You probably already know that coaching is a billion dollar industry, and that the number of certified life coaches is growing year after year. What might surprise you, though, is that the majority of new coaches never actually get their businesses off the ground. There are multiple reasons for this, and one of the big ones is fear.
In this article you’ll learn about the 4 dominant fears that every coach must move through in order to become successful.
Fear of failure
This is the most common fear that new coaches experience. “But what if I fail?” is a question you’ve probably asked yourself multiple times already, and believe me when I say that it’ll continue to pop into your head even as you begin creating your first successes and growing as a coach.
The good news is: this is actually a great sign. Because if you’re not even a little bit afraid that you might fail, you’re playing too small.
Fear of failure doesn’t mean you don’t believe in yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes, or that you’re doing something wrong. It’s just your ego trying to keep you safe—which is its primary job. It wants you to stay inside your comfort zones. And it has some pretty sneaky ways of convincing you that those comfort zones are where you belong.
Fear of failure, like the other fears you’ll be reading about here, can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t negotiate. So the only way to deal with it is to move through it.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
If building a thriving, successful, soul-gratifying coaching business is your heart’s desire, then let that become your compass. Fear of failure isn’t a fact, although it certainly presents itself that way. But it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy if it keeps you from ever starting.
When the fear of failure pops up, check in with yourself:
- Is coaching what my heart wants to do?
- Is there a market for the kind of coaching I want to do?
- Am I taking meaningful action steps toward making it a reality?
- Am I willing to be strategic about building my business, vs. hanging my shingle and hoping for the best?
- Am I willing to consciously seek out my blindspots and learn what I need to know + do in order to become a successful coach?
- Is this important enough to me to commit to it, even when it feels challenging?
- Can I envision my coaching business being successful on every level I desire?
If your answer to each of these questions is “yes”, then you can’t fail. Thank the fear for doing its job and trying to keep you safe, and then let it know it can be quiet now.
An important insight about failure:
While we often fear Failure (with a capital F), the truth is there will be many little failures along the way as you build your business. This is true of any entrepreneurial journey. Your original niche might not be as profitable as you’d hoped, your social media efforts might not get the attention you wanted, your marketing efforts won’t always work out as planned.
It’s important to realize that failure is simply feedback.
Rather than letting these setbacks be stop signs, let them be signals that it’s time to try a different approach. Learn more… get curious and creative… invest in yourself and your success. This is the way! And one day, like all other successful coach-entrepreneurs, you’ll look back on these little failures as being some of the best things that could’ve ever happened in your business—because they taught you valuable lessons that can’t be found in any blueprint, course, or masterclass.
They only come with experience.
Fear of being seen
In my work with coaches, I see this fear come up very often.
It’s another fear that virtually every coach has to reckon with at some point. I know I did.
The fear of being seen manifests in many specific ways:
- Imposter syndrome
- Anxiety around “putting yourself out there”
- Worry that loved ones will question you
- Worry that people will criticize you
- Fear of taking a chance and looking foolish
- Fear that you won’t be good enough or beautiful enough
- Fear of charging what you’re worth
- The vexing notion that you might be a fraud
Any of these feel familiar?
What if I told you that if you aren’t feeling any of these things, at least a little bit, you’re playing too small?
Yep, that’s right! Like the fear of failure, these are good signs.
They mean you’re out of your comfort zone, which we know is where the magic happens.
What’s interesting about the fear of being seen is that it’s really a fear of rejection, which is ultimately rooted in the fear of death.
Because in the primal depths of our minds, rejection means exile from the tribe. And exile means having to brave the challenges and dangers of the world alone, which humans just aren’t built for. We need each other to survive and thrive.
In modern times, the fear of rejection manifests in lots of situations where death isn’t a likely outcome, but our primal brains don’t know the difference.
Starting a coaching business is one of them, and a super intense one at that.
It requires you to be seen in some potentially new + uncomfortable ways:
- By your clients
- By your colleagues or co-workers
- By your loved ones
- By your social media acquaintances
- By internet strangers who might not like you or agree with you
And then there are all the anxieties that come not only with being seen, but being seen as someone who makes money helping people. Maybe even someone who makes GOOD money helping people (gasp!)
By the way, the infamous “fear of success” that so many folks talk about—yeah, that’s not a thing. No one is afraid of becoming successful, because success is awesome. When people talk about a fear of success, they’re really talking about a fear of being seen.
Now, achieving success does come with a new set of challenges that many entrepreneurs aren’t prepared for and must learn how to navigate, but that’s a whole different article.
It’s important to realize 3 things about being seen in your coaching business:
First, the discomfort lessens in time. As your confidence builds and you begin seeing the wonderful results of your message and your work, the fear resolves into a kind of embodied is-ness and you experience being seen as just something that you do.
Second, the opinions others may or may not have about you can’t be the drivers of your life. Yes, it’s hard to do things that might lead to weird looks, awkward questions, or even disapproval—especially from loved ones. But it’s much harder to live a life that’s never truly your own, and to let the years pass without going for what your heart wants.
Third, things like imposter syndrome and fear of being a fraud are normal—they come with the territory of moving into your greatness as a coach-entrepreneur. Instead of letting them keep you from ever starting, let them serve you: driving you to become more courageous and better at what you do.
And remember: your people are out there right now, and they need you. You have a unique magic that makes you the best possible coach to help them. What they can experience through you won’t be possible with anyone else.
But first, they need to see you—in all your fullness.
Fear of being different
This one’s related to the fear of being seen, but it’s sneakier.
