A great many people get into the coaching industry woefully unprepared for what lies ahead.
They believe being a great coach with a burning desire to help others is all that’s needed to attract paying clients.
But sadly that wasn’t the case when I went full time in 2005, and it most definitely isn’t the case today.
And it’s not the coach’s fault they believe that because coach training companies are there to sell coach training, not hard truths.
It’s hard getting clients.
Really fucking hard!
I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if there are literally (and I do mean literally) more coaches than there are people looking to hire a coach.
Well, yes and no.
The bad news is supply far outstrips current demand.
The good news, however, is that most coaches are very poor at marketing and they won’t build a sustainable practice.
As such, you don’t have to be a marketing and sales genius to be considerably better than 95% of coaches at appealing to potential clients.
You just have to be prepared to learn and then implement the basics.
Just being competent at marketing will help you enormously.
Being great at marketing will ensure success because as I never tire of saying
A great coach who doesn’t know how to market her business will not be able to keep up with an ok coach who does.
Time To Plant A Tree
To paraphrase the Chinese proverb, the best time to start your marketing was the moment you knew you were going to become a life coach and the second-best time is now.
With this post, I’m going to outline a 12-month process for launching a coaching practice.
And trust me it will take that long to set things up properly.
Abandon any ideas that you can do this and be earning a good living in 3 or 4 months because you almost certainly can’t.
If you’re just about to start, great, you can follow fairly closely.
However, if you are somewhere else on your journey or this timeline – maybe you have launched your website and it’s just not working – I have two words for you.
There’s nothing that cannot be changed and nothing that cannot be improved upon if necessary.
There will be elements of this you will have done, just ignore those presuming they’re working.
There will also be elements you can’t be bothered with, or don’t want to do.
Do them anyway.
Also, it’s not necessarily a linear process.
For example, you could be working on your lead magnet at the same time as you’re working on copy for your website.
And if you have already started, assess where you are in the process and dive in.
T Minus 12 Months On Your Journey To Become A Life Coach –
Start Working On Your Niche
Here are a few advantages of having a niche other than just standing out from the crowd:
- You can charge more
- It’s simpler to find and hone in on your target market on social media
- Writing blogs posts and other articles is more straightforward
- You can position yourself as an expert in your field more easily
- It keeps you focused
When figuring out your niche forget about what you’re good at unless you love what you’re good at as that really is the sweet spot.
With over 20-years of experience working in sales both B2C and B2B at a high level, I would have had a lot of credibility as a sales coach.
But that ignores one very important factor.
I didn’t want to work with salespeople – I’d had enough of the entire industry.
If your experience and skills align with your niche then fantastic, you’re on to a winner.
If not, then you need to look elsewhere.
Ask yourself this question:
If my phone were to ring now and it was a client with the kind of problems that has me silently dancing around the room and pumping the air with delight whilst trying to sound professional, what would they be saying?
That’s your niche.
Start The Website Design Process
I am not in favour of coaches designing and building their own websites unless that is, they have some serious design skills.
If you’re looking to market yourself online then your website will be your shop window and it needs to impress people .
It also needs to convert visitors onto your newsletter list, and then into paying clients.
Try to avoid hosted sites like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and even the WordPress hosted platform like a man with the plague, who is on fire and has really bad breath too.
Ok, that may be a tad over the top.
In reality, they’re fine for coaching practices that merely want an online presence as opposed to a website that organically generates clients.
It’s important to understand, however, that they don’t offer the flexibility and scalability that a WordPress site does.
WordPress is open source and powers about 30% of the internet.
As such, there are thousands of developers designing plugins for just about every conceivable thing you may ever want a plugin to do.
This makes your site scalable in the future.
If you want to add a member’s area, there’s a plugin for that.
If you want to offer a course, there’s a plugin for that.
If you want help with your SEO, there’s a plugin for that.
At this stage, you have three options in (probable) order of preference.
- Hire a professional website designer who does this kind of shit for a living
- Design the site yourself
- Get a friend to design it
You may be wondering why I have the friend option last.
I’ll tell you why.
I was selling websites over 20 years ago and I lost more sales because people knew somebody who could/would build their site than for every other reason combined.
But it seldom happened.
Or if it did, the site ended up looking like a blind 9-year-old on acid had built it.
You cannot scream and shout at a friend who has fucked up the most important element of your business whilst doing you a favour.
You cannot kick their ass when it’s taking way longer than you thought (and it will).
And you cannot demand your money back when it all goes wrong if they did it for free.
What will happen is you will be left with either a website that sucks that you cannot change for fear of upsetting a friend.
