Wondering how to start a coaching business?
If so, you’re in the right place!
We know that starting up your practice can be pretty overwhelming. It’s not enough to be a great coach, you’ll need business smarts in order to build a sustainable & profitable coaching business.
But sometimes it feels like there are a million decisions to make. And it’s impossible to know what to do first.
So we figured we’d take some of the guesswork out for you.
In this guide, we’ll give you the tools to work through the step-by-step process of how to set up a coaching business.
8 Steps To Launch Your Life Coaching Business
- Get A Coaching Credential
- Write A Business Plan
- Develop A Budget
- Decide What To Call Your Business
- Set Up Your Business Structure
- Get Your Equipment & Establish Systems
- Choose A Coaching Niche (or not!)
- Implement A Marketing Strategy
1. Get A Coaching Credential
If you’re considering a career in coaching, it all starts with the right training.
Anyone can say they're a life coach, but it's not something we're necessarily born knowing how to do well! If you’d like to deliver consistent results for your clients - which in turn leads to referrals and more business - you’ll need a professional toolkit.
A good life coach training program will provide evidence-based frameworks, interventions, methodologies, and an introduction to a variety of coaching techniques. You'll also get ample peer coaching opportunities to put what you're learning into practice.
Once you’ve completed a program, you’ll be able to call yourself a certified coach. In a competitive industry, this can help you stand out with prospective clients. Credentialing from the International Coaching Federation also positions you for more opportunities in the future, including internal coaching positions and corporate coaching gigs.
Need some resources to help you choose? Check out:
- 7 Things To Look For In A Life Coach Training Program
- What Certification Do You Need to Be a Life Coach?
- Why Choose Lumia?
2. Write A Business Plan
If you’re new to entrepreneurship, crafting a business strategy will help you focus on what you’d like to achieve (both professionally and financially). It also provides a handy road map for prioritizing your time and commitments along the way.
Keep it simple! A life coach business plan doesn’t need to be long or complex to be effective. Think of your plan as a compass - it’s here to guide your direction and help you navigate. You can start by setting aside an afternoon or two to get the essentials down on paper.
Elements to include in a life coach business plan:
A Vision or “Why” Statement
What motivates you to be a coach? What difference would you like to make in the world?
Capture that inspiration so that you can come back to it again and again as a touchpoint. It can be something as simple as “I passionately believe that all people should have the support and tools they need in life to not just survive, but thrive.”
If someone were to ask you what you do, what would you say? Consider this section your “elevator pitch”: 1-2 paragraphs that briefly describe your work and its impact.
- Are there particular people you plan to serve?
- Do you have a life coaching niche?
- How will people benefit from working with you?
Services and Pricing
Like everything else in your plan, your offerings will likely evolve and change over time. Think about where you’d like to start, and what you’re likely to pursue in your first year or two of business.
- Will you be offering 1:1 coaching sessions, packages, group coaching, or other services?
- What are you planning to charge?
Need some help with this one? Check out our guide: How to Set Your Rates and Create Coaching Packages.
Develop A Budget
If you’d like to become a full time life coach, it’s helpful to crunch some numbers! Revenue and expense forecasting - even if they are just guesstimates at this point - will give you a clearer picture of what a sustainable coaching business looks like for you.
To get an idea of what you might expect to earn over a year, do some simple forecasting with calculations such as the following.
Annual Revenue: Session rate x # of sessions per week x 52 weeks per year
Example: $125 per session x 5 sessions a week x 52 = $32,500
Retreats, Classes, or Group Programs: Registration fee x # of participants x how many times you’ll offer the class or program per year
Example: Group coaching program fee $450 x 15 participants in each cohort x 3 cohorts per year = $20,250
Other Sources of Income: speakers fees, teaching, publishing, etc.
Common expenses that might apply to your coaching business include:
- Phone, internet and videoconferencing
- Office space
- Computer equipment
- Website hosting
- Scheduling software
- Payment system and credit card fees
- Training and professional development
- Printing & postage
- Email platform subscription
- Graphic design software/services
- Business license and taxes
- Liability insurance
- Supplies and materials
- Professional services (legal, accounting, etc.)
Want more help with forecasting your income, including a revenue calculator tool to play with? Have some fun with our guide: How to Set Your Rates and Create Coaching Packages.
4. Decide What To Call Your Life Coaching Business
Depending upon where you live and the type of business structure you choose, you may need a business name to set up a bank account and obtain a business license.
At this stage, try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect name and brand identity for your life coaching business. If you’re not careful, things like designing a business logo and choosing colors for your future website will easily distract you from your REAL work: attracting and serving clients!
It’s perfectly fine to go with something simple like “Jane Doe Coaching.” You can always shift in the future, or choose another Doing Business As name down the road. What’s most important now is that your business name works for you and is easy to remember for prospective coaching clients.
Once you have some ideas in mind, check and make sure that name isn’t already taken. In some states, it’s not allowable for more than one business to operate under the same name.
Places to look:
- Find out if the website domain name is available
- Determine if the name is trademarked
- If you’re in the United States, research business names registered in your state as well. Often, the Secretary of State’s office offers an online database for running this search.
5. Set Up Your Coaching Business Structure
According to the US Small Business Association, you’ll most likely choose from one of these three business structures:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability corporation (LLC)
For many life coaches, operating as a sole proprietor is a sound approach. You may never decide to incorporate your business, and that’s OK! This decision looks different for everyone, and has a lot to do with your financial circumstances, local laws, and personal tax status.
Regardless of which direction you go, make sure you understand your location’s laws regarding small business operations. Even if you don’t legally incorporate, it may be necessary for you to obtain a business license with your city, county, state or province.
