10 Things Every Life Coach Should Understand

1.Understand How To Run A Business

Frighteningly, some Life Coaches don’t even consider this before they embark on a career in coaching

Starting up as a Life Coach purely and simply because you want to help people is noble, but not very smart.

It’s akin to buying a restaurant because you love food.

There’s a tad more to it than that.

Whereas around 60% of restaurants fail in their first 3 years (and that includes franchises which have a much higher success rate and as such skew the figures), my guess would be that figure is closer to 90% with coaches.

But it doesn’t need to be like that if you have a business plan, a budget and an understanding of how to acquire clients.

And the budget is important.

Too many coaches think all they need is a computer and Internet connection.

No, no and thrice no.

Check out this post if you want to get an idea of what my monthly costs are.

I strongly advise that if you’re not au fait with running a small business, then hire an accountant who is and do things properly.

get clients

2. Understand How To Attract Clients

I am staggered at how many e-mails and requests on Social Media I get asking me something along the lines of:

‘Can you tell me how to get clients?’


You’re in a business where you have no clue as to how it works, and you expect me to give away almost 12 years of hard work and experience in an e-mail because you’re too lazy to do the work?

Come on!

The next course on Coach the Life Coach starting in September is almost three-months long and it’s that long because I need that long!

It’s where I explain exactly what I have done to build a thriving practice and what I do now to maintain that.

It’s also where I share the mistakes I made, and yes, there have been scores!

Here are a few bullet points on things you ought to know if you want to attract clients and that we cover on the course.

  • How to write copy that converts
  • When to try and sell and when not to try and sell (hint: on a sales page, not on your home page)
  • What is a call to action and why is having one so imperative
  • How to build social engagement
  • How to build rapport without even physically meeting somebody
  • What a sales funnel is
  • The basics of the sales process – just 101 stuff, don’t freak out
  • How to close a sale
  • How to upsell (presuming you want to and actually have something to upsell to)
  • How to expand your income past just one-on-one coaching

Is that enough to be going on with?


blog key

3.Understand How To Blog

If you don’t want to acquire clients online then you can quite happily skip this part as well as the next two if you like.

If you want clients to find and hire you online then you need either several thousand dollars to hire a top-end SEO company, or to learn how to blog.

Presuming you haven’t got that kind of cash, then blogging and writing it is.

Blogging isn’t just about slapping whatever comes to mind up on your website and hoping people will love and share it.

They won’t.

And do you know why they won’t?

Because there are approximately 2.5 million blog posts published every day on the Internet.

A reasonable proportion of those people know what they’re doing and will bury your content and probably laugh heartily as they do it.

It’s a tough world.

Deal with it, or bow out.

We’re on a bullet point roll so here are some things you need to know about blogging:

  • How to write a headline
  • How to optimize your post or risk wasting your time
  • When to post and when not to
  • How to promote your post effectively
  • What a skinny post is, and why you should probably be avoiding them
  • What content marketing is
  • Why anything other than a WordPress blog is going to make your life more difficult
  • Why hosted free blogs (including Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, wordpress.com) are unwise solutions
  • How to write different types of posts for different audiences including Google
  • Why you may love vanilla ice cream but your readers hate vanilla posts
  • Why it’s ok to challenge and even polarize your readers

I have no doubt that there are dozens of successful coaches who never blog. However, the majority will be doing offline marketing and I just don’t enjoy that.

I literally do ZERO marketing offline.

I don’t attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, I don’t give free talks anymore, I’m not a member of BNI or any other such organization and don’t employ any traditional advertising.

I don’t even have an up to date business card, and what I do have is absent from my wallet.

To be honest, if you’re a new Life Coach then it probably is a wise idea to do some offline marketing as you build up things online, but I don’t enjoy it at all, so I’d rather do things I do enjoy like writing this post for you!

4. Understand How To Grow A Newsletter

The newsletter both for A Daring Adventure and here at Coach the Life Coach is the lifeblood of both businesses.

Apart from launches where admittedly I’m on high alert, I rarely worry about business, because it’s within my control.

But if you decided you were going to take my newsletters off me I’d be extremely concerned.

At least half the people who hire me are on one of my email lists.

People are very reluctant to give you their email address unless they see value in doing so.

So offer value!

