Online Coaching: Guide To Building a Successful Digital Coaching Business (updated for 2019)

Co-Founder & CEO at Nudge

I was on the phone recently with a health coach who wanted to launch an online coaching business when I happened to pick up on a glaring issue in the midst of walking through his coaching model and offering.

He knew he wanted a digital coaching business, but he simply had no idea where to start when it came to creating his initial business model and coaching service offering.

Sound familiar?

He had a rough idea of the type of coaching business he wanted to have, but there was a lot left to consider like how to package online health coach services, how to price coaching packages, and the time required to manage clients.

To start out he told me he wanted to charge clients $90/month for his service.

Luckily, I had just had multiple conversations with coaches who have been able to successfully attract clients to, and scale their digital coaching businesses, so I was able to share with him some of the lessons I had learned to help him navigate the early days of starting this type of coaching business.

It’s no secret that most coaches struggle with several key items:

  • Identifying their value proposition → what are you exactly offering to your client

  • Identifying their pricing model → how much is the client willing to pay and what is your financial goal

  • Estimating weekly time required per client → how much time is REALLY required to work with each client

Let’s start with WHY you should consider setting up a digital coaching business.


Why explore an online coaching business model?

More and more coaches are shifting towards an online model because it significantly expands your target market. Removing the need to meet with someone face-to-face removes the potential limitations in finding good coaching clients, allowing you to work with clients across the country or globe.

Here’s an example - let’s imagine I want to launch a traditional coaching business in Richmond Virginia (where I live).

Through a quick google search I can see that the entire metropolitan area has roughly 1.25 million people.

richmond income.PNG

As I’d prefer to have clients I’m fairly sure can pay the bills (earn $50K+/year), I’ve identified that roughly 30% of Richmonders fall within what I would loosely consider my target market.

Based on simply reviewing driving distance and income thresholds I’ve already narrowed down my target market to about 375,000 people. Keep in mind, we haven’t even reviewed what percentage even need or want a coach.

You can see that my number of potential clients in Richmond is dwindling quickly.

This shrinking of his target audience is why digital models are catching on with more coaches.


Key Elements of an Online Coaching Offering

It’s easy to want to provide unlimited emails, text messaging, calls, etc. but one of the most dangerous aspects of running a business is distraction.

You can NOT be great at everything so chose your core service and stick with that for phase 1 of your approach.

Keeping your offering simple has several strategic benefits …

  • Eases your ability to scale - i.e. become great at your core offering.

  • Eases your ability to market and promote yourself (your solution solves “x” for a certain type of customer).

  • Reduces the risk of prospects feeling overwhelmed by your services - YES, “Choice Paralysis” is a real thing so avoid offering 18 different services.


You have options to work with in terms of putting together your solution and the tools to use, so try to work through the following questions ...

  • Working with clients 1-on-1 or in a group setting?

  • Frequency of touchpoints with clients?

  • Working people through a set program? How long does it run?

  • Typical duration of calls/webinars?

  • Engagement between sessions? (i.e. worksheets, journals, etc.)

Note: Since this post we published a post outlining the best tools and online coaching platforms for your business.

For instance, Britney Kennedy, a coach with a fast growing virtual business up in Pennsylvania shared with me some of the key aspects from her model.

“[My offering] includes two 30 minute sessions via skype or over the phone. They also can contact me with any issues or concerns throughout the week via text/e-mail/phone if needed. As I had stated before I do not charge a fee for their initial consultation mainly because it is intended to see if both parties feel that moving forward is best.”

Regardless of the type and frequency of your touchpoints with clients it’s key that you are able to concisely articulate WHAT your client is paying for.

In Britney’s case, she has found that her sweet spot is two video conferences per week in conjunction with regular messaging and worksheets, but that can differ between coaches.

For instance, you could also consider hosting a monthly webinar or use a recorded video series to enhance your offering in a way that provides additional touchpoints with your entire client list in a way that is scalable.

Debbie Lachusa, who has built a successful online business focused on helping educate coaches on branding and online marketing echoed similar thoughts, but also mentioned the importance of differentiation.

“You also need to be sure you have a unique and compelling point of differentiation, and a brand, that set you apart from all the other coaches in your niche. That way you make it easier for your ideal clients to find and select you.

Your job as a coach with a digital business is to build what’s known online as the Know-Like-Trust factor with prospects that will never have the opportunity to meet you in person. Once you accomplish that clients will be more willing to pull out their wallets and hire you without actually meeting you.”


How Much to Charge for Your Coaching Offering?

As you may recall, pricing is what really sparked this post, so we need to take the time to answer a critical question.

In my opinion, the best way to approach this question is to start at the end (i.e. how much money you would like to make as a health coach?) and work your way backwards to your pricing.


Defining Your Target Coaching Income

Regardless of whether this is a side business of your full time gig, we need to identify what you are trying to achieve and then do some backwards math.

For instance, let’s say you are trying to generate $5,000/month ($60,000/year).

Let’s return to my friend from the beginning of the story. He was initially trying to offer his coaching services for $90/month, which means he would need to acquire and coach roughly 56 clients to reach that $5,000/month target.

Uh oh...

Keep in mind that for every 1 hour you spend with a client each week you should expect to spend 1-2 hours on your business (i.e. messaging clients, administrative tasks, marketing, etc.)

You can see that by using the wrong offering or approach, my friend could be setting himself up for potential disaster...


Consider Your Coaching Efficiency

You need to identify the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to your business each week and find a model that fits your time and financial needs.

Coaches who’ve been able to build larger businesses understand the idea of time constraints so they have even begun offering group programs allowing them to reach more people in the same amount of time.

As you become more experienced you can begin to learn from your clients and understand what services may be missing from your current offering.

Coach and participant of ABC’s “The Taste”, Cassandra Bodzak shared some enlightening words with to to wrap up this post.

“Refocus, ask yourself WHO am I here to serve, help and heal. Get very clear. Then ask yourself what THEY need, not what you think you're going to make money on. I realized my audience wanted online workshops, they want solutions that make my coaching more accessible and affordable as well as things they can get 'on demand' when they are going through a rough time. I model my business around serving them."


Cassandra is spot on! Your online health coaching business can help make you both more accessible and more affordable to your clients.

At the end of the day, focus on helping people, listen to client feedback, and understand that business takes an iterative approach.

Over time you will have a better understanding of what your clients need, which will help you organically expand your offering to better serve your clients.

Building a online business can be tremendous in helping you expand your target market and work with more people, but make sure you spend the time on the front end working through the numbers and honing in on your model.

Start with a simple approach and work out from there.

Bonus: Following this original post we released an online course detailing how to launch a successful online health coaching program.

Have you already built a digital coaching business? Make sure to share some of your tools and tips below so we can continue to share best practices with all our coaches.


Ready to scale your coaching business? Schedule a quick intro call and we'll help you explore whether the Nudge Coach platform is a good fit for your business.