The coaching industry has been growing at a double-digit rate for almost a decade. In fact, I was reading an article recently about future trends in business coaching, and discovered (not surprisingly) that the top need for executives over the next five years is likely to be leadership coaching.

No wonder, then, that coaching is one of the fastest ways to become an entrepreneur in 2018—and, for many, a welcome alternative to the 9-to-5 slog. It requires minimal capital, minimal structure, and—thanks to the Interwebs—you can connect with your potential client more quickly then ever before. On top of all of that, coaching allows you to live your passion for helping others.

But while the industry itself is growing at double digits, only 2-3% of coaches are actually making 6-figure incomes. An average life coach (with 5-10 years of experience) makes only $49k a year, while the average health coach (also with 5-10 years of experience) makes a measly $40k.

Why?

Here’s the short answer: It’s 2018 and most coaches are still following the 2012 entrepreneurial handbook.

So let’s modernize. As a coach myself, I’ve had to rethink my strategy to adapt to new business models, new approaches to entrepreneurship, and an ever-changing corporate culture in the U.S. I’ve had a lot of success because of my ability to adapt, so I encourage you to do the same.

To start, here are 5 shifts you need to make to become a 6-figure coach in 2018:

1. Become a solution provider (not a service provider)

Most coaches don’t have a business. They dabble in coaching as a hobby—one that occasionally earns them some money. But if you want to be really successful as a coach, you need to have a business that produces solid outcomes for clients—real solutions. In other words, you need a clear personal brand, vision, and message that collectively delivers something concrete.

Let’s be clear on this: “Life coaching” is not concrete. You can’t touch it, see it, or feel it. If someone asks you what you do, you don’t want to endure the eye roll when you say “life coaching.” Instead, be ready to articulate your unique coaching method and how it results in concrete benefits. Talk about past client successes. Be solution-oriented, not service-oriented.

Life coaches who offer soft advice won’t make it past the $80/hour wage that barely adds up to $50k a year. If you want to command $2k, $5k, even $10k per client, then you have to offer solutions to justify the fee.

2. Create your “pond”

Most coaches start off by “fishing” for clients via blogs, podcasts, Facebook ads, and other mainstream outlets. But that’s like fishing in the ocean alongside thousands of other coaches—most of whom are in much bigger fishing boats with bigger nets. If all you have is a dinky fishing line, you’re not going to reel anyone in.

That’s why you need to create you own private pond. I recommend two ways of doing this: Facebook groups and Instagram. Using these, you can create authority, brand awareness, and a more intimate connection with prospective clients.

And let’s be honest. People would much rather work with a coach they know, love, and trust than one of the big names out fishing for quantity over quality.

So get clear on your target market and ready your brand and solution. Then build your private pond and start inviting people in, offering intimate conversations that will build the right kind of relationships for successful coaching. You’ll find that you can create a 6-figure coaching business much more easily this way. In fact, my first $12k/month was earned through a Facebook group of only 47 people and an Instagram following of only 500—most of whom were family and friends.

As the old saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.”

3. Start from the top

This is where deals fall apart—quickly.

Most new coaches think they need to start on the low end of the fee scale and work their way up. On some level, that makes sense—less experience equals lower fees.

But this is the death of any coach. What they soon discover is that they are overworked and underpaid. Because they’re getting so little per client, they spend way too much time trying to market themselves and find more clients, rather than actually coaching. What’s more, clients once engaged in the idea of coaching soon disappear because the dirt cheap rates don’t inspire longterm commitment.

In other words, if you start your coaching with super low fees, your passion will turn into a(n unsuccessful) grind.

Instead, be clear about your methods and solutions—as well as your client outcomes—so that you can confidently command a fee that you’re worth. My clients normally start out at $2-5k, but some start out as high as $25k.

Don’t sell yourself or your solutions short. (More info on the specifics of coaching fee structures can be found here.)

4. Overcome yourself

We live in the Information Age. The strategies, tactics, and tools you need to successfully launch a six-figure business are all at your fingertips.

The limiting factor is you.

Becoming a successful coach requires becoming a bigger person. You will faces challenges, fears, and limiting beliefs—you will even doubt yourself and what you’re capable of doing. But only when you can overcome these doubts will you be able to help clients.

One of the biggest roles of a coach is teaching clients to get out of their own way. The faster they can do that, the faster they can increase their income and help people grow.

But to do that successfully, you first need to get out of your own way.

5. Get mentorship

Imagine you, as someone who never sets foot in a kitchen, trying to bake a cake from scratch. You don’t have a recipe and you don’t have any guidance.

How do you think that would go?

Seems like a ridiculous idea, but that’s exactly how so many coaches try to start a business. They dive right in with no experience or knowledge and expect to be successful. They spend years scrambling to put all of the right ingredients together, all the while forgetting the most important ones—because they didn’t really know how to build a business to begin with.

That’s why you need a mentor. Not just any mentor—you need someone who can give you the exact “recipe” you’re looking for. Your Uncle Joe, a chef at a local restaurant, isn’t likely to give you any helpful advice on launching a coaching business, so don’t ask him. Seek out mentors who have been there—and who have succeeded in the same ways you want to succeed.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to invest a little to get the recipe you want. There’s no such thing as a free lunch—or, eh, cake.

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As you prepare to move from hobby coaching to 6-figure success coaching, remember these two unwritten rules:

  1. It IS possible to have a 6-figure coaching business. But you have to believe it before it will become a reality.
  2. Your coaching is worth it because it’s not about you. When you face obstacles and challenges, you will be able to tackle them because you’re motivated by helping people—serving those who want to succeed and are willing to ask for help. If you don’t put the effort into overcoming your own obstacles, imagine all of the people who will fail because you weren’t able to help them. That’s a tragedy.

Remember: You can make this happen, you WILL make this happen. Why? Because there’s someone out there right now who is looking for exactly what you have to offer.

Looking for top-notch coaching to take your business to the next level? 

Sign up for one of Craig Ballantyne’s Perfect Life Workshops—small group coaching with one-on-one attention designed to give you a customized game plan for business success. Craig has helped CEOs and startup entrepreneurs alike, so whatever your goals, he can help. Sign up now! (Or, tell a friend about it—just send them this link!)

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Zander Fryer

Zander Fryer is a former IT Account Executive turned success coach and entrepreneurial consultant. As the Founder and CEO of Sh*t You Don't Learn in College he helps entrepreneurs turn their knowledge, expertise, and passion into six-figure businesses, so they can make the money they want while doing what they love. He recently co-authored his first best selling book, "Mastering the Art of Success," with N.Y. Times #1 best-seller Jack Canfield.