As a Writing Coach, How Do You Find Your First Clients?

What do you do when your coaching practice is a blank slate?

In the last year, I received several inquiries about how to get started generating income as a writing coach.  Today, I’m sharing a rather long response, with the sincere hope that it will help those of you who might like to become a writing coach, but wonder how to get started.

First, for truth in answering, I’m not a great person to teach marketing of one’s skills and talents.  So much of my work as a writing coach comes from word of mouth, serendipity, happy past clients, and requests to help on certain projects.  My experience is rather haphazard, in terms of a career trajectory.

This is why I am recommending a few marketing coaches, who by the way, are not paying me a dime to recommend them.  When I use affiliate links, I let you know.  The people I recommend in this article are coaches I’ve worked with directly.  I have used their materials, and they offer approaches to marketing that are genuinely innovative, inspirational and helpful.

The following ideas are suggestions based on my experience and observation of other writing coaches.  Hope these nine ideas expand your ideas of what is possible for you:

  1.  In the beginning, be willing to do different kinds of writing coaching to see where your skills might be most needed.  For instance, you may think you are a great editor, and should focus on that one skill, when maybe many of your clients actually need an accountability coach, which from my experience is what a lot of writers need (and that includes professional and experienced writers).
  2. Work with hubs where your clients hang out.  (See Tad Hargrave – Marketing for Hippies for a great resource for marketing of all sorts!  I had worked with hubs prior to reading Tad’s work, but never realized that’s what I was doing.)

Examples of hubs for writing coaches could be:

  • Professional writer’s societies
  • Writing conferences
  • Online writing groups
  • Libraries
  • Local Coffee Shops
  • Spas and resorts
  • Local business organizations
  • Any places where your clients may show up

When I suggest that you work with hubs, I mean begin by donating your time and talents, to become known as a resource to the hub, and then offer your services.

As a recent personal example, I serve on a Sustainability Board for my city, and ended pulling together and writing a significant portion of the update of our sustainability plan in 2016. This was entirely pro-bono work, but I knew it would not only keep my writing skills fresh and increase my connections to my local community,  it was something that deeply mattered to me.  This project also was part of my ongoing attention to expanding my own writing portfolio.  The people on the team know of some of my skills by seeing what I offered.  This isn’t a perfect writing coaching example, but gives you one idea of how to work with a hub, in this case, a local government board.

3.  If your financial situation allows, pick and choose the types of clients and projects that you will accept.  Sometimes, you need to accept any work you can get. At this point, I prefer to work with men and women who care about the sustainability of our planet, small business owners, healers, artists, teachers, earthkeepers, overall folks with a good heart.  Tad Hargrave would call this defining a niche.

4.  Keep improving your writing and coaching skills.  This may mean working with other writing coaches to see where your writing could improve.  We all have our own approach to improving our writing, but generally we need editors to help us refine our work.  Learning to be your own editor is very important, and helps you work as a coach.  Since part of being a writing coach is helping your clients improve their writing, it’s important you know how that is done.

5.  Understand your client’s pain.  Much of marketing tells us to focus on our client’s problems and challenges.  My experience as a writer and a writing coach tells me that writers encounter these problems regularly, meaning there are continuous opportunities for coaching writers through:

  • Loneliness
  • Resistance
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Fear of Being Seen
  • Learning How to Proceed When You’re Stuck
  • Inexperience
  • Lack of Marketing Skills
  • Challenges with Grammar, Sentence Structure, etc
  • Difficulty in Finding Your Voice

These are just a few common challenges. As a writing coach, you can help with all these areas or focus on one or more of them.  You might ask yourself, how have you overcome these problems?  See if you can discern a process that might be useful to teach others as a writing coach.

6.  A few words about credentials.  Some writing coaches have degrees from fantastic universities, numerous coaching certificates, best-selling non-fiction books or novels.  Almost all writing coaches have experience creating finished projects such as books, user guides, e-books, grant writing, marketing materials, novels, short stories,  or poetry.

As a writing coach, one of your goals should be to understand how different kinds of writers finish writing projects. Your credentials and portfolio matter, but showing how you can help writers finish their projects through your blogs, magazine articles and videos might help you more.

My advice is don’t go and get a credential just to become a writing coach. If you want a MFA for credibility or your own personal growth, that’s fine, but that alone is not necessarily going to get you clients.  Your ability to help other writers with their problems and finding their bliss is a better focus  If you’re set on getting accredited in some way, consider coaching while you’re working on building your credentials.

