In my first year as a coach, I had four clients. Two of them were friends of mine (they got a heavy discount). Another one hired me for just one single session. And the last one signed up for a month but wasn’t able to afford my services after that.
At networking events, I told people I was a “Mindset & Productivity Coach” but really, I didn’t have a coaching business — I had a mediocre blog with zero income.
It was so bad that I had to move back home to my parent’s house and take a part-time job as a waitress.
“What a great coach you are…doing sales calls from your teenage bedroom,” I thought — when the truth was: I didn’t even do any sales calls. I was too terrified.
I felt like the ultimate failure. A year prior I had proudly told my family and friends that I am starting my own business and that I will easily make more than my previous salary within six months. All while traveling the world. Just watch me.
So when the 1-year anniversary of my business came around and I was serving people beer instead of business advice, I knew something had to change. (By that point I had stopped talking to most of my friends to avoid admitting my failure).
I knew, what I was doing, was clearly not working.
So I finally I got off my anxious and depressed ass and did what I should have done right from the start.
And it paid off. Two months later, I had my first $6.7k month.
Here is what I learned growing my coaching business from zero clients to a full practice within two months:
1. You Need to Hire Your Own Coach
Intuitively I knew that it was kind of important to have worked with a coach yourself if you want to sell your own coaching services. After all, how can you really sell coaching if you’ve never experienced the power of it yourself?
But I kept postponing it because I couldn’t afford it. I told myself that once I had grown my business to $5k+ a month, I would start to invest in myself.
So instead of working with a coach to help me grow my business and teach me how to get clients, I got by on free webinars, podcasts, and books.
I thought I was doing the smart thing.
But in reality, I had the exact same mindset as the prospects I failed to close: “I can do this myself! There is so much free information on the internet. I will figure it out.”
I didn’t realize that connection until a year in, though.
That’s when I hired my first coach. To say I was short on cash at that point was an understatement. I paid her $600 per month. $500 of which came from my waiter job. The rest I had to borrow from my boyfriend, again.
Working with my coach changed everything:
- She was the one to finally hold me accountable to my goals.
- She was the one to push me to do the things I was too scared to do.
- She was the one who taught me the ins and outs of selling coaching. It was the kind of stuff you can’t find anywhere on the internet.
- She was the reason I went from $0 to $6k in 2 months.
I had finally learned that you need to invest in yourself if you want to achieve your goals. That’s how you create real commitment. Skin in the game.
I thought I couldn’t “afford” coaching but my $1,800 investment made me $15,000 in total. I thought I was so smart in business but I couldn’t make a simple ROI calculation.
But even more, at the end of the day, it’s as simple as that: How can you expect your clients to invest $500 per month in your coaching when you don’t even make that investment yourself? How can you sell someone on taking the leap with you if you’ve never done it yourself?
2. It’s a Number’s Game
These days, many of my clients are other coaches. When I teach them how to grow their business, they often complain to me: “I just can’t get any clients.”
“Show me your calendar!” I reply. “How many hours last week have you spent talking to potential clients?”
That question usually puts them on the spot.
The truth is, the reason most coaches don’t have clients is because they are simply not doing enough calls or meetings.
Coaching is never sold outside of a conversation.
Thus, it’s a simple numbers game:
If you want to have 10 clients and your average closing rate is 25%, you need to do 40 sales calls.
And to get to these 40 sales calls you need to make at least double the number of invitations, depending on the channels you are using to get clients. For example, if you are using the networking strategy, you might need to talk to 80 to 160 people to get to 40 sales calls. If you have an email list or engaged social media following, you can more easily invite hundreds of people at once to a free session — but you need the following for that.
So the only question you should ask yourself — if you don’t have enough clients — is this: Am I having enough conversations?
3. You Need a Niche, Kind of
Even though my niche was productivity coaching for entrepreneurs, I quickly learned that when you do 1-on-1 calls, you need to coach them on EVERYTHING.
