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How to Plan & Structure a Highly Effective Coaching Session

Want to know how you can hold a powerful one-on-one coaching session? 

After all, coaching is a skill you can learn — EVEN if you don’t have any experience or a coaching certification. And by being a great coach, you get incredibly loyal clients and can grow your business to six figures and up. 

Today, you learn how to hold coaching sessions, including:

  • What to say in a coaching session
  • How to end coaching sessions
  • How to structure your coaching session
  • And so much more!

Want to learn more? Read on! 


1: What is a coaching session?

2: How do you hold powerful coaching sessions (structure + questions)? 

3: How do you maintain your client’s expectations? 

4: How do you go from one-on-one coaching sessions to group coaching?

5: Coaching resources to help you get started 

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What is a coaching session?

First, let’s establish what coaching is and isn’t.

A coach is a service provider who helps clients get a result. As a coach, you might help your clients lose weight (health coach), find a better job (career coach), or improve their financials (financial coach).

But coaches aren’t teachers. And contrary to what many believe, a coach is *not* someone who speaks with their clients on a call once in a blue moon, asks a few questions about how they’re feeling, and that’s it.

Instead, I like to think of coaches as “coach-sultants,” where the focus is on getting real and tangible results for your clients. 

The best part?

There’s a lot of potential in coaching because the industry is growing… fast (the e-learning industry, which coaching is a part of, is expected to grow to $325 billion by 2025). 

Think about it: Personal support is going to be increasingly in demand as more people opt to invest in experiences. 

And because not everyone is a great coach, there’s a LOT of room to stand out for coaches who create value. Let’s look at some of the top benefits of coaching and how to become a coach.

However, click here if you want to jump right into holding effective coaching sessions.

What are the benefits of coaching? 

The benefits of a coach are clear:

When clients work one-on-one with you, they get tailored support. You keep them accountable and there’s a much higher chance that they will reach their goal. 

In fact, research shows that people who share their goals with people they think are more successful are likelier to reach them.

Plus, you as the coach have already successfully achieved that same goal and/or possibly helped others do it. 

The result? 

You can guide your client on how to go through the hoops faster and more effectively. 

How do you become a one-on-one coach? 

I recommend coaching as a business model for you if you’re in a 9-5 and want to quit your job. That’s because coaching is the fastest and cheapest way to get started (you can start with an existing skill and you don’t need to make huge investments).


It’s profitable. One-on-one support has a high perceived value, so you can ask for a premium price.

Replace your salary with coaching
Just how profitable coaching can be!

Can YOU become a coach?

Right now, you might be thinking, “How could I coach anyone? I don’t have any coaching experience…”

Look, you’re already a coach in your life. Think about it: Your friends, family, and co-workers ask for your advice on so many different things, like career, relationships, and health.

And even better…

You don’t need a coaching certification to get started. 

That’s right. Unless you’re in a niche that requires a certification by law (there are very few of these and they’re mainly in the health industry), you don’t need one.

You DO need to have experience in your coaching niche. But you learn the act of coaching when you coach people. 

That’s why I recommend that new coaches start out at a relatively low price ($1,500 for 3 months).

By offering a lower rate, you get to build up your coaching skills.

Why you should offer a premium service

Even when you’re starting out, you should offer premium coaching services.

This is key to growing a profitable coaching business.

First, premium coaching means that your work has a real impact because you help people achieve results every day.

(Oh, and studies, like this one, show that people value expensive things more than cheaper alternatives. Your clients are likely to get more out of your coaching if they pay more for it.)

Second, you grow your business faster.

Once your clients start seeing results, you’ll get testimonials. You’ll earn your stripes, increase your rates, and grow your business.

To do all that, you need to know how to hold a one-on-one coaching session. And that’s what we’ll look at next. 

But before we move on, want to learn more about getting your dream clients? I put together this quick video for you where I outline my strategy:

How do you hold powerful coaching sessions (structure + questions)?

A big “aha” for me was when I realized just how effective “coach-sulting” is. 

As a coach-sultant, you give your coachees actionable steps and together, you work to achieve a goal. 


This is very different from how a lot of people think about coaching. 

You see, there’s this school of thought that coaching is asking a series of questions like “Why do you feel that?” The idea is that people really know the answer themselves. 

