I contacted Mark when I had an idea what I wanted to do – but the job didn’t actually exist and the logical voice inside me would very loudly shout: ‘You can’t have a job that doesn’t exist!’
I had a disparate set of skills and had enjoyed successful careers as a graphic designer and motivational speaker – and wanted to combine the bits I loved of both careers. Designing a logo was fun, but not challenging enough. Advising businesses was well paid, but not involved enough.
Mark helped me examine my motivations – especially my need for freedom, fun and purpose. He helped me clarify what I do for clients, what makes it different and special, and how to communicate this to them and get them on board for amazing (and profitable) adventures.
I discovered that looking at how a company works – their processes, the people, and their product – and improving their brand through design, creative thinking and training is exciting enough to keep me awake at night.
Mark also helped me turn down the volume on that very loud whisper: ‘Who are you to think you can do that?’
Results – my income has more than quadrupled, my creativity has soared, and I get to use my quirky little clever ideas for achieving my purpose.
Aileen Bennett, Roaming Creative Director / Idea thinker upper, CreatingClever.com
Mark helped me understand where I need to focus my time in order to become more successful as a creative. He challenged me on some of my assumptions, as well as the language I have been using. He helped me to acknowledge what my true aim as a dark fiction author is, and where I was falling too far into the Shadow Career.
Mark’s unique skill is being able to empathize as a creative professional, but also challenge as an ambitious entrepreneur.
J.F.Penn, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, JFPenn.com
I can’t quite remember how I first discovered Mark, but I do remember that it was while I was doing his free, 26-part creative course that I decided that I really wanted some coaching from him.
I didn’t really know what coaching was, but from his course, I could tell that here was someone who knew what it was like to work in the creative and cultural industries.
For years I had worked on a huge number of creative projects, usually one at a time, and because they were usually my babies, usually I worked from start to finish on each one. But it meant that I never seemed to move forward. Each thing was fun and exhausting. But each time I had to start from scratch, often broke (because I’d poured everything into getting the previous thing done), and having to do most of the heavy lifting on my own.
Mark clearly ‘got it’, and from day one, he has helped me to build a portfolio of creative assets, and reorganise my way of working so that a number of teams effectively (as Mark puts it) “work for me while I sleep”. I have more time for the kind of creativity I enjoy, and my career has taken flight.
When friends and colleagues ask, “How do you do it all?” I refer them to Mark. And they’ve benefitted as well.
But that’s just the stuff on the tin.
Mark has been my support through the best and worst of times.
Both in my business life as a creative professional, and in my personal life, Mark has variously been my mentor, guide, cheerleader, sounding-board, counsellor, brainstorm partner, editor, financial planner, meeting strategist, ‘the adult in the conversation’ (although I’m not sure he particularly welcomes that role!), and friend.
Mark has helped me change my life. As my Mom once said, “Thank God for Mark!”
Ian Poitier, Writer, Director, Producer & Consultant
Mark McGuinness’s role in helping to clear the noise is critical, whether the world is in a crisis of scarcity, a shock of pandemic, or even when it is a time filled with plenty. He is a treasure of a man who helps me keep my eyes on what is essential.
I have a lot of irons in the fire every day. I am an industrial farmer, I am a serial entrepreneur, and I own a high-end luxury company. I work in many fields with all ranks of people — some teach at famous universities and others can’t read at all.
A person like me needs a space to agglomerate his experiences and take a look at them with someone who offers a fresh perspective. It would be tough to overestimate the value Mark brings to our meetings.
Daniel Boettcher, Founder and CEO, The Intrepid Wendell
I first sought Mark’s help when my editor – brilliantly but not subtly – suggested that I write an article about learning to overcome procrastination.
Despite having to meet multiple deadlines every month, I was a mess: putting everything off till the last minute, putting myself through the stress and self-hatred wringer, and putting my editors into the unenviable position of having to harass me to turn in my writing.
Enter Mark, calm, cool, unflappable – and yet both sympathetic and, as a poet and writer himself, empathetic.
I had misgivings about coaching – I feared that it would be ‘corporate’ and not geared toward someone who made a living in a creative profession. And then again, I worried that, since Mark was a poet, maybe he wouldn’t be ‘corporate’ enough
My fears were unfounded. Mark was everything I could have asked for. He understood where I was coming from, never judged me, and got me to understand that having systems in place to keep me on track wouldn’t dim my creative spark but would, in fact, allow it to grow into a steady flame.
Inspirational and practical, a cheerleader and a taskmaster – not to mention a genuine person who is completely present and engaged in every session – Mark helped me to create a sane (ish) and steady (ish) writing practice and oversaw my turning in a piece not just on but ahead of my deadline for the first time in my life.
The fact that I am returning to coaching with Mark as I look to broaden the scope of my writing career and navigate a changing professional landscape speaks to how much I believe in his ability to push me to do my best without judging myself and trust him with two of the things that are most important to me: my creative output and my livelihood.
Adam Green, Vogue’s theater critic and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. Currently writing a memoir for Farrar, Straus and Giroux and co-creating a series for Amazon Studios Authory.com/AdamGreen
The two main challenges I faced when starting coaching were to put a price tag to the value I bring to clients, and to prepare myself to come back home after 2 years traveling across the world.
