The ICF defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential through a journey that helps unlock previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership’. In layman terms, coaching is a journey of self-discovery and progress, supported by a trained individual known as the ‘coach’, to empower an individual (coachee) make informed choices, adapt to changes and transition from where they are to where they want to be by achieving certain goals.
With a large number of people opting to hire the services of a coach – be it for personal or professional guidance, support, motivation, solutions, transitions or growth – coaching has firmly entered the mainstream consciousness of the general public, becoming one of the most popular and sought-after professions worldwide. What was previously thought of as being accessible and affordable only to the leaders of the corporate world has entered non-executive mass segments in a number of other niche areas including life coaching, health & wellness coaching, relationship coaching, career coaching, and more.
With a significant number of people turning to coaching as a profession (some trained, some not so trained), the competition is fierce, not just to survive but also to succeed! Many individuals become coaches as they have a natural inclination, empathy and passion for helping/guiding others towards better a life – either in their personal or professional lives. Converting inherent talents into a profession is not a bad idea at all, but can this be reason enough that ensures a stable, lucrative livelihood? And what if you have bigger ambitions, say wanting to start a scalable coaching business? Well, you need to thoroughly prepare to give yourself the best chance to make your coaching business a success. Read on to find out how to start a coaching business in 2023, its pros and cons, and how to get the coaching business off the ground and running smoothly.
Why Start a Coaching Business?
Well, the well-known reason why people opt to become coaches is that they have a natural aptitude and desire to help other people by sharing knowledge, helping solve problems, encouraging positive changes so that they can achieve personal or professional transformations.
There are other, more practical reasons too. If you are looking to move on from being employed to becoming your own boss, getting a more flexible work-life balance friendly job or if you realize that your earning potential is not being utilized to its maximum by just being an employee in someone else’s company – and you have the desire to help others while doing so, then focusing on building a coaching business may be right for you.
The reasons for staring a coaching business can vary from individual to individual. Some are listed below:
- the desire to boost your earning capacity
- the aspiration to find a profession that is more challenging & motivating than the rote 9-5 job
- the need to adopt a more flexible profession that leaves time for a personal life
- the recognized motive that you have a natural knack for coaching people become better versions of themselves
- the ambition to scale up your coaching venture from a handful of clients into a larger volume based coaching business
Advantages & Disadvantages of a Coaching Business
Having one’s own coaching business is ideal for a lot of coaches. Who doesn’t want to be an entrepreneur running their own successful business, making tons of money with a large number of clients lined up seeking for professional assistance? It is a dream scenario for any professional coach.
But before you jump into the deep end of the business pool, take a moment to pause and reflect that it may not be all smooth sailing and that you need to be prepared for the potential roadblocks that you may encounter along the way. By understanding the pros & cons of starting a coaching business beforehand, it will be easier to make a more informed choice down the road.
Let’s start with the advantages (we want to be most encouraging for all the would-be business persons out there!:
- You can have fairly easy entry into the field of coaching (unlike some other professions such as becoming a lawyer or a doctor). Although certification from a recognized body is desirable, it is not mandatory. You can start your coaching business with the existing skill sets and qualifications that you have.
- You can start a coaching business at a very low cost and with basic equipment. With a lot of coaching happening online, all you need is a laptop, a good internet connection, your skills and the client to begin with initially. Of course, as your business grows the costs may escalate, but by then you may have a well-established and continuous client channel that should be able to cover the rising expenses.
- Coaching is a wide umbrella that contains a lot of niches under it. So, by taking into consideration your skills, qualifications and interests, you can choose your coaching niche that suits you best – such as life coaching, career coaching, relationship coaching, health & wellness coaching, etc.
Now, what could be the potential roadblocks?
- Flying solo – at least initially may well be a reality. When you are starting out, you might not have the means to have added support, monetarily or with human resources. The journey of building a coaching business may get a bit lonely, with no one to bounce ideas with, share problems or seek advice from on the way forward. Getting on coaching networks can be a good idea to communicate with fellow coaching professionals who are going through a similar journey of their own and would likely offer realistic answers and advice.