7.  Understand your client’s bliss.  Many of my clients work with me because I understand what brings them joy.  In my experience, many writers write for the joy of:

  • Creativity
  • Expressing Their Voice
  • Learning About Themselves From Writing Their Story
  • Completing Long-cherished Dreams
  • Sharing Their Wisdom
  • Developing a Sense of Competency
  • Expanding A Sense of Connection to a Community of Readers

Remember that one of your overall goals as a writing coach is to help your client experience the joy of writing.  If you can help people find the joy in writing, clients will want to work with you again and again.

8.  Marketing our skills is often a challenge for many of us, and I don’t claim to be an expert in this area, though I have helped scores of businesses to write marketing materials.  Maybe you have found this to be true — it’s often easier to help someone else market their products and services than yourself.

A marketer who has helped me to open to the joy of marketing is Mark Silver of Heart of Business.  His is a spiritual approach to growing your business that I deeply admire and recommend.

9.  My last tip is observe and learn from the work of writing coaches that you admire.  I find many different writing coaches to be helpful.  See what you like about their programs, processes or systems for working with clients.  You may find that the writing coaches you encounter are missing something that would make them an even better coach. Become the kind of coach that you wish existed!

For the last year, I have been focusing on several writing projects and building up a program I call The Listeners Path.  This work is still very much in the beginning stages, but is the culmination of the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years of experience in writing, sustainability advocacy, coaching and project development.  I am very excited to be developing this next phase of my career.

One of the programs I offer through the Listeners Path is called a Season of Living Well, which is a monthly program that I customize for the particular group of people working with me during that season.  Since I’m doing some writing coaching this season, there is going to be more focus in this Season of Living Well on completing writing projects, and writing as a restorative practice from March 20 through June 21 2017.

In general, the Season of Living Well process begins with a quick project questionnaire. You then work with me to create daily and/or weekly targets as part of seasonal project goal, receive a weekly check-in letter and a monthly video from me on energies of transformation, as well as a monthly group teleconference.  You don’t have to be doing a writing project.  Almost any project, can be advanced significantly in 3 months.  If this sounds interesting, check the Season of Living Well program out here.

If you would like to learn more about my work, and receive ideas on how to live well in our deeply connected world, I would love to have you join my free Listeners Path newsletter here.  The newsletter is the primary place,  where I will be sharing writing, coaching and lifestyle tips during 2017.

I hope today’s post offers some helpful ideas for those of you who have an interest in becoming a writing coach.  There are many great writing coaches out there.  You could become one too!

Harnessing the Transformative Power of a Writer’s Retreat

Deutsch: Retreat
Deutsch: Retreat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read or listen to many coaches for authors, you might notice them saying the same thing.

The first purpose of inspirational writing is to change yourself.

You may or may not agree with that idea, but you probably have noticed that often when we teach something to someone else, we are the ones who learn the most.  Personally, I have always found any kind of writing to be transformational.  Even writing computer user guides can teach you something about writing.

The process of organizing our thoughts or simply writing them, at the very least lets us know what our thoughts are.  Sometimes when we’re lucky, our writing creates beauty and wisdom and inspiration for others.

Most of all, writing is a form of self-expression.  What else could we be put upon this earth to do, if it is not to share our best self?  If writing calls to you, why not see where yours will take you this summer in an even more concentrated way and take part in a writer’s retreat?

You may already be planning on attending a writer’s retreat or creating your own.  Whether your retreat is 15 minutes or the whole summer, give yourself the chance to learn, grow and explore your unique self that you’re expressing.

In the next few posts, I’m going to offer some ideas on how to increase the expression of your self in a self-driven writer’s retreat. You deserve something that goes beyond your typical routine with writing and you can do that on your own.  However, if you want to include other writers, that’s great too!

Had you planned on giving yourself the gift of a writer’s retreat this season or this year?

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Where is Your Writing Taking You?

Shell Spiral
Shell Spiral (Photo credit: Theen …)

There are many places that our writing can take us:

  • New worlds (fantasy or real)
  • New work – assignments and projects we might not have been able to imagine
  • Discovering we have a tribe of followers of our ideas
  • Discovering no one resonates with our ideas
  • Deeper into our soul, whether anyone reads our writing or not
  • Into despair even though we have many readers
  • Closer to God
  • Farther away from God
  • Stuck in our mind
  • More deeply into the heart of our life
  • Into our own world that keeps us separated from others
  • Into a shared world that brings us closer together with others

And more . . .

Our writing destination is both a choice and an unplanned spiral journey expanding us and often bringing us back to a focal point defined by the greater part of our soul.

