Imagine if you could make money from home helping other people achieve their dreams. What would it be like to do work that’s profitable and fulfilling? In this post I show you how to start a life coaching business and create meaningful change in the world.
It took me five years to design a business I love. A business that allows me to make money from home doing work I’m meant to do.
On my journey, I’ve learned who I am and how to run a business. I’ve figured out what I enjoy and what gifts I have. Knowing these things is essential if you want to craft the perfect business—a business that reflects who you were born to be.
One of the most rewarding parts of my business is coaching other people and seeing them create change in their lives. Today I want to share how you can do the same and start your own life coaching business.
Also check out my book Make Money As A Life Coach. This book will show you how to start your coaching business and sign your first paying client(s) in as little as 30 days.
8 Steps To Start A Life Coaching Business
If you’re still reading, then you probably already know you want to become a life coach. But perhaps you’re struggling to figure out exactly how to achieve your goal. In this post I lay it all out for you.
Warning – this is a long article. Please take your time as you work through the action steps. You absolutely can build a successful life coaching business. But it does take focus and commitment.
Here are the steps to start a life coaching business:
- Pick a niche
- Get to know your ideal client
- Craft your first offer
- Create an outreach plan
- Land your first paying client
- Cover yourself legally
- Develop your online presence
- Scale your business
In the rest of this post I walk through each of these steps in detail.
1. Pick A Niche
First, you need to decide the type of life coaching business you want to create. Your niche will guide you going forward. It determines who you work with, your coaching packages, and how you market your business.
But don’t worry about getting this perfect – you can always tweak your business later. As you start helping clients, you will discover more about your unique coaching style and the kind of clients you most enjoy working with.
For now, pick a starting point and then move forward with confidence. Here are the steps to pick your coaching niche:
- List at least 20 things that you excel at.
EXAMPLES: Are you good with numbers? Are you organized? Are you skilled at time management? Do you have a degree? Good with children? Confident public speaker? Know the Bible from front to back? Love to write?
- When you’re done with step 1, circle five skill sets in your list that you identify with the most or have the most experience with.
- Now, list the experiences in your life which have had a big impact on you.
EXAMPLES: Had a baby in the NICU, gone through a nasty divorce, lost a family member, been in a management or leadership position, had a child with a learning disability, completed an advanced degree.
- Next to each of your life experiences, write out the wisdom you gained through that experience. Try to list 3-5 things you learned through each of your experiences.
EXAMPLES: If you went through a divorce, did you learn how to hire the best lawyer? Or did you learn how to emotionally cope with losing someone you loved?
- At the intersection of your existing skillset, life experience, and wisdom gained lies the specific demographic of people you are most inclined to serve and the focal point of your business that will allow you to leverage what you already have. Write a brief description of your coaching niche.
If it doesn’t come to you right away, give yourself some time to mull it over.
EXAMPLES: Spiritual coaching for people dealing with grief, Stress management coaching for executive level managers, Healthcare coaching for stay-at-home-moms, Emotional coaching for divorced men.
2. Get to Know Your Ideal Client
Now you have your coaching niche, you want to go deeper and get to know your ideal client.
This is the person you guide and encourage through their fears, doubts, and struggles. The person you serve in your business by helping them solve their problems and reach their goals.
When you picked a niche, you began to form a picture about the type of client you want to work with and how you will help them. Now, spend time getting to know this person in more detail. You can do this in several ways…
Method 1: Online Research
You can quickly gather a lot of information by researching your ideal client online. Here are some places to look:
- Read relevant forums, online groups, Q&A sites, reviews sites (Amazon, Udemy, Etc.).
- Review popular blog posts in your niche. What questions do people ask?
- Look at what questions your clients/followers/subscribers ask most often (if you have an existing business).
Method 2: Talk To Your Ideal Clients
This method takes longer, but you gather more useful information. When you talk directly with people, they open up and share deep insights with you.
Here are some ways to talk with your ideal clients:
- Meet them for coffee. Ask them about their life and challenges.
- Publish a survey (you can use Typeform or Survey Monkey).
- Chat with them online (email, Facebook messages, etc.)
When talking with people, ask open ended questions. Your goal is to explore their urgent pains and secret hopes and dreams.
Here are some example questions you can ask:
- Can you tell me about the last time you experienced [the problem you help with]?
- How did it make you feel?
- What specifically about [the problem] keeps you awake at night?
- What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
- What do you like or dislike about the solutions you’ve tried?
Capture as much detail as possible about your ideal client. Make sure you write everything down. Including the specific language your ideal client uses. This will be important in the next step when you craft your first coaching offer.
3. Craft your First Offer
Okay, it’s time to put together your first coaching offer – one that’s irresistible to your ideal clients.
