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How to start an online coaching business in 7 simple steps

20 min
Updated:

“Was that OK?” 

☝️ This is the most common question Oprah Winfrey hears from her guest after the interview. Barack Obama asked her that. So did George W. Bush and Beyonce. People that we think are so rock-solid and confident. Yet, showing that they are also insecure with that simple “Was I OK?” question.

Why am I bringing this up? Because people across the board are insecure and looking for guidance, both on a business and private level. In the age of the recession, layoffs, wildfires, heatwaves, and the AI revolution, we all feel the world is spinning too fast.

There are so many essential questions about careers, finances, entrepreneurship, mental health, and many more that need answers. 

And this is where online coaches step in!

If you’re thinking about helping people and starting your own online coaching business, you’re in the right place.

You will walk away from this article with a clear action plan for building your online coaching program.

But before that, let’s find out if you can become an online coach.

Did you know? With GetResponse, you can grow your coaching business with ease. It comes packed with intuitive marketing tools such as email marketing, forms and popups, websites, landing pages, webinars, and more! Try it completely free today!

Online coach — is it you?

A vision of running a successful online coaching business can seduce you like an exquisite dinner in a 5-star hotel next to the cast of Barbie and Oppenheimer movies gathered around one table. 

Just look at the numbers:

  • Over the last few years, the coaching business has been on an upward trajectory. According to the ICF Global Coaching Study, coaching is a $2.85 billion global industry.
  • The ROI of coaching programs can be insane! One case study from the International Society for Performance Improvement showed a stunning 221% return on investment.
  • And according to CNBC, life coaches can earn $100-$150/hour. And if that’s not enticing enough, the most thriving online coaches establish their pricing based on value rather than on working hours, and they charge their coaching clients as much as $35K per month.

The tricky part is that even the most glamorous-looking business is not meant for everyone. For example, a few years back, I thought I’d redefine myself and become a software developer. And, kid you not, I attended a course, and after a few hours, I left the classroom, absolutely bored to tears.

And the same can be with providing online coaching services. It requires specific core competencies. During the “Make Millions as a Consultant or Coach” webinar, Alan Weiss, a highly esteemed coach and consultant, emphasized the six vital skills every online coach should possess:

  • Critical thinking — you need to know how to recognize patterns and the dynamics behind making decisions and implementing innovations.
  • Speed — which means the nerve to do things rapidly as opposed to things done excellently
  • Superb language skills — the way you communicate will help you to cut through the noise
  • Healthy intellectual curiosity — you must be willing to unlearn and constantly learn.
  • Enthusiasm and energy — those two are contagious and are one of the aspects that will determine whether or not new clients will gravitate to you.
  • A healthy sense of humor — as mentioned above, this is a natural soft skill that will help you create a bond with your coaching clients.

On top of those, you must also bear in mind that running a coaching practice comes with much responsibility. And finally, who you are and how you act also significantly influences the people you coach.

Sounds like you? Great! It’s time to break down the building of your online coaching program!

How to start an online coaching business in 7 steps

OK, the external conditions are convenient. And yes — ironically, even the black swans, such as the economic downturn, post-COVID aftermath, or AI taking over human jobs, can be beneficial for your online business as a coach.

You also have the motivation — the numbers behind the coaching industry are worth a shot.

And finally, your mindset and skills are on the money.

Remember, though, that the below steps won’t translate into an overnight success. Becoming a thriving online coaching entrepreneur takes time, dedication, and trial and error.

That said, let’s dive into the first step.

1. Select your coaching niche

Being a coach is an extensive term, so you need to narrow down your scope of work from the get-go. This part will substantially determine your value proposition, the final package of your coaching services, and marketing channels.

From a life coach to a career coach — which one is you?

This part is tricky. Your logic, intuition, and most coaches in the business would tell you — you need to know your niche inside-out before building your successful coaching business.

In other words, you’re unable to coach clients on managing their finances if you don’t come from a financial background (unless you’re just passionate about investing and have saved seven figures over the last few years).

The same rule would apply to:

  • Business coaching — it’s a way to go if you have years of managerial experience under your belt or you’re a founder of at least one blooming startup. If not, convincing people to pay for your coaching program will be a challenge.
  • Life coaching — this one requires both psychological background and real-life experience. The second part of the equation means you should shine as an example to lead others to excel. 
  • Health and wellness coaching — first, you must prove that your life is healthy and balanced before taking this responsibility for others. If your nutrition, sleeping habits, and other aspects of well-being are spot on, feel free to tap into a growing demand for health coaches.
  • Career coaching — if you come from an HR and recruiting environment, or your career path is a winning streak, you can smoothly transition to coach others about their next career moves. 

So, the primary questions should be — what is your experience and skill set? Suppose your expertise boils down to marketing, legal, education, IT, or real estate. In that case, the choice will come naturally because you understand how things work in a particular industry.