I write a fair amount of exclusive content for my lists including intermittent ‘Insider Guide’s’ for Coach the Life Coach in which I share information that I don’t offer on my blog.

Here are a few ways to grow your list:

  • Offer an excellent bribe (something you give away free to every person who subscribes) that delivers lots of value
  • Make signing up as easy as you possibly can – pop-ups are annoying but a fact of life – so use them!
  • Supply your readers with high quality information
  • Use Social Media to drive subscriptions
  • Guest post on other blogs and link back not to your home page, but to a landing page with a relevant bribe on it for people to subscribe
  • Look for JV’s (joint ventures) in which you give people access to your list for access to theirs
  • Do webinars that require people to sign up to join – then blow them away with the content

Your list is imperative, so don’t just hope it will happen because it probably won’t.


SEO for Life Coaches

5. Understand The Basics Of SEO

I wrote a long post on SEO for Life Coaches that probably no more than a couple of hundred people have ever read.

That’s discouraging for me, but encouraging for you because it just demonstrates how easily you can kick the ass of your competition.

A quick story to make the point.

In early 2012 (I think, as I’m going from memory) Google announced that they were reversing their stance on exact anchor text.*

Previously they had encouraged it, but now they were saying it wasn’t natural and as such they were punishing sites with too many inbound links using exact anchor text.

I knew this, but my SEO guy didn’t and I went from page 1 to page 43 overnight for the term Life Coach.

My domain name came within a haddocks dick of being de-indexed by Google and totally useless to me.

My guess is you have no idea what I’m talking (and that’s fine by the way, I had no clue 4 or 5 years ago either) about which is why you need to know the basics of SEO.

Don’t ignore this because your competition isn’t. Or at least enough of them aren’t to make your life trickier than it needs to be.

*This is an example of exact anchor text.

Tim Brownson is a Life Coach who specializes in helping people getting unstuck

This is an example of a more ‘natural’ link.

Tim Brownson is a Life Coach who specializes in helping people getting unstuck, you can read more by clicking here

Note: When I came to write the SEO module for the recent Client Acquisition Course I could have wept.

As per the post I mentioned above it was utterly out of date and useless – that’s how quickly Google moves.

It took me somewhere in the region of 30-hours to research and rewrite.

If you would like a copy of the PDF, then I will give away just one to the FIRST person who shares this post and then asks nicely in the comments. Seriously, I will only give one away, so if you see I’ve already done that, please don’t ask.

social media apps

6. Understand How Social Media Works

So many people presume because they use Social Media they understand how it works.

That’s a little bit like thinking because you can drive a car you understand how an internal combustion engine works.

Facebook had changed massively to the point where organic reach has become more or less an illusion.

I have been saying for two-years that Facebook is now effectively a paid product for businesses, and it’s because of the way they have put a stranglehold on organic reach.

A tiny fraction of the people who follow you will see any one post you upload.

Facebook will limit your reach to about 1% of your audience and then watch to see what happens.

If you get great engagement with likes, comments and shares, then it will send to a few more and watch again.

This is why having a Facebook ‘like campaign’ in which you ask friends to like your page is mostly a bad idea.

Yes you may have more followers, but if less people are engaging because they just liked it to help you out, then Facebook will punish you.

Most pages don’t ever get past the 1% mark because they don’t have the engagement, so tens of millions of posts just sit there looking all sad and lonely.

Facebook are just scraping by with annual profits of $10 billion, so obviously they need more people paying to boost posts or to run ad campaigns.

Would you be surprised to know that it costs us about $5 per new subscriber using Facebook ads?

Well it does.

And it’s by no means just Facebook that’s getting harder to succeed on.

Around 2009 my YouTube Channel supplied me with a steady stream of high quality inbound leads, but not any more.

Go and look at Life Coaches on YouTube and see how many are getting views in the tens of thousands, and that is the bear minimum if you are to get a decent ROI with a YouTube channel.

You’ll be lucky to find ANY that aren’t paying a lot of money for it by hiring YouTube experts.

The video platforms users want to share music, they want to share funny and bizarre videos and they want to share stuff that is flat out weird

By and large they’re not that interested in self development.

All the Social Media platforms are looking to monetize their service offerings and things are changing rapidly.