Or, a page that says ‘Under Construction’ for 4 years.
My website is the engine of my business and almost all of my clients come from it in some way, shape, or form.
Even referrals tend to check it out before contacting me.
You cannot afford to roll the dice on it.
If it sucks it will not only kill any chances of building a successful coaching practice, but worse still, it will do so without you even knowing it.
Nobody will call you to say that they decided against contacting you because they weren’t sure what your niche was after reading your homepage.
Nobody will email you to say they thought the selfie you used on your About page looked unprofessional.
And nobody will navigate to your contact form if your copy didn’t create a positive emotional reaction in them.
If you’re a good designer AND you understand UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) AND you understand the basics of SEO, then sure, do it yourself.
If you have literally none of those skills and no money, then do one of these three things.
- Put things on hold until you can save some money because whether you pay for a website or not, you do need cash to run a business
- Find a designer who would be willing to exchange services – I have done this loads of times for all sorts of things including 3 websites
- Go on a site like UpWork or Fiverr and see if you can find a young up and coming designer who looks like she does good work, but is still cheap because she hasn’t built enough work history yet
This really is important because we are at a stage in the evolution of the internet where you’re probably better off not having a website than one that’s awful – and I’m not even joking.
Further reading: 10 Reasons Most Life Coaches Websites Fail
Build A Social Media Strategy
I have a marvellous TV.
It’s a 65” Hi-Def 4K Sony and I fucking love it!
I can turn it on like a boss.
I can whip through channels faster than my youngest dog can eat her dinner.
And I even know how to adjust the sound so it’s not too loud and not too quiet.
But here’s the thing.
I have no clue how it works.
It’s like magic to me.
My guess is, you know how to use social media,
But you probably don’t know how it works.
And I’m not talking about the source code and algorithms that drive it, but how to actually make it work for you.
I’m referring to building an engaged audience that will supply you with clients.
Before you dive in headlong on any social media platform posting pointless quotes and memes with gay abandon, learn how to use it successfully.
Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time no matter how much fun it may be.
To begin with: pick one, or maybe two, platforms where your clients will be hanging out.
That is FUCKING it!
Then learn them inside out.
It’s okay to open accounts on as many platforms as you like, in fact, I recommend it.
Just really focus on one or two because otherwise you’ll overwhelm yourself and end up doing everything badly.
This is the time to start researching groups where your ideal client may be lurking or engaging in conversations with others.
Register Your Domain Name
You’re going to need a domain name for your website and the sooner you start looking the better.
Descriptive domain names like coachthelifecoach.com used to be incredibly useful for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.
But that was then and this is now and things have changed.
Unless you have some killer EMD (exact match domain) like hotels.com or insurance.com it’s unlikely to give you much of a leg up.
Sadly, all the great domains are long gone which is why you see new companies choosing business names for words that don’t technically exist or leaving out vowels.
Unless that is you opt for a different TLD (top-level domain) and go for something like a .coach.
It’s too early to say at this stage if those will be recognized by Google as having as much authority as dot coms, but Google says they will and I’m seeing some rank well.
Just make sure your domain isn’t too long and as relevant as you can make it without being too contrived.
If you do a lot of public speaking, or would like to in the future, it’s probably wisest to use your name as your domain, presuming you have it.
It won’t help you with SEO, but it will be easy for people to remember and avoid any confusion.
And another advantage of using your own name is that if you change your niche it won’t mean you have to buy a new domain name.
Further reading: A Guide To The Importance Of Domain Names For Life Coaches
T Minus 9 Months –
Give The Go-Ahead To Start The Website Design
At this point and three months after choosing a designer they should be about ready to go, so let them get on with it.
Well, firstly a good designer won’t be able to start immediately.
If you approach somebody who can have your site up and running by late tomorrow afternoon, then back away very slowly and carefully because they either:
- They are using a template and the only thing being designed is them designing how to get your money into their bank account
But there’s another reason you should start the process now (or even sooner if you can) and that is because it’s not, or rather shouldn’t be, a 2 or 3-week deal.
Getting good photography takes time
Writing copy takes time.
I can almost guarantee you that this stage will take longer than you think.
T Minus 6 to 8 Months –
Choose A Newsletter Provider
You’re going to need a platform for delivering your emails and possibly your blog posts too if that is the route you decide to go down.
Don’t consider using Outlook or Gmail as you build things up because you’ll get hit for spamming people. Get a professional account.
I use Active Campaign and I love it.
I have previously used Constant Contact and Aweber, but neither were as good
There are a lot of coaches using MailChimp because until recently they offered a free version.
Actually, they do still have a free version but it doesn’t give you an autoresponder option which is paramount.
