How to Start a Health Coaching Business: The Ultimate Guide
Want to make an excellent living doing what you love and helping others? If you love healthy living and want to help others to become healthy as well, health coaching could be in your future. Here’s the ultimate guide on how to start a health coaching business: the whys, the hows, and more.
This awesome guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started as a wellness entrepreneur: what you can and can’t do, what certifications you need (or don’t), how to set your rates, how to set up your administration, how to protect yourself from legal trouble and more. Have any questions after reading the guide? Let us know in the comments!
First things first: What is a health coach?
A health coach is a wellness professional who guides clients to make lifestyle changes so they can achieve better health. Your job as a health coach is to guide your clients on the path to healthy living by listening to their concerns and helping them with problem solving.
It’s important to know the limitations of coaching to help your clients to the best of your ability and to keep yourself from legal trouble. For example, health coaches can guide clients on healthy living and nutrition tips, suggest recipes and meal plans, and give guidance on generic exercise; however, they cannot diagnose or prescribe for persons with chronic health conditions.
Health coaches are also not allowed to counsel persons about mental health conditions. It’s important to refer clients in these situations, so they can get the best help they need. Having a network of professionals you can trust can help you in this regard.
What does it take to become a health coach?
Being a coach requires patience, excellent listening skills, compassion, and a willingness to grow (since that’s what you’ll be teaching your clients to do!).
To be a successful health coach, you’ll also need at least basic knowledge in the fields of nutrition, fitness, and behaviour modification. And if you want to have your own business as a health coach, you’ll need to embrace entrepreneurship and learn about setting up and maintaining a business, as well as getting and keeping clients. This guide will show you how!
Being an entrepreneur requires significant work to get started, but once you learn to automate tasks and get organized, things get easier and you need less time. Having an excellent set-up from the very beginning can help you save time in the long run (more on this in a bit).
How to become a health coach: Education
Let’s make one thing clear: no, you do not need a degree (or even a certification program) to become a coach. In fact, some of the most successful coaches never went to coaching school (and coaching schools came around after coaching was well underway).
So if you have a passion for helping people, previous knowledge about the wellness field, goal setting, and a growth mind set… And if you also have a true interest in entrepreneurship, yes, you can become a health coach—even without formal training.
While a certification or degree aren’t necessary for success as a health coach, depending on your goals, it may be wise to consider certification. There are many options to choose from, and you’ll need to decide on your goals as a health coach prior to picking one. If you would like to receive education or certification, here’s the information you need.
Certification Programs for Health Coaches
When it comes to certifications, you have two main options: become a life coach and specialize in health coaching later, or become a health coach from the start. Which option you choose will depend on the market you wish to target.
One of the most recognized names in life coaching certification is the International Coaching Federation (ICF). There are 3 options for certification with this organization: Associated Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach, or Master Certified Coach. To gain certification with ICF, you’ll need to complete coaching training via a verified school.
ICF has a searchable database of approved schools on its website. If you’d like to concentrate on health coaching from the beginning, search for a health and fitness-based curriculum on the database.
You also have the option of pursuing health coaching exclusively, without getting a life coaching certification.
Globally, the International Association for Health Coaches (IAHC) offers support and direction on what certification programs to choose.
The advantages of becoming a certified member of something like the ICF, The Canadian Health Coach Alliance, or the IAHC are many-fold: insurance, continuing education opportunities, networking, and more.
Can you be a successful health coach without being a member of one of these organizations? Sure. But there are many advantages to having a certification to your name, so it's worth considering.
While your clients may not (and probably will not) care about your certifications as long as you’re bringing results, you may feel more supported and confident being part of a larger group of people in your profession.
Ultimately, whether or not you decide to pursue a certification program is up to you. However, as in any profession, continuing education is important, so make sure to include it in your budget, and to do your research to ensure you’re getting training from reputable schools or certification bodies.
Once you have decided on a path of education or experience and have gained knowledge about the health coaching field, it's time to get down to business—literally. And to set up your business, you'll need to know who you'd like to sell your services to.
