Coach in the Spotlight: Sarah Hardman

Following a career in marketing, Sarah Hardman decided to switch her focus to working with people to build on their strengths and natural resourcefulness by launching her own coaching practice. In our Q&A, Sarah shares her secret for sourcing new coaching clients, and explains why she’s eager to collaborate with the coaching community in restorative and energising environments.

How did you become a coach?

I had a long career in marketing before I became a coach. 

I’ve been lucky enough to work for some fantastic organisations in my marketing career and as my career progressed I found myself increasingly drawn to the team development side of my roles.

I’ve always been someone who is fascinated by people. I was that painful teenager at a party who’d have someone pinned in the corner talking about their innermost thoughts and feelings…these days I’m (slightly) better at the small talk but remain naturally curious and like to get to know someone on a deeper level and I think that is partly what drew me to coaching. Also I’ve always believed that we all have a unique bag of tricks - we just might need some help in discovering what those things are.


What led you into career coaching?

Having experienced it myself I know how confusing and overwhelming it can feel to transition from one career to another - it can feel terrifying to leave a secure, familiar career to do something else.

I do a blend of one to one leadership coaching for corporate as well as not-for-profit organisations and personal leadership coaching with private clients. Increasingly I was finding that my private clients wanted to focus on big life and career changes which is why I became interested in doing some training in career coaching.


I’ve always been someone who is fascinated by people.


Why did you decide to become Firework trained?

Firework had been on my radar for a while as I knew other Co-Active coaches who’d trained in the Firework methodology.

I really liked the idea of a framework that also works as a toolkit that I could dip in and out of. I also wanted something that was flexible because I wear a few different hats in my work.

The Explore, Dream, Discover structure is a great way to guide the client through a career change journey.

I might’ve been able to pull some exercises together myself, but the fact that Firework had all the ingredients was perfect!

I’ve taken some clients through the full programme but often I just use elements of the toolkit – it depends on what comes up. It’s great to have these tools at my fingertips and adapt them as I choose.

I love the guided visualisation that is part of the Explore process - it can be a really powerful resource for clients and it’s something that I call upon in most coaching engagements. 


Who do you typically work with?

In terms of my private work, I tend to work with mid-lifers - people in their 40’s and 50’s – people who are experienced and accomplished in their professions but who don’t want to carry in the same career until retirement and are wanting to make a shift but don’t quite know where to start.


The fact that Firework had all the ingredients was perfect!


What results have you helped your clients achieve?

Clients often come to career coaching feeling a bit stuck or confused and are seeking a clear picture of what they want. The Firework tools help them build a picture of who they are and what they want with some clarity about what their future vision is for their work and life. 

Not everyone decides to make a shift - and that's fine - the main thing is arriving at the point of clarity and choice. And if they do want to make a change my role as a coach is to be by their side while they take the leap into the unknown – like a co-pilot.

Examples of recent clients include someone from a marketing background who as a result of the coaching set up a social enterprise and trained as a counsellor; I also worked someone who was a senior member of the armed forces who was struggling to make the decision as to whether they would stay or embark on a new career and the massive life change that involved: by the end of the coaching programme the decision had been made.​


What challenges have you faced with your coaching clients?

A lot of my leadership coaching clients are in the Not For Profit Sector and Social sectors; I also work with senior civil servants.

These clients often feel completely overwhelmed by the pace and rate of change in their organisations and are having to deal with some toxic relationships in the workplace.

Coaching allows them that time to slow down, regroup and reconnect with themselves - iIt’s almost like taking a step off a very busy motorway.

No matter what else is going on around them, the client can use the coaching sessions to tap into their inner resources.


Not everyone decides to make a shift - and that's fine - the main thing is arriving at the point of clarity and choice.


How did you build your coaching business?

My journey from being a full-time marketing professional to a full-time coach took quite a long time. 

It would’ve been a big leap of faith financially to leave my old career behind immediately, so I took a part time marketing role initially, which gave me the time and space to build up my coaching practice. 

However, it was challenging to find that part time role. Because of my level of experience, I realised I wouldn’t find it through traditional channels.

