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What is Coaching in 2021? Step-By-Step Guide

By Luisa

What is coaching? What does it mean to be a great coach? And how can you become one?

If this is something you’re wondering, you’re in the right place. 

Today, you’ll learn:

  • What coaching is and isn’t.
  • Why people hire coaches. 
  • How you can become a coach (and quit your 9-5). 
  • …And so much more.

Ready to dive right in? Let’s go. 

What is the purpose of coaching? 

What is coaching? Here, I’ll explain what the “traditional” school of thought is within the coaching industry… And why it’s not necessarily a great definition today. Instead, I’ll also share why I recommend something that I call “coach-sulting,” which helps clients get way better, faster, and more sustainable results. 

How to define coaching

The traditional form of coaching is when a coach guides a student to learn on their own. It’s a very Socratic form of teaching where the coach asks probing questions, like “How do you feel about that?”

The idea is simple:

That coachees will find their own answers, without the coach pointing them in any direction. It’s not focused on the results a coachee gets — but the act of coaching.

I define coaching a bit differently. 

And what I’ve seen over the past 7 years is that the definition of coaching has evolved in this direction as the industry has grown. 

Coaching today is much more about a combination of coaching and consulting — or “coach-sulting,” as I call it. 

What do I mean by that?

You as the coach guide someone to get the result they want. Instead of having your clients find all the answers themselves, you give them some of the answers so that they can get faster results. (And, of course, you also coach them to keep on achieving those results once they’ve stopped working with you.)

When appropriate, you can share your own experience to illustrate how and what types of results your client can get. For example, a weight coach might say: “I’ve been through this myself. If you want to lose weight at this point, this is what I recommend that you do…”.

While the “old way” of coaching has its merits, coach-sulting is all about helping your clients get results much faster. And that’s why people ultimately want to work with you — to help them get to where they want to be. 

Here, I dive a bit deeper into what coaching is: 

That’s how I define coaching. But why and when do people choose to work with coaches? 

Why people choose to work with coaches 

Fun fact: 1.5 million searches are made every month by people and companies looking for life coaches, business coaches, and executive coaches. And the number of searches is obviously far greater if we count in EVERY coaching niche. 

The thing is, most top performers understand the value of coaching. That’s why people like Steve Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt work with coaches. 

Right now, the coaching industry is almost a three billion-dollar industry. And as more people discover how powerful coaching can be, the industry will only grow. 

Plus, people hire coaches to help them with all kinds of problems. For example, to:

  • Help them improve their health
  • Boost their career
  • Grow their business
  • Improve their mindset 
  • Reduce their stress
  • Find a relationship
  • Make better financial decisions 
  • …And so much more 

(In this post, I give you a list of 100 niches — use it to find your own profitable niche.)

The main reason people hire coaches? They want tailored support to achieve their goals. And as someone who has already achieved that goal, you can help them get there. 

I put together this infographic on the benefits of coaching for your clients. If you have a website, feel free to use it and refer your clients to it whenever they are wondering about the value of coaching (if you do use it on your website, just make sure you link back to luisazhou.com):

What is coaching infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

Coaching vs mentoring 

Now, a question I get from time to time is, “What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring?” 

After all, if both are essentially about supporting someone, what’s the point of coaching? 

And it’s true: You as a coach act as a mentor. But you’re not just a mentor. You support, guide, and keep your students accountable — which is way broader than what a mentor does. 

In contrast, a mentor is someone who offers pro bono support without any guarantee for how much help a mentee will get. It usually takes years to build a mentorship relationship, which makes it far less available to most people.

On the other hand, coaches offer their services to everyone. And because it’s a paid service, students know how much support they can expect. 

So that’s what coaching is and isn’t. But what does a coach actually do? And how do you become a coach (and sell your coaching offers)? Let’s find out. 

What does a coach do? 

Look: I’ve built one 6-figure coaching business, one 7-figure coaching business, and helped 1000+ people start their coaching businesses. If there’s one mistake I see people make when they set out to start a coaching business, it’s that they don’t really understand what makes a coach successful.

