Should You Get a Coach?

How to navigate the good, bad, and ugly of the industry.

This is Bye, Social Media!, where you can learn everything you need to build a thriving solo-business independent from social media.

If you‘re new to the newsletter, you can sign up for it here:

Should You Get a Business Coach?

Have you ever thought about getting a business coach? Did that immediately solicit an eyeroll from you, because all you know about this industry are the cringe-worthy motivational LinkedIn posts with emoji vomit all over them?

Large parts of what you see in the coaching industry online is BS - or even a scam. There are thousands and thousands of (business) coaches out there, some promising you a chill lifestyle working 2 hours per day, nay week, nay in your life. All you need is their course for 2497 or 4444€$. 

Coaching is an unregulated industry and you can pretty much sell anything with little repercussions. However, good coaches also exist and when you work with a great one, it can be transformational.

So, what do you do in those moments when you really could use some help? How do you find a good coach? I’m exploring that with the help of Lisa Robbin Young in this edition of the newsletter.

This is a longer edition of the newsletter and you want to put earmark this for future reference. Lisa - helpfully - goes into depth with her insights.

This edition explores the following questions in depth:

  1. When is it a good time to get a coach?

  2. How can you find a good business coach?

  3. What is a good fee range for a business coach?

  4. What are things to be aware of interacting with the business coaching world online? (aka how to steer clear of the BS)

Meet the Expert

Lisa Robbin Young is a coach to creative entrepreneurs.

I found her work through a series on the Marketing Muckraking podcast. In it, her and the host explore the questionable business practices of the personal development, coaching, and business coaching industry. It’s illuminating, I highly recommend you check it out.

If you’ve ever wondered why the courses by guru entrepreneurs aren’t working for you, the podcast has good answers for you.

Beyond that, I appreciate her overall approach to help entrepreneurs create a business that works with how they’re wired. It’s a breath of fresh air against the formulas we so often hear when it comes to business.

Should You Get a Business Coach?

1. When is it a good time for a solopreneur to get a business coach?  

While I think it's a good idea to have a coach regularly (or often),  "when" is less about timing and more about readiness.

It's a good time WHEN...

  • you're ready to ask for and accept help

  • you're coachable (meaning you can hear things you don't necessarily like AND are willing to push back when a coach suggests something that might feel out of alignment or integrity for you)

  • you've got a budget for help

  • you're willing to commit to the term of the contract

  • you're looking for someone to help you make decisions, NOT to tell you what to do

  • you're not looking for a miracle, magic pill, or silver bullet

Now, having said all that, let me point out that the term of a contract can be one session. Sometimes you just need a tune-up. A coach doesn't solve your problems, they help you see the bigger picture and ask you powerful questions so that YOU can make the decisions to solve your problems. Coaches are not therapists, consultants, teachers, or trainers. Sometimes a coach can offer some of those services, but a potential client needs to be clear about what they are expecting before they step into a coaching relationship.

Remember: you are HIRING them, so YOU are the boss! You need to know what the job description is for this person you're hiring BEFORE you choose them. Be willing to interview and ask hard questions of them. 


2. How can you find a good business coach? What are signs of quality that people should look for?

"Good" is a judgment and relative term. Which takes me back to that first point. You need to be CLEAR on what you want from a coach before you employ their services. Then, during your coach search process, you can compare them to the criteria you've set for yourself. That's what makes for a good business coach - someone who can work the way you need them to work on the things that matter most to you.

I am an effective, results-oriented coach, but I'm not for everyone. I do my best work with solopreneurs, creatives, and micro business owner that are agile enough to make decisions quickly in their company. Particularly folks who are the face of their brand. I'm direct, tell the truth in love, and can be your biggest cheerleader. 

Have I worked with big-name music superstars? Yup. But that's not something I do all the time. Have I worked with folks that are just getting started? Sure, and there's a "slice of a slice" of those folks that I'm best suited to work with. Some people want someone who aligns with their faith walk or spiritual practice, regardless of the results I could get. 

Be clear on what you want and be willing to say no if the fit isn’t there. Don’t settle.

I've had to turn clients away after a few sessions when it was clear we weren't compatible. That happens sometimes. You need to be willing to admit that truth to yourself AND a potential coach. A good coach will work with you to try to resolve any personality conflicts that come up, but sometimes things just aren't a good fit. If that's the case, then they should also be willing to dissolve the relationships amicably... that could mean there's a cancellation fee, but that should be clear in their contract terms.

