Honestly, I don’t know if we give the topic of “finding your coaching niche” too much attention or not enough.
On the “too much” side, it seems like the topic has been everywhere in the coaching world for the past decade. It can sometimes seem that a coaching niche is as elusive as a unicorn and that finding it is just as unlikely as spotting that mythic beast. And most of the coaches I know who make a living as a coach, do not have a niche so well defined that it would be written up as a case study in the next coaching textbook.
On the “not enough” side, it’s almost impossible to have a profitable, sustainable coaching practice without a clearly identified audience. You will not be successful if you approach coaching as something you can do for anyone on any topic.
So, let’s give some practical attention to the topic of your coaching niche. And let’s do it by examining five possible coaching niches. I doubt these will all fit you, but perhaps one of them will, or perhaps the list will spur you to clarify your own niche and get to work attracting new coaching clients. For each one, I’m going to give only the briefest of descriptions and then we’ll talk about what you do with a coaching niche.
- Women in leadership. When it’s your turn to lead, manage, supervise, or be the boss, you want to do it in ways that fit who you truly are, not in ways that mimic or react to male models of leadership.
- Teachers transitioning to administration. Working with students and working with other educational professionals are two very different worlds. Your success in the classroom can translate into administrative success, but only if you make the transition well.
- Offshore retirees. Time to take your savings and live well in another land where your dollars can go further, and you can explore a whole new world. Sounds like a dream, but with the right coaching, it can be a fulfilling and purposeful reality.
- Gap year students. Taking a year before (or after) college can be a crucial and life-enhancing opportunity, but only when you have the support to make the most of it.
- Real Estate Professionals. Most people think they can sell real estate, yet it’s only those who develop their systems and maintain their motivation that make a successful career of it.
Okay, none of these is a fully developed coaching niche – yet. Each is a defined audience, but that’s not enough to build a coaching practice. To make one of these your coaching niche, you need to add three key elements.
First, you want to know your clients’ world better than the clients do. You cannot pick a coaching niche out of a hat and serve it well. You need to do the work necessary to understand and relate to what your clients face. While you are not trying to answer all their questions, you do want to be a resource to your clients. You need to be deeply familiar with the challenges, expectations, and emotions they face.
The best coaches have a niche in which they can provide resources, insights, and confidence to their clients. For example, a coach to retirees who want to live outside the U.S. will likely know the pros and cons faced with living in certain parts of the world, the common questions people have when exploring this option, and how offshore retirees have addressed some of the obstacles such as language, banking, and connecting with family.
As you get to know your niche, you can begin creating content marketing resources to help connect with your niche, serve them, and nurture a relationship in which they grow to know, like, and trust you.
Second, you need to clarify the problem you help them solve. Remember, nobody buys coaching. They buy help solving a problem that matters to them. And you want to be able to state who they are, what they want, and the problem they face in what marketing experts call “an empathetic statement.” Here’s an example: “I know what it’s like when your role as a leader feels somehow in conflict with being a woman. It might seem like the default model for leadership is masculine, but it’s not. To be effective as a leader, you’ll need to inhabit the role as only you can.”
Here’s a second example: “Your instinct for taking a year before (or after) college is spot on, but you know that taking a year isn’t the same as making the most of that year. You want your gap year to be a life-giving, and perhaps life-changing experience, but that won’t just happen – you’ll need to make it happen.”
Finally, you will want to develop a framework. A good framework supports the coaching relationship and fosters success for your clients. A framework can be a set of principles, a model, or a process that facilitates the client’s successful navigation of their problem. For example, a framework for gap year students might describe a successful experience as one in which they emerge with clearer self-awareness, more positive self-talk, an expansive perspective, and a growth mindset. I literally just made those up, so I am sure you can do better!
Here’s a second example. If your niche is real estate professionals, you might develop a six-month coaching process that addressed their professional presence, their daily and weekly systems, and their motivation. (BTW, notice the process does not address anything specific to knowing how to do the job of a real estate agent.) After the six months, you might have an ongoing framework for addressing the ongoing challenges of staying motivated, maturing in the profession, and finding work-life integration.
One last word. Just because you have a coaching niche does NOT mean you cannot coach outside your niche. Your niche helps you focus your efforts and draw a key clientele. As you help people within your niche, they will want to make referrals and spread the good news of how helpful you are. For example, that gap year student you coached might, later on, recommend a 30-something colleague who’s struggling to address some of the issues she dealt with in her gap year. You can coach her colleague without redoing your website or creating a second coaching niche. Remember, your coaching niche is a starting point, not a prison!