Are you a coach struggling to find clients? Then you need to educate yourself about marketing for coaches.
The problem is that there are so many different approaches. Should you do webinars? Start a YouTube channel? Create content for Instagram?
In this article, I will share what has worked for me, and what I am still struggling with.
Learn about the pros and cons of different marketing methods and why certain platforms will attract a certain type of client.
Why You Should Take My Musings With a Grain of Salt
I was debating with myself if I should write this article or not.
My coaching business is still relatively young. And at least at this point, I am not the most successful coach in the world — otherwise, you would have heard of me. I make a modest living from coaching and enjoy it like no other job I have held before. But that’s it.
Having said that, I always enjoy reading accounts of people who are somewhat new to the game. I can relate to such accounts much more than reading about someone light years ahead of me. I thought you might, too.
Also, in my defense, this is not my first coaching gig. I had another coaching business several years back that was fairly successful. At some point, me and my partner got covered by all the major news outlets in Germany and even had our own mini-TV series.
But even including this previous endeavor, I have not tried all the marketing strategies described in this article myself; several, yes, but definitely not all.
However, I have met many coaches over the years and have become close friends with some. So, where appropriate, I will draw on their experiences.
All of this is to say — I will try to give you the best advice for building your coaching business I can. But by no means am I the authority on the subject.
Your Menu of Options
There are a couple of different ways you can go about finding clients. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
1. The Platform Route
Here, you advertise your coaching services on a platform like Fiverr or Upwork. I have a friend who chose this option and executed it very well. I will draw from his input and my own observations about his business.
The major advantage of platforms is that you can find clients fast — faster than with any other option in this article.
A big part of this is numbers. Fiverr has over 4 million active buyers per month. Upwork has fewer — under a million — but beats Fiverr in total yearly transactions ($4.1 billion vs. $337.4 million).
Of course, just a fraction of these users will be looking for life coaching services. But even so, you can get your gig shown to dozens or even hundreds of users per month — as soon as you sign up. Assuming a rather conservative conversion rate of 2 percent, you will likely have at least a handful of paying clients after just a few weeks.
This is not just theory. My friend has been on Fiverr for less than a year and has currently about 20 active orders — I have seen the backend of his coaching gig. These are numbers that most coaches can only dream of.
To put this into perspective — getting this kind of client engagement through, let’s say, content marketing, might take you two or three years. And that’s only if you keep pumping out article after article.
Of course, to have success on Fiverr or Upwork, you still have to do many things right. You have to have excellent pictures, engaging copy, and great customer testimonials.
But all of this is doable. Hire a professional photographer. Look at the descriptions of other successful gigs and copy what they are doing. Ask a few friends to book your gig and leave excellent reviews. It’s not rocket science.
In summary, platforms are the easiest way to get you started. You can get your feet wet, you can practice your coaching skills, and most importantly, you can start earning.
However, there are also some major drawbacks.
By far the biggest disadvantage with platforms is pricing. To get clients, at least initially, you will have to go very low.
This is the nature of such platforms. There are tons of coaching providers, and they all kind of look the same. The one differentiating factor is price. Consequently, everybody tries to underbid each other.
Theoretically, you can work your way up. You can amass hundreds of outstanding reviews, and build yourself up as a premium provider. But it’s not a great model. The problem is that clients cannot get to know you. There is no opportunity for them to “fall in love with you.”
This is the difference between platforms and any kind of personal branding. If I have been reading your blog articles or watching your YouTube videos for several months I will feel like I know you. And I will pay premium rates to work with you in person, my latest source of inspiration.
The other problem with platforms is that you have no control over your assets. If at any point the platform decides to ban your account, there goes your business.
You also don’t own your customer data. Any communication between you and them must take place on the platform; you are prohibited from asking for their contact details. This makes it impossible for you to build an email list — one of the most potent marketing tools for coaches there is.
In essence, you are at the mercy of the platform. They make the rules, and you have to obey them.
Last but not least, platforms take a hefty cut. Fiverr takes 20 percent out of your earnings, on Upwork it’s 10 percent. Do you want to keep paying that forever?
Platforms are the ideal marketing solution for beginning coaches but don’t offer a perspective for long-term growth.
