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Wendy Buckingham / Creator, Life Coaching Professionally
If you are trying to decide who your ideal client is and, therefore your coaching niche or specialty, you'll find lots of information and tips on this page. There is a useful life coaching niche quiz, to help you make the right choice and discussion on whether, in fact, you need to have a niche.
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Life coaching as a body of work covers a vast array of subject areas from numerous personal issues to career choices, corporate and executive coaching. Depending on your expertise and passion, you could choose any one of these areas to define your ideal client, as your coaching niche.
I agree with the school of thought that the skill of life coaching is, in the main, generic. That is, any well-trained life coach should be able to work with any client in any situation, provided they are a good fit.
However, many coaches choose to narrow their ideal client down to a specific area of coaching where they have real interest and additional experience and expertise.
The coaching niche you choose can be a sub-niche within any of the four main coaching fields (personal, business, career and corporate or employment coaching). You can also choose to make group or goals coaching your specialty within any niche.
Even before they start coach training, some coaches know who their ideal client, will be. But if that is not you, the chances are that, in the beginning, you will take on all-comers just to get experience and a feel for what it's really like to coach.
Then as you become more confident and identify the type of client you best like working with, your ideal client will evolve and can explore your niche options.
You'll find it's all really the principles of life coaching applied to a particular situation or goal that the client brings to you.
I have rarely had a client who came to me with one specific, narrow issue which didn't spill over into coaching about another.
So if you are at that point of "choosing your life coaching niche", my suggestion is to be wary of being too narrow in your definition. By all means “identify the need” or “identify the pain” as you will often be advised by niche experts, but realise that the separation is rarely, if ever, that simple. Don't be pressured into to choosing a niche just for the sake of it. Do your research and let it evolve.
And choosing a niche because it is one where you may make a lot of money should not be the only reason but choosing a specialty that pays well is a consideration.
Here are four coaching niche quiz questions to ask yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. Each is designed to be a prompt that helps you define the niche that will work best for both you and delivery your ideal clients.
When you answer this question, include such things such as:
Whatever your education or work-life experience, this could be a factor in choosing where to specialise.
Ask yourself: “What experience or qualifications do I bring to the coaching experience for the client in addition to my coach training?”
I must emphasise life experiences are not enough to be a credible professional coach. Your experience is your experience and you can't coach effectively if that is your only claim to being a coach. You have to remember it is the client's experience, not yours. It may help you be a mentor to people with a similar experience, but coaching is a specific skill and you need to be properly trained to give your clients true value.
You may feel your vocation is to work with a certain type of client, but are those clients people who can afford you? For instance, having a passion for helping single mothers on welfare increase their confidence is great and noble but can they afford the fees you need to earn to make your coaching business viable?
Sometimes it is better to pick a related profitable client niche that may appeal to you. For example in this case, a niche of "parenting for step-parents" could be quite lucrative. Then you could offer group coaching free or at a really low fee to those single mums on welfare you'd love to help but are not likely to have the money to pay you much.
I used to goals coach pro bono with a group of recovering drug addicts because although they couldn't pay, it was close to my heart and very rewarding.
Here is an example: Let's assume you choose to be a career coach, and call yourself just that. If you do, you will just be one of a big crowd competing for clients.
To stand out from the crowd you could narrow down to a specific career demographic that resonates with you - for example, school leavers, people who have experienced redundancy or Mums returning to the workforce.
You will then become known as an expert in a particular branch of career coaching.
Here are four basic coaching specialties s that most more specific coaching niches come under. They can often overlap and within them many sub-niches or can be created.
As I’ve indicated, all niches basically use life or personal coaching skills. If your main niche is personal coaching you might choose to specialise in any of a myriad of sub-niches such as relationships, divorce, health, communications, parenting, teenagers, health and so on.
You can read more about what's involved in personal coaching and its niches as well as some useful case studies and a way to help clients with that ubiquitous but important weight loss goal.
As I've already mentioned, this is one of the biggest coaching niches and covers a wide area of career and job issues.