I was coaching my clients on relationships when their productivity was suffering due to a lack of boundaries. I was coaching them on leadership when they wanted to manage their team more effectively. I was coaching them on health & fitness when their energy was low during the workday.
Everything is interconnected — different areas of business, professional and personal development, health, relationships, finances — all of it.
This means, as a coach, you will inevitably be their Life & Business Coach. Your job as a coach is simply to get your clients from where they are to where they want to be.
And when they believe you are the person that will help them do that, they don’t care if you call yourself “Productivity Coach,” “Business Coach,” or “Success Strategist.”
When you are just starting out and have no team and no budget, you need to use your time and energy very wisely. With limited resources, you can’t do everything, you need to prioritize ruthlessly.
That’s why it’s so much easier to go after a specific niche. When you know exactly which target group you want to serve and what you can offer them, you are able to direct your energy much more effectively to the things that really matter.
Having a clear niche makes EVERYTHING easier:
- It will take the guessing out of describing what you do. Just fill in the blank in this phrase: I help ______ (insert target group) to _______ (insert results) by _______ (insert your method). For example: I help overwhelmed entrepreneurs save 10–20 hrs per week by streamlining their life and business. And whenever someone asks you what you do at a networking event, you just say that and follow it up with a couple of examples (e.g., I help them plan their week, prioritize what matters, eliminate busywork, automate tasks and delegate better). That’s so much easier than saying: “I am a Life Coach.”
- It will make content planning and creation a breeze: When you have a clear topic focus, you will never feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities of content creation. Just draw up a big mindmap exploring all aspects of your topic and then pair them with the typical headlines (how-to, why you should, x ways to do, the ultimate guide to, etc.) et voila you have your content plan for the entire year!
- It will be easy to create your coaching programs: When you are a coach, the possibilities for what you can help your clients with are endless. That’s why the coaching programs of coaches without a clear niche tend to be super general, vague, overpromising and unappealing using phrases like “transform your life,” “become your best self,” and “create the life of your dreams.” But if you have a clear niche, you’ll find it much easier to create coaching programs that create real results. The easiest way to find out which program you should create is to ask your target group this simple question: “What are your biggest challenges when it comes to x (insert your niche topic).” For example, when I asked entrepreneurs (my target group), what their biggest productivity problems are, their replies were: feeling overwhelmed, not knowing what to prioritize, sticking to goals, making my team stick to goals and plans, not having time to do what is important. Based on this I created a highly targeted coaching program.
- You’ll know which opportunities to say YES to: When I first started my business, I would kill for opportunities to speak on a podcast or join a virtual summit. But over time as my audience grew, my incoming opportunities exploded. Which is an amazing thing, don’t get me wrong. BUT: If you don’t have a clear niche, you have no idea what the right opportunities are and you might end up saying YES to everything. This comes back to focus. You have limited time and energy and you need to acquire clients, create coaching programs, coach clients, invest in professional and personal development, do the accounting, reply to emails etc. So you need to choose wisely what to say YES to. A clear niche will help you do that.
- You’ll have more incoming leads: If your content, website and social profiles are highly targeted towards a specific target group and a specific topic, it’s so much easier for interested prospects to find you through Google searches. And the leads will be more relevant too. When I had my entire website focused on productivity coaching for entrepreneurs, all my incoming leads were entrepreneurs that wanted to be more productive. They had already done their research and contacted me very specifically instead of reaching out to 10 random business coaches.
Defining your niche is crucial when you are first starting out. But don’t worry this does not mean you need to focus on ONE topic and ONE target group forever. It’s just a starting point which will make everything so much easier for you in the beginning.
Once your coaching business is up and running and you’ve built a loyal audience, you can easily branch out to other topics. Since your audience already trusts your advice on one thing, they are much more likely to also trust you on something else — especially if you back it up through personal experience.
