How to Get Coaching Clients – A Marketing Primer for Coaches

Marketing for coaches

How to Get Coaching Clients – A Marketing Primer for Coaches

To succeed as a coach, people need to know about you.

Not everyone. 

Just the people who need or want what you do. 

That, in a nutshell, is what marketing is all about.

All too often, I hear coaches say things like “I don’t like marketing!” or “I’m not a marketer!” as though it were some dark, arcane profession.

Indeed, many coaches think of it as something antithetical to coaching – hyperbolic, cheesy or fake.

But the truth is, the lament I hear that “I don’t like marketing and there are too many people out there telling you how to be a 7-figure coach!” says more about what a coach notices than it does about the nature of marketing for coaches.

At its most basic, marketing is simply making sure people know about you and become interested in knowing more.

Even if you’re not a “marketer”, that can be an enjoyable and fun process.

More importantly, whether or not it’s enjoyable, it is essential.

That’s why I’ve written this article: to help you figure out how you get known by potential clients.

Now, before you think – “Marketing? I don’t even have a niche!”, don’t worry – for the purposes of this article, you don’t need to focus too much on the idea of finding a niche – though we do cover it in part.

Instead, we are looking at this from the perspective of how you draw people to the set of skills (coaching etc) that you have and the changes that you want to bring about for people. 

That’s a perfectly good place to start so don’t let your concerns about not having a niche stop you getting started. 

To help make this article more digestible, I’ve split this article into three parts:

  1. Laying the Marketing Foundations
  2. How to Reach Your Market
  3. Attraction and Invitation

In reality though, this is an iterative and constantly developing process in which you will continuously refine each part of your marketing.

As you go through this article, do try to think through the answers to the questions for yourself.  Theory is one thing – application is another.

Part 1 – Laying the Marketing Foundations 

Regardless of whether you have a niche, or not, there are various elements that will affect your marketing which, (amongst other things) include: 

  • What you do – the services you provide
  • How you do it – your style, approach, method
  • How you’re different – what makes you you
  • How you want to coach – local, online, international, etc
  • Who you want to work with – issues, types of people, etc
  • What you would enjoy doing (writing, video, speaking, etc)
  • The resources at your disposal (money, time, skills.

All of these will dictate who needs to know about you and how you shape your strategy to be known by, and attract, them.

The question for you as someone who has a particular set of skills (coaching etc) that you want to build a business around is: who wants or needs what you do? 

When you know this you’ll also know who needs to know about you.

So in this first section, we’ll explore what it is you actually do and who needs it.

What Do You Do?

Let’s start with what you do in terms of the skills you have and the changes you bring about. 

It isn’t enough to say that your skill is “coaching”. 

You are more unique than that. 

Your coaching will typically lend itself to particular issues more than others. 

So rather than saying, “I help people overcome hurdles”, get clear on what hurdles, how, and why. 

The clearer you get the more effectively you’ll be able to target and communicate your message to the people who need what you do.

One classic way of formulating this is to complete the following:

I help [X kind of people] to achieve {Y kind of changes] through [Z methods].

For instance, I help retiring executives get clear on their next steps and implement them by providing goal-oriented coaching.

Now, I can already hear what you’re saying…”but that’s a niche and I don’t have one!”

Firstly, you already have a niche – you just might not know it. The amount you charge, how you prefer to do your coaching, your style of coaching – these all make up a niche of sorts.  

But that aside, let’s try a nicheless version:

I help people who are struggling to make progress get clear on their outcomes and hurdles and take steps forward in life.

That’s almost a definition of coaching but it’s also a good starting point for you as we work through this here.

So, let’s try answering the question “what do you do?” in a few steps by covering:

  • What specific skills do you have?
  • What issues do these skills allow you to work with?
  • What changes do you bring about?

What specific skills do you have?

Let’s get clear on how you do the work you do.

Think about what skills or tools you make use of.

For coaching, be specific – do you use performance coaching, existential coaching, wellness coaching? Do you use cognitive behavioural coaching, transactional analysis, Gestalt?

If you trained with Animas, you will be able to list here things like a transformative approach built on psychological frameworks such as TA, CBC, etc. 

You might also bring other skills that you have learned elsewhere such as NLP, EMDR, hypnotherapy and so on.

What, in other words, are all the ingredients of your coaching business?

What issues do these skills allow you to work with?

Having listed the skills you have, what issues do they allow you to work with? 

Again, be specific. 

If you work with illness, what illnesses specifically? If you work with executives, on what kinds of issues? If you work with fitness, what kind and in what way? Weight loss, toning, energy, calmness. If you work with beliefs, what kind? 

