ULTIMATE GUIDE: Getting Your Life Coaching Practice Off the Ground
Interested in making a successful career jump into coaching, but not sure what steps to take? Here’s your step by step, comprehensive guide!
How To Launch Your Coaching Practice
Interested in making a successful career shift into coaching, but not sure what steps to take? Look no further - you’ve just landed on your step by step guide!
- Make the Decision
- Get the Right Training
- Practice with Confidence
- Clarify your Coaching Niche
- Find Your Voice
- Discover Your Unique Path
- Set Up Your Business Operations
At the end of the article, we’ve also included a handy list of resources and tools to support life coaches at every stage of the game.
Whether you’re hoping to find recommendations for business systems, wondering what the legal implications are for starting a coaching business, or looking for ways to attract new clients… we’ve got you covered!
STEP 1: Make the Decision
Are you hesitant to say that you are a life coach, or that you plan to become one? If so, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but where we see aspiring coaches tripping up the most is around false beliefs.
Some people have the idea that to have a successful career in coaching, you need to live a perfect life. Problems solved, every bad habit sucessfullly broken, and perpetually serene.
A person, in other words, that everyone else aspires to be.
So let's just get this off the table right now. Your clients won't be perfect, and they don't need you to be either.
Remember, your job as a coach is to be a guide, a catalyst, to provide support, to create a safe space, and to offer tools which you’ve learned either on your own journey or in a life coach certification program. Your job is NOT to have all of life’s answers.
Ready for the even trickier one? The belief that really gets people stuck?
The idea that it needs to be the "Right Time"... or that you've got to be at a good place in your life to launch a coaching practice.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there, and it keeps many people from EVER becoming a coach.
The truth is that if you wait for the “right time”, odds are high that you’ll never get started. Deciding to be a coach is like deciding to have kids. There are going to be a million reasons why it’s not the right time, so you just have to make the choice and do it.
Here’s what we know to be true: there is never a definitive “right time” for anything.
Time is linear and will pass. Whether you are considering a change in career, relationship, or a move, the weight of a dream deferred eases with action. When nothing changes, we experience decay. But when we assign future value to our present moment decisions and actions, we engender growth and vitality.
It begins by wholeheartedly claiming the future coaching business you intend to create.
So go ahead and say it: I am a coach!
STEP 2: Get the Right Training
Even if you’ve already completed your coach certification, there may be more to this step that’s worth exploring.
This is an unregulated industry, and the fact is that you don’t need any special training or licensure to become a coach. But if that’s the case, why does anyone invest in coach certification through accredited life coach training programs?
It comes down to impact.
The best life coaches out there deliver consistent, meaningful results for their clients. To do so requires a strong grasp of how people learn, create, grow and change.
As a professional coach, it’s also important for you to have a clear understanding of your scope of practice. Untrained life coaches are more likely to unintentionally blur the lines between advising, mentoring and actually coaching others.
In Lumia's life coach training program, we draw upon the field of positive psychology to help our life coaching students better understand the workings of the human mind. And because each client is unique, we provide a wide range of evidence-based frameworks to use in your coaching practice.
What about specialized training and certifications?
If you want to take a focused course about a niche topic, go for it! Many coaches add additional modalities, credentials, and certifications to their practice over time. But for your initial training, it should be all encompassing. You need the primer before you start painting!
Before collecting more credentials, make sure you really know how to:
- Hold safe, non-judgement space for others
- Embody the ethics expected of you in this field
- Recognize the difference between coaching and therapy
- Set up a legal Coaching Agreement
- Facilitate the coaching session structure
Also, consider the investment and your reasons behind it. Continuing education is a great thing, and we're all for it! However, if we're not mindful it can also become a strategy for avoiding the actual work of building your coaching business.
If you find yourself pursuing one training after another, believing you just need a little more knowledge, information, or expertise before you're "ready", take a pause. Remember what we said in Step 1 about being ready?
If you've graduated from a reputable coach training program, you're ready.
Thinking about working as a coach in a business setting?
If so, this next bit is especially relevant.
Many employers and corporate clients require an International Coaching Federation (ICF) credential in order for you to be considered for certain roles.
Why? Because larger companies often have a more sophisticated understanding of the coaching industry than the average consumer. They also have expectations for specific outcomes from their investment.