I had very few doubts about coaching, I knew that with hard work and commitment I was bound to benefit from it. I had worked with a life coach a couple of years prior to that and it gave me a good idea of the process. I am also fully aware that top performing people (athletes, singers, CEOs and so much more) all have coaches to help them get where they are and to keep pushing forward. It simply makes sense!
My results after working with Mark a little bit over 3 months were tremendous! I now understand and appreciate how coming back home is in no way the end of the adventure, but if anything a new exciting opportunity! I can now negotiate contracts with new clients that I would have not dared ask for. And I am now also at the helm of a new entrepreneurial venture – Outshinery – that came to fruition in record time with Mark’s encouragement and guidance.
What I like the most about Mark’s coaching style, on top of the British accent (!), is how he is a creative himself. While I’m in visual design and not petty, it felts we really had a common ground, an understanding of the not so black and white world of creativity. We were speaking the same language. I also enjoy the longer sessions (2 hours) than usual coaching, and appreciated how we would usually split it even between my two main projects.
Overall, on top of all the momentum I generated in the short amount of time we work together, I still to this day revisit and use the gold nuggets I have written down during our sessions. I truly highly recommend working with Mark to bring your A-game!”
I heard about Mark from a poet friend and thought he sounded like exactly what I needed. I had had coaching before, but was struggling with the balance of my ‘portfolio life’ and wanted support from someone who was an expert in this area.
Mark has been superb. He has been sensitive, thoughtful, wise and asked the right questions at the right time. I now feel much more confident about where to focus my energies in the next few years, and what to cut out. I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Meeting and working with Mark was one of the most significant pivotal moments in my career. He helped me not only bringing my business to the next level but also to balance success and well being at the same time.
But the biggest thing Mark did for me during the last 1.5 years was just to be there. He is hyper-responsive, super aware, and you better prepare to be challenged by his questions all the time. Mark does this with a positive, uplifting, and sincere attitude I never experienced in a human being before.
And on the side, he made me achieve goals and create an insane amount of assets I never believed I could do before.
Mark is a rare soul, and I’m feeling grateful that he coached me.
Holger Nils Pohl, Visual Strategist, HolgerNilsPohl.com
I’d been unhappy for years… decades even. I was successful in all the wrong ways and worn down, beat down, tired. My life seemed to be getting away from me.
I was interested in coaching, but skeptical that it would help me through the profound changes I knew that I needed to make, but I’d reached the bottom, so I was willing to try anything. My doubts were in the cost vs reward category. How much is happiness worth? Everything, of course, but that outcome can’t be guaranteed.
I decided to reach out to several coaches and found Mark to suit me best. As a creative, I hoped he’d understand me better than the others. He did.
After a few weeks, I found myself randomly smiling – enjoying life again. After a couple months, I knew I was on the right track. By the end of our time together, I was happy, at peace, more creative than I’d been in longer than I could remember, and strong.
Mark is patient, kind, professional, helpful and inspired. He has a keen insight into how we work as creatives. He knows why we do what we do. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m forever grateful.
Josh Casaubon, Artist (Musician, Idea Man and Actor)
I approached Mark to help me through a transition into a new phase of my career, where I was looking to develop my coaching practice and launch a new venture, Campfire. Having run Fantasy League for decades, I was leaving my comfort zone and finding it hard to land properly, struggling to see and believe in a new version of myself.
I have a habit of getting stuck in my head without action, so needed break this cycle to move forwards. Given where I’d been for some time, it was a tall order and meant I approached coaching unsure whether it could really be effective.
From the outset, working with Mark was a joy, and super-effective. He got where I was and just as importantly got me, allowing me to recognise the value in my work. This provided the impetus to take things forward and launch Campfire and to believe in myself as a coach.
Mark balances strong intuition with grounded, practical and smart guidance; sessions floating seamlessly between these qualities so that over time I gained a deeper and deeper conviction in the purpose and quality of my work.
Having worked with Mark for over a year, I’ve consistently found him to be generous, sincere, steady and positive. A rare individual – I feel very fortunate to have worked with him.
Andrew Wainstein, Founder and Coach, Campfire.cc
I was at a point where I wanted to aim higher and think bigger and because the options and possible routes of going about it were too many, I wanted to find a coach who would help me sort it out and make the best possible choices in the least amount of time.
I had zero ideas about coaching because I didn’t know what it was, I could only imagine what it would be indirectly, by deduction from things I’d read. I realised that all high achievers were ‘drinking water’ as we say in Greece, in the name of their coach, so I figured it must be something important and useful if people of such high calibre were doing it and were considering it important if not indispensable.
Now having had the experience I can definitely see the importance of coaching if one wants to tackle something of very high stakes or wants to jump into unknown territory. I guess everyone can benefit from coaching, but it is in these edge cases were I think it is of most benefit.
I have a much clearer picture of where I am, where I am aiming to go and I am actually on my way there with both feet firmly on the ground.
I would describe Mark as a calm Socratic listener. He listens with attention and creates such an environment where most of the time I would know the answer by the end of my question.
He also gave me very good practical advice with regards to my-day-to day meetings and contacts, helping me frame the situation in advance and be better prepared both practically but also psychologically.
