How to Build a 7-Figure Coaching Business

Most coaches are great at helping their clients. But helping themselves by growing their own business? That’s usually their biggest struggle.

Why?

Because they try to do too much at once: 

Post on LinkedIn. Create a Facebook Group. Write a blog post. Record an Insta story. Tweak the funnel. Try a webinar. Email the list. Find a podcast to get on. Should I try ads? I really should try ads. Worry about ads.

Rinse. Repeat.

It never ends, and it’s overwhelming. If you’re doing all that, when do you have time to … you know … coach?

Most marketing blog posts don’t help, either. They just list more tactics coaches “should do.” So great coaches often come to us feeling guilty they’re not doing more and confused why none of it is working. They just don’t know where to focus their time and energy.


 

Ron H had the exact same clarity problem… before getting a marketing plan from the coaches at Growth University.

We want to solve that in this guide by giving you an exact, step-by-step process to build predictable coaching income that doesn’t involve doing 100 things at once. We use this process ourselves and have taught this to hundreds of students over the years in Growth University.

It’s a three part process:

 If you want to build a coaching business that generates steady month-to-month income, you need consistent leads and a set process to convert them to clients.

We call these “parts,” not “steps,” because all three need to happen all the time. (Inside some of them are individual steps to follow to get these parts running smoothly.)

Follow this and you’ll have a complete system to grow your coaching business. No more randomly doing things you see your friends doing or reading another “top 10 tactics” post.

You just work the system.

This also gives you a framework to think about the growth of your business. A framework means you have a way to think about your business as a whole.

Why is that important?

Because now if something breaks, you can figure out exactly where the problem is and focus in on that. You can’t do that if you’re just randomly trying different tactics.

It’s the difference between how a mechanic works on your car — “Ah, your carburetor is out. That’s what’s causing ‘X’ which leads to ‘Y’” — vs. staring at it and saying, “Why won’t this thing start?”

Even when nothing is broken, you can now figure out what’s working and why and do more of what’s working to grow faster.

In this post, we’ll walk you through each stage, step by step, and show real examples of how we and our coaching clients apply this process throughout.

Let’s start with Part 1: getting leads.

Want help making these changes to grow your own coaching business? You can book a free strategy session here where we’ll do an in-depth audit of your current situation and talk through a detailed marketing plan to help you grow.

Most New Coaches Are Working on Everything Besides Getting Leads. Don’t Be Them.

We’ve noticed that a lot of new business owners tend to focus on other parts of their business besides getting leads.

Usually, they’re busy working on:

  • Their funnel (webinars, emails, etc.).
  • Their offer (new programs, courses, etc.).

Those are important (they’re Parts 2 and 3, discussed below), but what’s more important is feeding new leads into those stages. Because leads fuel your business.

Without fresh, qualified leads coming in month after month, it doesn’t matter how good your funnel is, or how awesome you are on your sales calls, or how great your program is — you’re just not going to have enough eyeballs going through the system to see steady growth.

Part 1: Get Leads for Your Coaching Business

Here’s how to simplify the 100 things you could do for lead generation into a simple framework that lets you focus on the few things that work.

First, understand there are just three ways to get leads online:

(1) paid ads (2) content (3) partnerships

  • Paid ads are obvious: Google ads, Facebook ads, or ads on any other platform.
  • Content is the biggest bucket: all blog posts, guest posts, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.. If you’ve tried to grow an online coaching business, I’ll bet you’ve tried one of those two already.
  • But what about partnerships? Most coaches we talk to have not tried this in any real, serious way. And in fact, most don’t know at first what we really mean by “partnerships.”

Yet, time and again, with client after client, we’ve seen that partnerships are the fastest and cheapest way to get new, warm leads.

So here’s the baseline formula we recommend for generating leads for your coaching business:

  1. Use partnership marketing.
  2. Pick one other channel to master and grow long term.

We’ll define what partnerships are and why they’re the fastest way to get warm leads, but let’s walk through the other two first.

