5 Insider Tips on Growing a Thriving Health Coaching Business
With a growing weight of evidence pointing at health coaching's efficacy to help people live longer and healthier lives, there's never been a better time to develop a career in the industry. Recent research suggests that coaches are sought after for their ability to improve patient outcomes in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, to name a few. As a 'caring professional', there are some essential traits that will set you apart from the rest—a practitioner people will turn to when they need wellness support. Let's focus on 5 of the major attributes that you will need to succeed.
Genuinely care for people
First, and foremost, you have to truly care about your clients' wellbeing. You're primarily dealing with people in a highly vulnerable state. They might be ill, depressed, overweight, or recovering from major surgery. Sensitivity is indispensable. If you are going to get to the heart of their problems and help them change unhealthy behaviors, you'll have to exhibit a caring bedside manner.
Kristin Thomas, Founder & CEO of Health & Wellness Business School, remembers when her life hit an all-time low. Whilst her professional life was soaring, as a marketing professional at Twitter, her health was failing; she succumbed to an autoimmune gut issue. It was so bad, she landed in the hospital and, after some time, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. When doctors suggested major surgery, Thomas felt it was time to seek a second opinion.
After some research, she decided to hire the services of a functional health coach. The coach recommended further tests, which revealed a bacterial infection, leaky gut, and exhaustion. The key, in Thomas's opinion, was the coach's willingness to listen and empathize; she cared enough to run tests and persevere until a solution was found.
Get a recognized qualification
But before getting to help people, you need to get certified. Whilst many programs exist, it's important you find a respected, legitimate course that covers the main areas of the profession: fitness, wellness, nutrition, and health.
Given that science is advancing rapidly, it's vital your program teaches a cutting-edge curriculum. Also, ask yourself if the course aligns with your personal values and beliefs. If not, you might experience frustration later on.
Program fundamentals should also be complemented by some of the more holistic elements of wellbeing. Problems such as sleep deprivation, stress, lack of work-life balance, and unhappiness are often at the root of other more serious medical conditions. Having the knowledge to help clients address these areas will set you apart.
Learn how the business works
Whilst health training is vital, Thomas underscores the importance of gaining business-specific training too. She points out that "health coaching is a business unlike any other."
Thomas was fortunate that she came from a corporate background. However, as more health coaches sought her advice, she realised there was a gap in the industry. What began as a seed idea has now blossomed into reality: a business school for health professionals, focusing on industry-specific skills. As Thomas says, "It actually doesn't make sense to invest in getting certified...yet have no idea how to build a business and attract clients. You simply can't do one without the other."
She also warns that, "generic business coaching doesn't usually work in the health and wellness space. There are too many nuances around messaging on health topics, communicating with a sick audience, remaining compliant, and conducting appropriate and compassionate sales calls."
Thomas herself has retained the services of multiple business mentors and coaches over the years who are always "several steps ahead". She feels this keeps her sharp, able to grow her business whilst helping others develop theirs.
Be able to work as part of a team
And there is no end of opportunities out there. The US healthcare system is starting to recognize the value of hiring health coaches to help their patients manage their chronic diseases. Research from the Miriam Hospital Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center found that their patients were able to lose 9% body weight, in a six-month period. With obesity-related diseases accounting for the majority of US healthcare spending, health coaching provides a valuable alternative to traditional medicine.
Doctors know how to treat diseases but not how to change one's lifestyle. Also, doctors are time-poor. They might, at most, have 15 minutes in which to deliver a diagnosis and then advise on a course of treatment. Areas like nutrition, sleep, and exercise is often far beyond the scope of a short meeting.
Coaches are better suited to taking over some areas of aftercare: behavioral management, exercise, and nutrition, alleviating the doctor's workload, and giving the patient the chance of a better health outcome. That's why teamwork is indispensable. It's vital for all coaches to build rapport, win patients' trust, and clearly communicate information.
Be committed to lifelong learning
The glue that binds everything else together is the ability to learn. The health and wellness space is fast-moving and ever-changing. You will be required to regularly read and absorb new information in order to have the best tools to support your clients.
Most professionals subscribe to industry publications and websites to gather the latest news. No matter how robust your qualification, you may have to enroll in further courses and learn new techniques.
Science also has a habit of changing its opinion on certain practices. Only those who are prepared to do the hard work will continue to be relevant within the industry.
If you've already decided this is the career for you, regardless of the demands, these 5 points will set you on the right path. Invest time not only in quality education, and learning about the business, but also reflect on your capacity to care, work with others and learn. It's these 'soft skills' that will determine your trajectory more than anything else.