Thinking Ahead: 1. Coaching

For the past several years, I have run a business called “Pen and Paper Mama Services.” For the main part, I have done tutoring and editing, plus some writing, workshops, author website consulting, and other similar activities. But as I reached the grand age of 65 in the summer of 2020, I am now considering how I can take on some new directions in my business and in my life. Over the next few blog posts, I will share the research I have been doing on various alternatives—and I’d be happy to have readers share their thoughts and input in the comments. Thank you! The following are the topics I’ll be covering:

  1. Coaching
  2. Mentoring
  3. Mentor writing and self-editing
  4. Mentor tutoring
  5. Specific services I am considering offering


What is the difference between coaching and mentoring? And how do they relate to usual tutoring and editing? In this post, let’s dig into what a coach does (with an emphasis on tutoring, self-editing, and writing):

A coach helps students or clients:

– find their voice
– brainstorm and explore to come up with and choose ideas or projects; then help plan/plot, enact, and finish chosen projects
– learn, grow, get out of a rut, work through blocks, complete unfinished projects
– develop and enhance skills
– learn new skills by imitating ones the coach demonstrates
– develop the capability of coaching themselves in future
– understand their challenges and make decisions on how to move forward
– learn to create plans/outlines, set writing (or other) goals, get on track and keep going, polish and perfect their work/project; reach one’s full potential
– learn to create their own path and routine and follow it; develop self-discipline
– learn to coach themselves through difficult times and/or emotional journeys
– learn to make their writing more authentic and engaging
– learn to dig deep and put themselves fully into a project; learn more about themselves and their goals
– learn how to work steadily, and think and act successfully in their chosen field/project
– learn research skills
– learn relevant computer skills or the use of other tools (e.g. for writers: writing and self-editing software, design software, etc.)
– develop skills that can be applied to both current and future projects

General skills and experience a coach can offer:

– writing and editing knowledge and teaching experience
– one-on-one attention
– be an accountability partner
– personalized, adaptable, tailored help
– side-by-side learning
– provide questions to guide/direct, to help create new ideas or decisions; provide guidance based on analyzing the client’s current skills and help enhance/develop them
– recognize a client’s strengths and challenges, and use that knowledge/understanding to help propel the client forward
– provide feedback
– provide practical skills to convert discussions into actions
– answer questions
– provide a routine and route to success based on one’s own experience and knowledge, and help the client follow a similar path
– provide hands-on-teaching and demonstrations
– provide honest and objective critiques
– encourage, cheerlead, motivate
– help instill discipline, and help/push clients to do and be their best and reach their potential
– open doors through networking and contacts
– advocate with teachers, parents, administrators, counselors and other professionals
– identify resources
– research and share useful information
– be trustworthy and confidential
– teach clients to approach their projects as a business rather than just a hobby
– provide skill development which the client can apply to both current and future projects

Skills and experience directly related to writing/editing which a coach may provide:

– a book coach may assist with facilitating the creative conception of a book idea and help develop a first draft to a completed manuscript (similar to a developmental editor)
– read through a writer’s manuscript(s) and write a report with helpful pointers, then help the writer enact them
– work collaboratively with an author to help take their manuscript (book, article, story, etc.) to the next level; help development of ideas and structures for the project
– teach writing and self-editing skills to move the writing process forward at a steady yet comfortable rate for the writer
– explore and try out new genres or writing forms
– develop and build a story
– may specialize in particular formats and/or genres
– help a writer decided if a project is a likely candidate for publishing or not; if so, decide what kind of publishing is most suitable
– some writing coaches may also help writers develop marketing (promotion, distribution), design (cover and/or interior design), and publishing skills (types of publishing; finding an agent; writing queries, proposals, synopses, etc.; platform/brand building)
– teach the use of appropriate writing and editing software
– develop customized, in-depth training for particular skills (e.g., worksheets, individual or small-group workshops, etc.)
– may specialize in helping writers, speakers, and business people use their ideas and written materials (especially non-fiction) to build business credibility
– provide consultation for specific writing or editing needs rather than a longer-term start-to-finish process
– focus on writer development, starting with high order (“big picture”) concerns and working onward to correctness (polishing, proofing)
– encourage the writer to become more and more independent, improving writing and self-editing skills (rather than the “fixing” type of editing some writers hope for); show them where and how to improve
– help writers move their ideas from their minds and onto the page

How does coaching work?

– in a particular session, the coach may teach skills in a hands-on workshopping style, present information, provide guidance, have the client practice immediately; also go over homework/practice from last session; and decide together on homework/practice for next session, including when the client  must submit it so the coach can prepare feedback and help at the next meeting
– usually lasts for an extended time (though may be for a short time for a very specific need). May meet monthly or every 2 weeks. Between meetings, the client has homework/practice to complete; often the client will send it to the coach ahead of time (by writing, video, etc.) to allow the coach to plan for the upcoming meeting.
– payment is often spread over time, after each session; thus the client can budget for the coaching (some coaches will offer special terms if the client makes payment upfront)
– coaching often follows a more rigorous structure than mentoring, as it is more “skills-focused” than relationship, self-knowledge, emotional, etc. It is also more performance driven. It involves instruction and training, active pursuit, and often focuses on specific how-to instruction.

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