How to start a coaching business

Perhaps you’ve just completed your coach training and are now moving on to setting up your coaching business, or maybe you are intrigued as to what it entails to have your own coaching business.

Recently, I’ve realised that many of the people who contact me have a dream of becoming a coach or have recently qualified. You wish someone would tell you if it’s a real job, how to set up a business and where to find paying clients without showing yourself up or spending hours a day on social media.

Since qualifying, I have learnt that thousands of people train and qualify as a coach though very few make a living from doing so. I find this so sad, especially the self-doubt women in particular often struggle with when building a coaching business. There is a great book title ‘Who The F*ck Am I To Be A Coach’ that makes me laugh as it’s exactly how I felt when I started on this journey.

As I have discovered in the two years since handing in my notice in at my ‘proper job’, building a business requires a whole new skill set – entrepreneurship! The ability to take risks, be visible, learn tech, sales, marketing, finances and so much more. I’ve learned that I love the variety and growth of having a coaching business and I’ve written this blog post as a resource if you need information on this.

The advice I’m sharing is based on my own personal experience of becoming a coach and building my career coaching business. There are many ways to build a successful business and you will create your own story.

My story

In 2019 I left my HR job to train as an Executive Coach. It was the most immense journey which led me to feeling completely overwhelmed. I always had a stable job (20 years of having practically 100% security in my employment). To then be thrown into learning something new and very challenging alongside losing my identity as a go-to person in my career. I felt like I was in a sea of not-enough with both learning how to coach and for the first time seeing my knowledge and personal development gap in how to successfully set up a profitable business.

Throughout this journey, many people have asked me what I attribute my increase in confidence to as it’s allowed me to be visible and grow my business (and it was a long way from my starting point). Fortunately, some asked via email so I have a record of my learnings. Here is what I wrote when someone asked late-2020:

Despite the fact I’ve only had two days a week where my son is in childcare I have put a lot of hours into building my business. I am proud to have matched my previous part-time HR income this year. An important milestone to celebrate and one that has come with a lot of perseverance. For complete transparency, this isn’t my personal take home but my business gross total. So obviously expenses (mainly lots of business training in my case!).

My son is starting school in September and I have huge ambitions to grow my business. I want to contribute to a world where women pursue their ambitions, speak up, and build brilliant businesses.

If you’re very early on in your journey and you’re feeling overwhelmed with how this might be possible for you. I see you. I hear you. I feel you. The book Mindset by Carole Dweck is amazing and I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it (Mindset – Updated Edition: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential: Amazon.co.uk: Dr Carol Dweck: 9782133487514: Books). Before reading this, I had always thought ‘that’s the way it is’. Little did I know that with practice and determination you can do anything you want.

I hope this article helps set you up for success with starting or growing your own coaching business.

Your Vision, Mission and Values

Building a business can feel like you are lost in a sea of overwhelm without a clear vision. It’s hard to be inspired enough to keep going when the going gets tough, to make decisions and to know what you stand for.

I was pleased to be a founding member of a ‘mini-MBA’ where Alan Wick, through his experience of founding five companies and helping hundreds of entrepreneurs, emphasised this passionately.

I revisit these elements regularly as it’s all too easy to create a business that is based on your previous beliefs and approach to work.

Where to start

I also found this short course online from The Lonely Entrepreneur specifically on Mission, Vision and Values.

Financial goals

If you are anything like me, setting financial goals can feel hard as you are opening yourself up to the ‘fear of failure’ if you don’t meet them as well as the concept of having no idea how to make them possible! Once I had some mentor sessions with a successful career coach (Fay Wallis at Bright Sky Career Coaching Career Coaching | Career Consultants | Bright Sky Career Coaching) I realised that I would feel more in control when I knew what I was aiming for. I soon saw that no matter how much 1:1 coaching I undertook, it was impossible to meet my target income! This helped me to take on corporate career workshops, webinars, associate work and group coaching to ensure that I had several streams of income.

Where to start

Annual goal (to cover your bills etc) =

Annual stretch goal (to make a noticeable difference to your life) =

Made up of (for example):

xx 1:1 coaching packages priced at xx per person =

2 group programmes priced at xx per person X xx participants =

Decide on a business format and set up a business bank account

You’ll need to weigh up the difference between a sole trader and limited company. This article has some useful information The difference between sole trader and limited company (simplybusiness.co.uk). If your business trades primarily for the community you may wish to consider setting up as a social enterprise. This can allow you to apply for funding to support those who normally might not be able to access coaching. Inspire2Entreprise has some useful FAQs.

I decided upon sole trader initially as you can start up with no investment and relatively little paperwork.

When you have decided and registered with the appropriate channels you can set up a business bank account.

Where to start

You can find more information about how to register your business here (if you’re in the UK) Set up a business – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

I’m really pleased with my bank Starling which is an award winning bank with no fees for a business account Business bank account | No monthly fees – Starling Bank. It gives you a great facility of creating ‘pots’ for different things in your business such as profit, tax and salary.