An autoresponder is the series of emails that get sent out automatically when somebody first signs up to your newsletter and will usually contain your lead magnet.
You MUST have this option if you’re not going to look like a raving amateur.
There are other free platforms, but like everything in life, you tend to get what you pay for.
If you’re to succeed as an online coach, then your newsletter is going to be critical and it’s not something I’d cut corners with unless you absolutely have to.
Note: The Active Campaign is an affiliate link, but I hope you know I only recommend stuff I use AND like.
Develop Your Lead Magnet
Your lead magnet, bribe or freebie as it may also be called is the thing that you kindly give to every soul good enough to give you her email address.
It was easy getting people onto a newsletter list back in the early 2000s.
Here’s how you did it.
‘Hey, do you want to sign up for my newsletter list?’
Now people are more protective of their (main) email address than they are their firstborn.
If they are to give it to you there better be a damn good reason and ‘Join my mailing list for free blog updates’ won’t even cut the mayonnaise, never mind the mustard.
A lead magnet can be an ebook, an e-course, an audiobook, an audio course, a free report, or even a video course.
It can be anything you like with the proviso that it can be delivered electronically, is relevant to what you do/who you serve, and has real value.
A 500-word blog post converted to a PDF may get people on your list if you big it up enough.
But the resulting sense of underwhelm when they open their exciting gift and see something so worthless will create a swift adieu as they unsubscribe.
T Minus 6 Months
Launch Your Website, Launch Your Bribe
‘But, but, but…..I’ve not finished my training yet, I’m not ready to coach Tim.’
Here’s a bad problem.
You launch your website when you need to generate income and you can’t even hear the crickets through the hurricane of tumbleweed blowing through.
Here’s a good problem.
You launch your website before you need to generate income and somebody wants to hire you even though you think you may not be quite ready.
You can offer pro bono or reduced price coaching if you like.
You can refer them to another coach.
Or you can say you’re booking 3 or even 6-months out and if they’d like to join your waiting list then you’d love to work with them when you’re ready.
It’s unlikely you will get inquiries to begin with, but what you will get if you have hired a decent designer who knows SEO and has registered your site, is Google nosing around your site like a curious puppy sniffing a warm sweater.
‘Hmm’ it thinks, ‘a new site, I’d better index it’
Then it will probably pop back a few weeks later and if you have new content it will index that too.
Then it will keep coming back.
It takes a while to get your site indexed so don’t wait until you need traffic.
Also, because you now have your newsletter set up you can have that integrated into your site so any people who stumble across your site can sign up for your newsletter.
T Minus 5 Months (and all the way into to launch) –
Write, Write And Then Write Some More
If you’re going to be successful at online marketing then you’re going to have to write…a lot.
You can do podcasts and/or videos and both can be highly effective, but if you cannot write, then how are you going to tell people about them?
If you think your writing sucks, then it probably does.
I can still remember the day I first picked up a golf club and hit a drive 280 yards off the first tee straight down the middle of the fairway.
Er, no I can’t because it never happened.
Just making contact with the ball no matter where it went was cause for celebration.
Writing is a skill and like any skill, you will get better the more you do it.
If you’re already a good writer, awesome, you’re about to move from good to great.
And if you do intend to start a podcast, there’s no reason you can’t start recording interviews now so that you can then drip feed them when you go live.
Something else you may want to consider that I do.
Have somewhere you can record every idea for a newsletter or even a social media post that pops into your head before you forget them.
You will have a treasure trove of great ideas for the days when you can barely remember your name.
T Minus 3 Months –
Start To Implement Your Social Media Strategy
There is actually not a fat lot wrong with doing this earlier, but make sure you’re happy with your website if your strategy is to drive traffic to it.
Start raising your profile in the groups you have astutely joined by offering help and advice and being seen as a resource for others.
Hire A Marketing Coach
Seriously, hire a freakin’ coach and get set up for success.
I have been coaching for close on 17-years and I have now hired nine coaches and I’m currently spending $1,000 per month with my latest.
I’m almost NEVER not working with my own coach
Do NOT be the coach who thinks she doesn’t need a coach because you undermine everything you do.
A coach not working with a coach is like a hairdresser with a combover, or a dentist with half his teeth missing.
Yes, I think you should hire me as I have done what you want to do.
But, if you think I’m not a good fit, then that’s fine, find another coach.
Just make sure that they have more experience than you and you can learn from them.
Having catch up chats with another life coach – even one who you trained with – is not the same as hiring a coach.
The mere transaction of money changing hands entirely alters the dynamic.