- No steady pay checks – the money coming into your bank account will be dependent on the number of clients you get in a certain month and that is not a set figure. Once you jump into the world of business, the cushion of a stable income that you were used to in a salaried job may not be there. And this is not just for newcomers who are struggling to stay afloat – this is even true for experienced coaches who go through and have to adjust to the unpredictable monthly revenues.
- It does take time to establish any business, let alone something as people-centric as coaching. The growth of a coaching business depends a lot on word-of-mouth, feedback, and testimonials from ex clients, and that doesn’t happen in quick time. You have to stay patient, put in the hard work to start seeing any positive results.
- Running your own coaching business means that you are its sole promoter. Naturally networking, marketing, and advertising the services that you offer is vital to its expansion and growth. Even though you might get professional help for marketing your product eventually, you will still be its face, so there may be a requirement for self-promotion that may feel like tooting your own horn – a hiccup many new coaches face when starting their own coaching business.
How to Start a Coaching Business
Now that we’ve covered why professionals might want to start a coaching business as well as the pros & cons of operating a coaching business, let’s move on to the reality of how to start a coaching business:
1. Select your coaching niche
As stated before, coaching is a vast segment that includes multiple sub segments such as executive coaching, life coaching, health & wellness coaching, financial coaching, career coaching, etc.
Decide which coaching niche you want to get into based on your qualifications, skills, previous professional experience, and interest. Ask yourself, what is the best knowledge/advice that you can pass on to your client that will make a visible difference to their life journey, what experiences can you share that the client can learn from in their present situations, are you good at conflict resolution (life/relationship coaching) or are your skills more tuned towards strategizing and analysis (executive/business coaching) and such things.
For instance, if you have worked as an investment executive in your previous job, getting into executive/ leadership coaching or financial coaching might be a better fit for you as you already have a fair understanding of the corporate environment, its challenges and inner workings. Or as a former sportsperson looking for a viable post retirement career, getting into health & fitness coaching will be an organic alignment due to your years of experience as a player.
A coach is not expected to be an expert in the field, but he/she is expected to have a good grasp on the background from where their clients are coming from in order to deliver the positive outcome via the coaching process that the client is looking for.
2. Identify your target clientele
Businesses succeed because of clients. For your coaching business to put down roots and then flourish, it is vital that there is a steady and continuous stream of clients. So, does that mean you accept any and all clients that approach you? Well as tempting as it can be to not refuse any client (especially when you are starting out and any client is a god send), it makes long term sense to choose your clients whose requirements match the services that you provide.
You need to be smart and conduct thorough research (regarding age, gender, professional positions, realistic paying capacity etc.) about who will be interested in your coaching services and then target that particular segment of clients who you think will be good prospective customers for your services.
For example, if you are an executive coach, what is the point in advertising your coaching services in a college or among undergrad students? They are looking for a different type of coach and you are looking for a different type of client. To avoid such mismatches, make sure you search for clients via the right mediums (professional networking sites, social media pages etc.) in the right places (corporate HR, professional head-hunters etc.) and via the right methods (website, emails, messaging, pre-approved calls etc.) Conducting your business in a professional and ethical manner makes a great first impression, boosts your credibility and get you clients in the near future.
3. Boost your credentials – get certified (if you haven’t)
As already stated before, having a coaching certification is not required to start a coaching business, but there is no denying that having that glossy certificate hanging on the wall behind your desk adds that extra credibility to your qualifications in the eyes of your prospective clients. Of course, just having a certificate doesn’t automatically make you an expert coach – you still have to put in the effort and convince your clients that you are the best coach that can help them navigate their challenges.
Any field is a continuously evolving environment and the same holds true for coaching. So, having a certificate also provides the opportunity to keep upgrading your knowledge, learn about new developments in the field, and also hone your own understanding of what the clients expect from the coaching process.
