How I went from freelance journalism to business coaching
- Jenni Gritters is an editorial consultant and business coach who left freelance journalism behind.
- Clients found her through her podcast and a viral article she posted about her business model.
- As her coaching business grows, she plans to focus on classes, events, and group programming.
In March 2020, I sat in my basement office in Seattle, sending panicked emails to everyone in my network. I had just resumed my freelance writing business after taking four months of maternity leave with my first child, and as the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so did my clients’ budgets. I realized – like so many of my freelance colleagues – that independent journalism was perhaps becoming even more precarious.
I had been laid off from a full-time journalism job in 2018 and knew I was working in an industry that was changing almost too quickly to keep up. (In 2021, Pew reported that newsroom employment had fallen 26% since 2008.) But the pandemic became frightening: As full-time workers were laid off at a record pace, journalists and writers freelancers were also losing work as their mental health suffered.
I continued to dig freelance writing jobs with a very strong focus on my marketing and outreach, but I knew something had changed for me in those months. In 2021, I announced that I was stepping away from journalism while finding myself in a tidal wave of attention because of an article I published about my hybrid business model (which involved both journalism and content marketing work). All that noise meant there were a lot of eyes pointed in my direction – and a lot of requests to “pick my brain”, something I didn’t have time to do without pay.
I had started a podcast in March 2020 about the freelance writing business with fellow freelance journalist, Wudan Yan, called “The Writers’ Co-op”. My podcast co-host and I decided to answer the questions we were asked by adding a level of coaching to Patreon’s “The Writers’ Co-op” program. Back then, for $50 a month, freelancers could get answers to key questions about building their freelance business. We offered 10 places, and the option sold out quickly. Stunned, I also started adding coaching services to my own freelance writing business. All of my current writing, coaching, and consulting services now exist under the JWG Coaching and Consulting umbrella.
A year and a half after my very first coaching session, coaching is now on track to account for nearly half of my company’s revenue year over year. Thanks to the podcast and the attention I got from my viral article, I didn’t need to sell myself when I started coaching; clients filled my inbox asking for advice and most jumped in when I offered paid sessions. And ever since then, I’ve always had a waiting list for my coaching services based on word of mouth and the occasional social media post. My personal one-on-one coaching rate is now $250 per hour session.
Growth in the coaching industry, worldwide
A trends report from IBIS World found business coaching to be one of the most lucrative prospects in the coaching market, with an estimated market of $11.2 billion in 2021 and expected increases of one year to the next.
Today, my coaching business caters to freelancers and small business owners who provide creative services like writing, graphic design, and event planning, as well as people who feel stuck a few years in freelancing and hope to build a more stable, lively and lucrative business model.
This month, I am due to complete my formal coaching education through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, which will provide me with certification from the International Coaching Federation. I focus specifically on small business mindset and psychology. I enjoy helping people get out of the mental ruts that so often lead to other symptoms like financial stress and lack of confidence.
According to the ICF, “the growing demand for coaching services is the number one trend in coaching.” Add to that the fact that many people are leaving full-time jobs to become freelancers – in 2020 there were 59 million people freelancing, up from 53 million in 2014 – and you have a recipe for success that I have seen. first-hand in my business over the past two years.
Win with a hybrid business model
From the start, a hybrid writing and coaching model has worked well for my business: In 2020, coaching accounted for 8% of my $70,000 in revenue, not including the podcast program I hosted in parallel (which brought in an additional 17% of my income and included educational materials, events and group coaching). But I knew I wasn’t charging enough because I had a long waiting list of customers who were always desperate to get on my schedule.
So in 2021, I increased my prices, and my coaching revenue grew accordingly: 35% of my $110,000 revenue came from coaching (as well as 25% of the additional revenue from my podcast business, which also includes coaching). This made 2021 my busiest coaching year yet, even though I capped my work time at 20 hours per week and my coaching roster at 15 people per month. So far in 2022, I’m on track to refine this model even further, with at least 50% of my income coming from coaching.
I will focus on online education – including books, online courses, events and group programming – because my group coaching programs which focus on mastering mindset for small business owners are some of my most lucrative offerings. While I will likely pursue high-priced one-on-one coaching, I also see great potential in coaching within organizations, teaching freelancers how to build stable businesses and unlocking the keys to mindset shifts. Unlike journalism, coaching sounds like something I’m ready to hitch my wagon to for the next decade.