If you have just one take away from this article, then make it this…
… People don’t buy coaching. They buy solutions to their problems.
This is important. And it’s why you want to start by defining the problem you help your clients solve and the specific outcome(s) they can expect.
Define The Outcome You Deliver
Look back at your client research notes from the previous step. What’s the biggest outcome you can help your clients achieve?
Make sure the result is tangible and desirable to your ideal client. Also, is it something you can deliver? If not, then go back to your research notes and refine your outcome.
Here are some example outcomes from successful coaching businesses:
- Earn your first 2K as a life coach
- Find Mr. Right
- Lose 10 pounds
- Publish a bestselling book
By delivering specific and desirable results you create a coaching package that’s irresistible to your ideal clients.
Determine The Value Of The Outcome
Once you’re clear about the results you deliver, it’s much easier to put a value on this outcome or transformation.
Start by imagining that you are your ideal client. This can be easy to do if your ideal client is an earlier version of you and has a problem that you’ve already solved.
From the perspective of your ideal client, eager for the solution you provide, ask yourself, “What is it worth to have this problem solved?”
Answer with the first number that comes to mind and write it down. If you’re struggling to come up with one number, then write down a price range.
Don’t overthink this step or waste time worrying about what other coaches charge. Also, don’t bother with the details of your package (we’ll get to your package soon).
Simply focus on selecting a price or price range that’s consistent with the transformation you offer.
Increase The Value You Offer
You’re now going to look for ways to increase the value of your coaching offer.
Think about how you can “up your game”. How can you give your ideal client your best work? How can you change what you do and how you do it to ensure phenomenal results? What add-ons can you offer that will make your client’s experience exceptional?
Now, come up with a new price (or price range) for your services that reflects the added value you can
offer. Write this new number down.
Define Your Coaching Package
Finally, consider how much coaching will best support your clients in achieving the transformation you provide. Define the duration, number, and length of sessions in your client package.
Some coaches start with this step – they think in terms of number of sessions and duration of those sessions. But this type of thinking leads you to put a price on your time. I don’t want you to do this.
When you focus on the transformation you offer, you create much greater impact (value) in the world and that value comes back to you in the form of more money. Don’t limit yourself by trading your time for money.
Many new coaches get stuck coming up with their first coaching package. They either don’t know what to offer or dive in with a poorly designed coaching package.
This step is key and so please don’t rush it. If you’d like more help defining and pricing your first coaching offer, check out my book Make Money As A Life Coach. This book guides you through all the steps to start your business and sign your first paying client(s) in as little as 30 days.
4. Create An Outreach Plan
Okay, you have an offer. Let’s go find your first paying clients!
It’s important to select an outreach strategy and follow through with it for at least 30 days. Then, if you’re not seeing results, you can tweak your plan or adopt a new outreach strategy.
There are many ways to find your first clients. Here are five that work best for new coaches who are testing out a fresh offer:
- Mine your network
- Join a networking group, e.g. BNI or your local Chamber of Commerce
- Become famous in online groups
- Host a Meetup group
- Create a Facebook Group
Most of my students, find their first clients by mining their existing network. If in doubt, I suggest you start here. You network are the people who already know and trust you. They are most likely to buy from you or refer you to someone else who would benefit from your coaching.
The process is as simple as reaching out to people and asking: “who do you know who needs help with [the problem you coach around]?”
In this post I discuss how to find your first client by doing outreach within your personal network.
Now, at this point your brain may start telling you that you don’t want to go to that networking event or send the next outreach email. This is normal. In fact, the fear is a sign you’re on the right track.
Remember – in order to create something new, you must grow and step outside your comfort zone. Feel the fear and act anyway. You can do this.
5. Land Your First Paying Client (Discovery Calls)
Being coached is a significant investment of money, time, and emotions. Your potential clients will have all kinds of concerns around whether to pay for coaching with you. And this is okay.
Coaching is a personal experience and trust is key to a successful client-coach relationship. All this means is that people need to get to know you before deciding whether to work with you.
One fast way to build up trust is by offering complimentary discovery calls – but only if you do them the right way.
As soon as someone is interested in coaching with you, invite them to a free discovery call.
Some coaches see discovery calls as short sales calls and leverage accepted sales strategies to encourage prospects to invest. My approach is different.
I recommend you deliver actual results during the discovery call. In other words, demonstrate your coaching and not your sales technique.
When the right person experiences what coaching with you means, they are more than willing to invest in paid coaching.
This approach to the discovery call also feels less “sales-y”. You needn’t rely on negative persuasion techniques like highlighting your clients’ fears or emphasizing scarcity.