Set up Professional indemnity insurance for coaching, training and education

I was fortunate to be taken on as an associate at a lovely organisation called Parent Cloud Parent Cloud – Helping Parents Thrive (parent-cloud.com) and I was asked for certain certificates so it was a great way of ensuring I had all of the correct paperwork in place!

Where to start

My professional indemnity insurance costs me around £10 per month with Hiscox. You may have other requirements if you are visiting offices for your coaching etc so you can review your requirements on the Hiscox site (Coaching, Training & Education Insurance | Hiscox UK).

Identify your niche

Oh the hours I’ve spent (and continue to spend!) on this one. I think it evolves all the time and although I haven’t nailed it I 100% believe that everything gets easier when you do. As you will know when you learn the skill of coaching – you can coach anyone on anything! I soon discovered through trial and error along with many hours of marketing training – people don’t ‘buy’ coaching. They buy when they have a specific problem and you have a specific solution to that problem. I learnt the importance of using the words people use rather than use coach like words like ‘fulfilment’ which of course is what we all want but perhaps it is too illusive for a sale!

Where to start

Evaluate your passions and skills – list 5 things you are great at.

Then list 5 life experiences that have shaped you.

List 5 things that people ask for your help in.

Is there anything that jumps out at you as to what you are passionate about right now and what needs there may be for that? If you had to pick one – who you really want to help? With what?

Then complete the following statement:

I help WHO with GOAL so that RESULT

This might take a while or you might be someone who is super clear on this.

Get to know your ideal clients

Your goal is to explore their deepest desires and greatest pains so you can learn how you can help.

Where to start

Ask a few of your ideal clients if they would be open to a call/coffee/survey. Your goal is to ask open ended questions and listen for their language to describe what they really want. I do this regularly by asking questions like:

· What are your biggest frustrations [about the problem you help with]?

· What would it take to make the break?

· Why do you think this has been a struggle for you?

· How long has this been a struggle for you?

· Before you actively seek out a solution to (specific pain points), what needs to happen first?

· What, if anything, have you done so far to solve the problem?

Identify your offer

As I mentioned above, I discovered that it can be difficult to sell the sort of coaching we are taught in coaching school. I have learned that people like to hear about a specific process that you will take them through to get the result that they want.

Where to start

What is a big enough problem that they will pay to fix?

What do they think is stopping them from solving it?

What do you think is stopping them from solving it?

Working from the destination they want to be at, what journey will they need to go on to solve this problem?

Where they are now……|……….|………|………|………| where they want to be

Map out these points in your coaching package so you can display the journey on your website or talk to people about it in person.

LinkedIn

I was fortunate to participate in Helen Pritchard’s LinkedIn Challenge in March 2020. I didn’t want to do any of the tasks we were given like updating my headline and putting a post out… what would my previous colleagues say…? But somehow little by little I gained the courage and learnt to be visible which has brought me a lot of business. It has also been empowering to receive many lovely messages from people who have resonated with my posts.

Where to start

I have a feeling that Helen may be stopping her infamous 5-day LinkedIn Challenge but here is her website so you can sign up to see if she is running any future events Helen Pritchard – 5 Day Sprint Challenge (helenpritchardonline.com). Essentially just do it! Shine your light like a lighthouse and those who resonate with your message will contact you.

Website and email address

Now I have a website I don’t think it is as essential as it appeared to me in the beginning. You can get by with a LinkedIn profile initially. Although it is not strictly required it can be useful so you gain clarity on your offer and feel professional so I decided that I might as well get it done.

Where to start

Brandority set up my website within a week for an extremely reasonable price. They also provide logos, branding and social media packs so you can build a strong brand that matches your website, without it costing you a fortune.

Contracts

Most of us coaches get bogged down in the website, logo, terms and conditions and contracts to avoid asking for a sale! Umm… I know because I did exactly that and all of this admin is at the top of the list of nearly all of the new coaches I talk to.

Where to start

The ICF has published a sample contract here. The Federation of small businesses is also a great resource FSB |The Federation of Small Businesses | FSB, The Federation of Small Businesses.

Next steps 

If you are earlier on in your coaching business journey, I know just what it feels like to want a manual to tell you exactly what to do (so very un-coach like!).

As it is my personal mission to make 1 million people happier (just slightly ambitious!), I am creating several ways to support coaches to set up a brilliant business:

1. I have created a checklist of the 10 Essential Steps to Building a Profitable Coaching Business (and a few what not to do’s from my own learnings!) that you can download here.

2. If you know you want more than another freebie and would like support to get the foundations and systems of your values led coaching business in place that is what you’ll get in my programme, The Business of Coaching.

No matter where you are in your coaching journey, I wish you the very best of luck in creating a huge impact on other people’s lives, as well as your own personal and business growth.

Get the love and support you need to make it happen

If you’d like my help to implement this so you make a difference, AND make a living, you can learn more about how I can help you here.

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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.