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7 Steps to Start an Online Business as a Coach or Consultant

7 Steps to Start an Online Business as a Coach or Consultant

Do you have an offline business, and you’d love to transition to a freedom-based business model? Or perhaps you’re not a business owner, but you have solid experience, expertise, and passion for your career, and you’d love to reach more people. Either way, there is a method to bring your knowledge online, and in doing so, skyrocket your reach, leverage your time, and take the ceiling off your income.

Gone are the days where starting a business means you need to write out a long, detailed business plan, meet with bankers, take out a large loan, and build a brick-and-mortar business, hoping that the people in your community will become your customers.

In today’s world, with a laptop and an internet connection, you have the ability to start an online business.

One of the great ways to maintain a personal touch in your business, yet greatly increase your impact, is by starting an online consulting or coaching business.

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How do you do this?

1. Choose your target market

You might know this right away, or you might narrow it down as you gain experience. Think about who you want to serve, and get specific. Do you want to help moms with newborns? Do you want to help single men? Do you want to help corporate leaders? Think about your ideal client.

If you don’t know specifics right now, that’s fine. Clarity comes from taking action. As you start offering your services, you’ll learn about who it is that you really love working with as clients, and you can get more and more specific about exactly who you serve.

2. Select a specific problem you want to help your target market solve

Are you unsure what problem you could help people solve? Think about your life. What do people ask you to help them with? Do you find that people frequently ask for your advice or assistance with a certain problem?

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As you choose which problem you want to help your ideal clients solve, the more specific you are, the better. This is for two reasons. First of all, when you’re specific, you can really become an expert at helping that group of people. You can learn a lot about your target market, and can niche your services to solve their specific problems. This leads to better coaching or consulting results. Also, when you are very specific about who you serve and what problem you help them solve, your marketing materials will “speak” to them. You want your ideal clients to hear about your services and know that you’re the coach who can help them solve their exact problems.

If you’re not exactly sure which problem you want to help people solve, check out this free workbook to help you choose your niche. Also, it’s important again to note that clarity comes from taking action. As you begin working with coaching or consulting clients, you will learn what you love helping them overcome, and what you don’t enjoy as much. You’ll discover where you’re getting amazing results, and what energizes you. Your business can evolve as you go.

3. Critique your idea

Just because you think you have a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean people will actually pay you for it. Think about the problem you want to help people solve. Does it enable you to use your strengths? Do you have knowledge in that area? Can you offer value to others and help them transform their lives? Are people currently paying money to have this problem solved for them? Will your coaching or consulting services help them solve a problem big enough in their life that they’re willing to hire you for help?

4. Put your idea to the test

You can put your idea to the test by offering free 15-minute consultations to people. In Born For This, author Chris Guillebeau suggests giving brief, free consultations to 100 people. Name your session something catchy that helps people understand what they’ll get out of the session. Then, hop on the phone with them, give them a ton of value, and follow up with them on a later date for feedback.

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While you’re doing your free sessions, pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel excited and energized by helping people solve this problem? Or, do you feel drained and exhausted after these conversations? Do you enjoy working with these clients, or have you discovered you need to change your target market? Also, are you helping people get their desired results?

5. Find your ideal clients

Now that you’ve tested and tweaked your idea, and gained some experience, it’s time to find real clients. Think about your ideal clients. Where do they hang out online? Where do they hang out offline? What groups do they belong to? Which social media platform are they spending time on? You can have the world’s best coaching or consulting services, but unless you know how to get your offer in front of your ideal clients, you won’t have a solid business. Although it can be intimidating, you’ll need to get visible online in order for your ideal clients to discover you and your amazing services.

6. Become a legit business

When you’re ready to make your coaching or consulting business the real deal, it’s time to become a legit business. I recommend testing your idea first, before you spend tons of time and money investing in something that turns out to be nothing more than an “expensive hobby.”

At conferences for entrepreneurs, I have met many people who have paid thousands of dollars to have websites and business cards designed for them, but they have not yet built their informational products or actually offered their coaching or consulting services to anyone. In my opinion, it’s better to get out there, take action, and see if you have an idea that people would pay you for, before you spend a ton of money and time making it look like a “real business,” only to discover later that it’s not a viable idea.

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When creating your legit business as a coach or consultant, you can build a simple website that looks professional, and states who you are, who you serve, and how you can help your target market. It’s also a good idea to have a formal contract for your clients to sign when they purchase your services. This legal contract can discuss things such as your cancellation policy, refund policy, and expectations of your client. And, it’s wise to treat your business like an actual business. Have systems in place to keep track of the financial aspects of your business.

7. Grow your business

Now that you’re helping your ideal clients solve their problems, and they’re getting amazing results from your coaching or consulting services, you can scale your business. You can continue to offer 1:1 private coaching or consulting services, and exchange dollars for hours. Or, to leverage your time, increase your hourly income, and reach more people, you can offer services in a group format. You can also build online products such as e-books or courses. With those, the work is ‘front-loaded,’ meaning you do a lot of work up front, but can then collect income for a long period of time.

The time has never been better to start an online business as a coach or consultant. When you bring your expertise online, you can reach people around the world and influence many more people than you could in a traditional business.

Featured photo credit: Sean and Lauren / https://flickr.com via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To see a fuller picture, create a mind map.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

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    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

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          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

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            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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