In short, you spend most of the discovery call coaching the prospective client and giving them value. Then, in the final part of the call you make an offer to continue coaching with you.
For more details on how to do this, check out this post where I walk through exactly how to conduct an effective discovery call.
6. Cover Yourself Legally
Once you’re sure coaching is for you, you want to make your business official.
Now, please don’t be put off by this step. Yes, there’s some red tape involved. But it’s not that difficult. Millions of small business owners and coaches around the world have figured this stuff out. And you can too.
NOTE: This advice is specific to the US. Also, I’m not a lawyer! Always seek advice from a legal expert in your local area.
There are four steps:
- Name your business
- Set up your legal entity
- Add legal terms to your website
- Write your liability waiver
Name Your Business
Spend some time thinking about your business name. But don’t spend too long on this step. Select a name that feels good and keep moving.
Brainstorm names for your business. Don’t censor yourself. Write down everything that comes to mind.
After your first brainstorming session, take a break for a day or two. Give your subconscious time to evaluate your ideas and come up with new ones. Then add any new ideas to your list. Strike out any that don’t appeal to you.
Finally, say each name out loud and circle the 2-3 names that feels most amazing to you.
Next you want to check whether the domain for your preferred names are available. The domain is the name part of a website URL. For example, I use the domain name sallyannmiller.com for my website.
If your first name choice is taken, try your second choice. Keep going through your list. If all your options are taken, go back up to your original brainstorming and start again.
But don’t get stuck picking a name for your business. Find one that feels good and keep moving.
Set Up Your Legal Entity
You need to decide what kind of legal entity you want starting out. I began as a sole proprietor and later switched to an LLC. Do what’s right for your current situation. You can always change later.
The most common choices are:
- Sole proprietor – This is the default business structure for single-owner businesses. This type of business is not separate from the individual and no action is required to be a sole proprietor. It’s very easy to set up and it’s the most common business structure. However, operating as a sole proprietor offers you no liability protection. This means if your business gets sued, your personal assets may be at risk.
- LLC – This stands for limited liability company. Owners of an LLC are called members and an LLC can have one, or many, members. They are based on state law and formed at the state level. One of the biggest reasons people start LLCs is for the liability protection. When you form an LLC, you are creating an entity separate from yourself (or other owners).
If you decide to form an LLC, you’ll need to file all the necessary papers. Or you can pay someone else to do this for you. I used Andrea Vetter’s LLC Set Up service.
If you decide to operate as a sole proprietor, there are no additional steps you need to take to start your business. However, you may want to consider doing the following:
- Create a DBA – DBA is an abbreviation for “doing business as.” For example, if you decide to call your business “Dream Life Coaching,” then you need to file a DBA to use that name. Registering your DBA is done with either your county clerk’s office or your state government, depending on where your business is located. If you’re operating under your own name, then you don’t need a DBA.
- Apply for an EIN – this means you don’t have to use your Social Security number for your business. It’s easy to apply for an EIN online here.
Regardless of which entity you select, you should also check whether you need to apply for any local permits or licenses.
Add Legal Terms to Your Website
If you haven’t set up a website for your coaching business yet, then skip this step and come back to it when you’re ready. But if you do have a website then you want to make sure it includes some legal terms.
Your terms and conditions are unique to your business and what you provide, but you should provide a few of the basics.
- Limit Liability – Your website may contain errors every now and again, so you want a statement protecting you from any errors in the content provided. If you allow comments from your readers, add in a blurb that limits you from liability from anything offensive someone might post.
- Copyright – Include a notice about copyright to protect your content.
In some cases, you may want to enlist the help of an attorney, but a simple Google search of “terms and conditions generator” gives you a lot of options to get started with (and many of them are free).
Write Your Liability Waiver
Coaching is not therapy or medical treatment, but your clients may not be aware of this fact. You do not diagnose or treat people medically. So, it can be in your best interest to provide a written disclosure to ensure your clients are on the same page as you.
You also want to lay out an agreement of your services based on the coaching package your client has chosen. Be specific on payment terms, refund policies, and what happens if your client is late or misses an appointment.
This will alleviate any headaches you may experience down the line when one of your clients misses payment or misses an appointment.
7. Develop Your Online Presence
Okay, you have your coaching offer and are on your way to signing your first paying client(s). It is time to think about expanding your reach.
You need to get your name out there. Saying that may make you feel uncomfortable, but as a coach, you need to become accustomed to being present online.
Technically, you don’t have to build a website immediately. Most new coaches I’ve worked with have found their first clients through their personal network and in-person networking. They used their outreach strategy to sign clients without needing a website.
However, in today’s digital world, if you want to scale your business, you will eventually need an online presence.
