Life Coaches: Don’t Make These 21 Common Mistakes

I started coaching this past year.

It was difficult to get my practice off the ground. Tim’s course, classes through the Coaches Training Institute and marketing training online helped. So did my experience running my own immigration law office some years back.

Leaving my job to coach full time was a daring feat.

After nearly a year, I wasn’t able to transition to full-time coaching, but I did acquire new clients, establish a regular clientele and continue getting inquiries about my services.

I got a chance to live my dream, transition back to a regular non-coaching job for now and take many lessons with me for my future return to coaching.

I wanted to share with you the mistakes I made and the insights I learned so that your coaching practice will start on the right foot. Just as a caveat – these are tried and true mistakes I made, not some hypotheticals.

I tripped up and learned; hopefully, you can avoid the steep learning curve with some of these tips. Here are 21 coaching mistakes to avoid as a new life coach:

1) Not Having A Message

I found that not having a message weakened my coaching.

I, in fact, had a strong message – you can rebuild and live your best life after divorce – but didn’t voice it for some time.

There are so many coaches out there – how will a client know you’re the right one for them? Why did you get into coaching? What would you like to tell people if you were saying your last words or plastering your message on a billboard?

What’s your “why”?

Help your clients find you by sharing your message with the exact people who need to hear it.

2) Not Sharing Your Story

Are you shy, or does your past embarrass you?

My divorce sure did, but I found that clients could empathize strongly with my story of heartbreak and life spinning out of control.

Well, here’s the thing; it may have been painful and it may be embarrassing, but transparency and vulnerability will connect with your ideal client. People want to see your flaws, your struggles and your setbacks.

What’s your life story? What’s your struggle? What did you go through?

Don’t underestimate the power of sharing your story to connect and resonate with your ideal client. If you successfully traveled through a difficult life journey, let your future clients know that it’s possible for them, too.

3) Not Focusing Your Efforts

It’s super easy to look around the blogosphere and Internet and be impressed with all the things coaches are doing. Everything looks fancy and creative.

The only problem is that it doesn’t transfer to sales! You have to find what works for you and get serious about that 80/20 rule.

If guest posts work for you, do that.

If YouTube videos are bringing in clients, do that.

If letting your friends and family know that you’re coaching results in clients, do more of that.

If it’s referrals, work on asking your client for referrals.

Don’t do it all. Pick and choose what’s most effective.

4) Not Telling People In Your Real Life

When you get online and find out about the power of the Internet, you literally forget all the real people in your life who might be interested in your coaching.

You don’t have to build up a new tribe of people who you don’t know anything about.

Your best referral source is your friends, family and colleagues. If they don’t know you’re coaching, they can’t hire you or tell their friends about you.

Share your message with real people, not just virtual ones.

5) Not Learning Marketing

Opening social media accounts and getting your website up is not marketing. You have to learn how to promote yourself, build a sales funnel and attract new customers.

Unless you’re Donald Trump, this isn’t natural or easy.

Read marketing blogs, take courses on marketing your services and work on marketing as a regular part of your business. Don’t be the world’s greatest secret life coach – find ways to be seen and discovered by your potential clients.

6) Not Improving Your Coaching Skills

There is a common misconception that coaching is unlike anything else you want to become good at or master.

Just because there are no licenses, no required certifications and no minimum education requirements doesn’t mean you should forego any attempt to get better at coaching or get more skilled at it.

Marketing gurus out there poo-poo education and training. “You don’t need qualifications in the online world – you’re enough. Follow your passion,” they scream.

That sounds nice, but is misleading. What kind of dentist, lawyer or chef do you want?

Exactly – an experienced one who has mastered their craft. Master your craft – attend workshops, keep up with coaching practices and take courses to help you improve.

Tim’s Note: Here is a great resource for coaching books.

7) Not Asking People if You Can Coach Them

Not everyone – okay, almost no one is familiar with coaching or knows that they will benefit from a coach.

Everyone I talk to tells me issues they’re having, challenges they’re facing and frustrations with life. I don’t regularly offer my services.

Or I offer my services as a coach without telling them they are being coached! When someone is presenting you with a challenge or problems, it’s perfectly okay to offer them a solution – your coaching!

8) Not Showing Your Clients How Their Lives Will Change

We tell people what coaching is and we tell people what coaching can do for them without showing them how their lives will improve.

People are not looking to live their best lives or achieve their goals.

They are, but it sounds different for each client. Your prospective market wants a fulfilling job, a trimmer waist, a more mindful mind or a new life after divorce. They talk differently about the results they want.

Use your copywriting and marketing to show clients what they’ll get from working with you. In writing novels and selling coaching services, show don’t tell.

9) Too Much Social Media With Little Results

When you don’t know what to do to market yourself, it’s easy to stick a bunch of quotes on social media.

