If you’re looking to level up your coaching, this guide will help you set up an online coaching business.
Coaching has increased in popularity over the years. It’s a great way for professionals with the right qualifications to help others, and best of all, they can do so from the comfort of their home!
There’s a coach for almost every aspect of life, from nutrition, fitness, and wellness to networking and careers. More and more we’re seeing people who want to improve their lives, whether it’s to eat better, exercise properly, or change their careers, yet they feel stuck, overwhelmed and unsure of next steps.
That’s where a coach comes in. They help with goal setting, provide feedback, and support their clients in realizing their dreams.
Coaches get to see their clients thrive and, depending on their model of coaching, connect clients to one another to build a community of like-minded people who can support and encourage each other.
Just look at Aliza Licht, who founded “Leave Your Mark.” She built an online coaching business for a community of people who want to achieve their career goals and connect with like-minded young professionals. Because it’s online, there are people from all over the world, including Kenya and India, and they all have the same goal — to succeed in their careers.
If you’re interested in learning how to start an online coaching business, but unsure where to start, this guide will walk you through what you need to know.
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In this article...
What is online coaching?
Let’s start with some basics, namely, what exactly online coaching is. Online coaching takes place over the internet (meeting virtually with their clients), compared to traditional coaching, which happens in person. This can be done through video or audio calls, or even messaging.
These are some of the benefits of online coaching:
- Coaches can attract more clients because they aren’t limited to being in the same country.
- Coaches can provide their services anywhere — from the comfort of their home to a coffee shop.
- Clients don’t have to commute — so it saves them time and money.
- There’s minimal investment — coaches only need good WiFi and a reliable device.
- Coaches can integrate additional content into their service by using a purpose-built platform.
- Coaches can scale the value and services they bring their clients.
Now let’s get into how to start your online coaching business!
What makes a successful coaching business?
Knowing the value you provide
While coaching involves helping others, you need to first understand what you bring to the table. This is the time to take stock of your core competencies and ask yourself important questions.
- What do you do better than most people you know?
- What area do you have lots of experience in?
- What do people ask you about?
- What have you learned that you could help someone with?
- Do you need additional qualifications and certifications?
- Do people pay for coaching in your area of expertise?
Maybe you’ve spent years working in a particular industry like Aliza Licht, who worked in fashion, creating popular social brand personalities. Now she uses her experience as a successful entrepreneur to provide career advice and new insights for young working professionals.
Basically, figuring out your focus as a coach involves knowing what areas of expertise you’re qualified to help others in combined with what you’re passionate about.
This leads us to who you want to coach…
Understanding who your clients are
As with any business, you want to hone in on who your ideal clients are. Since you have expertise in one area, it would be difficult to appeal to everyone. That’s ok, because that’s the beauty of coaching — there’s a coach out there for every type of person.
When you have a good sense of who your potential clients are, you’re more likely to have a better understanding of how you can help them, what they need from you, and how to attract new clients.
What does your ideal client look like? Be clear about what their pain points are, their experiences, what stage of life they’re at, and what they want to achieve. You want these people to see your services and think, “That’s what I need!”
Taking the time to figure out who your ideal clients are will make you a better coach, attract the right clients, and ultimately make for a successful online coaching business.
1:1 Coaching vs. group coaching
Now that you know what area of coaching you’re focusing on and who you’ll be working with, it’s time to figure out your coaching business model.
Some coaches are better at facilitating groups, while others prefer to focus on one client at a time. The biggest benefit to 1:1 coaching is that you can meet your clients’ needs in a focused and private setting. Your clients might be more willing to open up about their history, challenges, and fears.
Some clients prefer this route since your attention is focused. It gives you more time to listen to them to provide them with solutions and strategies. Focusing on one client at a time also lets you easily address their setbacks, challenges, and even wins more quickly than in a group setting.
The downsides of 1:1 coaching is that it can take up more of your time (more time spent sharing your knowledge, offering solutions, and listening). In order for 1:1 to be cost-effective, you’ll have to charge higher rates compared to group coaching. This business model also takes longer to scale.
If you’re more interested in building a community and facilitating sessions with multiple clients at once, group coaching is the path for you. Group coaching can be just as effective or even more so than 1:1 coaching, especially if you have members who all share a similar set of challenges.
Group coaching can foster radical honesty and vulnerability. When members open up about challenges they’re facing, it encourages others to do so. It’s powerful when people realize they’re not alone with their struggles, which brings a deeper level of connection to themselves, other members and you.
Another benefit to group coaching is that you can serve more members at the same time. This is great if you have more clients than you do time. Other members may even be able to offer a different solution (because of their experience and perspective) than one you would have given.
Accountability might be stronger due to prosocial shaming (when we experience some shame that isn’t consistent with group norms but we have a path towards redemption). In this capacity members can validate what’s true about the source of shame (feeling bad because they said they would take a step and apply to jobs but didn’t find any time) and create a solution to do better (blocking off time in their calendar and going to the library so they have concrete next steps).
Unlike 1:1 coaching, group coaching is much easier to scale, meaning you grow your business more quickly in less time.
The challenge with group coaching is that you have less time with each client (sometimes you won’t get the full picture of their situation in the first few sessions).
Working with a group also requires a higher level of emotional intelligence (EQ) because you’re working with a variety of individuals who have different personalities and perspectives. You’ll have some clients who actively participate, and volunteer to share their point of view, while other clients are fine just observing and don’t always feel comfortable sharing.
