Making it work as an Associate Coach

Making it work as an Associate Coach

In my previous EMCC blog post, about making it work as a coach, I mentioned the different options or combinations of coaching work that are available to us as coaches: in-house, Associate, or business owner. We held a live event on how to authentically sell your services, which is of course, critical to building a viable coaching business.

In this post, I’m going to zoom into another option – working as an Associate. How did I become one, is it financially viable, and what is the life in the day of an Associate Executive Coach?

Getting into the good books – patience is key!

As with all things coaching career-related, there is no set path here, which can feel a little discouraging. I share here the things which helped me (and much more detail about this in the early stages you can find here:

Figure out your dream associate organisation, and then play the long game. Do your research and find the names of a few associate organisations you would love to work for. There might be one focused on your main sector, e.g. I recently entered into conversations with an associate company specialising in Financial Services coaches. Contact them to find out what they are currently looking for, or what their clients are asking for. Assess the extent to which you have these skills. Provide the companies with tangible evidence that you are doing this stuff already. Unlike employers, you need to hit the ground running, so you do need a bank of experience under your belt.

Certainly, working in a closely related role at London Business School gave me a good foothold, and entering their executive coaching pool was a solid start, however, it was 4 years in the making, as I discuss in the accompanying EMCC podcast.

I generally sat with associate companies or platforms for at least 6 months before securing my first paid opportunities with them. Or, if I did get some early, there was still a long ramp up into the currently very active market I’m now in.

Utilise LinkedIn and other relevant social media. I was approached by a thriving Associate company in March 2020 because I was sharing details about my coaching and leadership development work at my previous organisation on LinkedIn. This helped me break into a higher price bracket for my work. However, my first client was not signed with them till June 2021! I was also approached by a slightly different type of coaching company, an online platform, because again, I was sharing what I could about my work on Instagram.

Talk to your personal network. At a party, a helpful old fellow student introduced me to another associate company. Initially, the gatekeeper of this company told me I was too young and green – but the CEO could see my potential and brought me on, probably helped by the personal introduction from my contact.

A day in the life of an Associate Coach

Let me give you some of the nuts and bolts of life as an Associate Coach.

Pitching. At present, two main organisations provide me with the bulk of my work. I receive at least a couple of requests for coaching opportunities – either 1-1 or as part of bigger programmes – per week. Receiving a request from either of these two organisations means updating already formatted bios and thumbnails and qualifications tables, to tailor these for the opportunity. This tends to take up to 20-30 minutes. Generally a quick turnaround (24 hours for one) or about a week for the other is required.

Delivery. Initially I had a policy of saying yes to everything, however I’m now at a stage where I need to rethink this. Much of this has been remote given the pandemic but now in-person programmes are resuming. On any given day, I might have up to three one-hour remote sessions, or a full morning of group work online. This month I will also be on site for a full week but that is currently pretty rare since the pandemic. As a parent of young kids, all the remote work has actually suited me well!

Profits. The obvious benefit of associate work is that I can do minimal marketing, and receive a steady stream of opportunities. The obvious con is that they take a hefty slice of your fee. However, the breadth and depth of experience through associate work can be a great stepping stone into direct B2B work too. I’m noticing more businesses reaching out to request my coaching services via LinkedIn. This may be because I put out content relating to the extensive coaching work I do as an associate. These are the warmest kind of leads – as they have reached out to me rather than the other way around. But the reality is, I still don’t always have the bandwidth to follow up with them properly.

Overall, the associate route can be a fantastic way of making it work as a coach, particularly if like me right now, you don’t want the cognitive load of owning the direct B2B design and relationship.

If you want a deeper dive into this topic, tune into the accompanying podcast episode.

Maya Gudka, MSc
Executive Coach and Author