You might be the best coach in the world, but if no one knows about you and if you're not being paid (enough) for the great work you do, how would that make you feel?
Karen Kissane won Business Coach of the Year at the International Coaching Awards 2019 and has been a wonderful Mentor to TCA Students. Now she has put together a guide for all coaches on how to build a successful business when they finish their training.
I remember it well. Becoming a qualified coach was one of the proudest days of my life. Having put so much hard work and dedication into learning about models, competencies, behaviour styles and limiting beliefs, I was ready to dive in.
I had my certificate. I had over 50 hours of practice coaching under my belt and most of all I had the enthusiasm to get going. Time to go and build that coaching business that I’d been edging towards over the last 12 months.
But this is what I quickly realised.
If you have aspirations to run a successful business, as I did, being a great coach is just the half of it.
The other half, which is just as important, is knowing how to build your business.
I’m talking about your message, pricing, marketing, social media, sales, visibility. Essentially, everything to do with your clients and how you’ll find them. There’s quite a lot to consider, so I realised.
You might be the best coach in the world, but if no one knows about you and if you’re not being paid for the great work you do, that’s a huge shame.
Thankfully I had a sales and marketing background, so I understood many of the principles and knew what was needed, broadly speaking. I knew very little about using social media for business and digital marketing. I realised this was the key to finding clients and becoming known as a coach, so I decided to learn fast.
Social media enables you to reach more people and have a bigger impact. I knew this. I wanted to be able to work with clients from all over the UK, perhaps even the world. So I enrolled on a digital marketing programme that would teach me what I needed about building a business with an online presence.
Over the last 3 years, I’ve applied these foundations to my business and now 80% of my clients come from inside my Facebook community The Smart Woman’s Business Hub, an audience I have grown to almost 4000 women in business in 2.5 years.
I know how easy it is to focus on the wrong things when you’re first building your coaching business so that’s why I’ve written this article for you.
So if you’re building your coaching business from the ground up, with a big vision and plenty of motivation to make an impact, these 8 elements are where I have focused my efforts during the last few years.
I’d like to share them with you to help you create a clear path forward in launching and growing your coaching business.
As coaches, we know how important it is for our clients to do this, but it’s easy to forget to set goals for ourselves.
This step is about having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and why.
By this I mean the type of business you want to create, how many hours you want to work, your financial aspirations, the values that drive you and how you’d like your business to fit into your life. These are your big picture goals.
Then, take your big picture goals and break them down into your project goals; things like building your online presence or creating a coaching programme. Remember to apply the SMART principles of goal setting to ensure your goals are well formed and will help you to move ahead.
Without knowing where you are heading, it’ll be much harder to get there as you may not end up working on the right things; the things that are in alignment with the motivational picture in your mind. In business, a lack of planning can have huge consequences, so we have to make sure, as coaches, we use our great goal setting skills on ourselves too.
This is the part that most people skip ahead to, and whilst it’s important to get your goals defined first, this step is also very important. It can also be the most fun. This is where you get to think about the identity of your business, what you want to be known for, what you stand for, your values, the colours and themes that fit and the words that form the pillars of your brand.
This may evolve over time, but it will serve as the basis for everything else you do in your business.
I did a lot of market research to make sure there was a need for what I wanted to offer, I spoke to others in my industry, and put myself in my ideal customer’s shoes. If you do this it will help you craft a brand and an experience that will best support them.
If your coaching business has stalled, is stuck or you’ve hit a plateau, this step will really help you to get back to basics and back on track
Once your fundamentals are in place, it’s time to articulate exactly what problem you’re helping your clients to solve and importantly what are the benefits for them in solving this problem.
Communicating the benefits of coaching, rather than the coaching itself is the key.
For example, what will the coaching enable people to be, do or have? It’s not the coaching session they are buying from you, it’s what they will gain as a result of the time they spend with you.
Articulating this benefit clearly is one of the most important things to get right as a coach. Here’s an example...
- a package of 6 x 60-minute coaching sessions, every 2 weeks, by Zoom.
- a coaching programme to help you lead a happier, healthier and more fulfilled life.
Which one are you the most drawn to?
As coaches, there are many areas you can specialise in; career, business, health, corporate, education, mums, retirement, young people.
You’ll need to be specific on who you want to work with as each of these different groups will need to hear a different message from you. As an example, you might not want to talk about corporate burnout if your ideal client is a new parent juggling their new role and vice versa. A message that speaks to everyone, speaks to no one.
This is where you dig deep and connect with who your ideal clients are and how you can help them. When you’re able to communicate this in a way that uses their language, they’ll feel understood, which in turn will build rapport and trust.
