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My Honest Thoughts About Being a “Life Coach” Who is Doing it Differently

To be honest, I have a fairly complicated relationship with being a “small business owner.” The freedom and space I experience is truly a privilege; it feels like a gift to myself nearly every day. And, it’s difficult (and a massive responsibility) to be a single entrepreneur who does care work for a living.

Furthermore, I am committed to anti-oppressive and generative practices and ways of working. This is hard and imperfect in these late-stage capitalism times.

Every day, I choose to do business differently than ways I see represented by the dominant culture. By differently I mean: I want to be part of a web of care. I strive to do business in ways that are not extractive— of others, of myself, of my community. I provide a needed and desired service for a range of folks and families, and I am committed to doing this in sustainable ways that contribute to personal and collective healing.

There are so many folks in my sphere who have helped me to trust in slower ways of doing and being and working. I have a long list of people who have inspired me, mentored me, and influenced the ways I show up in and for my work. Thus, what I share here is very much about being in and of community.

What Being a Life Coach Means to Me

I don’t like the term “life coach.” However, I use it for practical reasons. It’s the most user-friendly and accessible term I can come up with, which benefits both me and the client. I’m googleable, which, quite frankly, matters. For now, this is the language I am using to describe my work.

This said, I have seen so much extractive, icky, and weird stuff on the internet, all being sold as “life coaching.” Programs that cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Coaches who promise specific results after they use manipulative “pain point” marketing to push on folk’s fears and challenges.

I will not promise that your teenager will change their behaviors in 12 sessions, that their grades will increase by the end of the semester, or that they’ll never engage in risky behaviors again. 

Instead, what I can promise is that I care about who they are and how they want to be seen. I am committed to building relationships with each client I have the honor of meeting with. I care deeply about co-creating an environment of trust that allows them to know themself more deeply, to be curious, to try out new ways of thinking, to ask hard questions, to celebrate the little and big wins, to laugh or cry or laugh-cry. In short, I promise that I will be deep in the human-ness of it all with each and every client.

My Sliding Scale Model

One practical way I do business differently is through my sliding scale model, which I have spent lots of time exploring this year. This has included engaging in visioning and problem-solving with friends and colleagues, crafting new practices that align with my needs and values, and communicating openly about my practices and boundaries with clients. This is wayyyyyyy more work than dropping new rates onto my website and calling it a day. It has been frustrating, overwhelming, exciting, hopeful, imperfect, and challenging, AND I am staying committed to this process.

I really love Hadassah Damien’s summary of how an equity-based scale works:

“When I pay more on a sliding scale, I know that I am helping others to access services. When I pay in the middle, I know I am helping support the service provider. And when I pay at the bottom, I know I am letting my community hold me and support me. All of these are wonderful and acceptable ways of accessing services.”

This is the web I am talking about, and it takes all of us being honest and transparent to build trust in this kind of system together. Furthermore, it requires us to acknowledge that this process is dynamic, not static, and requires flexibility over time.

If you’d like to read more about the intentions and functions of my sliding scale, check out my guide here.

Relationships Matter Most

I am a relationally-focused human doing relationally-focused care work, and many “marketing” practices don’t align with my values, capacity, and/or communication preferences. Thus, over the last few years, I’ve stopped doing any kind of “marketing” that doesn’t feel good in my body. I am only willing to show up where and how it feels genuine.

My biweekly emails are the main place I spend time “marketing” these days, so if you’d like to receive a brief note about life, learning, relationships, and being human + links to stuff that’s inspired me + current offerings, you can sign up here.

Additionally, if you’re someone doing similar or adjacent work, and you’d like to chat, please reach out. I’m not quite back to pre-pandemic social energy levels, AND I am excited to meet with folks who are champions for teenagers, young people, and parents of teens, folks that give a shit about doing business differently, and folks who are building webs of care.

Finally, you can find my core values and commitments here.

*Photo credit: Diana Ascarrunz

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