Is building a coaching business the next step in your personal or professional growth? Coaching has never been easier to offer, technology advancements in remote meetings, screen sharing, digital learning environments, and scheduling tools have made building a coaching business accessible to anyone with topical expertise.
But before taking any action, I recommend figuring out a few key details. We need to map where you are currently, where you are going, and the path you want to take to get there.
Giving thought to these factors early in your business will set you up for success and reduce the roadblocks so many of us have had to overcome in years past.
Let’s look at some key factors in how to build a coaching business:
Your Ideal Client: Thoughtfully define who you will help and how
Who is your ideal client? The type of person you would love to have 10, or even 100 of? I’m willing to bet that the vision in your head is of someone who is eager to improve their situation, one who will listen to your advice and thoughtfully consider your position. One who will commit to the process and actively work to better themselves.
Further, it is someone who has identified a problem or pain point that you have the skills to help solve.
It is someone who has the means to compensate you for your time, expertise, advice, and experience. One who sees the value you bring to the equation and trusts that you have their best interest in mind.
It is someone who is accountable, shows up on time, is willing to do the work.
Sounds like the ideal client, right?
And she would be.
But we have to also look at the other person in the scenario.
What are you bringing to the table? What is your experience and viewpoint? Who do you help? How do you help them? Do you do everything for everyone? Or do you offer a specific service for a specific problem?
Do you help founders in the tech industry and cattle ranchers? Do you teach young professionals about their fitness and offer retirement advice? Do you offer relationship coaching services and dabble in coaching digital media executives?
I’ll talk about niching in a moment, but when you’re building your coaching business, defining who you work with (your ideal client) and how you work with them (your ideal product) is critically important.
Start with Your Goal: Think of your ideal business and work backward
Similar to using a GPS (I mean, we all use Siri now for directions, don’t we?), we must have a destination in mind. Your coaching business is no different.
When you envision Future You & Co., what do you see? Do you have a team? A large office with international clients? Do you see yourself as a boutique business managing only a small number of qualified clients? Are you selling online courses? Books? Only taking one-on-one meetings?
Are you taking a 3-month sabbatical each year? Are you financially supporting your household or replacing your current income?
How do you see connecting with clients? Remote? In-person? Both?
What is your hourly rate? Do you work on retainer or by the hour?
These may seem like pipe dreams or pie-in-the-sky questions, but they help bring your goal into focus. Without a goal, you’ll aimlessly float around for a few years and you won’t have a business – you’ll have a hobby.
Teach, Don’t Overwhelm: Don’t share all of your knowledge at once
If you’ve been exercising your craft for any length of time, you will have learned several ways to accomplish the same objective. Not only that, you’ll have developed shortcuts, discovered nuances, understood history and past practice, and created a methodology. This is both experience and expertise. Not only is this your secret sauce, but it is also your greatest weakness.
When we become experts in something, we suffer from the curse of knowledge. It is the cognitive bias that our students or audience understand a topic just as well as we do. We tend to communicate our position and thoughts as if they are us.
But that is not why people hire coaches.
No, people hire coaches to bring clarity and definition (and often accountability, if we’re being honest). Our clients are not looking for a thesis paper, instead, they are looking for Basics 1, 2, 3.
Your job as a coach is to deliver the actionable content in a step-by-step methodology so your client can follow along in a process and pace that makes sense to them.
Your Positioning: Be clear about your message and your value
You won’t be a fit for everyone – nor should you. In fact, I argue that coaches should choose a niche.
In my experience, when you are starting (or looking to gain more clients), defining a niche is a far better strategy than being a generalist. That said, once you are established, you can expand your service offerings. But at the start, you must be known for something (a niche), otherwise, you’ll be known for nothing.
By choosing a niche, you can position yourself as a true expert and give your clients the assurance that you understand their needs, speak their language, and know how to solve their problems.
Thoughtfully define your ideal client and the services which you will provide.
I am a business coach that works with bloggers and small business owners to help them grow their businesses.
I want to help my clients become financially independent and help them earn great money in doing so.
Don’t Settle: Only work with your ideal client
As you begin to establish yourself, you will begin to attract prospective clients. Beware of Predator Prospect – or piranhas.
They will eat you alive.
Predator Prospects may look appealing. In fact, they often present as quick and easy client projects. But you notice some (often subtle) warning signs. Perhaps they “just have to get” an appointment to see you, but they’re otherwise busy – forcing you to change plans last minute or work outside of your standard hours. Or perhaps they speak poorly about their last coach, or fail to be accountable for their situation, or don’t make the changes necessary to achieve their goals, or don’t follow through with their promises.
Predator Prospects are often the worst when it comes to scope creep. If you’re not familiar, scope creep is a deviance from the original plan. For example, if you are a fitness coach, you may offer online, at-home workout videos via a private portal. If a paying client reaches out and asks if you could also put together a list of your favorite healthy meals – and a breakdown of the ingredients – you’re starting down the slippery slope of scope creep.
“I don’t watch all of the workout videos, anyway….”
They hired you to do one thing, then begin making requests that change the original deal.
These are huge warning signs that new coaches often overlook or downplay. I mean, these clients are paying you, right? What’s the harm?
The harm is incalculable, actually.
Not only is this Predator Prospect sucking the joy out of your work, but they are also costing you time and energy that could otherwise be spent on someone committed to your process.
“Getting paid” is not a good enough reason to be a coach. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Don’t settle. Commit to only working with your ideal client.
Building a coaching business is a wonderful and exciting way to help others and leverage your expertise. I believe that we are all experts in something.
As you consider building your coaching business, remember to be clear about where you are currently (why are you doing what you’re doing), where are you going (what are your goals and vision for your business), and how are you going to get there (what services are you offering, who are you working with, what products will move you forward).
It is okay to say no to the wrong fit – but in terms of offerings and clients. You’re not for everybody. And that’s okay.