29 Jun, 2011
Coach In The Spotlight – Sarah Fraser
Sarah Fraser qualified through The Coaching Academy programme and has enthusiastically agreed to share her coaching experience, so we have put her in the Coaching Hot Seat. Here is Sarah’s story:-
The coaching seed is sown
My first introduction to coaching came in 2000 when, whilst working in marketing at Philips, I was selected to participate in their talent programme – a one-week personal development course during which we were coached individually and learned to coach each other. I remember learning how to actively listen for the first time in my life! After the course, I was asked to coach new talent coming into the company.
When I first applied for The Coaching Academy’s free weekend course in 2008 I actually had no intention of becoming a full-time coach. With the recession, many of my marketing projects had been cut and I was simply looking for some new mental stimulation. Coaching seemed like a good choice – after all it could always help me be a better manager.
Finding my passion
After that taster weekend I was hooked and signed up for the Diploma in Personal Performance Coaching. That’s when the real magic started to happen! The further I got into the course the more I felt like I’d found my true passion. I threw myself whole-heartedly into the experience, travelling from Amsterdam to every Accelerator Day and clocking up more than 70 practice coaching sessions along the way.
In 2009, I put myself forward for redundancy – at once both the scariest and most exciting thing I’d ever done. I still remember the first time I said out loud that I was going to become a coach. It was daunting to hear myself utter those words, but I felt I was right to take the risk. And I’d had such great feedback from my practice clients, helping them make major breakthroughs in their lives, that I felt confident in my potential to become a great coach.
The redundancy package gave me the financial security to focus on finalising my studies and developing my business plan. This resulted in a ‘distinction’ for the Diploma (Jan 2010) and a well-researched business plan for launching my coaching business in London, having decided with my husband that we would move there in 2010.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, as early in 2010 my husband was offered a not-to-be-missed job opportunity down the road from our home in Amsterdam. After much reviewing of pros and cons we agreed he should take the job. This of course meant that my business plan was now rather out of sync with my actual situation! But with the help of my coach I was able to re-think my approach and tailor my plan towards the local market.
In May 2010 I officially registered my coaching company at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. My initial focus was to build a solid base of private clients, targeting the expat market. I work on a variety of topics including career change, building confidence and adjusting to expat life, and I find that the name of my company attracts people wanting to get a more positive outlook on life. I’m happy with the number of private clients I have today.
For the immediate future my goal is to maintain a steady stream of private clients and increase the coaching I do within organisations. Philips and Heineken have hired me as a freelance coach and I’ve been running workshops at the US Consulate in Amsterdam. I aim to grow my corporate coaching experience further and have submitted pitches to various other companies in The Netherlands. I find there’s not such a huge difference between coaching within a company and coaching privately – people are still people. The main challenge seems to lie in the length of time it takes to simply get accepted into a corporate coaching role. Here I’ve had to balance my expectations considerably and learn a little patience!
I’m a big believer in continuing my professional development. In 2010 I became an NLP Master Practitioner and in 2011 I will get MBTI certified. Continuing to learn and add extra techniques and approaches to my toolkit helps me to increase my value to clients. That’s good for them and it’s super rewarding for me too!
My two cents
If you’re planning on becoming a coach I would advise you to get coached yourself on what you really want, what you value most about a coaching career and what you will need to sacrifice along the way. Once you’ve got that clear, don’t give up! I’ve met with lots of entrepreneurs (I network like mad!) who’ve all said that it’s taken them 2-3 years before they would confidently say that they were financially successful.
I also suggest you make a plan, but be flexible in your planning. Eisenhower (US President 1953-1961) once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. The process of making a well-thought-through plan will help you easily adapt to later changing situations or wrong assumptions.
Also, get creative with your marketing. I approached the local expat English-speaking radio station in Amsterdam and now pop in once a month to talk to them about various issues that their listeners might be facing. Get listed on as many online directories as you can. Figure out where your target audience hang out, physically and virtually, and make a point to be there. Attend networking events, submit articles to websites and e-zines read by your target audience, post reactions on their favourite blog posts. People will only find you and remember you if you’re regularly engaging with them about problems they may be facing.
And finally, relax into it. If it feels right, go with it. This can be applied to your coaching sessions too. Trust that the right next question will come and focus instead on really listening to your client. Having a few simple back-up questions like “What question should I be asking you right now?” will help you stay focused on the client and their goal.
Connect with Sarah Fraser through The Coaching Academy’s LinkedIn discussion group.