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How To Start An Online Coaching Business

how to start an online coaching business sam vander wielen

Want to start a coaching business but don’t know what you need to do to build a successful online coaching business? This post is the ultimate guide to starting an online coaching biz. Let’s get into it.

Online coaches look like they’re living the dream, right? Work from anywhere, gorgeous lattes in the coziest coffee shops, and making money in their sleep. But if you’re wondering how to start an online coaching business (or what a coaching business even is!) so you can get in on this action, I’m here to help.

I’ll never forget when I first left the law and told people I was leaving to become a “coach.” I’ll never forget that look in their eyes when they said, “of what?”

So just in case you’re new around here and wondering what an “online coach” is, let’s break it down. An online coach generally refers to someone who offers coaching services to their clients remotely.

Over the past several years, the online coaching industry has absolutely exploded. You can find a coach for almost any industry. In the Ultimate Bundle™️ alone, we have coaches who are coaching people on: mindset, life/self-care, health, fitness, money, dating, career, nutrition, business, breathwork, yoga, travel, and so much more.

Online coaches can not only work with more clients in more places, but they can also offer all different types of coaching services and products: from online courses, memberships, and group coaching to private coaching.

But where do you start if you want to create your own online coaching business? Maybe you feel like you’ve got to work with a business coach first, or get more training…

I’m here with the ultimate guide to help you learn how to start building a successful online business 😉 Let’s jump in!

How To Start An Online Coaching Business

1. The Riches are in the Niches

Maybe you’ve heard that the “riches are in the niches.” All that means is that you have to get really specific about who you’re here to help, with what, and why.

And it has to be something THEY want help with, not something you think they should want help with. For example, instead of creating a coaching business aimed at convincing party-going college kids that they should drink less, you could create a course aimed at college kids who are sober curious and want a different type of college experience. (Assuming you’ve done your research and those kinds of college kids even exist lol)

So your first step to start a coaching business is to get clear on:

  • exactly who your “ideal client” or target audience is (i.e., college kids who are sober curious)
  • what they need help with (i.e., having a fulfilling college life without drinking)
  • what they want to be different than what they’re experiencing right now (ie., not feeling isolated, alone. Or weird for not wanting to party hard in college, how to get the most out of their college experience without drinking)
  • what their dream or ideal situation would be, after your help (ie., having a community of other college kids who are like them, having fulfilling experiences without drinking).

You can learn a lot about your target audience from Facebook groups (where they hang out), social media, Instagram posts, Google searches, and actually talking to people in your target audience.

2. Get the Training You Need

If you need more training or knowledge to feel and actually be ready coaching people in your chosen field, get that now.

There’s 1 really important thing you don’t want to do here though…

Don’t get too caught up in gathering certifications and trainings and never put any of it to use.

I know people who were starting their businesses when I started mine in 2016 who are STILL taking program after program to “get ready” to launch their business.

It’s a careful balance between being appropriately qualified and trained to work with people, and actually starting to build your online business.

I recommend getting only what you actually need now and adding on more specific trainings as you go to beef up your expertise.

(Note: you don’t currently have to be licensed or certified to be a health coach, life coach, career coach, dating coach, etc. You of course should be qualified to talk about what you’re talking about, but there’s no certification requirement.)

3. Create Your Core Offer(s)

Now that you know who your target audience is and what they need help with, you can create an “offer.” Your offer is a product that actually helps solve their problems and brings them closer to the solution/dream situation you’ve figured out they want.

I recommend only created 1-2 core offers and really focusing on developing, testing, and refining those offers before you create any more.

When it comes to pricing your programs and offers, focus on quality, high end offers instead of a bunch of low-value, low-investment ($19, $49, $97 etc.) offers. Until you have a relatively large audience, it’s hard to generate the revenue you need and want for a successful online business with such low-ticket offers.

4. Your Online Business’s Website

I don’t just suggest (encourage? urge? require?) you have a website, but I want to urge you to allocate a lot of your startup energy and dollars on it, too.

You’ll find all kinds of opinions out there from business coaches about whether you do / don’t need a website, but for me: it’s a no brainer.

Your website is your home online. It’s where you’ll start building an audience, driving traffic, hosting sign-up pages, writing content etc. Your website is something you’ll need for the long term. Whereas social media is not only so algorithm dependent and volatile, but it’s not something you own or control.

I think of this way: every successful online business has a website. And they probably have a good one that actually speaks to their target audience, has calls to action to opt-in to a freebie, and has loads of valuable free content, too.

