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How to Start an Online Coaching Business in 5 Steps [2024 Guide]

Want to start a flexible online coaching business?

If the answer is YES, this post is for you. I’ll show you how to become a profitable online coach. (I used these same steps to grow my own coaching business to $211,000 in my first year in business.)

Want to dive right in? Read on!

You’ll learn…
Step 1: Can YOU build a thriving online coaching business?
Step 2: Can YOU become an online coach? Here’s how I figured it out for myself
Step 3: How I made multiple 6 figures as an online coach in my first year in business (and you can do the same)
Step 4: Hitting $1 million: How to scale your online coaching business
Step 5: How to start building your online coaching business today

Can YOU build a thriving online coaching business?

If you’re wondering what, exactly, an online coach does, here’s what you need to know.

What is online coaching?

Coaching is a 2.85 billion industry. And a growing number of coaches are choosing to take their business online for more flexibility and freedom.

That’s because as an online coach, you work exclusively online. Most often, you don’t meet your clients in person or market yourself locally. Instead, all your coaching and marketing is done with online tools, like the scheduling tool Calendly, the video meeting tool Zoom, and payment tools like Stripe and PayPal. 

And that’s exactly why online coaching has so many benefits. Because you work online, your business offers you flexibility, scalability, AND the chance to impact thousands of people. Not only that, an online business has a low overhead and low startup costs (all you need to get started is a laptop). Plus, if you start online coaching as a side business while you’re in your 9-5, your business is pretty much risk-free. 

online coaching benefits table

As you’ll see, these benefits are the reason I was able to scale my own coaching business to multiple six figures so fast. Ultimately, this allowed me to leave my 9-5 and set up a full-time business (I’m now in my 5th year). Since then, I’ve helped thousands of new coaches start their businesses, which I couldn’t have done with any other business model.

1st year coaching income

What type of online coach can you be? 

When I first got started as a coach, I didn’t have a clear path laid out for me. Instead, it took some trial and error before I found the right business. What it came down to was that I looked at my past experiences and how I could best deliver results to my clients.

The point is this: There are thousands of niches you can work in. To make it as easy as possible for you to get started, you should choose a niche that you already have some experience in.

For example, as a recruiter, the most logical choice would be career coaching. But you’re not limited to your professional experience. Instead, you can look at results you’ve achieved, like health results (health coaching), relationship results (relationship coaching) or parenting experience (parenting coaching).

I talk more about choosing a niche in this short video:

Who can become an online coach?

You might be wondering: Is it even possible to build an online business? Isn’t it scammy to sell coaching online?

Coaching is estimated to be a $2 billion industry and it’s growing fast. A lot of coaches, myself included, run multiple 7-figure businesses online. 

Here’s the thing: At the end of the day, online coaching is all about delivering value. You help people solve problems in their lives and get paid for your help.

As a coach, whether you’re a health coach, relationship coach, career coach, mindset coach, business coach, marketing coach, or something else, your job is to guide people to achieve the results they want. 

If you’ve already achieved those results yourself or you’ve helped others do it, you can sell your knowledge and time as a coach. 

Of course, coaching isn’t counseling, so if you’re thinking, “I don’t have an online coaching certification, how can I become a coach?”, don’t worry. You can become an online coach with or without a certification. What it comes down to are your results.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have any doubts when I first looked at starting an online coaching business. In fact, when I started my first coaching business, I wasn’t so sure that coaching was possible. Here’s how I figured out why building a coaching business is easier than you might think.

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Can YOU become an online coach? Here’s how I figured it out for myself

Can YOU become an online coach? 

That’s what I asked myself when I was still in my 9-5.

By then, I had already started a few businesses. My first business, an online tutoring business, was a six-figure business. And my second business, a payment app, was valued at multiple 7-figures before we shut it down.

I was back in the corporate world and living my dream life. A six-figure career, a life in New York… I had checked all the boxes, but something was missing. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Then, over the period of a year, everyone in my family got sick. My dad had to be rushed to the ER for heart surgery, my mom got cancer, and my sister almost lost her eyesight. 

