But what actually goes into creating a successful life coaching business? At Animas, we’re constantly speaking with coaches who have trained with us and who are at varying stages of building a life coaching business. Part of these conversations are people who have thriving, established coaching practices.
What’s striking is that in speaking with these people and discussing how they’ve built up and maintained their businesses, common themes usually emerge around what needs to happen to create a successful, sustainable practice.
In this article, we have summarised their top tips for building a successful life coaching business!
Get to know yourself
Now before you jump into drawing up a business plan, thinking about fees and what your niche is going to be, pause for a moment. These details are important, but not nearly as important as truly knowing yourself. Ultimately, whichever path you tread, the number one asset to that business will forever be you. This means that there is some groundwork to be laid first, around you and what you feel you might bring to a coaching business.
Think about why you want to be a coach, what sort of business you might want, and how you want to show up as a coach.
Get to know your strengths, your weaknesses, even your chips-on-the-shoulder. But in doing so be sure to assess yourself honestly and compassionately, and really work on those doubts and insecurities that come up. It is worth mentioning here that persistence, patience and tenacity are all key to building a successful coaching business, and so these are areas that are important to assess and work on as you see fit.
Also, get to know what it is that makes you unique. You’ll find success not in being the same as others, but in being different. Get clear on your values – they will become the lifeblood and personality of your business.
The most successful businesses grow from desire and belief. So know where your dreams lie, and then you’ll have the drive to make your coaching business a success. Everything else will flow from this, and always come back to this.
The last thing we’ll say on this is, you don’t necessarily need to have this all figured out before you actually begin working on your business. But is important to commit to working on this as an ongoing endeavour if you want a business that feels truly aligned with what you want in life.
Build your skills and aptitudes
Okay, so you’re working on getting a better idea of what you’re about, your skills and strengths and weaknesses. Next you need to start building both your business acumen and coaching skill set. This means it’s time to start taking your new coaching business seriously. This starts with the training, experience, and credentials to your name. The first question to ask yourself is obviously how to become a life coach. Our opinion, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that receiving reputable professional coach training is especially important as coaching in the UK is still largely unregulated. In a sense, you have to take responsibility for self-regulating.
Fortunately this is made much easier by looking for a coaching course that is accredited by reputable coaching bodies, such as the International Coaching Federation (UK) and the Association for Coaching. Taking the conscious decision to go down professional training paths, from either of these two organisations, will stand you in good stead.
An excellent course for those wishing to start their own coaching business is our very own coaching course, which we see as a jumping off point for a multitude of different styles of coaching. Life coaching, corporate coaching, internal coaching and wellbeing coaching are just a couple of the better known examples of different coaching styles. It is both astonishing and exciting the number of different types of coaching that are currently out there today!
On the business side, it really is important to soak up all the knowledge you can get around running a business. When you start out you’ll be the marketer, the sales person, the finance person, the operations person and the admin person! You’ll obviously learn as you go along but we really do recommend that you figure out your preferred way of learning (the most popular we find are courses, reading and podcasts), and “consume” as much knowledge as possible around building businesses.
Just get started!
Many coaches upon qualification jump straight into the details of their coaching business. Sometimes this is because there is a misconception that everything has to be in place to be able to find paying clients. Sometimes it can be a subtle procrastination technique that is underpinned by a fear of getting out there.
Whether spending time (and money) on their website, logo, branding or even business cards, a number of coaches get blinkered by the small details and forget the one thing that they should definitely be doing: getting coaching clients and actually coaching them.
It seems like common sense to coach, coach, coach, but it is surprising how many new coaches will sort their website and logo and strapline before even coaching anyone. Just because you have a website, that doesn’t mean people are going to find you and start piling through the door. It is the experience and practice of coaching as much as possible in the early days that will shape you as a coach – and help to put your name out there as someone that can really help others to transform their lives.
The point here is, don’t get paralysed by all of the things that you feel you have to do, just get out there and get coaching. Focus on finding your first client, then your second, then your third…
Trying to get everything right with things like the website, branding and visual identity can be time consuming and expensive. There’s also a risk that if you’re doing this first without coaching and earning anything you’ll soon come unstuck. If you don’t have much budget to work with in the beginning, you can provide coaching in return for other services, such as having a website built.
A good mindset to get into is the concept of “bootstrapping”. Rather than paying for something like a website and then hoping that you make money for it, figure out how much it might cost and then commit to finding a way of making the money! This way of thinking can be a revelation and has worked for many of our coaches in turning them into entrepreneurs as well as great coaches.