T Minus 2 Months –
Set Up Your Accounting
If you’re anything like me, then you’re going to need an accountant.
However, this is one area where I’d say if you’re good with numbers, then, do it yourself.
You’re going to need a business bank account and then probably an online service like PayPal and/or Stripe.
PayPal is expensive but they are universally known and trusted by most users.
Most people have PayPal accounts and for those who don’t they can easily pay using a credit card, and your money is secure.
I use PayPal and it’s dead simple to issue invoices and collect payments….manually.
Automatic payments and taking payments through an API (application programming interface) are less reliable however and I have had numerous issues.
For that reason, I have migrated some automated payments to Stripe.
With Stripe the payments are processed and then deposited into your bank account, whereas with PayPal you have to move money manually and hope they don’t put a hold on it.
There are other options and I’m sure some are good, but even if I were setting up again now from scratch I think I’d still use Paypal for my manual payments.
T Minus 1 Month –
Set Up a Zoom Account
I really cannot say enough good things about Zoom,
I’ve been using it for about 6 years and where the service isn’t quite where it was pre-pandemic, it’s still a fantastic and highly reliable service.
If you have already used it (and you probably have) then you will know what I mean, but if you haven’t, think of Skype.
But a Skype that actually works every time and offers good technical support.
Plus, if you do training you can have as many as 100 people on a call.
I almost never do telephone coaching these days because Zoom is so good and so easy for even the most techie challenged people to use.
And yes, that’s an affiliate link too, but seriously it’s brilliant!
T Minus 14 Days –
Purchase Insurance (maybe)
If you are never going to coach face-to-face coaching or run any in-person events then you probably don’t need insurance.
Even though it’s not actually a bad idea.
The chances of you getting sued for being a bad coach even in this litigious society are remote.
I’ve never heard of it happening (if you have, then please share in the comments).
Especially if you make sure that all your clients sign your terms of service and you never do any of the following:
- Offer financial advice
- Offer medical advice or give a medical diagnosis
- Offer nutritional advice
- Be lewd or suggestive
- Threaten to have your client murdered if she’s late for another meeting
In other words, be sensible and you should be good to go.
However, if you are meeting people in person, or they are coming to your house then you need some form of liability insurance.
If they trip up and put their head through your expensive glass coffee table then you probably need to put a claim in.
Terms of Service
You can pay an attorney/solicitor to draw up your terms of service if money isn’t an issue.
Or you can just ask another coach if you could use theirs.
I recently posted mine in the Coach The Life Coach Facebook group (click here to apply to join) and anybody in there is welcome to use them.
Mine are sent via email and I won’t work with any client who doesn’t sign and return them.
You can use an official document signing service online but they will cost you money.
And it’s probably money you don’t actually need to spend.
T Minus 7 Days –
Put The Champagne On Ice
Most of the hard work is, or at least should be, done by now.
Keep stoking the social media fire and telling people you’re about to launch and allow yourself to get all excited.
Start making a list of people who are your friends online because you’re going to need their help come launch day.
Launch Day –
Run Around Like A Headless Chicken
This is it, this is the day you have worked so hard to get to and now the fun starts.
Hopefully, your site has been launched for a while, but whether it has or whether it hasn’t, that doesn’t affect what you do now.
Have a fantastic blog post ready to go and you hit publish as soon as you bounce out of bed.
Then call in every online favour you can think of and some you can’t.
Hopefully, over the previous few months, you have been helping other people on social media and being a resource and now you can ask for their help in return.
There is zero wrong with asking people to share your stuff on Facebook or retweet on Twitter etc.
Presuming that is you didn’t ‘meet’ them 5-minutes ago and you’re just looking to tap into the followers.
If I have people who I know have helped me ask me for my help I’m grateful to have the chance to reciprocate.
The online world is a busy one and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to give back to somebody because I had no clue they were launching.
You want to build momentum and traffic to your blog and get as many eyes on your genius as possible.
T Plus 7 Days –
Seriously Tim? Why would I feel deflated?
It’s unlikely all that action will lead directly to clients and you will probably think your efforts all a big fat waste of time.
Seth Godin calls this ‘The Dip’ and it almost always happens after any business launch.
But if you’re expecting it, you can manage it.
So, pick your chin up off the ground Tiger because now the real work starts and this is your chance to separate yourself from all those life coaches that think succeeding at this is a walk in the park.
It absolutely was worth your effort.
Even if it was only to help Google sit up and take notice that would possibly be enough, but it’s more than that because you just launched a business and gained the kind of experience that you cannot buy.
Plus, you’re in the online marketing space now baby and people know it.
Best of luck!