Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in coaching but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Erin Thomas, a Career and Leadership Coach based in Santa Rosa, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I help motivated professionals land jobs they love, make more money, and advance in their leadership and careers. My customers are ambitious professionals who are sick of settling for a career that underutilizes and bores them, a salary that underpays and undervalues them, and a leadership role that undersupports them or where they're going at it alone. My customers know that there is a much better and brighter career future for them, one that gets the best out of them while they get the best out of it pays them the money they desire and deserve, leverages their unique value proposition, supports their growth and development, and enables them to have the leadership impact they crave.

Tell us about yourself

I'm Erin Thomas, Career and Leadership Coach, and I help people get paid more in jobs they love. I'm a former human resources executive, a 3x named "Top Coach" and "50 Under 50 List of Entrepreneurs and Changemakers to Watch For", a social justice advocate and ally, and a leadership expert. My jam is all things career development, advancement, and leadership effectiveness. My passion for career and leadership development can be traced back to my pre-professional days as a young person, whether it was leading small groups at summer camp throughout my elementary and junior high school years, participating in intensive leadership and character-building programs during high school or working for my family's 100+-year-old pear farming business starting at a very early age.

I've been on this path from the get-go. Why? Because I've always been curious about human behavior, understanding why people do what they do, exploring culture, and the impacts on well-being, quality of life, and happiness. And since most of us spend about one-third of our lives at work, I'm on a mission to help professionals love their careers.

My work pulls from 20 years of coaching professionals in and out of the workplace, leading organizational development, workforce management, human resources, leadership development, and studying behavioral science and positive psychology. I've worked predominantly in the social impact sector, specifically with nonprofits, foundations, and public agencies, to advance racial equity and social justice in the workplace and the world.

When not working with clients, studying up on the latest workforce trends, and learning about new leadership tools, I'm most likely hiking, biking, or doing anything outside with my partner, Darren, and young son, Ellis, in the Bay Area of California where we live. My favorite part of the day is the early morning hours when the dappled light is peering into my living room, and no one else is awake just yet. You'll catch me sitting on the couch in my happy place, drinking a strong Americano, eating a lemon scone, and planning our family's next wild adventure somewhere around the world.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I love, love, love helping professionals reach their career goals. Each and every time I get a text, email, or call from a client or former client sharing a win with me, this is what keeps me going each and every day.

Here's an email I got the other day from a former client:
"I've been in my new job for a couple of months, and it continues to be really amazing. I'm holding my breath because it feels almost too good to be true. It's better than I ever imagined it could be."

Also, building a six-figure solopreneur business in the first six months and a multi-six-figure business in year two has been a huge accomplishment that I'm really proud of!

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Discipline! The day-to-day work is not always fun by any means and requires a great deal of discipline and focus. For example, I'm not a fan of marketing, and I'm no good at it. But, owning my own business with the goal of being a CEO, not just a freelancer, requires me to up my game with marketing. I've had to invest in learning the ropes and commit to daily actions to reach my goals. It's not easy, but it's worth it!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Just start doing it. Don't waste your precious resources on building a fancy website or promotional materials; just start offering your service to people. Offer your service to your friends, family members, colleagues, on social media, at your PTA, or wherever you connect with people. If you're just starting out, you're in the prototyping phase, so you need to see what works and what doesn't with your service offering and the market value. This is essential to refine your service offering, price point, etc., with real-world data. Of course, once you're up and running, build your website and invest in your back-end supports, but this comes down the road, definitely not at the beginning.
  2. Hustle. I hate to say it because I'm not a fan of "hustle culture" and "do anything to make it work," Still, selling your services and bringing in six figures or multiple six figures requires a steadfast hustle to make those sales. This means that if the month ends and you haven't hit your goals, you better get on the horn to make more sales so you stay on track. (I'm channeling my business coaches' voice right now. ;)
  3. Discipline and focus. As I said in the previous question, this is huge. It's a constant dance and requires discernment around what is most important versus what is most urgent and how to navigate them. Start with your biggest revenue-generating activities and build the time slots for this work into your calendar. Then, build in your client fulfillment activities in your calendar, and lastly, incorporate your administrative functions into your calendar.

    A metaphor I was taught to think about this is:
    Boulders = are your revenue-generating activities (marketing, sales, closing clients)
    Rocks = are your client fulfillment activities (providing your service to the client)
    Sand = is your administrative tasks (email correspondence, billing, calendaring, etc.)
    This framing and planning have really helped me stay focused and disciplined.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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