get you somewhere, you’re going to be spending excess time and energy bailing it out.

Integrity is really just about doing what you say you’re going to do. You don’t need to be perfect (which is impossible) but you do need to be reliable. When you have integrity people feel it and your business grows because of it. When you don’t it tends to be very stop and start.

And again integrity can be learned. Most people fail with integrity because they lack the systems and processes that support it OR they don’t empower the structure they’ve created. When this happens coaches don’t take consistent action which is what is needed to build a practice.

5) Thinking You Have Too Little (or Too Much) Time –

Most of us have an unexamined relationship with time. It always feels like we have too little or too much of it. I can’t tell you how many coaches have blamed a lack of time on their ability to build a practice or (ironically) having almost too much time on their hands.

Time is much more flexible than you realize. Every coach in the world has the same 24 hours you do to build a practice and many of them do it with families, elderly parents, and even second jobs. This doesn’t mean that it can be hard to work with time. But it DOES mean that if you have a crappy relationship with time you’re likely to struggle as a coach.

6) You have a Weird Relationship with Money –

One year as a coach I made over $300k, but in my books I lost $10k. The reason for this was that I had a weird relationship with money. I liked making it, but I didn’t like managing it (or dealing with it, as I used to say) so I didn’t do a very good job.

Being ‘successful’ as a coach for most people means making money, but many coaches think they need to make some money before they can deal with their issues around it. That doesn’t make any sense. When I see coaches with a weird relationship with money I notice they often struggle to make any money or hold onto any of it.

If you want to make good money as a coach and hold onto that money, you need to be able to deal with money in a powerful way. If you don’t, you’re going to have a hard time achieving the goals you want.

Final Thoughts

None of these challenges are terminal for you or your coaching career. I’ve spent years working through these issues with myself and with the coaches I’ve trained and worked with, but 90% of the training you can get won’t address this stuff directly.

Instead it’s WAY more likely they’ll just hack their way around these issues.

Well it doesn’t have to be that way. You can actually shift these things, but the key is to deal with them directly. Create a purpose for your business, learn to master commitment, connect with people, develop integrity, overcome your challenges with time, and develop a new relationship with money.

This is exactly what I do with coaches who are part of my Embodied Coach Mastermind.

I help them move beyond the surface level strategies and tactics to the deeper issues underneath. Yes I teach them the systems and techniques I’ve used to build my practice (including the mistakes I’ve made along the way), but the center of what I teach is all about how to overcome the big things that stop most coaches from creating success.

It’s not a skin deep approach but a bone deep one. So if you want some support in overcoming these challenges Let Me Know.

And if not then please, please, please find another way to get supported. Anyone who wants to become a coach has the intention to help others and NO coach should struggle in purgatory trying to get there. The solutions aren’t rocket science, they don’t require secret knowledge, but they do demand you fundamentally shift something about yourself before you can create an incredible impact for others.

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