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Why no one really lasts in the consulting business

Rant post warning. There’s an alarming trend amongst the most vocal segment of the entrepreneur community: Get into coaching or consulting.

For the online, location independent set it’s a no brainer. Build an audience, sell advice. Freedom will be yours!

Yet this business model is chewing up and spitting out coaches and clients alike. As the guy who’s been in this game full time for the last seven years, I think it’s time to be honest about what’s really going on here. 

As cynical as I want to be, I have to confess I’m pro coaching industry.

The smartest, highest yielding investments I’ve ever made have been in personal development. The mastermind group I’ve been attending for the past two years not only delivered such indirect benefits as my US residency visa, it also created massive commercial ROI.

That said, I’m a connoisseur. I’m massively blessed by having access to the smartest minds in the psychology, NLP and business world.

The top 1% of the “helping people” industry is held up as the holy grail by endless hordes of me-too self help zombies – all of whom are opening up shop, consulting sessions and mastermind groups in the hopes of enjoying wealth and freedom.

Sounds good right? I can’t argue – I did exactly that and wouldn’t change a thing.

My journey has been a relentless hike up the steepest of learning curves, through three iterations of the business model (psychotherapy practice, corporate consultancy and finally entrepreneur specialist).

I’ve been schooled in more ways than I care to mention. If businesses are human-growing machines, a helping-people business is like bolting a (volatile, unpredictable) jet engine to the whole thing.

All of this is to say: It breaks my heart to see this explosion of half-baked consulting businesses. There is so much potential for good, that it’s particularly painful to witness the vast majority of people creating these wince-worthy practices.

These wannabes don’t survive the curve to enjoy any kind of end-of-rainbow reward. Worse, they leave behind a trail of disillusioned customers whose foray into personal development creates more problems than it solves.

People hire these consultants, who share enough of their naivety to pursue magic bullet fantasies. When things don’t work out, the client will often abandon the whole notion of self improvement. It’s a serious tragedy, born out of the intense bitterness only terrible coaching can create.

There are only two reasons why this industry is screwing the lives of coaches and clients alike:

Reason 1 – No one really knows how to consult/coach

The big mistake people make is believing that being good at something means you’ll be good at teaching it. Bzzzz. Try again. Last I checked, whizkid stockbrokers don’t teach economics classes.

Being good at something certainly helps, especially in the entrepreneur world where real life experience is a trump card. But good coaching is about more than that.

Your coaching business will not pan out if you’re trying to win on experience alone. Why? Because there’s always someone more experienced than you. And chances are, they’ve written a book about it.

Consulting on experience alone means you’ll default to simply handing out instructions to your clients. You’ll find yourself starting a lot of sentences with the words “You should…”

No one actually benefits from receiving high priced instructions. When was the last time you were genuinely stuck because you didn’t know what to do next? Exactly.

It’s the actual doing part that people need help with. Plus figuring out why the doing isn’t happening easily.

Coaches who just deliver instructions quickly find their clients saying things like “I need time to implement all this, let me get back to you in a few months”. The coaching business falls apart because you’re now officially serving the same function as the cliff-notes version of the latest business book.

If you pair your real world experience with a kick ass education in cutting edge coaching modalities (email me for recommendations), you’ll be really cooking. Be warned though, a weekend seminar doth not a fantastic coach make.

Reason 2 – No one has figured out a predictable customer acquisition funnel

This is hands down the biggest reason why no one really lasts in this game. The science of achievement is seldom understood by consultants and coaches enough that they can create sustainable, profitable and lasting businesses.

It hurts the customers too, because there is massive scarcity in the mind of the hungry coach. Prospective buyers get preyed on with sleazy tactics, because needy consultants know they need to do whatever it takes to get the customer in the door.

At it’s worst, this can mean a sliding scale of “I charge what I think I can get away with” –  Common practice in the victimless world of corporate consulting, but seriously icky if you’re coaching civilians.

All business models must answer the question: How will strangers find out about your business and decide to become customers? 

Most coaches fail so bad at doing this, they never manage to sell to strangers. They have no choice but to sign up their own social community, creating an endless circle jerk of mastermind pyramid groups.

Thing is, there ARE rock solid customer acquisition strategies that top consultants are using. They exist. However, most of them require enormous hard work and commitment to a long term vision. On top of a sophisticated understanding of marketing, PR, networking and more.

It’s not exactly the gold rush most wannabe consultants sign up for.

… Which is why such people don’t figure these dynamics out, ultimately leading them to give up and be consigned to the heap of fly-by-nighters who’ve lightened people’s pockets before leaving the industry behind them.

So, now you know why no one really lasts in the consulting business. If you’re on this path, it’s up to you to be different.