Now, I’m in no way downplaying this approach. But the way I see it, your clients don’t hire you to ask them questions. They hire you for your experience and to get your guidance.  

Coach-sulting is essentially a mix of coaching (helping people achieve a goal) and consulting (giving people a strategy to achieve a goal). 

example coachsulting post
See how actionable my coaching is? That’s “coach-sulting”!

Understanding this is key to holding great coaching calls. 

coaching consulting questions

But before we dive more into what your coaching sessions should look like, let’s look at what it takes to be a great coach — after all, this will help you hold powerful coaching calls your clients love.

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How to be a great coach

No one is born a great coach — it’s a skill you learn. And you improve with every call you have.

So, what does it take to become a great coach?

The five key responsibilities of a coach are: 

1) To lead

You lead your clients to where they want to be and show them how it’s going to happen with a plan from day one. 

In this short video, I talk more about leading as a coach:

2) To provide a vision

You’re the person your clients hire to tell them, “Here’s what’s possible even if you don’t think it’s possible. I know it’s possible because of my experience.” 

As the coach, you think bigger than your clients and help them see what they don’t know.

For example: 

I grew my business to over $1 million in the first year — a direct result of a coach showing me what was possible. Long story short: I was initially planning for a $300,000 course launch (which already felt like a HUGE goal to me). My previous launches had brought in $8,000 and $100,000 so it seemed like a good stretch goal. 

But my coach challenged me and said, “Why don’t you aim for $1 million?” I did and my launch ended up bringing in $800,000 in sales — way beyond the $300,000 launch I had envisioned.

(You can read the whole story here.)

3) To guide 

Coaching is like being the Google Maps for your client’s goal. 

Let me explain:

It’s a combination of coaching, teaching, and consulting where you show your clients the exact, customized steps they need to take to achieve their goal. 

When a new client comes to me, that’s what we do. We map out what they can build their business around, what their offer, pricing, and positioning are going to be, how they’re going to get clients, and ultimately, scale their business. 

4) To problem-solve

I always tell my clients:

“You can’t be responsible for your clients’ results.” 

But there’s a fine line between that and throwing up your hands and saying:

“I completely wash my hands and don’t have anything to do with your results.” 

For example, I’ve hired several health coaches.

If I wouldn’t have shared any of my struggles with my coaches, I probably wouldn’t have gotten very good results.

The thing is: Coaches aren’t mind-readers. As the client, it’s on me to talk about what’s going on in my life. 

But if I did talk about them, it would be on my coachees to problem-solve. 

If I tell a student to pitch a number of businesses and that person does the work, I don’t just go, “Well, it should work.” Instead, I put my problem-solving hat on to see what my client can improve to get results.

5) To hold your clients accountable


As a coach, you need to be prepared to have those tough conversations that aren’t the easiest to have. Your clients haven’t achieved their goal yet — they have things that keep them back, like old beliefs, thoughts, and their mindset. 

For example, when my clients say, “Why isn’t this easier for me?”, I hold them accountable. I say, “You want this goal and this isn’t how you’re going to get it.” 

Or if a client disappears for a few weeks, I reach out to them and ask them what’s going on. 

And that’s how I help my clients get great results. You can, too, by using these five steps in your coaching calls.

Next, let’s look at a one-on-one coaching plan template… My coaching session structure. 

What’s the best coaching session structure? 

Now you know how YOU can be a great coach. But how do you hold coaching calls that get results?

I used to be where you are now.

When I got my first coaching client, I didn’t have any coaching experience. 

I knew the topic I was coaching on (at the time, digital advertising). But I didn’t know how to share what I knew. 

I remember being incredibly nervous that I would forget to say something or mess up. That’s why I spent three hours scripting out what I was going to say on the call. (Which was only an hour long!)

You don’t necessarily need to spend the same amount for a call… But I do recommend that you map out and plan your first session. 

Here are the stages in a one-on-one coaching process.

What do you need to have prepared before holding your coaching sessions?

A lot of people will ask me:

“Luisa, what do I need to prepare before my sessions? Do I need a gorgeous website? PDFs?”

The answer is… None of it. 

You can start your coaching sessions right now with what you have. 

