Find An Idea, Grow Your Business

6 steps to earning your first $100,000 with coaching

Everyone wants an automated business that runs in their sleep. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

But if you start with an automated business, you miss out on an incredible opportunity to really get to know your audience.

I’m talking about one-on-one coaching.

In 2014, I started an online business that helps women get in shape.

Today, I’ve personally coached over 50 women in my target market, helping them lose up to 40 pounds.

I’ve made over six figures from coaching clients.

And more important, through one-on-one coaching, I’ve uncovered the major barriers women have to losing weight. Insights that have helped skyrocket my impact and revenue. It would have taken me years to uncover these if I didn’t have a one-on-one relationship with so many clients.

Oh, and I did all this while holding down a full-time job as a management consultant.

Here’s a snapshot of my revenue from coaching over a single year, generated from an email list of less than 5,000 subscribers. In my best month, I made nearly $20,000 from one-on-one coaching!


Make money coaching online - $100,000 in revenue with one-on-one coaching
In this article, I’ll show you why you will create more impact, scale faster, and make more money when you coach at least three clients before launching an online information product.

I’ll also walk you through the steps you need to take to get your first coaching client. Let’s dive in!

Bonus: Start solving problems and getting paid! Discover 30 proven online businesses that you could start this weekend. Click here to claim your copy of the free report.

3 reasons you should launch your business with online coaching

Starting with a coaching program allows you to create a solid foundation for your business, one that will help you scale more quickly. Here’s why:

Benefit #1: Make good money, fast

One of the major benefits of coaching is that you can get a healthy stream of income without a huge audience. This is because people will pay more for personalized, one-on-one programs.

When I launched my business with one-on-one coaching, I made $10,000 with less than 500 subscribers, and I hit over $100,000 in revenue with a list of under 5,000 subscribers.

Benefit #2: Understand exactly what your customer wants

You can’t build a great business without a solid understanding of your customer — their demographics, their hopes and dreams, what stops them from achieving their goals, and their objections to buying. In fact, any good course on building an online business starts with customer research as the foundation.

Coaching gave me a first-hand look at what makes it so hard for women to lose weight. I figured out what they struggle with most when it comes to weight loss (staying healthy during travel and the holidays!), better understood the connection between food and emotion, and uncovered scripts women tell themselves that stop them from getting their ideal body.

All of this helped me get crystal clear on what kind of customer I needed to reach to grow my business, plus how to talk to them. And it will do the same for your business.

Benefit #3: Find fans that rave about your business

Because clients received highly-personalized support from me in the one-on-one coaching program, they saw dramatic results — fast. And most were willing to take photos of their progress and let me share them on my site and in guest posts on other popular sites, which helped me attract even more clients early on.

Check out this “before and after” testimonial from my early coaching days:


Make money coaching online with client testimonials
Getting a few testimonials like this one was exactly what I needed to build credibility and generate demand for my services.

The 6-step process for landing your first coaching client

Now that you know why coaching is a great first step for launching your business, I’ll share the foolproof 6-step process I used to start one-on-one coaching within a few months of getting my first 100 subscribers. This way, you can skip over the mistakes I made and focus only on what actually works.

(Note: This guide assumed that you’ve set up a basic website for your business with a homepage, an about page, contact information, and a blog.)

Step 1: Validate your business idea

You can avoid wasting months (or years) on a dead-end business by simply taking a few steps to test your business idea. And the best part is, this only takes a couple of hours.

Start by asking yourself:

1. Is anyone else offering your service?

A lot of people get discouraged when they discover someone already has a business similar to their great idea. But this is actually a good thing — it means there’s demand for your idea.

All you have to do is find your unique angle that sets you apart from the competition.

Spend an hour or two searching online for businesses in your niche. Take notes on how they position themselves, who they target, and what kinds of products they sell. Then start to think about how you might differentiate your offering.

2. Is anyone out there looking for your service?

Have you ever seen a job posting or “help wanted” ad for the service you’re thinking of providing? What about Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even dinner parties with friends? Do people ask questions related to your business idea?

If the answer is yes, you’re probably onto something.

Step 2: Do deep customer research and identify the top result you want to get your clients

At this point, you’ve found other businesses in your niche and examples of people asking questions related to your idea. Now it’s time to dive into customer research and get super clear on what you want to help your clients achieve.

Talk to, read about, and survey your potential customers to identify their hopes, dreams, pain points, and fears. Pay attention to the words they use so you can incorporate them into your marketing and coaching. The chart below will help you frame your research.


