A recent conversation with a fellow coach came to something rather interesting. Our argument is that in order to the job well, a practitioner (on people development e.g. coach, OD consultant, facilitator and even therapist) need to have some kind of secondary source of income. He / she cannot rely solely on such developmental work e.g. coaching. The side-business could be something like trading of marker pens, workshop venue rental, etc. Ideally, the business is not face-time dependent and generates relatively stable income across the time.
The alternate income source is not only to diversify risk, but also to make the developmental work better. There are 3 other reasons why so:
Helping by Not Helping – Our work is a lot about pushing people out of comfort zone. Real learning (especially on self-awareness) comes with some pain. Yet, if our living relies solely on the work, we are vulnerable to collusion. It is well illustrated by a quote mentioned in my earlier post ‘Unconscious Collusion with Learners’– I’ll say nice things about your workshop / coaching if you spare me the pain in learning about myself. Or when we are not finally desperate, we can turn down facilitation work which is actually a cover-up to deeper organizational problem. See another post ‘Facilitation Work as a Cover-Up’
Capacity Constraint – From the business perspective, the only asset is ourselves. The scale of this business is constrained by nature e.g. there is only 365 days in a year we can work. It is not scalable. On the other hand, there is a huge key-man risk. I knew a facilitator who suddenly lost his voice. The problem lasted for a few months. He got to cancel all his workshops, arrange substitutes, negotiate against possible compensation…. without jeopardising client relationship… and his voice! And at least equally important, he did not have income during that time,
Time Out – This is especially important for those practitioners doing deep psychological work like therapists. When they are going through life trauma e.g. divorce, loss of important person, it is not useful for them to continue the work. A secondary source of income can definitely help here.