Websites, PDFs, and so forth come later. 

In fact: 

As you hold your coaching sessions, you learn what PDFs to create and what to put on your website. 

The only tools you need are a Zoom account to hold your sessions and Google Drive to share material with your clients. You can also use Calendly to schedule your coaching sessions.

Alternatives to Zoom include Google Meet and Skype.

Old website example
My first website, which I set up AFTER I had already made money in my coaching business.

Send out a welcome questionnaire 

The first thing to do when you sign on a client? 

Before you have your first call, send them a welcome questionnaire. (You can use a Google Doc that your client can fill out and send back to you.)

With this questionnaire, you ask everything that’s relevant to your coaching — what their goals are, what they’re struggling with… I keep mine to about 30 questions. 

You can easily set it up in Google Drive and share it as an editable document with your clients.

Structure your calls

Next, structure your one-on-one calls.

The key thing to remember is that every call should be goal-oriented.

This means…

Have a sub-goal every month that builds on your client’s overall goal. And every coaching call moves them to that month’s sub-goal.

structure of coaching call

Don’t get on a call just to ask your clients how they’re feeling — unless that’s the support they need. Instead, move them towards their goal. 

You’ll figure out your goals based on the client’s welcome questionnaire and your sales calls. That’s how you know how to tailor your coaching for THAT client. 

For example: 

The end goal of a health coaching program is to lose weight. On the first call, you get started with mapping out their habits and what they’re currently eating. Maybe you set up a cleanse or similar. 

On the next call, you then check in on how that cleanse went. 

The third call is all about goal achievement and the fourth call, you might add on workouts.

How do you know what goals to use?

Your goals and sub-goals depend on your business.

Take my own coaching business. When I was selling private business coaching, I mapped out my offer like this:

#1 Month – Mapping out the client’s offer.

#2 Month – Planning their marketing, website, emails, and so forth.

#3 Month – Connecting with their clients.

How long should your calls be?

So, now you know how to structure your calls. 

But how long should they be? 

Your coaching calls can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. 

I recommend having one or two one-on-one coaching calls per client each month, depending on your offer. 

What should you do after conducting a coaching session?

Coaching doesn’t just happen on the call. 

I record all my coaching calls and send the recording to my clients so that they can refer back to them.

And then there’s the coaching you do in between coaching calls, like answering questions and checking in on your clients.

When I was still doing one-on-one coaching, I would ask my clients to send me a summary of their work 24 hours before each call. They’d answer the following questions:

  • #1: What did you do this week?
  • #2: What went well?
  • #3. What do you want to focus on during this call? 

What are good coaching questions? 

Remember what we talked about earlier in this article — that there’s a difference between coach-sulting and questions-focused coaching? 

Questions-focused coaching relies on the coach asking questions and the coachee coming up with answers.

In most cases, I use a different coaching model where you teach your coachees to ask the questions.

What does this mean?

You as the coach-sultant give answers so that coachees can achieve results faster and more sustainably. 

But most people aren’t trained to ask questions. In fact, we’re told to keep quiet so that we don’t bother other people. 

That’s why you need to guide your clients to communicate. 

An example? 

In my premium coaching mastermind, Empire, I teach my students right at the beginning of the program how to ask questions. 

coaching example
I teach my students to share updates in a Facebook group.

On the other hand, let’s say you work as a health coach. You might tell your students to send you a text or an email in specific situations, like when they’re at a restaurant so that you can help them choose the right foods.

On your calls, a good question to ask is, “What can I give you some extra support with?” And if your client is working through overcoming fears and obstacles, ask, “I know that some fears you had in the beginning were (insert fears). How are you feeling about this?”

How do you ensure that your clients get results?

Everything we’ve talked about up until now is about helping your clients get results.

That’s why you give your clients tangible things to work towards (even if the result is intangible, like stress or confidence coaching). 

But as a coach, you will probably have it happen to you:

A client doesn’t get results.

Now, your approach depends on two different scenarios — if your client does the work and if they don’t. 

When a client does the work…

If your client does the work, it’s a solvable situation.

Think about what’s going on with the client.

Is there a tactical or mental piece that doesn’t quite line up? 

