Over the past decade, life coaching has been rising as a career. Now, that partly could be the low barrier to entry, or it could be that coaching truly does offer something unique and valuable. I personally believe that coaching offers something worth while to the right client. In this guide to set up your coaching practice we will cover the 7 Steps you need to do to be successful!
Now, if you’re reading this and you are not trained, certified, or have any degrees and you are calling yourself a life coach, I want you to pause for a moment.
Life experience is great, and it’s important because you have a unique view/perspective on that experience and that is valid. However, life experience alone does not make a great coach.
If you’re truly aspiring to be a coach – whether it be a life coach, relationship coach, recovery coach, etc. – it’s time to take it seriously.
Coaches have an ethical duty and responsibility to get educated, trained, and/or certified because you are working with people and their lives. If you don’t have the necessary skills, you could do harm to your clients, and that is something everyone wants to avoid.
*This article contains affiliate links, which means I earn small commissions from my sponsored links. Affiliate links have no cost to you but help to support me and my company.*
Step 1: Assess Your Background
We all come from different backgrounds with different life experiences – all of them being valid and unique. However, putting life experience aside, there must be a professional side.
Have you graduated high school or gotten your GED?
Have you attained an Associate’s degree?
Have you attained a Bachelor’s degree?
Have you attained a Master’s degree?
Have you attained a Doctorate’s degree?
I ask these questions because they are important. Now, you don’t need a Doctorate’s degree to be an amazing coach, however, the level of your education as well as training is important to being a competent coach. These days it’s not uncommon for individuals who were in other fields to leave and begin coaching.
Once you have assessed your level of education as well as your training, certifications, and hands-on experience with clients, you can begin to understand where you fall on the levels of professionals (i.e. novice to expert).
Step 2: Get The Right Certifications
There are mixed views on this, but my stance is that all coaches should be educated and have a certification and/or training in coaching. The reason this is important is because if you don’t have any coaching skills (which overlap with counseling skills) you risk harming your client and being a poor coach.
The first certification is a Life Coaching Certification. This general certification can be gained from a variety of companies, so do your research.
I personally would look for certifications that have supervision, as that is where you will be doing a lot of the hands-on learning as well as getting support while you attain your first couple clients.
After getting the Life Coaching certification, asses who you want to truly work with and on what. Do you want to be a life coach where you address a lot of things with clients and have no specialty? Or do you want to specialize in one thing that you help your clients with?
Some coaching specialties are:
- Relationship Coach
- Recovery Coach (for chemical addictions)
- Sex Addiction Coach (process addiction)
- Family Coach
- Dating Coach
The specialties can be endless, however, knowing what you truly want to help your clients with allows you to better educate yourself and be the best professional to your future clients.
Step 3: Solidifying Your Specialty
You’ve pondered who you want to work with, you’ve looked into the various specialties a life coach can niche in on, and now is the time to choose.
- When you consider your career as a coach, what lights you up as you think about working with clients?
- What hours do you plan to work?
- What type of services will you offer (i.e. sessions, packages, signature program, etc.)?
- What can your clients actually afford to pay you vs. what you may have been told about what coaches “can” charge?
- Where are your potential clients in their lives?
- What are their challenges, obstacles?
- What are their dreams and goals?
These questions will help you narrow down who you want to work with.
Personally, for me, I knew that I wanted to work with couples as I’ve always had a passion for healthy relationships. Though, while I love working with couples, after my husband and I worked recovery from his porn addiction, I narrowed down my specialty even further – couples recovering from the fallout of sexual addiction and betrayal trauma – and created a new recovery model that worked so well that Dr. Cali Estes reached out to me to create the most up to date certification for Sex Addiction Coaching.
So, take the time to know your why when you choose your specialty and make sure that whatever you choose is actually in your zone of genius. If you try to choose something or offer a service outside the scope of your knowledge and ability, that is unethical and is a disservice to yourself and your future clients.
Step 4: Choose a Business Name & Set Up The Business
This can be either a fun part or a dreadful part of the process. Usually you will have fun with creating your business name, as that is creative. As you consider choosing a name be careful to remember that you may in fact switch specialties or locations one day. So make sure your business name can stand the test of time so you don’t have to rename and rebrand yourself (which I had to do!).
You can search which business names are taken on your state government sites to make sure your business name isn’t taken already. Once you’re sure about the business name, you’ll have to set up your business. This is where things might feel slow, because you’re researching what type of business to set up.
