Coaching is an increasingly popular profession with the market demand for trained coaches increasing year by year.
In turn, coaching has remained an attractive qualification to train for among people who are looking to make more of an impact on the people around them. These might be colleagues, team members, existing clients, or their own potential coaching clients. It could even be for the greater good of society.
But once you qualify as a coach, what are the main paths for how you might work as a coach. What are the options open to you?
Whilst, in one sense, every coach finds their own unique way to work as coach, the options can really be boiled down to five main avenues, or career paths.
The 5 main ways to work as a coach after qualification are:
Independent coach – self-employed
Internal coach within an organisation
Associate coach for an agency
Add-on coaching services to an existing service
Social impact coach
In this article, we will look at each option.
Work as an Independent Coach
Probably the most popular option for coaches after qualification is setting up as an independent coach.
The might be as a life coach, executive coach or a coach specialising in a particular field such as health, relationships, career or even creativity coaching. In a sense, the options are limitless and we have trained coaches who have gone on to coach in every conceivable area of life.
Just a few examples of coaches we have trained over the years include Victoria Smith-Murphy, Hans Schumann, Amy Wilkinson, Liz Goodchild, Kokoro Consultance by Assunta Cucca, Freya Blom and Leap Career Coaching with Laura Kingston.
Each of the coaches above developed their own practice, their own unique approach and their own way of getting clients.
In addition, many coaches use coaching as a bedrock for a business that offers more than just coaching – this could be a fusion of coaching, training, leadership skills, online education, consultancy, events, community and so much more. Coaching becomes the DNA of the business and allows for many others approach to be built around it.
A great example of this is Sonia Gill who trained with Animas in 2011 and who went on to create one of the UK’s preeminent leaderships skills training companies for headteachers, Heads Up. Another example is Catherine Watkin who trained as a coach with Animas and then blended these skills with her former career in sales to create a business that helps heart-centred entrepreneurs sell more authentically. Sarah Longfield combines coaching with facilitation and online training for her creative coaching practice. And a final example is Nicola Huelin who created MPower to help female entrepreneurs thrive.
There are many more examples but this gives a smattering of what’s possible
Of course, what all of these coaches have in common is that they have taken the route of self employment which brings with it all the pros and cons of running your own business and building your own practice.
As a self-employed coach you often become a mix of coach, marketer, content creator, social media expert and administrator all in one! Many coaches love this diversity and variety and find it invigorating. For others, though, it can feel overwhelming and scary. It is wise to be honest with yourself about how that would feel before fully committing to a path like this. As the Oracle of Delphi said, “Know thyself!”
As the Oracle of Delphi said, “Know thyself!”
Building your own business gives you the freedom (and responsibility) to think about the big, beautiful things like vision, purpose and values but also all the core drivers of your business like who you want to serve, what services you want to create, how you want to work in the day and how much you’ll charge.
Building a practice isn’t easy and it can take several years to create a very consistent business, though we’ve seen it achieved quickly too. The key to it is enjoyment and the love of what you do so that you can pursue passionately through all its ups and downs.
Work as an Internal Coach
From self-employed to employed coach, we will now explore the internal coach role.
You might already be familiar with the concept of an internal coach, sometimes called a workplace coach. The internal coach is employed role within an organisation wither full-time or part-time.
Many organisations have created dedicated positions for coaches in recent years, as staff’s need for help in overcoming professional hurdles has become more apparent.
An internal coach usually works in one of 2 ways:
1) One pathway into internal coaching is taking on a dedicated coaching role within an organisation. This person would see individuals or teams from within the company they work for, and coach them around the roles, responsibilities, performance and even wider personal issues.
The benefit to the company and the staff here is the coach’s closeness to the company culture, and the sheer proximity of the coach to their subjects. The coach may also get to know their subjects outside of the coaching sessions and get a more 360 degree view of them as a person and an employee.
This coaching might also include some elements of training, employee development work, or mentoring, depending on the role.
2) The second option for the internal coach is for the organisation to allow them to dedicate some time from their formal role to coach other people within the organisation. Sometimes this can be a day or two per week and so can be substantial.
This is typically done cross-functionally so that the coach is not directly involved in coaching people they manage ore report to. However, each organisation will manage its own arrangements based on its size and capacity. Certainly, small organisations who run this form of internal coaching might find some dual roles need to be navigated by the coach and coachee.
Internal coaching has been widely adopted by large organisations. Here in the UK, the UK civil service has a large and robust coaching function as does the National Health Service. But internal coaching is becoming a worldwide practice with more and more organisations employing coaches for employee wellbeing and performance.