For example, one of my students, a college admissions consultant, saw her sales drop even though she was doing everything the way she was supposed to. 

When I dug into her webinar, I understood why.

Before, her content had resonated with her clients. But now, her market was changing, her target clients had become savvier, and so she needed to update her content to keep it fresh.

On the other hand, some clients are doing the work… But not really believing in it. 

That’s where you as a coach can help them dig deeper and overcome their internal resistance. 

When a client isn’t doing the work…

And if your client isn’t doing the work, it’s not about laziness. Instead, there’s probably some part of them that doesn’t feel worthy. 

Think about it:

Your client has struggled with achieving their goal literally their entire life. Likely, this isn’t going to change overnight. You help them overcome their fears and obstacles. 

As a coach, you can help them get through this. Ask, “Can you share what’s going on and what you’re feeling?”

If you keep on your problem-solving hat, you are doing enough as a coach.

And remember: You can’t do the work for your clients.

You can only show up as much for your clients as they show up for themselves. YOU can’t want the results more than them. 

How do you answer a question you don’t know the answer to? 

This is a super common fear. What do you do if someone asks you a question… And you don’t know what to say? 

The thing is…

I used to feel so scared that this would happen to me and that my clients would think I wasn’t as good as they thought I was.

But this isn’t a big deal. Be prepared and honest about your lack of an answer.

You can either relay it to something that can help them (a similar scenario) OR tell them that you’ll get back to them with an answer. 

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How do you maintain your client’s expectations?

Every coach goes through it: 

Clients who don’t respect your boundaries and complain that their expectations weren’t fulfilled.

It’s just a part of business (any business). 

To make things easier on yourself, I recommend that you separate the two roles you have in your business.

You see, you’re both a coach (a leader) and a service provider. These are two very different roles. 

In the beginning, you’ll need to handle both and switch between your coaching and customer support roles. 

But as your business grows, you can outsource the customer support piece. 

That way, you don’t have to mix the two roles. 

So, how do you maintain your boundaries as a coach? Here you go:

A client doesn’t have the right expectations 

People who haven’t been coached before can sometimes have some pretty big expectations. For example, they might expect that you do more of their work and that they can text you 24/7.


They don’t understand the importance of what you teach versus what they think is important.

Let’s take health coaching as an example. A health coach might be trying to get her students to dig into their emotions around food, while students are more concerned about getting recipes. 

Plus, clients might not understand how long it takes to get results.

Now, you’ve probably talked about those things in your sales calls and marketing. But there might still be a disconnect. 

And in that case, you need to realign that expectation. 

Show them that it’s about their results and you helping them in the long-term. 

Example: A client doesn’t understand how long it takes to get results. You can say, “Getting results that fast isn’t sustainable. I want to help you achieve results that hold in the long-term.” And explain how your coaching does that.

A client wants a refund 

We all get them… Emails where clients are asking for a refund.

As said, eventually you’ll want to have someone else take care of this. But when you’re starting out, you need to manage this yourself. 

I recommend replying to refund requests by saying, “Let’s hop on a quick call to talk about this.” 

Here’s the thing:

Your client’s request is probably coming from a place of fear. 

If you have delivered what you promised, you absolutely should get paid. 

And a call is a great way to talk it through.

On your call, ask, “What’s going on?”

Usually, clients will say things like, “I’m not sure I can make this happen” or “I’m not sure this is working.”

And that’s a great opportunity for you to coach them back to believing in themselves.

Let me explain what I mean:

I once had a client who had it tight financially — something that makes me usually reject people who want to sign up for my coaching.

But as she really wanted to work with me, I accepted her as a client. A few months later, she emailed me and asked for a refund.  

When we hopped on a call, she said that she didn’t really think it could happen and that her finances were running out. 

We talked it through and I pointed out why I DID believe she could make it happen, based on what I had already seen. (If I wouldn’t have seen that potential, I would have released her on that call.)

She got renewed motivation and ended up being one of my top students. Soon enough, she was making $5,000/month and only grew from there. 

A client disappears or stops paying

Another scenario that happens from time to time is that a client disappears and stops paying. 

Here, I have two courses of action.

If a client doesn’t respond or try to work with us, we send them to a collections agency.

But if a client DOES respond and tries to make it work, we’re happy to work with them. 