You can look into Sole Proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc. Most start of with Sole Proprietorship or LLC. Single Member LLC is a great option for those just beginning because an LLC legally protects your personal assets.
You also will have to research insurance as well. That is a very important step you don’t want to skip! Once you’ve got all the legal side of your business set up, you can begin figuring out the technical side.
Step 5: The Technology Behind The Business
If you’re a Techie then this will be a breeze. If not, this may have a learning curve if you don’t hire out the work. However, now that you are legally set up as a business, you need to think about all the technology involved in running a successful business.
- Website Domain and Hosting
- Payment Processing
- Scheduling & Contracts
- Client Platforms
- Professional Email & Phone
If you haven’t already, register your domain (businessname.com) and get a hosting plan. I personally love Siteground as a hosting and domain company! Anytime I’ve ever gotten stuck, needed help, their customer support has been beyond this world! I’ve never been left having issues with my website because their employee’s are very educated and helpful. However, do your research to make sure the company is the right fit for your individual business needs.
Payment processors are important because their fees can vary, and that can impact how you price your services.
The most popular processors are Stripe, Square, and PayPal.
Personally I feel Stripe is the superior of the three with the 2.9% + .30 fee (compared to Square’s 3.5% + .30 fee for online transactions). But again, do your research. While Stripe has a better fee, Square offers a lot more on their platform – like a checking account, scheduling, etc.
PayPal I personally feel is a bit outdated to their competitors, but PayPal is a trusted platform and clients may feel more comfortable with a well-known name and brand like PayPal. Again, do your research on this to make the best business decision for your business.
Scheduling is essential to any coach as sessions are the foundation of the business. There are a lot of scheduling platforms out there like Calendly, Acuity Scheduling and Paperbell to name some popular ones.
Personally, I use Acuity Scheduling because of the ease of use as well as the different plans to accommodate your business stage. I also have to say Paperbell really is giving Acuity Scheduling a run for their money as Paperbell is a more streamlined company to service coaches specifically.
In Paperbell you get HelloSign as part of their service, which is a plus, because contracts are essential in running a business. The downside to Paperbell is there is only one calendar, so if you plan to eventually have independent contractors, or one day even have employees, then Paperbell (right now in 2024) is limiting when it comes to growing your business.
Now, you will need to know how you want to hold sessions – is it by phone, video, email? Once you figure that out, it will inform you of what you need to actually host the sessions, unless you’re going to rent out a physical office and see clients in person.
Having your clients be able to reach you is really important, which means having a email@example.com email is important as well as having a business phone number. I personally love the ease of Gmail Workspace because I can get a professional email, use drive, and even add on Google Voice.
Personally if you’re just starting up, I found Gmail Workspace to be most affordable as I was starting. However, as you grow or if you prefer non-google services, you can look at some other very worthy competitors like HEY Email (truly love HEY email, it’s definitely worth looking into!) and ProtonMail (very good if you want end to end encryption).
If you want more in depth learning on technology, privacy, and safety, check out All Things Secured and watch his videos and tutorials.
Step 6: Branding & Design
Branding is important, and I wish someone had told me that way back when I started. But, truly, branding consists of your voice, colors, logo, and fonts.
Brands often have 3-5 colors with 3-4 fonts, 1-2 logo designs, and the voice is all you! If you’re stuck on colors, look into color psychology as well as keep in mind who your ideal clients are. If you want to work with men, having a pink brand may not bring in the clients you want to work with (though my husband loves pink, so you never know!). But this is definitely a stage that you don’t want to rush. If you can, get feedback on the branding before making the final decision.
Once you’ve figured out the above, you can actually begin designing your website. I love WordPress and use Divi to help me with designing (and Canva). But if you want to hire a company to design your website, by all means go for it! Just remember to have an initial budget of what you want to invest into the business and try to stick to it while you’re waiting on getting your first paying clients.
Step 7: Services & Prices
The part that everyone wants to jump to – services and pricing. Now, while most coaching companies out there say coaches can charge high rates, let’s pause.
Yes, there are *a few* coaches in the industry who charge what I call insane prices (think $25k – $300k+ per year to work with them). Now, the people who often can charge that high are business coaches. If you’re not a business coach, don’t get discouraged. Remember, unless you’re a business coach or your ideal target client is a CEO of a big business and they have a huge salary, most individuals will not be paying what a business coach charges.
I also want to go back to “Step 1: Assess Your Background.” That plays a part in pricing as well as your specialties. Generalists usually charge less while specialists usually charge more. I say usually because nothing is black and white and pricing is fluid.
