12 Jul, 2009
I Only Want to Coach Part-Time
Using a combination of excellent coaching skills and clever marketing tactics, Business and Life Coach Darren Cockburn (MBA), a Coaching Academy graduate and NLP Practitioner, has developed a very successful coaching business but has no desire to make it a full-time career. He explains why. By Marie-Louise Cook.
In five years, Darren Cockburn has moved from being a coaching client to running a part-time coaching business that has become so successful his appointment book is nearly always full. Despite his success, he does not plan to give up his day job as a Senior IT Manager for a large UK retail company.
‘I don’t think I will ever coach on a full-time basis because I enjoy doing lots of different things,’ he says. ‘I find coaching is challenging: you aren’t just thinking about your clients when you are on the call with them but also in between sessions. I can only take on so many clients a week before the quality of my coaching would begin to reduce. I definitely wouldn’t do it on a full-time basis.’ But even at work as an IT Manager, Cockburn uses his coaching skills whenever possible.
‘Rather than tell people what to do or advise them, it is also useful to ask questions to help people find their own way and tap into their own creativity and find different ways of doing things. If managers continually tell staff exactly what to do and don’t allow them to think for themselves, they are not going to get the best out of them. I have always measured people by outcomes so I give them an objective or outcome and it’s up to them how they achieve it – within boundaries.
‘You have to get the balance right but I think most people like to be asked to find their own ways of doing things rather than being told what to do. When you’re interacting with members of staff or project teams if all you do is ask questions then they will get frustrated. Sometimes it is appropriate to give someone a direct instruction and ask them to do something in a certain way.
’Cockburn’s own foray into coaching began when he felt the demands of his day job were having an adverse effect on other areas of his life and sought help. ‘I was focussing too much on my job and not giving enough time or energy to my family life. When I was at home, I was quite tired and irritable. I was struggling to work through that on my own. I found a local coach in Nottingham through the Yellow Pages. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect. I had heard about life coaching but that was my first contact with a professional coach.
‘She really helped me to understand what my options were and how to get to a better place and lead a more balanced life. I had about six sessions and it was life changing – it really helped me get the balance right between work, home and my family. It actually helped me perform better at work too. ‘I started doing some coaching and mentoring on a voluntary basis, helping people to get back into employment. I also set up a personal development programme called ‘Life Tools’ at a number of universities. ‘I initially taught them myself – I had done an element of training within my IT career – but because of time constraints I now provide a shrink-wrapped programme and training materials to the universities which enables the students to deliver the course. That way, thousands of people can benefit.
‘I would recommend that any coach who wants to build their practice or get into coaching does voluntary work initially because it really helps to build a network and your experience and confidence. Without doing the work I did at the university, I don’t think my business would be in such a good place as it is now.
’His coaching clients come for either life coaching. Interestingly, Cockburn says most of his clients come via the Internet. ‘I don’t do a lot of business networking events or a lot of face-to-face networking. It’s not my primary way of attracting clients. I use the power of the Internet to do that. ‘My website ranks quite well with the search engines so that generates quite a bit of traffic and I am also registered with a number of coaching directories. I also offer my services to individuals through forums and business networking sites. ‘It takes time, but I do tend to get quite a good conversion rate because I target forums and people who will benefit from my services. I go onto websites and forums, like The Coaching Academy forum, anywhere where people are talking about their problems and challenges.
‘That is just one form of advertising. The best thing a coach can do is have a number of different things to generate the numbers they need. Most coaches with successful practices will probably agree that marketing is an ongoing challenge. Activity equals results – the more you get yourself out there the more business you create.
‘I spend about three hours per week on marketing. It’s amazing how much you can do in three hours if you focus. You have to invest in the marketing. ‘I work with people to help them put a system in place so they are clear how much action they will take each week, how many emails they will send, how many calls they will make, what they will do with the website etc and then it’s a numbers thing. You need to understand the numbers because otherwise you can get frustrated. A business coach could send, for example, 12 emails out to business owners, fail to get a response and become frustrated. In fact, they might need to send out 15 or 20 before they get a response. ‘It needs to be targeted and the marketing message needs to be appropriate. You do need to do quite a lot of research initially but once you get a good system in place, life gets easier. I help coaches create a system that suits their own particular strengths and constraints.
‘It depends where your business is at as well. My business is at the stage now where I am comfortably filling the slots that I have available each week. If someone is just starting out, then 100% of their time could be spent on marketing activities. Businesses in general are like that: to begin with you spend a lot of time marketing and promoting your services rather than necessarily delivering them. Coaching is no exception. People often underestimate quite how much effort is required to get themselves to a good place and get the numbers and income they want out of it.’
Dont miss next week’s PS Online where we will be meeting two of Darren’s clients, and seeing how coaching has helped inprove their lives.
Darren Cockburn is an established Life Coach and Business Coach and helps coaches build successful coaching practises specialising in client generation, sales and marketing for telephone/Skype coaching. He received an MBA with distinction from Nottingham University Business School and has a background in IT management. To discover more about the services offered through his organisation (My Life Coach) visit his website www.my-life-coach.co.uk.