Client success guide—the secret to using custom coaching to make happy clients

This is our not-so-secret secret to client success. Find out what we learned from our most successful master coaches and why we were shocked.

Instead of following mainstream advice about how to choose a niche and then build coaching products, they are doing something else and winning 5-star reviews, client referrals and 1-2 year contracts without websites or digital marketing. Find out how in this Client Success Guide.

Client success secret

We learned from interviewing dozens of top master coaches that being able to quickly create customized coaching solutions plus NOT having a coaching niche was indeed the secret to their success.

Why choosing a coaching niche is a big mistake – and what successful coaches do instead

If you feel that you must try to choose a coaching niche, and it’s causing stress, be prepared to free yourself and feel relief.

Almost every coaching and marketing guru will tell you that to succeed as a professional life coach, executive coach, Enneagram coach, business coach, or any other kind of coach, you’ll need to do 3 things:

  • First, pick a niche.
  • Second, perfect a coaching product offer usually at your desk.
  • And three, launch into the world using marketing and networking.

We’ve seen on the ground that this seldom works!

Have you heard that you should pick a niche before building your coaching business? You might have even been told to choose a niche before you choose a certification path.

This approach nearly always fails.

I would go so far as to say that choosing a coaching niche and limiting yourself to that niche is a coaching dream killer!


Client Success Guide

What we learned from our successful coaches

Once a month, I offer the members of my Master Coach Mondays (my free email teachings and tools subscription) free ICF Mentor Hour sessions. I guide coaches worldwide, including non-InnerLifeSkills Master coaches, on all things ICF competency skills, toolbox building, and business building related.

When a life coach struggles to find clients consistently, I can almost guess they have followed this niche-first approach.

But when I’ve spoken to dozens of successful InnerLifeSkills Master Coaches and coaches who’ve graduated from other programs, if they’re booked solid in demand, I can almost guess that they have followed a different path entirely, and that’s the path I’m going to show you how in this guide.

Building custom coaching solutions and un-niching yourself is so important to the success of our master coaches that we included it as pillar number three in our four pillars of success.

Every master coach we know that has had 5 to 15 consistent years of success in the world of coaching has built these 4 pillars of success.

    1. CONFIDENT-CLARITY – they have confident clarity, in their purpose as a life coach.
    2. CREDIBLE-CERTIFICATION – they have acquired credible certification.
    3. CUSTOM-COACHING – they have the toolbox and the skills needed to offer custom coaching in a multi-niche environment (what this guide is all about). You are on this page.
    4. CLIENT CASH-FLOW – they have consistent clients and abundant cash flow in their coaching business building because of the strength of the first 3 pillars and because of creating natural systems for growth.
4 Pillars of Life Coach Success from confidence to clients

Comparing the niche first vs multi-niche approach

Let’s compare the two approaches so that you walk away from this guide understanding exactly why it’s critically important for you to un-niche yourself and build a unique, comprehensive coaching toolbox to offer custom coaching solutions.

The coaching niche’s first traditional approach binds you and limits you in several ways.

  • 1. Building the shop window first – you try to build your shop window (which should be niche-focused, before even having a shop – no proven coaching products).
  • 2. Blinkers on – you are blind to who else you can serve, missing many new clients.
  • 3. Blind spots – you are blind to how else you can serve, missing so many other ways to serve your existing clients, to become their go-to coach.

Trying to choose a niche too soon is like building a shop window before you even have a shop or even know what you’re putting in your shop.

Imagine studying to be a professional master chef. You can’t know what type of cooking or cuisine you will be successful at until you have the fundamentals before even learning the basics of cooking.

It would be premature to build a shop window on day-one day of your journey. You would first want to learn all the various techniques and cuisines to discover what you want to put in your shop window, Italian or French Fusion.

Becoming a professional master coach is the same.

Remember that seasonal changes are popular in the world of coaching. That’s why shop windows (marketing) should change.

The only time a niche is important (vitally important) is for marketing when you’re creating your digital shop window (website, social profile, landing pages.)

But creating your digital marketing presence should ideally happen after you’ve discovered that you have a proven coaching product – where clients say “yes” and are wowed.

“But Col, surely I need some form of a website or social presence?” you may ask.

