How To Pick A (Writing) Coach

in Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Hey Anne,

Question for you. How do you know what type of coach would be best for you? And then how do you choose one?

Sal Vilardo via twitter.

His webiste is: http://www.prolific-studios.com

Hey yourself Sal,

Tempting as it is to shout hire me hire me, I don’t know if I’m the kind of coach you need. Which brings us to the first question:

Why do you want a coach in the first place?

Why Do You Want A Coach?

There are:

  • Life coaches who will help you sort out your whole life.
  • Career coaches who will help you discover what your real passion is.
  • Employment coaches who will help you get a job.
  • Business coaches who will help you improve your business. Mark Silver of Heart Of Business is my all-time favorite business coach.
  • Football coaches ;) and coaches for other sports.
  • Coaches for things I haven’t thought of…

…and of course, writing coaches.

So the first step in choosing a coach is deciding what you want help with.

It’s worth recognizing that in life issues get blurred. I’ve yet to coach anyone about their writing without getting into the rest of their lives at least just a bit. When I’ve hired coaches we’ve often needed to address something that was going on with me that wasn’t the reason I hired them. A good coach allows for that and also knows how to get the conversation back to the issue.

My Philosophy Of Coaching

My philosophy of coaching is that you already have the answer your seeking somewhere hidden inside you, that you’re the expert on your own life and you know, or will at least recognize, what writing you want to do and how to do it. You also know, with a little help, how to market your writing.

To be sure, new writers need to take in all sorts of information about writing from ideas, through getting it done, to selling their work. And a coach can also help with that. As a writing coach, however, my job is to listen deeply, reflect what I hear back to you so we both hear it a bit differently then hold space for you as you tune into your inner voice.

Coaches Provide Accountability

An important facet of coaching is providing the client with accountability.

If for example, I was coaching you and you had agreed to send me five pages of writing by Friday, you either would or wouldn’t keep that agreement. If you did, I’d read it, make comments and our next session would be mostly about what you had written.

On the other hand, if you didn’t do the writing and you kept your appointment the first part of our phone session would be about what got in your way, what kept you from getting the writing done.  We’d then work out a strategy that we both felt would help you get the writing done for our next session. Solutions vary all over the map, but they really come from you, from my client. I’m just there to help you find them and help you get done what you truly want to get done.

Choosing A Coach

I suppose someone has written even a whole book on how to hire a coach. That’s not my way. Sure  you want the coach you to be good at the thing you want help with. You want them to be able to communicate their experience to you in a non-judgmental way that helps you. References should be available and checked.

In my experience however, both as a coach and choosing them occasionally for myself, it all boils down to gut feelings. If I like their website, if their rates are affordable to me, the next step is a phone call to explore what kind of chemistry.

Good coaching is a mutual experience. Carl Jung said something along these lines:

If both the therapist and the client aren’t changed, nothing has happened.

The same thing applies in coaching. Good coaching is always about you.

What’s been your experience coaching or being coached?


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda April 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Do you have any advice for someone who does not have the money to hire a coach?

Reply

Anne April 6, 2011 at 10:21 am

There are a ton of good resources on the web – this site and others will show you how to increase your income so you can afford a coach. What’s getting in your way, Amanda?

Reply

Amanda April 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I am a full time student paying my own way through college on a minimum wage job. I don’t have the time to work more. I can’t put any money aside to pay for a coach. It all goes to the college and medical bills

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annew April 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Amanda, we all go through periods when we have no extra money. Presumably when you get your degree your income will begin to increase. With a full time job and going to college I doubt if you have the time to make good use of a coach. Later when your income and schedule loosen up… then it will make more sense.

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Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing April 5, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Great post Anne — there really are so many different approaches to coaching, and a writer needs to find one that’s a fit for what they need, both in terms of subject matter the coach focuses on and in terms of personality types. I’ve learned I do a very specific type of coaching for writers.

I’m not a ‘writing’ coach. I’m not going to read your articles and help you improve them. You can take a class to learn to improve your writing that’s probably lower cost.

I’m not a therapist. If you are clinically depressed or massively insecure, you will need professional help beyond what I can give you in coping with those problems if you want to be a successful freelance writer.

I’m a writing BUSINESS coach. I’m going to teach you to market your business and get gigs. I’m here to give you tools and then provide an ongoing support framework with my mentee group to help keep you moving forward.

When people come to me with other needs — they want to know how to crack the traditional book-publishing racket, for instance…I refer them on.
Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing recently posted..What Writers Can Do When Editors Steal Their IdeasMy Profile

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annew April 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

Thanks Carol. Yes, when we’re coaching we must know what kind of coaching we offer if we’re to be effective. Nice distinctions you make here.

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Sal April 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Hey Anne,

Yes, that was exactly what I was looking for. Amazingly enough, I couldn’t find this info anywhere I searched (not to say it isn’t out there, but it probably buried around page 52 on Google).

I figured much of it was gut feeling – my holdup is getting past the “what if there is another coach that I have missed considering.” Well, that and “what part of my life do I want to undertake changing first…” :)

Let me ask you one other question, if I may – when you are looking for your coaches, do you just do a search online or do you just ask around to those you are close with? I have a feeling I already know the answer, but just wanted to make sure there weren’t any amazingly awesome resources out there that I don’t already know about.

P.S. Thanks for the link love :) Have a great Tuesday!

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Anne April 5, 2011 at 5:16 pm

If someone I know and trust recommends someone I’ll go that way – as you suspect I suspect. Let me suggest something I didn’t include in the article… a session or two with a coach won’t hurt you even if it’s the wrong coach – it’s not like getting married. You’re bound to learn something even if its what you don’t want – which isn’t a bad thing.

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Sal April 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I never thought about it that way. I guess it is a win-win no matter which way you decide to go. You either learn what you want, or what you don’t want. Thanks for the post Anne. :)
Sal recently posted..Open Thread- On TrustingMy Profile

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