Make money coaching online with thorough customer research
Originally, I wanted to help women eat healthy food, but after getting inside my customers’ heads, I realized that what they really wanted was to lose weight (eating healthy is one way to achieve this, but it’s not the ultimate goal). And finally, there it was: I had landed on the focus of my business.

Keep in mind that you should never stop doing customer research. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You’ll continue to do research as you grow your audience and get more specific about what value you offer to your customers.

Step 3: Get your first 100 subscribers

If you already have at least 100 subscribers, you can skip to Step Four.

If not, before you do anything else, you need to start building your email list, which is your most powerful sales tool. After all, your subscribers will soon become your first customers.

Start by publishing three blog posts on your site that address the pain points you uncovered in Step Two. Make sure that they include a call-to-action to sign up for your mailing list in exchange for a short piece of downloadable content.

Don’t overthink this step: Just make sure it’s something your customers want. This could be a super-short eBook or a one-page checklist. In my case, I offer a PDF of a few recipes for weight loss.

Remember, keep it super simple. No fancy design or 50-page eBooks. That stuff will just slow you down considerably — at this point, you want to stay lean and focus on getting your content in front of your target audience as quickly as possible.

Next, start sharing your three posts on social media. Your personal accounts are fine at this point — don’t worry about creating social accounts dedicated to your new brand.

But the real traction will come from guest posting. Contact other blogs in your niche, ask if you can write a guest post for them, and link back to your simple opt-in. This is the most effective way to grow your email list when you’re first starting out.

If you easily get 100 subscribers, this means your content and messaging resonate with your audience, and you are ready to move forward. If all you get are crickets, refer back to your customer research and consider tweaking the way you describe your business and the free opt-in offer.

When I started, I had to change the description of my site from “healthy flavorful food” to “easy weight-loss for ambitious women.” Once I made that simple shift in the copy, the subscribers starting flowing in. I got 101 subscribers in one week — but it was only because I had thoroughly researched my market’s burning desires and incorporated them into my messaging.

Step 4: Map out your coaching program

Once you know what your customers want and have a small but growing email list, you’re ready to map out exactly what you’re going to offer clients.

When I got to this step, I outlined a coaching package based on a standard model I had learned about through research. This included bi-weekly calls, plus weekly recipes and menu plans.

The details of your program will depend on your niche and what your audience wants. As you’re fleshing out your offering, keep these three coaching best practices in mind:

  1. Design a program with a fixed cost bound to a specific timeframe (for example: $1,200 for two months of coaching). This helps you attach a desired outcome to the program and holds both you and your client accountable for achieving results. DON’T offer a program where you charge an hourly fee for your time.
  2. Set up a schedule to talk to your clients regularly. Maybe this means one hour a week, or maybe it’s an hour every two weeks. Use this time to answer questions they may have and give them any additional support they need to reach their goals.
  3. Provide supplementary materials to encourage consistent progress. I provided my clients with weekly recipes and a menu, and this was all they needed to advance in the program. For your first few coaching clients, you’ll probably need to create some of these materials on the fly as you’ll be learning as you go. Once you have more experience, you’ll fine tune your systems.

Bonus: Start solving problems and getting paid! Discover 30 proven online businesses that you could start this weekend. Click here to claim your copy of the free report.

Step 5: Pitch your target market

Now it’s time to pitch your email list.

Here’s how I started to sell my coaching program. First, I sent an email to my list offering a free “Breakthrough Session” with me where I’d help people get clear on how to achieve their weight loss goals.

Then, at the end of each Breakthrough Session, if the person seemed like a good fit for coaching, I offered them a one-on-one coaching package.

The first person I talked to signed up on the spot! It was a $5,000 six month coaching program, which she paid for in monthly installments. This may sound like a lot to charge off the bat, but people will pay 5-figures for personalized coaching services.

The following month, I landed another client through a Breakthrough Session. Within several months of launching my website, I had made my first $10,000. And my email list had less than 500 people!

Here’s the email script I used to pitch the “Breakthrough Sessions. Adding this paragraph to my regular emails was how I got my first 5 clients. Feel free to adapt this template for your own business.


Make money coaching online – PS email script for holding breakthrough sessions
Over time, I became more direct with how I pitched my list, simply stating that I had a coaching program and adding a request to sign up in the “P.S.” section of my emails.


Make money coaching online - PS email pitch script
Once I shifted to pitching my coaching program in most emails I sent out, I had my first $10,000 month. I got emails like the one below on a regular basis.


Make money coaching online - sample client response from email pitch
Julie signed up with me and went on to lose 19 lbs in 10 weeks.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat!

