Whether you're passionate about helping people achieve their goals or have a specific area of expertise you want to share, starting your own coaching business is an excellent way to make money while having a real impact on people's lives.
And with the coaching industry booming, it’s no wonder why more people than ever are taking the leap and striking out on their own, whether full time or on the side.
However, starting a coaching business can also be overwhelming, especially if you're new to entrepreneurship. From incorporating your business to finding your first clients, there are many details you need to get right to set yourself up for success. But don't worry—with the right guidance, anyone can start and grow a successful coaching business.
In this ultimate guide, we'll provide you with a step-by-step process for starting your own coaching business. From defining your niche and ideal clients to pricing your services and marketing your business, we'll cover everything you need to know to get started today.
How to get set up as a business
When starting your coaching business, one of the first decisions you'll need to make is how to set up your business legally. There are two main options:
- Operate as a Sole Proprietor
- Incorporate your business
Each option has its pros and cons, so it's essential to understand them before making a decision.
As a Sole Proprietor, you are the business, and you are personally responsible for all aspects of the business, including any debts or liabilities. You also have complete control over the business and its profits, and you file your business taxes as part of your personal tax return. This option is generally the simplest and least expensive way to start your coaching business.
On the other hand, incorporating your business creates a separate legal entity for your business. This can provide more protection for your personal assets and limit your personal liability in case of a lawsuit or other legal issue. Incorporating your business can also help establish credibility and provide more opportunities for growth, such as securing funding or hiring employees. However, incorporating your business can be more complicated and expensive, and you'll need to file separate tax returns for your business.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to operate as a Sole Proprietor or incorporate your business depends on things like your goals, business structure (online coaching practice vs. in person), finances, and personal risk tolerance. It's essential to consult with a legal or financial professional to help you make the right decision for your coaching business.
Once you have decided on the legal structure of your business, it's important to register your business with your state or local government, obtain any necessary licenses or permits, and open a separate business bank account. This will help keep your personal and business finances separate, making it easier to track your income and expenses for tax purposes.
In the next section, we'll discuss how to find your ideal coaching clients and start building your coaching business.
Do you need to be certified?
One question that often arises when starting a coaching business is whether or not you need to be certified. The answer is no, you don't need to be certified to become a coach. However, becoming certified can have several benefits for your coaching business.
Pros of getting certified
- Increased credibility: Being certified by a reputable coaching organization can increase your credibility and help you stand out from other coaches who aren't certified.
- Enhance your coaching skills: Certification programs often include training on coaching techniques, ethics, and best practices that serve as a great form of personal development. This can help you improve your coaching skills and provide better services to your clients.
- Access to a network of coaches: Joining a coaching organization can provide you with access to a network of other coaches, which can be beneficial for sharing knowledge, advice, and referrals.
- Expanded client base: Some clients may specifically look for certified coaches, so having a certification can attract new clients to your coaching practice.
- Charge more money (potentially): Practice’s State of Coaching Report 2023 found that coaches with certifications tend to charge 3x more than coaches without.
Cons of being certified
- Costly: Certification programs can be expensive, ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
- Time-consuming: Certification programs can take several months or even years to complete, depending on the program.
- Not required: As mentioned earlier, certification is not required to start a coaching business.
Ultimately, the decision to become certified as a coach is a personal one. Consider your goals for your coaching business and the benefits and drawbacks of certification before making a decision. If you do decide to pursue certification, be sure to research reputable certification programs that align with your coaching niche and goals.
How much does starting a coaching business cost?
Starting a coaching business can be relatively inexpensive compared to other types of businesses—and this is especially true for an online coaching business. However, there are some costs associated with getting started, regardless of how you plan to structure your coaching business. Here are some of the expenses you can expect:
Tools and Resources
- Coaching platform: A coaching platform is an essential tool for running your coaching business. It allows you to schedule appointments, manage your client list, and provide coaching sessions online. One option is Practice, which offers a comprehensive coaching platform that includes scheduling, billing, and note-taking tools.
- Website: A website is another critical tool for your coaching business. It can help you establish your brand, showcase your services, and provide a way for potential clients to contact you. You can create a website using platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix.
- Coaching materials: Depending on your coaching niche, you may need to invest in materials like books, training programs, or other resources to help you develop your coaching skills.
- Business registration: If you choose to incorporate your coaching business, you may need to register with your state or local government. This can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on your location.
- Legal services: It's always a good idea to consult with a lawyer to ensure that your business complies with all relevant laws and regulations. You may need to pay for legal services to help you draft contracts, create privacy policies, or other legal documents.
- Accounting services: As your coaching business grows, you may need to hire an accountant to help you manage your finances and prepare tax returns. Accounting services can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on your needs.
Overall, the costs of starting a coaching business can vary depending on your specific needs and the type of coaching you provide. However, with careful planning and budgeting, you can start your coaching business without breaking the bank.
