How to Start a Professional Coaching Business

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If you are the kind of person who enjoys cheering on others, sharing tools and watching others become the best version of themselves, then opening a business as a professional coach could be right up your alley. In professional coaching, the life or business coach meets with clients to encourage them in building the life and career they desire. You would have the honor of encouraging your clients to develop a healthy sense of identity, self-worth, vision for the future, routines for success and more.

Types of Coaches

There are many types of professional coaching services to consider as you decide on the details of your small business. One or more of the following types of professional coaching services might appeal to you:

  • Life coaching: Life coaches meet with clients to help them assess where they are in life, where they've been and how to get where they want to be. Focuses can be in the area of trauma, coping skills, life skills, goal setting or figuring out purpose and direction.

  • Business coaching: Business coaches help clients assess their business skills, build their business skills and advance in their careers to meet their professional goals.

  • Financial coaching: Financial coaches equip clients with the skills they need to pay down debt and increase wealth.

  • Wellness coaching: Wellness coaches work with clients to increase wellness through nutrition, movement and healthy body image. 

Each of these types of coaching include subcategories that allow coaches to specialize in what they know and do best. For instance, one life coach might specialize in working with college kids adjusting to life on their own, while another serves new parents adjusting to life with kids. One business coach might specialize in helping young adults plan for early retirement, while another helps people get out of debt.

Professional Coaching Certification

Unlike therapists, doctors, lawyers, financial advisers and other helping professionals, there are no licensing laws that apply to professional coaches. This does not mean that you do not need to obtain some education before opening your own coaching business. Many coaches choose to earn a professional coaching certification so that they and their clients can feel confident about the services they offer.

The International Coach Federation is the only professional coaching certification that is recognized worldwide, with rigorous education standards and accountability that can help give your clients peace of mind. You can choose to complete an ICF-credentialed professional coaching certification program and then get additional certifications in your area of specialty.

For instance, a business coach could elect to earn a Masters of Business Administration, a trauma recovery coach could elect to obtain trauma and resilience certification, or a wellness coach could earn a yoga instructor certification. Additional education in psychology, accounting, business, finance or other specialties might also serve you well.

Benefits of Professional Coaching Organizations

There are many benefits to belonging to a professional coaching organization like ICF, the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches, the European Coaching and Mentoring Council or the Center for Credentialing and Education. Some of these benefits include:

  • Credentialing programs 
  • Access to continuing education
  • Networking with colleagues
  • Access to mentoring and supervision
  • Accountability
  • Help with business logistics
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Scholarly research 

Belonging to professional coaching organizations lends a certain amount of legitimacy to the work you are doing and also adds further legitimacy to the field of coaching as a whole. When coaches submit to education and accountability even though the law does not require it, this speaks volumes to clients and colleagues.

Professional Coaching Services

Life, business, financial and wellness coaches may offer a variety of services as part of their business model. The more you diversify the services you offer, the more income streams your business will generate, which helps you to create financial security. Some of the services you might offer include:

  • Individual coaching: Individual coaching is what most people think coaches do and includes meeting with clients in person, via phone or via video conferencing.
  • Group coaching: Group coaching can be done on a video platform like Zoom or through a text-only chatroom.

  • Writing: Writing includes publishing e-books, writing as a freelancer, publishing blogs or guest blogging.

  • E-courses: E-courses allow you to put together coaching material in a self-paced format so that you can earn passive income with every client purchase.

  • Webinars: When you put together a webinar, you charge money for people to see you or a group of professionals present on topics pertinent to them.

  • Training: You can offer training seminars to corporations, small businesses and social service organizations in areas of your expertise.

  • Supervision: When you become an experience professional coaching expert, you might choose to offer supervision services to newer coaches. 

Coaching: Scope of Practice

In your coaching business, be sure to be careful of your scope of practice and know when to refer clients for other services. Coaches are peers who come alongside their clients and encourage them through the ups and downs of life or business. Coaches are not therapists who diagnose and treat mental illness. Rather, they work with people who are in a mentally healthy and stable place to simply increase the coping, life, healing and business skills needed for the success they desire.

As you build your business, connect with your local small business association so that you can network with other professionals to whom you might later refer. Some professionals with whom to network include:

  • Coaches in other specialties 
  • Therapists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Physicians
  • Alternative health care providers
  • Massage therapists
  • Fitness instructors
  • Dietitians and nutritionists 
  • Physical therapists
  • Financial advisers 
  • Financial planners
  • Educators 

Coaching Business Details

Once you have obtained a professional coaching certification and any education you need to be competent in serving your clients, it's time to work on setting up shop.

You will need to choose a business name and register with your state's Secretary of State. After you are registered, you can open bank accounts and choose whether you will work from home, in a cooperative work environment or purchase your own office space. Remember to consider obtaining professional insurance.

With your legal ducks in a row, you can begin to market your professional coaching services through a website and intentional social media efforts. If your budget is low, WordPress offers a variety of user-friendly web design options, but with a bigger budget, it is helpful to hire a professional web designer. When it comes to social media, a professional social media manager can handle most things for you, or you can use a social media calendar to design your own posts for sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Coaches and Continuing Education

Remember to include continuing education requirements in your professional coaching business plan. Most professional coaching organizations require members to obtain several hours of continuing education in order to renew their credential every couple of years.

For instance, ICF requires 40 hours of continuing education to renew your credential every three years. Check with your professional coaching certification program to see which classes qualify and then meet with your tax professional to ensure that any courses you complete are also eligible tax write-offs for your business.

Not only is continuing education a requirement for maintaining any coaching credential you hold, it is also a way to ensure that you are offering the very best to your clients. In these courses, you are likely to learn new tools, techniques and modalities that you can share with your clients. Some might also allow you to expand the services you offer through your coaching practice. For instance, life coaches might seek certification in HRV biofeedback or S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, while financial coaches may seek training through Dave Ramsey to be able to offer Financial Peace University services.