Figure out your preferred way of getting clients
There are several ways to finding yourself clients when starting out, but some of the most effective are summarised nicely by something we call the SNAPS acronym:
S – Speaking
N – Networking
A – Advertising
P – Personal Contacts
S – Social Media
Whether you’re a confident speaker who feels that public speaking might be the best approach to putting yourself out there, or that drawing on personal contacts feels right, there is more than one way to find yourself clients.
There are benefits to all of these methods, but the trick here is to find which feels right for you. You might be from an advertising background, or have a firm grasp on social media, and as such these might feel like a natural fit. Perhaps a combination is what feels like the most congruent approach, but it will be different for every coach.
The general consensus amongst coaches we speak with is start out trying a bit of everything if you’re not clear what you preferred method of getting clients is. However, over time and as you figure out what works best for you, put your focus into 2-3 methods as a maximum. Once you nail down the approach that you feel most confident about, or that works best for you, you need to work hard on getting really good at it!
As time passes and you start to gain momentum with the amount of clients that you are helping to achieve change, you will also most likely find that word will spread and people will begin to find you based on the positive word-of-mouth testimonials of those that you have worked with.
Start charging early on
This is one of the things that many coaches find difficult, particularly at the start of their coaching business journey. It can be an uncomfortable feeling to charge people when you don’t yet have any experience but if you fall into this pattern, there’s a risk it only gets harder.
The advice we often hear from established coaching? Start charging straight away, even if it is only a nominal amount and even it feels uncomfortable. There’s something invaluable about getting used to charging and receiving money in exchange for coaching, no matter how small that amount is. We often find that newly-qualified coaches charge £20-£30 an hour. After your first few clients, you will likely become much more comfortable with the idea of charging, and also will have a better idea of what your value is.
Ultimately, you should charge what you feel represents your value. At the outset this might be £20 an hour, but as you grow in both experience and confidence so will your coaching fees.
Be humble – You can’t do it all
When setting out as a life coach, you will be the marketer, accounts person, coach, website designer, the list goes on. There is so much to it, and you’re a one-person team trying to run a coaching business. However, if you’re doing all this, you most likely aren’t coaching anywhere near as much as you should be.
Most of the time, and as a new coach that’s where your focus needs to be. The steep learning curve can be hugely invaluable. But one thing we often hear from established coaches is that they figure out what they enjoy doing, or are good at doing, and delegate the rest. Be humble. You can’t be an expert at it all. If you want to create a truly sustainable life coaching business that can grow over time, delegating will be a key skill that you have to learn.
Don’t get caught up in setting your niche from the outset
It might seem like common sense but you would be surprised at how many people set their niche before they have even coached anyone. We often hear things like “I’m going to work with women aged 30 who are struggling with X.” Yet this person hasn’t ever worked with these people, or anyone at all for that matter.
We aren’t saying don’t have ideas or desires around your niche by any means, but how can you decide what your area of expertise is or who you enjoy helping the most if you haven’t coached anyone yet?
Niching is often very much something that you grow into. As you progress on your coaching journey, building experience and confidence you will find that you fall into your niche naturally. The more clients that you coach, the clearer picture you get of not just who you are as a coach, but what areas you’re adept at working with, and the type of people with whom your coaching approach is most effective.
If you do feel that you have absolutely clarity about your niche before you begin, then great! However, there is a consensus amongst coaches we speak with that it’s important to keep an open mind as you become more experienced, and to not be too dogmatic about your niche. We often find coaches get surprised, in a pleasant way, by what their niches end up being!
This might sound a little cliché, but it really is one of the most important aspects of your life coaching business. You.
You are what makes your business unique, and in a profession like life coaching, it is so important to be authentic to you. Particularly in an industry like life coaching.
Let’s take marketing as one example. If you’re not someone that enjoys webinars, and would never join one, or feel that you get much from it, then to set up webinars as part of your business isn’t being you. You don’t have the passion for it, or even an interest in it – this will show to your prospective clients and come out in your business performance.
Staying true to yourself is so important. Do what you enjoy and believe in, not what everyone else is doing. Ultimately people will come to you for what you offer as a coach, so embrace who you are.
Continue to grow
The coaching journey is one that never ends, you constantly grow and change as you build your experience and skill set, and your coaching business grows with you.
Part of this is around actively continuing to push and develop yourself and your coaching. Put some of your money and time into Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses. Remember, you’re responsible for regulating your own coaching business, and this requires dedication and a desire to continually improve and develop. Ensuring that your chosen CPD coaching courses are worthwhile is of key importance.
Don’t just grow as coach however, if you want your business to succeed, you also need to continuously grow as a business person. Identify what aspect of your business skill set is missing that’s keeping you where you are at, and then make it your goal to do the work behind that. If you don’t learn to plug the gaps and get better at business, then you simply won’t grow your business, no matter how much you grow as a coach.
Thank you so much for reading. We hope that you found this article useful!