Have business experience? Someone, somewhere could really use your help.
If you're willing to share what you know — even as a regular, non-famous business person or entrepreneur — you can turn your experience into an income stream.
Becoming a business coach is easier than you might assume, given the tools for online teaching and coaching available today.
Why You (Yes, You) Would Make a Great Business Coach
Right off the bat, let's establish something: you don't need to be Warren Buffett to be a business coach.
You simply need to have more experience than the people you plan to coach!
There's a huge market for educating beginners and intermediates who just need the fundamentals, or have a specific challenge that your experience is suited for (more on that later).
In other words, don't think of coaching as something only uber-successful experts or high-profile influencers do.
Think of coaching as a hill that all entrepreneurs (and aspiring entrepreneurs) are climbing. Each of us reaches up for the hand of someone ahead of us, who helps pull us along. Each of us also reaches a hand behind us, to help someone we're ahead of.
So where do you begin?
Your first 6 steps are below. Follow these steps to build a solid foundation on which a sustainable, scalable coaching business can be built.
Step 1: Identify Your Superpower
Here's the first huge mistake aspiring business coaches make: trying to be a generalist instead of a specialist.
And yes, I made this mistake in my coaching days.
No one can really be an effective coach for every type of business. Different kinds of business founders have very different needs, and people at different stages of their business have different needs.
Your goal is not to become the ultimate authority on "business" in general. Your goal is to become the person who can offer something transformative for a specific niche.
For example, my own former business coach, Dan Martell, is a heck of a business brain. He's an extremely successful coach and founder of SaaS Academy. But his focus is incredibly narrow: Dan only coaches SaaS business founders, and only those at a certain level of monthly revenue.
Dan doesn't coach "business people." He coaches a certain kind at a certain plateau. Not many people do precisely what he does, and even fewer do it well. That's why Dan has cornered the market, and (more importantly) can charge what he's worth.
…actually scratch "what he's worth.” More accurately, Dan charges "what he's worth to people in that exact situation."
Conversely, when I used to coach, at one point I was doing group sessions with all kinds of entrepreneurs — in tech, ecommerce, training; you name it.
The result? My sessions were intermittently useless to half (or more) of the group, because I'd be addressing challenges and needs that not everyone shared. Don't do that.
Step 2: Set Your Rates
Important caveat: if you've never coached or mentored anyone before, you may have to give some of your time and expertise away, just to get started.
Ultimately, one single factor trumps all others when it comes to selling your coaching services: social proof.
Your own experience can be vast and accomplished; your marketing can be genius; you can be the best coach that ever lived — but unless you have some notches in your belt (as in people you've coached to success), it's nearly impossible to convince potential clients that you're the one.
If you have to, coach or mentor someone (or several someones) in exchange for testimonials. Offer them the deal of the century: the benefit of your experience for free.
All your help-ees have to do is be one of your test cases. They get the coaching, you get their words, images, and maybe even a live or video testimonial for your marketing materials.
...but having said all that...
When you're ready to start charging for your coaching, don't make another common mistake: lowballing yourself.
Yes, you can charge 6 figures for coaching if you become extremely successful. And no, you can't ask for that much when you're new to the game. But don't sell yourself short in the meantime!
From my experience, $300 per month per person for group coaching is the minimum any serious coach should charge. Any lower than that, and 3 negative side effects occur:
- You hurt your brand. Being known for the ‘cheap’ version of anything is not a sustainable business model, unless you're a megacorporation.
Consumers know that they get what they pay for, so don't send the wrong signal with clearance-bin coaching fees.
- You stunt your growth. You need money to reinvest in your coaching business and scale it up. If your business isn't profiting by a substantial margin, it can't grow.
You'll need to invest in everything from your website to your marketing campaigns to software tools in order to get where you're going. Charge enough to invest in a better (and higher-priced) coaching experience in the future.
- You attract the wrong clients. It’s been proven time and again that people work harder at something they’ve invested in. People who pay $10/month for a gym statistically work out less than people who pay $100 or more.
Why? Because they don’t want to waste their investment.
That principle holds true for almost every business. If you charge too little, you’re likely to end up with unmotivated clients who don’t do the work — and don’t make you look very effective as a coach.