As you're building out your list of criteria, think about what a strong, healthy working relationship looks like for you. Remember to consider things like how you prefer to communicate with folks. Do you want communication between sessions? Some coaches swear by tools like Voxer, while others prefer email. Are you looking for someone to respond quickly (same day/within the hour), or are you able to navigate a longer response time? What about weekends and holidays?

Do you want someone who doesn't swear? Who is punctual and always on time? Are YOU able to be punctual and always on time? Really consider what makes for a good personality match, not just a fit for the kinds of results they can deliver.

And about those contracts...
Most coaches will have some kind of contract for initial engagements - and many will have them for ongoing retainers. I don't always have a contract, it depends on the nature of the work. Anytime the engagement is for more than a single session, there needs to be a written agreement as to who is doing what and what the expectations are. It doesn't need to be loaded up with "legalese", it can be a simple email exchange. Just save the emails so that you have a "paper trail" in case there are issues later.

It's totally acceptable (and probably a good idea) to have any contract reviewed by a legal professional you trust. ESPECIALLY if it's high ticket or long-term coaching. If you can't afford to pay an attorney for an hour of their time to review the contract, you probably don't have the budget for coaching.

Lastly, ASK around. There are plenty of sites that talk about the worst offenders in the online coaching world. If you're working locally, get referrals to other people in your area to learn from their clients about how they work and what their strengths are. Check their business with the BBB in town. That won't solve every issue, but it can help prevent a lot of them.


 3. In a world of "invest in yourself“ and 250,000$ masterminds - what is a good fee range for a business coach?

There's no one answer to rule them all with this question. #SorryNotSorry

There are lots of factors that go into a coach's fees, not the least of which is their personal Enoughness Number. I may charge less than someone else of equal ability because I live in rural Mississippi, or I may charge a LOT more because I live in San Francisco. Fees can and will range wildly. Whether or not it's "worth the investment" depends a bit on you.

I don't say that to guilt folks into "doing the work" or "wanting it bad enough", but rather to recognize that what one person thinks is amazing, another person will think is exorbitant. You're always "too expensive" for someone... even if that "expensive" isn't about money. I may be willing to pay for the experience of driving a luxury car when someone else thinks that's just excessive.

So the better question, to me, is "what is a good budget for ME when I'm thinking of hiring a coach?"

Because, you know, you can't control them. You can only set your own expectations. 😎

MANY years ago, I heard a guideline that I still use to this day: 3-6% of your income (or potential income). When you look at how much money your company makes in a year (or is projected to make), then about 3-6% of your income is a good place to start with allocating money for professional development.

If you're only bringing in $10k a year, that's only $300-600...for the year.

When you are in the early growth stages of your business, it's not uncommon to take on some debt to "invest in yourself" as you said. But those early investments need to be what I call "needle movers" - things that will move the needle on lead generation, income generation, or business development. Yes. Mindset IS important, but when you've only got $600 to invest, we need to be judicious about what's really important right now and what's just mental masturbation. With few exceptions, taking on debt to further fund anything related to personal/professional development is often not prudent at this early stage.

I know. I know. Here I am, a coach, telling folks to NOT invest in a coach. Before you're bringing in a living wage, there are PLENTY of DIY resources to get you up and running that will fall inside that 3-6%: libraries offer plenty of digital content you can access from anywhere. There's online and offline training galore that doesn't have to cost an arm, a leg, and your firstborn! And there are plenty of free and low-cost groups - digital and in-person, that you can tap into. Avail yourself of these resources!! Then, as the business grows, you can invest more because that 3-6% will be a bigger chunk of change!

So, maybe you'll invest in a networking membership, or hire a coach for a single session to work on a specific problem. Or maybe that money is better spent on an online course to help you learn a specific skill that will "move the needle" in your business. Get really clear about what you NEED for the year, and don't let that slick bro-marketer woo you off track. 

They're essentially saying that they know better than you where you need to put your money. I'm pretty sure they don't.

Remember when I said "projected income? Let me be clear on this. I am not inviting you to over-inflate your projections just so you can allocate more money to professional/personal development. What I'm saying is this: If you can clearly see that your business is on track to make significantly more money this year than it did last year (or you had a surprise bump in revenue during this year, then you can use that (conservative) estimate as the basis for your 3-6%. So if it genuinely looks like you're on track to 10x your income and hit six figures, then go ahead and budget $3,000-6,000 for the year. But I still wouldn't advocate that you spend it all on day one!

