How to Start an Online Coaching Business
Taking your passion to the internet? That seems like an adventure.
The passionate coach who is obsessed with his career life and deeply wants to help every one of his students to become the best version of himself should expand his reach to grow a wider audience, and there’s no better tool for that than the internet.
In this guide we will guide you step by step into starting an online coaching business on the internet, from purchasing the domain name to getting your first coaching session booked and beyond!
So let’s get started.
Where to Start? An Overview of Building an Online Coaching Business
I am 100% sure you’re a fantastic coach, but when it comes to building an online business you probably don’t know much.
So you don’t know where to start or what should you do to start your online coaching journey, so you consult the internet, and the internet has brought you here.
Any business, whether online or offline, needs a location to exist, needs a place, whether physical or digital, you need a place to exist and offer your services to your audience.
So the first thing you need to think of when starting an online business is where will you offer your services, ie: which platform?
Next, you will need to think of your coaching service itself, and how will you fulfill it through the Internet.
You will also need to think of your audience, how will you grow it, and what are their preferences so you can fulfill it.
You will need also to think of the finances, a solid business plan never misses the finances section, how will you manage your finances?
A legal structure for your services will also be needed, so you will need to think of the legalities as well.
Lots of thinking is required before taking any step, that’s what we will be discussing in this article.
Which Platform to Choose?
One of the first questions you will need to answer is which platform to choose to offer your services. Is it Instagram? TikTok? YouTube? Should you have a website and grow SEO traffic? Which platform should you choose exactly?
The answer depends on two main factors:
- Your Audience
- Your Resources
Who do you plan to target? Which age group? Which demographic? Which psychographics? You need to have an idea about the type of your ideal customer and which platforms this customer is most likely to spend time on so you can exist there. Knowing this is essential for your business.
How to know your ideal customer?
This depends on whether you have an existing business offline with existing clients or you’re starting a business from scratch. If you already have clients you can simply ask them which platforms they use regularly, that’s called market research, on a small scale.
If you don’t have clients then you will need to research your competitors on each platform, which platform are your competitors performing well on? These are the platforms you need to be active on.
The second part of the equation is your resources, what resources do you have available for your online business? How much budget do you have available? How many team members do you have on your side? What’s your experience level in different aspects of business? What assets do you already have that can benefit your online coaching adventure? Can you produce written content? Can you produce a video? Do you prefer a podcast style?
All of these are questions that need to be answered to determine your next move and your whole strategy.
How to Grow an Audience?
So you have chosen the platform and decided which one you will mainly be active on, now the question is: how to grow an audience? How do you let people know that you exist? The answer is content marketing.
To succeed at attracting and growing an audience for your services on any platform, there are two parts to consider:
- The algorithm
- The social element
To gain traction on any digital platform you need to know that any one of these platforms is based on an algorithm, that gets updated regularly, to show users what they like (on the social platforms) or what they’re looking for (on the search platforms).
By understanding the algorithm and aligning yourself to it you increase your chances of getting picked by the algorithm so it shows your content to the audience.
One common factor in all algorithms is consistency, consistent is essential in succeeding on many platforms, especially for organic reach.
The Social Element
The good thing about the social element is that it’s the same on every platform, once you understand the principles of influencing an audience you can apply it everywhere.
The most common factor between all kinds of audiences is stories.
If you know how to tell stories properly you will be able to attract audiences on any platform and on any niche.
Storytelling is a powerful tool that can help grow your audience, but few know how to use it properly.
Business stories are a different type than fiction stories, when the word ‘story’ is mentioned what comes to mind is “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings”, indeed these are stories, and they’ve similarities with business stories but business stories are different.
Business stories don’t have dragons and magic wands, business stories are about drawing a path for your audience from where they’re standing to where you want them to be.
A destination, and a journey, they are the heroes, and you’re their mentor. You already know how to be a mentor from coaching your clients.
The Operational Side of Online Coaching Business
Now you’ve grown an audience and got your first client online, how would you fulfill the service?
For live sessions, there are two options:
- Dedicated coaching platforms
Each one of these choices has its advantages over the other.
Zoom is widespread and it’s easy to use, in addition to that, it is cost-effective. So Zoom could be a good choice if you’re just starting out or if you have a low startup budget. The issue with Zoom is that it’s generic and doesn’t have many coaching-tailored features.
So Zoom could be good for the beginning phase of your journey or if you’re just testing stuff out before fully committing.
The advantage of a dedicated coaching platform is that it has tailored features for online coaches, it has client management features that make it easier to organize and track client information, but it has a learning curve to be proficient in using such tools and it costs more than Zoom.
So a dedicated coaching platform could be more suitable when you’re serious about your decision of an online coaching business.
In case you plan to sell courses though, which platform should you choose?
In this case, using WordPress and WooCommerce would be the perfect solution for you. WordPress is a simple and easy-to-use blogging platform that can allow you to start an SEO-friendly blog in a matter of seconds. WooCommerce is built on top of WordPress as a plugin to add to your website an e-commerce functionality.
So by using WordPress and WooCommerce, you can turn your website into an online store where you can sell digital, or physical, products to your audience simply and easily.
The advantage of WordPress is that it’s open source, so it allows for a community to evolve around it and adds lots of functionalities and features to it.
How to Manage Finances as an Online Coach?
