According to a recent study by The International Coach Federation (ICF), which offers voluntary accreditation to coaching schools and functions as a coaching self-regulatory organization, they found that there are an estimated 53,300 life coach practitioners in the world, with 17,500 in North America. That’s a lot of coaches, nearly one coach for every 18,000 people in the USA.
Most of these people do not want a coach, don’t need a coach or even know what a coach is or does. Bottom line: there’s a lot of competition to acquire coaching clients.
COACHING BEST PRACTICES
To help you grow your own coaching practice, I reached out to several well-established coaches that I’m connected to, to ask them for their best practices regarding attracting new clients who need their services and, most importantly, willing to pay for them!
Let’s dive in.
THE SURVEY SAYS…
We asked experienced coaches with large followings who have been practicing for at least three years several questions that addressed client acquisition and growth. Their individual links and bios can be found below. Here are their responses lightly edited for context and clarity:
What’s your number one tip for attracting clients when coaches are just starting a new coaching practice?
KIM CHILDS: Offer free consultations to: give people a taste of how you work, improve your coaching skills, and learn about the kinds of people you most enjoy working with and the ways you most like to work. Get listed in a variety of places and get your name out there in a variety of ways.
ROBYN CRANE: In order to attract ideal clients, you must target your marketing. This means that you have to get crystal clear on who you want to work with and uncover their deep problems and desires. Then you need to market your message clearly to them, specifically targeting those problems and suggesting a solution, and you will be able to attract clients that you love to work with. It’s great to offer your prospects something of value for free to nurture and indoctrinate them to want to work with you.
RACHAEL REDGATE: Instead of waiting for clients to come to you, go out and invite the types of people you’d love to work with to sample your work.
SUSAN PEPPERCORN: When starting a coaching practice two things are essential, knowing your target audience and how to reach them.
Identify your target audience. Are you a life coach who wants to work with individuals going through a life transition? Are moms returning to work an area of interest? Are you providing financial coaching? If so, is it for women, recent college graduates, or mid-career professionals? Knowing who you want to coach is critical to honing your services and branding.
Second, attend events that will attract your target audience. As a coach, you have to be visible. Until you build a practice, the business will not come to you; you have to have to seek it. Professional associations or meetups groups are a great way to find your tribe.
LYNDA WALLACE: Good Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We need to be where clients are looking for us. And the vast majority of prospective clients search for a coach online.
COLEMAN BAKER: Always add value through your public content. That doesn’t mean you have to give away all of your stuff, but give away a lot of content for free. I do it on Twitter/Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube, and an ebook giveaway.
GENE BOHENSKY: It is going to take longer than you expect, and it will be harder than you expect, and the journey you undertake to become successful will change you.
THE MONEY’S IN THE LIST
You may have heard that expression, the “money’s in the list,” because your mailing list is your direct pipeline to your clients and prospects. But with every Tom, Denise and Harry offering a newsletter, it’s tougher than ever to get people into your orbit. But if you can do it, it’s worth it, and why I say I would rather have one opt-in email subscriber than 100 followers on social media because email subscribers are harder to acquire but when you do, they are a much higher caliber lead.
Here are some tips our coaching pros use to grow their lists:
I’ve been building my list for more than a decade as a teacher in this community, so it existed before I opened my coaching practice. I sign people up whenever I give a talk or offer a 2-hour workshop, and students end up on my mailing list once they’ve completed intensive workshops with me.
KIM CHILDS: I’ve been building my list for more than a decade as a teacher in this community, so it existed before I opened my coaching practice. I sign people up whenever I give a talk or offer a 2-hour workshop, and students and clients end up on my mailing list once they’ve worked with me. My monthly Constant Contact newsletters get forwarded and shared via LinkedIn and Facebook, which brings in new mailing list subscribers, and there’s a mailing list sign-up link on my homepage with a free audio program giveaway. Finally, I’ve been a featured presenter in other people’s online summits and that has generated new sign-ups.
COLEMAN BAKER: Give something away. I give away an ebook that is packed with the foundational principles for my coaching practice. Then I follow that with a series of emails that provides additional resources like video, access to a private Facebook group, and an opportunity to meet with me for free.
