The coaching industry has snowballed in the last decade and continues to grow steadily. So it’s not surprising that there is much noise about what it takes to be successful. Consequently, if you are a coach about to start your own business, you might be wondering what steps to take first. This article reveals a definitive, tried and tested guide for establishing a coaching business, starting with the basics. Many coaches uncover these key elements themselves in their own trial and error journey over several years. By gathering the input of experienced professional coaches within our global community of Being Profile Accredited Practitioners, I have created an aggregated list of 21 essential elements. This checklist could save you years of trial and error and support you in building an effective coaching business from the ground up.
The first thing to be clear on is that you are setting up a business. This means thinking as a business owner and entrepreneur and having an authentic view of what it will take. The skill of coaching alone won’t enable your business to thrive. With this in mind and starting with the basics, here are the key elements to consider when setting up your coaching business:
Legal structure – You will need a unique number that identifies your business. Check the specific requirements for your country. In the case of Australia, it is called an ABN if you operate as a sole trader. Waiting times for approval will vary in each country.
Professional insurance – Check what you need in terms of insurance as a sole trader or company. It is recommendable you seek professional advice on this from a solicitor. This will come at a cost that you need to consider when setting up.
Invoicing – There are some excellent systems available that will support you in creating and tracking invoices. While you may choose to process invoices manually at first, the sooner you set up an invoicing system, the easier it will be when you need to pay tax, saving you time and reducing stress.
Bank account – Set up a dedicated business account that will allow you to track expenses and income without confusing it with personal income and outgoings.
Coaching agreement – Start with a simple standard agreement that outlines the coaching relationship, responsibilities and terms of the engagement. You can find templates online to get you started. However, as you grow, you may wish to seek legal advice on establishing a customised coaching agreement that better suits your needs.
Physical set-up – Set up an office, at home or elsewhere, where you can have confidential conversations with your clients. Ensure your desktop computer or laptop includes a reliable microphone and camera for video calls if needed.
How you spend your time – Organise the different ‘hats’ you will wear in your business, such as delivery (the actual coaching), marketing, content creation, administration and self-development. Mark your calendar with designated time blocks for these roles to avoid being scattered and ensure you use your time effectively. Delegate anything that is not your ‘superpower’ when possible and practical.
Name and logo – Choose a name for your business and, if desired, a logo that represents you. You can do this yourself or get a designer to help you.
Unique positioning – Get clear on who you are and what you stand for in your business. Ask yourself why you do what you do, who you want to work with and what problems you would love to help people solve. Your unique positioning is what people will connect with you for. They will want to hear the why before the what. How you articulate this and show up (authentically) in every interaction will either attract or push away clients. Expect your unique positioning to evolve as your business and coaching experience grows.
Target avatar – Trying to be a great coach to all people does not work. Think carefully about the group of people you will focus your effort and energy on serving. Do your best to identify the group of people who would get a disproportionate amount of value from working with you.
Price point and offer – Depending on your experience and the clients you aim to attract, select a price point and create an offer that will be your starting point for people interested in your unique positioning as a coach. You can work out a benchmark by speaking to other coaches and people who have used coaching.
Coaching for yourself – If you are not receiving coaching yourself, how can you speak authentically about the importance of having a coach in your corner? It's essential to do the inner work to be able to do it with others. Who and how you are BEING in your business will be the most significant contributor to or detractor from your effectiveness as a coach.
Build client relationships – Create a list of potential clients and invest in real conversations with them. Give people your time and be curious about what they are dealing with. Then start adding value to a few of them. Don’t get sucked into the ads that promise to make you a six-figure coach overnight by creating an overflow of ‘warm leads’. Relationships are crucial.
Pro-bono – Consider offering a certain number of pro-bono or reduced fee coaching hours a month when you’re starting out. This is a highly effective strategy to build up your skills and coaching hours while contributing to people who could refer you and/or become paying clients in the future. Just ensure you cap it at a certain number of hours, so you don’t spend all your time on this.
Community – Choose a community of people that will champion your journey, challenge you and have your back. It can get very lonely if you are working on your own, and it’s easy to become stuck in limiting beliefs and behaviours or lose perspective of how much you are accomplishing. Think broadly about who this community should include, like other coaches, business owners, professional networks, etc.
Professional associations – Research the associations you could become a part of as a coach, what they expect and the benefits of being a member. They usually provide resources, ongoing professional development webinars, community engagement and more.
Online presence – Keep your website simple. A one-page site that you can build yourself and articulates who you are and what you offer is more than enough at the start, and it won’t cost much to set up. If technology is not your thing, aim for a one-page brochure you could send potential clients. Also, ensure you update your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.
Business plan – Create a simple business plan that includes what you expect to earn and how much you want to invest during the first year. Plan how you will get there and be honest with yourself about how long it will take to establish your business. Share your business plan with people you trust, such as your coach and other coaches more advanced in their journey, so that they can challenge and support you. Like with any business you start, make sure you have a financial buffer in place as a back-up in case you need it.
Upskilling – Plan the areas where you want to grow and create an upskilling investment plan. Prioritise and allocate budget to avoid the temptation of falling for clever marketing offers and jumping from one program to another. Consider prioritising sales if it’s not a natural strength, as selling is essential to running a successful business.
Calendar – Choose a centralised calendar to keep track of your official coaching sessions and budget and plan your time. A cloud-based calendar that can synchronise across your devices and travel with you is a common choice. There are also booking systems that can support you by automating certain steps in the scheduling process.
Methodology – As the coaching industry is unregulated, it can be tempting to dive in and only rely on your experience or knowledge. An alternative is to select a well-researched and thorough methodology and/or framework that allows you to leverage an existing body of work to be more effective in your work with clients. The global community of practitioners I am part of utilises a framework that breaks down the qualities of human beings that bring about performance, leadership and effectiveness. It is called the Being FrameworkTM.
There is a lot of advice and many programs that suggest you need fancy sales funnels, automation, advertising, flashy programs and so on. If you want to read about some of the myths relating to starting a business in this industry, read this article. To avoid becoming overwhelmed by all the noise, it’s best to keep things simple and stick to the plan articulated in the checklist when starting your business journey. Don’t get sucked into the comparing game with other coaches who have been in business for years. Trust yourself! Just start, build your confidence, work with clients who bring you joy, and keep building it from there. Remember also that many other coaches are in the same boat or were there at some stage, so reach out. You don’t need to do it alone. If you want to join a community of coaches who are there for each other, reach out and I’ll support you in finding those people on the Engenesis platform.