Stathis Athanasiou, Film Director and Visual Artist StathisAthanasiou.com
One of the biggest challenges I was facing when I first considered coaching was getting a sense of direction with my work. Over the years I had created this mental divide between the creative work I loved to do, and the work I do for clients. I struggled to see how they might work together. In my mind, there just seemed to be no common ground between them.
I had been in therapy before and I always felt a little bit like I wasn’t quite getting what I wanted to out of it, and so I wasn’t sure if I would feel the same about coaching. I had followed Mark’s work for a number of years though, and for a long time I had thought that when the time was right, I would love to work with him. I thought that a more targeted approach, i.e. focusing on my creative career, might be what I needed. I went into it with a kind of pragmatic and goal-oriented mindset. The reality though was that by really going into the specifics of my creative work, I ended up working on myself more than anything.
In the beginning I thought I had these really specific, pragmatic goals. Things like “Paint X number of paintings”, and “Reach out to X number of companies with my work”. But what I realized was that there was something deeper I needed to build upon. I needed to find my way to resolving this conflict in my mind, to see how my work for others and my creative work weren’t really opposing forces, but that they could, with a shift in mindset, work together toward a common purpose. Working with Mark, he really encouraged me to pursue my own personal projects, and challenged me to see how my client work could be a way of supporting those projects.
One of the things that we talked about again and again was this idea of really going all out in being yourself. I would say that what I most got out of my work with Mark is the realization that my conflicted sense of self was coming from a tendency to hold myself back, to disengage, and thereby not put myself wholly into my work. I started to see that the unifying factor isn’t some external thing, but me and my unique perspective on the world. This led me to a greater sense of direction and clarity and a solid framework to build upon.
I can’t recommend working with Mark enough. He is incredibly generous as a coach. Even before we officially started, when we were talking about whether or not we should work together, I could feel that he was really present with me. Paying his full attention and really giving of himself in the time we had together. He was great at challenging me, fully expecting me to show up, but not in any kind of pushy or aggressive way.
I always felt as if Mark was inviting me in to a space where I could be a bigger version of myself. He’s very encouraging and he is a great witness to the creative process. Being a creative himself, he really understands that.
I was hired as a Sr. Creative Manager in a fast growing cyber security company. At the time I reached out to Mark, the company had doubled from 80 to 160 people in 18 months. In all of this the challenge was…
- Constantly reinventing systems and processes to support company and team growth
- Learning to balance being a doer and a manager
- Managing fears and doubts – am I qualified/good enough for this role?
- Maintaining composure and be proactive vs reactive amidst white water moments
- Learning how to build an efficient, collaborative environment among people who a fairly new to the company and to each other
It was my first time working with a coach so I didn’t know what to expect. Any doubts were more internal based — do I have what it takes to work with such a great coach? Do I possess the courage to change and walk out what I am learning?
The whole time I felt like Mark was in my corner. I felt completely supported but also personally challenged, a combination that I needed and appreciated.
Here are some of the things I got out of our work together:
- Figured out my personality type (I’m #9, peacemaker)
- I was able to answer the question: Who do you want to be? (creative leader and mentor)
- Put that answer into a story and built my personal website that reflected that message
- Found several amazing role models in the creative field
- Developed my coaching skills in the areas of questioning, listening and giving feedback
- Learned how to do an effective coaching session with creatives on my team
- Learned to manage my insecurity as a creative leader, speak up in meetings, share my design perspective
- Did my first ever design session at the Denver Startup Week
- Grew in the area of networking with other creatives and creative leaders
- Designed and published a book with my wife
- Learned to navigate several challenging situations in leading a creative team, as well as leading up
- Endless amount of encouragement, these coaching sessions were like water for my soul — truly life-giving
Mark has a gift of asking the right questions and the patience and grace to wait as I would process my answers out loud. Many times it is in these moments when the light bulb would come on for me, my mind was expanded, and the seeds of change were planted. Even though Mark has so much wisdom to just tell me what to do, his approach of guiding me through questions until I saw it for myself was so effective.
Mark knows when to support and when to challenge. I always felt like I could be completely transparent, having nothing to hide. On occassions I felt embarrassed to share something, but Mark would never make me feel dumb or inferior. He listened, supported, encouraged. On the other hand he offers accountability and there is a full expectation of putting in work and effort from my side — rooted in the heart of making the most of our time together. This required courage and sacrifice, but looking back, it was so incredibly worth it.
I couldn’t recommend Mark more.
Milan Klusacek, Strategic Creative Leader and Mentor, MilanKlusacek.com
Before I started coaching, I was completely overwhelmed by all the things I thought I should do with my time and my career. I had recently made a big jump into full time entrepreneurship and I couldn’t see a way forward that was truly mine. I felt like I was only performing at 50% and was being held back by limiting beliefs and behaviours.
While I wasn’t doubtful about coaching, I was worried that a coach might approach my situation as formulaic and just try to get me to tick the boxes and move through a stock standard approach. What I really wanted wasn’t someone to tell me what to do, but rather someone who could push me to allow myself to think bigger, but take smaller steps. And that’s exactly what Mark did.