That’s why it’s your job as a coach and the group facilitator to moderate discussions, make note of who participates, and pick clients who will make your coaching community thrive. Your ideal clients will be people with similar experiences, who are willing to talk about these experiences during a group coaching session where you provide a safe and non-judgemental environment.
You need to help everyone find common ground and make sure that each member achieves their goals by overcoming their personal challenges — which is no easy feat!
How to start an online coaching business (5 steps)
Develop a signature coaching program
Whatever coaching business model you choose, you need to be clear on how you’re taking your clients through a transformation. Your coaching program needs to involve clear steps and structure.
Let’s say you’re a career coach who helps unfulfilled and underpaid employees transition into better careers in the tech industry over a six-month period. Trying to cover everything from updating their resume to networking and preparing for interviews in one session is unrealistic, plus it wouldn’t be a very profitable approach.
You could instead spread out your strategy, separating the information into six chunks which can be delivered in monthly coaching sessions. You could break this down even further, making your program available in parts:
- First part: how to get an interview at the desirable tech company.
- Second part: how to ace the interview.
- Third part: salary negotiation and further professional development.
Some clients may only want the first two parts of your coaching program, while others may be invested in the whole thing. What’s great about segmenting and organizing your program is that you're giving clients options (just don’t give them so many that they feel overwhelmed, keep it focused).
Figure out your rate
Figuring out your rate can feel like an overwhelming step in learning how to build an online coaching business (especially if you’re new to coaching). The important thing is that you do your research. You can ask other coaches in your niche (make sure you’ve developed a relationship with them first before you just outright ask), or simply scour the Internet to find your answer.
A good rule of thumb is to price your services high enough that your clients will value your work but low enough that your ideal clients can afford you — find the sweet spot. There may be some trial and error when it comes to figuring out your rate, but you’ll quickly know what makes sense and adjust accordingly.
Something else to keep in mind is that you should require a minimum commitment from your clients. Maybe you offer package deals but the minimum package is four coaching sessions. This will give you enough time to get to know them, help them with their challenges, and show them your value, keeping them coming back for more.
Choose a platform that works for you and your clients
Pick a platform that makes sense for your online coaching business. Whether you want to do 1:1 coaching or build a community for group coaching, your platform should have all the features that make your online coaching business a success.
At the bare minimum you’ll need a platform where you can host scheduled video conference sessions. A good online coaching platform will also let you offer free trials, bundles, discounts, and anything else related to sales.
Even if you prioritize 1:1 coaching, consider building a community out of your interested clients. You might be surprised what connections emerge, and if you decide to pivot into group coaching, you’ll have a ready-made audience. Look for a community platform that’s designed to make engaging easy. Features such as public forums for posting and live streaming, direct and group messaging, and video hosting will be essential to encourage interaction and connection amongst members.
A bonus feature is a platform that allows you to build beautiful, engaging courses. Courses are great additional resources for your clients or they can be tied right into your coaching program. They allow you to have more of an impact and can be used to scale your business (e.g. offering your courses separately from your program and charging an additional fee for members to access them).
That’s where we come in! Mighty Networks allows you to manage subgroups, post content (polls, forums), and build engaging courses. You can easily schedule events, and members can get notified when to join a live meeting.
Test it out
As with any business, you want to test it out before you launch it. Even if you have done in-person coaching, it’s a good idea to test out your online coaching business on a few clients. Make sure your internet connection is good, the transformative journey you take your clients on makes sense, and you’re familiar with the platform.
This is where you can iron out any kinks and get feedback. Testers who have benefited from your coaching services will be happy to provide a testimonial, which you can use for marketing purposes.
Attract ideal clients
Just like any business, you need to spend some time in your marketing efforts in order to attract ideal clients. What’s important here is to stand out from the sea of other coaches. Remember to highlight what makes you unique by accurately describing your services and showcasing your strengths, credentials, and experience. Make sure to always keep in mind and speak to your ideal clients.
Here are some marketing strategies you can implement to attract new clients:
- Use social media to create an online presence for your coaching business. Choose social channels that make sense for your business and where your ideal client is likely to hang out the most (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, even TikTok depending on the type of content and age of the target audience). Make sure to engage with content as well, don’t just post and expect others to like your stuff.
- Although not free (and sometimes not cheap), ads might make sense for your business. It’s a good way to get in front of a new audience and may generate a high return on investment (ROI) for you.
- Email marketing might make sense, especially if you’ve already built up an email list. You can provide some suggestions to help solve a particular problem. For example, if you’re a nutrition coach, you can provide five examples of healthy snacks to prepare on the fly. Each week you can provide a new tip with a call to action (CTA) to sign up for your coaching program.
- Create additional resources, like an ebook or infographic, to show your value as a coach. Your audience will crave more of your knowledge and be more likely to sign up for your coaching services.
- Use testimonials to back up your claims and prove your legitimacy. Let the testimonials speak for themselves (you can post them on your website and social channels). When prospects see how you’ve been able to help, they’ll be more likely to pay for your services.
Whether you prefer coaching 1:1 or in a group, there’s a lot that goes into building an online coaching business. If you thoughtfully plan it out, from understanding who your ideal clients are to attracting the right ones, you’ll have a successful business that you can run from anywhere.
While you’re at it, why not try Mighty Networks for free? It’s a platform designed to help you grow your online coaching business and community.
Ready to start your online coaching business?