The demand and supply problem

There are too many life coaches, trainers, and independent consultants out there. So much so that I’ve been hesitant to call myself an executive or a leadership development coach until most recently. (And I’m still not comfortable and am seriously thinking of changing it to something else.) Just take a look around, chances are 8 out of 10 people you’ll meet are life coaches or trainers. Of course, a lot depends on the context — if you’re in Toastmasters, BNI, Rotary, LinkedIn, and a networking event, that’s who you’ll get. Mostly. There’s nothing wrong with either of these professions just that their target audience falls in these three categories:

A) Ones who don’t know if they need a coach;
B) Ones who know they don’t need a coach;
C) Ones who know they need a coach and already have one;
D) Those who know they need a coach but don’t want to pay because there’s so much good stuff online for free!

For simplicity’s sake, let’s ignore the last category because, well, they’re not worth your time or attention.

Do you see where we’re going with this? There’s way too much supply of coaches and consultants than there’s a demand for it. What does one do after investing countless hours, months, and years mastering the art of helping people become high-performers? I’ve said it before, and I’m going to repeat it — education, that’s the key. There’s a lot less time spent educating the masses on the — what, when, and how of what you do. Most of it’s the good ole’ “features and benefits” selling. No wonder almost 90% of the professional coaches live a life of mediocrity.

But what do I mean by education? Give away stuff/content for free! You read that right, and I mean it! How else can you add value to the masses? Particularly the people who don’t even know you? You’ve got to give a heck of a lot before people begin to like, know, and trust you.

So, you make an effort to create opportunities to convince the first two types of buyers. Valuable content that’s previous (and worth of being paid in the first place) is the only way to go. At least for me. There are many other business models out there, but I’m not sure they’re as effective as selflessly creating content to educate (and give it away for free).

My business model, which I’ve begun to ramp up this year, is to give all of my best ideas, thoughts, and materials. The plan includes blog posts, podcasts, courses, and videos that people can use. Access to me, however, is paid. And they’re fucking expensive! I’m pretty happy with the model, and I guess most of that thinking is highly individualistic and wouldn’t appeal to anyone. But look at this like an artist who’s new to the field — the only way for her to succeed in the long run is to put their work of art for free and keep at it every day until someone commissions them to create art that is highly specialized and personal.

That’s who I am as a management consultant and coach. If you’re a coach or consultant, adopting an artist’s mindset could be the best investment you can make in your career. It’s hard work compared to the “post and pray” strategy most people adopt. But I’d rather be an artisan putting out works of art than a mediocre one whom nobody knows.

As an independent consultant at the end of the day, you’re solving a demand and supply problem, besides offering your specialized knowledge. There’s a lot less demand and heck of a lot of competition. The best way to solve it is by being outstanding at sharing and showing your work and the ones who do always get queued in the supply chain of service providers. That’s how you can prove to be exceptional at what you do.

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