05 May How To Start A Coaching Business
As a first response reporter to the 9/11 attacks in New York, and a print journalist and producer for the BBC, Fiona Anderson was always passionate about stories of people trying to change the world for the better.
For Fiona, no matter where she was, work was always about helping people. And her passion peaked when she decided to focus on helping people help themselves, as a coach. Her coaching model has been the same since graduating from the BBC’s award-winning internal coach network in 2003—to coach with compassion.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. You’ve started to throw around the idea of starting a coaching business, but you’ve been looking for that push to get started. We know that running your own business requires a lot of hard work, a passion for people and determination. So, to make things a little easier, we’ve created this guide.
Determining If Coaching Is Right For You
Coaching starts with experience, and regardless of which field you’ve decided to go into, it’s a good idea to build up industry knowledge before you decide to start your own business. Luckily, gaining experience doesn’t have to be something that takes decades to build, and you may already hold a lot of the skills required to be a great coach – such as:
1.You’ve excelled in something (such as running a business or managing a thriving social media presence) that is relevant to the type of coaching you’d like to do).
2. You have professional experience that is associated with the type of coaching you want to do.
3. You have a business-oriented mindset, but are looking for a more flexible work situation where you can share your passion with others.
If one of these situations rings true for you, you have a great platform to build from! Having the knowledge from helping yourself succeed is a great place to start.
There are, of course, a lot of pros and cons that go alongside working as a consultant.
Everything from a having a more flexible schedule, being able to work in multiple capacities, independence, and the ability to be your own boss are bonuses.
But, on the flip-side, it is also important to acknowledge that there can be struggles as well, namely high stress, work inconsistencies, and even some societal stigmas about the non-conventional structure of a coaching business.
For these reasons, it’s important for you to ensure this is something you would really enjoy doing. Here are some great questions to initially ask yourself:
1.Do you have a passion for ideas? Do you enjoy problem-diagnosis, problem-framing, and problem-solving?
2.Are you a self-motivator? Do you push yourself to succeed without needing constant guidance or someone leading you? Are you a networker?
3.Do you have a passion for people? Do you love seeing others succeed and help themselves?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then it sounds like a coaching business may be a fit for you! Your next step is finding out what requirements are necessary in order for you to practice your coaching.
Tools To Get You Started
Some coaching fields may require you to have a certification before you’re allowed to practice, and others may want you to carry one in order to show credibility. Fields that may require these types of certifications can include insurance, real estate, financial planning, fundraising, and accounting.
Apart from certifications, it’s important for new consultants to realize the importance of having the correct business licenses, which can usually be applied for at your local city or county clerk’s office. Some states may also require you to register with your department of state.
While a common misconception is that consultants don’t need a business license in order to run their business, having one is necessary. The good news is that having this license comes with added benefits such as allowing you to qualify for business credit, bank accounts, and the ability to land more established clients.
Some other great free resources can be found at your fingertips and don’t require you to even leave home! Find online information about the best coaching practices from university professors (free!) by using Coursera, a web resource chalked full of courses from the nation’s top educational institutions. Webinars and podcasts (and the communities built around them) are also a great resource for connecting with others who are in the coaching field. LiveOutLoud is a podcast directory that gives you access to multiple coaching podcasts, and allows you to search for them based on field or industry.
Attracting Your First Clients
So you’ve made the decision to start, and you’ve now equipped yourself with the knowledge to succeed—what’s next!? Simply deciding to be a coach won’t result in clients swarming to your business, but there are some tips that will help.
Family and friends
If you don’t think you have the years of experience yet, don’t worry! Building your experience from inside sources—even family members or friends—is a great starting point. As with any type of client, the key is to make sure that your work arrangement is clearly defined. Keeping things on a professional level will also help you gain experience for how you want to interact with other clients, in the future. When it comes to payment, it’s key to remember that these accounts are here to build experience, more than anything else. By working for little or even free, before you really grow your business, you’ll gain valuable expertise that will allow you to move on to larger, more profitable accounts.
We also recommend getting yourself out there by volunteering to speak at events. These resources are great for networking and finding communities and associations specifically made up of coaches and consultants for you to join, and gain support from. Don’t only limit yourself to groups of other consultants, though. Remember that being part of communities of small business owners and entrepreneurs can be a great way to pick up new clientele.
When you’re first starting out as a coach, it’s important for you to take advantage of as many free or low-cost marketing resources as you can. This means taking advantage of social media by not only becoming a presence, but utilizing the communities that are relevant to your practice.