2. The Webinar Funnel Route
Webinar funnels are one of the most popular marketing methods with coaches. A webinar funnel has three stages:
- A week before the webinar, you put up paid ads on Facebook and Instagram, announcing your free webinar. By clicking on the ads, interested users get directed to a landing page where they can sign up via email.
- Ideally, a few hundred people show up for the webinar. During the first half, you give a presentation with helpful tips and tricks. During the second half, you sell them your high-ticket coaching program.
- Some people will convert right away. Many people won’t. These, you keep sending automated emails for another week or two. You try to convince them to sign up for a free onboarding call, where you can sell them one-on-one.
Webinars have a fast turnaround, almost as fast as platforms. The execution of the whole funnel shouldn’t take longer than 3–4 weeks. You should make your first couple of sales as early as 7–10 days in.
Also, webinars allow you to push high-ticket items. Since you are spending quite a bit of time with your potential clients (a webinar can easily last 1–2 hours), people get to know you. You can build an emotional connection. As a result, you can ask for more.
I just said that webinars are great for pushing high-ticket items. And they better be. Because getting people into your funnel will require significant ad spend.
The days when Facebook and Instagram ads got you lots of traffic for little money are long over. Of course, it depends on the industry you are in and the quality of your ads. But paying $2–10 per sign-up is fairly normal.
If that already sounds like a lot, also consider that only a fraction of these sign-ups will show up to the webinar (maybe 20 percent). Of those who, only a fraction will buy (maybe 2 percent).
Let’s say you have 1000 sign-ups at $5 a pop. That’s $5000 for ads. Let’s say of these 1000 sign-ups, 20 percent show up at the webinar; that’s 200 people. At a 2-percent conversion rate, you make 4 sales.
Like, I said — your sales better be high-ticket items.
To put it differently — it is easy to burn through a lot of money quickly if you don’t know what you are doing.
Tip: A great way to mitigate that risk is to combine webinar marketing with community marketing (s. below). Here, instead of paying for ads, you recruit your webinar participants within an existing online community, e.g., a Facebook group. However, for this to work, you first need to become a known voice within that community. You need to regularly post high-quality content and help out other community members. You also need to get permission from the community manager to promote your webinar within the group.
There is another disadvantage with webinars and that is that the marketing tends to be on the sleazy side of things. To cut through the noise on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you need to make outrageous promises, like:
- “Lose 20 pounds in two weeks using this little-known secret.”
- “Build a $10,000/month online side hustle with no prior experience.”
- “Learn how to effortlessly make beautiful women fall in love with you.”
Essentially, you need to exaggerate or even flat-out lie to get noticed. Are you comfortable with that? That’s a decision you need to make.
Also, this kind of marketing attracts a naive kind of client. They are often not fun to work with. Can you deal with them on a daily basis without going nuts? Again, this is a decision you need to make.
Webinars are a good option if you are pressed for time and have some money to spend. Be aware that you might not make this money back, though, especially if you are new to the game. Also, you better have some used car salesman qualities.
3. The Content Marketing Route
The content marketing funnel has four stages:
- You produce interesting, helpful content for your target audience. For example, if you are selling business coaching, you publish lots of business guides on your blog or record plenty of how-to videos for YouTube.
- Throughout your content, you keep pushing your free lead magnet, for example, an ebook, a whitepaper, or a mini-course. To get access to these materials, your users must sign up with their email addresses.
- After sending them your free offer, you will also send out an automated onboarding sequence, providing more helpful tips but also promoting your paid services. A certain number of customers will convert right away.
- The rest, you place on your regular email list. You will send out more helpful content to your subscribers and build out the connection. Occasionally, you remind them of your paid services. Some more subscribers will convert.
Of all the different marketing methods, content marketing is the least pushy kind. You attract clients by offering something valuable for free. If it helps them, they will want more and happily pay for your services. In fact, they will actively approach you about it.
Content marketing is also fantastic for personal branding. By putting your ideas out there, you become someone people recognize and relate to. They will feel like they know you. This allows you to charge premium prices, especially the more authority you gain. People will want to work specifically with you and will be happy to pay more for that privilege. At the same time, it will be much harder for your competitors to keep up with you. In comparison to you, they will appear faceless.
