Jul 3 / Matt Saunders

What Is Coaching and What Does a Coach Do?

Unsure if a coach will help you achieve your goals? In this deep-dive article we'll explore coaching in all its forms so you make the best decision for you.
Are you curious about coaching and how it could help grow your business, but you're not sure what it involves or how much it costs?

Well my friend, you are in the right place. I've clocked in over 500 hours coaching since 2020. I've supported hundreds of freelancers and founders to help smash their challenges and I've been trained by both The Coaching Academy and High Performing Coach. What's more, I've invested £20,000+ in my own coaching and personal development. 

In short, I know my stuff. So in this article I'm going to answer all the questions you have about coaching. And if you're still unsure, drop me a message on LinkedIn. I'd love to hear from you.

But for now, here's what I'm going to cover in this article:

  • Why is it called coaching?
  • What are the benefits of coaching?
  • How is coaching different to mentoring?
  • What are the types of coaching?
  • How is a coaching session typically run?
  • When might you need to hire a coach?
  • How much does coaching cost?

Ready? Let's go!

Why is it called coaching?

Cards on the table: when I wrote this article I didn't know where the term "coaching" originated from. I suspected it might have something to do with taking people on a journey from point A to B, as one would experience travelling on a coach or bus. According to Wikipedia, I was correct:

The first use of the term "coach" in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who "carried" a student through an exam. The word "coaching" thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be.

So there you have it. It's called coaching because working with a coach is like stepping into a vehicle that's going to get you there faster.

What are the benefits of coaching?

There are three core areas in that coaching can help you to grow:

  • Your mindset
  • Your strategy
  • Your actions

These are lofty, nebulous terms, so let's break each one down.

What is mindset coaching?

Your mindset refers to the set of beliefs, experiences and values that make up your worldview. Interrogating your mindset is probably the most challenging work for a coach because people are often unaware of how their own mind operates. And even when they are aware, they do not tend to want to change it.

Side note: coaches aren't superhuman, we have coaches too for this very reason. We cannot see what we cannot see - but somebody external often can. 

Think of it this way: do you have a friend or colleague who seems to make the same mistake over and over? Everyone around them can see what's happening, but for some reason they can't see it themselves. We all have our own versions of this, and quite often it holds us back.

Therefore, the core benefit of mindset coaching is the raising of awareness of our patterns and behaviours that stunt our progress. Change can only happen once awareness has been raised.
Hands writing on yellow sticky notes

What is strategy coaching?

Strategic coaching can help you get clarity on a specific challenge in your business. For example, you may be going through a rebrand and need support putting the right steps in place. A coach will help you do this, as well as offer guidance as you move through the process.

Coaching at the strategic level is often front-loaded with hands-on workshops and stakeholder meetings, then settles once the big wheels have begun turning.

What is action coaching?

Action coaching (sometimes called accountability coaching) is perfect for high performers who need help prioritising and organising their workloads. An action coach will help you cut through procrastination, delegate and remove unimportant tasks and get you focused on what matters most. Accountability coaches don't tend to dig too deep, but they do keep you on track and performing at the top of your game.

All three forms of coaching (mindset, strategy and action) can rapidly boost your productivity and business growth, and in reality, most  coaching relationships will integrate all three styles at some point.

How is coaching different to mentoring?

Two men speaking on a video call
The coaching vs. mentoring question comes up time and again. The answer tends to vary, but from my perspective there are several important distinctions:

  • Coaches are leaders, mentors tend to be peers.
  • Coaches are paid, mentors tend to be unpaid.
  • Coaches are outsiders, mentors are in the mud with you.
  • Coaching is a formal arrangement, mentoring tends to be casual.

Essentially, coaching is a professional service designed to help you quickly progress toward a specific goal, where a mentor might be a colleague, boss or friend who can more casually share their experience and advice with you. Due to the different nature of these relationships, coaching can be more effective than mentoring in terms of getting results, because that is what a coach is specifically hired to do.

[Watch] the difference between coaching and mentoring

What are the types of coaching?

In your coaching research you will probably come across two terms: transformational coaching and accountability coaching.

Transformational coaching focuses on building a deep relationship with the client in order to fundamentally alter and improve their worldview. Everyone has biases and blindspots, and a transformational coach will be on the look out for these in order to bring awareness to them so the client can change their perspective. Coaches dealing in transformation may focus on personal areas such as self-esteem and tackle issues such as beliefs around money. Their job is to bring awareness to long-held patterns which block the client's progress so they can move forward.