I remember a particular moment: My sister had just had her accident and was staying with me. Because of her bad eye, she had to spend all her time in a dark room. When I left her in the morning to go to work, all I kept thinking was, “I should be there for her. I can’t leave her alone.”

That’s when I realized what that nagging feeling was. Because of my 9-5, I wasn’t able to spend time with my family because I didn’t have enough vacation days. I was lacking the flexibility to live my own life! 

That’s when I started to look at online businesses because of the freedom this business model could offer me. After all, running an online business means that you can work pretty much from anywhere in the world and your business can consist of exactly one person: Yourself.

My first (failed) coaching businesses and how I finally had an ‘AHA’ moment

At the same time, I realized that to replace my salary, I needed to make a good income fast. I couldn’t sell low-priced products or courses because of the time it would have taken me to build up my business (we’re talking years!). 

But there was one thing that I COULD sell at a higher price, which would allow me to leave my job faster.

And that thing was online coaching. 

coaching vs other online business models

The only problem was… I had no idea what to coach people on or how to even be a coach.

That’s why I started with something I knew how to do extremely well, thanks to my day job: Excel consulting. Unfortunately, I soon realized that even if something feels easy, it probably isn’t.

As it turned out, Excel consulting was something I didn’t enjoy that much. So after a few futile attempts to make it work, I scrapped this business and moved on.

Next, I tried career coaching. It felt like a great idea. After all, who doesn’t need a career coach? Plus, people constantly asked me how I had built my career at such a young age.

This time, I even landed a few clients who were paying me to help them advance in their careers. But again, I quickly realized that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing and stopped before my business took off.

How Facebook groups made all the difference

With two failed online businesses under my belt, I started doubting the whole online business world even more. But at the same time, I saw other people making it online. Like my copywriter, who was helping me with my site copy for my career coaching business.

When I asked her how she got all of her clients, she said “Facebook groups.” Curious, I signed up for a few groups. 

That’s when I realized how many people were asking for help with digital advertising. A lightbulb went off in my head.

Digital advertising was exactly what I worked with every day in my 9-5. I could help these people!

Facebook question example
Facebook groups are the perfect place to answer people’s most burning questions.

After having provided value to people by answering their questions and engaging in conversations, I soon landed my first client. And that’s when I knew JUST how possible online coaching is.

Within a year, I had gone from 0 to multiple 6 figures. Here’s how I built my business.

How I made multiple 6 figures as an online coach in my first year in business (and you can do the same)

Once I had found my audience in Facebook groups, I started interacting in them on a daily basis. However, at the time, I didn’t really understand that I could get clients from these groups. 

How I started getting on my audience’s radar

Instead, I started helping people in any way that I could. My sole focus was to provide value. Every day, I would go in and look at what questions people were asking and provide helpful advice whenever I could. 

Facebook search example
There are tons of Facebook groups where your target audience hangs out. Here are a few fitness groups.

Of course, your audience might not be in Facebook groups. In that case, it’s on a different platform. My clients have found clients on social media platforms like Reddit, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

Some platforms work better for specific niches. For example, LinkedIn is a good bet for career coaches and Instagram can be a great tool for health coaches. By finding out where YOUR target audience hangs out, you can start building relationships with them. 

My first paying coaching client

By the time I got my first client, I had been helping a ton of people in Facebook groups. I didn’t plan to convert a client. Instead, she found me thanks to the value I was giving. She saw how much I could help her and decided to work with me.

We got to talking when I saw her question in a Facebook group. It was a question related to Facebook ads that I knew I could help her with.

After I reached out to her, we hopped on a call where I essentially coached her through her questions. We then kept the discussion going for a few more weeks and I continued helping her figure out her Facebook ads questions.

After about two weeks, she sent me a message saying:

“Hi Luisa, you’ve given me so much value, I’d love to learn more about how I can work with you.”

I was surprised to say the least! I hadn’t asked if she wanted to work with me. But thanks to the help I had given her, she saw first-hand how valuable it could be.

