One of the first things I like to caution new coaches who have a big vision and idea about their online coaching journey is to first acknowledge that things take time. What happens usually is that in the excitement of starting something new, we end up forgetting that everything runs and emerges in its own time – just like the cycle of the earth on its own axis and around the sun, there is a cycle in the journey of any business, including that of an online business coach.
Why I like to start with this cautionary statement is because I often see that when the journey doesn’t yield results as was (unrealistically) expected of it, a lot of coaches end up abandoning their dream, assuming either they are not cut out for it, or worse, that the coaching industry has no scope of success or a future. The former is only true if a person lacks patience and resilience on the path and refuses to cultivate it. The latter we know is not true due to all the data pointing otherwise.
So, what are some of the things a new coach can do to get clients for their service? Here are some major pointers to get started on:
Offer pro-bono coaching:
In the beginning of your coaching journey, be open to coaching for free for some time. This will help you get in some substantial number of hours as well as. More importantly, practice and experience. Reach out to people in your network and see who would be willing to be coached by you in return for their valuable feedback and testimonial, which will act as social proof you can leverage to get more online business coaching clients.
Just like yourself, there are many other new coaches in the field. Why should a client choose you over another coach with the same (or similar) set of certifications? This is where your previous experience and area of expertise will come into play to help you stand apart from the rest.
To be clear in the minds of your potential clients, you need to be clear on what you can coach on, where you have relevant experience and expertise that a client can then rely on you to guide them appropriately. Once you’re able to communicate what makes you different in an effective manner, your ideal client will gradually & naturally gravitate towards you, due to relatability & relevance to them, as opposed to someone who coaches on anything and everything.
Communicate ‘why’ people need a coach:
As Simon Sinek explains it in his concept of the Golden Circle, the ‘why’ is at the core of why people buy things, which we often ignore by focusing too hard on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. And the same applies for online business coaches as well. So, before people read about your methodology, the number of sessions, benefits, etc., the first thing that needs to be addressed is ‘why’ one needs coaching in the first place. A lot of potential clients may have problems or issues that need tackling (in various areas of life), but most of them don’t even know that they could hire a coach to help navigate and guide them to a path of clarity and how valuable that guidance can prove in the long run.
This is how you will benefit greatly from communicating the ‘why’ of hiring a coach. And if you have your ideal client zeroed down, then you need to convey ‘why’ you would be a good choice compared to the many other coaches out there – by conveying what makes you different. This can work across any niche you’re in – whether you’re an online business coach, a mindset coach, a leadership/executive coach or even a life coach.
Be discoverable: By being discoverable I don’t mean you need to run advertisements in newspapers or on digital media. Imagine you’re an online business coach and you ran such an ad and got 500 respondents the next day, wishing to take you up on your business coaching services. How will you manage those requests, filter them, and accommodate them into your schedule? Instead, work on drawing in the right clients by creating great content.
This is about creating a body of knowledge that people can find of value and resonate with. Of course, we can’t know what will strike which chord, which is why consistently creating and publishing content that pushes you to be top of mind is paramount. As a coach you need to be very current with human change and development, so your views on human development as well as your perspectives on different matters is what’s going to help people relate to you and as mentioned previously, helps differentiate you as well.
Grow your network:
You may not have actively networked when you were working in a corporate role. But as a coach you’re going to need a wider network. If you’re on the path to becoming a coach eventually and you have the luxury of time before you, then I’d say start two years before to build your credibility and network. This comes from ensuring more people know you and about you. So, join relevant events and forums to expand your network. Go with the notion to first give and then take. It should be primarily about giving knowledge, contribution, and expertise. And then the ‘take’ comes in in terms of projects and clients, which may be easier to procure, if you’ve been generous with your ‘giving’.
Be ready to sell:
One thing a lot of coaches I see struggling with is acknowledging the fact that once you’re an independent coach, you have to function from the place of sales. And while that is a major part of the game, due to inexperience of most coaches in selling (apart from the ones who come from a sales background), a lot of people end up struggling to embrace being a salesperson to conduct the business of coaching.
While one needs to embrace sales (very dearly so), one doesn’t have to be needy in aspects of selling. That means you shouldn’t be stuck with an uncommitted client or charge so low that it comes in the way of you showing up fully. You want to get the experience and expertise, sure, and that will drive you to want to take on many clients, but don’t let that let you drive you to make rash decisions. Ask yourself if a prospect is really ready for a coach. Are they willing to be coached and are they willing to do the hard work? If the answer is ‘no’, then you are setting yourself up for failure. You’d rather have no sign up than a wrong sign up.
Sell value, not sessions: Think about pricing to be an average price and not a constant price. Think of how much to charge as a coach for an individual client vs being hired as part of a corporate sponsorship.
The first thing you’d need to do after funneling through people who are interested in conducting business with you, is to get the conversation to begin not around pricing but around the value you’re bringing to the table. Be a consultant before being a coach. Help your prospect articulate what they’re going to get from getting coached by you. Maybe you’re selling 1% improvement and charging a pittance compared to what you’re helping them achieve in the long-run. So, help your prospect see (by doing your due diligence in evaluating your value in measurable units) how investing in you as a coach is going to give back to the individual or corporate, which will make the decision-making process much simpler and more convincing for the prospect, as opposed to just talking about your price per hour or session.
- How important is knowledge of marketing to attract new clients?
Clients are essentially looking to solve their problem and resolve a dilemma. When this realisation happens, they go on the web and search for people who can help them best. So rather than thinking about acquiring marketing know-how, think of how to make yourself discoverable to that client. Know what kind of people do you want as clients and put-up stories that communicates the same and convinces them that you will be able to solve a certain kind of problem for them. Social media thus become a useful platform to be able to showcase your expertise and testimonials.
- What sort of channels should I use to network and publish content?
All channels are great, depending on what kind of coach you are and whether or not that channel helps aid in discoverability. The main thing to remember is to be authentic, be yourself – it’s crowded market space. Focus on quality over quantity and have patience for things to come around.
- Is it possible to attract new coaching clients without hard selling?
Yes! The best clients are the ones coming through referrals, word of mouth – where there is no selling involved. Previously, years back, there was a need to convince one to even take up coaching and convince them of the requirement for it for an individual since it was looked at as a way to ‘fix problems’ and had a slightly negative connotation attached to it. But now it is much easier because generally there is better know-how about the importance and scope coaching and people are actively looking for coaches in many different areas of life.
- How much time should I be spending on trying to bring in new clients?
ALL the time! Think of marketing, branding, and selling as an all-in-one effort, happening all the time. Having said that, your focus should not be on bringing more clients and rather on being of value and service to others. An attitude of altruism may be good to adopt. So, first think of giving and then receiving.