Five essential steps for setting yourself apart and building a coaching business that works best for you!
As someone who wants to start their own coaching business, you’ve probably already discovered no shortage of “wisdom” on how best to go about it. With the endless resources on the web, everything is available if you have time to do the research and (more importantly) discern between what you should listen to and what you should ignore.
The process can feel overwhelming. So in this post, I’ve compiled an essential five-step business startup checklist. You’ll also find bonus information containing the often-overlooked odds and ends that can save valuable time and money when starting your life coaching business.
Step I: Establish your niche
I’ll be the first to admit: marketing generalized coaching services can be a real struggle. To begin with, you’re selling an intangible product – a future outcome. This means you need to highlight visible aspects of your client’s current situation, which in this case is the problem they have that requires fixing. Otherwise known as the top-of-mind problem, this is the issue that haunts them to the point where they’re motivated to invest in a solution.
The tools of coaching can be applied to almost any context – career, business, health, relationships and life purpose to name just a few. To gain clients and permanently secure them in your roster you have to specialize in solving specific problems.
Don’t worry if this feels confining. Once you’re up and running you can always expand your services and your client base. Start by trusting that the variety will be there for you. Then get specific in your marketing by focusing on establishing yourself as the go-to coach for those with a specific set of problems.
Establishing your niche is the first step toward creating a successful coaching business. With that complete, the remaining four core components will fall neatly into place.
Step 2: Claim your coaching business name
Deciding on a name can be a daunting task. A quick Google search will lead you to believe all the good ones are taken. But that’s far from the truth. Because no matter how clever the domain names appear to be, none of them capture you as an individual or the unique aspects of your service.
Unless you’re planning on starting a coaching firm, your clients are ultimately buying a relationship with you. So consider using your own name or a specific nickname for your coaching business. Not only will this pair a strong visual association with your services (your smiling face!), it also very clearly establishes you as the brand.
One of the reasons I love using my name is that it builds top-of-mind awareness, keeping ME front and center with current and future clients alike. It also gives me the freedom to add programs, products and even change the type of coaching I offer without having to re-imagine a completely new brand identity.
A final benefit to using your own name is that it simplifies the purchase of a URL for your website. If your exact name isn’t available, don’t get discouraged. Try alternatives. For example, James Brown might not be available, but James.p.Brown or JamesBrownCoaching might be. Then if you ever start your own coaching firm, you can call it “Your Name & Associates.”
If you’d rather have a business name that doesn’t incorporate some form of your name, create one that speaks to the solutions you offer. For example, one of our graduates at Coach Training World created the name “Peaceful Solutions” to reflect her conflict resolution and communication coaching for divorcing parents. The idea here is that your business name speaks to your ideal client and the solutions they are seeking.
Still seeking ideas? Try the business name generator. Or better yet hire a coach who can elicit your creative juices so you’ll have the perfect business name for you!
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Step 3: Identify your preferred coaching business structure
In the United States, there are six unique business structures:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- S Corporation
Each offers a variety of legal protections and comes with a range of different tax obligations. The U.S. Small Business Administration has created an excellent resource for learning more about each of the specific types, as well as the common industries that most often take advantage of them.
In addition, one of our graduates (who is a CPA and small business coach) offers some insider tips on the pros and cons of the most popular business structure options for coaches. As you watch Ana, keep in mind the two most important details when choosing your structure: legal liability and taxation.
Step 4: Choose how you will offer your coaching services
Coaches love to work with their clients in person. After all, we are relationship-oriented people. But the option of web connectivity provides a broader reach and more convenience, both for the coach and their clients.
This takes us to another decision in the process: should you get an office or work from home?
Coaching from an office
The decision to invest in a physical office really depends on your preferences and your budget. Having an office can feel really good. It gives your services a professional appearance, especially if you plan on offering group coaching or workshops.
If you don’t need the space full-time, you may be able to sublet or rent it to other coaches if your lease allows. This is one way many coaches subsidize their office space when they’re just starting out. As their practice grows and they need the space more often, they simply scale back on the subletting. Craigslist.org is a great place to find such opportunities within your area.
One potential drawback to keep in mind: A physical office requires separate phone services, high-speed web access, and utilities. These services can add up quickly depending on your location. But there are also a number of offices you can rent by the hour.
Day offices like ShareDesk and Davinci provide a complete office setup and include all the necessary business amenities (some even come with a live lobby greeter). Prices start between $10 and $60 per hour, with day rates from $30 to $300. On-demand work spaces can be booked online and offer a variety of unique office settings, from individual work stations to full conference rooms and office suites. They’re another great way to get started without a ton of expense.
