Are you a health coach who has graduated from a certification program and you’re struggling to find your next (or first) round of clients?
I’ve been a practicing health coach since 2009. As an industry veteran, I’ll help you focus on what matters most when it comes to building a new health coaching business — so you can start earning sustainable income quickly.
This guide will help you avoid Shiny Object Syndrome and get your business off the ground without wasting time or money. It’s the stuff you wish they’d taught you in health coaching school!
Getting certified as a health coach
Starting a new venture can be overwhelming. Let’s go over what you need to become a health coach in the first place.
Health coach training
For better or worse, the health coaching industry isn’t tightly regulated — there’s no governing body to say who is and isn’t allowed to call themselves a health coach. The truth is that some coaches have extensive training and multiple certifications; others have none or a more conventional degree in something like nutrition or public health.
While there is no official education requirement to become a health coach, many coaches have earned at least one certification from a health, wellness, and/or nutrition program. Popular programs include the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the Primal Health Coach Institute, among others.
If you’d like to hear which certification programs I recommend, how I got certified as a health coach, and what my journey looked like — as a new mom, no less — get my free mini-course, How to Become a Health Coach (scholarship opportunities included!).
Do you need to be board certified?
You might see fellow health coaches discussing the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) exam and certification. You’ll likely learn a lot in the process of studying for the exam, but at the time of this writing, it is not necessary to be board certified to run a successful health coaching business.
In fact, in my 10+ years of business, almost no one has asked about my training or certification. It’s easy to get distracted by the allure of extra credibility and letters after your name, but in my experience, your work can also speak for itself.
One perk to getting board certified is expanding your employment opportunities. See, some companies require their health coaches to be certified. But if you’re planning to run your own practice, this is a non-issue.
Knowing your scope of practice
While there are no rules around who’s allowed to be a health coach, there are regulations around what we can actually do as health coaches. Knowing your state’s nutrition laws is key to how you operate your business.
Start by looking at The American Nutrition Association’s handy map, which tells you whether you live in a red, yellow, or green state. This traffic-light system lets you know how strict or lax the laws in your state are about offering personalized nutrition services to your clients.
Red states only allow licensed Registered Dietitians to offer individualized nutrition counseling, yellow states open licensure up to other highly trained practitioners, and green states have the most wiggle room for the work you can do as a health coach. Of course, you’ll want to check with your state’s laws directly.
We always refer to our friend Lisa Fraley, who is both a health coach and attorney helping the rest of us navigate the legal waters of our industry. Listen to this episode of the Health Coach Power Community podcast for a deeper dive into this topic.
What you do and don’t need to set up your business
It’s simple to get your health coaching business started. Here’s what to prioritize and what to avoid getting distracted with as you get set up:
What you need as a health coach
A supportive community of fellow health coaches
Once you’re certified and ready to start your business, the first thing you’ll want to do is join our free Health Coach Power Community Facebook group. You’ll find over 11,000 health coaches who are on the same journey. It’s a safe place to post your questions and get them answered by myself or other coaches who have experience. You’ll want to have this resource handy as you grow.
A straightforward business name that’s unlikely to change
One of the most common questions we get in the Facebook group is, “How do I name my health coaching business?”
There’s no need to think up some fancy or clever name. Your business already has one — it’s yours! Using your own name is the easiest route because it’s unlikely to change, even as your business grows and evolves through the years
Check to see if [yourname].com is available on a service like GoDaddy. If it’s available, go ahead and purchase it! If you have a common name and the URL is already taken, you can always add “health” or “wellness” to the end of it. Keep it simple.
A solid client agreement that protects your business
New coaches are always asking, “Do I need a client agreement?” This is something you send to prospective clients to sign before working together.
While it’s not legally required, it is highly recommended. Here’s why, according to Lisa Fraley:
- It protects your income
- It protects your program content
- It creates clear expectations with clients about your policies and scope of practice
- It helps your clients show up for themselves in a big way
What’s included in your agreement depends on the program or course you’re offering. If you’re using a template that your health coaching school offered you upon graduation, make sure that it reflects what actually goes on in your program.
