Start a career coach business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your career coach business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a career coach business?
The main costs to start your career coaching business will be certification, via a qualified program such as the CPCC, PARW/CC, National Career Development Association or others. General liability insurance may also be a factor, as well as cyber liability -- a new form of insurance that protects you from hackers. Marketing and networking will also be expenses, as you'll need to be visible in your community in order to begin attracting clients. Expect to spend several thousand dollars launching your new career, between additional training and certifications (around $800-$1,500) and marketing ($500-$750).
What are the ongoing expenses for a career coach business?
Ongoing expenses include marketing, advertising and networking costs to continue to grow your business, monthly or quarterly insurance rates and the costs of maintaining a website or personal blog. As your business grows, you may begin to outsource some of your content marketing or writing costs as well. Expect to re-invest anywhere between 5-10% of your income in marketing, with a minimum monthly spend of around $250 for website maintenance, ads and boosting social media posts as well as attending networking events. Depending on the level of client you service and level of insurance needed, this cost may be between $25 - $200 per month.
Who is the target market?
Preferred clients are individuals who are upwardly mobile, or who have recently been laid off from a mid-level or higher position. Understanding where people are in their leadership lifecycle is important to the type of advice and support you should offer to them.
There are no specific limitations on ages, but younger clients may be looking more for personal coaching, while older clients may need your assistance to stay up on current trends and assure that their resume is competitive.
Career coaches may also be hired by large organizations to help support high-level executives who are struggling with specific issues, such as dealing with difficult people or negotiations. These high-potential individuals may need a little boost in order to be as successful as possible in their position, or they may be preparing to take on new responsibilities.
How does a career coach business make money?
Career coaches make money by charging individuals or organizations for their services. Charging by the hour is the most common payment model in this line of work.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you're able to charge clients depends on your level of experience and also the specific needs of your client. You may want to discount your services as you're starting out in order to build your business. There are also likely to be people throughout your career that you want to help for various reasons, and you may discount your services for them as well. Some clients will want to work on an hourly basis, while others prefer to pay on a project-by-project basis. Still others will want to keep you on retainer: where you dedicate a certain number of hours per week or month to their support.
Depending on your skills and specialty, as well as the level of individual you are coaching, you can expect to charge between $100 and $500 per hour. The charge rate is vastly different depending on your geographic location. Here's an example from the School of Coaching Mastery: an executive coach may charge $325 per hour, while a business coach might make around $235. A general career coach or “life coach” might charge around $160.
How much profit can a career coach business make?
If you're fortunate enough to have good contacts and work with lucrative clients, many people are able to make a six-figure income through career coaching. For others, this is simply a side job that allows them to be more comfortable. As with many businesses, you will get out of the business what you put into it.
Considering monthly business costs of approximately $500 and working an average of 15 hours per week, a business coach charging $150 per hour would net $8,500 per month. Keep in mind that unless this is a second job, you would also need to cover taxes, health insurance and a range of other costs.
How can you make your business more profitable?
One of the most effective ways to increase the profitability of your business is through seeking out a higher level of clientele. While you may start with middle-managers or those who are beginning their career, you'll eventually be able to work your way up to senior executives who have more disposable income to devote to growing their career.n
Another strategy is to take on apprentice coaches to increase the number of clients you’re able to work with at any given time. This will also enhance the reputation of your company, and expand your network to bring in more new clients by word-of-mouth.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Career Coach Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your career coach business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a career coaching business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
In businesses where services are provided on an extended basis, a services contract is often put in place outlining terms and conditions of service.
Career coaching businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations.Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Coaching Disclaimer & Waiver
Career coaches need to make it clear to their clients that they are not trained medical professionals. This can be accomplished by having clients sign a release of liability form.
Certificate of Occupancy
A career coaching business may be run out of an office, which helps provide a space for meetings. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a career coaching business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your career coaching business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a career coach business
Again, ensuring that others see you as an expert in your chosen field is essential. Creating a blog, being active on professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn can pay huge benefits as you're starting out -- and as you continue to grow your business. Reach out to others who may be offering complimentary services to see if you can partner and grow your contacts. Networking is crucial!
How to keep customers coming back
Whether you find your clients via referrals or through advertising, the best way to retain customers is to be honest, upfront and proactive in your communication with them. Always be conscious that you are serving them, they're not doing you a favor! Stay humble and kind, and always be positive about your business and about competitors. Your personal professional success will be the most attractive thing to your clients.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Career Coach Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
If you love working with people, are a great communicator and motivator, career coaching may be a great fit. Generally, career coaches have been in the business world for some period of time, may have advanced degrees, have spent time in a consulting firm, or perhaps are retiring from executive leadership positions.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a career coach business?
If you own a career coaching business, you'll likely spend your day communicating with clients and doing research to help solve challenges. Continuing education is also in your future, as you'll need to stay on top of leadership trends. Staying active on social media is also an important trait, as you'll need to write and publish new content often to promote yourself as a leader in the career coaching space.
On a daily basis, you might find yourself re-writing a resume, updating a LinkedIn profile, polishing up a corporate presentation, or counseling a client on a particularly difficult situation with others.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful career coach business?
Empathy to others is always important when you're working closely with individuals. Plus, you'll need excellent oral and written communication skills, tact, patience, the ability to listen and learn new things. There are several levels of skills that will serve you well in this line of business: the ability to challenge others, specific, and give timely feedback as well as active listening skills such as observing body language and knowing when to break the silence. Reframing is also an important way to add perspective for your client. Many career coaching have a minimum of a Master's Degree in their line of specialty -- often a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
What is the growth potential for a career coach business?
Truly, the growth potential for a career coaching business is only limited by the owners ability to work hard and keep pushing! One way to continue to grow your business is by partnering with others. Executive coaching and leadership development companies such as Arden Coaching in New York can offer a stream of clients coming your way. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals in this career path can expect to earn a median degree of $61,900 working full time. The good news is that the number of available positions in this career field is expected to grow at around 11%, which is faster than the average.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a career coach business?
Before you begin coaching others, it's important that your own career is your first priority. Building a name for yourself and becoming respected in your business community is the best way to be successful. This jump start gives you a network of contacts that you can rely on as you begin working for yourself.
How and when to build a team
Feeling overly busy, and not sure when you'll be able to get to all the tasks on your to do list? If you're finding that you're turning down jobs that you would have accepted when you first started your career coaching business, and you have the budget to take on extra help, it might be time to expand. The easiest duties to outsource are recurring items such as billing, filing, or other administrative duties.