You have all the makings of a great online coach.
You are an active listener, always picking up on details that others miss. You’re highly empathetic and creative, not to mention a world-class problem solver.
But when it comes to creating a sustainable, successful business that utilizes all of these traits, are you having trouble figuring out how to start a coaching business?
We want to help with that.
We’ll help you understand the inner workings of creating a coaching business that fits your ideal workweek schedule, empowers you to use your experience, and helps you attract the right kind of clients.
That way, you can embrace your gifts and positively impact the world through your online coaching business.
Let’s start with understanding each type of online coaching to assess your best fit.
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Which of the main types of online coaching is right for you?
It’s one thing to know you want to become an online coach. It’s another to choose your specialty and run with it. Before you build a website or start marketing your business, let’s determine what coaching type you should pursue.
This is where most coaches start because it’s easier to attract private coaching clients who are interested in working with you one-on-one. When you coach someone privately, they get your full attention and brain power for however long their session is.
That’s why private coaching is usually seen as the most high-end offer. This can be an invaluable resource for people who are willing to pay for that extra personal touch.
You also don’t have to come up with a full coaching curriculum if you are pursuing private coaching since each of your clients will be looking for coaching sessions that are custom to their needs.
Private coaching is a lucrative income stream, but it isn’t the best scalable option. When you are privately coaching your clients, you can only meet with them one at a time. With only so many hours in the day, it’ll become difficult to expand outside of your desired work schedule with one-on-one coaching clients.
If you are looking for a more scale-ready option, or would rather meet with groups of people at a time, you might be more interested in group coaching.
Some coaches really thrive in a group atmosphere. They’d rather host online coaching workshops and create a community rather than coach a handful of one-on-one clients. If you want to help more people at a time, group coaching could be a great option for you.
It’s also great if you’ve been private coaching for a while and notice that you talk about the same things with everyone. It would provide a more streamlined process for you to create a curriculum out of your coaching sessions and drastically reduce your work time.
Maybe you aren’t ready to totally move away from private coaching. That’s completely okay! You don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other. There are a few ways you can add both to your business model.
As an upsell, you can always create an exclusive private coaching offer for your group coaching clients at a reduced rate to make extra income. It’s much easier to sell a package to a client who already knows the value of what you bring as opposed to a brand new client lead who takes more energy to convert into a sale.
This is especially lucrative for coaches who want to generate more money for a short-term goal, like going on an upcoming international trip or paying off the last of their student loan debt. Adding more group members to your coaching program could also help with this. More clients equals more income!
Life coaching is the most popular online coaching niche. You’ve probably heard of life coaching before, but you may not understand what it all entails because it seems so broad.
A life coach is usually a partner who guides clients through a roadblock or transition in their life by asking thoughtful questions and helping them arrive at their best answer. It’s less about you having to have all the right answers and more about asking the right questions so they can find the answer within themselves.
Life coaching is one of the easiest niches to get started in because you can choose virtually any audience demographic. Everyone experiences transitions, so you can help multiple people in several areas in their life.
Since coaching isn’t a highly regulated industry, there is no specific certification or degree you need to have before you call yourself a life coach. However, going through a coaching certification process could help you learn important skills and build confidence in your coaching experience.
Business coaching (writing, sales, entrepreneurship, etc)
With businesses spending over $1 billion annually on business coaching, it’s become one of the most successful niches for online coaching. Life coaching focuses on clients’ personal lives, whereas business coaching focuses more on clients’ career growth.
Business coaching can be seen across multiple niches including:
- Entrepreneurship Coaching
- Sales Coaching
- Marketing Coaching
- Writing or Publishing Coaching
- Executive Leadership Coaching
- Organizational or Team Coaching
Someone is usually looking for a business coach when they hit a roadblock in their current business growth and want to find a solution. They are looking for extra support from someone who has been there before and has proven results behind their claims.
Having a wealth of business experience is important when you are business coaching. You can’t teach someone how to scale their business until you’ve scaled your own or helped another business scale. You can’t help someone learn how to grow into a CMO position if you’ve never held an executive position or helped someone get there.