You may be wondering whether you need liability insurance to protect your business as well. This is another case of “recommended, but not required.” A good client agreement can protect you enough, and you can consider signing up for insurance down the road when your income supports the investment.
Listen to this podcast episode with Lisa for more advice on legal protection for your health coaching business.
A notebook, phone, and computer
One of the best parts of being a health coach is that there are very few overhead costs — there’s no inventory or specialized equipment needed!
As an online business, it’s obviously important for you to have a computer to work from so you can manage your practice and connect with your audience.
A phone is actually not even 100% necessary, since we can do everything through Zoom, Google Voice, and other apps, but you may want to have it handy as a backup. Internet outages happen! And yes, you can use your existing cell phone.
Lastly, even if you’re tech-savvy and like to do everything on your laptop, having a notebook nearby may be helpful when taking notes on client calls or working on other creative projects.
Track income and pay taxes
If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: pay your quarterly taxes!
As coaches, we typically work as independent contractors. For those of you in the US, this means that you are the one responsible for paying your own taxes; they don’t come out of your paycheck like they would if you were an employee somewhere.
Be sure to save a portion of each payment you receive for taxes, track all of your income and business-related expenses throughout the year, and save your receipts to support any deductions.
Saving for and paying your taxes quarterly keeps you from owing a big sum you’re not prepared for when April 15 rolls around
What you DON’T need as a health coach
My business became the most profitable the year I tore down my site and the new one wasn’t built yet. A site is nice to have, but truly not needed. So don’t let this hold you back from getting started.
Even if you buy your URL now, you can direct it anywhere you want people to go, and you can hang onto it for the future when you have the time and resources to build a solid website.
ore important than a website, by far?
A mailing list.
This is different from your Gmail or your contacts list in your email account. You need an email service provider that allows you to collect people’s email addresses and send mass emails. Some options include Mailchimp, ConvertKit, and Mailerlite.
Listen to this episode of the Health Coach Power Community podcast to learn how to get set up, where your first mailing list members come from, the right way to add new people to your list, and what on earth to send them once they are there.
Business cards and brochures
Don’t waste your time designing business cards or brochures for your online business. More often than not, you’re going to watch that pile collect dust.
These days, people will want to follow you on social media, or they’ll take down your information right on their phones.
If you want to redirect that valuable time elsewhere, focus on your social media where you can create longer-term connections and build a community of people who are interested in your work.
An LLC or S-Corp
Forming an LLC or S-Corp as a brand new health coach is unnecessary. You can operate just fine as a sole proprietor and protect your assets with a solid contract between you and your clients.
Refer to the section on client agreements for more on this.
An online program with fancy materials
There are many seasoned coaches out there whose programs have all the bells and whistles. What you don’t see is the entire team they have behind the scenes!
New health coaches often get caught up in wanting to emulate fancy programs but the truth is, clients don’t care about all the bells and whistles. They just want you to help them solve their problem. And most of the time, you can do that with a basic understanding of what your client needs, listening well during sessions, and asking good questions. That’ll get you much farther than a video series you spend months shooting and lots of money to have edited.
How to market your health coaching business
There is a ton of marketing advice out there and it can be very easy to get lost in the non-essentials. I’ve made it easy for you with a free step-by-step Guide to Getting Started that walks you through the following:
Choosing a target market
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when getting started is figuring out who the heck you’re marketing to. New health coaches tend to want to talk to anyone and everyone. You don’t want to miss out on clients and experience and money, right?
But if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one. You’ll be lost in a sea of noise — wellness is a crowded industry!
To stand out, you need to niche down. (By the way, the terms “target market” and “niche market” can be used interchangeably. You’ll hear them a lot as you learn more about marketing yourself!).