Try your best to really get beneath the surface of sweeping generalisations.

Write down the issues your skills allow you to work with.

What changes do you bring about?

Having listed all your skills, what are the specific changes you want to help people bring about?

For instance, if you’re a relationship coach, try to get as specific as you can about the beneficial outcomes of the coaching you offer. Reducing unnecessary arguments? Getting clear and committed on joint outcomes? Planning life after kids? 

Take a look at the list of issues and then list the changes you bring around. Don’t simply say “get rid of x” – ask yourself what getting rid of x would do for someone.

What makes you different?

If you were simply to compare qualifications and technical skills, then many coaches would look identical. But there’s so much more to coaching than that. 

Why might someone choose you over someone else, or indeed why might you not be right for someone? Any number of factors can influence this including your personal history, your manner, personality, style of working, interests, etc.

Although you may be unlikely to communicate all, or even any, of these in your marketing explicitly, it’s extremely useful to understand who you are. Are you challenging? Are you supportive? Do you find you excel at limiting belief change or perhaps accountability and pushing people through their comfort zones? Maybe you’re very supportive and reassuring. 

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.

Try to write down all the characteristics that make you who you are as coach and as a person.

Who are your clients?

As you work through the previous questions, you might notice how you can start to identify your ideal client – the person that will benefit from working with you.

To get even clearer on this, you can use our INSPIRED Model designed for identifying a potential niche. I’ve written a full post about this here but for now, here is a summary.


INSPIRED is a thinking model. It prompts you to explore and brainstorm potential client types through various lenses and by the end of working with INSPIRED, you should have a list of client types which will help you notice possible patterns of who shows up most frequently and where your energy and interest is drawn.

INSPIRED stands for:


What interests you? What do you enjoy doing? What hobbies do you have? What do you enjoy reading or learning?


Who do you know? What networks are you already part of? What networks might you gain access to through existing contacts? 


Who is like you? Think about your gender, age, sexuality, faith, career, etc. Who would sense that they have a similar background or experience to you?


What are you passionate about achieving? What would you give up other things for in order to pursue? What drives you at your core?


What would you like to fix about the world? What do you find yourself frustrated by?

Relatable Experiences 

What are your life experiences that some people will relate to, whether that’s in the form of successes or challenges? What are your big stories that inspire or move people?


What are your specific skills or knowledge across your life, not just coaching related.


What basic criteria might define the people you want to work with? Age, location, profession, income bracket, etc

Run through each of these without necessarily trying to identify a client group.  Just notice what you see and, most likely, something will emerge as a potential niche from within it.

Where are your clients?

Once you have some notion of who your clients are, you can start to figure out where they are.

Even if you don’t have a niche yet, you can identify that they are in your local area or on Facebook, etc.

Are your clients primarily located in a particular location? Do they come from a particular source that you can already define (a clinic or networking group, for instance)? Do they read a particular blog or magazine? Are they from a particular organisation?

Think carefully to define where your typical client is likely to come from. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t work with anyone who doesn’t fit this description – it simply helps you to focus your marketing efforts.

Conclusion to Part 1

OK, so now you have done the groundwork.  You have the foundations of:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • How you’re unique (and yes, you really are!)
  • Who your clients are
  • Where they are

Now it’s time to start reaching potential clients.

Marketing for coaches primer

Part 2 – How to reach your market

Sometimes the idea of marketing can seem overwhelming! 

There seem to be so many things you need to do and so many options for doing them. 

In reality though, marketing is simply about doing things so that those who need/want what you do can know you exist.

You’ve already established what makes you unique and who your natural market is. Now you need to figure out how to reach them.

The good news is that there are only so many ways to reach any market. 

It’s not magic and there are not limitless options. 

You simply need to decide which will be the most effective ways to reach the people you want to work with and how much time and money you have to invest in each.

Nowadays, marketing strategies can be divided into three broad categories: 

  • Online
  • Offline
  • Personal contact

There’s no doubt that, despite the growth of online business and people’s habit of searching online, as a coach your biggest strength is yourself and your presence. So unless you are going to market yourself as a remote-based coach (ie. using Zoom, phone, etc) then your most effective results will come from human contact. 

People still buy people and no video, smart copywriting or downloadable resource can replace you, the human being.

So assuming you want to work directly with clients then ensure that you have some personal contact marketing as part of your marketing mix.

Now, let’s take a look at your options.