Want more information on this topic? Check out our resource guides: Legal 101 for Life Coaches and Does A Life Coach Need A Business License And Insurance?
6. Get Your Equipment & Establish Systems
Taking the time to set up your administrative structure from the beginning is good business. It not only streamlines your workflows, but will creates a more professional experience for your clients as well.
When you're first getting started, you may just need three things:
- A way for clients to contact you (phone number, email, website, etc.)
- A process for booking appointments & sending reminders
- A method to accept payments
From there, you can layer on whatever else you need over time.
From organizing projects to scheduling appointments and invoicing clients, odds are there's a product or service that can handle it for you. The trick is in researching which are best for your situation, and selecting your Must-Haves.
Some of the resources you may want for your life coaching business include:
- Scheduling system
- Payment processor
- Client management software
- Website hosting
- Social media content scheduler
- Video calls/webinar platform
- Project & client management software
- E-mail system
- E-learning platform
- Marketing & graphic design tools
- Blog or podcast platform
Not sure which to choose? We’ve rounded up our favorite tools in each of these categories in our guide: Business Resources To Jump Start Your Coaching Practice.
7. Choose A Coaching Niche (or not!)
If you’ve decided to become a life coach, you've likely heard that you ought to choose a coaching specialty. In the coaching industry, this is often referred to as your "niche."
Coaching niches cover a wide range of interests and needs. Some common areas of specialization include:
- Career coach
- Relationship coach
- Wellness coach
- Executive coach
- Small Business coach
- Women's Empowerment coach
- Productivity coach
- Creativity coach
- Life Purpose coach
- Spirituality coach
A whole lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, and you’re likely to find competing points of view about whether or not you “need” a coaching niche to attract clients.
The answer is: it depends!
It's OK if you aren't sure where you want to focus right now. For many life coaches, this happens in stages and becomes increasingly clear over time.
As you're getting started, it can be useful to think of niching as a marketing exercise. Having one helps differentiate your coaching business, but it doesn't need to be set in stone.
A coaching niche is one way to clarify and bring focus to the work you do. It allows you to get very clear about your message, and the specific results you help your clients to achieve.
Specialization can allow you to more precisely describe what you do and how it can be helpful to other people. But remember: it’s also not the ONLY way!
If you’re spinning on the question how to choose a niche (or even if you should), here’s a few additional resources to play with:
- 20 Hottest Life Coaching Niches
- Coaching - To Niche or Not to Niche
- Choose Your Coaching Niche Using the Seven Stories Exercise
8. Implement A Marketing Strategy
Attracting coaching clients is where the rubber meets the road for your business. And in order to find them, you’ll need to have a plan!
There are many ways to position yourself and your services. Some approaches to consider including in your plan include:
- Word of mouth
- Testimonials and referrals
- Social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.)
- Publishing (blogs, articles, books)
- Presentations and guest speaking engagements
- Networking and relationship building via affinity groups, small business associations, chamber of commerce, rotary clubs, etc.
- Submitting proposals to businesses and organizations
The temptation at first may be to try it all and see what sticks.
Here’s what is most likely to happen if you do. By spreading yourself across too many tactics at once, you’re not likely to gain credibility and traction in any particular area.
Begin by thinking about your strengths, and what strategies appeal to you most.
- Hate writing? Then a blog or e-book may not be the place to focus your energy.
- Enjoy juicy conversations? Consider finding podcasts where you can be a guest… or launch one of your own!
- Have an incredible professional network already in place? Think about how to share what you’re doing now as a coach through personal outreach and on platforms like LinkedIn.
As you explore the methods available, consider where your potential clients are most likely to be hanging out and start there.
Commit to a plan, and carry it out.
Whether it’s posting 4 times a week on Instagram, writing 3 personal emails to your professional contacts every Monday, or sending out one enewsletter a month… the key to a successful marketing strategy is consistency.
It also requires you to show up, and talk to other people about what you do!
Uncomfortable with sales and self promotion?
If the idea of putting yourself “out there” feels overwhelming or intimidating, just know that you’re not the only one. This is much more common for aspiring life coaches than you may realize.
If you want to create a successful coaching business, but find yourself shying away from promoting it, we encourage you to gently investigate the source of your hesitation.
If you find yourself…
- Spending a lot of time playing with brand logos and colors…
- Dedicating months to building a website or setting up systems before you have coaching clients…
- Avoiding telling the people around you about your work and offerings…
- Obsessing over how to choose a coaching niche…
- Questioning your skills or “readiness”...
- Following a lot of other coaches online and comparing yourself unfavorably to them…
… your actual "business problem" may be fear.
If you aren’t actively (and proudly!) telling people about what you’re doing, it can be beneficial to figure out what’s getting in the way. And remember: when you investigate any form of fear, it’s important to do so with big doses of self-compassion at every step along the way.
Launching your own business - especially one where YOU are the “product” - can be a vulnerable process. Resource yourself so that you can stretch beyond your comfort zone in ways that forward your business goals while ALSO supporting your nervous system.
For strategies to support you in getting the word out about your services, give these podcasts with Lumia Coaching co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux a listen: How to Overcome the Fear of Visibility and Getting Comfortable with Showing Up Online.
The world needs what you have to offer. The market demand for coaching is growing, and your work contributes in a big way to helping humans thrive. Invest the time and resources that you need to help get your voice and gifts out where others can see and benefit from them!
Want To Be A Coach?
A lot of talented people like you dream of having a coaching business, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. We train and certify adventurous coaches, making sure you’ve got all you need to build a business you love, on your terms.Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff. If you're ready to learn more, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training!