Over time I marketed my coaching services multiple times a month directly to my email list, using emails, and later adding in webinars and teleclasses. I made a point of adding a ton of value in my free content and then pitching my coaching program.

I often made $2,000 to $4,000 from a single email or webinar. Crazy!

If you are having a hard time finding your first client, take another look at the language you use to pitch your service. Make sure you’re focusing on benefits they’ll receive from working with you — these benefits should be the pain points you uncovered in your customer research.

Coaching is the gateway to a sustainable online business

Coaching is a great way to make money online and grow your new business quickly. You can always add courses or other types of services over time.

Once I had a steady flow of clients and revenue through one-on-one coaching, I launched a group-coaching program that has allowed me to scale my business and reach hundreds more clients. But if I had started a group program first, I wouldn’t have had the expertise to create something that got results for my clients.

Your turn:

  1. What kind of coaching program are you thinking of offering?
  2. How will you start to test your idea in the next 1-2 weeks?

DISCOVER HOW TO GET YOUR FIRST COACHING CLIENTS

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This article is so helpful I’m going to share it in some of the private mastermind groups I’m in. A great layout of the basics!

This was a really great article. You are a fantastic writer. I’ve owned an agency for a while which has been great. I’ve been slowly working on my personal brand and never knew where to go with it. I don’t want to sell informational products because I always work best with people. After reading this I finally know what I need to do and how I will do it.

Thanks so much. I apprecaite you.

Nagina, thank you for writing a how-to with concrete steps. I love it when entrepreneurs prove that they follow their own advice–it separates the doers from the talkers.

Thank you Sheldon! Yes, I shared the exact same steps I took that worked! There were other things I also did that didn’t work haha! But I share what I learned so you can move forward faster.

Wow Nagina!! This post is friggin ahhh-maaazing! Stuffed full of great tips and tons of advice. After reading one tip and saying “ohh..this is awesome”..then I’d come across another one and be like “ohh maan..but this is awesome too!”

It’s kinda like that feeling you get when you’re shopping and you find that amazing pair of jeans ..and it’s on sale for 40% off. So you pick it up and head to the register…but then when they scan it in, you find out it’s been knocked down another 10%! You be like “awwww snaaap! Helll yeaaah!”

My biggest takeaways from this were

1. One on One Coaching will give me a much greater and deeper insight into the minds of my customers …more than if I tried to automate my business right from the start. This insight will be INVALUABLE when it comes to creating my products later on

2. Take the time to do deep customer research to identify the TRUE hopes, dreams, pains and fears of my customers
Like you mentioned, eating healthy is ONE WAY to lose weight. But that’s not what your audience truly wanted. They didn’t really want to know how to eat healthy. Their ultimate goal was to LOSE WEIGHT.
And you helped them do that through eating healthy. But only through taking the time to do your research to find the true dreams and fears…were you able to figure this out

3. This is a process.
The big over arching theme I got from this is – that this is a process.

Kind of like cooking. You can’t sit down to your chicken dinner without first unwrapping the chicken, cleaning it, seasoning it, throwing it in the oven…and then WAITING for it to be cooked. Sure, you could rush the process and take the chicken out the oven before it’s done…but guess what… eating raw chicken just might make you run to the bathroom more often than you’d like. So it’s probably worth it to wait. :-)

Same here…you may feel like skipping a step and rushing the process…but in the end..it’s always just better to wait and follow the process step by step.

This is DEFINITELY being saved for me to reference back to because I know I’ll use it again and again.
Thanks Nagina! You’re awesome!

Great article, Nagina! I love that you included Step 4, and didn’t just roll out marketing tactics without addressing the substance of a coaching program. Now I know I can stop stressing about how to shape a coaching program until I’ve validated, researched, and have 100 people interested in what I’m saying. (It’s glaringly obvious now, but only because you laid it out so clearly!)

Hi Nagina,

Thank you for creating and sharing this. I love your writing. It’s easy and enticing to read, all useful stuff without any waffle!

I’m an Earn1k and fellow ZTL student, and I help expectant mothers prepare and train their dog so that they behave safely around baby. I’m currently developing a local service, for similar reasons to you… i.e. to better understand my audience, and improve my ability to address their pain points.

In response to your questions:

1) I’m starting to generate leads for a local 1-2-1 dog training service. I found your suggestion not to charge an hourly fee really insightful, and I’m now wondering whether I should offer a programme with a set price and outcomes, as opposed to dog training with an hourly rate. It seems like a good way to overcome common objections amongst my prospective clients, like ‘how much is this going to end up costing’, ‘what am I actually going to achieve’.

2) I’m hosting a free dog training workshop for my audience in a weeks time. I hope to better understand their pain points, and gage their interest in group classes and 1-2-1 services.