Disclosure: In my pay-for-results Incubator, sometimes our clients pay a monthly retainer that might be higher than that 3-6% guideline because they are in early growth stages of business and we are also doing work inside their companies for them at subsidized rates. Anything from marketing to operations to business model development. As such, I am often paid little to nothing for my coaching services because we are applying their retainer to the hands-on tasks being handled inside their company. Then, as their business grows, we'll receive a percentage of their Real Revenue when it's above the monthly retainer.

So, like I said, there aren't a whole lot of reasons to go into debt to work with a coach!


4. You’ve spoken about the unhealthy tendencies in the online coaching world. What is something more people should be aware of when interacting with the business coaching world online?

Coaching is an unregulated industry. That means anyone can call themselves a coach and start charging for it.

And, as I mentioned before, there's a difference between therapy, coaching, consulting, teaching, and training. You need to be licensed to be a therapist. You don't need a license for coaching. YOU need to be clear on what you're asking for so that the coach can be honest about what they can provide. Be skeptical of anyone that says they can do it all, and check their credentials. I don't think a good coach needs to have a certification or a license, but they should certainly have a mountain of experience to give you any level of confidence in their abilities. 

When I launched my coaching practice, I had already been coaching inside direct sales companies as a team leader. I took a coaching course as part of my leadership development. I had years on the books as a coach before I started charging money. And when I started, I limited my practice to people in the direct sales industry because THAT was what I knew well. I had decades of experience dealing with the ups and downs of that industry. Then, as my skills increased (and my rates!), I opened the doors to other types of entrepreneurs. NO ONE can coach everyone. If they say they can, they haven't done the work of knowing who their target market really is. RUN!

Remember that testimonials always show someone (or their offer) in their best possible light. It's their highlight reel. Very rarely will a coach publicize their failures or horror stories. You have to go looking for them. If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. Ask around.


5. Anything else you wished I had asked you? 

In your email to me you said something about steering clear of guru land. The reality is that you CAN'T - because everyone has been impacted by these "pioneers" of online marketing. You need to arm yourself with an understanding of their tactics because most of their tactics don't HAVE to be harmful when used appropriately.

Can a countdown timer be deceptive or manipulative? Sure, but it can also help people recognize how much time they have left to make an educated decision or save up for something they really want.

Can a "fast action bonus" be used to create a high-pressure sales situation? You bet! But bonuses can also be used in ethical ways... like helping your client tackle an issue they've raised that wasn't something you'd considered when you created your offer in the first place. Sometimes I'll offer one of my courses as a coaching add-on bonus when I know the potential client needs it.

Many of the tactics we rail against are because of some manufactured scarcity or emotional pull that's designed to manipulate us. ICK! But when the manipulation is removed, most of those same tactics can be quite beneficial.

It doesn't have to be either/or when it comes to most of the tactics you've seen the gurus use. It's about understanding the motivation and intention behind their use and deciding for yourself whether or not that's in alignment/integrity for YOU.

I’ve had two types of interactions with coaches. One was with an executive coach who was really worth the investment I made. She helped me grow by leaps and bounds.

The other was with online business communities and coach-coaches. Eyeroll. Total waste of my time and money, which goes back to Lisa’s point. If it sounds too good, it probably is. And if the “transformation” they’re offering is vague, they’re likely not offering anything tangible.

One last note: A coaching agreement is really helpful to hammer out expectations as well as confidentiality and data protection (especially if you communicate via email, messaging apps, or any platforms).

Happy Marketing,

Johanna 📣

Ways to Work With Me

When you’re ready, here are the ways I can support you with your marketing:

The Marketing Plan Guide walks you through making your own, personalized marketing strategy. It comes with exercises and step by step instructions that give you clarity and break down marketing strategy into bite-size chunks. Follow the link above for a preview of the guide at the bottom of the site.

Show Me Your Work - my 1:1 service where we solve your marketing challenges together. Get feedback on your marketing strategy, infuse your copy with life, or make your newsletter fun and not a weekly chore.

The Marketing Plan Bundle gets you both of the above at a 50€ discount.

More From Bye, Social Media!


or to participate.