Paid Ads

When paid ads work, they work like magic. Spend $1; get $2 back. Who wouldn’t want that?

The only problem is that 99.9% of the time, when you’re starting out, you spend $1 and get $0.50 back. Womp womp. You lose money.

That’s actually normal. Most ad campaigns start off not profitable or barely profitable. It takes time to get costs down and nail your targeting.

Running a good campaign requires carefully measuring conversion rates at each step of your funnel and systematically tweaking each step to get the numbers to work.

This requires (1) time, (2) money, (3) some level of mastery of the paid ad platform (Facebook, Google, etc.).

That’s obviously not easy, so that’s why we usually don’t recommend starting here. For most coaches trying to grow their business early on, it just doesn’t make sense to spend that cash and wait months to start seeing results.

Campaign > Ad sets > Actual Ads

The structure of one campaign during our 14-day live Facebook ad experiment in 2015. It’s more complicated than you’d think.

But what if you’ve run ads on Facebook before? What if your audience responds well to ads? What if you have a super-secret-ninja-technique that makes your target audience throw money at you every time you run an ad campaign?

Let’s be real: If that were the case, you wouldn’t be reading this article.

We aren’t saying you shouldn’t run ads. We’re just saying: Don’t make ads your first (or even second) channel.

There are a lot of pieces to make ads work (including the campaign, creative, copy, landing page, email sequence, calls to action, etc.). When the time is right, we inspect each of these steps and work with clients to improve every weak point one by one in our coaching program.

Content

The long term promise of content is awesome. You get steady traffic from Google, YouTube, podcasts, or people linking to you. You don’t have to pay Google, Facebook, or anyone else for this traffic, and it comes in every month regardless of whether you’re sleeping or on vacation.

Who wouldn’t want that?

But content takes time to get working. Often we see people needing six or 12 months to get a sizable amount of traffic and leads from it.

For example, here is traffic in our early days. Eventually we reached 100,000 pageviews a month, but it took two years to get there. And look at the first six months: We got barely any traction then.

Pageviews for Growth Tools over time

The key with content is to pick one channel and stick to it and master that. “Content” is a huge umbrella and includes all the things we mentioned above: Blogging, podcasts, YouTube, guest posts, newsletters, Instagram, Facebook, and social groups.

Don’t try to be everything on every platform. You’ll end up doing none of it well.

Pick a platform based on two criteria:

  1. You: What are you good at? What do you like? What will you stick with?
  2. Your customers: Where do they hang out? What do they read, listen to, watch?

Find where those two intersect, and stick with it. Grow it slowly, have patience, and don’t expect results on day one.

Partnerships: Why We Recommend It for Most Coaches

In contrast to ads or content, partnerships get you immediate exposure to a qualified audience that someone else has already built.

What do you mean by partnerships? As we explain in our massive Partnerships 101 guide:

A partnership is when you provide something valuable to a company and they promote you to their audience in return.

These can often be influencers in your industry that have spent the last five, 10, or 15 years building an audience of thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of subscribers … which you can get in front of.

Not only does it require no money (like paid ads) and can get leads way faster than content, but the leads are also warm. Because your partner helps promote you, their audience comes in already trusting you because the partner vouched for you.

So how do you land partnerships?

We have a four-step process for this:

  1. Find partners: Identify potential people and companies you’d love to work with.
  2. Pitch partners: Reach out and ask if you could work on something simple, like a podcast interview or a guest blog post.
  3. Stair-Step to a Guest Emailing Partnership: It’s like writing a guest blog, but requires less time and effort while producing much bigger results.
  4. Stair-Step to a Partner Webinar: You’d spend around an hour teaching something valuable to your partner’s audience over live video.

For a deeper dive on exactly how to implement partnerships, check out this full post we wrote about them or watch a webinar Bryan Harris gave on the topic.

