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How to Start an Online Coaching Business Without Diving Into Legal Hot Water

How to start an online coaching business

Start an online coaching business, they said. 

You’ll work less hours and do what you love, they said.

It’ll be easy, they said. 

😅

Let’s be honest for a second… there’s nothing easy about starting an online coaching business. Sure, you don’t have to set up a brick and mortar storefront, or take out mountains of business loans for production and storage. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a massive stack of paperwork, contracts, and legalese to wade through. 

As an attorney-turned-entrepreneur, I know the backend of an online business better than a chef knows her own kitchen. So if you’re looking for the simplest, most streamlined way to start an online coaching business, you’ve come to the right place. 

People talk about becoming a coach like you can just flip a switch, post a reel on social media and you’ll have clients lining up. 

But the truth is, starting an online coaching business is still starting a business. 👩🏽‍💻 You’ll have to identify your coaching niche, level up your coaching skills, plus find and grow your audience. And on top of all that, if you don’t put the proper legal protections in place, you could find yourself in hot water faster than you can say, “But I had a contract.” 

Luckily, if you’re here reading this blog, I’m going to help you dot your i’s and cross your t’s so you can legally protect and grow the business of your dreams.

How to Start an Online Coaching Business the Right Way

The internet has made starting an online coaching business easier than ever before, but online service businesses come with their own challenges. While you have a larger audience, you also have more competition. And though it’s easier to set up, it’s also easier to find yourself in some sticky situations. 

So what are the keys to a successful business?

Narrow Down Your Coaching Niche

The first step is deciding what kind of coaching you want to do. Do you want to be a health coach? A relationship coach? A mindset coach? 

Here is a quick rundown of some of the most popular online coaching programs: 

  • Health or Wellness coaching
  • Fitness coaching
  • Career coaching
  • Business coaching
  • Relationship coaching
  • Mindset coaching
  • Financial coaching
  • Money coaching
  • Spiritual coaching
  • Nutrition coaching

You’ll notice “life coaching” doesn’t make an appearance on this list. That’s because life coaching is an umbrella term, and with a crowded online presence you’ll want to be more specific so your audience knows what sets you apart and whether your program is right for them. 

So what do you love doing? What do you find yourself teaching people at dinner parties? And what would bring you the most joy to share with others? 

Level Up Your Coaching Skills

If you want to build a thriving online coaching business, you’ll need to have the skills to back your pricing. Once you’ve narrowed down your niche, you can take an online coaching course to hone your skills. 

You can even earn a certification to show potential clients you’re legit!

While you work on solidifying your coaching skills, you can continue building your business with the next steps. 

Identify and Find Your Target Audience

Next up is identifying who you want to serve. Your ideal coaching clients fit with your unique coaching style. So if you prefer doing 1:1 coaching sessions rather than group coaching, your ideal client does too. 

One of the keys to a successful online coaching business is getting very clear on who your ideal client is. 

Try creating a customer “avatar” or ideal customer profile — this is an exercise where you write down details about a real or fictional person you’d love to work with. If women over the age of 50 typically struggle with the problem you help solve, then list that as your “ideal client”. To go even deeper, you’d want to paint a picture of what that person goes through on a day-to-day basis related to your area of expertise. Maybe it’s financial planning or nutrition – either way, you want to get crystal clear on exactly what they’re going through, what they wish it were like instead, and how your offer helps get them from “A” (where they are now) to “B” (where they want to go). 

Once you know who your coaching program serves, you can search for those people. Try surfing around social media and see where your ideal clients are engaging with content. Perhaps they’re on Instagram watching reels. Maybe they’re most engaged on Twitter or YouTube. If you’re doing career coaching, perhaps they’re on LinkedIn. Wherever they are, that’s where you’ll want to show up with your marketing and social media strategy.  

Start Building Your Website and Lookin’ Like a Pro

Clean up that social media profile, change your headers to reflect what you do, get some headshots, and start showing up like the pro you are. 

Building a website can be daunting. So if you have the funds to outsource it that could be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. 

But if you’re a little crafty or scrappy, new tools have made the process of building a website easier than ever. 

WordPress is a popular website builder that is cheaper up front, but you’ll likely end up spending more on extra templates and plugins down the road. Squarespace is a bit pricier up front, but includes all the templates and is a little more plug and play for those who are less tech inclined. 

Get Your Legal Ducks in a Row

Before you proceed to taking on clients, it’s a good idea to legally establish your business. I’ve got a free online workshop on helping you start an online business legally, but I’ll give you the rundown here: 

Step One: Research your business name. 

When you begin crafting the perfect business name there’s a lot to think about. 

  • How can my name convey the benefits of my service? 
  • Can I trademark this name? 
  • Is the URL taken? 

But I think the most important thing is researching your business name to make sure you don’t infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights. 

While you might feel like your new baby business is too small to matter to anyone else, we want to make sure you don’t step on the toes of a giant who has the resources to pull out the big guns. 

Step Two: Choose what business entity is right for you and register your business in the state where you live and work. 

This is an essential step in this process and honestly, it’s too much to cover in this blog. That’s why I’ve gone into depth on this subject in several other resources you can find right here: 

Step Three: Get business insurance. 

You might think you don’t need business insurance until your business is well on its way, but the truth is all it takes is one mishap to find yourself in quicksand legally. And while it’s tempting to think the odds are low when you only have your first few clients, coaching is a particularly tricky field because you are offering advice to your clients. 

What happens if you offer nutritious recipes to your health coaching clients and they have an allergic reaction? 

What if the professional career advice you give your client results in them getting fired? 

I go into this in more detail in the workshop mentioned above, but there are generally two kinds of business insurance. 

  • Commercial general liability — This covers things like bodily injuries and is often more applicable to brick and mortar businesses. 
  • Professional liability insurance — This covers mistakes or alleged mistakes resulting from your work. If you give advice to a client and it doesn’t go so well for them, this kind of insurance would help protect you if you were sued — if it’s covered under your policy.

Business insurance provides an attorney and pays any settlement or award minus your deductible. 

Still confused? Not sure if you need commercial general liability or professional liability insurance? I go into way more depth in this podcast all about business insurance

I recommend working with a business insurance agent to determine what kind of insurance is best for you and your business. 

Step Four: Get your contracts in place. 

Make a list of all the ways you work with someone. You need a legally legit contract for each separate way you provide your services. 

We provide specialized templates for a variety of online service businesses in our contracts shop

PSA: It’s illegal to “borrow” a contract from another person. If your friend bought a contract template and offers to share it with you, just know it’s intellectual property theft from the attorney who originally wrote it. 

Step Five: Make your website legally legit with proper website policies. 

If you have content or are collecting personal information (email addresses count!) then you need to have these policies in place: 

  • Privacy Policy
  • Website Disclaimer
  • Terms and Conditions

Psst: You can get all three right here

Start Taking on Clients

And now you’re ready! If you’ve followed the steps in this blog you can feel confident that you’re ready to launch your business and share your glorious coaching with the world. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there for those first couple of clients but… you got this! 

Need a little encouragement? Listen to “How to Find Clients for Your Online Business (without ads!)

Looking For More Details? 

If you’re looking for more details on how to set your business up for success, check out my workshop to become legally legit today: 

5 Steps to Legally Protect & Grow Your Online Business — A free online workshop with me detailing how to confidently grow the business of your dreams without all the stress of a legal mishap. Click here to save your seat now.

For more legal tips and a behind the scenes look at how I built a multi 7-figure business, drop your email below. I’ll be in your inbox twice a week with the best nuggets, podcasts, and business gold I can offer.

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