Where is your writing taking you now?

Where would you like your writing to take you?

Do you have a choice?

Celebrate where you are going, even if it’s not obvious to you in this moment.

Writer of Destiny: Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros signing copies of her book
Sandra Cisneros signing copies of her book (Photo credit: Gwinnett County Public Library)

I want to be

like the waves on the sea,

like the clouds in the wind,

but I’m me.

One day I’ll jump

out of my skin.

I’ll shake the sky

like a hundred violins.

Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street

A couple of years ago, my mother gave me an anniversary edition of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  This was one of those books I thought I should read but somehow never got around to reading until this week.  I’m glad that I finally read this wonderful gem.

House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street was written over 25 years ago in a Chicago that is both very different and similar to the Chicago of today.  Reading this book, I felt myself transported back to the 70’s and early 80’s when she wrote it, and also to the Chicago of the 90’s and 2000’s when the city was such a big part of my life.  I was also reminded of the stories my mother used to tell me about growing up in Chicago in the 30’s and 40’s.

My mother’s grandparents were immigrants from Germany and as I read The House on Mango Street, I could see and feel the core of the immigrant experience in coming to the intense melting pot that is Chicago.

Being a witness is important for any writer of any time, but I continue to believe that it’s even more critical that we have writers who chronicle this time in which we are living.  We live in a time when the world is changing so dramatically from what it was like for thousands of years of human and earth history. Cisneros provides a profound witness to our chaotic and ever-changing time with beauty, brevity and nuance.

Her honest and open introduction in the anniversary edition, is almost even more moving than the original story.  Cisneros combines poetry and prose in a highly readable and accessible book.  There’s much to learn from her about the craft of writing just in the House on Mango Street.  I intend to read more of her work soon.

Have any of you read other books by Cisneros that you could recommend?

Does the Soul of Your Book Have Cravings?

Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin
Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In many ways, I’ve had an ideal writer’s life for the last few years.  For a while,  I was very frustrated with myself, because I felt like I was doing the novel-writing process in the wrong way, and that I was missing some right way to be creative.

For the last six months, I’ve taken a different approach to giving birth to my novel.  Rather than thinking of novel-writing as a project or task to be completed, I’ve begun to work with the soul of my book, and treat it as though it were a person rather than an inanimate object that will sit on a shelf or in the Amazon cloud.

One thing that has been helping me to move forward is to look even more closely at the parallels between creating a novel and giving birth to children.

My child-bearing experience was different from many women.   I stopped working as much as possible when I had both my kids and enjoyed the pregnancy.   I believed and still believe that women should treat themselves very kindly when they are pregnant.

On the whole I look back at my pregnancies as some of the most enjoyable times of my life, because I felt that I was doing sacred work.  My belief was that my children were special people being sent by God to live in the world and take part in the Great Turning of our world.  I still believe they are my greatest creations.

Yet, I also feel that the books that I’m writing could be contributions to changing the way we look at the world to support a Great Turning towards honoring life and the earth more than greed and materialism.  Creating the novels has actually felt more difficult for me than having children.  So, I’m starting to honor more and more what I did when I was pregnant.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed.

During both pregnancies, I had cravings for foods that I never liked before then.  The one I remember the most is pink grapefruit juice.  I couldn’t get enough of it while I was pregnant with both of my children, and hated grapefruit juice before that time.   I still like to drink it every so often, because it reminds me of that special time in my life.

Led Zeppelin, January 1975, Chicago
Led Zeppelin, January 1975, Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My novel has different cravings.

While I’ve been writing my novel, I’ve had a strange desire to listen to Led Zeppelin music, which I didn’t like at any other time in my life although, though I had always loved the song Kashmir.  As I started writing more deeply, I started to get weirdly obsessed with listening to Kashmir, and then decided maybe I should listen to more Led Zeppelin and found I now like it.

It’s the strangest thing to me, but I feel like somehow Led Zeppelin music has a certain kind of soul to it that the soul of my book craves.  For someone who is fairly introverted and loves quiet, lyrical New Age and Classical music this attraction to Led Zeppelin music feels odd.

On top of that,  I started writing my own music and lyrics.  That has helped me to hear the book’s story.  I attribute these new connections with music to the soul of the book requiring me to be lyrical in a different way for it.