In our time coaching. I tackled my limiting beliefs and behaviours straight on, barrelling through them. I set bigger goals than ever before, and started working towards them. As an ambitious person by nature, I didn’t need much help in dreaming big, but Mark helped me remove the ‘flotsam & jetsam’ that was in my way of achieving those goals.
Mark’s coaching style is gently all-knowing, patient and surprisingly comforting. He managed to both allow me to receive the type of coaching I wanted & needed, but also provided the coaching and guidance I didn’t know I wanted or needed. Having this coaching so early in my career has undoubtably transformed the way I tackle my work, my life and my goals, and I imagine it will continue to pay dividends for years to come.
Micaela Lindsay, Creative Entrepreneur, building a tiny empire of kind, enriching businesses. One by one. MicaelaKarina.com
I was in a rut when I first met Mark, struggling to make a career change away from journalism, and wasting a lot of energy chasing around in circles.
Our sessions helped me focus on what was important, then get it done. Gently and with humour, Mark helped me see that I didn’t have to rebuild completely. I just had to tap into my existing network and skills.
In our time together, I more than doubled my income, established my business as a coach working with creatives of all kinds, and published two books (one of them, my UK club history Adventures In Wonderland, has been nominated for the 2021 Penderyn Prize for music books).
I now feel I have a clear direction, and understand how I can be a writer and a coach – without compromising either.
Sheryl Garratt, Writer and Coach for Creatives, TheCreativeLife.net
I contacted Mark when I was at a crossroads in my professional life. It wasn’t clear where my creative path should lead next and I felt worried and anxious about the future. I didn’t have a personal story I believed in and I often fumbled when explaining my job and passion to others. It felt like I needed a breakthrough and I couldn’t do it on my own.
I didn’t mind the idea of talking to someone, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to fundamentally change anything for me and I was worried that I didn’t have much to say about myself. That of course turned out to be entirely untrue! The sessions were a safe place to explore my motivations, fears, ambitions and dreams and where I talked freely and openly at length. Coaching helped me make sense of my dynamic and gave me a clearer understanding of the type of creative person I am.
I articulated a creative vision that revealed the type of work that drives the most value for me and how to incorporate it into my future. I got better at knowing my story and having perspective on the successes and failures of the past. I came out the other end a better, more secure person than when I entered.
Mark is a grounding and inviting person who creates a sense of calm and reassurance in you. I instantly felt comfortable in his presence and found him to be sincere and genuinely engaged during our sessions. He listens carefully and compassionately. Mark’s background in psychotherapy enabled him to comfortably pivot between the professional and the personal and made me feel like I was in very safe hands.
Amir Sheikh, Designer and Artist, SeriouslyGoodCreative.com
I was facing a perfect storm of challenges in my science career: I had to fight for a promotion at work, to apply for a very competitive fellowship, to apply for a very competitive grant (on a different topic!) and while doing this, and the reason I came to Mark initially, was that I was miserable because I had let all my creative writing projects lapse, so I also wanted to start writing plays again.
I had already been reading Mark’s blog posts and all his books for several years so that I knew that he was special, if he’d accept me as a client. So when he did, I knew I was very lucky – but I had no idea how lucky! He was both a guardian angel and an incredibly astute advisor and career counselor and led me to more insights and breakthroughs than I could count – every session was mind-blowing.
This sounds as if I’m making it up but it turned into a miracle year, all during Mark’s tutelage: I got the promotion, the grant, the fellowship and, because of Mark, began my most challenging work as a playwright, a play that truly terrifies me and that I could have only begun with Mark’s support and encouragement.
I would describe Mark’s coaching as Goldilocks – just right, not too much, not too little. Seriously, it is as if you have one person in the world who first will hear anything you have to say and then sees the light at the end of the tunnel and can point you towards it – and then you’re back on your feet and moving again! Just because Mark has applied a few well-timed, gentle, wry, wise comments and nudges… he’s a miracle worker.
I worked with Mark during a particularly difficult year. My project, an ambitious nonfiction undertaking, was unbelievably hard to gain perspective upon. Any memoir writing invites myopia and solipsism, and Mark’s wise, kind, and poetic understanding was immensely helpful against my fears of falling into those sloughs.
My initial concerns about working with a coach had to do with a cookie cutter approach to creativity and work, a just-follow-these-five-steps method, which would have engendered resistance from me. I’m pretty far along in my working life, and I found Mark’s work to be both replete with pragmatic help, and extremely nuanced and resourceful in the less tangible hows of creativity. My experience was of a wise and wide-thinking companion in some of the loneliest places of my work.
Mark read multiple versions of my work, some in early drafts. We discussed the scope of the work, the overall shape, and how things fit both with each other and into the wider world of writing. His feedback was generous and invariably useful. He’d often cite another writer’s work, usually a poet, in a way that enlarged and enriched my view of my own task.
During our time working together, I pulled together most of the pieces of this extremely challenging book. I also made progress in my teaching and editing life, embracing new challenges there as well.
I would hesitate to describe Mark’s style of coaching, because my sense is that he is able to meet people where they are, in a fine balance of Zen, poet, reader, psychologically and artistically wise, mensch-y human being. His own work as a poet and his generous membership in the world of creative workers are a tremendous offering.
