For clients, one of the most motivating parts of our coaching sessions is the fact that they’re held accountable and supported each week. From the “homework” assignments that they complete between each session to our brainstorms about their business goals and hurdles, coaching helps clients move forward in their business and their life. As a coach, I’m there to hold them accountable to their own short-term and long-term goals while also acting as a support system. Many of my clients are independent professionals who work solo. They don’t have co-founders or employees or partners; it’s just them. When they’re getting their small business off the ground or working to grow it, I’m there to be a sounding board who can listen, talk through ideas, and provide suggestions about how to tackle and troubleshoot problems.
Having gone through peer coaching sessions myself as part of my coaching training program and hiring coaches myself, I know how helpful it is to know that someone is on your side. The same dynamic can exist with friends and family, but the people closest to you may also have their own ideas or assumptions about what your life and business should look like, and these thoughts don’t always match with your own. That’s why a coaching relationship can be so beneficial: it’s focused solely on you.
So what happens when coaching sessions are over? Does the relationship just end? How do you know what steps to take next, and how do you make sure you stay accountable?
Every coach has a different approach to helping clients transition from their sessions, and every client has different needs. Personally, I try to set clients up so they feel ready and empowered to go off on their own. Through our work together, they have all or most of the tools they need to do so, but when our coaching sessions conclude, it can be easy to momentarily forget that.
And even though we’re not meeting on a regular basis anymore, I always check in with my clients after our last session. The timeline for a check-in varies depending where we left off; it may be two weeks later, or it could be a month later or even several months later. I love to know how my clients are doing, and I’m also interested in hearing about any new discoveries that have emerged since our time together. What new ways have they found to support themselves? What new goals, challenges, or realizations have become clear in the time since we last spoke?
If I see a networking or career opportunity that’s relevant to a previous client, I don’t hesitate to send it to their way. I sometimes connect previous clients to one another if they have similar business ideas and I think they could potentially collaborate. I feel a genuine connection to my clients, and that connection remains even after our sessions are over.
Still, it’s normal to feel a little lost once your work with a coach ends. If you’re staring down the end of your coaching sessions, here are my tips for transitioning smoothly to working solo.
1. Develop strategies to implement your favorite aspects of coaching into your routine. Consider what you liked best about coaching. What was most motivating to you? What inspired you to take action or tackle big challenges? Even though you’re no longer actively participating in coaching, you can still find ways to keep certain coaching dynamics present in your routine. For example, if you thrived on being held accountable, or having to report back on the progress you’d made between each session, find a friend or colleague who can act as an accountability buddy. It’s not uncommon to be driven by regular check-ins and deadlines, so you’re likely to be able to find someone who can benefit from it as much as you can. Or, if your most rewarding coaching dynamic was the ability to brainstorm ideas with others, find other solopreneurs and independent professionals in your network who feel the same. You may have already begun to develop these relationships as part of the work you did during coaching. Most of all, remember that coaching has given you the tools to do all of this on your own, even if it’s hard at first.
2. Set calendar alerts to remind you to stay on track with your organization routines. Over the course of your coaching sessions, you may have implemented new tools or templates to help you stay organized, productive, and efficient. Whether you develop and regularly update a spreadsheet that tracks your income, a document that logs client leads, or a master to-do list, you’ve created new habits through working with a coach. Rather than let yourself fall out of the habit of using these documents once your coaching is over, create periodic reminders for yourself to update and review them. The resources are there to help you organize and plan, but they’re only useful if they remain up to date. Setting reminders for yourself, whether you create a calendar alert on your phone or stick post its in your planner, is a good way to make sure the habit sticks.
3. Rely on notes and old emails from your sessions. You know that feeling of flipping through an old journal or notebook and suddenly being brought back in time? When we’re trying to look back on something, it can be hard to remember every detail from memory. Written notes are great for jogging our memories and providing clarity. It can be tempting to put old notes or “homework” aside and move on to the next thing, but don’t trash anything. In a moment of indecision or discouragement, going back through the past can be extraordinarily helpful. Maybe there was a piece of advice that really resonated with you, but you’ve since forgotten it. Or maybe you developed some guidelines that you swore you’d stick to, but they’ve fallen by the wayside because you became busy with other things. Seeing it again—whether in ink on paper or in your archived email inbox—can bring you back to the moment when everything did feel clear. Plus, any notes you take will be a great resource to have for purely practical matters. Your brainstorming, planning, and goal-setting are all there.
4. Know that you can always revisit coaching. Finishing up a series of coaching sessions doesn’t mean you have to be done forever. You’re not expected to be a finished product who will never need coaching again; that’s completely unrealistic, in fact. As business owners and people, we all change, adapt, and grow. I have many clients who complete six or twelve sessions and then return months later for more. We can build off of our previous coaching sessions while addressing their new goals that lie ahead. You may be saying goodbye to coaching for now, but know that you can always revisit it.