OK, but what if you want to try something completely different? Can you do that? Here’s what Karolina Kurcwald, freelance marketing strategist and a job coach, has to say:

“A consultant or a mentor should substantially know the ins and outs of a particular niche. But it’s not a must-have for a coach. Because, in essence, a coach works to help clients bring out their skills and potential. So an authentic coach should, first of all, know how to do that. The niche here is secondary.”

What is your ideal target market?

Once you decide on your online coaching business type, based on your experience or passion, it’s time to understand your ideal market.

Let’s say you want to become a business coach. Would you like to cover every possible industry within that category? Or would you instead focus on being a business coach for logistics, HR, software development, retail, or manufacturing?

The same with life coaching. Who would be your ideal buyer? Women in their 50s who are on a soul-searching journey? Divorced men fighting with addictions? Young moms or super-active students?

Defining your target audience will take you to the next step of crafting your online coaching program.

2. Solve their problem

What are their pain points? What are the villains they have to face every day? Identifying the most nerve-wracking challenges that are raising cortisol levels among your potential clients is paramount.

Analyze your target audience

There are several ways you can discover those problems:

  • From your experience — if you know a specific industry at the back of your hand, you know those challenges perfectly because you kept facing them for years. Which makes it super-easy for you to emphasize with your potential clients and be authentic in your messaging.
  • Monitoring social media and forums — observing posts on Facebook or LinkedIn groups, following related hashtags, or browsing threads on Quora, Reddit, or Slack communities can be a golden source of knowledge.
  • From market research — the best way to validate your assumptions is to talk to your potential coaching clients. Interviews with open questions can equip you with insights you wouldn’t discover otherwise, and running surveys can help you legitimize them at scale.

At this stage, your role is to nail the problem that keeps coming up. For example, it can be a burnout issue for folks in their 30s and 40s working in technology. In that case, the core of your coaching program should include work-life boundaries, stress management, and wellness activities.

For Agnieszka Śladkowska, a career and self-confidence trainer and founder at Gorilla Job, job seekers were the core audience. Here’s how she identified their problems:

“First, we investigated recruiters’ behavior based on our observations, conversations, and surveys. Next, we launched our free resume analysis campaign, which showed us where job candidates misaligned with recruiters’ requirements. Besides, I recruited for over 10 years before launching Gorilla Job, meaning that probably at least 10,000 candidates have passed through my hands. I observed them not only during recruitment interviews with me but also with hiring managers.”

Matthew Pollard, best-selling author and a Rapid Growth Guy, was super-precise in picking his audience, so the problem identification came naturally:

“I focus on helping introverted service providers obtain rapid growth. Because I have a defined niche, all my clients have the same issues. Most coaches focus on helping everyone with everything. Not only is that terrible for marketing, but it also makes helping their clients difficult.”

3. Define your value proposition

Once you know your target audience, their challenges, and goals, and have all the preparation to help them tackle those pain points and reach them, now it’s time to summarize it.

Whether you use a physical or digital drawing board, work on creating a concise and compelling statement. Let’s take that burnout example. If your online coaching is to help anxious professionals working in IT companies, your value statement could go like this:

“I help overwhelmed tech specialists to overcome their burnout and achieve work-life balance.”

Here’s how Agnieszka Śladkowska worked on the value for job seekers:

“Selling a product, which is not the cheapest to clients with a minimal budget, had to deliver a true value and a chance for a quick return on investment. In my case, the value was: 

  • the knowledge about what recruiters expect, 
  • guiding through and supporting job seekers during the entire hiring process, 
  • teaching them how to find the right job and manage their emotions,
  • training them to handle a job interview and to choose the best offer.”

Having a rock-solid value proposition is essential. But remember that your online coaching business can evolve over time. And you can reiterate your statement accordingly. Remember Alan Weiss, a boutique coach and consultant? In the “Make Millions as a Consultant or Coach” webinar, he said:

“When working with Fortune 500 companies, my value proposition was: I dramatically improve individual and corporate performance. Today, when I’m working with individual entrepreneurs all over the world, my value proposition is: I improve people’s lives and their businesses beyond their greatest aspirations.”

4. Start building your brand

You can be surprised here and say, “Hey, building a brand before creating an actual coaching program?” Yes, that sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. 

Most likely, you’re in your 9 to 5 job. Which gives you comfort and time to test the waters and start positioning yourself as an authority in a specific field. 

Besides, starting a coaching business doesn’t have to follow a linear path. And Meena Kumari Adnani’s story is a perfect example.

Build your following on social media

Meena Kumari Adnani is an international speaker and a famous self-empowerment and business coach for women. But before she started her successful business as a coach, she faced a dramatic turning point. During the “Building your self-worth and net worth” webinar, Meena shared a story of losing all her savings overnight. 