Although the following might not be every possible approach you could take, they do represent the main sources of business you’re likely to use and if you struggle to choose marketing methods that suit you here then you may be in the wrong business.

Before you select the approaches you think best suit you, let’s run through them briefly.

Personal Contact Marketing

Existing Contacts

This is essentially anyone you know. 

List your family, friends, colleagues, associates – anyone who may or may not need your service. Don’t edit, just list every one. Some may become clients, some may refer you.

One of  the things I tell every coach to do when the first start out in their business is to take a piece of paper and split it into three columns.  In the first column, list everyone in your life who could be a client, in  the second column list every person in your life who could refer you to other people (there may be plenty of crossover with column one as well) and in the third column, list everyone you wouldn’t want to approach about your business, either because they are too close (parents etc), or you don’t want to deal with them for some reason.  

Once you have done this, create a plan to reach out to three people per day to connect and let them know what you’re up to. It can be particularly useful to ask them if they know someone who would benefit from what you do rather than asking them if they would benefit. If they are interested, they will willingly put their hand up to ask if you would work with them, don’t worry!

General Contact With People

This is simply the encounters you have with people on a day-to-day basis. Your hairdresser, someone on a bus, the person on the table next to you. 

Always be open to chatting with people and becoming curious about them and how you might be a part of their journey. But, take care, not to become a one-person selling machine that everyone dreads seeing!  

Open Networking/Events

These are general events in which you’ll mix and mingle with people. It could be a conference, a formal dinner event, an awards party, an educational seminar, or just a social event like a BBQ!

Formal Networking Group

These are organisations set up specifically for networking. The biggest of these is BNI but there are also places like Athena Network, Women in Business, 4Networking and so on. These will often just accept one type of professional per industry so if you can secure a place you’ll be the only coach there.

Speaking At Workshops

Speaking is a great way to reach many people at the same time and when you’re starting there’s no better way to do this than to get yourself into other people’s groups as a speaker. Get to know the organiser and ask if you can present on your chosen topic.

Speaking At Social Groups

As above, only this time seek out the local groups such as the Rotary Club, Women’s Institute and so on.

Create Your Own Group

A great way to take control of this process is to create your own group perhaps using something like meetup.com to form a mutual interest group or by creating a local group using places like the library to attract interest.

Run A Series Of Classes

Offer to run a series of classes either for a fee or voluntarily for an organisation such as a local college, school, university or local employer. This will hugely boost your status and put a lot of people in front of you.


Volunteer to help in a local charity or organisation. Although it’s not a direct business opportunity, you’ll soon meet people who can make all the difference for you.

Direct Telephone Contact

Call up your local council, the big employers or whoever might be interested in allowing you to work directly with their workforce or their community.


Word Of Mouth

This is simply other people talking about you. They might be current or former clients or they may be people who have seen your services but don’t need it themselves yet like the look of it. The added weight comes from the social proof that word of mouth creates.


You may be able to associate yourself with a complementary health clinic, gym or other organisation by hiring their rooms, joining their list of freelancers or jumping whatever hurdle is needed to be part of their team. The benefit here is that they will effectively generate leads for you and although you’ll pay for the room and perhaps commission this is marketing that’s done for you.


Distributing leaflets is generally a costly and ineffective approach to marketing but it remains a favourite of people starting up..


You can choose to buy a space at a show or expo. This might be a local event or even a high-profile London based expo. The key is measuring the cost against the benefit and understanding your return on investment. Shows can be very effective but they’re often also very expensive.  They are also a lot less popular in the new virtual age!


Advertising is often a terrible waste of time but if you have the right message for the right medium then it can still work. Take care to choose your market very well and create an ad that demands a response not just an awareness-raising ad.

Joint Ventures

Joint ventures can be an excellent source of business. 

Seek out other service providers for whom you can provide a service to their clients. For instance, a hypnotherapist might approach a dentist, a small business coach might approach an accountant and so on. 

The arrangement you create will need to be mutually beneficial but these arrangements can stand the test of time if they work. The question for you to consider is who already provides a service to your target market but doesn’t do what you do.


PR is great when you can get it. An article in the local newspaper or industry journal can rocket your status and help you secure high profile clients. You’ll need to master the art of sending the right article at the right time but it takes common sense and the ability to be creative more than specialist industry knowledge.



Explore directories for your industry – eg. coaching directories  – as the marketing is being done for you.  

The downside is that all of your competition is there too! So be sure you make the effort to create the best profile you can.

Google Ads

These are the small paid ads you’ll see on the top and the right of Google search results when you search for a phrase. Unlike traditional advertising, you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it because it’s interested them. 