On the other hand, accountability coaches help people gain clarity and focus, and support them to prioritise and take the right actions. This work tends to be a little more superficial by nature, but can be excellent at getting results quickly.

[Watch] what to look for in a business coach

How is a coaching session typically run?

To answer this question we must first determine the type of coaching: group or 1:1.

In a group scenario, there is typically one coach facilitating a group of 5-20 people, but the numbers can go much higher. In a 1:1 arrangement, it's just you and the coach.

Groups tend to be more directive. This means that the theme of the session will be set by the coach. You may be invited into breakout rooms for discussion, then share your findings with the wider group. This is a fairly standard "mastermind" format.

In a 1:1 session the format tends to be more fluid, and it often comes down to the coach's personal style. Some coaches split the session where the first half is reactive to the client's needs, and the second half is more agenda-driven. Other coaches bring nothing to the session but an empathetic ear and a dose of much-needed positive energy.

In any case, expect to put in the reps between sessions, completing worksheet exercises, tracking your progress and taking uncomfortable actions geared toward your growth. That is, after all, what coaching is all about.

When might you need to hire a coach?

According to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, everyone needs a coach to "give them perspective". Truth is, we often simply cannot see what's happening beyond our periphery. Therefore you should probably have hired a coach yesterday!

That being said, there are two clear junctures in the life of any business owner when coaching can really help:

  • When you don't know which decision to make
  • When you don't know how to execute on your decision

Let's take a look at each.

Decision-making coaching

Crossroads street signs
Most of the time we overwhelm ourselves with options. We stand in the middle of a crossroads and each route comes with doubts, concerns and questions. The result is indecision.

Running a business means meeting these scenarios often, so it's important to get comfortable with taking decisive action. This is where a coach can help evaluate the pros and cons of each option, challenge your limiting beliefs and make gentle suggestions to help you find the right path. Then, with a coach on your team, you will move forward much more quickly and confidently than if you were going it alone.

This sort of coaching is ideal for answering the big questions in your business: do I build that new product? Should I pivot my business? How do I fire that client?

Action-taking coaching

Let's imagine that you have an established business and you're sitting in front of a todo list a mile long. It can be difficult to know where to start. These "day-to-day" tasks are ideal for tackling alongside an accountability coach. Someone who can help you prioritise your tasks and form a plan of action.

If you know what your big vision is but you struggle with taking consistent daily action, hiring a coach to help you with this could be an absolute game-changer for your productivity and results.

How much does coaching cost?

Coaches will typically set their fee structure in one of four ways:

  • Pay by the hour
  • Ongoing accountability coaching
  • A signature programme
  • Long-term transformational coaching

To help you decide which sort of coaching will suit where you're at right now, let's break each one down.

Pay by the hour coaching

This probably needs little explanation, but is worth covering in detail because hourly fee coaching tends to be where most inexperienced coaches start out. These coaching sessions are often ad-hoc and the cost varies between £40-£80 per hour. The coach might sell discounted "blocks" of sessions to gain more commitment from you, and it can work very well if both parties are focused on a clear session goal.

Ongoing accountability coaching

Accountability coaching on an ongoing basis tends to be charged per month at £300-£500. Some coaches will charge significantly more than this, depending on the specific agreement, but ongoing coaching is preferable to ad-hoc and hourly based coaching because both the coach and client understand they are working to long term goals.

A signature coaching programme

The "next level" of coaching is a signature programme. This is essentially a block of coaching sessions, often backed by worksheet exercises and online videos, that walks the client through a process toward a specific outcome. A simple example would be a weight loss programme where the coach offers video tutorials, a diet plan and weekly workout sessions. These programmes typically cost £3,000-£5,000 in a 1:1 but can be significantly higher. For group programmes, such as my freelancer course, the fee is typically lower at £400-£800 to make the container more easily accessible to more people.

Long-term transformation coaching

Again, this is exactly as it sounds. Long-term coaching typically refers to an engagement that lasts 12 months and is focused on life-changing work. A client may wish to overcome a personal issue that is holding them back, develop a specific skill or simply want ongoing support to operate at the top of their game. This is probably the "highest" form of coaching, because the fees range between £10,000-£100,000+ for a year long arrangement.

So, are you ready to be coached?

In this piece I have explained what coaching is, how it can benefit your business and the many different forms that coaching takes in terms of its arrangements and fees. By now, you should have a clearer idea about whether coaching is right for you, and which type of coaching you might wish to explore.

I coach freelancers to keep them on track and performing their best. If you'd like to talk about how I can help you, book a call with me here.
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