Leslie Daniels, author of the novel Cleaning Nabokov’s House, published in five languages and under option for film, LeslieDaniels.com
When I approached Mark for coaching I was in a place of emotional turmoil, stuck in my career, and needed help to find a way to create a life that would give me joy. I thought I had the plan and simply needed support in the execution of my goals as an artist. In fact what happened in my year’s work with Mark is that he supported me to look deeper at who I am and what I truly need and want. The result has been a transformative shift.
The coaching gave me confidence and self-awareness and enabled me to find and commit to a true life purpose. Buried talents in writing and coaching were unearthed and enlivened and I found an arena where my passion for service could flourish. Already within the year with Mark I exceeded my own expectations of myself by setting up a company, writing six e-books to be self published, embarked on new qualifications, trialed my dream of living and working abroad as a writer and coach and found a way to find new passion within my legal career.
The vision I am currently working on for the future is so much more impactful and audacious than I would have anticipated. The coaching has supported me to raise myself up from a mire of anxiety, depression and perceived uselessness to a perception of myself as an able ‘agent for change’ and to take actions in line with that.
Mark has been a quiet, gentle, steady and reliable provider of evidence based feed back and challenge. He is a master in the use of silence to prompt internal reflection! I have appreciated his style of combining coaching with mentorship. His availability between calls and his willingness to go way above and beyond the coaching calls by reviewing my writing manuscripts and providing books meant that I felt supported throughout.
Importantly, while I would not hesitate to engage him as a coach again, I have left this year’s work feeling empowered to make my idea future an reality and not dependant on him.”
Helen Conway, Senior Lawyer, Artist and Coach, StudioConway.com
When I first contacted Mark I was feeling lost, confused and extremely frustrated. I wanted to ‘put myself out there’ but I wasn’t even aware of the reasons why I struggled.
I didn’t really know that coaching ‘for normal people’ existed. I thought it was just for olympic athletes and top CEOs. The reality is that everyone can gain from coaching. It is having someone who is there for you, 100% concerned about your own interests and success.
As a result of working with Mark, I’ve embarked on a completely new adventure! In 3 months, my email list has grown from 0 to over 800 and counting… My YouTube channel has 1,600 subscribers and 50,000+ views and is growing every day.
I’m creating new relationships around a totally new paradigm, based on openness to others, and I’m opening new channels of income. I never dreamt this could have been possible before!
Mark is non-intrusive, stimulating and inspiring. He gently guides you towards your purpose whilst keeping you accountable to guarantee progress and eventually success.
Fabrice Bourrelly, Artist, Architect and Virtual Reality (VR) Designer, FabriceBourrelly.com
One question I ask people I work with when they want to develop a new skill is ‘Who is already great at the skill you want to be better at and could help you?’ So, when a publisher commissioned me to write my first book about the work I did, I had to ask myself the very same question.
I wanted to work with a coach who was a writer, someone who had already been on the journey and could share their learning, their experience and could help me discover, learn and adopt the most useful ways to get better at writing. I wanted to work with a coach who had a focus on results and action.
I found Mark.
I had a book to write to a deadline. Working with Mark gave me a dedicated space to share my frustrations, my mini celebrations, my ‘stuck’ moments, my ‘overwhelmed with ideas’ moments and turn them into action. Learning what I needed to do to be the writer I wanted to be was all part of the journey.
Mark helped me become clearer and more confident as a writer. As well as sharing his own experience, lessons and insights, he guided me to look at other writers’ work too. I became much more aware of the discipline I needed for my creativity to thrive.
Experimenting with and developing the most useful way for me to manage the tension of generating versus structuring ideas was a simple and exceptionally powerful part of working with Mark.
The result was achieved. I completed my first book: The SHED Method: How to Make Better Choices When It Matters.
I wanted to move my business in a digital direction and I had started something but couldn’t find the focus to take that idea a few steps further.
I had no doubts about coaching because I’ve been following Mark for years and his books and podcast already helped me make a massive transition in my working life even before we met.
The reality has been that talking to Mark helped me tremendously to get clarity on what I needed to do to achieve my goals, focus on putting dates in the diary to make those plans happen, and finding a balance and ways to move forward in dealing with the extraordinary challenges of 2020.
I achieved 90% of the goals I set out at the beginning of our coaching sessions: created digital products, an online course, a YouTube channel, and also started teaching abroad, all of which were just ideas in my mind hen we first spoke.
Talking to Mark feels like meeting a friend who has walked a similar path to yours, encountered most of the same struggles and is there for you with advice and insights on how to move on if you feel stuck, or make you aware of the way forward you’re probably already seeing in your mind as a fuzzy idea.
Anna Maria, Costume Maker for Film and Theatre, a.k.a. ‘The Tutu Fairy Godmother’, TutuMakerStudio.com
I reached out to Mark for help with (re-)establishing and maintaining my creative practice, while balancing the demands of clients and the general day-to-day tasks of running a small business.
I knew a standard business coach wouldn’t give me the guidance I needed, so I spent some time researching the right coach for me. I found Mark after reading some of his work in the 99U books; after our initial consultation prior to beginning the coaching, I had little doubt by the time we actually started work together.