Yes, this is very helpful, but the purpose of any digital presence in the early stages is only twofold:

1. Establish your CREDIBILITY, and 2. Give people a way to start a CONVERSATION with you.

Leave niche-targeted messaging for later.

Rather stay broad and general to start.

Is that a sigh of relief I hear?

Behind the shop window is a big shop full of various products and services. Your coaching career should have the same.

Ideally, it helps if you have a comprehensive multi-niche toolbox so that when your client suggests they have a particular challenge, you have several processes to draw on and flexible coaching skills to adapt to this need.

If halfway through a coaching session, your client bumps into an inner obstacle like fear; you should have other processes that you can draw on to coach their fear confidently.

Don’t rely on the stock standard usual coaching approach, which is to challenge their limiting beliefs and ask them solution-focused questions, which hardly ever works.

I’m talking about deep, meaningful, unique processes and coaching questions that inspire profound insights that you can rely on to help clients consistently shift their inner obstacles.

So, let’s explore the coaching niche first approach.

The truth is, we don’t know what will work until we’ve tried. This is not a bad thing; it’s reality.

During a coaching session, a master coach learns to be comfortable in the unknown (this is even a description from the ICF for a PCC Professional level competency.)

At master coaching levels, only amateur and beginner coaches cling to rigid mechanical structures and can’t fully, intuitively dance with their clients. The magic of coaching happens when we can adapt.

When we’re comfortable with our clients being uncomfortable, when we’re willing to discover and explore together, that’s when the true life-changing aha moments show up.

So it’s not surprising that building a professional master coaching career would be the same approach.

If you’ve got credible certification behind you and a comprehensive multi-niche toolbox, which means that you can coach (at the very least) what we call the BIG 4: life coaching, Enneagram coaching, executive coaching and business coaching, then you can trust your skills and your toolbox to respond spontaneously to the coaching business opportunities that show up in your life.


The Big 4 Coaching Client Services

Take off your coaching niche Blinkers

This brings me to the second point, blinkers.

You put blinkers on when your mindset narrows to 1 niche or 1 focused area of coaching.

Take this example: life coaching for couples struggling in their relationship.

This sounds good on paper like you’ve done everything right in terms of what the marketing gurus will tell you to do, but now you try to create a product for couples at your desk, which is guesswork.

Even if you push past the natural procrastination that will arise from this lack of clarity (because you’re guessing in a vacuum) to invest time and money creating a launch (landing page, Google ads even) to promote this offer… 9/10, you’re going to be disappointed, even devastated when only a handful of potential clients show up, if any at all.


Because a niche-first approach blinds you to who else you can serve.

When you walk around with niche blinkers on, you can’t see the hundreds of potential clients waiting for you all around you.

When you take off those blinkers, you realize that anyone can be your client, and I know I’m repeating myself. Still, as long as you have a big toolbox, lots of good processes and flexible master-level skills, you can confidently coach anyone on any goal.

This means that instead of choosing a niche, then trying to create a perfect product at your desk (which is a kind of insanity) and then launching and often failing, picture this alternative approach.

Un-niche yourself.

You trust your coaching skills, your certification, and your toolbox.

Then you make yourself available to people, not to be that cheesy, greedy, sleazy salesperson, but instead to be natural, authentic and focused on being of service. You have casual, curious conversations (as many as possible).

You put yourself in environments where you genuinely are interested in the people around you to discover where they are struggling, suffering, stuck or stressed. Yes, my alliteration habit is showing up again.

InnerLifeSkills calls this having Sticky Conversations.

What conversations should you be having with potential clients?

You use all the coaching skills you’ve hopefully been trained in, active listening, open, spiral up, helpful questions, and being yourself. Be genuinely curious to discover what people’s dreams are, what’s in the way, and why it’s important to them… and all the while, you start thinking about the tools in your toolbox, matching the processes that might help them.

Then you don’t rush away and create a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, you have a natural conversation that sounds something like this.

un-niche to find coaching clients

“Based on what you’ve told me, I might have one or two professional coaching processes that might help you find the clarity you’re looking for. For example, the InnerLifeSkills Kite process helps shift inner obstacles like the one you’ve mentioned, procrastination.

“It’s worked well for my clients. This may be a good approach for you; what do you think?”

Then you discuss their ideal solution and co-create a custom coaching journey on the spot. Yes, you may need a few follow-up meetings (depending on the scale of the project and how many decision-makers are involved).