You can definitely keep it simple and add as you go, but at the very least you need a website that:

  • Has pictures/video of you so people can connect with you personally
  • Clearly explains who you are, what you do and who you help
  • An easy way to get in touch with you
  • Contains content that’s valuable, well written and helpful to your target audience.
  • Has a “content upgrade” (freebie) that people can sign up to receive and get added to your email list for.
  • Outlines your offer and has a clear “next step” to sign up for it.

5. Build Your Audience

This is the step most people want to skip to before they handle 1-4. It’s the one that’ll give you the quickest dopamine hit (“oooo! I got 100 new followers! I have 50 YouTube subscribers!”) but it’s not the one that will pad your pockets unless you do it right.

Instead of running yourself into the ground trying to post on every social media platform in the universe, here’s a doable game plan I recommend for building your audience (so that you can build a successful online business):

Pick Your Core Content Platform(s)

Instead of trying to half a$$ all the platforms, pick 1-2 where your target audience actually hangs out. Maybe that’s Instagram and Facebook, or YouTube and TikTok. Don’t decide based on your feelings — do the research yourself and see where they’re hanging out. (If they’re hanging out in many different places, THEN go with the platforms you like enough to show up consistently).

Create a Freebie

Create a free download like a PDF, guide, video series, live training, calendar, template, etc. that your ideal client wants and needs. Make it full of value and related to your core offers.

Once they download your freebie, they should get added to your email list. (I use ConvertKit [affiliate link] to build my email list, create freebie sign up forms, etc.)

And then…

Nurture Them

Once they’ve downloaded your freebie and been added to your email list, they should automatically receive a nurture sequence. A nurture sequence is a series of emails someone receives to welcome them and familiarize them with your brand, personality, values, and products.

It’s where you not only set the expectations for what they can expect in your neck of the woods, but you also make them comfortable with the fact that you’re a business and not a charity situation.

If you want to build a successful online business, you’ve got to get comfortable “asking for the sale,” talking about your offers, and setting boundaries with your audience that you’re not just here to help for free.

6. Get Legally Legit

Obviously as a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur I believe more than most in the importance and value of legally protecting your business as early as you can.

Before you actually start trying to make sales or coaching people, you should have your legal foundation set.

The best way to set your legal foundation and make sure you’re actually protected (both personally, professionally and financially) is to watch my free legal workshop ‘5 Steps to Legally Protect & Grow Your Online Business.’

In my free legal training, you’ll learn:

  1. the 3 things your website needs to be legally protected
  2. How having proper contracts can totally save your (vegan) bacon (and what’s wrong with the free one your well-meaning coach gave you)
  3. Why the fear that’s blocking your revenue is totally valid (and how getting legally legit can fix this)
  4. How registering the right business entity the right way protects your personal assets (side tango: just because your biz bestie is a sole prop doesn’t mean it’s right for you)
  5. The #1 way to keep copycats from stealing your stuff (it’s not what you think!)

Watch my free legal workshop right here:

I’d love to hear what questions you have for me in the comments below! 👇

I hope that this post was helpful to you if you’re thinking of starting an online coaching business and didn’t know where to start. Hopefully now you feel ready to start a coaching business with this as your guide.

Can’t wait to hear what questions you have for me below!

Talk soon!

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  1. So helpful! For those who start from ground 0-would it be ok to create a free website/blog at the beginning like a WordPress.com or not really? I was told by other mentors don’t spend all your money and time on a website at the very beginning.

    1. Hey Deanna! Thanks so much for reading 🙂 Of course it would be OK! Personally, I think every business owner should have a website. Otherwise, you don’t really have a centralized place to put all of your services, contact info, content, etc. Since we don’t “own” or control any of the other platforms (ie., IG, Facebook etc) we don’t really have the ability to present our businesses the way we want to without a website. It’s also smart to start building your SEO/searchable presence online, no matter how early. I’d definitely recommend getting started with something! Hope that helps. And I hope you had an awesome holiday! xo, Sam

  2. I love this! I recently created my own website with WordPress (launching on Jan. 14) and I’ve also heard a lot of people say that it might not be a good idea to have a website in the beginning. BUT I feel like there’s more room to educate and grow on a website platform vs Instagram where people like to keep scrolling and have the shortest attention span, haha. Also, I’ve gone through your free webinar TWICE and I love the way you talk about business and legal protection so simply – definitely takes the stress out of it.

    1. That is SO awesome, Maria! Congratulations on the website launch. So exciting! And that’s so true about your site vs IG. I’m so glad you loved the workshop — and thank you for taking it twice!! xo – Sam

  3. This really spoke to me: “Instead of trying to half a$$ all the platforms, pick 1-2 where your target audience actually hangs out. ” This makes so much sense.