Coaching from home
In contrast, working from home has its own set of rewards. I love it! And the pros are obvious:
- No commute
- No time wasted sitting in traffic
- Take breaks whenever you want
- Work odd hours without sacrificing time away from family and loved ones
- Eat and cook at home (staying healthy by avoiding the temptation of fast food)
One potential drawback to keep in mind: If you end up working at home, you’ll need to find a way to separate your business from the rest of your life. This includes kids, dogs, and household distractions such as laundry, yard work, and the siren song of the refrigerator.
When setting up a home office, establish a place that makes boundaries clear and enables you to easily avoid the distractions and temptations that threaten to keep you from focusing on your clients. Also, consider how comfortable you feel having people over. How easy will it be to constantly maintain a clean and private environment?
That said, if you plan on coaching clients primarily on the phone or online, a home office might be the way to go.
My favorite setup is a self-contained office located on the property – similar to a guest house or bungalow. It’s in a separate area from the main house so it feels more professional but also offers the convenience of proximity. It’s the best of both worlds.
Another version of this setup is a separate entrance into a private area of your home. But honestly, when you start packing in the clients, a separate office or location is really the way to go. And if you haven’t noticed the number of coaches working out of coffee shops, pay attention to who’s around you the next time you’re in one!
Step 5: Choosing the right equipment and online platform for your coaching business
With your ideal space chosen, the final core component is to furnish it with the tools of the coaching trade. Most coaches need a good phone and a headset for phone coaching. And that’s about it! I recommend a landline with a wireless headset. Although a good noise-cancelling headset and your cell phone might do just as well.
Before buying equipment, consider where you’ll be coaching from. To give you an example, I’ve coached while traveling, using my cell and a laptop computer from as far as Indonesia with no problem. One word of caution: make sure you have a backup plan to avoid disappointing your clients if your primary means of communication fails. Wireless signals and web connectivity can be unreliable, more so in some parts of the world than others.
Skype is one of the most popular platforms for offering coaching services. It’s free for most people, easy to use, and accessible anywhere and on a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets. If you intend on using Skype, ensure that you have a strong Internet connection.
It might also be worthwhile to invest in another virtual meeting space that, for a small fee, will give you more reliable service. Popular examples include Google Hangouts (free for up to 10 participants; $5 per month for 11 to 15 participants), WebEx ($25 to $50 per month), and Fuze ($15 to $70 per month). Although in the past year, you can’t go wrong with Zoom.us – free to work with individuals one-on-one, and only $15 a month to work with groups.
If you decide to do group coaching, you’ll definitely want an online meeting/seminar service like WebEx or GoToMeeting. These platforms offer additional options and enhanced features for leading groups and managing participants.
BONUS: Loose Ends – What else should you be thinking of?
Starting a life coaching business is similar to any other enterprise: there are a number of components that minimize cost, organize your process, and ensure success.
Among the most common, you’ll find:
Liability insurance. Depending on your risk tolerance and the type of coaching you plan on offering, you might want to look into liability insurance for life coaches. As a certified life coach, holding either an ICF or BCC Credential, you’ll qualify for discounted rates on this type of policy with many insurance companies. Start by comparing premiums directly through the ICF.
Client organization tools. For those who like to stay super organized and have a streamlined system in place, explore online platforms that minimize your administrative duties. This can include everything from letting clients self-book their appointments to managing your billing, record keeping, CRM, appointment reminders, and the hosting of client information and session data. Popular platforms include:
Taxes, write-offs and quarterly estimated taxes. You can begin writing off your business expenses once you’ve officially opened the doors to your business. But be aware: there are a few exceptions.
Professional services. This isn’t just for coaches. It’s for anyone starting their business. Create your dream support team in advance to avoid stress and unwelcome surprises. This typically includes resources for legal advice, accounting and taxes. Also, hiring a seasoned marketing coach is never a bad investment. It could save you hundreds of hours and thousands of wasted dollars. Depending on your marketing skills, you may also require a graphic artist, web developer and copywriter to help brand your services.
Don’t go it alone
The above topics represent broad considerations for starting your life coaching business. But as you integrate the specifics of your chosen niche, you may have questions or need additional guidance to ensure you take the most direct and economical path forward.
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I am interested in your two business courses. Could you kindly provide me with more information
Can you tell me how much the course is?
Also can you send me a schedule of where the course’s are being held?