Managing finances as an online coach is crucial for the success and sustainability of your coaching business. Here are some key steps to effectively manage your finances:
- Create a Budget:
- Develop a detailed budget that outlines your expected income and expenses. This should include not only personal expenses but also business-related costs like software subscriptions, marketing expenses, and professional development.
- Separate Business and Personal Finances:
- Open a separate business bank account to keep your coaching income and expenses distinct from your finances. This separation makes it easier to track business transactions and simplifies tax preparation.
- Track Income and Expenses:
- Keep a meticulous record of all your income and expenses. Use accounting software or apps to help streamline this process. This not only facilitates financial management but also ensures you have accurate information for tax reporting.
- Set Aside Taxes:
- Understand your tax obligations as a self-employed individual. Set aside a portion of your income regularly to cover income taxes, self-employment taxes, and any other relevant taxes. Consider consulting with a tax professional to ensure compliance.
- Establish Clear Pricing and Payment Policies:
- Clearly define your coaching services and set transparent pricing. Establish payment policies, including due dates and any late fees. Communicate these terms to clients to avoid payment-related issues.
- Diversify Income Streams:
- Explore ways to diversify your income, such as offering different coaching packages, creating and selling digital products, or hosting webinars and workshops. Diversification can help stabilize your income and reduce dependency on a single revenue source.
- Emergency Fund:
- Build and maintain an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or periods of lower income. This fund provides a financial safety net and ensures you can continue your coaching business even during challenging times.
- Invest in Professional Development Wisely:
- While it’s essential to invest in your professional development, be mindful of your budget. Prioritize training and certifications that align with your business goals and budget accordingly.
- Review and Adjust Regularly:
- Regularly review your financial statements, track your progress against your budget, and assess the financial health of your coaching business. Adjust your budget and business strategies as needed based on your financial performance.
- Insurance Coverage:
- Consider getting insurance coverage relevant to your coaching business, such as liability insurance. This can protect you from potential legal and financial risks associated with providing coaching services.
- Save for Retirement:
- As a self-employed individual, plan for your retirement by contributing to individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or other retirement savings vehicles. Consult a financial advisor to determine the most suitable options for your situation.
- Monitor and Manage Debt:
- If you have any business-related debts, monitor them closely and have a plan to manage and pay them off. Avoid accumulating unnecessary debt that could strain your financial resources.
By implementing these financial management practices, you can maintain a healthy financial foundation for your online coaching business and position yourself for long-term success. If you’re unsure about certain financial aspects, consider consulting with a financial advisor or accountant who specializes in working with small businesses and freelancers.
What Legal Considerations Should You Be Aware of When You Have an Online Coaching Business?
Running an online coaching business comes with various legal considerations. It’s essential to be aware of these to ensure compliance, protect your business, and maintain a positive relationship with clients. Here are key legal considerations for online coaches:
- Business Structure:
- Decide on a legal structure for your coaching business, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC (Limited Liability Company), or corporation. Each structure has different legal implications, including liability and tax obligations.
- Contracts and Agreements:
- Develop clear and comprehensive contracts for your coaching services. Include details such as the scope of services, fees, payment terms, confidentiality clauses, and any other relevant terms. Consult with a legal professional to ensure your contracts are legally sound.
- Liability Waivers:
- Consider having clients sign liability waivers, especially if your coaching involves physical activities or potential emotional challenges. This document can help protect you from legal claims related to injuries or dissatisfaction with coaching outcomes.
- Privacy and Data Protection:
- Intellectual Property Rights:
- Clearly define ownership and usage rights for any materials you create, such as coaching resources, videos, or written content. Ensure that clients understand the terms regarding the use of your intellectual property.
- Compliance with Licensing and Certification:
- If your coaching practice requires specific licenses or certifications, ensure that you comply with relevant regulations. Display any necessary credentials prominently in your marketing materials and provide proof of qualifications upon request.
- Advertising and Marketing Compliance:
- Adhere to truth-in-advertising laws and guidelines. Avoid making false claims about your services or results. If you use testimonials or endorsements, ensure they are accurate and compliant with applicable regulations.
- Accessibility Compliance:
- Ensure that your online coaching platform and materials comply with accessibility standards. This includes making your services accessible to individuals with disabilities, as required by laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Dispute Resolution and Refund Policies:
- Clearly outline dispute resolution processes and refund policies in your contracts. Having transparent policies helps manage expectations and can prevent legal disputes.
- Insurance Coverage:
- Consider obtaining liability insurance to protect yourself from potential legal claims. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, can be particularly relevant for coaches.
- Terms of Service and Disclaimer:
- Develop clear terms of service for your website or coaching platform. Include disclaimers about the limits of your services and the responsibility clients have for their own decisions and actions.
- International Considerations:
- If you have clients from different countries, be aware of international laws and regulations that may apply. Consider consulting with legal professionals who specialize in international business law.
- Stay Informed:
- Regularly update yourself on relevant laws and regulations, as they may change. Join professional organizations or networks to stay informed about legal developments within the coaching industry.
It’s advisable to consult with legal professionals, such as attorneys specializing in business or online coaching law, to ensure that your business practices comply with applicable laws and regulations. This proactive approach can help you avoid legal issues and build a solid foundation for your online coaching business.
Starting an online coaching business is a worthwhile adventure, you get to meet and help people from all over the country if not from all over the globe.
By having a solid business plan that answers all the essential questions from how will you grow the audience to how you will fulfill the services and manage the legal side and your finances you can achieve success in your adventure and reach the goals you’ve set to your self to become one of the best online coaches online.