At its core, your target market is a tool that helps you reach and connect with the right people. It informs all of your marketing decisions, from where to hold workshops to what topics to write about on your blog or social media. Doing this first makes everything else easier! That’s why it’s step #1 in my Guide to Getting Started (and I walk you through it!)
Find your first (or next) clients
Put some money in your bank account while you get experience and create client testimonials to use later? Yes, please!
You’ll need to know your target market first and what their number one problem is that they’re looking to solve. Remember, getting this step out of the way makes everything else much easier.
Then, comb through your personal network. What connections do you have who fit the profile of your ideal client, or who can introduce you to someone who does?
Before reaching out, you’ll need something to sell them. Spend some time coming up with your health coaching package and working out pricing. This can take some time, so give yourself the space to think it through, and then send an email to those people on your list introducing your program.
For more guidance on this type of marketing initiative, download the free Guide to Getting Started. It includes step-by-step directions and a workbook to follow for the shortest path between you and your next payday.
The guide also contains tutorials and other helpful tips on choosing your target market and setting up your email list. Grab it here and make sure to bookmark it!
Setting up your online presence
Even if you don’t plan on using social media right away, do try to secure your username on your platform(s) of choice. Don’t try to be everywhere — consider where your target market spends the most time and focus there. The usual channels are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
More important than this is actually setting up that mailing list you signed up for. I recommend Convertkit as an email service provider because their free plan has all the functionality you need.
How to grow your health coaching business
So you’ve got your certification and maybe some clients… but a few hundred dollars here and there is more of a hobby than a business. How are you going to start earning the income you need to turn it into a living?
My free training, How to Earn a Full-Time Salary as a Health Coach, will walk you through exactly how to plan for a profitable year. You’ll put together your own 12-month income plan so you’re not constantly scrambling to figure out how to pay your bills.
It will take some time to plan so far forward, but your future self will thank you for creating some structure for how you market and sell your offers throughout the year.
Build your mailing list
I know, I sound like a broken record, but a mailing list is essential to your business growth. There are lots of ways to get people to give you their email addresses, but one of the best ways is with a lead magnet (aka a freebie).
Most people aren’t just going to sign up for your newsletter because it exists. You have to offer something of value in exchange for their email. It could be a recipe book, a checklist, a free class — you’ll learn more about this in our free training on earning a full-time salary.
Learn to sell without being salesy
Selling gives a lot of us the heebie-jeebies, but it doesn’t have to. You’re not a used car salesman, after all! You’re solving a significant problem for people who want and need your help.
We dive deeper into this in the training, talking about how to connect your sales to your 12-month income plan.
Avoid this common pitfall
Entrepreneurship can be pretty lonely. It’s one of the reasons I created the Health Coach Power Community Facebook group. Without support, it’s so common to run yourself ragged trying to figure it all out. Many coaches quit before they truly get started — but the world needs you!
If you’re spinning in circles and feeling overwhelmed, you may benefit from the support of a course designed specifically to help your health coaching business grow.
In Healthy Profit University, you’ll learn my three-step system to help you generate enough income so that you can more than contribute to your household — paying your mortgage, adding to your kids’ college funds, padding your retirement savings, AND putting in that new skylight you’ve had your eye on (Yay for skylights! I put in 5 of ’em!).
You’ll learn all about planning, packaging, and pricing, as well as building your audience and mastering the sales conversation.
Discover what’s possible
Yes, it’s possible to earn a full-time salary working for yourself.
It’s possible to have the work/life balance you’ve always dreamed of (the one you probably left your old career for).
It’s possible for you to make it all happen in a way that supports your wellbeing and allows you to plan for your and your family’s future. And what an exciting future it will be!
Success happens a lot faster with the support of a community of people who are building their businesses along with you. Join the Health Coach Power Community Facebook group, come meet your colleagues, and let’s walk together on the path towards a profitable, sustainable business doing the work you love.