I did a lot of networking, spoke to friends, and friends of friends.

The process of talking to people and sharing my story of transitioning into coaching meant my network were aware of my intentions and desire to build a coaching business.

As a result, I found a part time marketing role as well as securing my first coaching clients. 

I kept letting people know what I was doing. I followed up on every lead and said yes to everything.

A lot of people would call this networking, but to me, it’s just talking to people.

My coaching business grew organically, and I've relied a lot on personal relationships and keeping in touch with people which is quite labour intensive, but it has worked for me.

I had a plan initially of how my coaching business would develop, but things change all the time.

It’s important to have a decent website and web presence but that's a small part of the picture.

Some of my clients have come to me via other coaches and I took on some associate coaching work too. I believe there's enough work for everybody, so I'm not competitive with other coaches and I enjoy collaborating.


I did a lot of networking, spoke to friends, and friends of friends.


What challenges have you faced when it comes to your coaching practice?

I think one of the biggest challenges for me has been the fact that I'm a very sociable person, but I work in a team of one.

It can be difficult to remain emotionally buoyant when it's just me, and the impact of the pandemic really exacerbated that – I found the social isolation incredibly tough.

I’ve had to be quite proactive about collaborating with other coaches and having a blend of working under my own steam and being part of a wider team.

Some of my work is therefore less lucrative because I'm part of a group of facilitators, but my sanity and my motivation are more important.

I’ve burnt myself out in the past when there was less work coming in. I would go into overdrive trying to make things happen. I've learned that putting crazy amounts of energy into things doesn't necessarily yield more clients. You must ride those moments out.

I've been in the same coaching supervision group for about five years now and those people have kept me on the straight and narrow.

Coaching supervision can be used to discuss challenges with specific clients, but I’ve also been able to bring up business issues, and the support I’ve gained has been invaluable to me.


One of the biggest challenges for me has been the fact that I'm a very sociable person, but I work in a team of one.


How do you see your work evolving?

I used to have a grand plan for myself and my business – I had quite clear vision and a structured plan. But as my business has become more established I’ve become less wedded to this - I keep in mind what sort of work I want to do and try and put my marketing energy into those areas.

As time goes on, I’d like to focus more on my private coaching work. I want to blend everything I've learned over the last 15 years of coaching, and I'm particularly drawn to working outside in nature and to supporting well-being by working with the body as well as the mind.

I want to continue working and collaborating with other coaches and work as much as I can outdoors.

Increasingly I’m getting involved in running retreats and bringing in my coaching skills into a more restorative environment and want to do more of this in the future.


What lessons have you learnt in your experience as a coach? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

I would’ve made more time for things like meeting up with other coaches rather than working flat out building my business.

I now prioritise what I need in terms of social interaction and am more aware of what gives me energy. This is just as important (if not more so) as all the other things to do with setting up and running a business. 

In the early days I took on a couple of coaching clients as an associate and my instincts told me that it wasn’t right. Now I’m a more experienced coach, I’m bolder about trusting my instincts.

If I was to give advice to another coach setting up a new coaching practice it would be to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint - pace yourself. And be kind to yourself - it’s a bold thing that you are doing and you won’t always get it right - and that’s fine!


Now I’m a more experienced coach, I’m bolder about trusting my instincts.


What’s the most rewarding thing about being a coach?

It’s brilliant to see a client make a big career change, but it’s also extremely rewarding to get to the end of a coaching session and witness a shift in the client’s mindset or in what they believe is possible. 

The coaching space can provide a little pocket of much needed calm and I love that I’m able facilitate that. When someone tells me that they feel a little lighter as a result of our work together it gives me a great feeling of satisfaction.


Sarah Hardman is a Firework-licensed career coach who works with senior executives and emerging talent to capitalise on their strengths and convictions so they can lead more confidently and thrive in challenging roles. Her Boldly-Be coaching practice focuses on supporting clients to connect with their strengths and reboot their lives. Sarah enjoys working outdoors with clients because of the reviving and energising effect it has. Find out more about Sarah at