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!
I’ll also walk you through the steps you need to take to get your first coaching client. Let’s dive in!
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:
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- What kind of coaching program are you thinking of offering?
- How will you start to test your idea in the next 1-2 weeks?