TO WRITE A BOOK OR NOT
Several coaches had interesting takes on writing a book. While some think it builds credibility, others think it might make them seem unapproachable to the average person. But my takeaway is this: if you have a book in you and can actually write it, it certainly won’t hurt and can only help your credibility and reputation. Is it essential to growing your coaching practice? Not really.
How important is writing a book to being a successful coach?
COLEMAN BAKER: I’m not sure. It seems like lots of the big name coaches have books. I am in the early stages of writing one. I think the most important thing for you to consider is what your audience wants and what you have to say. It may make more sense to wait a few years, develop your name as a brand first, then launch a book.
ROBYN CRANE: Writing a book is extremely important to being a successful coach. Your book can be your #1 marketing tool. Using my best selling books in my marketing enabled me to raise my prices, have more credibility and to indoctrinate potential clients to want to work with me. I’d highly recommend it as an awesome shortcut.
RACHAEL REDGATE: If you enjoy writing and that’s how you want to make an impact, do it. If not, I have it that there are many ways you can be a successful coach without writing a book. Some of the best coach’s out there, do not have a book. There are also some great coach’s out there who do. It’s all down to the individual. If you really want to and you have a bigger reason than “This will make me a successful coach”, I’m into it. Writing a book won’t guarantee you success but it could contribute to it.
SUSAN PEPPERCORN: Having just published my book, Ditch Your Inner Critic at Work, I have found that it has given me instant credibility. Clients and prospects assume that because I’ve written a book that I’m an expert. It isn’t necessary to build a successful coaching practice. Writing a book is very time-consuming, and you should do it if you want to, not because you think you should.
LYNDA WALLACE: It helps establish your expertise and can help you develop an audience. So it’s helpful, but not nearly as important as good SEO. [editor’s note: Lynda’s book, A Short Course in Happiness)
KIM CHILDS: I’m guessing it can help, but I write articles instead in a few places, which have attracted clients and helped my existing clients.
GENE BOHENSKY: Important if you want to become a trusted authority. It is a good business development tool, but it better be good and targeted. There are too many mediocre books written by wannabe coaches and experts.
TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG
Blogging is the cornerstone of all your online marketing. It’s where you educate your prospects and clients about the benefits of life coaching. It’s also the place on your website to promote all your events, workshops, appearances as well as videos, reviews, press releases, etc. The blog is really the lifeblood of any good website.
Talk about the role of blogging on your website in terms of growing/servicing your coaching clients.
SUSAN PEPPERCORN: Blogging is huge when it comes to building a coaching practice because it provides social proof. Platforms such as LinkedIn publishing and Thrive Global make it easy to get your thought leadership to a broad audience along with posting on your website. Clients frequently tell me when they’ve read a post that I’ve written.
ROBYN CRANE: Blogging is a great way to continue to add value to prospects and clients. You have to do it consistently to really make an impact. I’m really bad at blogging consistently, so I’m not a good example. But I think it’s a great tool. Sometimes, you just have to choose what you’re willing to do for your marketing consistently. It either costs time or money. Right now, (with a 6-week old baby!), I have a lot more money than time, so I invest in FB advertising and it works. If you don’t have the money yet, you need to invest time in doing money making activities consistently. Blogging is one way, but honestly, there’s so many ways to market. Just make sure you do it consistently and that people are actually exposed to what you do. A blog that never gets read, does little good. You have to get it in front of a ton of people to be able to drive the few ideal clients to action.
COLEMAN BAKER: Honestly, I’ve not done as well at this as I could. I have great intentions and when I do post, my traffic is better on my website as a whole when I blog more regularly. I’d recommend have a regular schedule and list of content ideas.
KIM CHILDS: I blog monthly on my site, and occasionally for the Kripalu Yoga Center. I re-post these articles on LinkedIn, Facebook and other outlets, and I hear from readers in all of these places. Some of them become clients, and many say “I reached out because I read your blog on…” I also use my blogs to educate, inspire, and “coach” clients between sessions, and introduce prospective clients to the concepts I work with as a coach. So my writing and blog are coaching, teaching, and marketing tools for me.
RACHAEL REDGATE: For me, blogging is all about exposure and building relationships with people. Trust in a coach/client relationship, as in any relationship, is very important so blogging for me is one way for clients to get to know you a little.