Hi Jan, Depending on the certification level you with to pursue your investment would range from $2795-$6995. We are a fully accredited school, and with our program you can become a International Coach Federation credentialed coach or a Board Certified Coach. Our program is offered either FULLY Online or a hybrid of online and in-person weekend intensives. https://coachtrainingworld.com/coaching-training-dates/
I want to start a life coaching business and I am hoping to get guidance from you
Betty, do you have a specific question I might respond to? Becoming a professional coach and starting my own coaching business has been the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. So, I’d be delighted to answer any questions… Away!
Thank you very much for this great information regarding starting a coaching business. I am very much interested in enrolling for the training about being a life and I believe you will furnish me with more information towards it.
I am very much excited that I myself needs to be a life coach I need to help people with guarding them by getting there problem and giving the solution
Abram, it sounds like you’ve found your calling! Cheers to you and your gifts coming more into the world toward helping others!
Wow this is awesome information I have been looking for. I wanna be a certified life coach, How can I get the certification?
The best way to earn your certification is to attend a program (such as ours) that is ICF Accredited. From there all you’ll need to do is take your final multiple-part exam with the International Coach Federation. Here is a link to another article you might enjoy! https://coachtrainingworld.com/how-to-become-an-icf-certified-life-coach/
Points on relationship counselling…
Hi Puja, Relationship coaching is a highly rewarding way to help others. Although, whether or not you want to coach or counsel someone, I’d highly recommend getting trained. To do your best work, it’s very important to understand how the brain develops and changes inside of relationships. In fact our Revolutionary Relationships classes is focused on the science of relationships and how best to create empathy, trust and emotional balance with/for your clients.
Is your certification valid in Australia?
Hi Mary, Yes our certification is valid in Australia via the International Coach Federation.
Awesome,how long does the course take
Khaya, If you are looking at our entry level certification, you can complete your coursework in 2-4 months. Students enrolled in our full Whole Person Certified Coach (WPCC) program tend to take 8-12 months.
Great am i able to do the cause online based in South Africa
Yes! Our programs are available to anyone who has an internet connection!
Great article! I’d like to also suggest that online coaches check out Zoom as a great alternative to Skype. I’ve used Skype in my coaching business for years and still use it for calls and messaging with my virtual team. BUT I have recently made the switch to Zoom and am loving it. You can get quite far with the free version too. It’s really easy to record sessions with Zoom and then share the recordings with your clients via Life Coach Office. It’s also perfect for recording podcast episodes.
Yes Benay, Zoom is a great option. We’ve also switched to this platform!
Would like more info on your courses. What each one entails and price.
Hi, my name is Maria. I’m a certified health and wellness coach. I’m interested in starting my own coaching business. I liked the idea of hiring a well seasoned coach for guidance.
Thank you Karen! I try! And, I’m excited to report that in January I’ve got a whole lot more to share! Stay tuned!
Insightful information. Can your certificate be used in Nigeria. I want to start up my coaching business
Daniella, yes our certificate can be used in Nigeria, we are a globally recognized ICF Accredited program. Wishing you the very best with your business adventures. Being a coachpreneur had been the joy of my life!
Hi there I’ve been contemplating starting my own coaching business. I’ve build my own business from the ground up and I feel like I know the proper steps one needs to take to start there own small business. I’ve helped a friend start there own grant writing business and another with a window tinting company. How would I advertise to help individuals start and owner oporated business?
Thanks so much
Hi Heather! You ask a good question, how would you advertise to help individuals start an owner operated business. I have a few questions that if answered would allow me to gain more clarity around what kind of information would be good to share with you. The first is, when you say advertise, do you have a specific medium in mind? Who are your ideal clients? Do you know where these people hang out? As, in where do they currently look for resources such as yourself… Please reply and we can continue the conversation!
Some truly great indepth, useful and powerful tips and tools here for starting up in a Coaching Business. Nice works guys! Shared to Twitter have an awesome year ahead.
Thanks Greg! Really appreciate the share and you too have an amazing new year! May 2018 be your best year ever in all ways possible!
I may be interested in coaching people in recovery. Is there any reason that I would not be able to offer these services legally? I do have an associate’s degree in counseling but no certification.
Hi Rusty, While there are no legal reasons that I am aware of as to why you couldn’t coach people in recovery. I would definitely make sure that you’ve been professionally trained to be able to support them at your best. We have a number of graduates who work in such areas!
Thank you for this amazing knowledge
Wow I love these great info. But am from Nigeria how can I participate in the training?
Our program is available 100% virtually. Our students join us from all over the world.
I am a Nurse Practitioner but do not want to focus on illness. I would like to combine my MSN degree with coaching and start a wellness business. I need more info on developing a business plan to incorporate these two fields.