Over and out. All thoughts welcome.


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  1. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your dead on coaching/consulting article. I would love to see your recommendations on cutting edge coaching modalities.

    Thanks very much,

  2. Ugh, you too? This wave of self-help gurus suddenly trying to distance themselves from “bad” self-help is pure f–king hilarity. Sorry, but calling out the “bad guys” doesn’t make you one of the good guys.

    Let’s cut the b.s.: this is a business designed to take advantage of vulnerable people. Feigning interest in their plights, offering expensive advice, and taking zero accountability. Doesn’t matter how diploma’d/credentialed you are — a self-help guru has all the integrity of a psychic.

    1. This article was begging for comments like this, so I can’t say your angle surprises me. I am curious about what information you’re basing your assessment of my business on though.

  3. Laughing at the comment above Peter. I usually hate the term “haters” but I guess it IS a good sign when somebody flat out criticizes your post, because it shows that your blog has grown beyond just a core group of friends and acquaintances!

    Unlike physical, tangible products, selling thoughts, ideas, and knowledge costs literally NOTHING to procure (If you ignore the investment that you took to gain said knowledge, but that’s another matter)

    To be fair, I think the fact that people drop in and out of the coaching and consulting business is that it is EASY to get into. Almost everyone has some sort of “specialty” area that they have managed to build up more skills/abilities than the majority of the population. And with more and more people turning to the internet to build a coaching/consulting business online, in many cases client/customer acquisition can be made

    The fact that many people don’t put in any upfront money to procure what they’re selling, and aren’t selling a physical, tangible product, means that it’s a hell of a easier to get out.
    No contracts with warehouse space to store goods, or no novelty items that have to be sold in the event of a sale.

    For many people, coaching and consulting is almost painless to get in and then get out, if you haven’t made any money.

    I think the fact that it’s so easy means that lots of people only make half-assed attempts to keep things going. They don’t have much to lose, so they don’t put the effort required to build a proper business.
    They then figure out that clients and customers simply don’t just drop in their laps, but that constant effort is required to build up a business. Not willing to put in the work, they leave.

    That’s my opinion of it anyway!

    1. Hey Daryl,

      Thanks for taking the time to write up your opinion here – this has got to be one of the best comments ever posted on this blog… you’re so damn right and I really overlooked this in my post: Lower barrier to entry means there are more jokers half assing it – which hurts the customers.

      Thank you!

      1. Thanks for the kudos Peter! Like I said previously, it seems that $$ spent on my studies weren’t wasted in vain lol. Happy to contribute to a very worthwhile dialogue!

  4. Love Daryl’s point. As a tech/marketing coach helping people figure out what steps to take to set up their websites to create said coaching businesses, I can see this from both ends. Because putting up a WordPress site with a homepage and an offer can be done in less than an hour for a couple bucks, it’s all too easy to get started.

    But just as I wouldn’t want to believe everything I read online, so I wouldn’t want to hire just anyone who’s offering coaching services.

    There still seems to be some responsibility on the shoulders of the person getting coaching to select someone that is credible: have they accomplished what you want to accomplish? Have they coached other people you know? Can you connect with people they’ve worked with as a reference? Do you give up on everything if it doesn’t work out with one coach?

    Also, really great point about, “Consulting on experience alone means you’ll default to simply handing out instructions to your clients. You’ll find yourself starting a lot of sentences with the words ‘You should…'” I did this a lot in my first couple months of coaching. It was a huge energetic shift when I got coaching on my coaching and realized why this doesn’t work.

    Thanks for the insightful post. Also interested in further information on cutting edge coaching modalities. 🙂

    You rock, Peter!

    1. Hey Chelsea! Thanks for swinging by to comment!

      There is definitely a responsibility on behalf of the client – buyer beware and all that. That said, a lot of coaches tend to attract customers at a point where they’re hurtin’ a little and want to make a quick decision that’ll make them feel confident they’re getting the help they need.

      You’re spot on about the difference between the “You should….” variety of coaching and REAL coaching 🙂

  5. Outstanding post Peter,
    It just kept resonating with me.
    The big question it leaves me with though is : how can the prospective customers of the coaches discern the expertise and ethics of the would-be providers?
    By the way – your polite yet assertive response to Slam J ironically disproves the very point he was attempting to make.
    And your “over and out” closing reminded me of my father who has passed away – he always used to say that after a pronouncement :-).

    1. Hey Brendan,

      To answer this question I *have* to be completely biased, because I like to think I do a lot of the things that help people recognize this.

      For example, last year I spent considerable time and resources putting together the video (hired a very talented film director and basically surrendered to his process and integrity as an interviewer) … that you see on

      Why bother? Because absolutely anyone can get a decent soundbyte testimonial from a client as they finish up a energizing session. To circle back, in some cases years later, and get a client to look down a long lens and passionately describe the evolution they’ve experienced? That’s quite different.