4. Decide the coaching type
What type of coaching suits you? One on one personal coaching, group coaching, team coaching, online coaching or hybrid sessions – there are various formats out there. Decide the coaching type so that you can plan your coaching programs and pricing options accordingly.
For instance, personalized coaching, although intensive and very focused can also be limiting. You are spending a lot of time and energy coaching one individual that gives you specific monetary returns.
Group coaching on the other hand is not related to a specific individual but to a specific issue/subject common amongst a group of individuals that can be a good way to scale up your efforts in the same time and effort for a higher remuneration due to increased volumes.
Online coaching opens up a wider clientele with no boundaries of geographic location and client size. Also, online coaching affords a pre-recording option where the coach need not be available at all times, but instead can offer their clients coaching material that they can access at their own convenient time to come prepared before an actual live session.
5. Look at coaching as a product that can bring in revenue
When you are planning your coaching program, always remember to structure them in a manner that will deliver monetarily. Understand that coaching or guidance that you give the client is your product that should make you money.
For instance, you are a health coach with expertise in weight management. Now you can always outline the whole program in a single page and give it out during the initial coaching session. But that is self-defeating if you want to run a successful coaching business.
Instead of disclosing the whole program in a single session, put out multiple coaching packages with variable price points as per their content. You can have a 3-month program that offers general diet and exercises to combat weight. A 6-month package with more detailed exercise and diet regimen, yoga and breathing techniques etc. Or a more extensive, 1 year program that can be customized to client specific requirements at a higher price point for more sustainable change. The longer duration program will obviously offer a lot more than the basic ones. Give your clients the option to upgrade to the more extensive programs after they complete their existing one. This ensures longer client commitment and also a set income.
6. Get the essentials in place
All businesses need basic essentials to run smoothly. Factor in the initial set up costs (equipment, office supplies etc.) and expenses (website, marketing etc.) so that you can plan your finances accordingly.
Make sure you have the basic set up in place – laptops, internet connection etc. Having your own website (with a relatable domain name that is available for registration) is important as it will act as a single medium from where the client can access everything they might need at a click – logins, payments, coach credentials, coaching sessions, video conferencing, chat box, coaching materials, pre-recorded videos, podcasts, links to webinars, etc.
Registering your coaching business makes it easier for tax purposes as well as for opening business accounts.
Buying a good insurance policy that will protect your coaching business against unforeseen risks and setbacks.
Make sure that you have a solid marketing and sales strategy in place; after all, only if the clients know of your existence will they engage in your coaching services. A well-planned sales funnel as well as use of other advertising tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, podcasts, online forums, vlogs, blogs, affiliate & email marketing etc., can prove to be a good platform to connect with prospective customers and eventually turn them into actual paying clients.
Starting out any venture is always fraught with doubts, anxieties and can get a bit overwhelming. But as a qualified coach, who wishes to expand their reach and achieve success in the fiercely competitive field of coaching, be assured of your skills, the ability to work hard, put in sincere efforts, stay calm under duress, be patient if things don’t work out at first and importantly persevere in your determination to start and prosper in the world of the coaching business.
1. Can coaching be a profitable business?
No business comes with the guarantee of success. The element of uncertainty is always there but if you are skilled at what you do, are prepared to put in long hours of sweat and toil, understand the importance of ethics and principles in your dealings with clients, take the time and effort to conduct thorough market research, keep upgrading your knowledge and qualifications to stay abreast with changing technologies in the field, then the chances are high that you will succeed eventually in your coaching business and turn it into a profitable venture. Although not a fixed duration, it takes approximately 2 years for a business to break even and then another one year to start churning out a profit.
2. What are the challenges of a coaching business?
Coaching may be one of the most sought-after professions in the world but just like any other business, the coaching business also come with its own challenges. The most important challenge faced by coaches is the struggle to find clients. Other roadblocks can come in the form of getting the business strategy wrong, scheduling and planning issues, inability to adapt quickly to newer technologies and coaching mediums, not updating your knowledge bank and latest certifications that align with new coaching developments, sustaining finances during lean times, not enough brand visibility, and more.
Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.