The sub categories here can include executive, leadership and management coaching both for small and large companies and recruitment agencies. If you have the right background you might choose to specialise with individuals looking for career help in a specific area such as health or finance.
"Moving on from redundancy" coaching is another career niche with loads of possibilities as is school leaver and student coaching.
I have more on becoming a career coach and the various career niches. Also these Career Coaching Case Studies will give you a good idea of how some of the sessions can go.
Business owners often need help with things such as staff relationships, succession, delegation, even work life balance and family issues. Your job as their coach is to help them clarify their business direction and help them work through any obstacles and challenges. Again, if you have the right background you may also help them in a mentor or consultants role with the actual running of their business.
Personally I‘ve found that most small business owners know what needs to be done business-wise to solve their problems or grow their business. They just need help overcoming overwhelm and support sorting out their priorities so they can move forward.
I discuss what it takes to be a small business coach and where you might specialise. I've also shared a few of my Small Business Coaching Case Studies to give you an insight into some common topics.
Workplace coaching, where you might work for a salary or on contract, can be one of the most interesting and profitable niches to explore.
To work credibly and effectively in the corporate environment, you need to understand the culture and the issues executives and managers face and preferably have either worked at executive level or be extremely familiar with it. And, of course, like any business niche, it will usually involve some personal growth coaching. Read how Workplace Coaching works and where to find the opportunities and niches.
This is also one area where having a recognised coaching certification and/or credential is likely to be important to give you credibility when you apply for a position.
Whatever your niche, you can also make a specialty of group, team and goals coaching within that niche. For instance if your career sub-niche is school-leavers, you could form a group from those about to finish their education to help them define their first career goal.
And if your niche is corporate coaching you can coach a group of employees with what they need to do to reach the company's goals.
You can get together a group who want life, career and even business coaching. I had a colleague with an accountancy background who specialised in holding coaching groups for financial planners.
You can read more in depth tips about both Team Coaching and Group Coaching and the specific skills required for groups that meet physically and online.
Coaching clients to achieve their goals can also be applied to any of the main niches. The client or group of clients comes to you wanting help to choose and/or set some goals or outcomes.
Or they roughly know the goal they want to achieve and need to get clarity and put a goal plan in place to make it really happen.
Either way, you will find my book Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching, a great resource. Here also are some of my own Case Studies On Goal Achievement. Each provides a great example of how the process works.
Cindy Schulson of Marketing from Within is probably one of the world's most experienced authorities for helping new and established life coaches identifying a speciality to work within and then teaching the skills to attract the clients. Her free training Discover Your Ideal Niche is a real gift.
Of course you can! And there are some very successful generalist life coaches with no specific niche. I was one of them.
But even they usually have a specialty in the way
they coach, or the type of client they favour. I only ever called myself a life coach but had pages on my website that explained how I would coach clients on the many personal, career and small business issues.
Having said that, it has become more important to be able to have a specific niche or niches in today's crowded life coaching market. However, unless you know and are confident about your niche, it can be a mistake to struggle to define your ideal client right from the start.
Unfortunately many coach trainings press their aspiring coaches to come up with a niche during their training, often leading to obscure or unauthentic niches - just to be different.
The skill-set is the same for all clients - asking the right questions, helping the client with setting, planning and achieving goals and finding the underlying issues so that solutions can be discovered.
The background, experience and understanding from which questions are asked by the coach and how the answers are listened to,
understood and answered, can be equally important.
For instance, a Life Coach with a therapy background may understand the personal issues, but be totally out of depth with the language, politics and needs of the corporate or business world or coaching executives. Conversely those who choose the niche of business coach because of their background, also need to have the training be able to handle the personal issues that will invariably crop up.
This is where being able to offer a combination of coaching and mentoring, even consulting can often have the edge.
I hope this has helped you get clearer about the niche and specialty possibilities there are. And do read (below) how some coaches went about defining their niche.
Do tell us about your niche and how you came to choose it.
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