She was devastated. As a form of self-therapy, she created a Facebook group to share ways to overcome depression and get back on her feet. Her content resonated with people so much that members invited their friends, creating momentum. A momentum that led to Meena’s own coaching business.

Luisa Zhou, who made multiple six figures in her year as an online coach, also started by being super-active in Facebook groups, providing valuable free answers, which helped attract clients.

Agnieszka Śladkowska, mentioned abovehas grown her following by providing free resume analysis, sharing valuable materials that helped people prepare for recruitment, and unusual communication that was both substantive and fun:

“Our competition lacks a sense of humor, so for people, it was a breath of fresh air and gave us a valuable thing. Really wonderful clients. Sensitive, with a sense of humor, and brilliant.”

Which social media platform should you tap into? For business coaching, LinkedIn should be the most natural environment. Many life and other coaches still use live streaming and reels on Facebook. If you are a health and wellness coach, Instagram should be your go-to LeonLogothetis, aka “The Kindness Guy,” has 143K followers on Instagram, and LindseyVonn, an Olympic champion who teaches about mental health and a champion mindset, has 2.2M folks following her posts.

Create a simple website

Social media presence is crucial. But you probably heard that mantra “don’t build your house on a rented land”? Platforms change constantly — from the algorithms to total rebranding (farewell Twitter, welcome X).

So creating your own coaching website is table stakes. 

The main obstacle early founders have boils down to limited budget and resources. Hiring a graphic designer and a web developer comes with significant costs. And it will take time to create. But perfection can kill excellence.

The good news is that you can do it way faster and cheaper with GetResponse! Our website builder will make it a breeze! You have two options:

  • A drag-and-drop editor with pre-made templates
  • Or a fresh AI-powered website creator

With the first option, you can choose from hundreds of pre-designed templates grouped in several categories or customize your website with blank templates.

And if you want to try the AI alternative, you need to enter your coaching business type, select a website category, and play around with a description of what you do.

Next, you can select the components of your future site:

The AI starts working magic after entering business details and picking a color tone! Here’s what came out of that 1-minute exercise:

The platform created a draft home page with related subpages, stock photos, and web copy. What’s super handy is that you can easily connect that web project to your domain:

Deliver value through free webinars

You can call them webinars, and you can call them online events, video calls, or podcasts. The idea behind them is the same — to garner a legion of fans that will gradually convert into clients.

Online events are an ideal content type for providing free value and generating leads at the same time. Webinars allow you to juggle different media formats (presentation, video, screen sharing) to solve problems most engagingly.

In essence, online events will help you to:

  • build your credibility as an upcoming coach,
  • reiterate your market research by gathering feedback through chat and surveys,
  • start building your email list for future email marketing campaigns,
  • create a bond with your potential new clients,
  • see how your future group sessions will go.

I know — webinars can look complex and challenging to run, but this time investment will pay off! All you need to start is a solid webinar platform. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to find one! With GetResponse, you can hit two targets with one arrow:

  • run webinars,
  • build and manage an email list of your webinar attendees.

How to create a webinar? Check out this video, where our product super-star, Pedro Simão, will walk you through the process:

5. Create your online coaching program

With all your homework, insights, feedback, and your following, you can start an online coaching business at this stage. Pack it all up in a valuable, easy-to-understand, and sellable package. The best approach is to structure and break it down into clear steps. 

Need a couple of hints from a real-life coaching business? Here’s how Agnieszka Śladkowska has built her career training program:

“I didn’t use a particular methodology or a framework, but my knowledge about a recruiting process from a recruiter’s point of view and thousands of observations of how this process works on the candidate’s side. Where do the difficulties appear? Where do motivation drops and wrong thinking come from? The premise of this program was all about its complexity, practicality, and ease of implementation.”

And here’s how Matthew Pollard has crafted his coaching program at Rapid Growth for introverted business professionals:

“I decided to only coach for short engagements and only wanted to focus on several main objectives. I decided I could deliver those in 3 sessions and told myself I’d get a bonus in a free extra session if I were wrong. Now it’s a black box, and I’ve turned the same 6 hours of coaching into a nine-week academy. Coaches that coach on everything find it much harder to build and sell online courses, as the clients they attract are too diverse.”

BONUS TIPS:

  • To become a fully legit and recognized coach, consider getting a certification from International Coaching Federation (ICF).
  • Instead of taking your first steps alone, you can tap into existing coaching platforms and marketplaces such as Mighty Networks.

6. Set up your rates

Time to price your coaching services and products. First, find competitors in your coaching niche and check how they do it. Second, determine how much you need to earn to secure your living and create financial freedom.

