Profile: Nick Usborne, Veteran Copywriter and Coach
It’s easy to say that you’re a coach. Way too easy.
You’ve probably met these folks at networking meetings. As you exchange business cards, you’re wondering how they could guide you through anything more complicated than hard-boiling an egg.
Then there’s Nick Usborne. If you’ve been in the copywriting world for any length of time, you know that Usborne is The Guy. He deserves the same status in the freelancing world, because he’s been doing it for over 30 years. He’s written numerous books and written both online and off for top companies, such as Citibank, Fidelity Investments, New York Times, Reuters, AOL, MSN, WebEx, and others. Add to that lengthy resume, the word “coach.”
Let’s learn more about the Nick Usborne approach to helping freelancers unlock their potential and reach new heights with their businesses.
Q: What inspired you to become a coach?
I don’t think “inspired” is quite the right word. I was nudged into offering coaching services by a coach I was working with myself.
About 7 years ago I was at a stage in my own career as a freelancer when I knew I wasn’t growing my business in the way I really wanted. I also knew I wasn’t maximizing my value, which is a fancy way of saying I wasn’t charging as much as I should and could have been.
My coach worked with me on a number of aspects of my own business and then, towards the end of our engagement, he suggested I do some coaching for freelancers myself.
After having worked as a freelancer myself for about 25 years at that time, I knew I had plenty to share. And I had been mentoring and teaching freelancers for years through my articles, books, programs and at live events. But it was only after working with a coach myself that I realized I could become a coach as well as a mentor.
In that regard, he was a great coach. He saw something I hadn’t seen, and gave me a nudge in the right direction. The rest was up to me.
Q: What do you look for in a coaching client?
Tough question. I guess what I hope for is someone who is open and ready to make some changes. If the desire to change and a willingness to take action aren’t there, then even the best coaching in the world won’t make any difference.
If I nudge them, and the nudge is in a positive direction, then the client needs to be ready to take the next step, just like I did.
The other question, of course, is what a coaching client looks for in me. In most cases a client comes to me with a loose collection of skills and ideas, and needs help in formulating a clear vision and a plan to move forward.
Q: How could a freelancer benefit from coaching with a reputable professional?
I can’t speak for all coaches, but I think a good coach will help their clients find undiscovered strengths and opportunities. I wrote a short post recently that touched on this point. Here is a short excerpt.
I love it when my coaching clients suddenly realize they are capable of bigger and better things.
This happens a lot.
A client comes to me with some fairly modest ambitions, along with some low expectations.
After talking with that person for a while I’ll often jump to my feet and say something like, “What are you talking about? You are capable of achieving WAY more than that!”
“Really?” They ask. “Do you really think so?”
Yes, I do think so.
After spending hundreds of hours coaching dozens of freelancers over last few years, it is almost always the case that freelancers underestimate themselves and what they can achieve.
I think that is the main benefit of coaching. Layered on top of that is the mentoring aspect. That is to say, if the coach has long experience in the same field as the client – as I do, being a freelancer who coaches freelancers – then he or she can provide some valuable business-related tips. For example, I can provide a lot of help when it comes to choosing a niche, creating a strong value proposition, building a compelling website and marketing a freelance business.
Q: Quite often, when freelancers seek the help that coaches provide, they’re feeling less than successful in their businesses. Desperate, in fact. Unscrupulous people take advantage of this scenario. How can freelancers keep themselves from getting into a bad coaching relationship?
I think there are two distinct groups here. The less than successful group makes up a fair proportion of my clients. They have skills but, as I described above, they don’t yet have a good sense of their value in the marketplace and underestimate what they can achieve.
The desperate group is something else entirely. I get approached by people who are living off their credit cards and want me to help. I talk with them all, but won’t coach them. This is for a couple of reasons. First, they have more pressing financial needs and shouldn’t be sending me any of their remaining money. I also explain that the financial return on coaching isn’t immediate. It takes time. So you shouldn’t invest in coaching today and think you’ll get your money back and more within a few weeks. On a related note, desperate clients tend to look to me to “rescue” them. They want me to make everything better, and fast. Coaching isn’t about that. A coach isn’t a rescuer. He or she is an enabler. It’s the client who has to take action and make change happen.
As for coaches who say yes to the truly desperate, I guess that happens. I wish it didn’t. I think for anyone looking for a coach, you need to find someone you feel you can really trust. If you feel you are being pressured to work with a coach, walk away.
This is one of the reasons I offer my low cost 30-minute “discovery call.” It allows both of us to talk and get a feel for whether or not we are a good fit. (I do charge a small amount for this call to filter out people who are looking for 30 minutes of free coaching.)
Q: Like many relationships, coaching relationships have a beginning, middle, and end. What are the stages of coaching with you?
For me, the first call or two is very much focused on me asking questions, prodding, probing and trying to figure out where my client is right now, what their potential could be, and if they have a vision for their future. The middle stage focuses on creating a plan that will help the client achieve that vision. And then the third stage is helping with the first stages of executing on that plan.
My hope is that once the engagement is complete, my client can then move forward without any further help.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
If I have an opinion on coaching and the coaching business, it’s that I’m not a fan of overly structured coaching systems. Some coaches sell tightly structured systems or frameworks with the promise that they will work for anyone and everyone. I don’t believe that’s true.
I think one-on-one coaching is about working with the abilities and aspirations of clients on an individual basis. Everyone is different, and I don’t think trying to cram everyone into the same system or framework is true one-on-one coaching.