Now, most sites say that the average coach charges between $75 – $200/session. That is a huge range! Not many individuals (i.e. your potential clients) understand the value of coaching and when they see a coach charging $100, $125, $150, $175, $200, or $200+ per session, a lot of them might wig out. They might tell you something like, “you’re crazy for what you are charging”, or they may even attack your worth.
I want to say that your potential clients have a right to whatever their reaction is – but remember it’s their reaction, and it’s coming from them and their perception of value. It’s not about your personal worth. The phrase, “charge what you’re worth” is misleading, because if you believe you’re worth $200/session and your ideal client is a college student in debt, you’re not going to get any clients.
When you work on pricing, you must factor in what your ideal clients are able and willing to pay for. My husband has his own mobile BMW & Audi automotive technician company, and chronically was undercharging – despite his expertise, knowledge, and skill on BMW’s and Audi’s – and his business at the time, was not living to the potential, nor was there a profit. Once he raised his rate, while accounting for what his ideal clientele expected to pay at a shop, he was making a profit while having consistent clients. But, if my husband was charging what a shop charged, he most likely would not be as successful in his business.
Pricing is such a touchy topic and there are many ways you can do it. I’ve found endless articles on a variety of pricing models, and I’ll be linking them for you to read to further educate yourself, but I’m going to break down what I personally feel coaches could charge depending on the following factors:
*Life Coach: $45 – $65 per session
*No certifications/education. Only based on life experience alone. Or a an experienced and skilled coach who does not need much income or works with low SES clients.
Why? Because until you get more education, certifications, and hone your craft to where you’re more practiced in coaching skills and are having success with clients, you need to remember that there is a lot more to helping someone beyond “I’ve been there too.” Yes, having the same personal experience as your client is powerful and there is something magical about feeling that understood by a professional, however, until the professional skills catch up to how powerful that life experience is, it’s important to keep the rate fair to your professional experience.
I love that coaching is an accessible profession, but I also want to remind you that there is a reason that therapists must attain a Master’s degree and have 2 years of clinical supervision before being able to be fully licensed/able to have their own practice. While coaches are not therapists, if coaches do not have the basic foundational skills to assess whether an individual needs therapy vs. coaching, then you could be doing more harm than good and put yourself and your client in a risky situation – and no one wants that.
Now, there are many coaches out there who charge $45-$65 because they work part-time, don’t need the income, or value accessibility in their practice. I want to say that price does not reflect the value or skill of a coach. Making a snap judgement on price equals good or bad quality is a fallacy. I know amazing coaches that charge $25/session and I know amazing coaches that charge $1,000/session.
*Life Coach: $75 – $95 per session
*Has certifications, education, and personal life experience
I raise the starting price for sessions here because this is an individual who has an advantage over the non-certified/non-educated coach. They more likely understand all coaching skills, as well as ethics, and proper boundaries with clients and thus will be a more effective coach. If you’re a therapist becoming a coach, then you may be able to charge even higher as a life coach to start because you’ve already had years of experience as a therapist.
*(Specialty) Coach: $85 – $110 per session
*Has certifications, education, specialty, and personal life experience
If you’re a coach that is specializing in a certain issue/area/field, then you are more in demand. You have specialized knowledge, skills, and experience that most coaches out there don’t have. You can charge higher because of your specialty.
*Experienced (Specialty) Coach: $110 – $150 per session
*Has certifications, education, specialty, and personal life experience, and 2-5 years of coaching experience
You are not only specialized in a field, but you’ve now had years of experience with clients, helping them get the results they desire. With more experience, education, CEU’s, you can begin to raise your rate – if you want to.
Raising your rate is not required. That is a personal decision that is based on experience, education, location, and personal financial need to live comfortably.
*(Rare Specialty) Coach: $110 – $185 per session
*Has certifications, education, rare specialty, and personal life experience.
If you are a coach in a rare specialty (like sex addiction coaching), then you are able to have higher rates because there are a limited number of qualified professionals out there to serve clients. Now, again, just because you have the rare specialty, doesn’t mean you have to charge higher, but it does allow you more room to grow financially.
Again, when determining rates, you need to remember who you are serving. Are you serving the every day person/couple or are you working with business CEO’s, celebrities, or wealthy individuals you may have connected with? That will also determine what you can charge and still maintain a full client load.
*Experienced (Rare Specialty) Coach: $85 – $200 per session
*Has certifications, education, rare specialty, personal life experience, and 2-5 years of coaching experience.