Hi Toya! You are well positioned to help someone as a coach in your own wellness business. From my perspective your first step would be to identify your ideal clients, the problems you’ll solve for them and to create a business model that reflects the unification of your experience and expertise. This is something that we cover heavily inside our training programs. If you are looking for resources outside of a coach training and coaching business start-up program, you might try SCORE or the SBA for documentation on how to write a business plan. I tend to focus on getting radically clear on the product and it’s audience and then building a business plan around a strategic positioning of your passions! Thanks for stopping by!
Coaching is yet to become a serious part of my business. I have coached a few of my readers into monetizing their blogs and seeing results but I never thought to actually setup a coaching business.
Technically, I can effortlessly setup any sales page and payment button. I’m now thinking on working on coaching to fully milk its benefits. I find your proposed call timeline very useful. I also will be looking at Calendly as this seems a handy tool.
Thanks for helping with a new business encouragement
I just want to say thanks what an amazing article that I have read today there is so many articles available on the internet but a way of your explanation is awesome i love to read more article from you keep writing great stuff will be coming back for more interesting article thanks.
And thank you for commenting. Helps to know that what I’m sharing is of value!
Do You have to have a certificate to start your own life coaching bussiness? Or can you do it without a certificate?
While there is currently no regulation on you having to have a certificate to start your own coaching business, I’d ask yourself what skills might you be missing without having gone through a formal coach training that could help you to help others. Change is hard, changing others is even harder. There is no shortage of free information and advice online, what most people need is someone to help them to see what is really preventing their success for themselves.
After obtaining the proper credentials, it would seem starting an LLC would be a good idea. Establishing credibility as well.
Do you agree?
An LLC, would certainly reduce liability if needed. And, I suspect for some, it would add credibility to a business in that it may seem bigger then a sole proprietor!
Great article ! What is the difference both financially and liability wise between becoming a coach vs marriage and family therapist ?
I am constantly being asked how do I have “what everyone wants” in relation to my children and marriage. And I love helping people. I’m almost 50. And ready for this new career. But also curious if I can make enough money to sustain a lifestyle that we are accustom too. Many thanks in advance.
You are asking a wonderful question! A professional therapist has a lot of governing agencies depending on where you live and your official training/title. While, you can certainly charge insurance companies, the amount you get from them is based on what they pay. Also, my therapist colleagues said there are a lot of rules on how you advertise for clients. As a coach, you may not be able to charge an insurance company but you are certainly able to charge what you are worth and marketing yourself well. I choose coaching because I wanted to own my financial future. The liability for coaching is again going to depend on who you are helping. You can certainly make enough money, if you are willing to learn how to “transform lives” and “market yourself” – I have a book on Amazon which goes into this deeply: https://www.amazon.com/Become-Successful-Coach-Meant-life-changing/dp/1732223807
Hi, Im a BCBA ( Board Certified Behavior Analyst), currently working with special needs clients and families. however, the field of behavior could closely align with coaching since its basically what I do. – could the BCC be beneficial to me if I wanted to expand ?
Yes, I believe that the BCC would give you a new position and perspective toward working with your clients and obtaining new ones too. Depending on your academic background, earning your BCC could be as easy as attending a 30-hour training.
Hi, thanks for this helpful article. I feel drawn to the subject of self care/self esteem because I believe that it’s a problem that needs solving. And I was thinking that’ll be a good niche to focus on in the coaching business, yes?
Also, since I have no experience, is it advisable to start out on my own and get the training later?
You asked… “Since I have no experience, is it advisable to start out on my own and get the training later?” and my answer is no. Without training, it’s likely that you aren’t coaching. What you’ll be able to do is offer advice to others from your experience and perspective alone. Which maybe helpful to a point, but anyone can do that.
Training to become a professional coach teaches you how to motivate others, how to listen for ways to help them, to be able to facilitate a process toward a result that is worth paying for. Also learning with a coach training institute such as Coach Training World, you’ll also learn how to start and succeed in your coaching business through our CoachPreneur Academy.
Nanik Udassi says useful link
Thank you Nanik!
Great content and very well detailed. I will commend this to people who are aspiring life coaching business owners.
Great Post! You have clearly explained about role of life and spiritual coach. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post.
Actually, this is an awesome article for me. Thanks…
Thank you for letting us know, Ashish! Glad it was helpful.
Absolutely lovely article! thank you, please I would like to know how do you market yourself so that you get clients ?
Thank you Zandile! When it comes to the ways in which I market myself my favorite way to enroll clients is to build up an email list and invite my clients into a free introductory program so they can get a felt sense of my work and if I’m a good fit for them.