Why did you become a coach? Probably because you wanted to help others and it was your passion. It was never really about the money. Yet those same qualities that motivated you and lead you to success as a coach could also prove your downfall if you sacrifice your health and well-being in the service of others.
It’s tough to make it in this field, and you may feel you have to grind away and take on every new client and opportunity to build your business.
You tell yourself that the stress of constantly working is only temporary, but before you know it, you’re burned out and ready to break. Creating a career and not just a part-time job is grueling work, but you have to consider the long-term impact of prioritizing short-term gain.
Here are some strategies that will help you prevent burnout and up your effectiveness as a coach.
In my experience, burnout is caused by three things:
1. Lack of boundaries with your clients
2. Trying to do everything on your own
3. Sacrificing self-care
And now we have a fourth category: Global Pandemic. This is something you couldn’t plan for and has likely caused stress, anxiety and potential burnout staying afloat in an uncertain world. Which is why the first three are critical in today’s world as much as ever.
Service vs. Sacrifice
The first strategy is to create a cognitive shift as to how you view yourself as a coach and what it means to help people. As a coach, you’re in the service industry, and the work is really more about personal relationships than it is about movement or performance. You need to understand that you can help people and be compensated appropriately and keep yourself sane and happy.
Trust me I get it: You want to change people’s lives. And it would be a damn shame if you couldn’t help Susie reach her goals because she’s going through a rough financial patch. So you tell yourself it’s OK just this once to give her a discount on your fee. Susie is elated and can’t wait to get started. But, harsh as it may sound, that little bit of generosity is a slippery slope.
What starts with a temporary cut in your fee soon turns into Susie taking you for granted. She starts asking for help and advice beyond your initial agreement. She regularly starts cancelling training sessions without proper notice. And worst of all, she isn’t even sticking to the program, yet still wonders why she isn’t seeing results.
And do you know why? She doesn’t value you. And that’s on you. Because you forgot to value yourself.
It’s All About Value
Many of us in this industry have a poor relationship with money. We feel bad charging for our services because we’re in the human-development business. When our calling is to help clients reach their goals, we feel compelled to sacrifice unnecessarily to do so. That’s what we think service is.
Listen: You need to get it through your head that service does not have to mean self-sacrifice. You have to give yourself permission to help people and make money—or you’re soon going to find that you can’t do either. This also means not bending over backward to accommodate clients. Sooner or later, you will break.
In short: Charge what you need to support yourself, because it will allow you to show up fully for your clients. In addition, it will create more buy-in on their end and help you attract your ideal clients.
And remember that value can look different. If you went from coaching in person to coaching online because of COVID-19, it doesn’t mean there is less value, it just means it looks different! And it also means you have to keep showing up and cultivate those relationships.
At some point as a coach, you’re going to work some odd hours, if you haven’t already: early mornings mixed with late evenings and weird gaps throughout the day. In order to keep your sanity and prevent exhaustion, it’s important to set boundaries in regard to your training schedule and the kind of access clients have to you.
For example, I’m an online coach, and all my clients have my phone number. Part of what I offer is daily access to me. However, I’m clear about when I’ll respond and have created a system for setting priorities that has worked well within the TrueCoach app.
First, all workout-related communication goes through TrueCoach. First-level communication entails clients commenting on a specific workout, usually feedback or questions regarding a workout they’ve completed. I get back to them about such matters within 48 hours (except for weekends).
For more urgent matters, I have them send me a direct message through the app (the second level of communication). The nice thing about this is I have the TrueCoach Connect app on my phone, which notifies me of messages. These I will reply to as quickly as possible during normal business hours and within 24 hours at the latest.
If I get a workout-related question via text, then I know it is something a client needs immediately. Prioritizing client needs has created a great system for me; I’m able to disconnect from 24/7 “coach mode” and not have work on my mind constantly.
This can easily be done in person as well, by setting boundaries about when you respond to texts or emails and when you’re available during the day or on weekends. If you work with clients in person, set boundaries about what times you’re available for coaching.
Delegate What You Procrastinate
We all got into this field because we love coaching. However, most clients don’t realize that to be successful in this business, you need to wear many hats, including those of entrepreneur, marketer, salesman, bookkeeper, etc.
One of the most common causes of burnout for coaches and gym owners is trying to do it all. Early on, you may need to do most things. Yet time and again I see coaches and gym owners clinging to doing everything themselves, even stuff outside their skill set and area of interest, just to save a few bucks.
This is why I started using TrueCoach. I was wasting too much time creating Excel spreadsheets and Google docs to send programs to my online clients. Not only was it tedious; I lacked a system to effectively show my clients what they were actually supposed to do. Many of them had no idea what I was talking about when I prescribed an exercise with some foreign name.
At first I was hesitant to pay for TrueCoach because, honestly, when I started I didn’t have a lot of clients. Yet to date it’s been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. The platform pays for itself in the time it has freed up for me to do other things. Also, my clients have a higher level of perceived value, because the app is professional, state-of-the-art, and easy to use. They can pull up workouts directly on their phone with demo videos attached to every exercise.
The things you don’t enjoy and are not good at can often be done by somebody else more effectively and quickly. Once you realize you don’t have to do everything yourself, you can free up time to pursue what matters; being a successful coach while enjoying your life.
Again in today’s world you may have found yourself doing things you never thought you had to do. Setting up workouts in a park, having clients sign up for workouts ahead of time, cleaning before after and during workouts. So ask yourself the question; How can you streamline these? Can you pay for a service that allows clients to sign up for time slots without going directly through you?
Prioritize Your Self-Care
Now this third strategy to prevent burnout really sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the truth: The single greatest thing you can do to better help your clients is to take better care of yourself. I’ve seen too many coaches grind away until they hit a wall and have nothing left to give anyone else. They become burned out and resentful of a career they once loved.
Prioritizing self-care is like the airplane instructions analogy. If the oxygen masks start to drop, you need to put yours on first so you can help others around you. If you don’t get your mask on in time, you’ll be unable to help anyone get theirs on, because you probably will have already passed out.
Getting enough sleep and doing things that fill you up and give you energy will allow you to show up more completely for your clients. No matter how busy or hectic life gets, remember to carve out time to do things you love and that refresh you. While it may seem like you’re neglecting business in the short term, I promise it will pay dividends in the long run. And that’s what careers are made of.