One thing the coaching has brought me is a little more sanity! I am now much calmer and more focused about my own needs and how the business needs to work for me.
Setting aside time for my own creative projects, and valuing these in equal measure to client work, has re-invigorated my practice – which is now shaping up to be the kind of studio I set out to create in the first place.
Mark’s varied knowledge and skills mean this is a relaxed but focused experience that is tailored to your needs. Mark understands the importance of creative time over the ‘pounds and pence’ approach of a standard business coach – perfect for any budding creative entrepreneur who doesn’t want to loose themselves to the bottom line.
Helen Hughes, Owner, Helen Hughes Design Studio
When I first thought about getting a coach I was in a lot of despair. I am a somatic psychotherapist, hospice worker and teacher. I had immensely beautiful teachings I was trying to bring into the world, but they were so different that no one seemed to be able to understand what to do with them.
There was no neat category that these teachings fell into because they transcended categories. The outlets that I had for them were somehow not right for the teachings themselves. Not only that, they involved looking a death, which no one really wants to do. I felt I was bursting from the pressure of carrying these fairly radical teachings alone, and feeling as if they would kill me if I carried them much longer.
One day I suddenly realized that I had a creative person’s problem, and that I needed straightforward mirroring and strategy and guidance in all kinds of areas where I felt weak and vulnerable. On a strange whim I googled ‘coaches for creativity’ and found Mark.
Up until the moment I realized that coaching was exactly what I needed, I thought of coaches as kind of lightweights. Coaches were people who helped you set personal goals and nagged at you until you did them. I didn’t need that. I had a therapists’ arrogance. Maybe I thought that they didn’t have much training. But I was stuck. Really stuck. I needed to be supported with more of an active guide than a receptive one.
In reality I found a coach who really listened to my quandary, spent a lot of time understanding what I was holding and trying to do, enthusiastically mirrored over and over the importance of the work and my ability to do it.
Mark helped me get out of all of the little nagging sinkholes I used to just get stuck in: marketing strategy, program development, enlisting students… you name it. He was there helping me bring it into existence instead of dying in oblivion. That support was utterly invaluable.
In two years I was able to run a pilot program, then develop and run a first year training program in the material that I teach with the second one about to begin. I have traveled all over presenting in small venues and have grown in notoriety for these ideas. People are getting it and it is changing lives.
Further, I was able to write a student manual, restructure my professional practice, articulate my ideas so that they are understandable to the audience that I want to draw, and redo my website (coming soon!) in a way that reflects my new posture in the world.
One of the best things Mark did was insist (kindly and persistently) that I not leave my poetry or myself out of the picture of this new life.
I have a long way to go, but I am not suffering from the experience of “This is going to die with me.” It isn’t.
As a coach, Mark is extremely kind while being direct. Really wise while being modest. Incredibly smart, sensitive, intuitive and clear in his thinking. I sometimes felt like a seven year old kid learning to play a sport with a really kind Dad showing me the moves with love and compassion. Because I had never gotten this kind of fathering it was really transformative for me. I really felt he had my back.
Something that was really important to me personally is that Mark is a serious, practicing poet. That meant that he was not coaching from an abstract perspective. What’s more he had a poet’s fine sensibility. He recognized and encouraged mine. This turned out to be a profound comfort. He took care of my inner artist. And I felt very safe under his guidance.
Jeanne Denney, Somatic Psychotherapist, Teacher and Founder of The School of Unusual Life Learning (SoULL), JeanneDenney.com
Coaching with Mark was one of the best investments I gave myself at the early stage of my career as an artist.
If you want a gentle voice that can give you encouragement when you need hand-holding, as well as practical business advice, Mark is the coach for you. He is a lovely combination of creativity and business strategy.
He helped me with my productivity when I thought my problem was that I didn’t know what to do. I did know, I was just too overwhelmed to see past my fears. He helped me structure my ideas into an actionable plan while sharing techniques to work with my natural creativity + productivity rhythms.
Instead of fighting my creative + contradictory personalities, I learnt to work in partnership with the moodiness of my muse that also suited the practical left-brain context my business needed.
(The investment in a coach also helped my mindset that this being-a-professional-fine-artist-life I wanted IS a business and businesses invest in themselves.)
If you’re like me, you need a coach to hold your hand through your fears while still helping you with the big picture strategies. I highly recommend a series of sessions so you will get the best of Mark. He seems to genuinely be invested in his clients, always ensuring you have an action plan that suits your goals + abilities while holding you accountable to those actions. Us creatives need both the gentle nudge in confidence + a firm kick into action sometimes!
Together we put a myriad of plans into a structure that suited my goals & stretched my perspective of what I thought was possible to achieve. I was able to develop a marketing strategy that made sense to me. I wasn’t left hanging with ideas & suggestions from Mark, we always outlined a plan to make them happen. This means I feel confident in what I’m doing, I’m less distracted by shiny new ideas & know which to focus on that suits my goals. Even if something doesn’t quite work out I have techniques and ideas on how to deal with that also.
The structure of my action plan + confidence I gained from Mark’s coaching gave me the courage to pursue my creative (some may say ‘crazy’) idea to develop my own kickstarter program over winter 2011 (June-August).