Content marketing is the most sustainable kind of marketing. Once you have built up a huge backlog of content, it will get you clients for years to come, even if you stop producing new content. This is different from approaches like webinars, where, once the campaign is over, the money stops coming in.
Finally, content marketing keeps you learning. To stay relevant, you must constantly cover new topics. This forces you to do research and become even more knowledgeable within your area of expertise.
The biggest disadvantage of content marketing — it takes a lot of time and effort to get the ball rolling.
For example, you typically have to publish 100–300 articles before you get a significant amount of traffic to your blog. That’s the equivalent of writing several books.
With YouTube, the numbers tend to be even higher. You are typically looking at 300–500 videos before your channel starts to bear fruit.
In other words — it will likely take you two to three years before you start getting coaching clients from content marketing.
That’s a challenge, both in terms of self-discipline and finances. Few people have the willpower to keep pumping out one article or video after another for that long — without seeing results.
Also, producing that much content takes a lot of time, easily 30–40 hours per week. That will leave you with less time for other money-making activities. You will either have to eat into your savings or radically cut your costs while also working annoying part-time jobs.
Then there is the quality aspect. You can’t just publish any content — you must publish outstanding content. It should beat all the other content pieces on the same subject. Otherwise, you stand little chance of climbing to the top positions on Google or YouTube. But only there do you get traffic.
Speaking of rankings — there is also the SEO aspect. If you want to succeed at either blogging or vlogging, you need to learn search engine optimization. As a new blog or a new YouTube channel, you won’t rank for most search queries. That’s because the search engine doesn’t trust you yet. To circumvent that, you must find the few low-competition keywords that you do have a chance of ranking for. This requires know-how as well as certain pricey software tools.
In the case of blogging, you must also build backlinks. You must contact other website owners and ask them to link back to your website. This will increase your website’s authority in the eyes of Google, and get you better rankings. But this, too, takes loads of time and patience. You might send out several hundred emails to webmasters only to be rewarded with two or three backlinks.
Content marketing is the most sincere type of marketing; you lead with free value. It’s also fantastic for building your brand and eventually charging premium prices. Last but not least, it’s sustainable — once you have built momentum, clients will keep knocking on your door for years to come.
However, it is also the hardest one to pull off. It requires more discipline and patience than any other type of marketing for coaches on this list. Be prepared to pump out content for two to three years before you see any results.
4. The Community Route
Here, you join an existing community online, like a forum or a Facebook group. Then you become an active contributor, posting insightful ideas and helping other members with their problems. Do this for long enough, and people will start to wonder who you are. They will go check out your website and potentially sign up for coaching. Sometimes, you can also come to an agreement with the group’s administrator to advertise your services within the group.
I know several people who were using this approach successfully while I was a member of the “Dynamite Circle,” a paid membership forum for online entrepreneurs. I have also used this approach myself in the past, during my dating coach days.
Tip: You should prefer paid communities over free communities; the more expensive the better. The members of these exclusive communities will be more affluent and more open to investing in coaching services.
The biggest advantage of community marketing is that you have got it made. Somebody else already gathered a relevant audience for you in one place. You now just have to sell to them.
Community marketing also converts well. You put up a few outstanding posts, and people will start to check you out and inquire about your services. A few dozen posts might already suffice.
Also, you are likely to get word-of-mouth clients. With any kind of closed-off social circle, people talk. If you are doing a good job with your existing coaches, they will tell others.
The cherry on the cake is that community marketing is free — except for paid communities, where you have to pay the membership fee. But all the other costs you have with “regular” content marketing — website hosting, video equipment, SEO tools — do not apply.
There are two major disadvantages to community marketing for coaches.
The first one is that you can get kicked out of the group anytime. This happens frequently, either because the community owner doesn’t like you piggybacking on their business, and/or because you became too aggressive with your marketing. Should that happen, you no longer have a channel for customer acquisition. That is a big risk to take.
The second disadvantage — there is an inbuilt ceiling to what you can earn. That’s because there are only so many members in your group. Once you have marketed to them all, you have exhausted your pool of potential customers. Granted, there will be new members coming in, but not that many. Your sales will start to decline.