Because being a great coach is not about being the most experienced in your field (obviously, you need to have experience) or offering the most calls or support. Instead, what great coaching comes down to one thing:

Do you offer an A-to-Z journey for your ideal clients? 

In other words:

How do you help people start at point A and get to point Z? What does that end result look like? 

For example: 

A relationship coach might offer a roadmap for nice guys who’re always friend zoned to find the right partner.

Or a career coach helps clients who are stuck in dead-end jobs get their dream job. 

That’s the foundation of a great coaching business. The next step is to learn how to coach, a.k.a. how to guide your clients to get to point Z. 

How coaches help clients succeed

Here, the “ABC” of coaching comes in, so three ways in which you as the coach help your clients succeed. 

The first one is: 

“A” for Actionable advice. 

In this step, you create a monthly plan to map out the A-to-Z journey. Let’s say you’re a health coach. Here’s what your monthly plan might look like: 

Month 1 – Help clients focus on eating habits.

Month 2 – Maintain those habits. 

Month 3 – Add an extra strategy that helps clients get even better results. 

This plan is especially helpful for new coaches who are developing their coaching skills and who haven’t helped hundreds of students just yet.

“B” for Belief

If you think about something you wanted to achieve in your life, you know it’s a lot more helpful to have someone in your corner who has achieved the same. As a coach, that’s your job — to help your clients believe that what they want to achieve is possible (even if you can’t guarantee them results).

Back when I started my first online business as a career coach, I didn’t strongly believe that it was really possible to build a business online. I looked at successful people in the field and figured they had something I didn’t have, so I ended up hiring my first business coach. That’s the reason your clients hire you — you’re someone with experience who can help them build confidence in their own abilities. 

“C” for Candor

Finally, as a coach, you offer candor. You have tough conversations and you’re upfront about what clients need to move forward. 

You essentially help your clients uncover what’s going on in their minds so that they can reframe and get results. 

For example, a relationship coach whose client isn’t seeing the results might say, “You came to me to find the love of your life. We mapped out the steps, the first step is to work on your own self-love. Right now, you’re choosing not to feel like you are worthy of love or find someone who respects and loves you.” (This is just an example and works in any industry.) 

Is it something most people want to hear? No, of course not. But your job as a coach is to tell them things even if they don’t love it if it’s what they need. 

Those are the ABCs of coaching, which will help you offer a really great service for your clients. However, coaching also comes with responsibilities for you as the coach. That’s what we’ll look at next. 

The five responsibilities of a coach 

If you take these five coaching responsibilities to heart and master each one of them, you WILL be a great coach. And remember: The better results you can help your clients get, the better testimonials they’ll give you. Which means more clients for you!

Responsibility #1: To lead

You show your clients what the plan looks like right from the start. With this plan, your clients achieve the intended results. 

Responsibility #2: To provide a vision

You tell your clients what’s possible. Case in point: In the first year of my business, I had planned to aim for a $300,000 launch. My coach challenged me and asked me why I didn’t aim for a $1 million launch. I ultimately achieved an $800,000 launch — far better than the $300,000 launch I initially planned for. 

Responsibility #3: To guide

You as the coach are a bit like Google Maps for your clients. You help them plan the exact steps they need to take to get to where they want to be. 

Responsibility #4: To problem-solve

If your client comes to you and says, “This isn’t working, what should I do?” and they’ve done the work you’ve mapped out together, it’s time to put on your problem-solving hat. That’s when you as the coach use your experience to come up with alternative ways to get to the result. 

Responsibility #5: To hold clients accountable 

Finally, your job as the coach is to hold your clients accountable. If they get discouraged by their lack of progress, you need to remind them of the results they want and that they need to do the work to get there. 

That’s how you help your clients get the best results. Next: How can you start your own coaching business? 

How you can become a coach

Now you have an answer to the question, “What is coaching?” 

But how do you then become a coach? 

Good question. I’ve helped hundreds of students start their own businesses. Many, like Ruby who is a relationship coach, get results like this…

client testimonial

The “secret” to these results is simple: A proven strategy. 