This resulted in raising over $3,000 and I’m having my first solo exhibition next month. I have my first body of work, a group of collectors and the encouragement to keep going in my new career as a fine artist — despite the scary and lack of security.
Brenda Mangalore, Artist, Sashé Studio
I decided to work with a coach because I felt I was missing someone to guide me through the next steps of my business. Working for yourself, there are no set ‘rules’ as to what you’re supposed to be doing next and I wanted some added perspective on what I thought I wanted to, and then how to go about doing it.
In the past, I’ve been disappointed with highly priced coaches who haven’t taken the time to get to know me or my business. (One coach, on both sessions was typing and catching up with their own work during our conversations!) I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the case with Mark, and it wasn’t.
Mark was very aware of my business, and had researched what I did, what my site looked like, he even noticed things on my website that I had forgotten about. It was very useful getting that fresh perspective from someone who notices the details and understands a creative business.
I was about to launch my first proper eBook and Mark really helped me through the process, in particular with the anxiety that comes from a launch. Above all else, he made me realise it was okay to pace myself and celebrate each step, rather than pile on the pressure and feel consistently inadequate by comparing my efforts with what I ‘should’ be doing.
Mark’s coaching style is very calm, methodical and focused which matched what I needed. He’s got a good sense of humour and I felt I could be very honest about my fears and opinions and have him understand where I was coming from without judging me.
Amy Harrison, Copywriter, HarrisonAmy Copywriting
Through our coaching sessions Mark taught me a broad range of personalized skills applicable to the day to day business of my art practice and how to build a strong presence online.
He provided me with tailored solutions for time management, how not to freak out about things, how to routinize my work so that I am creating new artwork consistently while also taking care of the business side. Two sessions were focused on branding and identity helping me to better speak about my art and present it.
Rachel Marsden, Contemporary Photography, Rachel-Marsden.com
I was growing as a creative professional. I was taking on more responsibility at work, earning that proverbial seat at the big table and it was happening fast. Although that’s great, I needed to know if I was really spending my energy on tasks that mattered to me. I needed to know if what I was doing was actually helping my career goals or if I had ventured off track. I needed to better understand how to get to my next career level.
I was in dire need of some good advice and not the kind recruiters, friends, or co-workers can give you. Nobody tells you what your next steps should be in life. I mean, who isn’t slightly confused? Since I found Mark’s Creative Pathfinder course enlightening I decided to reach out to Mark for some personal one-on-one coaching.
We connected on Skype over four sessions. During that time Mark honestly listened to my situation and helped me see past the clutter in my head. Together we made a plan to attack and re-focus my energy on steps that could really make a difference in my life. His inspiration has been truly valuable to me and the further I travel down the path we established the more valuable it seems.
Our sessions have long been over, but I feel like I could always contact Mark at any point. I feel like I got more than just four sessions… I feel like we’re friends.
Would I do it again? Yes.
Bradley Derry, Industrial Designer and Creative Team Leader, BradleyDerry.com
I had been working as an independent consultant for about half a year when I saw the announcement about Mark’s New Year’s Resolutionizer program. I was immediately intrigued by the title, as I had never really been able to keep any New Year’s Resolutions before.
I knew I needed to do something to fix my working life: No matter what changes I tried to make, I was not getting enough sleep, client projects always seemed to be due at the same time, and I never knew whether I was making the right decision when I spent an hour networking instead of working on a client project. I was always tired and had more mental angst than I wanted.
Most of my friends and former colleagues, who had ‘normal’ jobs, didn’t really seem to understand my decision to strike out on my own, and the traditional kinds of advice didn’t seem to apply to my situation.
I had the sneaking suspicion that Mark could help me, yet I couldn’t help thinking that the Resolutionizer cost a bit more than I wanted to pay. I had never tried coaching before – and certainly had never considered working with a coach entirely online – and wondered if I might be spending my money foolishly.
Somewhere in my head there was a voice that said, “You can save your money and solve your problems yourself if you just make a plan and stick with it for another six months.” However, there was a part of me that was tired of going through all of the trial and error on my own.
I am so glad to report that I ignored that voice in my head, as the Resolutionizer was worth every penny, and more.
Mark’s expertise was apparent from the very first call. He very quickly helped me to identify my most productive working patterns and to design not just a working life, but an entire lifestyle, that is based on working independently and works with my natural strengths.
I have developed a more positive and relaxed outlook on life and am impressed that the program worked so quickly. I clearly got more than I expected: I initially signed up just to get some help with my New Year’s Resolution to get more sleep, but found myself addressing productivity and motivation and client management issues all at the same time!
As someone who has always strayed a bit off the beaten path, I appreciated Mark’s ability to bring out my best qualities and help me capitalize on what makes me unique instead of suggesting that I try to fit into a box somewhere. Perhaps most importantly, I understood why I was never able to make that 6-month plan in the first place, let alone stick to it!
The peace of mind I have gained through Mark’s coaching is invaluable. He is insightful, truly committed to providing outstanding service, and excels at making his clients feel comfortable. In fact, my experience was so good that I have signed on for the Money for Creative People program.
Mark understands creatives and entrepreneurs in a way that most people don’t, and I highly recommend his services for anyone who feels that they don’t fit into the traditional mold. The world would be a better place if everyone had Mark’s gift for relating to people and helping them to create the lives they want to lead.
