Handling Rejection As You Build Your Coaching Business
Coach Alisha Brown explores what being an artist taught her about rejection, visibility, and perseverance, and how it applies to starting a coaching business.
Guest blog by Alisha Brown
Dr. Alisha Brown is a Mindset Coach who brings her creativity, science background, and a lifetime of experience juggling motherhood, a military spouse lifestyle, and relentless pursuit of passions to her coaching practice, CreatingN2Joy.
Alisha’s work with overwhelmed women focuses on examining ingrained beliefs about workload and societal expectations, strategizing a life based on a client’s daily rhythms and motivations to achieve the best outcome, teaching women to appreciate who they are instead of trying to become someone else, recovering from mental scars of bullying and finding the time to pursue life-long passions.
Alisha Brown is a 2021 graduate of the Lumia Coaching Intensive. You can learn more about Alisha's practice at CreatingN2Joy.com or view her art on Instagram at @AlishaBrownArt.
The R Word: Rejection
What being an artist has taught me about rejection, visibility, and perseverance... and how to apply those lessons to starting a life coaching business.
Recently, I entered an art show out of a sense of obligation to the organization and then was rejected…and I was relieved! This got me thinking about how my 20 years of experience in the art world might apply to building my new coaching business. What lessons have I learned, and how do they translate to my work as a coach?
Let's start with this first one!
Imagine reluctantly agreeing to a coaching client... and then being relieved when they decided not to sign up.
It may be hard in these early days of your new business to imagine this, but someday you are going to remember this article and know that feeling of relief. So here are a few things I’ve learned through years of “rejection” in the art world.
1. Try not to take it personally.
Rejection often feels personal, but only if we don’t define it properly. The reality is that not everyone is going to click with you and you are not going to be for everyone.
Instead of listening to that voice in your head that says, “They don’t like me,” what if you heard instead, “We are not a match.” Or, “I don’t think they really saw me.”
As an artist, I’ll confess: very little art makes me sit up and take notice. There are some artists that really speak to me, but most others I don’t get or the art doesn’t evoke emotions within me.
Does that make them bad artists? Absolutely not!
Art is extremely personal and depends on a myriad of factors. And if art is that personal, imagine what the coaching relationship is going to be like, where your client might be sharing things with you they have never shared with another human being. You have to be a great fit!
Two people working together are like gears meshing. If the teeth on the gears fit, wonderful things can happen. Progress is made. Worlds open. Synergy becomes reality, not an abstract concept in a book.
But imagine the screeching sounds that emerge when mismatched teeth on gears try to mesh. When the fit isn’t right, the gears can literally break and need to be repaired. Even a slight mismatch can cause slipping, jolts and stops.
So when someone does not follow up on coaching, trust that it isn’t about you. Please don’t take it personally. You are one type of gear and they are another. There is no shame or pain in that. It just is.
2. Don’t waste time, energy and resources on a mismatch.
For a while, I entered every art show I could find. I mean, no one was going to buy my art if it never left my closet, right? But here’s the thing: by not being discriminating enough about where I shared my work, I wasted a lot of money and effort in the process.
Did you know that almost every art show has a fee? Some of my drawings have been in numerous shows, with each one a progressive drain on money and time. Even if I were to sell them, it would be at a loss. And these are the works that were accepted to the shows! Many more were rejected instead.
I quit entering shows after a while because it felt like I was paying people to tell me I wasn’t good enough. When I finally got back on the horse, I had learned my lesson. I evaluated the cost, the likelihood I would get in the show, the audience it was likely to draw and so on. From there on out, I was much more successful in both entering shows and the occasional sale.
It would be easy to exhaust ourselves with very little reward unless we work smarter not harder. So as you contemplate how you are going to find clients for your coaching business, consider who is likely to see your ads and what the cost is going to be.
You can put flyers out local businesses for free, but remember too that there is a cost of your time. Be discerning about where your ideal clients are likely to show up.
One thing I’ve learned from my experiences as an artist is that when it comes to promoting my coaching business, I will definitely not cast a wide net and “hope for the best”. Instead, I am developing a sense of who my ideal client is so that I can figure out how to reach them.
Thinking about my coaching niche brings to mind the idea: When you are accepted everywhere, you are connected nowhere.
As an artist, if I try to please everyone, I connect with no one. The same is true in this business. As a coach, if I try to coach everyone, I connect with no one.
3. Silence is not rejection.
Sometimes when I put something creative out into the world, I might get crickets back. This can send me into a spiral of self-doubt. I wonder if people don’t like my artwork, or worse, think it’s boring.
I have been displaying artwork at a local coffee shop for a couple years now, but I never heard any opinions on it, good or bad. And every couple months, I would have to psych myself up to change the pieces. The doubts and insecurity would make the process drag on for weeks longer than it should.
Month after month, I heard nothing. The crickets were even quieter during the pandemic.
Then an amazing thing happened.
As I started to meet new people in my area after we all emerged from our houses, I would mention that I was an artist and had my work up at the local coffee shop. Almost every time I would get exclamations about how amazing my art was.
I was flabbergasted! All these years of silence and suddenly it seemed like everyone knew my art.
The lesson? When you see a name or person in passing, it may not make much of an impression at first. But repeated exposure is powerful.