In short though, the post shows exactly how to create what we call your “Dream 50” list of partners. We built one from scratch for Sarah Doody, one of our clients who offers coaching services:

Sarah's Dream 50 Partnership List

We then show how she could prioritize and pitch them strategically (including exact pitch scripts). Check out the full post to see it all.

Part 2: Close Leads

After Part 1, you should have a system for getting consistent leads into your business. It may not be easy. It won’t be overnight. But it’ll be a repeatable, reliable system.

In Part 2, we’re going to build a system to close those leads.

Here’s our system:

  • Step 1: Get them on an email list. Traffic to your website alone isn’t good enough.
  • Step 2: Warm them with a sales funnel. This is how you’ll go from stranger to trusted advisor.
  • Step 3: Add calls to action to get them on the phone. You need to close high-ticket items such as coaching over the phone.
  • Step 4: Screen the leads. This ensures you don’t waste time on unqualified prospects.

Step 1: Get them on an email list; Step 2: Warm them with a sales funnel; Step 3: Add calls to action; Step 4: Screen the leads

Closing Step 1: Get Them on an Email List

If you’re getting traffic to your site from partnerships, ads, or content, and that’s all you’re getting, it’s going to be hard to turn that into business. Very few cold leads visiting your site will buy a high-ticket, deeply personal item like coaching.

They need to know you, like you, and trust you.

The best way to do that is with an email list, not a follower count on a social media platform. Your YouTube subscriber or Instagram follower counts are good but not good enough, for two reasons:

  1. Email engagement (opens and clicks) is way way higher than social platforms. (You see or clear nearly every email in your inbox. Do you do that with Twitter?)
  2. You own your list. Not Facebook; not Twitter; not YouTube. You own it. Forever. An algorithm update can’t change that.

At Growth Tools, we’ve been teaching entrepreneurs how to grow email lists for seven years. The partnership 101 guide we mentioned above explains how to do that for partnerships. Our Facebook ad experiment explains how to do that for ads. And for other traffic, from content or anywhere else, you can read these guides to growing an email list:

In particular, the first guide (how to get 1000 subscribers) goes into our full system for growing an email list, including 15 tactics explained in detail for how to get subscribers:

Table of Contents from Growth Tools: 15 tactics to grow an email list

Step 2: Warm Them with a Sales Funnel

Getting cold traffic to an email list is good, but you have to follow up with emails that accomplish what we want: get them to know you, like you, and trust you.

We have a simple three-part framework for sales funnels.

First, warm up subscribers with a Welcome Series (Part 1): This is a set of emails (typically) or other content that educates your audience about who you are, what you’re about, and why you’re the best solution for them.

For example, one of our coaching clients — Adrienne Luedeking, who runs a coaching and course business to help people get career freedom with freelancing called Fruitfully Alive — uses a 30-minute video of her giving a ton of useful information on her processes right after they join the list:

The Fruitfully Alive Masterclass: "Are you a freelancer or an entrepreneur?"

This immediately gets a new subscriber to know her, like her, and trust her. She told us she still gets “emails every single week from people saying that the 30-minute video gave them more clarity than the last several months that they’ve spent sifting through information.”

Next, once they’re on your list, keep them engaged and excited with periodic promotions. We recommend starting with a monthly and six-month cadence:

  1. Monthly Promotion: An exclusive event that happens once every few weeks. Only your email subscribers should get access.
  2. Six-Month Promotion: It’s like your monthly promotion, but bigger and better.

A great example for these periodic promotions is what Adrienne does for her product launch to her coaching program, an event she calls her 5 Days to Freelance Freedom Challenge. It’s a big, blowout promotion that unfolds over the course of three weeks.