Just like talk about in this short video:

Step #1: Find an offer

The first step is to find an offer to sell. What do you have experience in? What skills do you have? That’s something you can coach on.

Like my student Ruby, who was a matchmaker at a leading matchmaking company.

Or Anna, who had achieved a lot in her career and now helps others do the same as a career coach.

Or Ryan, who built his own real estate portfolio before setting up a coaching practice that helps others do the same. 

Ultimately, it comes down to the results you help people get. But even more so, it’s about the results beyond the result.

Let me explain:

Look at Toyota and BMW. 

Toyota is a practical car that gives people the exact results they need — to go from point A to point B with a solid car. 

BMW, on the other hand, costs much more, without probably offering a much better result (not that I’m a car expert). 

The thing is: BMW goes beyond offering a result. It offers a result beyond the result. For example, for people who buy BMWs that might be to show off their status.

The same goes for coaching — if you only offer results, the perceived value of your offers will never get past a certain level.  

To create the BMW version of your industry, ask yourself: 

  • What will my clients have after they finish my program? 
  • Who will my clients be when they have the results? 
  • Why would someone want to buy this? 

For example, health coaching clients want to be healthy and lose weight, sure. However, I speak from personal experience when I say that many of them want to be hot, not just healthy. THAT’s the result beyond the result that they might want. 

Your client probably has some type of an idea or image of who they want to be. (The stylish and successful executive who’s always incredibly confident, the hot person who wears a bikini to the beach without feeling insecure, or the smart and wealthy person who knows exactly how to invest their money.) 

As the coach, this is what your offer builds on.

Step #2: Get your first paying clients

Once you have an offer, the next step is to get clients. 

If you want more tips on how to get clients, check out my guide on how to get coaching clients and these 103 (!) strategies to get clients at all stages of your business. 

Those are the steps to get these types of results…

coaching client result

I’m sharing one of the most effective strategies right now for getting your first paying clients:

Getting interviewed on podcasts.

so money podcast
This is the strategy I use for getting featured on podcasts like So Money.

The strategy is simple:

You pitch podcasts and get in front of your audience. 

And if you’re wondering why a podcast host would want to interview you when you’re just starting out, the reason is simple. They are constantly looking for new people to interview and new and valuable information to share with their audience.

It doesn’t matter how “new” you are in your business, as long as you’re not new to whatever it is you’re doing in your business (AKA you know what you’re talking about, which you do!).

My best tip for finding podcasts? Google search phrases like these: 

“Podcast” + “keyword”

“Top podcasts (year)” + “keyword”

Once you’ve found a few podcasts, use this script to reach out: 

“Hi NAME OF PODCASTER,

My name is (your name) and I am (include something relevant about yourself so the podcaster understands why YOU are the right person to feature on their show). 

I’d love to set up an interview for (name of the podcast). Here are a few topics that I think your audience would love:

  • Podcast topic suggestion 1
  • Podcast topic suggestion 2
  • Podcast topic suggestion 3

Let me know if these would be interesting to (name of the podcast) listeners? 

Best,

YOUR NAME”

And that’s how you can land your first few paying clients. To quote my student Ryan:

“Using Luisa’s scripts and strategies got me on some top podcasts which I didn’t think were possible starting out. I even had podcasters tell me they almost never accept pitches but that mine stood out! Even cooler is that I just got a $1,500 client from a podcast interview.”

Over to you!

There you have it. If you’ve ever wondered “What is coaching?” now you know. 

As a coach, you help your clients get great results with the help of your own skills and experiences. You can have a huge impact while building a business that lets you leave your 9-5. 

Now, I’d love to know:

What’s your #1 question about coaching? 

Let me know in the comments below. 

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The proven blueprint for building a profitable online coaching business that frees you from the 9-5

ABOUT LUISA

Luisa Zhou is the creator of the Employee to Entrepreneur system, which shows ambitious men and women how to build profitable and meaningful online businesses that replace (and exceed) their 9-5 salaries. Fun fact: She’s also a former International Space Station engineer. LEARN MORE

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