At this point, I didn’t have a clue about how to price my services. When I calculated my hourly salary in my day job, I came up with a coaching rate of $5,000 for a six-month coaching program.

When I shared that price with her, she immediately said yes… And I had my first client.

From one online coaching client to many

There was one problem, though: With my first client, I had spent weeks building up a high level of trust so that she saw the value of working with me. To build up that level of trust with all clients would take a long time, and I wouldn’t be able to get to a point where I could replace my salary and quit my day job.

So I asked myself, “How else can I scale this?” 

I figured that if people would get on a sales call with me, I could quickly convert them into paying clients. So I started inviting people to go on sales calls with me.

The problem? No one knew who I was! Sales call after sales call, I would get a “No, you’re too expensive.”

rejection example

I had to go back to the drawing board. If getting people on sales calls didn’t work, what would? 

That’s when it hit me: The one thing that differentiated these people from my first client was that they didn’t trust me. 

So the next thing I tried was to make the commitment easier by dropping my rate to $1,500 for a three-month coaching program.

And boom! Within four to five weeks from landing my first client, I got my next few clients. Once I had landed these clients, I worked hard to help them get results. 

It panned out. When I had client results to show, other people got the proof they needed that I could help them.

At this point, I raised my price back to $5,000 and within two weeks of getting my second and third clients, I got my fourth client. 

It continued like this. I would get one client and then there would be a few weeks of not getting any clients until I, again, landed a few more. 

Coaching business growth graph

Ultimately, I landed $104,000 in business in my first five months as a coach. It felt incredible. Not just because I now knew that building an online business was more than a pipedream, but also because by replacing my salary, I was able to quit my 9-5.

Coaching business income

How I started attracting coaching clients to me 

At this point, people started asking me how I did it. How was I able to build my business so fast?

Facebook message example
People would message me and ask for advice.

The next logical step was to help people with what they were asking to pay me for: Business coaching.

At the same time, I took steps to scale my business. I needed to reach more people to grow my online coaching business so that they would find me instead of me chasing them so that they would eventually start working with me. 

This is why online business is such a great business model. It offers you ways to reach a lot of people without putting in more and more work.

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How I scaled my business 

In my case, I had a couple of strategies that I used to make this happen. For example, I had set up a mastermind coaching program and when my students started getting results, I would upsell them to my 1:1 coaching program. That brought in $20,000 more in 1:1 coaching revenue.

But the most important strategy for me, by far, was sharing livestreams.

You see, the online industry can be really crowded. I knew that in order to stand out as a coach without any brand recognition online, I had to get people to realize that I was legitimate. 

At the time, Periscope was getting big. I figured that since my audience was hanging out on this app, I could use it to talk to people and connect with them. And that’s what I started doing by sharing mini blog posts and sharing advice on what people should be doing.

Was I scared to do these livestreams? Yes! But I soon realized just how valuable they were. Within a few weeks, people reached out to me and said things like:

“Luisa, I saw a few of your livestreams and I just knew you were the coach for me! I knew I had to work with you because you obviously know your stuff.”

By being able to see me in person and hearing the way I spoke, I built that same level of trust that I had built with my very first client. The only difference was that I was now doing it at scale. 

This way, I started getting clients left and right. 

The strategy I used for my Periscope livestreams was simple:

  1. I would start each livestream by preparing the content. I would think about what to do and what not to do and write out action steps to give to people as a tangible takeaway.
  2. To figure out what to talk about, I looked at what people were asking me. What were the top questions I was getting? These could be anything from how to be more confident to how to constantly be getting clients and what to do with those clients. 
  3. For each livestream, I set aside about 30 minutes, so they didn’t take a ton of my time even though they were effective at driving clients.

But what I didn’t have was a call to action. I didn’t ask people to come and work with me. Instead, I just gave value and thought about how to help as many people in each livestream.

Still, by seeing me and hearing me, people started coming to me and asking to work with me. 

The power of livestreams

As you can see, livestreams were what made ALL the difference for me in my online coaching business.

I didn’t get clients thanks to my website (in fact, I didn’t even have a website at the time). Social media posts are effective to an extent, but I wouldn’t have been able to scale without these live videos.

