How to Build a Successful Coaching Business (with plenty of clients!)

coach pony 5 business systems for life coaches

Let’s talk about the 5 systems you need to make your coaching business a success!

Right now you are probably wondering how to build a successful coaching business.

I get it – you want coaching clients!

Given that, you might be focused on getting your first paid client, just desperately wanting to cross the rubicon from student to real coach.

Or you are already thinking beyond that (good work!), because you know that ultimately you need a steady stream of life coaching clients.

After all, the mortgage has to be paid every month :).

So what is the solution to find these paying clients every single month – without burning out, or pulling out your hair, or having to spend time in the fetal position?

One word: SYSTEMS.

Every single successful coaching business uses systems.

But don’t worry if this idea seems foreign to you, let me explain what I mean…with an example! Yay!

Here’s where most coaches go wrong

Most coaches go wrong when they simply focus on the first or next paying client.

I get it, when you first start coaching it *seems* to make sense to focus on getting paid, so of course you jump to getting that first client.

This might sound familiar: You race around advertising your new coaching business via emails to friends and family, hopeful posts on Facebook and Instagram, and then….maybe you get one or two clients.

And then…. crickets.

So what happens next? You’ve exhausted your network, no one is responding to your posts, and you feel overwhelmed and defeated.

You don’t have a business because you haven’t built a real business (Apple doesn’t just send out a few emails and hope people buy their products, for example).

It’s easy to get stuck in the immediate, and not think about the bigger picture.

The bigger picture involves building a business with real, actual systems, so that you have a business that brings you clients ALL the time.

Successful coaches have figured this out – they have all created systems to bring clients to them month after month, year after year. If they hadn’t, they would 1) burn out and 2) close up shop. No clients = no coaching.

(Don’t be scared, there are only five systems!).

Here’s a handy diagram of what I mean as a reference for the 5 business systems you need to build a successful coaching business.

Coach Pony 5 Systems

As a successful coach, you are building a whole world or eco-system of interconnected systems, so clients gently flow through your systems and the ones that are a fit say YES to hiring you.

The key? This whole world is easily repeatable, so all you have to do is keep the systems running to keep clients flowing to you.

So instead of scrambling and thinking to yourself “Where’s my next client coming from?” You can just focus on fine-tuning your systems and let your business roll on!

Sound too good to be true? Not at all – let’s break down the systems starting with the Coaching System.

This is the system that is at the heart of your business.

Your coaching system is how you take clients from point A (where they are now) to point B (where they want to be).

A coaching system is REALLY important for two reasons:

  1. If you are feeling imposter-y or not credible, your coaching system will build your confidence, as it’s your clear plan for your clients success.
  2. It’s a good tool for business because people like to buy results, not vague platitudes. I know coaching schools teach that we are supposed to be able to coach on anything (and you will), but selling coaching is a little different from being a coach, and most non-coach people don’t like to pay for “dancing in the moment” or “the answers are inside of you.”

If someone says to me “Well, I’ll hold the framework but the answers are inside of you, we’ll just dance in the moment – and that’ll be $2,000 for 10 sessions.” My response is “If the answers are inside of me and you have no plan then why am I hiring you?”

And people, I’m a coach. 

There’s just something that triggers our internal bullsh*t detectors when someone offers us a professional service that is super vague and intangible.

But offer me something that feels like it has a plan to get me to my big goal? I say yes.

So let me give you an example – this is our Coach Pony Build a REAL Business coaching system we use to help you create your 5 business systems. These are the weekly topics we cover when we walk you through our coaching program. Simple, no?

By showing our clients what they will get when they join our program, step-by-step, we prove our credibility and take away a lot of fears. It also allows Team Pony to be great at this particular offering – we’ve spent countless hours thinking about how to help you through this process, and by keeping our focus on solely on new life coaches, we’ve been able to design a repeatable system that works.

That makes it much easier to run the system. We already know where you might get stuck, where your gremlins will rear their ugly heads, and how to help you move forward. We don’t have to design it from scratch every time – or worry that we won’t meet your needs as a new coach.

The same will be true for you as you build out your coaching system!

Here’s your action:
To build your coaching system, think about who you specifically serve (and if the answer is “everyone” then you’ve got more work to do my friend!), and what goal that person wants to achieve. Then ask yourself this question “What the first big step this person needs to take on the road to that goal?”

So, if you help women overcome emotional eating, the first big step they take might be to identify their biggest emotional eating triggers.  Then keep going and get onto the next step!

Next up is your Onboarding System

This system is all about how you set clients up for success in your coaching, and get them EXCITED about their investment.

When people purchase coaching they are excited, but also usually a little terrified because it’s not a small investment. So you want to carefully think through how to welcome people and get them ready to make progress.

Your onboarding system involves things like:

  1. Your client contract or terms of service
  2. Your program logistics (like how they schedule sessions if you are private coaching)
  3. Pre-work or anything your clients need to do to set themselves up for success

It can be super simple – a warm welcome email with information about how to schedule sessions and a link to the contract.  Then a second email with pre-work or things for them to do in order to get the most out of your coaching.

Or it can be more complex – a series of automated welcome emails, videos, and training to help your clients get in the right mindset to reach real results.