It’s difficult to keep on top of one Social Media platform for the average Life Coach never mind 6 or 7.

I bet you use Facebook. But did you know it’s last algorithm change was on June 30th 2017 and how it effects?

I doubt it.

There are almost monthly changes to Facebook, but most coaches don’t know about them and thus continue to do the same ole same ole not realizing that it’s no longer working.

That’s why I advise new coaches to just focus one, or maybe a couple of platforms. and then make sure you are subscribed to reputable blogs that will advise you of changes.

I have accounts on YouTube, Twitter, G+, Pinterest and Instagram, but I don’t spend any real time on them.

Sure you can have more accounts and cross-post if you like, but spend 90% of your time on just one or two platforms and really get to understand them.


7. Understand Google Analytics

You don’t have to use Google Analytics, you can use something like Clicky, but you absolutely do need analytics of some description.

I was working with a client recently who told me he was ‘killing it’ on Instagram.

He had about 40,000 followers and was getting lots of interaction with his posts.

Great eh?

Not really, no.

I took a look at my clients analytics and he was indeed ‘killing it’.

But not with Instagram.

Because you have to go to somebody’s profile in Instagram to get to their site and you cannot just click through from a post or image, it’s harder to convert followers into newsletter subscribers or potential clients.

He was getting almost zero inbound traffic from Instagram.

However, with about 5% of the followers he was getting what I can only term as a shit load of inbound traffic from Pinterest.

Knowing this can help you adjust your strategy.

I look at my analytics at least once per week to see what is and isn’t working, especially with my Social Media activities.

woman crossing her fingers

8. Understand Who Can And Can’t Help You

You will have a great many people tell you they can help you.

I see business coaches every day touting for clients and many have zeroed in on the Life Coaching industry.

Do you know why they have focussed their attention on our industry?

And why there are so many coaches working exclusively with other coaches?

There are of course many exceptions to what I’m about to say, but there is growing number of coaches who have taken to coaching other coaches because they couldn’t fill their own practice.

Doesn’t quite sound right, does it?

Not long ago had a conversation on Skype with such a coach.

When I asked him why he’d quit coaching per se, he responded with a straight face that it was because he couldn’t make enough money.

The conversation didn’t go much further.

I can and will substantiate everything I talk about if you want me to because I don’t want you to think you’re just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

If you are toying with hiring me and aren’t quite sure if I know what I’m talking about I’m happy to do the following:

  • I’ll show you my stats if you want to see them, and by that I mean all my stats for both of my sites
  • You can talk to people I have worked with (not just read testimonials)
  • You can clearly see how many people follow me on social media
  • I can point to blog posts that have had over half a million page views
  • I have a coaching practice where I am currently working 3 weeks out with new clients

I don’t say that (or any of the above) to be arrogant, I say it to be transparent and honest.

If you want one-on-one help with your building your coaching practice, click here and let’s talk.

Thumbs down

9. Understand When To Say No To A Prospective Client

I had an e-mail from a lady recently who mentioned that she had considered suicide as an option to her recent troubles.

That is a rather glaring example of when to back off because somebody obviously needs medical/therapeutic intervention.

As Life Coaches we’re not equipped to offer that.

It doesn’t matter how much you want to help, how convinced you are that you can help, you have a duty of care both to the other person and yourself to say no (presuming that is you’re not also a qualified mental health worker).

Here is the e-mail I sent back so you can get an idea of how I deal with such things.

Of course you may prefer to ignore such requests or take a different tack. And that is fine as long as you do not take the person on as a client.

‘Hi ‘X’, it would be highly unethical and unprofessional of me to offer advice here other than to urge you to seek professional medical help.

When somebody tells me they have thought of suicide I have no alternative than to back off because I am not equipped to deal with those kind of issues.

I’m really sorry, but this is not something you can settle via e-mail, you need professional help and I urge you to seek it.

I wish you all the best and hope things work out for you.’

That may seem a tad harsh to you, but not only am I not equipped to help this person, I really don’t want to get sucked into an e-mail dialogue, because it won’t help.

You may think the above is obvious and that you wouldn’t have been tempted, but what about the person who says they have anger management issues, would that be easy to walk away from?

I once took a client on many years ago who admitted to being bi-polar.