  4. This was a great post, Sam! I totally agree with all the advice you offered up, especially the importance of having a business website and investing time (and money) into training. They’re both super important for creating credibility, and upleveling your skills is a great way to ensure you’re serving your clients to the best of your abilities. Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. I’m loving your new website design, too!

  5. I love the look & feel of your new site, Sam! It fits you perfectly!

    Thank you for always looking out for your community and sharing your expertise and resources with us in your posts.

  6. Love the new website Sam! And totally agree on the importance of having a website. If you’re in business for the long term it is so key to have a website that showcases you + your offers!

  7. You’re the first person I’ve heard who has said you have to have a website, and I agree!!!!! I love the analogy that literally every online business has one, and that we shouldn’t be reliant on a social platform to serve as our storefront. Thank you for that, and for the tips on what it must include! ♥️

    1. You’re so welcome, Laura! I can’t believe more people aren’t saying that — they should! It’s so important. One thing I always laugh about when I see people who say “you don’t need a website!” is that THEY, in fact, have a website and run their entire biz off of it lol

  8. “Riches are in the niches” is SO true. This is something I tell my clients all the time. It’s also something I have to remind myself. My #1 goal in 2021 is alignment + that means niche-ing wayyy down. I’ve already made some changes + it’s incredible how much better business performs. Thanks for writing such an awesome post!

    1. That’s awesome, Liz! I love your 2021 goal — and I can’t wait to see how much more it helps your biz! And I can’t wait for our podcast interview to come out 🙂 xo

  9. Thanks Sam! I love this. Especially the part about the nurture sequence! I am currently taking a break from ig and fb to hone in on my mailing list skills… I used to feel afraid of annoying people with emails but now I realize they are signing up for my list because they want to hear from me.
    Love your tips as always. Congrats on the site refresh!

    1. Hey Sarah!! That’s so awesome to hear. Your efforts will go so much further there. And remember — you’re emailing them with valuable info, because they signed up to hear from you (like you said), because you’ve got something or some knowledge that they truly need help with. It’s also OK to “ask” for something in return sometimes (sales). Stay consistent with your emails, offer value, AND make the ask — they’ll respect you more for it. xo

  10. Thank you for this article! I’m a website designer, so I agree with all your very valid arguments for having a website 🙂

    I do need to learn more about legally protecting websites, both for myself and for my clients, so I’m going to watch your legal workshop. Thank you for offering that.

    1. That’s so awesome, Christina! It’s so great to see a web designer who’s interested in upping their game for their clients! Thanks so much for reading & I hope you love the workshop!

  11. This was a great reminder/run-down on what it takes to get started without being too overwhelming or sugar-coating it. Like your friends, I’ve been skipping around starting my online business for way too long, searching for my entrepreneurial fairy godmother. Time to just do it!

    1. Hey Deirdre! Aw thank you so much – I’m so glad it wasn’t too much. There’s this careful balance between planning/getting things organized vs. going for it. Honestly, I think we need a bit of both! You just want to make sure for every time you’re planning or holding back, you’re going for it, too ; )

  12. Creating just 1-2 core offers is such good advice (that I need to focus on, ha!). It’s hard to reign in all my ideas. And I could certainly improve my nurture sequence.

  13. Such good insight! I love the way to speak so plainly. This has given me some good places to start or modify what I am currently doing.

  14. Love this! I like how you pointed out that most people just want to skip all the steps and go straight to the amount of followers they have. You are completely right about it giving people the biggest dopamine hit but not the money. I have talked to entrepreneurs who have 500…1000…2000 followers and have 2-10 sales in their last 3 months and no actual engagement. Why? Because they focused on having family, friends, friends of friends, and random people out of their target audience follow them so they could feel somehow “validated”. To the contrary, there are others I have seen with maybe 40-100 followers no where near what the internet would classify as “successful”, but yet, those followers are their actual target audience and they have actual sales from those people. So the question most people should stop and ask themselves is, “what defines success?” Is it “looking” popular by having 3k followers where only maybe 20 people have actually made a purchase and there is minimal engagement?…or having 500 followers where maybe 200 have purchased and others are engaging and can be potential clients in the future? A tight knit community is better than a “fluff” one in my opinion!

  15. Amazing new website!! and so much helpful information!
    I’ll be joining the workshop tomorrow 🙂

  16. LOVE THIS! Wonderful advice I can’t wait to put into action – starting with the Free Legal Workshop. Thank you so much so putting this together!

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