Are coaches being gaslighted when it comes to client acquisition? I think we are.

A very odd thing happens to coaches once they’ve qualified. It’s something I can only describe as gaslighting.

Coach Client Acquisition: Are Coaches Being Gaslighted?

Let me set the scene:

  • You’ve taken a coaching qualification with some excellent people.
  • You all complete your qualification and are ready to launch your coaching into the world.
  • You create a way of staying in touch with each other – perhaps a WhatsApp chat – and you each set off into the wild blue yonder to start coaching.
  • Some of your cohort are coaching within their workplace – that’s why they were in your cohort in the first place.
  • One or two of your coaching cohort land some clients really quickly.
  • They share the news with everyone, and everyone is delighted for them.
  • You struggle to find anyone who understands what you do, let alone wants to work with you.
  • You have good conversations with people, and although you’ve picked up the odd client, you can clearly see that you won’t be able to build a viable business like this.
  • You try to explain what coaching is to various people and are very frustrated by their inability to grasp what you’re saying.
  • You sign up for some business development sessions, you attend them, but they don’t seem to give you anything tangible. You’ve learned how to maximise client retention, how to build strategic relationships and how to build brand equity, but you’re not sure what to do with what you learn.
  • You’d be happy to implement what you’ve been taught, but you don’t have clients yet, so what you’ve learned doesn’t seem relevant.
  • You feel like you’re being stupid.

Let me reassure you that you’re not being stupid.

Some Coaches Have Monetiseable Credibility

Remember those coaches who landed clients really quickly? They’re usually the ones who have existing monetiseable credibility. Unless you too have a little black book full of the kind of contacts who can offer you coaching contracts, you’ll have to find a different route to find coaching clients.

To put it into perspective, around 80% of coaches do not have monetiseable credibility.


The business development classes that we are offered are usually aimed at the 20%. It’s not made clear that this is the case, but it is indeed the case. And this is why so many of us sit, bemused, while we’re taught about the best way – for example – to keep coaching records. Or how to manage cash flow or any of the other very relevant topics if you have coaching clients and not at all relevant if you don’t.

Why Are Coaches Being Gaslighted?

I don’t believe that this gaslighting is intentional. Intentional or not, this habit of focusing business development topics on the needs of the minority does serve to gaslight the rest of us.

We end up with lots of knowledge that doesn’t seem to fit our version of reality. We’re also unsure of how best to use it. We don’t want to say anything because everyone else is waxing lyrical about how fabulous the training was and how amazing the speaker was. We’re left feeling (once again) like we’re daft.

The fact is that all these topics are at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. The topic you need to be taught is the very bottom of it, the physiological level (or ‘survival’ in the image above). The topic is this – how do I find clients who will pay me a professional rate for my coaching?

Coaches Shouldn’t Need To Market

Another way in which we’re gaslighted is that those coaches with monetiseable credibility often don’t realise that they have it. Their perception of their actions is that they had good coaching conversations and that good coaching skills therefore are all we need.

And there’s the rub.

The belief in our profession is that our coaching skills (our delivery skills) are the only skills we need to build a coaching business. But that’s not true. Every single business owner in the world also has to have a client acquisition process (our creating the opportunity to do the delivery skills). If we don’t have the equivalent of the old boys’ network (which is what the little black book is), we need to have a different process for client acquisition. That process is another form of marketing.

The monetiseable credibility coaches pooh-pooh the idea of marketing. They fail to understand that their conversations are marketing. Networking, even among our existing connections, is a form of marketing.

My Coaching Tribe

If you’re one of the 80% of coaches who do not own a little black book full of people in a position to offer you coaching contracts, you’re one of my people. We have to build our credibility differently.

Differently doesn’t mean worse or demeaning. It just means we have to learn other ways of marketing our services.

The best bit about these other ways is that they too can be comfortable and effective. You shouldn’t have to slide into DMs and spam people (uninvited DMs are spam). Also, you don’t need to humble-brag about your brilliance as a coach or the success of your clients. You just have to become visible to the kind of clients you want to work with. This is done with a message that helps them to understand why they might want to be coached.

That doesn’t sound too awful, does it?

Struggling with Client Acquisition?

Shall we talk? This is my diary.