Notice that this approach is curious, casual, and not pushy; it works well! Because instead of trying to perfect a product at your desk, our approach is to take your blinkers off and to co-create a solution with your client.

I’ll say that again, to co-create a solution with your client, and if you think this doesn’t work for multimillion-million coaching contracts, it does.

Multi-million client case study

In 2012, I was asked to pitch for a multimillion coaching deal. I arrived at the first briefing meeting, and the manager Samuel was surprised when I said, “No, I don’t have a business card, PowerPoint, or brochure.”

Instead, I said, “If you don’t mind, I don’t want to offer you an off-the-shelf solution. I’d prefer to spend time getting to know you and finding out exactly what your objectives are. I also want to determine if my services are a good fit for you and vice versa so we don’t waste time. If my team and I can’t help you, I’d rather turn this opportunity down.”

None of my competitors did this. They all “sold” their services, handed out brochures and polished presentations.

We then spent an hour having a natural, enjoyable conversation. I asked many good questions, took notes, and shared my expertise and credibility.

The only two things we need to ever do at the early stages of finding a potential client are to establish our credibility and make enough of a connection that we start a conversation with someone.

That’s it.

You could do that. Then we start to co-create.

I also feel it’s important to be willing to walk away from a potential client if the fit is wrong. In other words, if they can’t afford me or I genuinely cannot help them. I only want to serve people at the highest level, so I’m prepared to walk away from a potential coaching client to find my ideal clients who are waiting for me.

Can you feel the difference this mindset brings?

create coaching products

After an hour of actively finding out where my client was struggling, stressed, suffering, and stuck getting his exact words, co-designing the solution with him in that one-hour meeting, the next step was to return to the company with a formal presentation.

Armed with this knowledge, I could go back to my desk to create a presentation slide deck that was fully customized in every possible way.

  • If your coaching skills and processes are flexible, like lego brick, click-click-click, and you have a new something flexible, it’s very easy to custom-build coaching services.
  • If your skills and processes are rigid and mechanical, with no room for intuition and creativity, you will find it impossible to custom-build your coaching services.

In my second meeting, which involved presenting to a group in a boardroom, I didn’t just present my slides (we give our Master Coaches templates of these to adapt).

I asked more questions, showed them the ‘draft’ proposal and further custom built on the fly while standing there so that at the end of the second meeting, I had even further clarity on how I might serve this company at a very high level. The third and fourth meetings were exactly the same until I won the contract.

Did I stop custom building, then? No.

I didn’t rest there. On the first day of offering our services, I continued to learn while delivering, tweaking, and adjusting our offerings.

Fast forward, we’ve been serving this client for 10 years. We were nominated for the prestigious Global Prism Award twice, once, top five and top 10 recently for our work with this client, and just the other day, when I was talking to Samuel, the original manager that I spoke to all those years ago, I realized that once again, we needed to adapt to serve this client at the highest level.

Do you hear the importance of what I’m sharing here?

Why you shouldn’t create a coaching product at your desk

If we take our blinkers off and stop trying to create products in a vacuum at our desks and instead trust ourselves to show up with enough of a draft idea to get our foot in the door but then further adapt and customize, we’re going to achieve several things.

  • 1. We’ll win more coaching clients because we paid attention to them and customized our service.
  • 2. People are usually happy to pay more for bespoke services than off the shelf.
  • 3. You rise above your competitors who are often unable to customize (they don’t have a big enough coaching toolbox or flexible skills, OR they don’t know they can!)
  • 4. We can now deliver exactly what the client was looking for because we’ve met every area in a customized way. There’s nothing like a happy client to make us go to sleep at night with a smile knowing we made a real difference.
  • 5. This is going to result in high ratings and reviews.
  • 6. Happy clients often mean referrals.

Who else is doing this? Very few.

Most coaches offer off-the-shelf niche services that they’ve polished at their desks or copied and modelled from some other successful coach.

When you un-niche yourself, you take off your blinkers about who you can serve.

Remove Coaching Niche Blind Spots to become a go-to coach

And lastly, blind spots. When we choose 1 niche, we have blind spots about how we can serve. This can also happen if your toolbox is thin or your skills are limited.