Likewise, your ad will only appear when someone searches for a word that you have indicated you want to appear for. You can also target your ads geographically which is ideal for local practitioners. Google Ads are an excellent marketing method so long as you have a good website to take the traffic to.

Facebook Ads

Similar to Google Ads, you only pay for your ad when someone clicks your ad on Facebook. Unlike Google, the ads don’t appear based on a searched-for term but instead based on demographics and interests that you choose when you set the ad up. So you can select the age range, location, interests etc. Again, you need a destination to take the interested clicker to. 

Other Paid Online Advertising

Google and Facebook are the most common pay-per-click types but depending on your market there are other places that offer this including Bing, LinkedIn, YouTube and more.

Google and Other Search Ranking

If you have a website then you’ll want people to find it. One way is through the pay per click as described above. However, ideally you’d like people to find your site without paying for the click and this is achieved by ranking on page one of Google for certain key phrases. 

Unless you have a lot of money you might as well forget short phrases like “coaching” – instead, seek to rank for local phrases such as “spider phobia Lewisham”. Decide what terms are important to you and focus on them.

Email Marketing

To use email marketing, you need an email list. If you don’t have one to start with then begin as soon as you can to build this list from people you meet in networking and other places. Once you start to create your list, stay in touch with them. Don’t constantly sell to them – offer them interesting emails and occasionally offer your services.


Facebook offers access to nearly a vast number of people but, of course in reality most are not even remotely in your target market. 

So focus on creating a presence which communicates brilliantly to your market and don’t try to be all things to all people. Offer interesting links and engage your audience in a conversation. Over time this will create a sense of loyalty and community.

Facebook Groups

Creating Facebook Groups is an excellent way to create a micro-community around you and your theme.  Grow the community over time by asking for referrals, providing an exceptional learning experience and engaging with members.  


Twitter allows you to create short updates that give value by sharing information which ultimately creates a loyal following and drives visitors to your site.


LinkedIn is a great site if you want to reach the corporate market and also to position yourself professionally in terms of your credentials and experience.


If you like producing videos, then YouTube is the place for you. As the second biggest search engine in the world after Google, if you create short videos and focus on being found through keywords then you can build a following that drives traffic to your website.

Article Marketing

Demonstrate your expertise and share your knowledge by writing articles and publishing them on sites like ezinearticles.com. At the bottom of your article you will have a boiler plate which gives your details and links to your website.

Online PR

Like offline PR, you need to offer useful content that an online publisher might use. 

A Note About Websites And Blog

You might be wondering why “website” or “blog” is not on the list. Quite simply, these are not ways to reach your market – they are places your target-market might visit once you reach out to them. 

People don’t stumble across your site. They arrive at them through one of the above methods – a link on Facebook, a business card from networking, a search for a keyword that brings your website to the first page of Google etc

In a moment you’ll decide which of these strategies is right for you. 

Be aware, too, that some marketing strategies will get you great results but the impact is short-lived and you need to keep repeating them forever unless you find new ways to secure clients. Other approaches might not get clients so quickly or directly but they build a platform of growth over time.

Ideally you want to balance these so that you get clients straight away whilst you build a solid foundation that will slowly but surely feed you leads for life.

Whilst I can’t give a definitive plan for what will work, for a typical coaching practice I would suggest using two or three of the following strategies to get started:

  • Word of Mouth/Referrals
  • Speaking 
  • Networking
  • Running an online group/community 
  • Creating low-cost workshops or webinars

Conclusion to Part 2

Now it’s time for you to think which of these marketing channels you would like to use.

Your choice is going to be influenced not only by where your clients “hang out” but also what you like doing – eg: writing, speaking, networking, videos etc

My suggestion would be to pick no more than four to go all in on with one as your primary marketing channel.

get more coaching clients

Part 3 – Attraction and Invitation

So, let’s do a stock take of where we are.

You have now clarified what you do, how you do it, what difference it makes, how you’re unique, who your clients are and where they are.

You have also now decided your mix of marketing channels.

The final piece of the marketing puzzle before it shifts into the “sales” phase of getting clients, is what you will use these marketing channels for.

In other words, what are you going to do with these marketing channels?

Whether you have decided upon public speaking, Facebook Ads, networking or something else, you need to know what you’re going to do with each channel.

And that’s all about attraction and invitation.

What do I mean by this?

Well, think about the worst advert you have seen on Facebook that has made you think, “ugh! Why would I work with you?! You’re so hypey!” (or whatever you thought!)

This failed to both attract and invite you.

