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How to Start a Successful Coaching Career | Coaching Business Tips

  • POSTED ON MAY 29, 2024
Experienced coach explaining how to start a successful coaching career to a peer

How to Create a Successful Coaching Career 

As I begin this article, I feel a great big gulp. This is a pretty big topic!   

That being said, I want to start by saying I am not going to offer a cookie-cutter way to create a successful coaching career. Instead, here’s my view of the general flow of this particular career and how it can evolve for you.  

Decide to Pursue Coaching 

 The very first step to success as a coach is to decide that coaching is the career you will pursue. That may sound simple, and perhaps elementary, but it is actually a step that, when missed, will make it much harder or even derail the whole process. It’s important to make a conscious choice to commit to this career.  

Otherwise, it may become a dream that never materializes, a side gig, or a hobby. Make the choice to commit, and then begin the journey!  

Chart Your Own Path 

The next step in the process has a variety of pathways. Having worked with thousands of coaches over the years as a coach trainer and as a business coach, I can tell you no two pathways are alike.  

This is what makes having a coaching career so exciting and worthwhile. It’s not a career that ever gets stale! You get to do it your way. Bring your unique self-expression forward in service of helping others.  

There are some basic steps to take, but you’ll integrate them with your own style, experience, passion, values, and vision for what your career will become.  

 I am compelled to include in the basic steps… the steps NOT TO TAKE.  

These come from the school of hard knocks for sure!  

Avoid Common Pitfalls 

Do not build a website, choose a legal structure, or do your branding first. You do not have to have a name, a site, or even a legal structure at the very beginning. What I have found is that you will need these things (and maybe soon), but they can be a distraction from taking the necessary steps that will propel you forward into this career.  

Key First Steps 

 The best first steps to take when you are starting out are to create a vision for your business, pursue coach training, and start networking.  

Visioning Your Career 

Take time to create a vision for your business. What kind of career do you want? What kind of coaching do you see yourself doing? What kind of people? Is your career going to include only 1-on-1 coaching? Would you like to work for an organization? What about executive coaching? Having your own program or products? This is not the time to nail things down! Take time to envision the big picture of your career.    

Get Training 

With a beginning vision now, it’s time to get some training. Pursue excellence in your profession. Learn the skills and contexts that define this profession. During your coach training, you will focus on learning coaching skills. You can also begin to put some of the foundational business elements in place for your career.  

Networking 

This is a great time to network with other coaches and find out what kind of legal structure you may want. Gather the exercises, templates, and other materials to be ready for consultations, sample sessions, discovery sessions, and an ongoing coaching relationship. Begin to develop the policies and procedures that work best for you as you do the work.  

Marketing Your Coaching Business 

Once you start to have these first few things in place, the fun really begins when you market your business successfully.  

Here are 3 examples of coaches I know who have created successful coaching businesses.   

Joon’s Journey 

Joon had a vision to leverage her success as a manager for big brands in South Korea into a coaching business. She also had connections to the Co-Active community and was an asset in helping bring Co-Active coaching to Korea. She even translated a coaching book!   

She had a passion for helping women stop working so hard that they burned out.   

Once she had completed her training, she signed up for a business development program because she realized that, although she was very experienced in business and had great connections and training, she didn’t know how to use these in a coaching business.  

This is often where coaches get stuck. The coaches I train are amazing people. They often have impressive backgrounds in career and other types of achievements. They are smart and committed. They have the right stuff to succeed!   

Yet translating that stuff to success in a coaching career requires new learning. Just like the training they received as a coach, they need guidance in this area of entrepreneurship.  

Joon got that help and created a program she calls Redesigning Productivity, which helps women executives and entrepreneurs create a balanced work life that makes them happy.  

She got clear on her niche and the situation she most wanted to help them with, and then she created a website and did some rebranding.  

She started a blog and used her love of design to make it beautiful and functional. She began posting on social media about her desire for the women in her niche to be happy.  

She joined a networking group and started her own book discussion club.  

She worked hard for this, and it took time. Then it began to pay off. The clients started coming her way.  

Johanna’s Path 

Another coach I know, Johanna, went in a different direction. She joined a business coaching program to identify her niche and message. For her, though, the issue was how to market her business. She had spent her whole career in academia, had been very successful — reaching the highest levels of that career — and then found herself to be burned out.  

She fell in love with coaching. She was passionate about helping people who had built their lives on expectations that were taken on from other people, not their own.   

She discovered in her training program that she didn’t like social media at all. Her love was speaking to live audiences. She came alive when speaking, especially when she could use some of the transformational exercises that worked with her clients to give people a taste of what coaching could do for them.   

Like Joon, this took time to develop. Johanna had to find the organizations and the conferences that were right for her. She had to take all those small steps — filling out applications to speak or present, filling out the forms to have a booth.  

Once it started to work, though, she now had the marketing activity she needed to promote her coaching program and to make coaching a lifelong career!  

Nonprofit Coaching 

One of the very first clients who came to me for business coaching was as passionate as I have ever seen anyone be about bringing coaching to nonprofits. She had been successful as a nonprofit executive and now she wanted to help her colleagues to have success without the stress she had experienced.  

Her marketing plan was simple. She reached out to everyone she knew who was in the shoes she once wore — people she knew, those who were referred to her. She invited them for coffee or lunch simply to learn about them and their challenges and dreams.  

There were times she wondered if she was getting anywhere. Months went by without a new client on the horizon. She kept going, built a website with her message clear and bold.   

Then she was invited to give a small workshop by one of the women she had met with. Before long, she was invited to apply for a coaching contract by a man she had taken to lunch. Then she was approached by someone who knew someone she had spent an hour over coffee with and was looking for a coach to join his staff.  

It took about a year for her to launch her coaching career. In two years, she was earning a good income. She kept on having those coffees and lunches, only now some of them were with people asking about her coaching services!  

Fifteen years later, she is enjoying her coaching career as much as ever.  

Steps to a Successful Coaching Career

So let me summarize the basic steps these coaches took:  

  1. Decide you want coaching to be your career & commit to it. 
  2. Get training to be a masterful coach. 
  3. Vision what you want your career to be like. 
  4. Connect with other coaches for tips and tools.  
  5. Get business coaching or training.  
  6. Decide on your path: entrepreneur, executive coach, internal coach, hybrid.  
  7. Identify the people and situations you want to serve. 
  8. Set up your coaching business structure. 
  9. Market in the way you love with a compelling message.  
  10. Take bold action to get in front of or have a conversation with your people.  
  11. Take it one step at a time.  
  12. Build on the successes, and learn from the failures (if you’re not failing, you’re not learning). 
  13. Keep going!  

How do you create a successful coaching career? It’s a big question. You may find answers as you talk with other coaches and from my own experiences that I have included in this article. The final answer, though, will come from you.  

I want you to find the answer that works for you to make coaching a successful career, because the world needs what you have to offer!  

Abigail Prout Profile Photo
Written By

Kat Knecht

Kat Knecht is an internationally known business coach who has helped thousands of coaches achieve their dream of professional success through her Business Academy and as a leader for the Co-Active Training Institute. Kat believes wholeheartedly in the human potential and has made her impact on others through her work as a coach, trainer, author, interfaith minister and inspiring speaker. She brings an expertise gained from 20 years of success as a professional coach, which she shares in her new book Evolve Your Coaching Business. Kat lives in Ojai, CA, with her husband Curtis and kitty Coconut.

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