How to start a health coaching business: choosing your target market
Before you start selling your health coaching services, you’ll need to choose your target market. While multi-niche coaching is perfectly fine, when you first get started, narrowing your focus is useful.
“Health coach” is already a niche within the coaching industry, but if you’d like to set yourself apart even further and narrow your focus, you can choose a specific population to serve. You could choose busy parents, busy young professionals, corporate clients, the newly retired, or any other niche market that you feel passionate about helping.
You don’t, however, have to get too specific. Self-development and coaching are broad areas, and therefore, you can serve a broad population. Many coaches choose to serve diverse clients, and being willing to diversify your niche once you're well established can help you grow your business.
Once you have a general idea about the population you'd like to serve, it's time to decide how you'll serve them.
How to start a health coaching business: Decide on your services (and products!)
If you’re a coach, the obvious choice for a service is one-on-one coaching sessions. But if you do only these, your potential for earning will stagnate very quickly. There are several ways to earn money as a health coach, from one-on-one sessions, to eBooks, to pre-made programs, to public speaking and more.
As a health coach, one of your services should be a discovery call to get things started. Most health coaches provide a free discovery session via phone or Skype so they can find out what clients are looking for, as well as attempt to make a sale. How you go about these calls is entirely up to you.
There are advantages to making a sale on the first call, and there are advantages to leaving the ball in your potential client’s court. You can always have a soft sales call and direct potential clients to your blog or website for more valuable information, giving them a little more time to get to know and trust you—after all, people are more likely to purchase from people they have come to trust.
You can also use a discovery call to learn more about your clients' needs, and then direct them to the most appropriate service or product you sell, whether that's one-on-one coaching, pre-made programs, or information products. Whereas one-one-one coaching will normally be the service that earns you the most income per contact, it'll also fill up your schedule very quickly. Having pre-made programs to sell can help you to help more clients, earn some passive income, and open up your schedule. Here's just one example of a program you could sell.
Let's say you're interested in nutrition. You can sell a challenge program for achieving healthy eating. You can even have different levels of the program to sell:
- Tier 1 can be a challenge checklist with access to a Facebook group for questions and answers,
- Tier 2 can be a challenge checklist that includes healthy recipes or meal plans to choose from (as well as the Facebook group), and
- Tier 3 could include everything in 1 and 2, plus access to the coach (you!) for two questions via email.
You could sell programs about any aspect of your health coaching services. By providing tiers, you give your clients more options and increase your opportunities to make a sale tailored to what your clients need.
Another way to add to your income is to write eBooks about healthy living and goal setting, or about other aspects of healthy living. You can sell these via Amazon, on your own website, or use a service that makes it easier for you to sell your products. Selling eBooks can be an excellent source of passive income. But writing your own eBooks is not the only way to add to your income via writing.
If you enjoy writing and research, you can also contribute posts and articles to healthy living publications. This not only adds to your income, but also helps you to become known as an expert in the field.
How to start a health coaching business: becoming known
An online presence as well as a community presence are important for getting your health coaching business off the ground. Being present both in person and in the online space will help you to become known as an expert in health coaching.
Whereas you can certainly do health coaching without any social media channels (and even without a website), the Internet is becoming unavoidable if you want the chance to expand your business and grow your income.
Having at least a website is a must, having a blog that is regularly updated (and promoted) is pretty important, and having a presence on social media will help you get noticed in the online space. Social media options abound: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest are just a few of the places you can promote your business (after developing a relationship with leads). But don’t try to do it all, or you’ll quickly become overwhelmed (and run out of time).
Choose 1 social media platform and stick to it, at least in the beginning. Which social platform you choose will depend on who your target audience is. Once you know who you’re targeting, choose the social media platform where they’re most likely to hang out. Here’s a great resource for learning where your target audience might be found online.
Once you’ve decided on the social media channel you’ll use, ensure you’re using a professional account if applicable (meaning a Facebook Page or Pinterest for Business account, for example) and set it up with: a professional looking photo, the tagline for your business, and your website address.
