Why I’m No Longer Using The Word Coach

As I typed out the words “Digital Marketing Expert” on the design for my business card, I felt a wave of nausea that began in the pit of my stomach ripple right up into my throat.

Ew. This doesn’t feel right. But it’s what Jay has told me to do. And Jay makes money. And I don’t make money. Listen to Jay, Becky. He knows best… right?

It’s the first time I’m creating a business card, because it’s the first time I’ve considered the fact that I might meet people who will hear what I do and want to contact me to pay me money to do it for them.

And I need a way for them to contact me… so I need a business card, right?

As I’m confronted with this blank space where my supposed “Title” goes… I am at a loss.

And putting the truth of “Not a Fucking Clue Yet” doesn’t sound very profesh. does it?

There’s also not enough space for “I quit my job without a plan and I need to make money pronto” either.

But after consulting with Jay, my “business coach” at the time, he advises me to put Digital Marketing Expert.

And so, despite me feeling like this was very very wrong, I did it.

I wrote the words and paid £16.53 for 150 85x55mm double-sided square-cornered pieces of card that proclaimed that I, Becky Lloyd Pack, was an expert in something I’d never really done before.

In my mind I’m desperately trying to reassure myself:

You’ve taken a course. You’ve paid several thousand pounds to learn about this thing Becky. Act as if! It’s all about the confidence…right? Speak it into existence.  CLAIM IT.

Ahhh, naive little Becky of 2018 who didn’t know any better.

I wish that was my only story about struggling to find a ‘label’ that fit what I do, but I would be lying.

In 2020, I decided to run with the title of ‘Brand Messaging Coach’. 

Now, if we look to the International Coaching Federation, they define coaching as:

“…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Yep. This pretty much matches up to what I do exactly… but as my business grew (and thankfully continues to grow) I find myself now in a position where there are more eyes on me than ever before. 

I’m moving beyond the point where the ‘suck-it-and-see because no one’s watching’ approach will fly and I feel a self-appointed responsibility to consistently examine the role I play within the online business space.

And at the point of writing this, I no longer feel comfortable using the word Coach.

Why? Because although the definition of a ‘Coach’ is pretty broad – I believe there’s an unspoken expectation. 

An expectation that you have the training, accountability and enough supervised hours under your belt to be able to partner with your clients in a way that truly empowers them to maximise their personal and professional potential.

That you have the skills and awareness to not gaslight people, to not bypass their trauma and their worries and cause more harm than good with your well-intentioned but misplaced coaching questions.

That you have the skills and practises required to help an individual process and grow in a way that is… for lack of a better word… safe.

(And even if people don’t carry this expectation, I believe it’s the level of service that anyone calling themself a coach should be able to provide so that we can better define the industry as a whole and SET those expectations.)

And while I know a qualification doesn’t guarantee this by any stretch, and that there are probably many people who have a natural affinity for being able to ‘coach’ without a full and formal “education” – the reality is that we live in a world where certain individuals won’t see the problem with taking advantage of language that targets those who are vulnerable for personal gain.

And in my view, even just one instance where someone has used the word ‘coach’ without being qualified, which has resulted in a psychologically damaging experience for a client is one instance too many.

And we all know this kinda sh*t is happening every damn day, whether through malicious intent or simple naivety.

It’s not enough to point to the broad definition of coaching or the fact it’s an unregulated industry when we use this word.

It’s not enough to point to the fact that we never ‘promised’ we could take them through a process in a way that keeps them safe.

We have to do better and respond to the world as we see and experience it. To understand and illuminate the areas of grey, not to try and hide in them.

For me, it really comes down to this:

If you are a business owner who is serving other people – you have a responsibility to help them make the right decisions for THEM. Not for you or your bank balance.

So what am I going to call myself now?

Well, here’s the thing no one tells you when you run a business (especially when it’s ultimately you, your skills, your experience or expertise that you’re selling) – knowing what to call yourself is HARD.

And I know from working with many many talented women, with years of experience and genuine expertise in their craft, bizarrely, it doesn’t actually get any easier.

Because labels feel restrictive. They feel diminishing.

And yes, I do of course the beauty of using labels to fast-track people’s understanding of who we are and what we do… but when you are both a business and a human, not really a Personal Brand and definitely not an influencer, that line to walk between where do we keep things simple in our Messaging and where do we embrace the Mess – it’s damned hard to figure out.

For now, I’m running with a Creative Consultant who uses a coaching style.

And while I currently have no intentions of becoming a qualified coach, I still recognise that the work I do often can bring up uncomfortable feelings and limiting beliefs for my clients.

This is why I invested in and completed Tara Mohr’s ‘The Coaching Way’.

I don’t by any means believe this is a substitute for a formal qualification, but I believe I owe it to my clients to educate myself so I am better able to support them within context of our work.

I am also committed to working with individuals who are qualified to have on hand as referrals for my clients should they choose to take their self-development further.

This is a sticky subject that is going to be around for years to come, so I’d love to know your thoughts on this in the comments below!