“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
— Albert Einstein
If you’re not familiar with the term “coaching niche” it means the particular specialty area or client base a coach works with. This could be domains as diverse as a Life or Health and Nutrition coach right through to Leadership and Executive coaching and of course more. The range of possibilities is as varied as there are areas of human interest, behavior and activity. It may be that you are already very clear about who you wish to serve, yet for many they simply know they want to become a coach and in that case, how does one then decide which niche is right for them?
Firstly, while there are plenty of niche-specific training programs out there which offer to equip you with a particular skillset and knowledge-base, every good coach training program should be primarily focused on teaching the skills of great coaching. Knowledge is often spoken about as power but in reality it’s how knowledge is employed which makes it powerful and that is the business of coaching.
“Coaching is what changes people not merely information.”
The fact that we all have Google means we are in a unique period in human history. One where the sum total of pretty well all knowledge is literally at our fingertips, yet has it led to everybody employing it, being self-motivated and making positive changes themselves? For some yes but for the most, sadly no! If that was the case then frankly coaches (plus consultants, mentors and the like) would be redundant instead of being one of the most rapidly growing professions in the world as they currently are. My point here is that, while niche-specific learning and good resources to hand is important, the most important thing for a coach is to have had great coach education and to have developed some mastery with that learning.
Honestly the amount of times I’ve met people on trainings (mine and others) who’ve attended some of the leading health coach training programs out there, and who’ve then graduated those programs with vast amounts of health and nutrition learning but admit they felt completely underskilled as coaches. So all the knowledge but little skill to apply it!
Equally, while you may start out thinking it’s health you want to coach, only having training in that has already significantly narrowed your potential client-base from the get-go.
So here’s point one: Make sure your training mostly focuses on great coaching skills (how to help someone change) rather than any specific narrow field. Get awesome at coaching skills and only once you’ve had time to develop and understand who you really want to serve, then gain more specific learning in that field.
My second suggestion is to begin your search close to home. Review the areas of your life which from direct experience you know would benefit from coaching and therefore will have a community who will actually want to pay appropriately for coaching. While you will benefit from specific training in some areas, nothing prepares you like your own experience. You know those pain points, the unique challenges and therefore can empathize more than most with that community, plus it hopefully then is also an area you’re actually interested in. That’s also important. By life experience I mean it may have been a career or job, but might equally have simply been an area of keen interest or even possibly a hobby.
Another important aspect of it being close to home is that you should then already have valuable connections into those communities which is vital for marketing your offer particularly when starting out. Say you’re wanting to become an organizational coach after a long career in leadership or corporate, you will then be able to integrate your former skills with the new coaching ones, plus you will most certainly be able to leverage your industry connections in order to get going. Equally, your experience will give you important credibility in the industry.
One thing I suggest NOT doing is choosing a niche because you suspect it pays well though you haven’t any personal experience or connection. All too often I’ve had participants go through programs talking about working with high net worth clients or CEOs yet when I ask further they admit they haven’t any connections or experience with these communities. Do not build a business on fantasy!
The third angle which is connected to the above is to know that the community or niche you want to serve will actually pay real money for your offer and sufficient to make it viable. While there may be a need it doesn’t always mean they will buy. I ran a program for certain medical professionals some years back in the UK. I had connections into the industry and also through their national body who loved the offer. We knew the need was there and they could certainly afford it but in the end it was simply a no go. It appeared that while the need existed there were psychological blocks within that community to admitting one might actually need support.
Fourth suggestion: I strongly suggest you go for the long game, give it time and be adaptive. I have experimented with a number of niches until settling on transition and change. Even now I’m contemplating doing some more training and adding another niche: relationships. I’ve had enormous experience and some training already plus it keeps rearing its head with my one-on-one clients. So be prepared to grow and adapt your niche as you go forward in your career. Try them out, get the feedback and respond accordingly.
It may also be that your niche narrows further as you develop. Say you start out generally coaching leaders and C-suite executives yet over time you realize your real interest and who you’re most effective with is coaching Fortune 500 CEOs through mergers and acquisitions. Equally whether the niche narrows or not it might instead be the particular client type or age group which does. This is generally an organic process which simply emerges over time and with more experience. Be patient. Read the feedback. Adjust.
Finally, having a clearly defined client-base means you will also be able have greater specificity in your marketing communication. While it’s true that once you’ve acquired and mastered the core competencies of coaching, you can coach on pretty well any area of life, having a niche means you’re a specialist and your communication can be targeting to the unique challenges of a particular demographic. You can sing their song in ways which resonates with them and let’s them know that you truly understand them better than most.
A few key coaching niches for you to consider are:
Life Coaching: I’ve written about this already so do go find that blog for more, though in brief a Life Coach will take on quite a broad range of topics and you might say there’s little to nothing about one’s life which is left untouched—health, career, relationships, fulfillment, meaning, purpose. Many Life Coaches will narrow their focus to work with a particular demographic such as Middle-aged women (or men) looking to their third act.
Health Coaching: This area has certainly seen a huge amount of interest over the last decade and there are many programs out there these days offering specific training. One thing to be cautious about with this area is to know what you can and cannot suggest (or tell) a client to do, eat or take as supplements as many countries and certainly many states in the USA have statutory restrictions which can mean significant penalties if you step over the line and they suspect you’re offering to treat symptoms or cure conditions!
Transition Coaching: In some ways all coaching is about transition and change. Clients come because where they are isn’t where they want to be. Sometimes they know where they want to get to and sometimes not but it’s the business of making the shift which is challenging and that’s the edge which this niche meets.
Relationship Coaching: While there certainly aspects of this niche which cover some of the ground of therapy the focus here is facilitating conversations and communication with couples plus supporting them with interpersonal skills. There are many models of relationship management and you might want to start by exploring a few and seeing which one’s fit for you, your personal experience (it’s a pretty good idea for relationship coaches to have had relationship experience!) and how you see yourself working.
Career Coaching: This could be one of those subsets of Life Coaching (or Transition) though you will naturally be focused on helping individuals identify a suitable career path for them and then help them find ways into that.
Marketing (& Sales) Coaching: This area seems to have exploded recently, particularly in the area of helping coaches with marketing and sales. This I’ve written about previously and stated how I find it something of a tricky area largely due to the unrealistically inflated claims many make for coaches. If this is a niche you want to explore then do make sure you have plenty of relevant experience and are prepared to behave ethically in terms of what promises you might make to clients.
Business Coaching: This is a great niche for those who are interested in supporting business owners to optimize, grow and develop or simply to set up a business.
Leadership & Executive Coaching: One of the big guns in the coaching industry for sure and in some ways where much of our current field of coaching cut its teeth. Certainly sport coaching had something to do with the birth but since the mid of last century the term coach has been used in relation to executive performance.
That’s it from me for now on finding your coaching niche and good luck on the journey.