Career & Jobs

Coaching Is A Rapidly Expanding Opportunity Space For Freelancers

Let’s talk about growth opportunities for coaching in the freelance revolution. The pandemic has clearly accelerated increased interest in both providing coaching and being coached, and by easy access to coaches online. 

As a result, the range of coaching services has increased substantially. There are more types of coaching than ever before, made possible by technology, encouraged by the Covid-19 pandemic, and brought to the market by a generation of innovators. 

Here are the growth areas I’m seeing:

Life coaching. Life coaching is a good starting point. These professionals help clients set and meet important personal goals ranging from changing careers or losing weight. The International Coaching Federation estimates that life coaching is a $3 billion industry, including 71,000 coaches worldwide. Business is growing briskly: Between 2015 and 2019, life coaching grew by 33%, and has continued to rise.

But life coaching is only one way the freelance revolution is broadening coaching services. I’m seeing startups expand the boundaries of coaching in many areas:

Sales coaching. Sales coaching connects influencers and sales experts with organizations eager to grow but lacking access to prized opportunities. Levelcompany.com in the US offers an innovative approach to sales coaching by connecting influencers with organizations seeking introductions to potential clients. As CEO and founder Peter Ekman explains, “We’re a freelance platform connecting clients looking for introductions (typically recently retired executives) who can help them increase sales.” It’s a play on the expert network model popularized by expert network aggregator Inex.one. Ekman sees particular growth in the financial, energy, and healthcare industries, where client interest has been doubling in size each quarter.  Similarly, ArenaCX.com describes itself as a “network of vetted, proven experts across the globe to help you grow your customer base,” and offers sales coaching as well as access to qualified freelance sales pros.

Executive coaching. Executive coaching offers managers at all levels help in improving their leadership. AceUp.com, is an important new coaching platform linked to the Harvard McLean Coaching Institute.  I’ve written about AceUp previously, and it has grown appreciably in the last year as companies respond to the managerial challenges posed by Covid-19. The Coaching Federation explains, “Increased demand for coaching services is the number one trend … Previously coaching was considered a luxury available only to senior leaders. Now, it has transformed into being perceived as a significant contribution to the success of an organization, in which all stakeholders can participate.” The Federation sees executive coaching at $20 billion in 2022.

Technical coaching. Codementor.io is an online platform providing one-on-one mentorship for software developers by utilizing screen sharing and video calls. Developers find vetted mentors for design, coaching, code review, and debugging. Imagine a coding ninja sitting next alongside your software and operations professionals, helping them solve tough software problems. The value proposition of this Taiwan startup is expert problem solving and mentorship to tech professionals on many programming languages, as well as data science and operations. 

Brand coaching. Helping marketing leaders better position their company brands is a new and important area for coaching. Startups like Mash and BeenThereDoneThat offer marketing professionals the opportunity to work with and learn from seasoned experts in the marketing strategy and advertising space. Working alongside former CMO’s, being coached as well as collaborating on projects, provides a powerful coaching experience.  

CEO and investment coaching. An interesting new platform is CEO Works. Founded by Sandy Ogg, ex-HR head of Unilever, and offering coaches like Bill Allen, former HR head at Maersk and Macy’s, the platform offers a mix of employees and senior freelance coaches to CEOs and investment leads in the VC and private equity space. CEO Works focuses on organizations in transformation. Platform coaches help leaders to quickly size up the needs for change, the goals, and the action plan to turn the corner.  Cognisium, a recent Australian startup founded by Dorel Iosif, provides similar access to senior executive coaches to the C suite of SMBs. On the investment side, Fintalent, founded by former I-Banker Ömer Güven, is a Liechtenstein based freelance community providing finance experts available to coach in deal-making, due diligence and family office management.

Fine dining coaching. Delicious Experiences is an Israeli company offering coaching by well- and lesser known chefs.  The platform connects both individual and corporate clients with food and wine experts for personalized coaching and classes. Rather than seeking help with a leadership challenge, or a difficult coding task, clients are able to learn how to expertly pair wine with dinner, make the ultimate burger, or use spices expertly. Founder Inbal Baum began as a tour operator Delicious Israel, connecting tourists to markets and restaurants (I took her tour, it was great), and its pivot has grown to a global online success.

Employment deal and interview coaching. 10x Ascend co-founders Rishon Blumberg and Michael Solomon pivoted from music stars to tech stars when they created 10x Management, a freelance agency. They’ve taken it to the next level at 10x Ascend, where they coach tech stars (and sometimes negotiate on their behalf) to get their best employment deal. Interviewkickstart.com offers a variation on the same theme for more junior tech pros by providing monthly webinars that coach future tech stars to shine in interviews for full-time work at top tech companies.

Every kind of expert coaching. The expert network space is beginning to encompass coaching. Expert networks like GLG in the US, Dialectica in London and Athens, and Arches in Tokyo offer access to a wide range of experts in different industries and technologies, and provide hard-to-find data sources for consultants, investors and enterprises. As data becomes democratized, insight rather than information has become the scarce resource, and experts are increasingly invited to play more of a coaching role. One or two hour call, the mainstay of the old expert network, is shifting to more ongoing interactions and retained relationshipsIndependent management consulting platforms, as well as executive recruiting firms and platforms, have also recognized the synergy and opportunity of coaching to their growing practice, and more directly monetizing the broader value of their expertise. The WFH and remote movements have given rise to coaching demand both for individuals and corporates. New technologies in augmented reality and simulation only add to the application possibilities for the expanding coaching market, and continue to erode traditional business lanes. With digital transformation becoming a highly requested interim management role, is there any doubt that digital transformation coaches will be a growth area.

Over the past year, I’ve written a number of articles on adjacencies: areas where freelance platforms can help individual freelancers increase their income through new products and services. Freelancers see Covid-19 as having created greater opportunity, but also greater competition. Past articles have described online classes and newsletters as income extensions of a freelancer’s expertise. Coaching may well be another. The opportunity space for coaching is expanding in many directions.

Viva la revolution!

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