You see, you as the coach are worth that money. You’ve carved out time for this client and your clients are adults who make their own decisions.

That said, I’m not one of those coaches who think clients should take on debt they can’t handle to work with me. Sometimes life happens. If a client works together with us to fix the issue, we work with them to resolve it. 

A client doesn’t respect your time 

The third type of client is someone who repeatedly emails you overly long emails, wants you to answer immediately, or is repeatedly late to your calls and expects you to be flexible.

Again, this comes down to coaching your client on why they need to respect your boundaries. 

You can say something like…

“I’m here to support you but as we talked about on our sales call…” 

“Let’s condense the way you’re asking these questions…”

“Let’s hold off on this until the next coaching call…”

“I want to take a bit of time to give you the best response…”

And yes, sometimes clients push back. But you want to stay firm and explain that your boundaries help you coach THEM better. It’s not about them not being allowed to ask questions, but they do need to respect your time. 

Now you know how to hold a powerful one-on-one coaching session. But what do you do when you max out with private coaching clients?

That’s when it’s time to switch to group coaching. 

How do you go from one-on-one coaching sessions to group coaching?

Private coaching is a GREAT way to get started.

But you can only take on so many calls. In my experience, 10 one-on-one coaching clients is maxing it out. 

That’s when it’s time to scale your business.

How to scale with group coaching

You see, after 3-10 clients, you can start group coaching

I LOVE group coaching because it’s a great way for you to take on more clients and grow your business. And group coaching can be even more beneficial to your clients than private coaching.

In fact, I’ve seen some great results with my group coaching clients. Not only do my students get coaching from me, but they also learn from each other. 

Here’s what your setup looks like:

  • You have calls every two weeks with your group.
  • You set up a Facebook group or Slack channel where you talk with your coachees in between calls. 

How to hold powerful group coaching calls

Now, your group coaching calls are a bit different from your one-on-one coaching calls. 

The way I structure my group coaching sessions is that I go through every person in order. I spend about 10 minutes talking to each of them. 

(If 10 minutes sounds short, remember: Your impact doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of time you spend talking to people, but what you help them achieve.)

You might be thinking, “But Luisa, my coaching is really personal. I can’t do it in a group setting.”

I’ve had clients in the past who struggled with the same thing. 

For example, one of my energy clearing coaching clients realized that she could work her way around it by holding one energy clearing session a month and build her coaching around that.

The thing is:

Getting group coaching to work for YOUR offer will be worth it. 

With a group coaching offer, you can take on about 30 coaching clients. At this point, you’re at multiple 6-figures in your business. 

After that, you can move on to scaling with online courses and grow your business to higher six figures and seven figures. 

Coaching resources to help you get started

Now you know how to run a coaching session.

But what about the rest of your coaching business?

To help you get started and run your business as fast as possible, I put together these resources for you: 

How to Start a 6-Figure Coaching Business

In this guide, you learn how to start a 6-figure business. I share my own story and how you can do the same to quit your 9-5. 

The Online Coaching Business Model to Replace Your 9-5

In this post, you get the three elements of a coaching business. This is all about setting you up for long-term success. 

How to Find a High-Ticket Coaching Niche

If you’re unclear on your coaching niche, I show you how to find one in this guide. Plus, you get 100 example niches!

How to Sell High-End Coaching Packages

Want to create packages that sell like hotcakes? That’s what you learn in this guide. 

How to Price Your Coaching

What’s the perfect pricing model for a coaching package? Read this post! 

How to Create a Coaching Contract

There’s something you should put in place before you have your first coaching sessions — a coaching contract. Today, you learn how to create one. 

Want to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business So You Can Achieve More Freedom?

Get Instant Access To My FREE Ultimate Guide Below!

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

Over to you!

There you have it. Now you know what it takes to hold an invaluable one-on-one coaching session.

YOU are the leader who guides your clients to achieve results. That’s why coaching can be an incredibly fulfilling business (and yes — a coaching business can make it possible for you to quit your 9-5 and make good money).

Let me know in the comments below:

What’s your #1 question when it comes to holding one-on-one coaching calls? 

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

Want to know how to build a profitable, meaningful business to replace your 9-5?

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2 Responses

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