Nagina – have their been any occasions where you, or your clients, felt limited by online coaching as opposed to face to face…and how did you overcome them?

Callum,

Thanks for your comment. Your plan sounds great. When I was first starting out, I did think being in person made a difference, so if the person lived closeby I would meet them for our first session face-to-face. As part of my coaching, I made it a standard practice to have a video Skype call with each client for 1.5 hours as the first touchpoint, followed by regular phone calls. After my first couple clients, I did not offer in-person meetups unless I was offering an even higher premium service.

People still get results even if it’s not face-to-face.

There is still a lot of interaction in coaching; regular phone calls and I also provided my phone number for text messaging. This relationship is also easier on both parties to coordinate than face-to-face meetings.

Hi Nagina and thank you for this article,

I already have an online product and validated it with my market.

I have been thinking of offering coaching services, and actually even tried to do it. I’ve had about a dozen people on the phone, but never succeeded in “converting” them into clients, despite getting interest.

One issue I’m fighting with is that I don’t feel comfortable at all speaking over the phone and pitching my services. Actually, I’m completely fine on the part where I help them, ask questions, reply to their, but then become very shy when I pitch. I’m pretty sure my potential clients can feel it and turn me down for it.

I’ve been thinking of pitching the coaching services only with writing and that’s actually what I intended to do in the next few weeks.
Do you still recommend me to get them on the phone? How do you manage this phone call?

Thanks.

When you get on the phone, it is a lot higher conversion of one-on-one premium priced products. Yes, I do recommend you get on the phone. It’s not going to be easier to sell online.

That is so great you have already got people on the phone! I think you may be feeling like you may be perceived as “trying to get over on them” or be “sleazy” since you’re selling something. Charles, you have to flip this script around and own what you are offering. What you are doing will help the person and take them to a new place in their life that they couldn’t go without you. You have to believe in what you are doing. In the beginning, it is very natural to feel like this, and once you get your first client and see the results you are getting them this will come easier. For now, just think about where that person will be if you don’t help them.

I know people that heard 30+ “no’s” and kept trying and once they became confident in their product it was constant yes’s. Keep going!

Thanks for the reply Nagina.

I haven’t got 30+ No’s yet, and this actually tells me I haven’t been very persistent at it (fears holding me back). I will keep pushing through this, learn from it, and succeed!

Thank you :)

Hey Nagina,

I want to echo what Ryan said – this post is full of insight after insight. Thank you for the step-by-step breakdown and sharing. I do have a couple of questions:
1) How much time were you spending on coaching (not on business strategy, but specifically on 1-1 or 1-N coaching) once you were at your peak? At that time, how much more time were you spending on growing your business and business strategy?
2) This sounds like the way to go for any business: gets the $ flow going early, gets you valuable insight into your audience’s mind and allows you to ramp up your scale in a smooth manner. From your experience, are there any businesses/situations where you would not recommend going this route?

If it helps, I am in ZTL, Module1 for reference. Thanks again for sharing such great content!

Hi Nagina,

Thank you so much for sharing this very practical article! I just finished Earn1K and just in my market research phase. It seems overwhelming at first but it’s really nice to see that you can be profitable with a small, but targeted audience list. It makes it sound more achievable for those of us who are starting out.

Love your story.

Hi Nagina,

I’m a ZTL member and was at the NYC Meetup in May of 2015 and was in the hot seat with Ramit.

This article could not have come at a better time and much appreciated.

I help premed students get into medical school and they have to pass their MCAT exam for this to happen.

Ironically, I had put together a video course to help study for the MCAT which sold just a few units under 10 or so without any complaints from the students or refunds. But I was working very hard to promote the course and not seeing much traction when I came across your article.

And just recently I had a student where we did a discovery call together, she wasn’t sure about moving forward and now two weeks later she hasn’t taken action on the course and is telling me she is struggling with the things we initially discussed.

I’m thinking MCAT study skills and test-taking strategies should be offered like you suggest as one-on-one until I really have refined the process and then scale it into a video course.

So very appreciative for this article which I bookmarked and glad you dove into how to setup the course and not to charge hourly (be results focused) and to simply overdeliver for students.

Thank you.

Hi Nagina,
Excellent post, thanks very much for writing it.

Got a question: I offer body language coaching for lawyers: make a better impression and read their clients better. This helps them connect with clients better and have more charisma (but we don’t have jury trials in my country). The challenge is defining measurable growth or change. It’s definitely there, but it’s hard to put into words. How would you phrase this in copy?

Thanks!
Michiel – The Netherlands

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