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Can You Really Make a Living as a Coach?

Can You Really Make a Living as a Coach?

On a crisp September evening, my then sixteen-year-old son, Blais, took me out to dinner. He was excited to share with me a little sushi place he had recently discovered. It was run by a husband and wife who were also its only employees. We sat down, and just as he finished telling me how the best feature of that small place was that the chef remembered everyone, the chef approached our table with a small plate of Blais’ favorite dumplings.

“Welcome back!” the chef smiled at Blais, who smiled back in the same way he smiled at Christmas when he would open up a gift he actually wanted. The same way we all smile when we feel seen and heard.

“It’s really cool when people just start a business they love. You can really feel they care about their customers,” Blais said and got a little quiet. We both sat in that quiet for a moment, allowing the wave of emotion triggered by the chef’s attention to subside.

I looked around. The restaurant was a hole in the wall. The booths and tables were basic, and the bar with the conveyor belt for the little sushi boats was simply crafted. The back wall was lined with unpacked boxes of supplies and a leaning tower of plastic shelves filled with sauce bottles, chopsticks, and napkins. But there were also flowers in little vases carefully arranged and color-coordinated, and everything was spotlessly clean.

Blais leaned back in his booth and asked me about my coaching business. I kept stacking certifications—life coaching, ICF credentialing, meditation instructor certification, Ayurveda lifestyle, Chopra model wellbeing coach—all driven by my desire to learn, practice, and expand, but also motivated by my need to feel qualified not just to coach, but to charge a fee.

Blais is the youngest of my three sons. We lost my husband, their dad, to cancer when Blais was in seventh grade. With the two older boys attending college and Blais being super involved in the marching band, I struggled to regain financial stability. I’ve always made my living as a performing artist, but when my husband passed away, I couldn’t tour as much. I wanted to be close to my sons and be there for them when they needed emotional and mental support.

So, I was excited to supplement my performing income with coaching.

“With these certifications, I’ll be able to charge a lot more!” I said to Blais as another round of dumplings was served with the chef’s big smile.

“Isn’t that scary, mama?” Blais asked. “What if you don’t produce results for your clients?”

“That’s not really possible,” I answered with confidence.

It wasn’t the most recent certificate I obtained that gave me that confidence. It was the process of working through the core competencies once again and doing the practice coaching sessions with mentor coaches that finally helped me to stop working hard and let go of my need to produce a result.

“Coaching is not a magic wand, and I’m not making empty promises,” I said to Blais.

“I’m a little bit like the chef here. I listen to my clients, I pay attention to what they say and express. I make a note of their goals and intentions. The difference is that I, as a coach, don’t deliver dumplings or solutions to their needs, but I guide them to create, make, see, or deliver their own.

I’m not telling clients what to do, but rather it’s about guiding them to the knowledge they already have inside of them.”

“You mean like when I ask you to help me with something, and you don’t want to tell me, but keep asking me questions until I find a solution?” Blais asked, with a sigh, remembering too many times he’d beg me to just tell him what to do instead of having him think about it and make his own decisions.

“Yes, exactly.” I smiled.

“Ugh, that’s hard, but it works,” he said.

“It’s only hard if people aren’t ready to do the work. When they know they want to change something in their life and need guidance, support, and empowerment, that’s when they need a coach. And they will invest in a good coach to help them get there.”

As Blais pondered over my explanation, it dawned on me how often people wonder about the viability of a coaching career.

The question Blais asked me is the same that many aspiring coaches grapple with: “I love helping people. But would people actually pay me for coaching so I could make a living with it?”

Let’s unpack it outside of the little sushi restaurant:

Coaching is a professional relationship that helps individuals (clients) produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses, or organizations. Coaching focuses on the present and future and is not counseling or therapy. Although many coaches are experts in their field, they don’t offer advice. Coaches are trained to listen, observe, reflect back, and be fully present to their clients. They believe the client is naturally creative, whole, and resourceful. Coaches guide clients to envision a desired change, set intentions and goals, take action, overcome obstacles, and make the most of their potential.

Is paying for coaching worth it? If you ever worked with a coach who follows this definition of coaching, you’ll have your own evidence. You’ll have experienced the mind-blowing results a coach has helped you achieve.

The money spent on coaching seems a small investment when you see where you were before you were coached, and how your life unfolded after discovering your own strengths and tools through working with a coach.

And yes, like any business, to get paid and make a living as a coach, it requires dedication, continuous learning, and a well-being practice.

Here are some steps I believe can help you become a confident coach who produces results. And let’s bring in my son’s favorite chef and his wife:

  1. Get Certified: While certification isn’t mandatory, it provides credibility and demonstrates your commitment to the profession. I was happy to see that the restaurant met the health codes and loved seeing a little framed certification on the wall from the chef’s cooking school. It could have been a picture of him training with his mother instead of a certificate.
  2. Practice Core Competencies: What makes master coaches so good is their listening skills, their presence, the powerful questions they ask, and how they reflect back—offering a shift in perspective without leading their clients to their own agenda. How many years do sushi chefs spend cooking rice? Blais’ chef had to have incredible listening skills to remember his customers and what they liked, and a beautiful presence with which he presented what he heard Blais wanted.
  3. Detach from the Outcome: It’s not the coach’s job to deliver an outcome. The sooner you let go of trying to help your clients produce results, the sooner you’ll be able to see them create the results and outcomes that are best for them. They’ll pay you for what they want. The chef didn’t stay around the table to see if Blais was happy with the dumplings. Blais could have been full that day. The chef’s job was done the moment he showed up with the dumplings. Of course, Blais (his mom, actually) would leave a nice tip with the check for the experience Blais and his mom had.
  4. Find your Niche: Let people know what to come to you for. Whether it’s career coaching, health and wellness coaching, relationship coaching, life transitions coaching, or anything else, put up a proverbial sign of what you enjoy coaching (with core competencies, you can coach any area, so the niche is not for you as much as for the clients). Something that you have personal experience in will resonate deeply with your clients. Blais took me to his favorite sushi restaurant on this occasion. Not BBQ or Mexican. It matters.
  5. Network and Collaborate: Connecting with other coaches will help you know you aren’t the only coach out there having doubts about your fees. Ask how much others charge. Ask how they get clients. Recommend other coaches to your network of potential clients. There are enough hungry people in the world—not everyone will fit in the little sushi shop that now is overflowing because the word about the chef who pays special attention to his customers has spread.
  6. Offer Extra (even Unreasonable) Value: Provide something special. Like remembering dumplings. Offering free morning meditations that your clients can join via video call. Remembering the clients’ birthdays, sending them a handwritten card—without selling anything. Just saying ‘I see you.’ They will come back to you and bring a friend or two.

In the end, ask yourself, would I pay for what I offer? If you’d never pay to work with a coach and pay them what you’d like to get paid by your clients, how can you expect others will?

If I never attend a concert and spend $100 to see a musician play, how can I expect someone else to pay for me to play?

At the end of our dinner, Blais asked for a check.

“Mama, it’s on me,” he said. He had done an editing job for someone who paid him more than he had expected.

“But, don’t you want to save your money for college?” I asked.

“No. I am confident I can earn more. I know what my clients want, and I know it’s not what the final edit looks like—it’s how it makes them feel.

“And mama,” he added, “you are an amazing coach, and I’d pay a million dollars to work with you!”

Written By Tatiana ‘Tajci’ Cameron A.C.C.
Tajci is a lifelong award-winning musician, well-being coach, author and and Cruise-retreat host. More at TatianaCameron.com

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