I have been a freelance writer and arts project manager for over four years. I decided to work with Mark over six sessions at a point when I was really struggling to balance the different aspects of my professional and creative life.
I approached Mark because I had been to a seminar he gave on Time Management for Creative People and was impressed by his honesty and passion, and his mix of creativity and, for want of a better word, business.
I was a little resistant to the very idea of coaching (taking, perhaps, that very English, ‘it’s a bit American/self indulgent/I should just stop whinging and get on with it’ attitude…) but I found working with Mark extraordinarily helpful. Because he took my work and the problems I was facing seriously, so did I.
Carving time out of my week to really examine what I was doing, and how, and why, helped me to step back and take a more objective view of things, which in turn helped me to think about what I wanted to change.
I found Mark professional, interested, and prepared to challenge my thinking and my habits.
I wouldn’t say my life is perfect as a result (!) but I have managed to put strategies in place to defend my own creative time, and have developed more of an ability to take a step back when things are getting hectic, and check I am going in the right direction.
Sarah Butler, Writer and Creative Project Manager, Urban Words
I was having trouble deciding what to do for a job. It’s not like I was stuck for options, I actually had too many. I was at a social networking group and was explaining my dilemma to some of my friends who suggested I needed to see Mark.
I had heard of business (and life) coaches before and had met a few, who in my mind I wouldn’t have consulted over what filling of sandwich I should have, let alone ask them for advice with problems I was having around making decisions about my business or career. Many people who pass themselves off as coaches are quite flaky.
What Mark had going in his favour was I had great respect for the people who recommended him. He came with an ‘non-flaky’ reputation immediately. For some reason I got the feeling that he had made an effort to put himself out there and become known to people in a real way, rather than set up a website advertising his services.
I got more clarity about who it is I am, and that who I am is OK. Instead of chastising myself for being ‘all over the place’ I began to realize that actually I was just very talented in lots of areas and sometimes that can be a little overwhelming for me to cope with.
Instead of thinking I had to do it all, I was able to see what it was I liked doing the most. I realized that if I were to be successful at any one of them I would have to sacrifice some of the others and attached to that loss would be some pain. I got to see more clearly what the choices were.
I came away more informed as to my processes, what it was I really really liked, as opposed to what I thought I should like. I left feeling like I wasn’t such a bad person after all for not having my whole life planned down the last minute.
I also think that just having someone listen is powerful. Of course I have friends I can talk to but in those interactions I am mindful of my role in the relationship of having to offer up something to them. When I saw Mark I owed him nothing apart from paying his bill, the dynamics are different if you are being heard by someone who role is it to listen and guide and then charge you for that service. You don’t leave thinking “Was I being a selfish, self-centered person for talking only about me for the last hour?”.
The fact that Mark was qualified in some psychotherapeutic discipline made me personally feel better. I understand that we are driven by a lot of unconscious material and that if I were to engage with Mark he would reveal those processes to me, and quite frankly I would have resented someone had read a few books on NLP pointing them out to me.
He observed the usual boundaries – he was on time, he apologized if he got things wrong, he was smartly dressed but not intimidating in his style. My general sense was that he was very kind and that he actually cared. He had a good understanding of how tricky it can be to promote yourself in a world that doesn’t always accommodate or understand people who cover such a broad spectrum, as I do.
I loved the fact he recommended books and websites for me to look at. I think with most things you face in life, its the feeling of isolation that makes it all the worse. By pointing me in the direction of others who shared the same experience as me and had faced the same ‘problems’ I was facing, not only was the isolation broken but the shame attached to being the ‘only one’ left me too.
I felt like I had gone to see Mark with a tangled ball of wool (that was my working life and/or attitude towards it), over the sessions we untangled the wool.
Debbie Davies, Creative Entrepreneur
In my experience, the great challenge for the wild & creative is to interface with the ordinary & practical. Ideas need to meet action. The spirit needs grounding in the material. Mark McGuiness’s practice offers a seasoned, empathic and clear-headed approach to the marriage of these disparate realms — and it’s an essential service.
Joshua Wolf Shenk, Writer, Shenk.net
A number of years ago, I was frustrated with my job, career and boss. My osteopath recommended that I see Mark who was a coach. A coach at the time was new, at least to me, so I was a little concerned about what I might get out of it. After some contemplation, I thought a visit wouldn’t hurt.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I took that initial step. I went in for help with my work but when all was said and done, I got a new direction and insight to my life.
Looking back, my job was driving everything. Mark quickly got to the root of the troubles and challenges that I faced. Mark was outstanding at guiding me to look at all the facets of the issues. He helped me bring out all the questions and then helped me down the path to discovering the answers.
Mark has an approach that gives you a comfort zone to work through the process. The bottom line effect was a whole new way of facing difficult situations whether it was with my job or something else.
It’s been 10 years since I first saw Mark and I have returned for coaching from time to time. Looking back, I would sum up the experience as going from feeling confined in a straitjacket (my old job) to freedom (my new business).
If you’re looking for assistance, I can’t recommend Mark enough.
Rosanne Bachman, Managing Director, Pinwheel Consulting