Coaching is a very personal experience so creating an environment where your ideal clients start to know, like and trust you is essential. To help you to get clearer on your niche, ask yourself these 3 questions;
What do I love? What am I good at?
Who can afford to pay me?
Getting paid for the great work you do as a coach is important. After all, a business without paying clients is a hobby.
Look at the problem your clients may want to solve and ask yourself how much you would pay to have that problem solved? It’s not about how much you think you deserve to be paid, it’s about the value of the solution you offer. Your ideal audience will think of it that way, and you should too.
Once you have worked out your pricing, you can start listing out the features and deliverables you include to reflect the level of offer you’ve created. It’s best to avoid pricing your coaching solely on the time taken because it encourages people to focus on the hourly rate you charge rather than the outcomes they might achieve. So think about what else you can include, such as a DISC assessment, additional tools or support between sessions.
You’ll no doubt create many offers over time. But rather than creating a full menu of offers now, focus your time and energy on designing one main package or programme first. It makes a lot of sense to get your 1:1 programme up and running before looking at group programmes.
By this, I mean your visibility and marketing. Being a great coach is one half of the equation. The second is making sure people know you’re a great coach and being able to earn a living from this. With digital technologies, there really is no limit to what you can earn or achieve.
Taking the time to think about how you will market your business and putting a plan together to enable you to do this effectively is key. Will you use offline, online methods or a combination of both?
There's no doubt, social media has the ability to transform your business. There are thousands of people out there who are your potential customers and reaching these online will take you towards your financial goals much more quickly and enable you to create impact and influence.
Offline may include going to networking meetings and events, online may include social media, lead magnets and sales funnels.
Online approaches are powerful as they enable you to reach many more people in a targeted way and allow you to automate the process. For example, you may create a lead magnet - a PDF download, freebie or checklist which gives value to people in exchange for their email address. When they opt into your email list, this will allow you to communicate with them in a targeted and automated way. Starting an email list is a very effective way to grow your coaching business.
I use mostly online ways to market my business and gain new clients, with a combination of offline and online methods to deliver coaching. For example, I offer in-person coaching days, online group coaching programmes and various options in between.
Coaches often dislike the selling side of running a business, for different reasons. For some, it’s a mindset block. It’s difficult to sell your services to others if you don’t believe anyone will pay you or you don’t value your own time.
For others, they need to fine-tune their skills and their methods for communicating value. For some, it’s a combination of the two. The best way to overcome these challenges is to invest your time in improving these skills.
They’re essential to having a successful coaching business.
Selling isn’t something to fear, nor is it something to feel disingenuous about. Seeing selling as the transaction that it is will help you to see that an exchange of money in return for your skills, knowledge and time is perfectly ok. After all, you wouldn’t expect to see your dentist or fill your trolley full of groceries for free.
Selling isn't just about making money; it's about making a real connection with the people you can help. This involves being genuine and personable, communicating on a deeper level and showing you are the person who can help them to achieve their goals.
People buy from people and in my experience, developing relationships is what makes the difference. The money is a by-product of the work I do as a coach.
A profitable and successful business needs the right systems in place to support business growth and reduce overwhelm.
From lead generation to client onboarding, from task management to automating content delivery and tracking progress, having the right systems set up will free up your time, reducing the chance of burnout and will ensure your business runs like clockwork helping you to deliver an exceptional service.
Your job will be time-consuming enough without having to worry about invoicing, reminder emails, etc. Set up systems to help you with these more mundane processes that take you away from your zone of genius, so that you can focus on serving your clients and your audience as best as you can.
There are many free and paid-for apps and systems you can use. I love Trello for organising my workload, tracking my projects and managing my clients.
I've discovered from my own work and the work I do with my clients, that there’s a thread that weaves through all of this.
They say doctors make the worst patients, and sometimes we as coaches forget to work on our own mindsets around success, confidence and putting ourselves out there. There’s a Tony Robbins quote I like “success is 80% mindset” which I fully agree with.
You have to believe it is possible and have to believe you can do it. Self-belief counts for more than what you know or what you do. If you don’t think you can do it, you won’t.
Resourcefulness, resilience and positivity are essential for this to work.
All too often it’s easy to focus on the mechanics of your business; the website, the logo, the business cards. The things that might make you feel like you’re a professional coach.
Developing relationships, starting conversations and maintaining my mindset is what I have found to be the most beneficial in my coaching business.
So whether you’re just starting out or you want to reignite your passion as a coach, I hope these 8 elements will help you build the right foundation from which to launch – or re-launch – the coaching business you aspire to.
Find out more about Karen's story and her coaching journey in her inspiring interview! Watch it here.
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