Many coaches are only taught to coach at entry levels, what I call to-do list coaching, which means they can help their clients set goals, create action plans, possibly build accountability, and sometimes throw in some ‘challenging of limiting beliefs’ when the client hits an inner obstacle.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach to coaching, it has value, but because the coaching industry is matured, clients want more these days.

Your clients can download coaching and productivity apps that guide them through goal setting and to-do-list task management. Surely, you want to offer more than this?

You will restrict yourself with blind spots if you’ve:

  • only learned life coaching or only executive coaching,
  • or if you only have 5 to 10 basic coaching processes, like thinking exercises or frameworks, you can use them during your coaching sessions.

That’s why our master coaches not only learn the Big 4 toolboxes, life coaching, Enneagram coaching, executive coaching and business coaching, but they also learn other speciality toolboxes like intuition coaching, personal power, relationship, systemic, life purpose and dream builder coaching, gaining over 50 flexible processes that they can easily adapt.

This means they can serve anyone and coach any theme or topic in a session. This also means that our master coaches can (you guessed it) custom-build long-term lucrative coaching solutions.

And finally, when you have limited skills or a very small toolbox, you can’t offer more than one or two sessions to a client easily without the structure and style of the coaching session feeling repetitive. You can’t become a go-to coach.

What is a go-to coach?

A go-to coach is someone that can switch from life coaching to executive coaching, to relationship coaching, to Enneagram coaching as and when it’s needed for their clients.

One of my corporate clients, an independent financial planning company, will call me to say, “Colleen, we’re having a client function day. Can you facilitate purpose group coaching processes for our clients to motivate them after the last few tough years?”

And I can say, “Yes. Absolutely.”

“Oh, and Colleen, our teams need some coaching around personality conflicts. Is that something you can assist with?”

And I can say, “With pleasure, yes, we can do some Enneagram typing, and I’ll adapt to whatever else shows up on the day.”

When your clients realize you have a comprehensive toolbox, they’ll start trusting you more and sharing more of their challenges with you so that you can co-create more custom coaching solutions for them.


So, let’s summarize these two approaches.

Instead of choosing a niche, then trying to create a perfect product at your desk, which never works, and then spending time and money mostly wasted by launching this into the world, reverse this.

Get into the world, co-create products for the client before you, then discover your niche!

When you go into the world with a trusted, multi-niche comprehensive toolbox, you know you can coach anyone, anywhere. You’re not planting 1 seed in 1 tiny piece of soil; you’re planting many seeds in different beds of soil and then watching, learning and adapting to serve at the highest. This brings an abundant harvest.

  • You’re naturally having human conversations (online and offline, in webinars and events) with curiosity, focusing on how you can serve.
  • Your blinkers are off.
  • You’re no longer limited to who you can serve and how you can serve.
  • You can switch between niches.
  • You’ve created a brand instead of a job title.
  • You’re not a life coach or an Enneagram coach; you have a coaching brand offering life coaching, executive coaching, Enneagram coaching, business coaching, etc.

Because you are customizing your coaching solutions for your clients, you’ve become their go-to coach. Your clients know they can call on you. They’ve referred you to colleagues and friends. They’ve given you top reviews because you’re exceptional.

You’re not like other coaches.
You’re a master coach.

And now, if you want to, you can build a digital shop window (niche-focused digital marketing), putting the most popular products out there, and messaging the niche markets you have discovered.

You might now choose to go to pillar number 4, which we call the Client Cashflow pillar, where you build systems to work smarter rather than harder.

But this happens naturally after you’ve proven your products and understand who shows up for your coaching and why. In other words, when you get a consistent pattern of the same people saying yes to similar kinds of custom-built products, it’s time to focus your website and marketing to attract more of these leads into your life.

95% of our most successful master coaches don’t even need to do this; they’re busy enough with their existing clients and referrals because they’ve become go-to master coaches.

How have they done this? By custom building their coaching solutions and un-niching themselves.

I hope this guide has freed you from the trap of the niche-first approach. If you aren’t already subscribed to my Master Coach Mondays, a weekly dose of these helpful insights to give you more teachings and tools and invite you to my free monthly Master Coaching mentor sessions, see below…

Learn more secrets to client attracting success

Join my email lessons, Master Coach Mondays, for each Monday’s teachings, tips and tools.