For example, even though most of my subscribers first signed up to my email list because they wanted to be more productive, many of them are increasingly interested in learning how I built my business as a coach & writer. They have seen how I published article after article, created books and courses and coached many clients, so they want to know how I did it.
The key is to build trust first. And as a newbie, this is much easier to do when focusing on one specific niche. Once you’ve gained the trust of your audience, you can profitably branch out.
4. Serving is the Best Selling Strategy
I used to offer Free 20 min Discovery Calls to sell my coaching. In 20 minutes, I got about as far as introducing myself, asking how they’d heard about me. And sometimes I was courageous enough to pitch them my services as well.
I didn’t want to “waste my time” in sales calls. I thought I had better things to do (like updating my website yet again, taking pictures for my Instagram and writing newsletters to my non-existent email list).
Boy was I wrong. There is nothing better you can do as a coach than coaching. All-day. For free.
Because that’s how you actually sell your coaching services. By giving your prospects a real experience of your coaching. By letting them feel the power of it. By connecting with them on a deep level.
Unless you already know your prospect, it’s almost impossible to sell them on coaching in just 20 minutes.
But when you spend a full hour with them (or more) and unleash all your coaching magic, that’s when, at the end of the call, you will get questions like:
- “So, how can I pay you?”
- “Where do I sign?”
- “When can we have the next call?”
Sounds like wishful thinking? I thought so too.
Until it happened to me. Repeatedly.
That’s the power of serving first.
Because coaching is not a product, it’s an experience. And your clients want to know what they are buying before they commit.
5. Great Content Pre-Sells Your Coaching
To sell your coaching, you need to show credibility and build trust with your prospects. One of the fastest ways to do this is to get referrals from previous clients. If someone has already worked with you and tells their friend how you’ve helped them transform their life, that prospect comes to you with a pre-established trust.
But if you are just starting out, you don’t have an army of previous clients doing the selling for you.
That’s where content creation comes in.
About 80% of my clients come to me because they’ve read my Medium articles. From there, they either go to my website and apply for a first free session right away — or they sign up for my email list, read more of my content over time and eventually sign up for a call when I sent out an offer to my list.
I know they only signed up for a call because of my content. My articles have them improve something in their life or business, and now, they want more.
Great content builds trust and credibility.
Great content presells your coaching.
6. Your Certifications Really Don’t Matter
I have done over 100 sales calls in the last 12 months. And you know how many of these prospects asked me about my qualifications and background?
Unless you are working with corporate clients who tend to check qualifications for the sake of it, I quickly learned that certifications don’t really matter when it comes to selling coaching.
That’s because clients care about results and chemistry. The fact that you have a certain certification rarely builds real trust with your clients. But how powerfully you serve them (with your content and in the first free session), plus endorsements and testimonials do.
Anyone can start a coaching business, you don’t need a specific education, background or certification for that (in most countries).
Many new coaches hold themselves back by telling themselves that they are not ready. That they need more training first.
But you are not a coach if you don’t coach.
What I learned from these 100+ sales calls is this: It’s not about your qualifications, it’s about how good you are. You can trust the laws of the free market: If you are a great coach, your clients will continue to pay you and recommend you. If you are a bad coach, your clients will ask for refunds and spread the message. It’s as simple as that.
That doesn’t mean it’s not important to get proper training and invest in your personal and professional growth as a coach. Quite the opposite: it’s imperative that you do.
But it’s more important that you care about learning the things that will create powerful results for your clients rather than the credentials you’ll get from it.
7. You Can Charge as Much as You Want, As Long as You Believe It
When I first started out, $100 per hour seemed like an enormous amount. I had a hard time believing that anyone’s time could be worth $100 per hour.
But now I am friends with coaches that charge $1,000+ per hour. And I know coaches that sell yearly coaching packages for $100,000 (and these packages are not even time-based, meaning the client doesn’t even get a fixed weekly slot). And I sell multiple 4-figure coaching packages myself.