Fruitfully alive: The 5 Days to Freelance Freedom Challenge

Here’s a rundown of how it works:

  • First, there’s a seven-day warmup where participants connect and get to know each other.
  • Next is the actual five-day challenge, where she gives a specific task for everyone to do.
  • Then there’s the catch-up day, where everyone recaps how they did.
  • And last, Adrienne hosts a celebration day, closing the event with a live stream and announcement that sales are live.

After the event ends, Adrienne leaves open a four-day window for leads to sign up for her program. In her most recent launch, she made $60,000!

Now, this three-step sales funnel (welcome series, monthly promotion, six-month promotion) isn’t the only structure that works. But like we promised, this guide gives you the foundation of what we’ve seen work more times than not. So start with this, and once it’s locked in, tweak and improve it later.

Step 3: Ask Them to Get on a Sales Call with You

This is simple: In your promotions from Step 2, at the end of your welcome series, and in any other regular emails, put calls to action to book a call with you.

Coaches call this “sales call” different things: a free coaching call, a strategy session, or whatever resonates with your audience.

But the key is that you need to get them on the phone to sell your coaching offer. This is how you sell high-ticket items.

We’ve gone into this in depth in our high-ticket sales funnel case study, where we set up a sequence from Facebook ads to booked calls for the company Gravy. The post goes into a lot more detail on a specific funnel, but a key part is creating a follow-up email sequence for signups who don’t book immediately to get on a call:

DripScripts: 3 high ticket sales funnel emails

In our own regular emails to our list, we routinely put calls to action to book a call with us. Some of the emails are focused on getting prospective clients onto a call with testimonials and stories from existing clients:

An email from Bryan of Growth Tools with a clear CTA at the bottom

Others are on whatever topic we think will help our audience, with a “P.S.” appended to the end of the email:

A sample of a CTA within the P.S.

Step 4: Screen Your Leads

This is an important step that most marketing advice online doesn’t talk about: Landing the right new clients is one of the biggest pains for most coaches. Unqualified prospects are a huge time suck because you spend all this time on sales calls and emails, only to hear them say they can’t afford you or give some other reason not to buy.

And if they do join, it can be a lose-lose if they’re not a good fit. You’re left feeling like a failure because you couldn’t help them reach the next level. Meanwhile, these paying clients are left feeling like they wasted their money.

To avoid this nightmare scenario, we tell coaches to create an application form. Instead of driving your leads to a booking page, send them to a short questionnaire they fill out first.

Keep it short: at least three questions; at most, ten.

But ALWAYS make one of your questions about finances. Whether you offer life coaching, business coaching, or anything in between, you need to find out if leads have the budget to invest in your training program.

Make the rest of your questions related to your coaching niche. Ask questions that tell you if they’re a good fit or not.

For example, if you’re a marriage coach, maybe you ask prospects what kind of relationships give them the most trouble. Then you can filter based on answers that you know are “tells” of a good vs. bad fit for your coaching. Someone who says they hate being single is a lead you can immediately disqualify.

But when you turn down prospects, you don’t want to alienate them either. Instead of saying no outright, direct them to resources that might help them out. You could even try selling them other products, too (more on that when we cover Part 3).

Here’s an example of the screening questionnaire we use:

Provide information: An application asks key questions to see if you're a fit.

Now, if the prospective client seems like a good fit? Get on a sales call and convince them they’ll find the answers they want through your coaching. (Here’s a sales script you can steal from and modify from our Gravy example.)

Part 3: How to Monetize Better (Beyond Offering Your Coaching Program)

Obviously, the foundation of your coaching business’ income is your actual coaching service. In our experience, coaches that dial in the first two parts — (1) Get Leads and (2) Close Leads — should see solid growth from selling their main coaching service by itself.

But if you’re only selling coaching services, you’re leaving money on the table.

You won’t close every potential client. Even if they go through your sales funnels. Even if they pass your screener questions. No high-ticket item like coaching has a 100% sales call close rate.

If you’re closing 15% of sales calls from leads that have passed your screener questions, you’re doing well.

So what about the other 85%?