Websites give your potential clients a place to look around and get to know you without feeling any pressure. They can put a face with a name. They learn what it’s like to work with you.
A website also allows you to start collecting names and email addresses to build your email list.
Create A Website
Make sure you include the following pages on your website:
- Home Page – This is the page your visitors first land on, so it’s one of the most important pages on your website. You want to convince visitors to stick around and learn more about you and your services. You can do this through pictures of you, testimonials, and a confident color palette. Help potential clients paint the picture of their upcoming transformation.
- About Page – This is the page where you can let your light shine. Your about page is about you and your clients. Tell your story. Also talk about who your clients are. Explain what they get from working with you.
- Services Page – This is a page highlighting the services you offer. It serves as your sales page. This page is where your messaging comes together to sell the transformation you offer. You need to dive deep into your ideal client’s world, and use wording that conveys you not only understand where they are stuck and why, but that you can help them overcome the challenges they are facing.
- Contact Page – This is a page letting potential clients know how to get in touch with you.
Build An Email List
An email list is a critical piece of the client attracting puzzle. People who trust you enough to give you their email address and read your emails are more likely to invest in your services.
You can publish a ton of content on a blog or social media, but people may never see it. When you put your message out through email to your list, you are a lot more likely to get it in front of people’s eyes.
But people typically don’t just give out their email address for free. You need to incentivize them by offering something of value (a freebie). When you provide something to your ideal client that helps her with a struggle, you are providing a sneak preview of what it is like to work with you.
Follow the steps in these two blog posts to create a freebie and set up the technical aspects of your email list.
And for more ideas on how to market your business and grow you coaching income, check out Make Money As A Life Coach. This book will show you how to create your dream coaching business without wasting hours of your time.
8. Scale Your Business
You’ve defined your niche, created your first offer, and you have an online presence (a website). You may have even found your first paying client(s) through your outreach strategy.
At some point, you want to plan how to scale your business. There are two steps:
- Create an ongoing marketing strategy
- Expand your offerings.
Your Ongoing Marketing Strategy
If you’ve been following the action steps in this post, you will already have most of the pieces of the puzzle in place.
Now, we pull it altogether and make sure you have a consistent marketing strategy so that you can grow your client base (and income).
Decide which marketing channels are the best fit for you and your ideal clients. Here are some of the most effective marketing strategies for coaches:
- Your personal network – this article gives steps to mine your network
- Social media – connecting with your ideal clients on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
- Other people’s audiences – e.g. guest posting or appearing on Podcasts
- Collaboration – partnering with people who serve a similar audience to you
- Local marketing (networking groups, local Meetup, speaking)
- SEO (blog posts, podcasts, etc.) – you can read more about SEO here
- Paid advertising – e.g. Facebook or Google ads
Select at least two strategies that you are willing to commit to for the next 2 – 3 months. This can include the same strategy you’ve been pursuing as part of your outreach plan. If it’s working for you then keep doing it.
But remember, your initial outreach was intended to test your coaching offer and sign your first few paying clients. Once you have an offer you know people will pay for, you want to select marketing channels that you can commit to over the long term.
Expand Your Offerings
There are two ways to scale your coaching business…
You can either increase your prices or increase your number of clients.
I advise all my students to start by increasing their coaching fees after every 3-10 clients. As your experience and credibility grow, so will the transformation you offer your clients. This increase in value should be reflected in how much you should charge.
Eventually, you will hit a price ceiling beyond which your target market will not pay. If you’re happy with your income, then you can stay working with one-on-one clients.
But if you’d like to keep scaling your business, you will need to expand your offerings. Some common ways to do this are by creating:
- A group program or mastermind – This is where you work with small groups. These are typically high-priced packages and can be structured as a one-off payment or multiple recurring payments.
- Online course(s) – This is how you can work with more customers at a lower price point. These are typically one-off payment and less work on your side once the course is created.
- Membership – This is where you work with more customers at a lower ticket value. You earn recurring revenue but you typically provide more ongoing support than with online courses.
Of course, you can mix and match or even create your own unique offering. Be ready to experiment and find the best fit for you and your ideal clients.
Start Your Life Coaching Business
I’ve packed a lot of information into this article. I covered everything you need to start a life coaching business.
Don’t feel like you have to race through the steps. This is your journey and it’s important to follow your own path. But DO make sure you keep taking action.
If you delay or give up too soon, you may never create your dream coaching business. Follow these steps and see where they lead you. The next few months may literally change your life.
When you’re ready to go deeper with your business, then join me and other home business owners inside my FREE community. You’ll get access to a library of proven resources for coaches, plus a supportive community to ensure you stay accountable and achieve your biggest goals.