Because the truth is: whatever price you charge, you can find people that are able and willing to pay for it.
However, you will only be able to sell to them, if you are 100% confident that your services are worth that price.
Because if you are not, one of two things will happen:
- You will not be able to attract the right clientele that can actually afford your services.
- Even if your prospects can afford your services, they will feel your insecurity during the sales call and won’t signup for your coaching programs.
Thus, when you go into that sales call, you need to be 100% confident in yourself and your abilities. And when you say that number at the end of the call, you need to do it without a flinch.
Selling coaching is all about mindset. If you can believe it, you can do it.
Important Note: Despite all of this, your prices should only be based on one thing: the value of the results you are getting your clients.
8. Service-Based Businesses are Just Another Hamster Wheel
When I had my first $6k month, I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe that this was really happening.
People from all over the world paid me to talk to them.
I went from earning $10 per hour as a waitress to making over $150 per hour as a coach.
All from my couch.
And I loved it.
I had great clients, I enjoyed helping them and I enjoyed my newfound financial freedom even more.
Finally, I was able to move out of my parent’s home and get my own apartment in the city of my dreams, London.
But soon, my dream turned bitter.
I had a mini burnout because I worked too much and overbooked myself with clients.
I started to feel boxed in by my full schedule. The freedom I longed for when I started my business was eluding me.
Even though I earned $3–5k a month consistently working from home and my hourly rate allowed me to have 1–2 non-coaching days per week, I felt more trapped than ever by the hamster wheel.
I had to keep hustling to get clients to pay for the expensive flat I had just moved into and I didn’t have enough time or energy to make progress on other projects that would allow me to break free from the hamster wheel. Coaching clients was so intense that I needed more time to recharge and on my coaching-free days I was working on getting new clients and keeping up my social media marketing.
I had myself locked into a prison of my own creation.
That’s when I realized: even if you start your own business to escape the 9–5, you are likely just building another hamster wheel. And it doesn’t look very different from the one you wanted to escape from.
Growing my coaching business from $0 to $6k in just two months was an incredible adventure and a personal success I will remember forever. But more importantly, I learned some invaluable lessons along the way:
- You need to hire your own coach if you want to grow a successful coaching business. You can’t expect other people to make a big investment in your coaching programs if you’ve never done it yourself. Plus, a simple ROI calculation makes it a no-brainer.
- Selling coaching is a pure numbers game. Coaching is never sold outside of a conversation, so the amount of calls and meetings you have per week is a good indicator of how successful you are as a coach.
- You don’t need to be an expert in ONE field to create powerful results for your clients. However, focusing on a specific target group and a specific niche will make everything else so much easier. It will take the guessing out of marketing yourself, creating content and packaging your services.
- Serving your clients powerfully in a first free session is the best way to sell your coaching. Your clients need to experience the power of your coaching and you need to build trust and connection before you can ask for the sale.
- Great content pre-sells your coaching. If you’ve already helped your prospects through your articles, videos or podcasts, they come with a pre-established trust to the sales call.
- Coaching certifications don’t really matter when selling coaching. What really matters is the results you can get your clients. Great coaches will get more prospects through referrals from happy clients, bad coaches won’t. It’s as simple as that.
- How much you can charge depends almost solely on your confidence. You can charge premium prices, as long as you 100% believe that your services are worth that amount. If you don’t, your prospects will feel that.
- It’s easy to build yourself a hamster wheel with service-based business. Once you’re able to successfully acquire clients, you have to keep doing it to bring in the cash. At the same time, you won’t have much time anymore to work on other revenue streams like online courses that would give you passive income. Thus, you really have to love what you are doing.
Liz Huber is a Mindset & Productivity Coach and Founder of refinedlife.io. With her books, courses, and 1-on-1 work, she helps entrepreneurs overcome overwhelm, lack of focus, fear, and self-doubt. As a result, her clients are able to confidently achieve their goals by prioritizing what is truly important and streamlining everything else.