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How to start and grow a coaching business

Just qualified as a Coach or entering into the world of running your own business? Then don't worry, we've got you covered.

If you aren't a Coach but still want to find out how to start and grow a business, most of the points in this blog will also be valid for you.

Growing your own business can be a minefield. That old adage 'you don't know what you don't know' can be both a blessing and a curse when you first start out.

So here are our top tips (and pitfalls to avoid) so you can navigate your way in business.

The aim of the game is to get your business off the ground, and spending too much time building websites, learning even more stuff and faffing around with graphics isn't going to bring money or testimonials and therefore social proof into your business.

The easiest way to grow a coaching business is by offering 1:1 services when you first start out. Firstly, because working 1:1 with people can quickly give you a deep understanding of your audience's needs. Secondly, because you only need to make one sale to gain a new client. Finally, when people choose to work 1:1 with a Coach, they are ready to take action.

1. Don't focus on the 'pretty bits' like web design or graphic design first

Websites, faffing around on Canva to make graphics, brand design and business cards are all largely a big fat no when you start your Coaching business. UNLESS you are retro fitting your Coaching business into an area where you are well known (such as becoming a Career Coach and you used to be a Recruiter with a large network). Then doing most of these things is going to be a waste of time and money.

Why is that you ask? Firstly, as a business owner, there is a very high chance you'll niche or pivot what you're doing more than once, especially in the early years. Especially if you are growing a business from scratch, with no audience and you're not sure who to laser-focus on with your marketing. (Which target audience or niche you're going to choose.) Putting it simply, with the high chance that you'll pivot or niche a few times, your website and branding can come (repeatedly) defunct. We've seen this happen a lot, so our best advice is to KEEP IT SIMPLE and read point 2.

2. Keep it Simple - marketing on a shoe string

With reference to point 1, keep it simple and cost effective. Here are some easy and free or low cost ideas you can use to start up your coaching business:

A) Tell everyone on your social feeds what you're doing and ask them to share your post.

B) If you need a logo, use something like Canva or Fiverr to get one inexpensively made.

C) Start networking in the right places (i.e. where your target audience hang out) this could be on LinkedIn, in Facebook groups, in person networking groups and so forth. Get known for what you do!

D) Think about what you're selling - what do your packages look like? Once you've worked this out - what's your message? Who are you? Who do you help? What do you sell? (more about that in point 4)

E) Consider your locality. You don't HAVE to do everything online, you can equally get known locally for your Coaching skills, or you can do a mixture of both.

F) Consider which social channels you need to be on and pick one where you can start posting content. If you're not sure what to post about, you can download our content planner here to give you more ideas.

G) Be consistent. Marketing and getting your name out there takes time.

3. The Legal Bits

At this point, you'll need to look at:

A) Registering with HMRC

B) Get some professional indemnity insurance. We use Simply Business or Hiscox.

C) You'll need to look at registering with the ICO for GDPR reasons if you are collecting personal information from clients.

4. Your Fundamental Foundations

For anyone to consider buying from you, they're going to go through a phase in marketing referred to as 'know, like, trust.' In other words, they need to get to know you first (marketing), then they need to get to know you (they trust what you say, you're showing them social proof (testimonials or case studies) of how you help people.) Once they trust you and they know you can support them with their problems, they're much more likely to want to work with you. With this in mind:

A) Who are you aiming your services at? Think about who they are and what challenges they face. Gathering data from Coaches in your field to see what language they use, visiting forums or social listening on social media channels are a great first step into researching your market. Victoria's absolute favourite, is to go problem mining (having face to face conversations with people about the problems they face and using that knowledge to form the basis of your packages, your business and your marketing.)

B) What are you going to sell? Now you're armed with data from your market research (point A) you'll have a MUCH better idea of how to package up your services. In the early days of your business, it will be tempting to offer small, bite-sized sessions or packages because you feel bad for charging for what people really need (which is more time, let's be honest you can't boil an ocean in 1 hour.)

C) How much will you charge? The holy grail of questions! Pricing is one of your business levers and one of the 4P's of marketing (product, price, place, promotion). Let's get one thing clear from the start...pricing is not about charging what you're worth. It's not about your worth, it's about the worth of your service to your customer.

Pricing is a complex subject, and it's funny how a few small numbers can bring a new business owner out in a cold sweat, so we'll cover that off in a blog all by itself. But for now:

1) Research what other coaches charge in the same field.

2) Think about what you need to earn per month. Whatever you charge, you're going to have costs to take out of that fee before you can pay yourself. We've had clients realise that they were charging so little, after expenses they were earning less than minimum wage.

3) Think about how you want to be seen by your prospective customers? People don't necessarily value cheap. If you want to attract a certain type of audience, they may well expect to pay a premium price for services. They may be more concerned around the value than the cheapest price point.

4) Don't pick a random number.

5) Once you have decided on a price, you can always raise it, you don't have to be stuck there forever.

6) If you're unsure, look at a cross section of what other Coaches charge and try and aim for somewhere north of the mid price range.

7) Bear in mind your audience and what they would be willing to pay, there will likely be a ceiling depending on the audience and service.

5. Pitfalls to consider

When it comes to growing a business from scratch, we've seen (and done) it all. So here are our top tips on what might trip you up along the way:

A) Competitors are not bad, they are good. You live in an abundant world where there is space for everyone. Even if your competitor has 'cornered' the market. Not everyone will want to work with them, and they can't service everyone. Choice is good for consumers and for you, so embrace it.

B) Shiny objects - passive income, evergreen courses, writing a book, launching group programmes are all GREAT ideas, but only if you have big enough audience. Try doing this stuff too early and it will fall flat on its face with little or no return on investment.

C) Doing nothing but learning (buying yet more courses), not implementing them or finishing them because it wasn't what you needed.

D) Trying to sell something for a short while and panicking that no one wants to buy, then going back to the drawing board and creating something shorter and cheaper or niching into a new territory and still not selling. (Consistency IS KEY).

E) Be yourself, everyone else is taken. In a noisy, switched on world, we crave authenticity, so be authentic to yourself and your audience.

F) Don't wait for things to be perfect before you launch them. In commerce, it's standard to go with a minimum viable product. Don't wait for things to be perfect, you have to start somewhere. Your audience won't be worrying about it. Try, test, evaluate, improve.

G) Set clear boundaries for the benefit of you and your clients. You will be tempted to: undercharge, overdeliver, take on clients who are difficult. This is practically a rite of passage. Don't undercharge, don't over deliver. It causes nothing but headaches in the long run.

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