As a follow up to my article The Client Rulebook, I wanted to address the opposite side of the equation. What are five rules that you as a coach can follow to make yourself a better coach? To preface, when I say "coach," this refers to anyone who provides training or program instruction from an in-person or online basis. The one thing you will note is that none of the rules below have anything to do with programming intelligence or knowledge. Instead, my rules actually have everything to do with professionalism and communication. Soft skills are often overlooked in our industry, but they can truly make all the difference in your business. You can be the smartest nutrition or training coach in the world, but if your soft skills are piss-poor your business will fail. For example, are you an asshole? Do you lack self-awareness? Do you lack basic common sense? Well, look no further! Below are the top five rules to follow if you want to become a better coach.

1. Meet the client where they are.

First and foremost, whatever your skill set is or who your target client population is, you must meet your clients where they are. What does that look like? Meeting the client where they are means taking more than the clients' goals and your coaching preferences into account. You have to take their current lifestyle, past behavior, health history, current mindset, barriers, etc., into consideration. No two clients are the same, ever. When you meet the client where they are, you are forced to tailor the program to them and make it work for their goals.

RECENT: The Client Rulebook: 5 Rules to Follow

Does your client work night shift? Adapt. Does your client travel weekly? Adapt. Does your client have a history of disordered eating? Adapt. Does your client have a preexisting condition? Adapt. Does your client only have access to their own in-home gym space? Adapt. This list can go on and on. To be a better coach in part means to better serve the client. The individual. People are not templates or cookie cutter beings. You have to be willing to adapt to your clients’ needs and preferences in order to best serve them.

coaching skills

When I was competing in my first figure competition years back, my coach at the time had salmon in my plan. Now, I actually love salmon, and I did before I started competing too. But having to eat it every single day just was not sitting with me. It would literally make me throw up every single time. Why? No idea. Like I said, I love salmon, but eating it every day just wasn’t happening. So when I addressed this with my coach, she immediately assumed I was just being a baby and told me I had to eat it. So, essentially I just started skipping that meal. Better than throwing up, right? Well, fast forward to today, when I know for damn sure there is no such thing as a magic food and there are a vast amount of options she could have given me. Don’t be that coach. Listen to your clients and help them. Remember, they are paying you to help them, so do your damn job and quit bitching when you have to accommodate them.

2. Set expectations.

When you think of yourself as a coach, you really have to think about yourself as a manager. That is what you do, right? You “manage” people. Does any well-functioning business operate effectively if they don’t set expectations for their employees or themselves? No. You have to set clear and intentional expectations with your clients to better yourself as a coach. To be more specific, you have to lay out what exactly you expect from them and what they should expect from you.

For example, in every training start-up info packet, I send my clients, I have a full section on what I expect from my clients and what they can expect from me. For example, some expectations I set for my clients are to send updates on time, to be honest about their plan execution, and to always, always, always ask questions. On the flip side, I communicate to my clients that they can expect programming updates from me by Sundays at 12 PM at the latest and that I will respond to all emails within 24 hours unless otherwise noted. With these clear and concise expectations, there is little room for grey area or confusion. Expectations provide the client with structure and focus, and it provides the coach with overall business efficiency.

3. Be on time.

When it comes to overall professionalism, punctuality is up there in the ranks of importance. If someone is paying you for a service (even if it is online-based) being punctual and communicating on time plays such a huge role in client adherence and success. What kind of message do you think it sends the client when you are constantly late or not sending their programs to them on time? You are essentially telling them that they are not a priority, therefore not important. What a huge red flag! How do you expect to run a business that succeeds and functions from helping others when you blatantly tell them they are not important? How long do you think you will get away with that until your business crumbles?

There are a lot of coaches out there who are willing to put their clients first and commit to deadlines. The longer you continue to think your shit doesn’t stink and your clients will stick with you no matter what, the sooner your business will fizzle out. I can count on both hands the number of clients I have received because they left a negligent coach. Then they were shocked to actually receive the service I said I would provide. Seriously? Just a reminder that being a coach is a job, and if you show up late, you do get fired. I know, weird!

julia squat

4. Provide quality and stop being a thief.

The devil is in the details. Details and quality can make or break a client’s success. The problem that stems with detail and quality (or lack thereof) is that unfortunately in the coaching industry there really isn’t a standard of quality for what you pay for as the client. It’s not like you can go to the store, compare and contrast name brand to generic, read the labels, and make an informed decision. Coaching costs and services are literally all over the map, from as low as $40 a month to over $1000. I know coaches who charge less than $100 a month who go over the moon for their clients, and then some who charge upwards of $1000 just for macros.

WATCH: elitefts Fitness Professional Summit — Humanize Your Business

As a coach, I think there is a huge morality piece here that is tied to how much we offer and how much we charge. There is no standard, so it is very easy for coaches to take advantage and overcharge. Now, on the flip side, is our time of value? Absolutely. I am not saying we should be dirt cheap, especially if we are providing a quality service. But instead, be honest with yourself in terms of your time management, expertise, and duration in the field. If you are a year into “coaching” and the only thing you have done is post selfies on Instagram with a professional camera, something tells me you shouldn’t be charging $500 a month for “life coaching.” Actually, your services should be free, because you’re an idiot. No, on second thought, just pay people to say they worked with you. That tends to work better. (If you think I am kidding, I absolutely am not. It actually happens.)

5. It’s not about how much you know. It’s about how much you care.

Yes, I know my writing has a nice scent of sarcasm, but let’s end here on a serious note. Being a good coach has so much more to do with how much you actually care about the client and their success rather than how smart you are. As coaches, we play such huge roles in our clients’ lives — much more than we realize at times. And I can tell you right now, your clients are with you because of the relationship and connection they build with you, not because you “do a good job” or “know a lot about nutrition.” Yes, service knowledge is imperative, but the relationship built is what creates long-term success for a client. Take a look at your current clientele. How often do you see drop-off? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? The pattern of client drop-off will provide more feedback about your relationship-building skills than about your knowledge. Do you want more long-term clients and business consistency? Build relationships. Actually giving a shit will help your business.

At the end of the day, how you treat people, your professionalism, honesty, and communication skills will take you a long way. The coaches that build upon these skills are the ones that last in the industry with a solid reputation intact. Do yourself and your clients a favor and simply be better.