Even beyond Facebook and Twitter, make sure that you’re connecting with people on platforms such as LinkedIn, and don’t forget how important your website is, as a reference point. Posting on your website, or blog, frequently establishes credibility with your clients, and shows that you’re an active and knowledgeable resource without you having to engage with them individually. Think of it as a virtual introduction.
Build a Sales Pipeline
Take a moment to think about what you’re bringing to the table, as a coach. What are you offering that makes you the right choice for prospective clients, rather than them working with your competitors? Take some time to create a list of skills that make your consulting business the top choice in your field. This will allow you to gauge your strengths and think up areas where your business can growth can happen. Having it readily available with also allow you to know your strengths enough to pinpoint and be ready when new opportunities come along.
Create Case Studies
As you complete client work, make sure you take the time to record each of your finished projects as case studies, so you have the information available for easy sharing with prospective clients. This allows you to have documented specifics of your prior work, and will make networking that much more efficient. This can also give prospective clients a better idea of what specific skills you’ll be able to provide them with, providing peace of mind about using your service.
Don’t forget to update these materials frequently, as well! Keeping a consistent eye on your prospective clients and leads will keep you on top of new developments and help you develop material to connect with potential clients.
Something less tangible, but just as important, is your pitch. This is going to be the most valuable 30 seconds of talking you’ll do for your business. And you’ll be using it on multiple occasions.
When preparing this pitch it’s important for you to highlight who you are, what you do and why it’s important/worth the person’s time.Remember to not only provide the services you have to offer as a company, but also the measurable results that show that you’re someone the potential client should invest their time and interest in. Start out with these steps to write your pitch:
Step 1: Highlight Your Accomplishments
First things first, when someone asks you what you do, connect the dots – highlighting your strongest skills. This would include accomplishments such as prior business successes. Find these strengths by asking yourself what skills you have continued to excel at using in past roles, and identify where you’ve succeeded in the past.
Step 2: Highlighting Your Greatest Strengths
Now that you’ve analyzed your strengths, it’s time to think up some specific examples. Saying that you’re good at something is one thing, but giving a specific indicator of how you’re good at it allows for potential clients to see through to what’s important to you within that skillset. Think of this as the space for “because” – I’m great at listening because I have a passion for helping people feel like their ideas have been heard. If you’re having a hard time figuring this one out, go based on what people have positively said about you to pinpoint where you’re most confident.
Step 3: What Is It That You Want?
This may sound blunt, but it’s important for people to know what you’re seeking in order to see if it’s a good fit for them to help you achieve. This is the part of your speech that requires complete clarity. Are you looking for a client? A business partner? A mentor? Make sure that your intentions are clear and you’ll establish credibility while also establishing the “what” of your conversation.
Step 4: Talk About Why You’re In Your Business
This is going to be the motivation of your business pitch. This is where you’ll explain why you’re in your business. Why are you in the consulting realm and what motivates you to pursue others who may need your help? This is a great place for you to state who it is that benefits from your work and to really pour passion into the last part of your speech. You’ll know you’ve hit a home run when you finish off with your eyes glowing with passion. Shoot for that goal, and you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Once you’ve put all of this together, your elevator pitch should sound something like this:
“I founded a consulting business that is the highest-ranked creative consulting business in the western United States. In the last year, we’ve helped over 50 companies achieve growth in their profit shares, as a direct result of our creative marketing strategies. We’re passionate about empowering businesses to achieve creative independence.”
It may seem obvious, but one of your most powerful tools when starting your business, is for you to network, network, network. Build relationships within online communities, check out local groups via sites like Meetup, and remember not to sell yourself short when meeting people in person.
Here are some tips to remember when networking in person:
1.Create a goal: Know how many contacts you want to leave the event having connected with. Maybe this is 3, maybe it’s 5. The key is to keep it at a manageable amount that you can easily follow up with, afterwards.
2.Make a great first impression: First impressions are everything, so make sure you bring your A game. Come prepared with business cards, your elevator pitch and make sure that you look professional, as someone who is the face of your company.
3.Take advantage of every opportunity: Leads can be found in the least expected places, and that rule is no different for networking. Go the extra mile by speaking to people who you might otherwise pass by, and sticking around for the reception.
4.Listen, and then impress: When you’re networking, remember that it’s not all about you. Don’t give out business cards, unless you are asked (or it naturally makes its way into conversation) and make sure that you’re equally engaging with the person who you’re connecting with.
5.Don’t forget to follow up: Your biggest tool, when networking, is your follow up. Start by connecting with people on LinkedIn and then build from there with an email or call. Handwritten notes are also a great touch!