That’s why we recommend creating your own business first! It may also help you find your niche as you explore different business types. You could create online courses, self-publish books, offer freelance services, or start an ecommerce business. The possibilities are endless!
Once you have real-world experience with running a business, you can start coaching other people who are a few steps behind where you currently are. You don’t need to know everything to be a great business coach. (Hint: No one does!) You just need to have experience in areas that your clients need help in.
How to start a coaching business
With your ideal online coaching type in mind, we can begin the process of learning how to start an online coaching business from scratch.
Rather than feel nervous about skipping a step or not knowing where to move next, we’ve created an in-depth guide and checklist to walk you through how to confidently build your online coaching business from the ground up.
We already talked about life and business coaching above, but there are other online coaching niches that are also lucrative and easy to start.
Here are a few more online coaching options you may want to explore:
- Health or Wellness Coaching
- Financial Coaching
- Relationship Coaching
- Spiritual Coaching
- Performance Coaching
- Social Media Coaching
- Photography Coaching
- Skills Coaching
As you determine what niche you want to pursue as an online coach, you’ll also want to narrow down who your target audience is. This is incredibly important because you may not have the experience or desire to work with every person who comes your way.
Think about who you want to help succeed.
- Is it stay-at-home moms who want to build a side hustle?
- Is it recent college graduates who are searching for their first job?
- Is it seasoned business owners who are looking to scale?
Having a target audience will also help you create better marketing and sales materials because you are able to direct all of your messaging to a specific person. Once you have your ideal coaching client in mind, you can create and sell specialized coaching programs to them.
With your niche in mind, it’s time to think about your unique selling proposition. This is just a fancy marketing term for what’s unique about your online coaching business in comparison to other competitors. This can come from your own experience, your personality, or positive client results you’re known for.
Since your clients are looking for a unique client experience, they will want to see what is different about you from all the other online coaches in your niche.
What is it that you provide that no one else can?
It’s helpful in this stage to look at competitors to see how they are marketing themselves. But this does not mean you should market yourself the same way. Who wants to have the same business as someone else, anyway?
Once you find something you provide that’s better than your competitors, you can start to brainstorm ideas for how to work it into your sales copy and consultation calls. You can also put it in your social media bios so it is crystal clear what you do and who you help.
Here are some examples of a good USP:
- Helping an artist turn her custom hand-drawn artwork into digital prints with a business coach who specializes in helping artists scale their businesses after scaling his own
- Helping newlyweds transition into parenting within their first year of marriage with a husband-and-wife relationship coach team who did the same
- Helping newly engaged brides track their nutrition and exercise with a health and wellness coach who created a signature program for brides after experimenting with fitness routines while she was engaged
Your USP will be different than the statements above, but we hope it inspires you to dig deeper to discover what unique characteristics and features you can add to your client experience.
Again, this is not a requirement for creating an online coaching business, but it can greatly help if you are looking to gain more experience and knowledge around coaching.
If you’ve had a successful and sustainable business for over five years, you probably have enough real-life experience to be a great business coach. However, if you are interested in life coaching but haven’t truly coached anyone through a transition, going through a certification process may give you experience and confidence in your new online coaching business path.
When you look for online coaching certifications and programs, keep in mind what your USP is. If you find a coaching certification program that helps you utilize the Myers Briggs personality test in your coaching sessions but you are a big fan of the Enneagram instead, it may not be the right fit.
Choose your coaching certification program carefully. When in doubt, reach out to other online coaches you may be connected to and see where they got their certification. You can also read online reviews and case study blog posts.
Other factors that may determine what certification program you go with are its learning environment (is it in-person or through an online course?), its accreditation (is it widely recognized?), and its commitment level (can it fit within your current schedule?).
You can also get more experience by reading books about coaching that are specific to your niche and finding friends or colleagues who may be interested in being your “guinea pigs” as you get your feet wet with real-world experience. This is also a great way to see if you enjoy coaching before you dive right in with both feet.
Getting a coaching certification can help you attract clients who are interested in working with someone who has professional training, but other people don’t care about certifications as long as they like, know, and trust the person they would be working with.