Of course hindsight is 20-20 but it’s also about going through the journey and trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t work that only comes from experience. Knowing what they know now, here’s what our coaches would (or would not)( have done differently when starting out.
What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?
JENNIFER DAVIS: I would not change anything about the way I started my business. I consider myself a (mostly? partially?) recovered Type-A Perfectionist Workaholic. I have worked 80-100 hours a week as a Wall Street Investment Banker, been through Stanford’s intense MBA program, and worked 7 days a week in various corporate and consulting jobs. I had always lived my life with a very clear plan of what I wanted, where I was going, and how I would get there. And then I worked hard and executed my plans. I had always been quite “successful” as defined by society, family and friends: excellent grades, impressive jobs, first promotions, highest bonuses. When I decided to start my own company, I did things totally differently. I went on a similar journey to that which I travel with my clients. I let go of external affirmation, certain paths/outcomes, and truly led from a place of passion and purpose, even as I was not sure where the path would take me. Instead of rushing to define my target, I simply coached clients: lots of clients. I stayed open to what life was bringing me. I signed up for additional trainings that spoke to my life purpose and interests, without worrying about where it would lead. Through these courses, my exposure to different kinds of clients, and the co-leadership projects I designed with colleagues with whom I truly connected, my perfect clients revealed themselves. In speaking on social media – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – with my unique voice about leadership topics that interest me and things I care about, connections started happening and opportunities came to me. I, of course, did a lot of work to build a website and social media following, as well as some other things that gave me experience and credibility. But instead of seeing exactly where I needed to go and stressing about how to get there, I led from the inside-out, while holding a loose, big-picture vision of what I wanted. In summary, I lead from my heart AND my head, and it was a much-needed shift.
SUSAN PEPPERCORN: I wish I had known that it takes time to build a coaching a coaching practice. I would have spent more time at the beginning growing my email list because I’ve learned that it is the bedrock of your business.
ROBYN CRANE: I would have found the best coach and invested money I didn’t even have, to show me how to do it better and faster. When I first started, I hired cheap coaches, because I didn’t make or have much money. But it didn’t work. Eventually, after several tries, I went into debt to hire the right coach who was much more expensive, but in the end cost me nothing, because I had a HUGE ROI. I still work with him and it’s always totally worth it. You’re a coach, so you better have a coach, otherwise how could you expect people to hire you. And you better pay good money for that coach, so that your clients will pay you good money! The universe is no joke! If you’re not willing to pay to play, how could you expect others to pay you?
COLEMAN BAKER: The most important thing is to get some clients and get some experience. The marketing, content creation, interviews, etc. will happen but it’s critical that you get actual experience with clients and start help them produce change in their lives (and write testimonials!).
LYNDA WALLACE: Aim high with your fees. Coaching is incredibly valuable, and high fees signal that a coach is in high demand, which is a strong signal of quality!
KIM CHILDS: Hmmm…probably just to lower my expectations for steady income for a while, and hustle a little more. I now know that is takes time, persistence, resilience, supplemental income, creativity, flexibility, good mentoring, and clarity about who and how you want to coach, both in your mind and in your marketing.
RACHAEL REDGATE: There are so many ways you can get coaching clients. Try them all. Then, start narrowing down your focus. Choose the ways that you enjoy the most and focus on making those 1 or 2 ways work really well for you. When I first started, I thought that I had to attend networking events because people told me that was the way to get clients. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, it is a way but it’s not the only way.
GENE BOHENSKY: I would have spent more time and effort on meeting people and doing business development. Starting a coaching business and making it successful is the hardest and the most rewarding thing you will ever do. And you will need help doing it! Choose your vendors wisely!
Money & Business Growth Expert
Life and career coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, and midlife transitions.
Specialises working with ambitious young adults who desire accountability and a sense of direction
Certified Coach and Mindfulness Teacher who focuses on helping men overcome the compulsive sexual behaviors and other patterns that are creating havoc in their lives
Certified Positive Psychology Coach offering career coaching, life coaching, and executive coaching
Coaching Course: https://wholebeinginstitute.com/course-overview/coaching-courses/
Specializes in working with individuals in career transition who find themselves at a crossroads either through circumstance or choice.
President and Executive Coach at The Alternative Board of Northern NJ.