Another way to get noticed in the online space is to be quoted in publications that cater to your target market. One great resource for this is Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can sign up as a source to pitch answers to reporters and writers. You could then be quoted in popular publications as an expert in the health coaching field. Here's a guide on how to use HARO successfully to become known as a subject matter expert.
And of course, once you start getting noticed online, you'll need an online space that's all your own to build relationships with leads and to make sales. That's where a website and blog come in.
How to start a health coaching business: Setting Up a Blog and/or Website
The beauty of being a health coach is that you can do if from anywhere, via phone, email, Skype, and more. Technology has made it possible for coaches to work with clients around the globe—but those clients aren’t going to fall on your lap. You’ll need to do some marketing to get people to get to know you. Setting up a website is one of the key ingredients to your online marketing plan.
Setting up a website and blog can be fairly easy, and keeping them up-to-date can help you start becoming known in the online space. To know how to position your blog, ensure you’re writing it for the specific audience to which you want to sell.
Are you targeting busy stay-at-home moms? Write about home organization tips, working from home, self-care, why moms need time away, meal planning for picky eaters, and any other topics that would be of interest to that target market, and make sure to put a healthy living spin on each topic.
Is your goal to work with corporations, setting up staff wellness plans? Start writing about how workers who exercise are less absent from work, how to set up a wellness plan that helps corporation's bottom lines, how to get employees to be more productive, and other topics in business that relate back to health coaching.
Once you know roughly who your target market is, you can set up your website to attract that specific population. There are many options for setting up a website, some free, some cheap, and some with all the bells and whistles for a lot more money. For most health coaches just starting out, it's usually best to go the free, do-it-yourself route.
Creating a website for free is fine; however, to look professional, consider purchasing at least the domain name. If you hope to sell your services through your website, self-hosting will also be necessary. Here’s a great article that explains how to set up your website/blog with Wordpress. If you prefer something quicker, you can use SquareSpace. And if you want something even quicker, try Wix. There are several other options available, but these are the most popular content management systems available.
No time to blog? At the bare minimum, have a static website that states your services and what you can do for your clients. Use "you" language and concentrate your copy (text) on the reader instead of you. So instead of talking endlessly about your experience and what you believe in, entice the reader with what they can accomplish and what pain points they can solve by working with you.
Once you have a website, blog, and a social media presence, it's time to start capturing leads (people you can sell to). Setting up a mailing list and making it easy for clients to buy from you will ensure success in this step.
How to become a successful health coach: Give lots of value to build trust; make sales
Once you’ve set up a website, you’re updating your blog regularly, and you’re active on one social media platform, you may start seeing some increased traffic to your website. You'll then need to have a way to build trust with these readers so that when they're ready to buy, you're top of mind. A great way to do this is to start building an email list.
Once you have a list of people who are already interested in what you have to say, make sure you give them insane value, and then offer more in your paid services. Give something away to entice readers to sign up for your mailing list.
To get people to sign up, you need to give away something that gives very good value. You can certainly give away a small eBook or worksheet; however, if you have a mini-course that gets delivered over a number of weeks, you’re more likely to keep people on the list for a longer period of time. Meaning that when you do send that promotional email for your services, they've come to trust you because of all the great value you've already provided, and they're more likely to buy.
To automate the process and make it easier, use an email marketing manager. There are several to choose from, but some of the most popular are MailChimp, Aweber, and SumoMe, though there are many others.
Once you've created trust via your email list, blog, and social media presence, make sure you make it easy for clients to buy from you. Have a way for clients to book on their own when they come to your site. A great way to do this without overwhelming yourself is to use software that does it for you. Here’s a great option.
In addition to deciding what services you'll provide on your website and in person, you'll also need to decide how much to charge.
How to start a health coaching business: Decide on your rates
What should you charge for your health coaching?
Coaching rates vary as widely as do levels of certification and education in the field. To decide on your rates, you’ll need to consider:
Comparable rates for people with similar experience
Cost of living in your location
Cost of business
Time spent with your clients and planning for them (but time spent is not nearly as important as the results you bring).
Once you become a health coach, you’re not just a health coach. You’re a business owner, a marketer, a salesperson, and more. You’ll need to consider the cost of doing business, the cost of living in your area, and industry averages in order to set your rates.
