There are some people who are just born for teaching, you know?
Some of these people pursue careers in a traditional education setting. Others take that skill online and use it to start a business. I’m looking at you, coaches, consultants, and course creators.
And yet, there are still others who have this strong inclination toward teaching, and they want to start a business around it… but they’re stuck. They’re caught in a little conundrum I call the Coaching Catch-22.
The Coaching Catch-22 goes like this:
You’ve seen tons of amazing online business owners who teach people how to grow their businesses. You want to do the same.
Unfortunately, you’ve never grown a business before.
And you can’t grow a business without customers…
But you can’t tell people how to grow their business without having actual experience of growing a business.
So you’re stuck in this terrible chicken-or-egg situation where you need experience, but you can’t get it.
It sounds kind of ridiculous, but I assure you that it happens regularly and often. I fell into the Coaching Catch-22 myself.
When I first struck out on my own, I had big dreams of creating a course and rolling in that #PassiveIncome. Everyone was doing it, it seemed–the Facebook ads said I could do it if I just put together the right formula. The big bloggers told me I could do it if I just delivered enough value.
But the unfortunate conundrum is that even if you’re passionate about teaching, you need something to teach. In other words, you need hands-on experience first.
But where to get that experience?
Some folks launch in with a “fake-it-’til-you-make-it” attitude and simply pretend to be the expert until they have enough experience to add veracity to their claims. But that’s more stress than you need in your life and, frankly, bad business.
Instead, there are two simple solutions for working around the Coaching Catch-22:
Option 1: Change your coaching topic
So you’ve never run a business before. That’s okay. Instead of going against the grain and trying to teach people what you don’t know, what if you taught something you’re already good at? Maybe you’re a hell of an organizer and you can help people create more functional living environments. Maybe you love to cook and you can single parents how to prepare fast, healthy meals for their kids.
The fact is, there’s an audience for everything if you niche down enough. You DON’T need to teach people how to make money. There are millions of other topics you could choose from.
What are you a real expert on right now? What consumes your thoughts? What do you read about in your free time? Start there.
Option 2: Get the experience through others’ businesses
Help others grow their businesses—not through teaching, but through doing.
How? Get a skill that businesses need. Design, copywriting, web development, and marketing are all widely used in the business world, and you can begin learning the basics right now.
Start pursuing freelance projects to test your new knowledge. Be honest and up front with your experience level. Don’t be scared to admit you’re new at it—there are always businesses who have zero expertise in what you’re learning, and if you’re committed to doing your best, you can still deliver great value. Start with small clients who don’t have many resources. You can have the biggest impact there.
When you have a happy client, get a testimonial. Then, start leveling up toward the kinds of clients you want to eventually coach.
Two things happen when you use this method. First, you get an inside look at others’ businesses, and you learn what works and what doesn’t in the solutions you deliver. Second, you get first-hand experience running your own freelance business. This experience gives you actual knowledge. And then you can start teaching what you’ve learned.
Every successful online educator has put in their time on the doing before their began the teaching. Looks at the greats—
- Regina Anaejionu of ByRegina.com started a bunch of businesses before she started teaching others how to do it (here’s a list).
- Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project made her successes as a copywriter before she ventured into online products for business owners.
- Amy Porterfield learned the ropes as an employee for a big online business owner before she launched her own online enterprise.
You have to do before you can teach
Why am I going on about this? Because this seriously had me confused for a long time. I wanted to coach! I was a teacher at heart! And I still am. But since those early days, I’ve now written a heck of a lot of copy. I took a skill I’d already developed (writing) and specialized (conversion copywriting), and it’s allowed me to create a humble-but-growing business. And guess what? I’ve recently taken the first step toward a copywriter-slash-coach role.
If you get my email newsletter, you’ll know that last week I launched my signature package Magnetic Copy. It’s the meat and potatoes for inspired entrepreneurs who are ready to create a website that actually does what it’s supposed to (i.e. turn visitors into customers).
However, instead of just a straight copywriting package, it’s also highly consultative. Clients get a one-on-one discovery session and workbook to refine their brand voice. Throughout our four weeks together, they also have complete email access to me to ask whatever business questions their heart desires. And of course, at the end, they walk away with highly effective web copy and a bunch of supporting tools to grow their business.
Obviously I’m super excited about this next step, and if you’re interested, you can learn more here. But I also want it to be a reminder that you can build your business in phases. Just keep moving forward in whatever direction brings you the income you need, builds your skills, and gives you joy. You’ll uncover each right next step as you go.