How to Go Full Time in Your Coaching Business (Part 1)

how to know when to quit your job and become a life coach

Hey Coach Ponyling!

One thing you may, or may not be, struggling with is when to go full time in your coaching business.

When do you take the leap, as it were, and really commit?

When you stand up, dramatically throw your latte into the trash, announce “I quit!” and walk out to Let the River Run while your scarf streams behind you?

(In this last example, I should mention that I’ve recently watched Working Girl, which isn’t that relevant, but still…Let the River Run!).

Bottom line: When do you go full-time in your coaching business?

Let’s start with a story!

I’ve been a full-time coach for….gulp…almost 7 years!

And given that, people often ask me how I knew when to quit and commit to coaching all those years ago.  Specifically they want to know how I made the decision to make this huge shift, and some things to think about as they contemplate stepping into their coaching business.

I’d love to tell you that I already had a full slate of clients and quit my fancy-pants consulting job when I had replaced my income…

…but that would be a boldface lie.

I had zero clients when I quit.

Yep, zero.

And I spent a LOT of time on the couch, in the fetal position, struggling hard, in the first month of my business.

Saying I ate a lot of Doritos is like saying the sky is blue.

I ate a mountain of Doritos.

Three things drove me to quit:

  1. I had completed my coach certification and gotten my CPC, so I felt that I had some qualifications for my new job.
  2. Someone I knew at work had died of brain cancer. He was 34. At the time I was about his age, and it brought home to me how short life is.
  3. My consulting firm had been acquired (again), and a shake up was coming. I was staring into doing a new project I hated or getting laid off.

It still took a few months before I pulled the trigger after all three of these things happened, but I kept asking myself this one question: “Given that life is short, will you regret not doing this?”

Asking myself that question was hugely helpful.

As you can imagine, for me, the answer was “YES.”

What is your answer? Think on if for a second, it’s pretty enlightening :).

Now, to be clear, I definitely DO NOT recommend that you up and quit your job tomorrow.

Or that you do anything crazy that involves burning your bridges tonight.

But I do recommend you do two smart things to help you prepare to make the jump to your own coaching business, and they aren’t what you think.

First off, think about your money

I quit with no clients.

So I had no income.

But there’s more to the story than that.

I had a big amount of cash saved from my job, enough to last me for almost a year, when I quit.

I had already paid for coaching school, I had already paid for my first (terrible) website – here’s some intel on what I spent on my coaching websites over the years if you are curious – and I had a financial cushion to catch me when my paycheck stopped coming.

I am actually pretty conservative financially, and for me, I couldn’t imagine quitting without some sort of money safety net.

Frankly, worries about money kept me from quitting earlier. There was always a reason “why not.”

“I will fail.”

“I’ll end up homeless. And unable to buy shoes.”

“No one will ever buy life coaching from me. Ever.”

“I will fail. So I should just stay with my current paycheck.” (That was a really strong one).

Sound familiar?

Money is something that drives a LOT of decisions, especially decisions not to coach full time, so I recommend that you get straight with your money right now, so it’s not a huge obstacle in your planning.

And do that, it’s helpful to get a money plan (yay!).

Let me explain: A money plan is just a simple plan to help you get honest about how much money you need to feel comfortable going after your business dreams.

It’s a way to take money out of the equation as a primary reason for why you can’t quit.

It only takes a few minutes to create, and you can do it on a napkin.

Here’s what to do to get your money plan in place

First off, write down your current expenses. If you already have them handy, gold star!

Next up, figure out if there’s any fat to those expenses, that you could cut for the sake of your business. Do you pay a lot for cable? Is it time to get rid of a car or get a cheaper one? Could you downsize your house or your restaurant bill?

Don’t panic or feel that you *have* to immediately slash everything, but do try and get a little creative, and see what you can sustainably trim if it means you get to do work you love.

Now write down your new, slimmed down, expenses. This is the real number to worry about.

Got a number in mind?

Awesome!

This is your key monthly expense.

Now, as yourself this question: How much money do I need in the bank, in order to feel comfortable quitting my job and supporting myself off of my savings?

Is it one month?

Two months?

A year?

There’s no right or wrong answer – each of us has a different comfort level with money risk.

It is what it is.

But I do want you to figure out where you fall.

Okay, got a time frame in mind?

Awesome.

Multiply it against your monthly number, and that will equal the amount you need to have saved up before you try and go full-time as a coach.

full time coach

That will be your super simple money plan.

Again, this isn’t the be-all end-all of your financial planning, but it is a tool to help you feel more comfortable about becoming a full-time life coach.

Staring at my money plan certainly made it easier for me to move past my excuses and say “Okay, I’ve got enough to live on that makes me feel comfortable for a bit, so why am I putting this off again?

🙂

But we aren’t done!

Because money is only part of the picture.

If you remember my list from above, I had a LOT of reasons why not – and a lot of worries about what would happen to me if I did quit and become a coach full-time.

And some of them were pretty dark.

So, we need to address that in the next step…which is your crash and burn plan!

Next up, think about your crash and burn plan

Your crash and burn plan is when you stare fear in the face and imagine your worst case scenario.

My worst case scenario was that I would quit my job, be a terrible coach, no one would ever hire me, I’d run out of money and I’d have to live on the street…under a bridge…in the rain…all the time.

It terrified me.

So I did something difficult – I sat down and imagined that happened.

I imagined that I quit, lost all my money, and had nowhere to go.

What would I do?

I’m lucky, my parents are alive and supportive, and I have friends.

So, I wrote out which friends would let me stay (and who had a spare corner or basement where I could crash).

I contemplated the fact that my parents would have let me move in with them (shudder), and that I could have also moved to Georgia and live with my Grandma, or that I could have gone back to consulting in DC, gotten another job, and not have been homeless.

My options may not be your options, and that’s fine.

The point of the exercise was to face my worst fears, and develop some options to show that even if the worst happened, I’d still be okay.

Having that plan, and seeing that I had several choices, even if all of them seemed…umm…*not awesome* took away a lot of my fear around quitting.

The good news is that I realized I would probably not be homeless even if I was a giant failure as a coach.

I also figured out that I would probably end up employed and okay again, just with a new set of life experiences.

That was super freeing.

These two things made it easier for me to contemplate quitting my job and stepping into an entirely new industry (coaching) and role (CEO).

So what is your coaching crash and burn plan?

Write down your biggest fear: What is the worst thing you imagine when you think about becoming a coach full-time?

Next up, imagine that happens, now start to brainstorm some options.

What can you do? (Help yourself to coffee or wine if you need to for this part!).

Make a list of options, no matter how random, not ideal, or even slightly crazy – everything is allowed! What’s important is to get your creative juices flowing and not to restrict yourself.

Spend at least 10 minutes on the list-making piece before you stop. And if you want, grab a friend and brainstorm ideas together.

Got your list? Awesome!

Now take a look, and pat yourself on the back.

You’ve stared down your worst case scenario and you have options.

Feels pretty good, right?

(Bravo!)

Obviously we aren’t done. There IS more to know and do.

And there is more I want to share with you, but for now, I’d love for you to tackle your money and your fear, because those things are the stickiest in terms of keeping you from making forward progress, okay?

Okay!

Want to continue right this second?

Then, immediately, without stopping at go, read this article on why people *don’t* pay for life coaching, and what you need to do instead if you want to be a successful coach.

It’s long, but will make you insanely smart :).