Though not strictly internal coaching, we are seeing the increasing use of coaching as a management style. Moving from a more authoritative style of leadership, a collaborative coaching style relationship between the leader and team members enables a more personalised style of teamwork. Coaching team members can bring out the best in individuals and create flexible and talented teams, pulling together in pursuit of team goals.
Work as an Associate Coach
For many coaches nowadays, a compromise between building an independent business and working as an employed coach is the associate coach role.
Whilst the associate coach, like the independent coach, is self-employed, the difference is significant in that they become a freelance coach within an organisation that provides clients and pays the coach a fixed fee.
This has pros and cons, of course.
One the one hand, the coach no longer has to give any thought to marketing, to selling their services, to focusing on a niche market, to creating content for social media and so on. And for many coaches, that can be a relief.
The downside is that fees are typically significantly lower than private practice, with the parent organisation charging the clients a much higher fee and paying the coach a proportion. In addition, many coaches come to love the idea of building their own brand and serving a particular market.
That said, this does not have to be either/or. Many coaches balance an associate portfolio with their own private practice.
Indeed, for many coaches, this hyrbid approach can provide the best of both worlds with the associate coaching work providing the bread and butter of their work and freeing them up to be more creative with their independent work.
Most agencies will require a full professional credential held with one of the coaching associations in order to work with them, unlike some of the other options we are looking at here, such as adding on coaching to your existing service.
Associate coaching is a great option for coaches who want to coach but don’t want to be fully self-employed, nor add on their services to an existing offering. Not everyone enjoys the challenge of trying to find clients for themselves, and the agency cuts out this step of the process.
Add Coaching Services to an Existing Business
Adding coaching onto an existing service is becoming increasingly popular. This is particularly true for therapists of all sorts who are well-placed with an existing client-base to introduce coaching approaches.
Holistic practitioners seeking to expand their offering can add coaching to their list of services to better guide their clients through the practice. For instance, yoga teachers might train as a coach to better move students through their programme of lessons.
This type of coaching does not need to be offered as a specific ‘add on’ service, instead appearing as an unnamed integrated benefit. In this way, coaching presents as part of the whole service, and makes up some of the ‘x-factor’ that you offer to your clients.
Alternatively, in creating a package of services to sell to your clients, a regular coaching session can often be worth its weight in gold to people needing help in ordering their thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, and aligning their behaviours to match.
A great example of this approach is Natasha Harris who combines coaching, therapy, yoga and other forms of complementary health in her practice, Mind Body & Soul Energy.
For instance, a language teacher might add a coaching session to their lesson programme to address any issues or barriers the client might feel in completing their set number of lessons. Ditto a dance teacher or tennis trainer may find more people stay the course with the addition of a couple of short 121 coaching sessions with participants.
Work as a Social Impact coach
The final option is not so much a career option but rather an avenue for coaches to do additional meaningful work. We’ve noticed over the years how many coaches don’t necessarily want to change their career or build a business but just want to coach in a way that makes a difference.
Many of our coaches go on to coach voluntarily within social impact organisations to make such a difference.
Social impact organisations are those which pursue positive and sustainable social change, such as bringing children out of poverty, addressing environmental issues, or charities working for health and wellness.
Coaching for an organisation like this has the potential to be an extremely varied and challenging role, but also an hugely rewarding one. Some organisations like this take on paid employees, so if social impact work appeals to you, don’t discount this as a option before you thoroughly explore the sector.
As a social impact coach, you might coach people within the community the organisation seeks to improve. For example, disadvantaged youth, those suffering from illnesses, or communities striving to improve their environmental performance.
Alternatively, you may be required to coach members of the organisation itself to improve clarity and vision in the network’s strategies and goals.
Rather than take on a full-time position as a volunteer social impact coach, you may choose to allocate a portion of your professional time and resources to an organisation that does social impact work that particularly resonates with your values and beliefs.
Some of our coaches and faculty work regularly with organisations like Spark Inside, taking coaching to prisons, Yes! Futures, using coaching with young people, and Macmillan Cancer Trust, using coaching with cancer patients. In addition, Animas runs its own projects such as Creating Space for teachers. Indeed, we ran a virtual summit on the topic of social impact coaching, videos from which can be viewed at this YouTube channel playlist.
You could even choose to coach disadvantaged people in your own community. You don’t need to travel too far to find good causes that need your coaching support.
So, there we have it. 5 main ways of working as a coach after qualification.
Within these roles, there are plenty of ways to expand how you coach. The sky’s the limit around who your client is and what their chosen topic for coaching will be.
This list of 5 ways to work as a coach is only the beginning.
Ask yourself, how do I want to work as a coach? Whatever your answer is, there will be a pathway to it.