Businesses often contract with coaches for their executive teams, managers, and to provide corporate training. Many of these companies are aware of the ICF, consider it the gold standard for coaching, and require that the coaches they work with be ICF credentialed.
If you've been trained but don't have an ICF credential, it may be something to explore. Consider whether it can give you a competitive advantage within the coaching niche you plan to pursue.
Need help finding the right program? Check out:
- 7 Things To Look For In A Life Coach Training Program
- How to Choose the Right Life Coach Training Program for You
- Why Choose Lumia Life Coach Training?
STEP 3: Practice With Confidence
Just learning how to be a coach isn’t going to make you a life coach. You have to get on the bike and ride it! This means practice.
The good news is that you already have been practicing. That’s probably why you’re reading this, in fact. You’ve been helping, supporting and coaching coworkers, friends, and family all along the way.
Most likely, you’re good at it and enjoy it, otherwise you wouldn’t want to be a life coach.
And we're willing to bet that people have told you you’re good at it too. If not out loud, then by their actions. Like choosing you every time they need sound advice or a listening ear.
So go ahead and trust all that.
You're here for a reason. Your whole life has been leading to this moment.
Something we’ve observed with new graduates is that most people start with tons of passion and confidence, but then slowly become afraid.
When you take a course, what you've been doing naturally becomes official. And sometimes that can leads to fear, doubt or downright panic.
Something shifts when we enter into a monetary exchange with that first paying client. Now that you’re getting compensated to show up and listen, you might be feeling more pressure to demonstrate your expertise and deliver results.
Right now you may be wondering if you’re any good… having completely forgotten that you’ve already been supporting people for years!
That’s absolutely normal. For the majority of us, there will always be a little fear. But practice will give you the confidence to not allow any fears to stop you from helping as many people as you can.
If you haven’t yet booked your first paying client, use your life as the laboratory.
You can practice with a friend. Let them know in a gentle way that you’ll be practicing the tools and techniques you learned through your coach training program.
Keep repeating the coaching fundamentals in every relationship you have:
- Build trust
- Practice empathy
- Ask open ended questions
- Resist the temptation to give unsolicited advice
- Avoid labels and judgements
- Notice your own responses
Remember, you’re practicing. Even professional athletes understand the value of practicing their skills.
Naturally you want to help whoever you’re practicing on. But the bigger goal is to provide yourself with opportunities to experiment. Explore different techniques and ways in, find your style, and build confidence.
The other way to practice is with strangers.
If you haven't already, sooner or later you'll need to step outside the comfort zone. There’s lots of ways to find people you can serve while continuing to build your skills. Here’s a few ideas to help you get started:
1. Offer free sessions. Tell your friends, family, and the communities you are a part of that you’re a new coach and you want to practice. Do as many of these as you possibly can.
2. Collaborate with local businesses. Think about services that intersect with your coaching speciality. If you’re a wellness coach, that might include other healthcare providers like doctors, acupuncturists, physical therapists and the like. Build relationships to identify ways you can partner or receive referrals.
3. Go to them. Think about where the people you want to help are most likely to hang out. What businesses do they patronize? What groups do they join? Yoga studios? Gyms? The library? Put out flyers, leave your business cards.
4. Add value. Join online interest groups and communities. Participate, demonstrate value, and offer complimentary sessions if it’s appropriate to do so in those spaces.
STEP 4: Clarify Your Coaching Niche
If you’re launching a life coaching business, one of the questions you’ll inevitably be asked is: “What’s your specialty?”
It’s a topic that gets a lot of attention in coach training programs, and can quickly become a source of anxiety for new life coaches if you don’t have a ready answer.
The fact is, it can take time and experience to narrow in on a coaching niche. So why do we focus on it so intently right out of the gates, often before we’ve even booked our first client?
The simple answer is that nobody hires a “life coach”.
People work with you because they want something. They have a goal in mind, a problem to be solved, or desire a specific end result. If you’re unable to articulate what results you help people achieve, potential clients are likely to choose another coach who can.
The purpose of a coaching niche is to differentiate your product or service.
From this perspective, choosing a coaching niche is essentially a marketing decision. A niche helps your ideal clients find you, and allows you to sell your services.
There's nothing to say you can't coach around multiple topics. It's just helpful to have a focus for communicating what you do and the impact working with you can make.