Business model options and services you can offer, plus the tradeoffs
One of the most important decisions you will make is the business model you choose for your coaching program. There are a variety of options available, from one-on-one coaching to group coaching to membership programs. Each option has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and it's essential to choose the one that aligns with your goals and ideal clients.
One-on-one coaching programs are a popular option and often the easiest to get started with. With this model, you work individually with clients to help them achieve their goals. This model allows for a more personalized experience and often results in higher rates. However, it can also be time-consuming and limit the number of clients you can take on.
Group coaching, on the other hand, can be more efficient and allow you to work with multiple clients simultaneously. This model can also be more affordable for clients, making it an attractive option. However, group coaching programs can also be less personalized and require more time and effort upfront to develop the content and materials for each group.
Membership programs are another option that can be appealing to both coaches and clients. Popular with coaches who want to focus on building an online coaching business, this model involves having clients pay a monthly fee to receive access to your coaching services, resources, and community. Some coaches also make an effort to generate passive income through this model, by offering pre-made coaching programs available as part of their membership to address specific goals their target audience may have (for example, a fitness coach might offer pre-made coaching programs for building muscle, losing fat, or increasing athleticism.) While other coaches use the membership model to provide some type of one-on-one or group coaching service to members. This model can be scalable and provide consistent revenue, but it may also require more upfront work to develop and maintain the membership program.
When deciding which business model is right for you, consider your ideal clients, the services you want to offer, and your revenue goals. Don't be afraid to experiment with different models and see what works best for you and your clients.
Where to find your first coaching clients?
Finding your first coaching clients can be a challenging task that requires some hustle, especially if you're a new coach just starting out. However, there are several strategies you can use to start building your client base.
One of the most effective ways to find your first coaching clients is through referrals. Ask your friends, family, and colleagues if they know anyone who could benefit from your coaching services. You can also reach out to your existing network and let them know that you've started a coaching business and are looking for clients.
Another way to find clients is to leverage online marketplaces such as Thumbtack, Fiverr, or Upwork. These platforms can help you connect with potential clients who are actively searching for coaching services. However, keep in mind that these marketplaces may take a percentage of your earnings as a fee.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook can also be powerful tools for finding clients. Create a professional profile and share your coaching services with your network. Join groups related to your coaching niche and participate in discussions to build your credibility and expand your network.
Offer free or discounted rates
Finally, consider offering your coaching services for free or at a discounted rate to your first few clients. This can help you build a portfolio of satisfied clients and generate positive word-of-mouth referrals and glowing reviews in the form of testimonials, which can help you attract more clients in the future.
Remember, turning your passion for helping others into a thriving coaching practice takes time and effort, but with a solid marketing strategy and a commitment to providing high-quality coaching services, you can start attracting your ideal clients and building a successful coaching business.
How to create a simple coaching business plan to get you started in just 8 steps
Creating a solid business plan is a crucial step when starting your coaching business. It provides a roadmap for achieving your goals and helps you stay focused on what matters most. Here’s a simple, step-by-step process for creating a basic coaching business plan that can help you get started.
- Define your coaching niche and target market: To get started, identify your coaching niche (life coach, career coach, executive coach, health coach, etc.) and the types of clients you want to work with. This will help you tailor your marketing efforts and better communicate your services to potential clients.
- Develop your business name and branding: Choose a name that reflects your coaching niche and branding that represents your unique coaching style. This will help you stand out from other coaches and create a professional image.
- Develop your marketing strategy: Think about how you will reach your target audience and market your services. Consider using social media, attending networking events, and creating a website or blog to showcase your expertise.
- Set your pricing and payment structure: Determine how you will price your coaching services and what payment methods you will accept. Research what other coaches in your niche are charging to help you set competitive rates.
- Create a business budget: Develop a budget that includes your start-up costs, ongoing expenses, and revenue projections. This will help you track your progress and ensure that you are meeting your financial goals.
- Define your coaching services: Decide what types of coaching services you will offer, such as one-on-one coaching sessions, group coaching, or online courses. Consider the needs of your ideal clients and what services would best meet those needs.
- Define your success metrics: Set measurable goals for your coaching business, such as the number of clients you want to work with or the revenue you want to generate. This will help you track your progress and make adjustments as needed.
- Get systems in place to streamline the intake of new clients: This includes things like deciding how you’ll structure your coaching sessions when new clients start rolling in, creating client intake forms, developing a plan for how you’ll invoice clients and manage finances, and more.
By following these steps, you'll have a clear understanding of your coaching niche and target audience, know how to market your services, and have a plan in place for growing and scaling your business.
Starting a coaching business can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience, and it doesn't have to be as daunting as you might think. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can get your coaching business up and running in no time. Remember, all you need is a passion for helping others, a solid plan, and the right tools and resources to get started.
At Practice, we provide a range of tools and resources to help coaches like you build and grow their businesses. Our customer-relationship-management (CRM) platform covers everything you need to succeed—from scheduling sessions, to safely store client data, managing payments, and sending important documents, and more. Interested in seeing what Practice can do for you? Start a free trial now and start building your coaching business!