Just because they didn’t buy your coaching program doesn’t mean they won’t buy anything.

Since the #1 objection to not buying coaching is price, we typically advise coaches to do two things to diversify their income streams:

  1. Offer a payment plan.
  2. Sell other products.

Here’s how you do both.

Option 1: Offer a Payment Plan

Some ideal clients might want to join your coaching program. But a big, upfront payment could make them hesitant to buy.

By offering a payment plan, you’ll close more clients, simply by giving them more than one choice. Also, you can earn more and ensure steady income by letting people pay in installments.

This is what we told Adrienne to do, and she implemented it in her most recent launch. Look at this screenshot of Adrienne’s checkout page, and pay attention to her pricing:

Payment plan, full pay, or VIP: different pricing options available

It’s always great to get full-pay clients. But not everyone can make a full payment, and those who choose a payment plan contribute to your monthly income stability.

Option 2: Sell Other Products

A second tactic is to offer another product that delivers value at a price they can afford. If they aren’t ready to buy your coaching program, funnel them to other products you sell. This is a win-win. They get something from you that still helps them solve their problems, and you get to diversify your income stream with different products.

Two kinds of products we’ve seen work really well for this are: tiny offers and courses.

Here’s what Adrienne did. She created a handful of tiny offers (small, paid products that help your customers solve the same or similar problems that your coaching helps with), including:

  • Tiny Offer #1: A $37 mini-course detailing a complete plan for becoming a successful freelancer, with an emphasis on choosing the right niche.
  • Tiny Offer #2: A $47 list of profitable and unsaturated niches for freelancers that she vetted herself.
  • Tiny Offer #3: A $77 one-on-one coaching session designed to upsell them her full course.

3 different pricing offers providing an opportunity to keep continuous incoming sales

She also created an online course called Freedom Through Freelancing Self-Study. In it, Adrienne teaches the same principles she does as a coach. The only difference is that students have to teach themselves and apply what they learn on their own.

Freedom Through Freelancing Course: Pricing - Fixed rate vs hourly

A look at Adrienne’s self-study course.

Parting Advice: Be Kind to Yourself, Manage Your Expectations, and Act for the Long Term

If you’ve made it this far, you’re now equipped to build a successful coaching business that earns stable and steady income.

No more relying on random marketing tactics. No more trying a little of everything. No more feeling overwhelmed by all the things you “should” do.

Instead, now you have a three-stage process, broken down step-by-step, that gives you the best chance to succeed:

  1. Get leads.
  2. Close leads.
  3. Monetize better.

Here’s one final piece of advice before we wrap: Never forget to manage your expectations.

Building a growing coaching business that is reliable, meaning income is steady and predictable, takes time and effort. The three-part system we use and teach is effective, but it’s not a gimmick; it takes real work.

Just ask Adrienne.

“Building my business to where it is now is the single most difficult thing I’ve done in my life,” Adrienne told us.

“People read my story, how I had a $60,000 launch, and think, ‘Gosh, I wish I could be like her,’ but they don’t see the thousands of little failures along the way. They don’t see that a year ago I was thinking of closing it down because I couldn’t make $1,000 in a launch. Or that I spent $40,000 on a coaching company that did nothing for me.”

“It takes a lot of time. And I do think that a really good coaching program is instrumental in that,” she added. “Like Growth University, for example: If I send in a question, they’ll make me a video answering it. They’re giving me the actual strategy that I’m looking for. They’re helping me transform my monthly income.”

It’s having and sticking to a good system that will set you up for success — along with having the guts to keep going when you’re tired or haven’t gotten the results you wanted.

Speaking of results, getting the income you want every month is easier when you have someone to cut through the fluff and direct your attention to the exact steps that will work for your business. If you want our help to grow your coaching business faster, you can book a free strategy session here. We’ll do an in-depth audit of your current situation and talk through a detailed marketing plan to help you grow.