Again, with more clients, more training, more experience, you can have more room to raise rates.
*Business Coach: $200 – $1000 per session
*Has certifications, education, specialty, and personal life experience.
Again, business coaches often charge higher because they are working with companies that can afford that investment. It’s not uncommon for experienced business coaches to be charging $1,000+ per hour session.
Alternative Payment Methods
Coaches are often taught in their certification programs to charge for packages or programs and skip the hourly rate model all together. Coaches are also not taught about other models, like having a sliding scale in your practice, or having a barter/exchange rate instead of exchanging money as payment for service. However, I want to touch on these two other options as they are just as valid, vital, and honestly, important to discuss.
Sliding Scale is something that some therapists use in their practice to make therapy more accessible to people of various socioeconomic backgrounds. There are some coaches who use sliding scale as well, though it is not easy to find a coach who uses sliding scale. Sliding scale has caused controversy in the therapeutic community as to it’s ethics.
Great Sliding Scale examples/articles/sources to explore to see if Sliding Scale is right for your practice:
Why I Charge Sliding Scale Rates for Coaching (Medium article member only)
I give you the above links as they are the best resources I’ve found on Sliding Scale and addressing all the nuances and ethics around it.
Now, this is a method I wasn’t even aware before I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Falandys. She is the true definition of an ethical, responsible, and conscientious coach and I highly recommend following her on Facebook as her posts have been a true inspiration and joy to read each week.
When I met Jennifer in a coaching group and we began talking, I checked out her website and she talked about a barter/exchange system of payment. That you could donate to a charity on her list, exchange a service, or pay her fee at the time. I was very curious, and did some research and it is a method that is used, however, it’s one that you should do your research on before implementing it to make sure you’re being ethical in using this method. If you have questions on this method, Jennifer would be a source to talk to or even maybe have resources on this payment structure.
I mentioned above that many times as a new or aspiring coach, you will hear time and time again to charge for package and/or programs – not by the hour.
The coaches who teach this say that clients will only price shop if you list an hour rate versus shop for the right coach. I’ve also heard that hourly rates are limiting to income as well as hourly rates don’t show the value of coaching.
While that might be true, I call bullshit. I personally think hourly pricing is a fair way to price, and I also like program pricing as well (which, signature programs come later down the line once you’ve developed a unique method to success). I’m going to break down the classic ways to offer services and what some of the benefits and pitfalls are to each.
Hourly Session Rates
Most everyone knows the hourly session rate – think about a therapist. They charge for a 45 or 50 minute “therapy hour” (ranging from $100 – $450 oftentimes).
One argument against hourly pricing has been that individuals will see the number not the value and will price shop versus professional shop.
Now, I think price is part of the professional shopping. If an individual is looking for a helping professional there are going to be things on that person’s checklist that makes the professional work for them, and one factor is price.
I can tell you I’d never see a therapist charging $450 for 45 minutes without taking insurance. I think it’s ludicrous! I know that my state is very expensive, but charging that much is why mental health is so inaccessible. However, someone who has a $500k+ income may think $450 is too little to charge. To each their own.
What customers often don’t see when they look at the hourly rate is what goes into that hourly rate – business expenses, professional development, paying yourself, paying for health insurance, prep time and post session notes, etc. Often that “hourly rate” accounts for 1.5 – 2 hours of the professionals time.
If you run your coaching business and it costs you $5,000 per year in business expenses, and you live in an area where you need to make $70,000 that means your business at minimum needs to make $75,000. Remember to take into account business taxes as well as self-employment taxes (which are often higher), as well as paying for your own health insurance can be higher too. You also want to consider how many hours per week you plan to hold sessions.
Therapists often work 20 client hours per week, with the other 20 hours being admin and paperwork.
Oftentimes, people say that coaches only see 5 – 10 clients and that’s why their fee’s are higher. That is true, many coaches see fewer clients and the prices can be higher. Now, is that because coaches want to make the same income with half the work, or is it because coaching involves more work?
A therapist see’s a client once or twice a week and that is it.
Coaches see their clients anywhere from a couple times per week or a couple times per month, often with in-between session support where the client can reach the coach almost 24/7. I don’t know about you, but I think that is a good reason to charge a higher rate.
So if you’re going to choose an hourly rate, be sure to calculate what you need to charge to make ends meet (and then some for an emergency or to account for profit – shoot between 5% – 20% profit).