The other thing that was happening was that I was finally telling people I was an artist. I had avoided that as part of my identity because I felt inferior in comparison to the other “real” artists out there.
My hesitation to fully claim this identity was a missed opportunity to be seen and known. Once I worked through that, things began to fall into place. It had taken years, but I had become known in the local area. The years of silence actually meant nothing about me, or the value of my work.
So now I think of silence as a missed opportunity to connect.
When I exhibit at an art show, I let my shyness overcome me and don’t talk to many people. And every person who looks at my painting and admires it but doesn’t connect with me, the artist, is a missed opportunity.
So when you post your blogs, podcasts or Instagram posts and hear nothing back, save yourself some heartache! Don’t automatically assume that no one likes it. Instead, ask yourself how you can create opportunities to connect with your audience. How can you expand rather than contract?
4. Trust that your people are out there.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are one in a million!” That implies uniqueness, but in a world of 8 billion people it could just as easily mean that there are 8,000 others out there just like you! People who will really get you and what you’re trying to achieve.
Throughout my art journey, I was haunted by thoughts like, “My work is generic,” or “I’m missing something”.
What I’ve come to realize is that yes, I was missing something. I was missing connections with MY people. The people who will appreciate my art for exactly what it was. My work didn’t have to have deep, hidden meaning. It didn’t have to be provocative to be impactful.
Eventually I realized the less you are universally accepted, the more unusual you probably are. If you are unusual, it can be harder to find your people. But even if you really are one in a million, there are 8,000 people out there who understand you. The job is figuring out how to connect with them.
5. Shine a light on your successes!
How many times have you said to yourself “I’m only…” or “I have only…”? It is easy to downplay your successes.
I did this for so many years, making jokes about how “at least my art pays for my supplies”. Until one day, I saw a post by another artist where her tagline was “Award-Winning Artist.”
She was an artist I knew casually through an art organization. I didn’t think of her as "award winning"… and I didn’t think of myself as award winning either. But I am! I’ve been winning art awards for over twenty years.
I am an award-winning artist. (Gulp - it’s still really hard to write that sentence.)
Yes, I sometimes barely make enough profit to pay for my art supplies. But I have also sold thousands of dollars worth of art.
So, what sounds better?
- "I’m an artist who sells a few paintings a year, often to family and friends and only shows at a coffee shop and a writing center."
- "I’m an award-winning artist, who has sold thousands of dollars in art and regularly puts on solo shows."
Both are true, but only one is good for my soul, confidence, and business.
So, are you a coach who has had a little experience with one paying client... or are you a coach who is being paid to help people?
How can you reframe your accomplishments at every stage of your coaching journey in a way that feels GOOD?? Take every little inch you can to bolster your courage against rejection. Ask for those testimonials, shout them out, and believe every word of them.
6. Look at the global picture.
Sometimes rejection has absolutely nothing to do with you. People may really want to work with you, but the fact is that something else may be getting in the way.
For a long time now, middle class wages have been decreasing while the cost of living has gone up. This slow narrowing of possibility has put many people - consciously or not - into a scarcity mindset.
Even in cases where the wages have remained the same, workloads have increased. For some, it’s time that is scarce instead of money. Many people in your target audience may be caught in this mental vice.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had someone say that they ‘wish’ they could afford my artwork. One of my wonderful stories lately was of an instructor who loved a piece of my work but couldn’t afford it. Her students pooled money to buy it for her. It was an amazing act of love, but also speaks to the scarcity many people in our society are feeling.
It took me a long time to realize that we all should be able to afford to invest in art, or personal betterment. People shouldn’t have to wish for a little joy or inspiration in their life.
We live in a time where it can feel futile to plan for the long-term. The world is operating from a state of fear right now. Pandemics, political unrest, shortages, and climate change predictions make it seem to some as if there is little point in life coaching as a long-term investment.
As coaches, we need to show others how life coaching can be an agent of immediate change in their lives, and also keep the bigger picture in mind. It is not rejection if some people do not choose to have a coaching relationship with you, however much they like your message and your work. It may be that they are living in a much broader scarcity mindset.
7. Be visible.
Take every opportunity to get your name out there (within reason, see #2). Don’t be afraid to repost and repeat.
We are all human and busy, so it may take someone seeing your flyer at a coffee shop for a year before they contact you. Think about it: how many times have you said to yourself, ‘Oh yeah, I wanted to check into that,” when you see an ad or post for the third time?
Familiarity breeds comfort. The more often someone sees your name, the more familiar you become.
Someone introduced me the other day as a ‘Well known Local Artist.” This was news to me! I was still picturing myself as invisible and moving through the shadows of the community, but I have three different art shows up right now. I HAVE been visible and now it’s time for me to get used to being seen!
8. Don’t Give Up.
“It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success” ― Diana Rankin
Life is always going to be throwing you curveballs. There will always be disruptions and trials.
As a military spouse, moving is a part of my life. And every time, there is a several month break in my art productivity. Other times I’m too stressed about life events to make space for my art. This is going to happen in your new coaching business. It’s happening to me right now!
The only tool you have that will reliably get you through those times is perseverance - relentless forward movement. All of the above points are only ways to get you in the right mindset, but in the end it comes down to you and your unwillingness to give up.
Want to Become A Coach?
One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches like Alisha ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.