Let’s take a look at a few examples. The following specialties could all easily come out of the same generalist training program. However, it's the way they each describe what they do that will attract a very different base of clients.
Life Coach - A generalist that is trained to help clients accomplish goals/actions (this describes pretty much everyone who graduates from life coach training programs!)
Productivity Coach - Supports professionals in developing the perspective, habits and accountability necessary to get things done at work
Confidence Coach - Specializes in building confidence/confident mindsets
Women’s Empowerment Coach - Focuses on helping women take life into their own hands and on their own terms
Career Coach - Helps clients achieve goals in their current careers, or guides them towards identifying their ideal careers
Love & Relationship Coach - Supports clients in finding satisfaction in their personal relationships
As you can see from the examples above, you can specialize in a wide range of areas! For even more ideas about what’s trending in the coaching industry now, check out 20 Hottest Life Coaching Niches.
If you're not sure where you want to focus, serving as a generalist is a fine place to begin.
The reality is that you are more likely to discover your coaching niche rather than “choose” it. Not only that, your coaching specialization is likely to shift and change over time.
As your experience grows, you may find that you naturally gravitate towards a certain type of client, or a particular topic that you are most excited about. You may also notice that you are most effective when serving clients in one particular area versus another.
It’s all part of the process of building your coaching business. The important thing is to start somewhere. Choose an area that you’ve got some passion around - one that plays to your existing experiences, strengths and expertise.
STEP 5: Find Your Authentic Voice
Consumers are directing more of their attention (and buying power) to small brands because they’re looking for connection. People are seeking relatable, trustworthy, genuine voices, especially when it comes to the topics of personal and professional development.
The market share for coaching services is on the rise. So if you’d like to successfully tap into this growing consumer audience, it’s important to establish both your voice and credibility as a coach.
Your lived experience is a form of expertise, so go ahead and use it!
Consider how you can thread storytelling across your social media platforms, in email newsletters, on your blog or website, and other mediums. Here’s some professional ways to do so without dipping into TMI.
1. Highlight personal experiences that changed you
Consider your coaching specialty, and how that niche intersects with your own life experiences.
- If you are a business coach, tell stories from the trenches of your own leadership or entrepreneurial endeavors.
- If you’re a nutrition and wellness coach, what lessons have you drawn from your own relationship with food?
Whatever the topic, look to your direct experience for storytelling material. Challenges faced, successes, failures, and the lessons learned along the way. Do life "with" your audience - particularly those parts that relate to why they’re following you specifically.
2. Talk about the people, teachers, and philosophies that shaped you
Each one of us stands on the shoulders of giants. Who influences and shapes YOUR path? Sharing what you’ve gained from your own circle of teachers, mentors, coaches and guides helps people better understand the ideas, influences and lineages that inform your point of view.
3. Let your challenges be a learning laboratory
Perfection isn’t believable, or real. By sharing some of the challenges you personally face, you normalize the reality of being human. Again, this is about doing life with people, which extends beyond simply offering people general tips and strategies on “how to do it better”!
If you're a relationship coach, consider sharing your own stories of communication breakdowns, overcoming conflict, or dating disasters. In other words, what hasn’t gone so well for you, and how you’ve worked (or are currently working) through it.
4. Share client success stories
Another opportunity that provides a window into who you are and how you work is through your life coaching client successes. Consider how you might weave testimonials, case studies, and other examples of the impact of your work as a coach into your personal branding.
STEP 6: Discover Your Unique Path
Coaching can take place anywhere, from in-person to over video chat, one on one to groups.
And there’s many different types of coaching as well. Performance coaching, skills coaching, career, personal or life coaching, creativity, business and executive coaching. We know coaches who specialize in outdoor adventuring, some who incorporate horses, astrology or creating art into their work.
If you can dream it up, you can do it.
And get this: there’s more than one way to make a good living as a life coach.
In fact, diversification is the name of the game if you want to build a sustainable coaching business.
According to the most recent global research conducted by the International Coaching Federation, 67% of coaches surveyed do something else in addition to one-on-one coaching. We’re talking about related activities such as facilitating group coaching programs, consulting, teaching, hosting a podcast, or publishing.
On average, these multi-hyphenate coach practitioners allocate just 44% of their working time to 1:1 client coaching. What that means is that the majority of successful life coaches balance a much more diverse body of work than you might expect.