So, let’s say, you decide you want to make $80,000 per year while working 20 client hours per week for 50 weeks of the year.
That is 1,000 session hours you plan to work with clients (that does not include hours for in-between support, VIP access, etc.), divide that by $80,000 and you get $80/hour rate.
Now, let’s say you still work your 9-5 job and want to begin coaching on the side, and you plan to work 10 coaching hours per week for 50 weeks. That’s 500 hours divided by $80,000, which means you need to charge $160/hour to hit your goal.
Now, you can see how coaches can end up charging higher rates than most think coaches should charge. Now, you can always factor in if you do still have your 9-5 (which I recommend! Don’t quit your day job until you know you can replace the income from coaching), then factor in that income.
If you make $45,000 from your day job and you need to hit that $80k, then you only need to make $37k from coaching, which divided by 500 hours is $74/hour.
Why I Like Hourly Rates
I like hourly rates because it’s straight forward, your clients know what they are paying, and your clients don’t get charged for time not used (which can happen in packaged or program pricing). Hourly pricing can also be great because you’re charging by the session, so if you come down with a cold and have to cancel a session, your clients don’t pay for an unused session. There’s less pressure to perform and feel like you have to justify yourself with an hourly rate.
What I Don’t Like About Hourly Rates
Individuals will price compare (whether they look at your price to another coaches or look at a therapists price and want to share their opinion of your price compared to a therapists). It’s true, individuals don’t always know or see the value of coaching when they look at the hour price. But clients don’t see that they are paying for way more than an hour. The coach has session prep (15 – 20 minutes) plus post session notes (15-20 minutes) and then if the coach is touching base in between sessions, that can be a lot of time depending on the client (which is why you should always charge for in-between session support and be have clear boundaries about what that support looks like). So clients see $150/hour but really it’s $150 for the hour plus about 30-40 minutes of unseen prep/post care.
Packaged rates are where coaches sell 3, 6, 9, 12, or more sessions packaged together, often with longer term packages having a discount with them. This method may seem great as it can mean predictable income, however there are some downsides. Again, if you get sick, you need to account for how you plan to make sure your client is actually going to get that session that was missed. Some coaches will accommodate, others won’t (which if they don’t, that’s a red flag!).
I think packaged rates can be a disservice when you discount for long-term because it weakens the value of what you’re selling and tells your customers your rate is negotiable – which it’s not. I’ve done this method before, and on occasion can go back to it, but a better alternative is that you can try implementing a loyalty program and by X number of sessions they get a 15% discount on their next session, or if they successfully refer 2 clients to you, they get a 20% discount on their next session. That way it’s 1 session that is being discounted every so often, versus your total hourly rate going down for every single session.
This is where most high-ticket coaching is. It’s in the signature program, the signature method that you’ve built where you have had success in getting clients from Point A to Point B. Programs are often higher investments because they often streamline the process of attaining a goal. With the streamlining, it can mean meeting more often or more in-between session support. This program is often built on a couple years of success from the step-by-step method you use.
Figuring out program pricing can be how many session hours as well as how many “behind the scene hours” (i.e. session notes, in between support, emergency sessions, etc.) you do as well as if you’re bringing in other coaches for support during the program.
Step 6: Getting Your First Clients
This means marketing, market research, and networking. Getting your first paying clients can feel like the biggest challenge. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world to get the first paying client. You can reach out to your family and friends to let them know about your new coaching business and that you’re open to taking on clients and would love if they knew of anyone they could refer to you.
If you have professional connections from your certification, make sure to list yourself on the directory, or reach out to classmates who may already have paying clients that they could refer to you when appropriate.
Another thing you could do is join a Facebook group where your prospective clients would be and become a go-to valuable member in the group where you show off your ability to help, support, as well as how knowledgeable you are. People might just ask how they can continue to work with you when you mention you’re a coach.
I also encourage blogging, as it’s a great way to demonstrate your knowledge, build authority as well as reputation. When you blog, be sure to do some research on SEO so that you rank higher in google and don’t have to use any paid marketing methods.
If you haven’t already thought of this, build an email list. That way if a social media platform gets shut down, you get blocked, or the algorithm changes, you still are able to reach your audience.
Resources on Rates
Here are some articles on setting rates, how to set your rates, and even cutting your rates:
- Do these 5 Things to Improve How You Price Your Coaching
- How Much to Charge For Coaching & Find Your Pricing Sweet Spot
- How Charging Less Can Be More – Why I Halved My Coaching Fees 7 Years In!