Developing a Successful Business Plan - A Coach’s Guide
January 27, 2022 by Amanda Reill
It’s possible to start a business without a solid business plan, but taking the time to chart your course before you embark on a new journey is a wiser way to go. A business plan enables you to take a 360-degree inventory of where you’re starting and where you’re headed. In addition, it helps you create a map of your journey to prevent you from getting lost on the way.
Why Do I Need A Business Plan?
A well-constructed plan can mean the difference between growing a successful career or simply coaching as a hobby. There are dozens of good reasons to make a plan, but here’s three that we find incredibly important:
- A plan builds client trust. Having a solid business plan gives you confidence that you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Your clients will pick up on that confidence and feel that they’re in good hands, which may motivate them to choose your services over others’. Belief in yourself will inspire others to believe in you.
- A plan puts you ahead of the competition. Not everyone in the coaching industry puts in the work it takes to make a true business out of it — everyone follows their own path. If you hope to build a full-time career from coaching, a business plan will position you to pursue the right type of client and get their attention.
- A plan helps you stay focused. Someone on a drifting boat will see all kinds of things, but they may not get to their destination. Having a plan will keep you from getting distracted down paths that don’t serve you, while still allowing you to enjoy the ride!
Before You Start Your Plan
Many resources can give you sample life coach business plans, examples, and templates. It can be as easy as filling in some blanks. But before you put your confidence in someone else’s work, it’s useful to consider a few things.
First, do your homework. Research business plans from reputable sources to get a feel for the details. Look up the financial and legal considerations for small businesses, especially in your region of the world (the rules can vary!).
Second, network with fellow coaches. Other life coaches, especially ones who have been at this longer than you have, can give you a good idea of what you need. They can offer tips, tricks, and advice. And they may help you to narrow down your niche, which we will discuss more later. Looking at what others are doing and how they present themselves online, etc. provides a lot of inspiration for what is possible. You can inventory what attracts you (or even detracts you) from other coaches’ websites, etc., and also begin to envision what will set you apart. CTEDU has a large and growing community of alumni who meet often for events. These folks are an amazing resource to help you build your own life coaching business.
Third, and perhaps most importantly: be your own first client. Life coaching is all about helping people make and reach their goals to become the best version of themselves. That starts with you! Make sure you’re doing the work you expect from your clients: checking in with yourself, fighting off the censorship of your Inner Critic, and becoming the best you that you can be.
Lastly, a word of caution: stay flexible. Remember that a business plan is a road map, but that doesn’t mean aspects of it won’t change based on your needs and growth. Nothing is written in stone. Stay open and allow yourself to flex.
What Goes In a Business Plan?
Overall, your business plan should include anything you truly need to focus on your unique business. To get to the heart of that, here are common aspects of a life coach business plan, in no particular order:
- Vision or Mission Statement. This is why coaching yourself is so vital! You can’t make a successful business unless you boil it down to one core statement about who you are and what you’re about. Your Mission Statement should be one or two sentences, an easy way to communicate your values as a coach so that the right clients will immediately resonate with you.
- Your Niche or Specialty. There are advantages to being a jack- or jill-of-all-trades, but research says that specialization is the key to being profitable. A business that’s too general can spread itself too thin. As a coach, you should look for a unique selling point in what you value most. This way, your potential clients resonate immediately with what you’re offering and are confident you’re the right fit for them. Are you interested in career coaching? Coaching leaders and executives? Coaching a specific demographic of people or focusing on being local to your town? Find that niche, lean into it, and make it part of your plan.
- Branding and Marketing. How are you going to get yourself noticed? Are you going to use social media? Keep a blog? Put out print ads? Reach out to people directly? Whatever marketing strategies you’re going to implement, put them in your plan, along with your “brand” and other unique aspects of your coaching business. It’s a good idea to collect a lot of ideas up front so that you’re ready with contingency plans if the first things you try don’t stick.
- Financial Planning. Your business plan is where you keep all of your tax and insurance details, your projected income, how much you’ll charge for your various services, and any other financial considerations. Do you need to buy new equipment or take classes to up your coaching certification? Put it all in the plan.
- Scope of Services. It’s a common tale for small businesses; if you aren’t clear on exactly what you do and don’t do, you’ll end up providing services you never meant to provide. If you detail your limits and desires in your plan, you’re less likely to get lost. Do you want to work from home? Only work certain hours? Put boundaries in place for who you will work with and how? Being flexible is different from having an “anything goes” mentality that can quickly exhaust you when you’re making unintended sacrifices.
- Timeline of Goals and Milestones. Goal-setting is crucial, and it’s best to make them as clear as possible. Do you want to have a certain number of clients by a specific date? Would you like to be making a certain amount of money by the end of the year? Put it in your plan as a way to stay focused. And don’t forget to celebrate every milestone reached!
- The Nitty Gritty. Make sure you’ve done your research when it comes to the legal aspects of business ownership and coaching specifically. This includes everything from creating contracts to ensuring you have clear boundaries with clients. Make sure you understand the legal aspects of operating a small business.
When you do your research, you’ll undoubtedly find other things you can include in your business plan. But this overview should at least give you an idea of where to begin and a place to focus your energy as you design the right plan for you.
Enjoy the Process!
There are so many incredible aspects to being a life coach. You get to watch your clients make amazing connections, often for the first time, and see them reach goals they never dreamed possible. It’s truly an incredible feeling! Building a coaching business plan will grant you surprising freedom. A little work now pays off in dividends later, and enables you to actualize the coaching life you’re dreaming of.
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