A blog for new coaches, consultants and businesses
Setting up your own business after working in an organisation for a long time is a bit like leaving University and looking for a job. You think you will sail into it and people will be banging on your door to work with you from day 1. You have invested in your training, you know you have loads of brilliant experience to offer, but the calls aren’t coming in. There are very few or even no appointments in your diary. What feels worse, is that everyone else seems to be doing great! It can be a shock and knock your confidence in a serious way. I know, I have been there.
Two years ago I left a successful leadership career of over two decades in museums and galleries. I loved leading with a coaching approach, and I was great at helping people to fulfil their potential but I had outgrown the passion I had once had for working in cultural organisations. I wanted a change of career. I wanted to work as a coach. I spent a year training for my coaching qualification and I loved it! But we didn’t really talk about how to get clients and what it would feel like to make that massive change from employee to self-employed coach. In March 2019 I embarked on my new adventure as a leadership coach. I was excited and I felt free! I felt like Nicole Kidman after she got her divorce from Tom Cruise.
Six months later, I had only had two clients. I had contacted all my old contacts and run out of ideas. I felt stuck, fearful, and a bit of a failure to be honest. The blank diary had filled me with fear and I temporarily gave up. I took on some temp work and it took me another six months or so to work out what to do next. Fast forward to now, I am doing well in my coaching business, and as well as leadership coaching, I run group coaching programmes for people going through change and transition.
If you are feeling like I felt back in 2019 are my tips for dealing with the fear of the blank calendar:
- Know that it is normal to take a while to find your feet, and be kind to yourself. We can feel that everyone is so much more successful than us, but new businesses take a while to get off the ground. And starting to think like a business person rather than an employee is a shift which can take time and conscious effort. Being OK with that transition is important.
- Put some structure into your day. If you have come from a situation where your day is filled with meetings, reports, team work and days full of appointments, suddenly working on your own can be a shock. Work out what you want your week to look like and put things in your diary for those hours. That could be connecting with likely clients on social media, reading or research, marketing, training, whatever. I get dressed for my working day like I did when I worked in cultural organisations, put my lipstick on, and am sitting down by 9.15 each morning. And the best thing is, I can still have a bit of flexibility if I fancy the odd day off in the sun – after all, that flexibility and freedom is one reason I set up on my own.
- Connect with others, from potential clients to peers to friends. I have a facebook group called Brilliant Transitions with close to 500 people in it who are possible clients, recommenders, contacts. I love leading that group and enjoy posting and connecting with like minded people, hearing from them and helping them. I have also built part of my business in that group. I am getting better at having the right kind of conversations on linkedin. I got comfortable with being visible and putting myself out there. I was given some very good advice by my coach: no conversations, no sales. That is totally right.
- Find a mentor or coach. I overcame my fear of the empty calendar with some help of a business coach, who helped me get out of my own way, build my confidence, and raise my visibility. More important that than, I created a momentum which has never left me. I no longer spend days gazing at my calendar, I get on with things, even when there are obstacles in my way.
Do these things, and bit you will get into a rhythm that works for you, your business and your life. Keep going, it will be worth it in the end. You will have the courage and confidence to fill your own calendar and grow the business you dream of. Good luck.
My business is Kim Gowland Coaching. I work with cultural leaders to help them thrive in their roles. I am also a positive change and transitions coach, helping people to fulfil their personal and professional potential and create their best lives and careers. If you are a new coach or business and need help with that transition, then get in touch.
Join my Brilliant Transitions facebook group here