Business Overview

Parents of special needs children work tirelessly to ensure their children lead happy and fulfilling lives. They scour the world, often looking for education and support that just isn’t there. A Special Needs Coach offers life coaching services to children and young adults with developmental disabilities. They impact these children’s lives, focusing on each individual’s needs, whether it be academic, career, or relationship-building. Many also work with parents of special needs children in order to help them better understand their child’s disability and to work through the parenting challenges.

Who is this business right for?

Special Needs Coaching is a very challenging, yet rewarding career. This business pursuit is best suited for the individual who enjoys working with children, helping them gain confidence and happiness through positive motivation, as they work to reach their full potential.

Since many clients will be school-age with working parents, business owners’ calendars must be flexible. Evenings and weekends should be left open to accommodate the client’s busy schedule.

What happens during a typical day at a special needs coaching business?

Special Needs Coaches spend a majority of their time meeting with clients. Meetings are held a minimum of two to four times per month, based on the clients’ individual schedules. Pre-meeting planning is often required, and post-meeting notes should be recorded. Travel time included, an hour-long session could require more than two hours of the business owner’s time.

When not engaged with clients, Special Needs Coaches spend their time marketing their business and building on their own skills and knowledge.

What is the target market?

Because this is a specialized field, your target demographic is limited to individuals with special needs and their family members. This is often a tight-knit community, which will, ultimately, simplify your marketing efforts.

How does a special needs coaching business make money?

A Special Needs Coaching business generates revenue by charging clients for their services. Fees are generally billed by the hour and, depending upon the client, can sometimes be forwarded directly to the client’s insurance company.

What is the growth potential for a special needs coaching business?

One in nine children are now born with autism, ensuring an overwhelming demand for Special Needs Coaches. Given the personal nature of this field, however, the business owner is central to the organization’s brand. A reputation is build within this tightly-knit community, somewhat limiting the growth potential of a Special Needs Coaching business.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful special needs coaching business?

While there are no specific requirements for becoming a Special Needs Coach, those pursuing this career path would benefit from having an understanding of the disabilities they are working with. Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification would prove beneficial, as would DIR training through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders.

In addition, real-world experience working with children and adults with disabilities is recommended. This could be on a volunteer basis or as a teacher’s assistant at a local school that specializes in educating students with communication disorders, autism, and/or other learning disabilities.

Regardless of education and experience, Special Needs Coaches must possess confidence and enthusiasm, balanced with patience and calmness. This combination is best suited for working with children with special needs.

What are the costs involved in opening a special needs coaching business?

Starting a Special Needs Coaching business is a fairly low-cost venture. To reduce overhead expenses, many entrepreneurs forego renting an office space. Meetings are held at the client’s home and administrative duties are handled from a home office.

Start-up expenses include the following:

  • Reliable transportation
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Computer
  • Liability insurance

A website would also prove beneficial for those seeking thought leader status in this industry. Websites should be simple, yet informative in nature.

What are the steps to start a special needs coaching business?

Once you're ready to start your special needs coaching business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

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 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.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

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.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I 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.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a special needs coaching business?

Leaders offer the following advice when starting out in this fairly young industry:

  • When possible, invest in client organization tools. This will help minimize time spent on administrative tasks.
  • In the beginning, focus on one specialization. Be specific about who you work with and what goals you would like to help them reach. You can build on your experience and education as time goes on, or expand your business to include additional therapists.
  • When speaking with parents and children, speak in layman’s terms. Your “coaching language” could prove frustrating and intimidating.
  • Try to find a mentor in your chosen field.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a special needs coaching business

Fortunately, the special needs community is very tightly knit community, - each member supports each other and passes on relevant information. Therefore, you most effective marketing tool will be word-of-mouth. To boost incentive, offer current clients one free session for each referral.

When working to build your reputation within the community, consider volunteering at a local school, coaching a team sport for children with disabilities, or hosting a fundraising event. It’s important to remember that many parents are fulling immersed in assisting their children overcome their challenges. Your involvement will build trust and nurture these evolving relationships. Additionally, many have found success posting on online forums, specific to the community in which they reside.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

A Special Needs Coaching business must differentiate itself from the competition through consistent education and keeping up with the latest trends. To achieve this level of expertise, it is recommended that you specialize on one need at a time. Additional specialities can be added, as you begin to garner a reputation within the community.

How and when to build a team

Special Needs Coaching businesses can be run by one individual or as a collective entity. If your vision includes employees, consider building a team of individuals with independent skills and expertise. If you strength is not in marketing, accounting, or administrative work, consider enlisting the help of professionals in each field.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a special needs 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:

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

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.

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.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Services Contract

Special Needs 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, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.

Informed Consent Agreement

It is recommended to provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Fees are often set based on experience and education. Most coaches charge an hourly rate of $75-$200.

What are the ongoing expenses for a special needs coaching business?

Like the startup expenses, ongoing expenses in this industry are fairly low. Overhead costs include continuing education, transportation, Internet, insurance, and marketing. Coaches who opt to hire employees will also face payroll expenses, as well as the added expenses that come with opening a brick-and-mortar office.

How much profit can a special needs coaching business make?

The average profit realized for this industry is $59,100. Each additional coach that represents the business will contribute to an increase in annual profit.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Special Needs Coaches can increase annual profits by offering online coaching meetings or through guest spots at speaking conventions. Many have also found success hosting seminars or classes. Classes could include both online and in-person sessions and cover a variety of topics.

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Next Steps

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