Now think about something you felt excited to buy.  Something about their marketing attracted you and then invited you to buy, enrol, join etc.

You need to achieve the same in whatever marketing channels you choose.

Far too often I see coaches assume that a prospective client will do the hard work themselves.  I see so many coaches post things that sound something like: “I’m a coach and I have availability for clients. Let me know if you’re interested!”

How is that attractive?  

All it does is to tell people that you want more clients. But how does that person know if you’re the right coach for them?

Let me share two very different propositions with you…

“If you’re looking for a coach who’ll stop you making excuses, get you to think far beyond your current expectations and refuse to take “I can’t” for an answer, I’m the right coach for you…”

“If you’re struggling with self doubt and would like to work with a coach to gently unblock your thinking, untangle your confusion and help you find clarity and peace of mind, then I’m the right coach for you…”

These are very unrefined to make my point but you get the drift.  They will attract very different people and set up very different expectations.

And that’s the whole point of marketing.

Your marketing channels are nothing more than empty conduits down which you “send” your message in order to attract and connect your client group.

To do that, you need to go full circle back to the beginning to when you figured out who you were, what you do, how you do it, why and for whom and you need to communicate this in ways that will attract and connect.


Your marketing message needs to attract your client group by speaking to them in a way that interests and intrigues them.

If you decide that public speaking is a key channel, and you want to offer compassion-focused coaching and therapy, it would be a strange thing indeed to get up on stage and share a message of how everyone needs to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and “get over it!”

Equally, simply repeating what people already know, or have heard  many times before without adding to the conversation in the prospective client’s head is not going to be attractive.

You need to figure out what your potential clients want to hear from you that is authentic to you and meets them where they are at.  

In other words, this is not about saying things you don’t believe but rather getting clear about what you do believe and saying it in a way that is attractive to potential clients.


The final piece of the marketing puzzle is the invitation.

If you have attracted people with what you say or do, this doesn’t mean they will automatically even think of working with you.  The reason is that people need to be invited to take the next step.  

If someone likes what you say and believe you can help them, they still need to know that they have permission to say “yes, please, I want to know more!”

Imagine that you post an inspiring social media post that garners lots of interest and comments, but that there is no invitation – few, if any people, will reach out to you.  

Many people will think things like “who am I to message this person!” The perception of authority, ironically, can act as a barrier to gaining clients unless you invite people to work with you.

In marketing terms, this is typically achieved by a call to action.

The call to action lets people know what they need to do to take the next step.  It is no more complicated than that.

Often, coaches will either not provide a call to action at all, or they will go overboard with special offers, capitalised text, multiple emojis and so on.

Instead, you just need to consistently (and without pressure) let people know what to do to work with you.

This could be a final five minutes at the end of a talk, a social media “signature” that you include on every post, a Book Now button for a webinar via a Facebook Ad and so on.

Don’t assume that potential clients will figure out the next step for themselves.  

Tell them what to do!

At this point, you are now leaving the escalator from the Marketing floor and you’ve reached the Sales floor! I’ll end this post here and Sales (or consultations as we often call it in coaching) is a whole separate topic.


Clearly I have just scratched the surface of marketing here.  

What I hope is clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to your marketing.  So much of it will depend on who you are and what you do, who your clients and what they want, and what means of communication you prefer.

The critical aspect is to become clear in all of these components.

Marketing is simply ensuring that people who need what you have, get to know you exist, and are attracted to check you out.

Work through all the elements I have covered here and, whilst this won’t produce a complete marketing strategy, you will be further along the road than the vast majority of coaches.

Finally, if I can offer one last word of wisdom: avoid pigeonholing yourself as a “non-marketer” and, instead, learn to embrace it.  Done right, marketing is a space for creativity, authenticity and connection.

Good luck on the next steps of your journey.

Author Details
Nick is the founder and CEO of Animas Centre for Coaching and the International Centre for Coaching Supervision. Nick is an existentially oriented coach and supervisor with a passion for the ideas, principles and philosophy that sits behind coaching.
Nick Bolton Avatar
Nick Bolton

Nick is the founder and CEO of Animas Centre for Coaching and the International Centre for Coaching Supervision. Nick is an existentially oriented coach and supervisor with a passion for the ideas, principles and philosophy that sits behind coaching.

Receive a Monthly Roundup of our Best Articles Direct to Your Inbox.

Attend a FREE Online Introduction to Transformative Coaching

To find out more about the Animas transformative approach to coaching, why not book a spot on our FREE introductory training session where you can get all your questions answered.

Latest Blog Posts