This one says: Sure, put yourself out there, be seen… but make sure you look like the other coaches. Don’t be too much of this or that. Look like them, talk like them, do everything like they do. Make your Instagram look like theirs. Make your website look like theirs. Don’t trust yourself. Don’t take any risks. Don’t be YOU.
Now, don’t get me wrong—we don’t want to buck every trend and defy every convention just for the sake of it. You can be as avante-garde as you want, if it’s authentically you. But the problem many coaches run into is trying so hard to fit in that they never figure out where they’re naturally meant to stand out and shine.
This typically leads to one of 2 crappy outcomes:
- They water down their brilliance and never achieve any meaningful success, or…
- They believe they have nothing special to offer, and so they never even bother to try.
I’ve worked with a lot of coaches over the years, and I can’t tell you how many times I saw some marvelous, magical thing in them that they were hesitant to bring forth in their brand because it was too weird or too bold or some flavor of plain ol’ too much.
And believe me, I get it. I didn’t come out of the box blazing in my white hot truth, either.
It’s been a journey. And it’s ongoing, because just like you, I’m continually evolving.
If you only take one thing from this article today, let it be this:
Your journey as a coach-entrepreneur is as much an inner journey as an outer one—maybe even more so. It’s gonna touch on every fear story, every insecurity, every shadow, every weak point in your system. This makes it a powerful journey of self-mastery, if you’re willing to show up to it with the courage to grow and heal into the fullest expression of yourself.
Sometimes embracing what makes you different means reckoning with those things you’ve always considered flaws, or felt a bit of contempt around. Sometimes it means coming forth boldly with quirks and values you don’t want to be known for because you’re worried that people won’t “get it”.
Not everyone has to get it, though. Only your people have to get it.
Everyone else? They’re not your people. Who cares what they think?
Your people are the ones who already have a lot in common with you.
They’re aching for authenticity.
They want to know that they’re not alone.
They want permission to be themselves.
And when you show up in your wild, raw truth, standing for something and risking being disliked or misunderstood, you gain the kind of loyal following that can’t be bought or phoned in… it can only be earned.
Fear of marketing and selling
I think almost every entrepreneur, except those actually in the fields of sales and marketing, struggle with this one at some point. It’s definitely one that coaches tend to have a lot of thought drama around.
What I often hear from my clients goes something like this:
- “I’m not a sales-y person.”
- “Marketing is so hard and confusing”
- “I don’t want my potential clients to feel like I’m selling to them.”
- “Marketing is inauthentic.”
- “Selling is icky and slimy.”
To all these things, I say:
Yes, sales and marketing have a bad reputation, but that’s only because they’re so often done badly, and with bad intentions. They don’t have to be done that way. They don’t have to be inauthentic, icky, and slimy.
That said, as a coach, it is inauthentic to pretend like you’re not selling anything, because of course you are. You know it, your potential clients know it, so let’s just own it and be good at it.
Here’s my philosophy on marketing and selling:
Serve, serve, serve.
Get laser-focused on who your ideal client is.
Give tons of value specifically to them.
When you understand that the best way to approach marketing and selling your coaching offerings is through the lens of serving your niche market, it helps you create strategies that are much more aligned—and much more likely to be a win-win for both you and them.
How to serve in your marketing:
I’m talking about your marketing content here: social media posts, articles, videos, podcasts, etc.
Forget the low-effort, dime-a-dozen inspirational quotes (which people scroll past and forget) and Why You Should Work With a Coach type posts (which are more about serving yourself than your people).
Instead, give your people value in the form of meaningful insights, knowledge, resources, how-to’s, and stories from your own personal experiences.
Always be asking yourself: What do my people want or need? What’s in this for them?
Put some effort into it. Low-effort marketing content will always yield low-effort results.
How to serve in your selling:
When I’m working with a client who’s worried about being “bad” at selling or thinking that it’s about being pushy or sales-y, I tell them:
Good selling isn’t about pushing for an outcome. It’s simply about giving your person the information and the experience they need to make the best possible decision for themselves.
Doesn’t that feel so much better?
When it comes to your consultation calls (aka your discovery calls), use them as opportunities to give your people a valuable, meaningful experience.
Tell them about your process and answer their questions, yes.
But give them more than that—give them a taste of the experience of working with you.
Think of ways you can truly serve them on these calls.
I have 2 rules I go by in all my consultation calls:
First rule is: I never push for a “yes”. I’m more interested in figuring out if we’re truly aligned to work together than closing a sale, and it has to be a “yes” for me first.
Before that’s possible, I need to know they’re 100% in, because I’ll be 100% in, and the process I’d be leading them through only works if they are, too. If they’re not quite ready, that’s OK.
We don’t want to get so seduced by the idea of getting a paying client that we lose sight of the reason we’re doing coaching in the first place: to help people and be fulfilled in the work that we do.
My second rule is: I want every single person I speak to, whether or not they will ever become a client, to walk away from our conversation with something of value. Some insight, some resource or bit of knowledge, something that they can take with them.
Serve, serve, serve.
And remember: ultimately they’re buying into YOU. So give them the experience of you.
Sales and marketing are all about service and providing tons of value, with your you-ness at the heart of them. They are both art and science—skills which must be learned and refined over time in the way that works for YOUR coaching business.
This only happens with lots of experience and practice, so you’ve gotta be brave enough to do them a little awkwardly at first.
Which is really what this entrepreneurial journey is all about.
Discovery, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, refining, evolving. Ever expanding into what lights us up the most. Trimming and pruning the bits that don’t. Serving our hearts out.
And recognizing our fears as nothing more than the stone statues at the Gates of Greatness, which may look terrifying, but can’t actually harm us. We just have to muster the courage to walk past them.
Again and again.
And the adventure continues on.