Step 3: Prioritize Results
Not your results. Theirs.
As I mentioned above, social proof is the coach's #1 marketing and sales asset. Your single top priority should be ensuring that your clients accomplish things you can hang your hat on.
For every single client you take on, the question should always be "What can this person accomplish with my help, that I can show to other potential clients?"
Without proven results, you don't have a coaching business. You have a proposition, and nothing to back it up.
Pro tip: in order to generate more and better results, you have to be selective in who you choose to help.
Qualify your potential clients, and make sure that if you invest your time and effort in them, that they'll hold up their end of the bargain. Before you accept any given client, ask the following questions:
- What have you tried so far, before coming to me, in order to reach your goal or overcome your challenge?
- Have you tried coaching before? If so, what happened?
- What books have you read on [whatever you’re coaching them on]?
If there's no evidence that the person in front of you gave a consistent, committed effort to improve before they met you, you're taking a gamble.
You know what they say about horses and water; if you take on a client who doesn't drink, it won't help your credibility — and can even damage it, if the client decides to blame you for their lack of effort.
Step 4: Find Leads
Of course, becoming a business coach requires people to coach. So where do you find them?
Outside of your own network, there are a few ways to put yourself in front of potential clients, and give them a taste of what you can offer.
Content Partnerships: This is probably the easiest and most effective way to gin up some leads. Find a product or service whose target market is the same as yours (but not a competitor), and offer yourself to their audience.
This can take the form of:
- Going on a podcast (podcasts are always hungry for guests)
- Presenting at an event
For example, email marketing coach Matthew Kimberly recently hosted a workshop for WebinarNinja, knowing that among our audience, there was likely to be quite a few people who need help with email marketing.
In fact, software companies' audiences are stuffed with potential business coaching clients. Consider reaching out to:
- Email platforms like MailChimp and ConvertKit, or
- Social media-adjacent companies like adespresso and Buffer, or
- Payment processing firms like Stripe
Where there's a business software tool, there's an audience of potential clients — and a company who'd love to offer them your valuable content.
Conferences: Ideally, you speak at conferences. But even simply attending conferences geared toward your niche will put you literally in a room full of leads. Introduce yourself, and start making connections.
Step 5: Nail the SEO
The best investment you can make in your business is to own your niche's keywords.
This is another reason it's so vital to choose a specific niche. You're unlikely to outrank the big boys for terms like "business coach" on Google. But if you're gunning for "ecommerce email marketing," you can make it very easy for your ideal clients to find you.
No matter what, you. need. to. write.
Even if writing isn't your thing and you need to hire a content writer to help articulate your insights, do so. A healthy repository of blog posts, website copy, and YouTube videos (with the right written copy) are your best chance of getting leads into the top of your funnel.
Step 6: Build Your Value Ladder
In the beginning, coaching is very unlikely to be the first thing people buy from you. That’s especially true if you’re thinking of 1:1 coaching.
For that reason, most successful coaches utilize some form of “value ladder.” A value ladder is simply a sequence of products or services (from least expensive to most expensive) that people buy on their way to buying your big flagship product or service.
So if your flagship service is high-priced 1:1 coaching, you need to create a few stepping stone items for people to buy first. For a typical coach, the sequence usually looks something like this:
- A book (even an ebook)
- A paid workshop
- A video course
- A live course
- Group coaching
- 1:1 coaching
With each purchase, the consumer builds more confidence in you.
They buy your book, they learn something valuable from it, they figure your paid workshop is worth it. They get even more value from your workshop, they figure your courses are worth it. And so on.
One of the most important, fundamental principles of sales that so many entrepreneurs forget is this: the person most likely to buy from you is the person who already bought something from you.
In other words, don’t over-focus on getting new leads.
Take the leads your free content brings, and sell them your lowest-priced item. Then sell them the next item, then the next. Cultivate those relationships until they reach the top of the ladder — then coach the heck out of ‘em, and maintain the relationships as they become your social proof for new clients.
With the steps above as a foundation, you can turn your knowledge and experience into a business that benefits yourself and countless others.
Remember: no matter where you are in your business journey, there is always someone out there who aspires to be there, too. Help them get there, and just like that, you’re a coach!