Of course, Periscope isn’t around today. Instead, you can share live videos on most social platforms. Take Facebook livestreams. With them, you can reach a huge audience of people who’re interested in what you offer. 

livestream example

I still hop on Facebook livestreams to share with my audience. This livestream is from my Facebook group Entrepreneurial Leaders.

At the end of my first year in business, I had made $211,000 in coaching sales just from doing a few things and doubling down on what worked. 

first year coaching income

Hitting $1 million: How to scale your online coaching business 

Maybe you’re thinking:

“What if I want to sell a group program or a course?” 

Good news. Even if you start out in online coaching, you don’t have to work 1:1 with people forever.

In fact, once I had made my first six figures in my business, I started to think about other ways to scale.

As a coach, you only have so much time to use on one-on-one online coaching services. And when I looked around, I realized that there were a few business models that would help me scale my income.

The first was hiring coaches to work for me. 

However, the more leveraged business model that would eventually free up much more of my time was to sell online courses. That’s because you don’t have to personally walk people through your online courses. Most of them are self-study courses that people buy to go through at their own pace and independently. 

This means you can sell them at scale.

ETE sneak peak
Thanks to having worked with so many 1:1 clients, I knew exactly how to create a comprehensive course for my audience and make it easy to implement so that they would get amazing results.

The great thing was: Everything I had learned and built through my coaching helped me create and sell a course much faster than if I hadn’t coached others before. 

A lot of online courses fail because of this single reason. These course creators don’t understand their audience, how to help them, or how to make sales. 

But by first helping people 1:1, I had built up that know-how. I knew exactly how to position my course and how to sell it. And that was a major reason for why I was able to hit almost $1 million in course sales in less than a year. 

In the end, I had made $1 million from my online coaching and course sales in the first 11 months. 

First year online business revenue graph

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The steps you need to take to quickly start your online coaching business

By now you know that the reason I was able to grow my business was a bit of trial and error and even more about doubling down on what worked. 

Growing your own online coaching business comes down to a few things:

1. Find a problem to solve.

First, you’ll need to find a problem to solve because that’s the foundation of your business. People pay you as a coach to help them solve a problem. That’s what I did first with my Facebook ads coaching and later on with my business coaching business.

The problem you solve doesn’t need to be a groundbreaking idea. In fact, by focusing on an existing problem and solving it a bit better compared to how other coaches are solving it, you hit a sweet spot of having enough demand for your online coaching programs and becoming the “go-to” person in your niche.

In this short video, I explain how to go about solving problems better than other coaches and that way, standing out:

2. Give value to your audience. 

As we’ve already talked about, the main reason I was able to grow my business so fast was because of all the value I gave. I showed up regularly and I answered people’s most burning questions. Do that and people will be happy to spend money on working with you. 

Here I show you what it means to give value:

3. Focus on what works. 

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes new coaches make is this: They jump from one thing to the next. Instead, focus on finding that one strategy that works for you. And when you find it, focus relentlessly on it. By perfecting your marketing and your offer instead of chasing new, shiny objects, you’ll quickly be able to leverage your client acquisition channel. That means: You grow your income and spend less time in your business.

Take a look at this YouTube video where I explain exactly how to track your numbers:

How to start building your online coaching business today

Now you know how I built an online coaching business that made me $211,000 in a year. I spent that time figuring out a few things that worked great for me. I then focused on perfecting those things that gave the biggest results.

The best part is this: You can get started building your own online coaching business. Quitting your day job within a year or even in a few months isn’t an unattainable fantasy, it’s something hundreds of my students have done.

I’d love to hear from you:

What online coaching business are you going to start?

Share in the comments here below.

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.

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3 Responses

  1. Online is now the preferred platform for marketing. You can now become someone’s mentor even if you live a thousand miles away from them.

  2. Hello! My name is Carlos. My coaching niche is to target men in helping them attain the self-confidence & self-worth they need in order to achieve success in love.

    Then, eventually I would like to move onto (same niche), relationship counseling.

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