As the founder of UESCA, I often get asked by coaches how to build a successful coaching practice. First off, ‘successful’ is largely subjective. For one coach, it could mean having two clients while for another, it might mean having 30.
That said, if there are any constants in respect to what I’m asked, they have to do with too much focus on the short game (ex: how can I acquire as many clients as fast as possible), pricing, technology (ex: which coaching software to choose), website design and how to scale their business – often before they have even one client!
While areas such as pricing and technology certainly come into play when discussing building a business, all too often I’ve found that coaches and aspiring coaches completely miss the main factors that will translate to acquiring and retaining clients in the long term.
While there are likely endless factors that go into building a great business, here are my SEVEN tips to starting, and growing a sustainable coaching business.
And by the way, if you think that most of these are common sense, you’d be right. If you think that most coaches adhere to these, you’d be wrong!
1 – Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
First off and as noted above, just because someone says they have 100 coaching clients does not mean they do (and if they did, how do you think the client experience is?). How much money or number of clients someone has is not your problem. Focus on your goals and your business – you’ll be happier and more successful that way!
2 – Honesty and Integrity
Running a coaching business with honesty and integrity at it’s core is of critical importance and it can become your brand. Sadly, a lot of coaching practices (and businesses in general) do not adhere to these two principles. As an example, I’ve seen way too many times where a coach will take on a client even though they know that they are not truly qualified and getting in over their heads.
3 – Give a Sh#t… Really!
This relates to the honesty and integrity. Why did you get into coaching? Hopefully one of the main reasons was to help others achieve their goals. If someone is paying you for your coaching services, whether it be a $1 or $500 a month, you owe them 100% of your focus when working on their program. Being a professional coach means not randomly assigning workouts or ‘calling it in’ when dealing with the client. Giving a sh#t means that you should be running a client-centric and results focused coaching practice… period.
4 – Be Humble
I don’t care if you’ve coached Olympians to gold medals or can personally run a sub-2:30 marathon – being a great coach means staying humble and being open to learning experiences at all times. This also means admitting when you don’t know something. Surprisingly… or perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of coaches are afraid of telling a client that they don’t know something out of fear that the client will think less of them.
FACT: After years of work on developing the UESCA certifications, I could write a book about the things that I still don’t know pertaining to running and triathlon coaching!
5 – Know Your Worth
It’s not my business to know what you charge for your coaching services but as I get asked by coaches what they should charge with some frequency, I hope that you’re charging what you feel you’re worth as a coach. While business models (ex: low prices to be attainable for everyone) and local demographics (ex: can charge more in NYC than Ashtabula, OH) come into play, I’ve seen way too often where coaches do not place enough value on their knowledge and coaching services. Additionally, coaches often understand how good they are, but are afraid of charging what they feel they’re worth.
While putting a price tag on your worth as coach is to some degree hard to do as there are a lot of factors, at the end of the day, you should NEVER feel like you’re underselling yourself.
6 – Be Detail Oriented
Coaching, as with most things in life – the devil is in the details. However, with coaching where a “small detail” like reversing numbers can make a big difference (ex: Run 1 mile at 7:05 or Run 1 mile at 7:50), it is critical to be focused on the details. While seemingly common sense, before you hit ‘send’ on an email to a client that contains their program, always give it a once over to ensure that what you wrote is accurate.
7 – Spend Money That Generates ROI
You likely don’t have unlimited resources to spend on starting and growing your coaching practice. As such, you have to spend your money wisely so that it has the biggest impact. This means focusing areas that will have the best chance for a return on your investment.
I’ve personally found that this means spending money on areas that are client facing and affect the quality of the coaching process. For example, spending money on a good looking/functioning website (this is your storefront!) and a solid coaching platform such as TrainingPeaks would be the first place I’d spend my money. Assuming that you run your program professionally, these two things will ensure that your business is represented in the best light – especially to new clients.
While your coaching practice might not have a Maserati as a company car (at least not yet), if you stick to being a good human (who replies to emails in a timely fashion!), spend your money where it counts, sweat the details and truly care for your clients and their experiences, you’ll have a sustainable and enjoyable coaching practice in no time