In this case, it helps to have a great online visibility so you can market your services to people even if you don’t have professional training through an online coaching certification program. With a well-known personal brand, you could start building your online coaching business sooner than you think.
One of the best things you can do in the early stages of your online coaching business is to connect with other people who match your ideal client description. Interacting with them on social media is easy, fun, and eye-opening for new coaches who want learn what their target audience desires from a coach before they even get started.
Since people are already active on social media, you don’t have to convince them to join you on another platform. Instead, you can meet them where they are and interact with them.
It can be as simple as commenting on their Instagram photos or showing up live to their Facebook Lives. You can join Facebook groups, interact with Instagram stories, and start 280-character conversations on Twitter. Even if you don’t have a full-blown social media strategy yet, you can still benefit from putting yourself out there on social media.
Many of these conversations can lead to lasting connections and potentially new clients down the road. The more people know about you, the more likely you’ll come to mind when they hear about someone who is looking for an online coach or they look for one themselves.
Having a relationship already will do wonders for the growth of your business.
Action item: You can start by taking 15-30 minutes each day to follow new people who fit your ideal client description, like and comment on their posts, and explore hashtags that people in your target audience are using.
It doesn’t have to take over your life! Start small and keep growing as you start to market your coaching business
Once you get more serious about your online coaching business, it’s time to build a website to sell your services. Your website will give visitors a clear idea of who you are, what you offer, why you offer it, and who you help.
It’s the first place people will go to learn more about you, so it isn’t surprising that many of your client leads will come directly from your website.
As you create your website, it’s important to have these questions nailed down so you can create a website that doesn’t need to be revamped every few months.
- Who is my target audience?
- What life stage are they currently in, and what stage would they like to be in?
- What are their problems, and what solutions do I offer?
- What is their motivation for working with a coach like me?
- What investment do they need to make to work together?
- What do they need to know to feel confident in making that investment?
- What questions do they need answered?
Once you journaled through some of these prompts, you can start to create a solid brand foundation. In addition to creating a logo and branding, you can DIY your own website.
While websites are important, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a custom website right away. You can easily get started by choosing your website platform and experimenting with your website design.
Take some time to test each available tool and see what fits your online coaching business best.
While the steps we’ve discussed so far will help you in starting your business, it’s just as important to know how to nurture your clients long-term by having the right processes and systems in place.
Our first step is to know what tools and software we need to provide a seamless client experience. Without the right tools, you may find yourself working more on your business than working with your clients.
Since you probably got into the business world to coach clients rather than answer emails, manually schedule meetings, or send dozens of time-consuming contracts and invoices, finding ways to automate these tasks will give you more time and energy for coaching sessions.
With most of your preparation work finished, you can move on to the final stage: pitching your services!
This means writing and publishing a well-crafted sales page, posting about your services on social media, sharing case studies in your email newsletter, and mentioning your offerings when you meet with people at in-person networking events.
It may seem a little scary at first to pitch your services, but remember the value you bring to the table and how beneficial online coaching can be for the person in front of you.
It’s okay if it’s not the right time for them to invest. Each pitch will give you great practice, and when they are ready to invest, you’ll be the first person they think of.
Here are a few tips to help you confidently pitch your services:
- Practice your “elevator pitch” (usually around 15-30 seconds long).
- Make eye contact, eliminate “um”s and “uh”s, and stand up straight.
- Have high energy and remember how exciting this new stage of business is!
- Don’t downplay the experience you have. You may be just starting out as a coach, but you have experience and training in other areas. Highlight that!
- If someone says no, it probably has more to do with them than you. (timing issues, budget, different needs, etc.)
- Work your USP into your sales pitch whenever possible.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously, and have fun!
The first step to start a coaching business
Every business starts one step at time. Take some time to today and take your first step to your online coaching business.
Are you just now realizing that online coaching is for you? Then you first step is to decide on your niche.
Do you already know your niche? Then what’s your unique selling position?
See where I’m going?
Keep asking yourself these questions and check out the other articles in this issue and you’ll be taking on clients in no time.