He convinced me (or perhaps I convinced myself) that even though he wasn’t on meds he was managing it with exercise and diet.

Let me tell you, the new health care Bill is being better managed than his bi-polar was.

I fooled myself into thinking things would be ok, and it’s easy to do that when we are just beginning and hardly tripping over clients on the way to the bank.

That relationship ended when after I told him I would be charging him for a missed session.

He phoned me to spend 10 minutes hurling the kind of abuse at me down the phone that would have embarrassed a drunken sailor who’s just fallen down stairs.

I took another client on who had Aspergers Syndrome. Whereas this is a murkier area because there are coaches who specialize in this, it wasn’t a good fit for me.

I coach quickly and Aspergers needs the kind of patience and an understanding of the condition that I don’t possess.

Nothing untoward happened, other than I don’t think I helped the guy one jot and that doesn’t make me feel good.

As Life Coaches we’re not equipped to deal with untreated depression (it’s ok if somebody genuinely has it under control), people who self harm, drug addiction, alcoholism, anger management problems and a range of other issues.

A good rule of thumb is that if there is an entire branch of psychology devoted to whatever it is the person wants help with (and again presuming it’s not managed), then it’s probably not your job to take the clients money.

This isn’t just a moral or ethical decision either (although that should be enough), there could well be legal ramifications if you contribute to worsening the situation.

There are other times that as Life Coaches we should say no too. And that’s when the clients requirements don’t fit our skill set or there is a bad vibe.

I turn down at least 1 in 4, probably more like 1 in 3 inquiries.

It could be because of the first reasons mentioned, but equally it could be because they want time management or productivity help. Neither of which I’m very good at, and neither of which get me fired up.

I have even turned down clients just because I sensed we wouldn’t work well together.

Perhaps a joke I made was met my stony silence.

Maybe it was painful trying to extract any information.

Or even maybe, as was once the case, the prospective client refused to fill in his personal details on my intake form.

Generally speaking, if you get a sense that a client isn’t right for you, then he probably isn’t.

You're fired

10a. Understand When To Fire A Client

I’m not sure if this is a product of the fact I tend not to do as much long-term coaching as many other coaches, but I have probably only ‘fired’ a client on about 5 or 6 occasions.

A number of years ago and not that long after I moved to the US I was working with a client who owned his own business.

He was one of the few clients I have ever worked with who I visited on site, but as he was prepared to pay the travel fees then I was cool with that.

He lived in a beautiful house on a lake with a pool, boat dock (with boat) and all the trappings of success.

Most people would see the guy and think, ‘Wow, he has it nailed‘ and that is what I thought.

To begin with it was straight forward coaching but after we chatted about my own business experience one day he asked if I’d help with his as it wasn’t doing as well as he’d have liked.

I’m not going to go into all the details because even though I don’t like the guy, I still cannot risk identifying him for obvious reasons.

All I will say is this, his business was failing. And failing big time.

He knew it was failing, but even so he was still drawing almost $20k per month in salary for himself and his family whilst most of his workers hadn’t been paid in 3 months.

And he thought it was funny that he was sticking it to his employees.

I was disgusted.

As Life Coaches it’s not our job to judge, but quite honestly, screw that. I judged

I didn’t want to work with people like that.

I get the argument that maybe I could have helped him see the total lack of integrity in what he was doing, but it’s not my job to do that.

You know what your core values are, or at least you should if you’re a Life Coach! And if somebody flagrantly tramples all over your core values, my advice, is to walk away.

Coaching purists may well disagree with that. Many think we should be able to remove ourselves from our clients issues.

And to an extent they may be right. It’s just not how I coach and it never will be.


10b. Understand How Not Too Take Things Personally

If you coach for long enough you will fail some of your clients and some of your clients will fail you.

You will probably get negative (or none at all) blog comments and maybe even the occasional e-mail telling you you’re an idiot.

You will have people unfollow you and ignore you on Social Media and will have the occasional run where it seems it would be easier to dig your way under Montana with a teaspoon than convert a prospect into a paying client.

That’s just part and parcel of working in a competitive industry in which everybody has a slightly different opinion on what is and isn’t best.

And that’s not just coaches either, but anybody who has ever read a self development book.

Not many people outside of the professions hold strong opinions on the work of surgeons, air traffic controllers or lumberjacks.