When I was pregnant with both of my boys, I had a certain way of living that I’m now embracing with novel-writing. While pregnant, I allowed myself to:

  • Trust that something bigger than myself was working through me.
  • Treat that time of giving birth as a holy gift and treasured it.
  • Enjoy the process of listening to what the soul of my book needs to grow and flourish.
  • Act upon what the soul of the new life in me needs.
  • Appreciate that giving birth takes a lot of energy so I deserve to be kind to myself.
  • Allow the new life to come forth when it is ready.
Past Childbirth Scene
Past Childbirth Scene (Photo credit: nep)

This is my way of giving birth to children and novels.  It’s not for everyone.  Other people who I knew worked very hard while they were pregnant and it was not a big deal to them.  They could multi-task.  For the most part, I could only do one thing.

Other women’s childbirth experience was very different from mine, but also good for them.  Just like there are other people who work full-time and write great books, there are many ways to be a writer.  Some people need quiet, some need to be writing around other people.

We all have to find the way to give birth that is best for us.  There is no one size fits all approach to writing.

Have you found your own path to honoring the cravings and soul of your writing?

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The Heroes in Our Lives and Stories

behemot's cave AND crag
behemot's cave AND crag (Photo credit: Ainunau)

I don’t think we ever outgrow our need for heroes, but our specifications for them change as we change.  Even when the day comes that we realize it’s our turn to be the heroes, even when perhaps somebody actually walks up to us and anoints us with the unsettling phrase, “You are my hero,” still we go on looking for what we can’t do without out, the image or the memory of or the meeting with that vivid person who lived or lives on the same earth that we do and whose example will be powerful enough to show us how to go on.  Often mysteriously, our heroes make themselves available to us just when we’re most in need of their particular gifts.  Suddenly, he’s just there or she’s just there. Our befitting shepherd that very one who can set us straight, who will graciously pause in the timelessness of his or her proper work, and take us by the shoulders and turn us around so that we, still so helplessly bound and beset by time, can see where our proper work leads next.

Gail Godwin

Question for the Day:

Do you have a mountain to climb in your life or writing that requires the guidance of a new hero?

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The Legacy of Your Art

Almost everyone who reads my blog is an artist.  You may not look upon your work as art, but if you are creating anything original with what you do,  in my view, you are creating art.

Some art is uninspiring, derivative, or mediocre.  I doubt that anyone reading this blog is creating that kind of art.  Some of the books that I’m currently reading got me to thinking about the legacy of our art and life.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading the biography of Steve Jobs at the same time that I’ve started reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

The biography of Steve Jobs is brilliant, though I can’t wondering if I would like Steve Jobs if I had worked for him.  Yet, there’s no denying he was a great artist, and left a legacy of innovation that touched millions if not billions of people.

Then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum, the quiet artist.  In the first chapter of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain describes a different kind of artist.  A social artist who was shy, quiet and strong in a different way.  Her name was Rosa Parks.  She too affected the lives of millions of people around the world with a different kind of courage and quiet strength.

Boats for Nicholas

Today, I am celebrating the art of a quietly strong artist, my mother.  Over her life, she has been creating works of art that have only been seen by her family. She created the paintings on this page for my kids and me.  I’m afraid my photos of her work don’t do it justice!

My mom studied art at Lake Forest College in 1947, after graduating a year early from high school because she skipped a grade growing up.  She was quite clever in so many ways.

She was offered a full scholarship for college, but her father, my grandfather refused to accept charity, so she didn’t finish college then.  It would be over thirty years later that she would graduate from college in 1984, with a degree in business.  She worked very hard and went on to work in the Department of the Army Budget Office in the Pentagon in Washington D.C. around the same time I moved back from New York to live in Chicago.

In recent years, she has created several paintings that she has given to me so that I could have original art in my house.  I don’t have her talent for visual art, though both of my boys do.

My mother taught me to never give up on being an artist, no matter what restrictions your world or life puts in your way.  It’s because of her to a large degree that I don’t give up on my artistic aspirations.  I just hope that I can be half the artist she has been.

A lighthouse for Alex

While it’s tempting to think that the world wouldn’t move ahead without people like Steve Jobs or Rosa Parks, I agree with words of Mother Theresa:

There are no great actions, only small actions done with great love.

Created with love, the art of my mother’s life, and my life and your life is just as important as anyone else’s.  Is it possible that our art carries the vibration of the love in which we created it?  I believe it does.  Therefore, creating art with love is the most important choice you can make for creating a worthy legacy.  I’m very grateful that I grew up with that kind of artist.

From what I can tell, creating art for love’s sake is the ultimate message that Steve Jobs wanted his biographer to articulate in his biography, so that his children could know his motivation for all that he did.

What would your biographer say about you and the art of your life?