This is likely one of the most time-consuming and ineffective things you can do. (Tim’s Note – even though I do this occasionally for fun, I couldn’t agree more).

Social media should not be a key part of your marketing plan. Create content that matters. Use social media as a way to share your knowledge and wisdom.

Don’t get caught up in the bells and whistles – use social media to get social with people and build relationships online.

Posting regular updates on social media without interacting with people is like walking into a party and just screaming out something irrelevant every few minutes.

Tim’s Note: I actually think Social Media SHOULD be a key component of your marketing, but as Vishnu alluded to, you need to use it wisely and have a Social Media strategy)

10) Not Sticking With It

A month of no business or no clients will make you want to jump ship and move onto something else.

This is fine, but what do you really want?

Why are you here?

What is your life purpose?

If coaching is your life purpose, stick with it. If it’s what you can see yourself doing and what you’re most passionate about, keep improving and getting better at the marketing.

Consider working with a business coach or marketing coach to get better at selling your services. If it isn’t, you haven’t wasted time or money. Use your skills and abilities in whatever vocation you pursue next.

11) Not Being Consistent With Your Marketing

Do you post on your blog once every six months?

Do you get on Twitter only when the Republican debates are on?

If you pursue your marketing inconsistently, you’re going to be out of sight and out of mind for your potential clients.

Consistency builds trust and reminds your clients that you’re always there for them. It also has a tendency to reflect on your professionalism.

If you tell your clients that you’re going to send a newsletter weekly and you don’t, a client will doubt your credibility and maybe even your ability.

12) Not Communicating With Current And Potential Clients

Do you forget about a client after you’ve worked with them? I’ve personally found following up with clients to be a great way to reconnect with them and work with them again.

If a client has benefitted from your work together, do your best to check in with them on a regular basis.

That may be once every few months or it may be at the end of each year. Even if the client is not going to hire you again, you’ll be at the top of their mind if they are going to refer you to someone else.

13) Not Unleashing Your Clients’ Dreams

Clients have spent a lifetime being “realistic” or been told to stop dreaming. When they come to you, their ideas of what’s possible are limited by their visions and their beliefs.

There may be hidden dreams that your clients have long forgotten about. See if you can probe or inspire your clients to tap into their hidden dreams.

14) Not Challenging Your Clients

In our quest to win repeat business, we don’t take clients to the edge or push back against what they say. Your job as a coach isn’t to get rehired – it’s to help the client live at their edge and go after a life they never thought possible.

If limiting beliefs or limited vision are stopping them from living that life, challenge your clients to get out of their comfort zones and do something different.

It may seem risky and bold, but this has the highest potential pay-off for your client. If they can’t handle it, you might not be the coach for them. If they can handle it, your client is going to soar.

15) Thinking You Know What’s Best For Your Clients

On the other hand, you might step beyond the boundaries of a coach and tell your clients what’s best for them. This is detrimental as well.

Your job isn’t to consult and advise your client. It’s to help them tap into their highest self and pursue their heart’s desires.

Don’t get into the habit of telling your clients what to do or what’s best for them based on your opinion and experiences.

Have your clients be accountable to themselves and their dreams, not yours.

16) Not Working On Your Own Growth

Spend time doing the work on your own personal growth and development.

If you’re going to take coaching seriously, work with a coach yourself – either a personal or business coach.

Not only will you benefit from the coaching, you’ll get a better idea of what good coaching looks like. If you’re not living your highest truth and living your best life, it will be hard to inspire clients you work with to do so themselves.

17) Not Listening To Your Clients

Your clients may be regularly telling you about problems and issues they’re having. You may start seeing patterns, but if you just ignore them, you’ll be doing yourself and your clients a disservice.

If there’s a particular area that’s interesting to your clients or if they’re dealing with the same problem repeatedly, you might want to dive more into the problem and help them identify solutions.

You might mention to your future clients that you’ve found solutions to help people through the exact issues other people have faced.

You might want to offer an audio meditation or online course to help your clients deal with the pervasive issue.

Serving your clients starts with listening to your clients.

18) Not Networking With Other Coaches

The benefit of networking with other coaches is to be a referral source for each other. Knowing coaches who specialize in a field will help you refer a client you think could benefit from a particular type of coaching.

Collaborating with other coaches will also help you come up with better marketing strategies, inspire you with other ideas and have a community support your efforts.

19) Not Building A Tribe

Not everyone out there is a potential client. Not everyone needs your services. Spend time with your ideal clients. Go where they are, online or offline.

Get to know what they do and figure out what activities they’re involved with. The best way to find your ideal client is to be at the places where your ideal client is.

Find common interests, activities, associations and groups that your ideal clients belong to and be in their vicinity. Find them on blogs they read and online networks they hang out at.

