This post is something I've been wanting to create for a while now, mainly because I was asking myself this particular question over and over.
"What's the difference between a coach, mentor and consultant?"
When I started up my business in 2017 I knew I wanted to be a marketing consultant for creative entrepreneurs. In my previous role I'd worked closely with consultants who had such an impact on both my personal life and the businesses I was working for. These consultants were not only able to help guide my marketing plans but also came up with amazing ideas for us to implement to allow us to reach our potential. When I left the UK and moved to Vancouver, I knew I wanted to start up my own marketing business which would allow me to have the same impact on other people's lives. This is how I fell upon the decision of calling myself a marketing consultant.
It wasn't until recently in a call with my coach, Jen Carrington, that I realised not only was I consulting in my business but I too was coaching. Working with Jen was different to the support I'd received when I worked closely with consultants. Jen doesn't always give me the answers and her opinion straight away but allows me to delve deeper into the questions and helps me create a plan for how I can answer them. Seeing the similarities between what Jen was doing with me and what I was doing for others encouraged me to change my title from just "Marketing Consultant" to "Marketing Consultant and Creative Coach". There's times when it's easy to have a blend of the two and I feel in time I will become a mentor to others but for now, these two titles perfectly sum up what I do.
So, here's the answers I came up with when asking myself the question of what's the difference between a consultant, mentor and coach.
What does a Consultant do?
For me, a consultant is someone who has deep knowledge and experience within a particular subject. Using myself as an example; I consult within marketing as this is something enjoy and know a lot about. I have over 5 years' of experience in this field, I've previously worked in a top UK agency working with senior clients from all over the world. I've also run the marketing for a UK shopping centre working closely with brands such as Nike, GAP and M&S. My knowledge runs deep in the world of digital, social media, website design, print media, retail, window displays, merchandising, advertising and much much more.
When would you use a consultant?
In my opinion you would seek out a consultant when you're looking for advice and support within a particular subject. You would use one when you have questions you need answers to and you're looking for strategic help. Within my own business I will review clients' current marketing practices and ask what goals they want to reach through the use of their marketing. This will then enable me to provide them with clear ways in which they can improve. Ways in which I give this information may be through a call or a report, it's all dependent on the situation.
What does a coach do?
In my opinion a coach is someone who will help bring out the best in you, guide you and support you to work out the answers you need for your business, all by yourself. They will give you advice but they may not always answer your questions directly. The main difference I find between a consultant and a coach is that a coach will support you whilst you find the answers to your own questions whereas a consultant will give you an answer, their answer, based on their experience within that particular field. Coaches are perfect for accountability, they're here for you whilst you worth through things within your business. This last point is the main reason why I chose to incorporate coaching into my business, I don't just want to give people the answers, I want to support them to learn how to answer things for themselves in the future and be accountable for their work.
When would you use a coach?
Coaches are great to have when you're looking for guidance in a range of thing, things that you have experience with but need the help of someone to pull this out of you to allow you to be the "best possible you". Coaches are able to work through blocks with you and to guide you forward. For example, within my own business I get asked the question "how do I get <potential client> to work with me". Instead of answering this question for them (as I would do as a consultant) I instead ask them the question "why would <potential client> want to work with you?" because answering this questions will allow you to understand the answer to the first questions of "how". I talk more about this in my blog post "Just ask yourself why". Coaching allows you to ask yourself questions to help you move forward and plan for the future of your business.
What does a mentor do?
For me, defining a Mentor is a little trickier because I feel that it's a real merge of both a consultant and coach. I feel a mentor can be described by not only what they do but also the situation in which they are in. I personally don't think you you should pay for a mentor (you may pay for a consultant or a coach and they may mentor you) but mentoring is more of a description of who someone is to you. My experience of a mentor is linked closely with a marketing consultant I had previously worked with. He was running a successful consulting business which is one of the reasons I wanted to start my own. I would ask him questions about how he started it and how he got clients and he would share his experience with me. This advice he gave me wasn't something he did as part of his consulting role, this was personal advice he was giving me because he wanted me to succeed. I saw him as a mentor and he was my cheerleader with whatever plans I had. I feel a mentor is someone you know over time, you create a connection with them and they'll support you and have the experience you want and crave.
when would you use a Mentor?
You can ALWAYS use a mentor, there is nothing better than having someone to go to when you're feeling a little lost; someone who has gone through the experiences you're going through and is there to help guide you to where you want to go. There never seems to me a reason why you shouldn't have a mentor. A downfall of having a mentor that you're not paying for is that there's only so much support they can give to you. So if you're needing guidance and answers on a certain timescale, a consultant or coach may work better for you.
As a creative business owner you will have a great insight into your particular creative field and there's only so much someone can do for you without you giving away the reins of your business and letting them run it. When working out whether you need a consultant, a mentor or a coach, I suggest you write a list of all the things you're wanting support with.
If you're looking for a cheerleader, someone who will support you with your list of things and hold you accountable then a coach might be the best option. If instead your list of things you need help with sit under a particular field such as "marketing" and you're needing expertise in this to help you move forward then a marketing consultant might be better for you. OR if you need a bit of both you can work with someone like myself who blends the two together. You may find that once you find either a coach or a consultant they will become a mentor for you.
That being said, I feel you can get too hung up on what kind of person you're looking to work with. I always recommend looking at both consultants' and coaches' content (blogs, newsletters, podcasts etc) you'll get a real sense of their values and who they are. Once you've seen their packages and immersed yourself in their content you'll have a better idea if they'll be the fit for you to help you with your business.
If you're interested in what I do and feel we'd be a good fit then you can find out more about me and my packages over on my consultancy page.