Yet it seems almost everybody has an opinion about Life Coaching, and a lot of those opinions are based in ignorance about what we really do.

The phrase (or something similar), ‘I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do with my life‘ is one I have heard dozens of times.

To begin with it bugged me because that isn’t what Life Coaching is all about.

We don’t, or rather shouldn’t, advise people what to do with their lives.

Then I started to realize that I’m better focussing on people who are open-minded about coaching and talking to them, rather than trying to convert the cynics to its benefits.

Welcome negative comments in whatever form they come as an opportunity to learn.

You either got something wrong, you didn’t explain it clearly enough or you may just be dealing with an idiot who is better ignored.

All are learning opportunities.

If a client doesn’t do the work and you explained the benefits and got their buy-in, then learn from it and let it go.

When you do make mistakes with clients, learn from them and then let them go too.

So there you have it. Of course I haven’t looked at what you need to understand when it comes to actual coaching, but I’d love you to add any ones you think I have missed out in t he comments.



  1. Somone Bull

    Hi Tim. I would be so appreciative if you would gift me your PDF. I’ve spent countless hours doing my own research on SEO and technical aspects of website management and find less time to build my client relationships and a successful business. I would so generously promote you and your valued advice (and not breach copyright of course). I have shared your post and would like to offer some additional candy…pretty please.

    • Tim Brownson

      You were the first so I’ll send it to your gmail address. And yes, please don’t forward it one!

  2. Not being one to always follow the rules, I am going to be number two and ask for the PDF anyway. I will gladly share about the value you add to my life and business (regardless of whether you send the PDF, but I sure prefer receiving the PDF… )

    Did I mention I really love the PDF?

    And since Somone already has you covered in the candy department, maybe you’d like some biscuits? Or your favorite crisps?

    • Tim Brownson

      So what do you think I should do as I have 3 options Matt?

      1. I ask Somone not to read her copy and to delete it because you want it instead.

      2. I give you a copy, and then I have to offer a free copy to everybody else because sliding it to you on the quiet would be deceitful. I then can no longer run such offers in the future as people just presume I’ll give them what they want.

      3. I stick with what I said I do by not sending you a copy and retain my integrity but lose out pn the crisps.

      You tell me.

  3. Linda Secretan

    You are still the Whole Package! Giving to all, equal opportunity calling all on bs, and just getter better and better. I haven’t said it for a long time: Thank you!

  4. Jules

    As a new coach I absolutely love the honesty in your writings and appreciate it very much as I’m sure many people do!. I research extensively on this subject as I’m trying to learn as much as possible and there isn’t much out there that highlights we are human, at some point we are bound to make a judgement when something happens that goes against our own values. Thank you for your knowledge you share covering different areas involved. I am truly appreciative for all I have learnt from you ☺ . And yes I mean it, no I’m not after a copy of the pdf ☺

  5. Thank you Tim! This great advice and it will help many people like myself understand that we aren’t crazy… but we need to keep
    Up with the changes. It’s not easy. Facebook and most social
    media reeled us in and now they are forcing us to pay after building their networks. A company I coach for online is going through this challenge and the love and dating industry (amoung others) is being hit hard. I help people reinvent after heartbreaks and divorce and the blogs seem to get me the most responses. It is mind blowing how fast things change

    I did get a video on Facebook showing me I had 41,000 posts. Wow how lucky for them that we spend so
    Much time making them rich!
    I’m grateful for you post.

    • Tim Brownson

      Yeh that’s definitely a tough competitive industry Renee. I have had a couple of posts get over 1/5 million pages views and I don’t think either brought me a client.

      It’s all about targeting and knowing where your niche hang out.

  6. As usual your post rocks and I know I’m out of luck with the PDF, so no bribes. Though I was going to make my offer more appealing like bangers and mash or a good stout or fish n’ chips.
    I so appreciate your integrity and thanks for sharing.

    I’m going to share it anyway cause this is good stuff.

    • Tim Brownson

      If you can get fish and chips to me that are still hot and tasty I may revise my offer! There’s literally nothing outside of family and friends I miss as much.

  7. Kevin Ruddy

    Tim Brownson. Do I get any credit if I point out an error in this article? You used the number “7” twice in your list of points. So what do I win for being an attentive reader?