20) Not Sharing/Giving Enough

You may feel like you’re giving away the store with free articles, blog posts or even free workshops.

You never lose by giving.

The more you give, the more people are going to seek you out to work with you.

Giving allows others to get a taste of your knowledge and expertise. They get insight into what it’s like to work with you. Share your knowledge freely – there’s no such thing as giving too much.

Whatever you do, don’t do free coaching, as clients will likely undervalue your efforts and overlook the benefits of your coaching.

21) Not Coaching Yourself Through Building A Business

Finally, you have skills – serious ones – to build a business. Many of the points in this post are to remind you of what you can do to build your abilities and your skills.

The only thing that may be preventing you from achieving business success is your own inner blocks and resistance. Use your coaching skills to hold yourself accountable to your dream. Ask yourself the tough questions. Be creative and inquisitive about your business.

Set goals, find processes that work and fix what’s not working.

Coach yourself to business success and professional fulfillment.

Authors Bio

Vishnu writes a popular self-help and relationship blog at Vishnu’s Virtues. He coaches divorcees on letting go of their pasts, discovering their highest purposes and living their dreams.

Tim’s Final Note

Brilliant post Vishnu, thank you because it should help all new and some not so new Life Coaches.

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11 thoughts on “Life Coaches: Don’t Make These 21 Common Mistakes”

  1. Hi Vishnu,

    I thought this post was really helpful, especially since I’m just embarking on my life coaching journey. I appreciate how you wrote this from the heart. Instead of thinking you’ve failed by returning to a ‘normal’ job, you’re plugging along. I’m confident that attitude will be successful for you. Like you said in #10, stick with it, and good things will come!

    Congrats on your journey thus far!


    • hi Eric – Yes, I’m counting on #10 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and found it useful! Also, I”m seeing the many opportunities in the work I do now that will further help me along the journey towards coaching again – which includes training, speaking and leading workshops.

      Wishing you the best on your coaching journey.

  2. Hi Vishnu,

    First of all, I love your blog. Nice to see you posting here!

    Second, this is a very inspiring list. For me, not asking people if I can coach them, and being shy to tell people in real life have both been challenges for me!

    I found that once I created a message that was very special to me and shared my story (two of your other points), it got easier to really “own” what I was doing and start being direct with others about it. That has led to positive results for me.

    Thanks again, great post.

    • Thanks Catherine – enjoyed checking out your blog too and it was great to see you sharing your personal story so powerfully and so well. I can see why naturally it’s leading to your success – our stories have a way of helping our clients relate to us. Another great reminder that message + story are critical. We often think that we’re not that unique or we don’t have a story but we do – we all do. Thanks for sharing your experience and wishing you continued success.

  3. Great post, Vishnu.

    I have been guilty of all of these over the last two years, some more than others, with one exception. I am still going 🙂 This links in to the “why” you spoke of. Persistence is key in this business, and if the whole reason you are in it isn’t understood, isn’t in line with your core values, and isn’t strong enough for you to make big sacrifices along the way, then maybe it isn’t the right choice.

    As you said, there are so many coaches out there doing lots of fancy shiny things, but at the end of the day being a coach is a lifestyle choice. We need to know how much we need to earn, how much we are willing to change our current circumstances to make this work, and how to natch all of this up. It is a massive learning curve for most of us. It means continuous improvement, it needs soldiering on through the tough times, and the one thing I would add to your list, it needs a strong belief in both your own capabilities, and a belief that you CAN change help your clients change their lives for the better.

    • Thanks for your comments, Keith. Love your take on persistence and so awesome that you’re still continuing on the path.

      Love this line too – ” it needs a strong belief in both your own capabilities, and a belief that you CAN change help your clients change their lives for the better.” Excellent point and so true. Belief in ourselves is critical to help us soldier on.

      Tim – we need to change this 22 asap 🙂

  4. Hi Vishnu,

    This blog post has been really useful and come at just the right time for me as I’m just about to launch my coaching business.

    Until quite recently I’ve been really apprehensive about sharing my coaching plans with friends and colleagues etc. In fact, throughout my life coaching study it’s almost as though I’ve been living a double life. I’ve now realised I need to ‘own it’ and not be afraid to talk about my plans and be proud of what I’m doing. This post have further affirmed how important it is for me to do this so thank you! 🙂


    • Yes own it!! You never know who out there is your circle needs your help. The best reference is knowing someone who is doing something you’re looking for. The more people know what you’re doing, the more they can work with you or refer you to people looking for coaching.

  5. oops, I meant to write a comment and I inadvertently asked to join Tim’s newsletter. Bit daft as I am already a member!
    Just wanted to say thank you for these tips. Very useful post! 🙂


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