      So that’s one thing. Chelsea (comment above yours) had a lot of good ideas too.

  6. Peter, I have now been in the “coaching biz” for 1 year and 4 months. I could not agree with your post more! You helped me when I was attempting to figure this out and how I was to manage my time, of which I had too much of in the beginning. Now with a ton of work, patients and continued work on networking and marketing, establishing myself in my community and a building portfolio of successes, my reputation is building and so is my bank account. Slowly but surely I am gaining a base of satisfied customers who are sharing their success stories with others in my community. Certainly not a “Get Rich Quick” model. I do not do any ON LINE consulting as that is not my model. I stick within my community and outlying areas, as it did start with some folks I know, it has spread to many I do not know. I have chosen to serve my community and its business entrepreneurs in order to make a difference in my small pond. The model that is working is true service and accountability. I work and live in this small community, I cannot afford to “schmooze and slime” my way into success. For other Coach Wanna be’s I highly recommend cutting your teeth in your community first. It will teach you ethics and follow through. If you burn and churn your clients, then you will not succeed. If you truly serve them ….on going …. your knowledge and your reputation will grow…from the inside out. I don’t knock “Internet Coaching” its just not my model and style. I am in it for the reward of not only money…but to make a difference. Readers, what is your motivation? If its money alone, you are bound to fail.

    Thank you Peter for your wisdom and sharing. I have learned a lot from you! and yes I am interested in Cutting Edge Coaching Modalities.

    1. Hey Wendie,

      This is actually great advice. Though I’m 100% online now (I meet with clients all the time when they swing by New York) , I got my start with a brick and mortar psychotherapy practice. And looking back, I definitely see the value of that. Mine was in a large-ish city, but the thing with brick and mortar is that geography becomes VERY important. About 90% of my clients came from within a 5 mile radius…. so there was no room at all for a bad reputation.

      Thanks for contributing, this is an important point!

  7. The coach/consultant’s intent seems to be the focal point here. If the entire point of the business is to get rich quick, then obviously it’s not a CLIENT-focused model…and the truly educational piece is lost.

    In my business, my biggest satisfaction comes from clients who say, “you really taught me something, and I always think about those techniques.” It’s a small-scale impact for sure, but lets me know that I provided some lingering value.

  8. I filled out the “couch” survey first, then I saw what you charge. That was not the shocker though, it was the words that followed about being more experienced. This all goes back to me feeling inadequate. This post however made me feel better and takes me back to the part that believes in myself!

    I have a GED and have worked along side people with college degrees most my life, earning the same but without the debt. Again, I find myself believing I can do this because of my life experience and because I put myself to the test using only a few ideas I had learned for free on the internet. (I’ve lived and breathed self-help/NLP my entire life also)

    For example, I met my best friend over ten years ago in art school (I lasted 8 wks and she graduated) when she confessed that she really wanted to get back into painting on canvas again. She had done it a number of years back and had tons of half finished canvases laying around her apartment. Ten years later she had still not picked up a brush.

    I decided to put my skills to the test, I worked with her to get her back to painting. We broke it down into baby steps and I held her accountable for each step. A month later she was painting. She even made the comment that she got more out of that month than she ever did with her licensed therapist!

    However; when I started treating our friendship like a friendship and needed her to be there for me, things fell apart. I had worked with more friends and the exact thing happened to all three of them. That’s when I decided I should do this for a living as then you get money and you don’t expect your customers to be there for you like you do your friends.

    Thank you all for your posts, they really gave me back the spark I need. Now I just need to get over some fears and my poor man’s mentality. I hold on to money as if I’m afraid they’ll stop printing it! This keeps me from getting professional advice which I also believe will keep me from getting clients. How can I possibly convince my customers to pay for something I’m not willing to pay for?

    And yes, a bad coaching experience left a bad taste in my mouth as well. A previous boss already had a coach and when he hired me he paid the guy more so I could talk to him as well. He was a nice guy but not focused. We never worked a plan, he just put out imaginary fires every week. I know I need help but am terrified to let go of money and not get my moneys worth. I guess I’m not the only one as I heard someone on the video say same I believe.

    Thanks again everyone.

    1. Hi Renee,

      Thanks for this detailed comment. Not sure quite what you’re getting at about being shocked that I work with entrepreneurs with a few years experience. If you want to email me, I can probably help clarify why that is and help understand your situation better.

      You raise a really good point – a lot of coaches aren’t willing to invest in coaching themselves, which is indicative of a pretty severe internal conflict with their own value proposition.

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