Building Your Business

Creating Your Own Referral Program as a Life Coach

In the world of coaching, client relationships are the heart of success, and leveraging these connections through referrals can be a game changer.

How to Develop a Successful Referral Program for a Life Coaching Business

For many, the best part of being a coach is the relationships we develop with our clients over time – watching transformations and breakthroughs take place, holding space and asking powerful questions. 

AND, it’s equally true that  finding new clients is often just as much a part of coaching as the work that happens in session!

While there are many elements that go into marketing and sustaining a coaching business, one of the most crucial can be referrals. Of all the strategies that you can deploy, this is one of the most effective. Word of mouth recommendations are trusted highly – 92% of all consumers rely upon the recommendation of family and friends far more than any type of advertising!

Leveraging the trust you’ve built and the satisfaction of existing clients can be a great way to find new clients. So, how do you create a referral program that works for you? 

What are the benefits of a referral program?

Built on Trust: Word of mouth recommendations build on the relationships you have already formed as a coach. The more effective you are in helping others, the more reason a client would have to recommend your services. And, when a client refers you to a colleague or friend, their endorsement can help a new client feel more confident in giving your coaching a chance.

Cost-Effective: Advertising can be expensive and difficult to implement! Compared to traditional forms of advertising, referral programs are often more budget-friendly and don’t require working with outside marketing agencies or contractors.

Higher Client Lifetime Value: Clients acquired through referrals tend to stay longer and invest more in your services, as they come to you by way of a trusted recommendation.

How to set up a coaching referral program

The beauty of a referral program is it can start out small and grow as your business grows. It can also be an expression of your own beliefs around how you want to run and present your coaching practice. 

  1. Decide on Incentive

Begin by choosing an incentive or reward that appeals to both your current and prospective clients. The most common incentives that coaches offer is a referral fee paid to the person referring, and a discount or free session for the new client. Be sure to pick something that will be feasible for you to honor!

Ethics note: According to the ICF Code of Ethics, if a coach pays or receives a referral fee that’s OK, it just needs to be transparent and disclosed to all parties involved.

  1. Set up a system to track 

Don’t get stalled in figuring out the logistics or designing a “perfect” system. You want to keep it manageable and flexible so you can adjust as needed. You can set up a simple spreadsheet to keep track of the number of referrals and who referred. If you have a call booking calendar program or during your intake call with a new client, you can ask who referred them.

  1. Identify your champions

Look for clients who are your strongest supporters, usually those who have been with you long-term or frequently praise your services. Reach out to these people first as they’re the most likely to bring in other clients who are similar, or to spread the word because they believe in you.

  1. Ask for referrals 

While it may not come naturally, make it a practice to ask for referrals, particularly at times when your clients are most satisfied with your coaching. Choose the right moment, don’t ask too often, and keep the request simple. The more you practice this, the easier it will become.

  1. Spread the word

Make sure your audience knows that this is an option, even if they’re not a current client and may not fall within your niche.  Someone who follows you or knows you from your personal or professional networks may have an ideal client in mind. Places to mention your referral program may include your website, email newsletters, social media, and even in-person interactions.

  1. Check your progress and reassess

Keep an eye on how it’s going!Periodically ask yourself: are you getting any referrals? If not, you may need to adjust your “rewards” to make them more enticing. If you are getting referrals, take a look at your most active referrers and do something nice for them – send a card, or reach out to say thank you. 

More Resources:
The Power of Client Testimonials (And How to Get Them!)

How To Get Your First Coaching Clients [9 Proven Strategies]

10 Creative Ways To Get Life Coaching Clients

How can you secure more rave reviews and referrals as a coach??


First and foremost, it’s critical to have confidence in your abilities as a coach. Mostcoaches take time to build up this confidence in the early years of their business, and it comes through practice and experience. 

Why is this important? Being a confident coach - even in the early days of your career - means you’ll provide better coaching to your initial clients. Once you begin to see your clients achieve their desired outcomes as a result of working with you, you’ll likely feel more comfortable asking for referrals. 


Know who your ideal clients are and what type of coaching you specialize in.  This will allow you to articulate with confidence exactly who you want to serve and your own areas of expertise when communicating about your services. Doing so will help you to attract the right kind of clients as you begin to ask for referrals. 

Pro tip: If your existing clients aren’t an ideal match for the coaching practice you are hoping to build, then more of the same type of clients WON’T help you in the long term! 


Be clear and genuine in your request for a referral. Nobody likes to feel tricked or used. Make sure you tell your existing clients about the details of how a referral works. People appreciate honesty and will likely be honored that you asked for a referral from their existing circle, especially if they’re gaining value from working with you! 

More Resources: 

Authenticity vs. TMI in Coaching

4 Secrets to Sell Your Coaching Services More Authentically

Ultimately, implementing a referral program can turn satisfied clients into enthusiastic promoters of your coaching. With even a simple system in place, you can focus on your coaching while your business grows organically.

Remember, a strong referral program is not just about growing your numbers, it's about building a community of clients who believe in and champion your services to the world.

Interested in expanding your toolkit? 

Coaching is a rapidly growing field that is continuously evolving. Even for seasoned coaches, there’s always more to discover. If you’ve not already earned your ICF accredited coach certification, there’s no better time than now to get started! Grounded in science, our program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, business instruction to prepare you for liftoff as an entrepreneur, and fellow students dedicated to becoming a collective force for good.

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