Community marketing is a great way to market your coaching services once you move past the platform option. You will get better, more high-quality clients. Be careful not to get stuck with communities, though. They are a great intermediate step, but not the final goal. First, there is only so much revenue to be had. Second, the risk of losing it all, aka getting kicked out of the community, is high.
5. The Live Events Route
Marketing for coaches can also be done via live events. For example, back in my dating coaching days, my business partner and I used to give a lot of free talks. Since we are both decent public speakers, those talks were well received. Regularly, people would contact us afterward to set up coaching appointments.
In terms of authenticity, live events feel more “real” than any other type of marketing. You are not written words on a computer screen. You are not even a talking head in a YouTube video. You are right there in front of people.
This will build a connection more quickly than any other type of marketing for coaches on this list. Give a strong presentation, and even people who have never heard of you before will choose you over some famous name that they only know from afar. Nothing beats “live.”
For live events to work, you must have a strong stage presence. However, not all coaches have that. Some are excellent in an intimate one-on-one setting but completely bomb in front of an audience.
The good news — you can learn to become an effective presenter. Toastmasters and similar formats are great for that. However, it takes time. If you are a natural introvert, expect to spend at least 2–3 years on this.
The other major problem with live events is frequency. You need to find enough events to speak at. That is the bottleneck. Realistically, most coaches will speak at a handful of events per year. If you are pushing for it, maybe one event per month. But that is probably going to be where you max out. It might be enough to get clients and make a living, but you won’t get rich.
Of course, there are exceptions. Big names like Gary Vaynerchuck might charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single public speaking gig. But they built up a worldwide audience via content marketing marketing first, before they got offered these opportunities. They didn’t do it through live events.
Live events are a great option to find clients if you are an engaging speaker. However, due to the limited number of speaking gigs — especially early on in your career — they work best as a supplement, not as your main channel for customer acquisition.
6. The Social Media Route
Social media marketing is a highly popular marketing option for coaches. Here, you regularly post engaging content on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or Twitter. Formats include short-form videos, pictures, infographics, quotes, and written content.
I know several coaches who get most of their clients through social media marketing. So, it can definitely work. Personally, I stay away from it, for reasons that I will outline under “Disadvantages.”
Social media marketing has a low barrier to entry. Practically anyone has at some point posted something on Facebook or Instagram; we are all somewhat familiar with the process. In comparison, setting up a WordPress blog or building a webinar funnel seems much more daunting.
Also, with certain social media platforms, you get lots of free exposure. TikTok is a great example. You can record a quick 30-second video on your phone, post it to TikTok, and probably get 200–300 views within the next two hours. That is 200–300 people who didn’t know your brand before.
A low barrier to entry also means lots of competition. If everybody knows how to create social media content, everybody will gravitate towards these platforms.
The second disadvantage of social media marketing is the fickle nature of the traffic. With traditional content marketing (blogging, vlogging), you initially get little traffic. But if you keep at it, at some point, your traffic starts to grow exponentially. It’s a hockey stick graph. Social media traffic is more akin to a cardiogram — there are constant ups and downs. Some days you get lots of exposure, some days little.
This means you have to create lots of content, as in every day. The minute you stop, your reach dies and customers stop knocking on your door. This is different from traditional content marketing, where you can take the occasional break. Even if you don’t post for a month or two, our older content will still be shown on Google or YouTube; you will still get customers.
Finally, there is the difference in user intention. When someone is searching for a keyword on Google or YouTube, they are trying to solve a problem. With social media, the intention is different. People go on Instagram or TikTok when they are bored and want to distract themselves. Which person do you think will convert better? The person actively searching for a solution? Or the person looking at cat pictures?
Understand — social media platforms were designed to be time sinks. The more time you spend on the platform, the more ads the platform owners can show you. However, successful people have little time to waste. That’s why they tend to avoid social media. Thus, social media marketing becomes a numbers game. You need to get lots of low-quality clients to make it worth your while.
Social media can work and it can work relatively quickly. However, you need to pump out ungodly amounts of content to be heard above the noise. Also, be prepared to deal with lots of low-quality clients.
This doesn’t mean you have to abstain from it. For example, you could repurpose your blog content or your long-form video content by slicing them up for social media; there are some interesting AI tools to help you do that. This way, you kill two birds with one stone.