When I first started coaching my onboarding system was simple – it was two emails very similar to what I shared above.

Now that my business is much much bigger and I’m serving hundreds of clients at any one time, we have customer service support, automated emails, and specialized trainings for our new students as they embark on the Coach Pony Build a REAL Business program (here it is if you want an invite!).

Here’s your action:
Write down the 3 key things your client needs to do or know in order to work with you successfully. It could be to schedule their sessions, or log into your learning portal, or do some reflection – it’s up to you! But think on that, and then you can draft up your first welcome email :).

Next is your Conversion System

Your conversion system is how you take people from browsing to buying, in a very gentle manner.

This is where you make actual offers to folks and invite them to hire you or purchase one of your programs. This is where – if you coach privately – you’ll hop on sales calls to talk with people about your program, or if you have a big online business like mine, you’ll send out emails slowly walking people through the conversation of how you can help them.

Brutal honesty moment: Sales is a big skill, and it’s a scary one. You probably have feelings around it.

And that’s okay!

What I will say is that selling coaching is so much easier when it’s part of a bigger system. Instead of trying to sell to total strangers, your fun business world has warmed people up to your awesomeness and they are willing and interested in hearing about how you can help them.

So, if you’ve been worried about feeling salesy, pushy or gross, then feel free to get off of your fainting couch. These systems, especially your conversion system, will take the pressure off of you and help set you up for success. Like so:

Think about it, if I approach you at a networking event and immediately start telling you about my business and offering you coaching, that feels awful, no? But, what if we met at a networking event, and after a great conversation I asked you if you wanted to learn more about coaching and how I could help your specific situation. You said yes, and so I set up a free 45 minute coaching session with you for next week, telling you that it’s a great way for you to try coaching, and at the end of the session we’ll determine together if you want to hire me as a coach.

When the end of the session comes, you are ready for the fact that I’m going to make you an offer :).

Here’s your action:
To start building your conversion system, think about your coaching offer (tip: start with 1 offer), and write down the big benefits, possible results, and questions people might have (like how long it will take and how much it will cost). Then get a friend or family member to role play with you so you can practice what it will be like to have an actual sales conversation. (Practice conversations are the best!!).

What’s next? Why, it’s your education system!

So, think about the last time you bought something that cost over $1,000.

What did you do before you bought it? You probably research it a little bit, maybe tried it out (like took a car for a test-drive or played with a computer at the store).

Maybe you read some reviews or asked friends and family if they owned that product or service and what they thought.

Bottom line: You educated yourself.

You researched the product, and over time you got your questions answered and decided to buy.

Getting coaching clients is no different. People need to be educated as to why they need to buy your services – they don’t care about your story as a coach, they care about how and if you can help them with something they want and desire.

So, a simple education system is a website (hi! Like this one!), that gently meets people where they are at, and gives them information they need to move forward. Usually it’s to answer a question (like how to become a successful coach!), or to solve a pain point (like why an online dating profile isn’t working). Your education system answers that question or pain point and  and gently introduces the idea that there’s probably work to be done, and that you have a bigger solution to help them do the work so they make progress (hiring you!).

Let’s get meta!

Want an example of the above? Awesome! You landed on this blog because you want information about how to be a successful coach, which is what I’m giving you. If you like it and want more information, you’ll move deeper into my education system (there’s an opportunity to do that at the bottom of this post!), or you’ll just take what you need from here and keep going.

Either way we’ve started to build a relationship and you’ve begun to enter my business world, and I’ve been given a chance to show you Coach Pony is a credible resource to help you :).

Here’s your action:
If you have a website, take 10 minutes to review it.  What are people learning about you as they navigate your website? How are you educating them about your services and about the problems THEY most want solved? Are you gently moving them forward by inviting them to take another action from each website page?

Last but not least is your MARKETING system.

Marketing is how people become aware of your business, and folks who are intrigued by what they see raise their hands and come into your world.

So, put another way, your marketing efforts are how you invite people into your business world and systems so they can begin to get to know you. (YAY!).

Marketing  can take so many forms, so don’t stress about which one to choose too much. You can make plenty to support yourself by choosing one marketing platform, i.e podcasting, making videos on youtube, writing great blogs on your site and on others, public speaking, networking, and so on and so forth, and just being incredible at that. 

So the channel doesn’t matter that much, as long as you like it, and it’s a place where your particular clients can find you. (So, if you help Baby Boomers for instance, Snapchat or TikTok are probably NOT a great places to be).

What matters is that you use your marketing to strategically invite people deeper into your fun business world, so they can start the education process and move through your systems.

Instead of you feeling pushy, your marketing gently invites people in, and they can move through the process so that they (and you!) are set up for success.

Here’s your final action:

I want you to learn from example. Take a second (literally, it takes 2 seconds) and sign up for this AWESOME 26 page FREE GUIDE that will help you go deeper on each one of your systems in a way that feels really good, not gross. It’s got much more than we can do in one blog post, and you’ll also get to peer deeper into my education and conversion system.

If you want to know how to get 20,000 people to say yes like I have, then you’ll want to sign up!

 

5 things to be successful as a coach