It’s often best to not have listed rates, and to tailor them according to the clients with whom you work. You probably wouldn’t charge the same amount to coach a stay-at-home mother of 5 as you would a corporate client that pulls in $5 million per year.
This is where your research and discovery session comes in. You’ll need to know about the potential client before you can appropriately sell to them. This is one of the reasons you may want to consider providing a quote after the discovery session rather than selling on the phone.
There's a lot to think about when starting a business. Now that you've set your social media channels, your website and blog, and you've considered your rates, make sure you're well organized so you won't get overwhelmed down the road.
How to start a health coaching business: get organized from the start
Being a health coach is an extremely rewarding experience: helping people reach goals and seeing them achieve successes is what drives most good health coaches to keep doing their excellent work. But there’s more to health coaching than just health coaching.
Once you decide to start your own business, there are a lot of things that need to get done, on top of just working with your clients. Administration, record keeping, bookkeeping and accounting take a significant amount of time (and most coaches hate doing this stuff), but these are all essential parts of a well-run coaching business (or any business).
Having great client records from the very beginning will save you many headaches down the road. But who has the time for paper? Using an electronic system will save trees—and your sanity.
Here is a powerful solution for health coaches just getting started:
If you guide clients towards a healthy lifestyle via nutrition changes, Meal Garden is a must-have. Meal Garden also allows you to sell programs via its platform, meaning that you can create passive income for your business while providing an excellent service to your clients. Healthie will help you keep client files organized, schedule appointments, and more.
Having both of these software solutions at your fingertips will help you to create an organized business from the very beginning. Both services have free trials, so check them out to get your business in tip-top shape from the start.
Now you're organized and your business is all set up. All that's left is to get your clients.
How to start a successful health coaching business: finding clients
Selling services and consultations straight from your website is a great way to start growing your business, but where will you find the clients?
Done right, SEO, social media presence, and articles on authority sites will all help bring people to your website and to potentially buy your services. A way to capture leads and a welcome e-mail series will earn you an audience that remembers your name and is ready to buy.
But online isn’t the only way, and in the beginning, it’s often the harder and more time-consuming way. So don’t discount local contacts. Joining networking groups and attending lifestyle showcases are only some of the ways in which you can find potential clients for your health coaching business. Giving talks at local events can be another source of clients, so get comfortable with public speaking (most coaches should!) You’ll also need to form a network around you.
Use your current network as a source of referrals for your health coaching business. Contact people you know in the health field and let them know about your new endeavour—start now surrounding yourself with people who can become a source of mutual referrals. Contact your friends and family and let them know about what you’re offering—they might know someone who may be interested in your services.
Remember that you already have a network around you: friends, family, current coworkers, acquaintances, and more. Make use of that network to expand your opportunities for finding clients. To get more clients, you can also offer specialty services within your business.
How to earn more as a health coach: create and offer specialty services
Offering generic health coaching is fine, but if you want to stand out and have a successful business, becoming an expert in a specific area could help you out. You could choose to focus on helping clients with healthy eating, active living, mindfullness, or anything else you’re passionate about and have experience with.
Most clients looking for a healthy lifestyle change are looking for advice on nutrition, so offering a nutrition service makes sense. But remember your scope of practice. As a health coach, there are considerations about legality which vary by province or state. In most of Canada and the U.S., health coaches can provide the nutrition advice clients are looking for while keeping themselves from legal trouble.
You can do this by providing generic tips, recipes, and meal plans for the general population, ensuring never to say that your plans will cure health conditions, and by avoiding the words prescribe, treat, diagnose, or cure. You can use software such as Meal Garden to offer exactly what your clients are looking for and still staying within your scope of practice.
Other specialty services you can provide include goal setting, vision forming, time management, mindfulness training, exercise advice, and more. Remember your target market, and develop specialty services that will solve their biggest struggles when it comes to healthy living.
Starting a career as a health coach might seem overwhelming at first, but we hope this guide will help you to get excited about this awesome life and career path.