I have always been a coach, without even knowing it
I have only launched my business The Creative Business Coach late 2020. I never thought I would go into coaching, and even thought I couldn’t possibly call myself a coach without qualifications. I knew of other people being coaches, and thought that was a total different world than my own. But looking back at my career, I have always coached people. Helped them start their businesses, apply for grants, grow their audiences. In many of my jobs I have been taking on the role of coach, without being called a coach. I guess helping others achieve their goals, is a natural part of who I am. Does 20 years of coaching without knowing it, qualify me as a coach?
It all started with…grant applications
Applying for a grant, and marketing your business are really the same thing.
Is doesn’t matter if your audience is a public funding body, or an individual buying your product. They are both customers, and your job is to persuade them to give you money for what you have to offer. You do this by tapping into their ‘pain points’, and offering a solution to what they want.
A funding body wants to financially support projects that match their criteria, while a customer is willing to pay for the solution you are offering to their problem.
In my role as grants advisor for a funding body in the Netherlands, back in the early 2000s, I received dozens of applications each week, from creatives and teams needing subsidies for their projects. Exhibitions, book publications, research, public events, or even the annual contribution to run an arts centre.
I had to read through all of their applications, and pre-select those that fitted the criteria. I looked at: 1. What the project was; 2. Who it was for; and 3. Why anybody should care. Offer, target audience, message.
I spent many a meeting, in person or on the phone, in those years, with applicants to coach them into writing better applications. I helped them phrase things more clearly, skip the jargon, but most of all; turn the story around and make it about the audience – not themselves.
Some were naturals in describing what they were doing, for who, and why. Others were absolutely dreadful.
The most common mistake? Only talking about how utterly brilliant their project was going to be, and how fabulously talented the people who delivered it.
Or simply assuming that, because their organisation had built up some kind of reputation, we would just hand over the cash. But if the idea in itself was interesting in principle, but the application was wobbly, I would spring into action.
I was only about 25 at the time, but even then, I was supporting creatives in turning ideas into reality. I listened to their proposals, and mirrored it back to them to show them what was missing and how they should perhaps improve their application. By doing this, I helped them increase their chances of receiving the grants they applied for, and many of them were indeed successful.
Next up: growing audiences in rural Scotland
Fast forward a few years and one emigration later, I became the manager of an audience development agency in Scotland. My job? Supporting the cultural sector in Aberdeen City and Shire to increase visitor numbers. In short, I would work 1-to-1 with the managers or marketing teams of these organisations, doing ‘Marketing Health Checks’, and creating a clear strategy with them to go forward and grow their audiences.
Again, most of my client organisations did not have a clear message, nor a clear target audience. They were not doing much marketing, but rather fired off random announcements, or stuck posters up around town, hoping someone would see them and miraculously turn up at their events. Generally speaking, they were talking at their audience, rather than creating real relationships. Needless to say, visitor numbers were low in most cases.
In those days, around 2010, digital marketing was still up-and-coming in the arts, especially for rural art centres and museums, and I had no small task in bringing them up to speed with both the importance of using social media, and persuading them to save a lot of money by ditching expensive printed brochures. You wouldn’t believe how much of their already small marketing budget was often wasted on printed material, without having any kind of marketing strategy or a clear target audience.
Call me a consultant, a mentor, a trainer, or a coach in that role. I’d ask my clients questions to make them see what changes were needed, giving them new insights, letting light bulbs go up. I worked with them, gave them training, mentored them, and supported them in attracting more clients and becoming more successful. Doing group training as well as individual consultations.
Helping creatives believe in themselves
When I became a mum, a few years later, I gave up the 9-to-5 job, and became an entrepreneur, so I could combine motherhood while having my own business. I opened a vintage furniture store in the middle of the Aberdeenshire countryside, and within a few years I had made it into a hub of creativity.
Not only was I selling my own stock, I also gave other creatives the opportunity to sell their wares and dip their toes in running a business. I organised craft and vintage fairs, where artists and other traders would hire a table, and together we would create something very unique in the area. I also offered corners in the shop for budding entrepreneurs who were still only dreaming of opening a shop themselves, but didn’t yet have the courage.
I gave them the space to try it out.
It was a joy to watch fellow new business owners flourish, and make their first sales. Many of the women who started out with a small corner in my shop, opened up their own shops soon after.
It was such a great few years, where I saw many women launch their own creative businesses, and become more confident in promoting themselves.
So, was I coaching people back then?
I was still new to business myself, and learning heaps on the go, but I do remember many people telling me how inspired they were by my shop and the chats we would have, and how I had helped them to believe in themself and make the jump into entrepreneurship. As cherry on the pie, I won an Award for my creative contribution to the North East of Scotland.
Helping creatives fly, is my mission
It’s never the products, but always the mindset.
Too many creative business owners think they are not good enough (yet), and keep themselves small. Undercharging, over-delivering. No clear marketing strategy. The inability to put their passion into words, too many ideas, no clarity in their heads, and they don’t know who they are trying to attract and sell to. I love helping people like them.
All my clients come to me because they feel overwhelmed, and need someone to hold their hand and guide them. They all love what they do, but often feel wobbly and not confident enough to go out into the world and shout their offer from the rooftops, loud and clear.
I worked with so many creatives in the past 20 years, that I know what goes on in their minds. I ‘get’ their passion, their drive – and I understand their chaotic brains. I love their chaotic brains. The most original ideas come from brains like theirs, and without them, the world would be plain and boring.
Even in my private life, whenever I had conversations with people ‘thinking of starting their own business’, I immediately put on my coaching cap, and made it my goal to change their mindset and get them over the fear of doing it. There are many beautiful people around, with unique ideas, and I want to get them into the world. The world needs you.
Book a free call with me to see if and how I could support you in your business.