Figuring Out The Financial Side Of Things
As with any business, becoming a coach needs to bring in solid revenue, and figuring out how to ensure that your monetary trickle becomes a steady stream can become a journey in itself. Luckily, there are some measures you can take in order to help this become less of a chance factor.
Designing A Creative Compensation Structure
Remember when we mentioned, above, that you would need to be a problem solver to be successful in your coaching business? Well this is the perfect moment for you to put that cap on! When you’re first starting out with your coaching business, it can be hard for clients to feel comfortable forking out money to someone without adequate experience. Instead of monetary compensation, entice new clients by being creative with the way you charge for your services.
Charging Value Based Off Experience
When you start off in the coaching field, it is important to realize that your services are something that holds value, and that shouldn’t be given away carelessly.
When you have extensive knowledge about a certain area, it’s natural for people to want to gather information from you. As a coach, it’s important for you to change your mindset about ‘meeting for coffee’ and other version of the same, which involve discussing matters that would otherwise be charged for.
A good meter of how to know if you should be charging someone for your expertise is for you to ask yourself whether that person could just Google the answer to their question. If the answer is no, you should be thinking about whether this person should be a client.
The good news is, it’s up to you how you charge for your coaching services. If someone is managing a company or business with a limited budget, you have the option of having them pay you in terms other than money. But don’t undersell yourself!
Make sure that you approach pricing after doing the right amount of research for what you should be charging for your services. Here are some of our tips for getting started in the pricing arena.
Ways To Charge For Your Coaching Services
When you’re first starting out, it can seem daunting to know what the ‘right’ way to calculate your rate is. But calculating your rate using our Coaches Guide is a great place to start! It’s also important that you decide which style of payment you’re going to use before approaching a client (or, at least, which you would prefer). Here are some common ways coaches are paid for their services:
Lump Sum: Also referred to as a flat rate, this method of payment means there is one price for the account, that is agreed upon and paid. In order to ensure that this fee doesn’t have additional tasks added on throughout the engagement, make sure that what’s expected is put in writing and agreed upon ahead of time.
Hourly or Daily Rates: These methods of payment are pretty self explanatory and are more on the traditional side of payment. When charging hourly fees, consultants bill based on how many hours they work on a project You can choose what to bill by checking career sites in order to see what coaches in your area charge.
Remember that your experience is a factor here, doubling your rate in order to meet the expected 50% of billable time you can expect is completely reasonable.
Results Based: This is becoming a more frequently used approach. It’s important to be upfront about your costs with your client in order to establish what part of your fee will be waived initially, contingent on reaching a certain target. This can be a good method to gather new and more serious clients as you’re starting off because there’s less risk involved with them trusting you, despite your limited experience.
Share Based: There are other forms of payment than money. This method allows for a company, normally a startup or smaller business, to offer up shares in the company itself, rather than monetary payment. It’s important to be cautious with this form of payment and to make sure that you know that the business you’re receiving shares from isn’t about to fold.
All right! Now that we have some of the basics covered, here is the operational side of the equation, when it comes to starting a coaching business. You’ve determined that coaching is a good fit, and you’ve gathered your resources and decided on your ideal financial structure. Now what? It’s time for all of these things to come together.
Remember, when starting off in any industry it’s important to keep an open mind and to be flexible. While your target and your goals can be more solid, you have to remember that you’re new to this sphere and it will take you a little bit of time to get your footing.
That’s okay! In the meantime, build your credentials by working with a coaching business part time, while you transition from another job or take on some clients for minimal or even no payment at all. In the beginning it’s crucial that you build these networks, they will be the foundation of your business as it grows.
Getting your first clients will come down to how well you network your business, and ultimately, yourself. The most popular way clients select their consultants is by using their own networks. If you do well on projects those supervisors, owners, CEOs will spread the word and that’s where your future clients come from.
This may also require a marketing plan, on your part. If you want to work for the big businesses, strategize on how to get on their radar. The coaching business is a competitive field, and you’ll have those who are far more experienced competing against you. Build your network of contacts by putting yourself out there, and by starting off small.
And as you do move forward, don’t forget your ultimate goal of becoming an independent and successful coach. It’s important not to get stuck in “intern mode” or to not charge (or to charge very little), for too long. A few well established accounts should be plenty for you to continue upping your fees and continuing to grow your business. Keep building toward your end goal. The most successful coaches are those who realize that as they gain experience, they need to leave low-profit projects for others and continue to press forward to attract and keep clients who provide opportunities for their company’s growth.