Bottom line? Consider how you can support clients in multiple ways! What follows are common approaches you might take to turn your coaching services into multiple revenue streams.
Increase your impact by bringing a group of people together who are seeking a similar outcome. An effective means for delivering life coaching content on a larger scale, while also building a community of mutual support and accountability.
Podcasts & Public Speaking
With a dash of charisma and a message to share, your voice can be a core component of your practice. Podcasts are an effective way to deliver content, grow an audience, and enhance your creativity.
Expand your impact with a platform that offers practical tools, guidance, and resources for your ideal client. Members might subscribe monthly or annually to gain access to your unique training, materials, and content.
Workshops & Retreats
Use your expertise to facilitate memorable experiences. From international health and wellness retreats to financial planning workshops, there are many ways to profitably connect in-person with your ideal clients.
If it worked for The Angry Therapist (aka Lumia Coaching’s co-founder John Kim), it might just work for you too! Harness your writing skills to serve your coaching practice. From blog posts to books, there’s always an appetite out there for fresh and meaningful content.
Remember: there are many pathways to becoming a published author. You don’t need to hit the NYT bestseller list to gain traction. Even a small but loyal enewsletter list or blog following can be enough to generate the client leads you need to succeed.
Who says you have to go it alone? A winning strategy for some life coaches is to develop a strong network of industry colleagues with whom you can partner.
What might this look like? Serve as a coach in someone else’s program. Lead one session at a retreat. Accept referrals and overflow from a busy colleague who isn’t currently accepting new clients. Appear as a guest on someone else’s podcast. Do Instagram Lives with another practitioner. You get the idea!
Most life coaches don't do everything we’ve listed above.
Instead, they focus on doing a few of those things exceptionally well. The key to success at this stage of the game is to not overthink it. If it helps, narrow your focus by starting with just one!
Begin by asking yourself:
- What combination of activities am I most excited about building my new business around?
- What are some creative ways I could turn my coaching services into product offerings?
- What additional research may be necessary to understand my ideal client's specific needs?
- If I were to pick just ONE of the revenue generation ideas from this article to try out over the next 6 months, what would it be?
STEP 7: Business Operations
If you plan to run your own coaching practice, then guess what? You’re an entrepreneur!
What that means is that there’s more to your success than simply being a great coach. You need to know how to be an effective CEO for your business as well.
If this is new territory, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So don’t overcomplicate it - start with the basics.
You’ll need just a few things to get started:
- A way to schedule client sessions
- A method for accepting payments
- A system for tracking your income and expenses
- An understanding of what business licensing and tax obligations you have, depending upon how you choose to set up your business
- A strategy for getting the word out about your services
Do you need a logo, branding, website or presence across every social media platform?
Begin with the essentials, and beware distractions! Make a list of what’s most important, and work your way through it as you are able.
If you’re a part-time coach that’s side-gigging in pockets alongside your other job or family commitments, this may take time. Give yourself permission to build slowly - just keep putting one foot steadily in front of the other.
To save you hours of research on the business end of things, we’ve compiled some handy resources to help you get situated with more ease. Bookmark these pages so they are accessible when you need them!
- Legal 101 for Life Coaches Guidance from attorney Valerie Del Grosso on the fundamentals for your business
- Business Resources To Jump Start Your Coaching Practice A compilation of suggested scheduling systems, payment processors, client management software, website hosts, content management systems, and other tools of the coaching trade
- Top Life Coaching Tools You Need for Your Practice Go-to coaching interventions, assessment tools, session frameworks and client exercises
- The Ultimate Guide to Life Coach Salaries Data, information, and financial forecasting tools to help you meet your income goals
- The Wellness Economy: What Life Coaches Need to Know A primer on where coaching fits within this $4.5 trillion industry
- 6 Things Every Life Coach Business Website Needs For when (and if) you’re ready!
- How to Do a Coaching Client Consult 5 Steps to assess whether that new client is a good match.
- How to Find Coaching Clients: 11 Strategic Tips To Try Ideas for building your client roster
- Utilizing Social Media in Your Life Coach Career How to get noticed in a crowded online marketplace.
Ready for Liftoff?
A lot of talented people like you dream of having a thriving practice, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. We train and certify adventurous life coaches, making sure you’ve got all you need to build a business you love and transform lives, on your terms. If you’d like to learn more about how to become an ICF certified coach, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training!