There’s a discussion about hourly rating vs. value rating. Alan Weiss is a strong advocate for setting pricing based on value. In his opinion, a successful agreement between a coach and a client should have those foundations:

  • (Business) objectives — outcomes such as higher revenue or fewer expenses.
  • Metrics — to measure progress towards those outcomes.
  • Value — what your client gained from meeting the objective. Suppose a corporate client saved $1M thanks to the coaching service. That’s why he advises not to charge per hour of coaching work but per value (per project). 

But on the flip side, highly successful and hyper-focused coaches charge as much as $1K per hour. Multiply that by, let’s say, 20 coaching sessions a week. Only that will give you $20K weekly!

Still, other forms of coaching products will bring other pricing models to the table:

  • Mastermind groups
  • In person coaching training sessions
  • Online courses
  • Online tools
  • Paid webinars

Other types of monetization include selling books or speaking at conferences (and getting paid for that).

7. Market your coaching

OK, now it’s time to play offense and go out there to get your clients! And before you dive into this chapter, remember that even marketing companies keep testing different marketing strategies and trying to hack the best ways to acquire more clients.

So, keep testing, see what’s working and what’s not, and implement changes accordingly.

Let’s now go over several marketing tactics that’ll help you attract more clients. For a deeper dive, you’ll want to read our marketing for coaches guide.

Create an email marketing campaign

This is when you can reap the fruits of your previous webinar and content marketing activity. People registered to your online events are now in your email base. Earlier on, I highlighted why using GetResponse for running webinars has a positive “side effect” — you can orchestrate your newsletters and email sales campaigns from the same platform.

Our newsletter editor has everything you need:

  • A subject line and preview text fields,
  • option to add your recipients,
  • time scheduling with a best-timing feature.

And several options to design your winning email: pre-designed templates, blank templates, an HTML editor, and an AI email generator.

If that wasn’t cool enough, with our email marketing suite, you can also A/B test your emails and substantially increase your key metrics — open and click-through rates.

Do email campaigns through GetResponse work for online coaches? Bryan Todder has been using our platform to handle email marketing for his financial online business:

“I can make a campaign with six emails, resends, and automation. I can do it, beginning to end, within 30 to 45 minutes, at the most. It doesn’t take the whole day! And really, it just works!”

💡 Read on to learn how to use email marketing for coaches.

Tap into your social following

Have you been actively building your brand with social media posts? Now, it’s time to reveal yourself as a professional coach!

Double down on the platform where your ideal clients hang out. By definition, for B2B and career-oriented online coaching players, the natural playground will be LinkedIn:

But Instagram and Facebook aren’t the forbidden land for business coaching:

Regardless of the platform, don’t forget to be client-focused and be sensitive with your sales pitches.

Leverage networking and referrals

Undoubtedly, promoting on social media is a common practice for many coaches, especially new ones.

But to build a thriving online coaching business, your Elixir of Life should be networking and referrals. Especially in the corporate world, when decision-makers want to hire a coach or a consultant, they heavily rely on peer-to-peer recommendations rather than experimenting with coaches that accidentally appeared on their LinkedIn feed.

Matthew Pollard, who now trains and mentors other online coaches, shares what he did to get his first paying clients:

“I spoke for free at an event and went to a free mentoring event. I also went out networking. People that use social media to get their first clients are crazy. You need to go and validate that your message works with real people and get instant feedback.”

Agnieszka Śladkowska also highlights the outstanding results of word-of-mouth:

“In essence, the clients came to us themselves. We wrote valuable content, provided support, and built a community. Both interns purchase our product before starting their first job, and directors with financial expectations 20k+. What connects them is their readiness for changes in how they think about job hunting, a sense of humor, tolerance, and commitment. Very quickly, word of mouth became our primary source of clients.”

Run paid ads

Last, if you have a spare budget for advertising, you can experiment with paid social campaigns. Facebook and LinkedIn ad systems offer solid targeting options, letting you reach a specific audience with sponsored posts.

You probably bumped into many coaching video ads if you’re a YouTube user. I keep seeing them all the time, and honestly, you can easily beat most of them with a bit of creativity and soul.

Did you know? With GetResponse, you can easily create paid ads for Meta and Google!

Go get them!

That was a heck of a ride! You have walked through 7 steps to start an online coaching business, packed with real-life insights and hints from coaching professionals.

A solid action plan is one thing. But to streamline the process, you also need comprehensive software. And with GetResponse, you can cover many aspects of marketing and sales activities, from building a website and running webinars to managing email marketing and marketing automation.

Does it move the needle? With GetResponse’s automation suite, Ken Furukawa increased his online coaching revenue by over 100% in just six months!

Ready to give it a try? Our platform comes with a freemium plan — no credit card, no strings attached!


Jakub Zieliński
Jakub Zieliński
Content, email, and product marketing geek working with SaaS and IT companies. Co-Founder at Cayenne Flow — an agency that does all that ⬆️, loves teaming up with awesome people and planting trees for every project.
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