How to Start a Health Coaching Business
Taking the plunge.
One of the biggest fears that can hold you back from making a change or trying something new is the belief that it’s all-or-nothing once you take the plunge. This is human nature: if we’re not exactly sure how something will fit into our lives, we often hesitate in moving forward. The safety of staying where we are now, even if unfulfilled, becomes the default course of action—or inaction.
But is this really how it has to be when it comes to health coaching? Do you have to leave the stability of your current job or rearrange your entire life in order to inspire others towards greater wellness? If you ask us, our answer is absolutely not!
Many Integrative Nutrition students begin health coaching on the side of a full-time job while they’re still learning the ropes. Some even continue with their current job, and make health coaching a part-time gig as they build their business. It’s all about your personal needs, preferences, circumstances, and priorities. Once you’ve had some experience in the health coaching field, you can decide if you want to move forward with doing it full-time, integrate it into your existing work, or continue with a part-time schedule.
Education and training
First things first: what is a Health Coach? A Health Coach acts as a supportive guide for clients as they embark on their wellness journey, guiding them through changes in their personal life, nutritional goals, and lifestyle habits. While a dietitian or nutritionist can recommend dietary plans and supplements, a Health Coach can mentor clients to integrate these changes into their life in the best way possible, and help them keep the momentum even when things get challenging or they hit a roadblock.
As an emerging industry in healthcare, people are beginning to understand the important role that Health Coaches play, whether they offer services in a doctor’s office, gym or spa, school, or corporation. There are many different training programs that one can take in order to become a Health Coach, but they’re not all created equal! Some require a nutrition degree and others are specifically vocational programs.
As the health coaching field has grown, so has the need for an organization to standardize education requirements and Health Coach roles and responsibilities. The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) was founded for that reason, and created a national certification exam that is considered the gold standard in the field of health coaching. They provide a list of approved training programs that meet their standards for health and wellness curriculum topics – IIN’s Health Coach Training Program is one of those approved programs! An IIN education will prepare you to sit for and pass the exam, giving you a competitive edge in a growing field!
With a comprehensive Health Coach Training Program, you’ll be set up for ultimate career success, creating your own private health coaching business or venturing out into another area of the wellness field.
Here are 5 steps to building a successful health coaching business:
1. Start with just one client.
As a student at Integrative Nutrition, you’ll have a chance to “practice” with fellow students so you’re familiar with the basics before working with your first client. You’ll learn how to compile a client’s Health History and gain tactics on how to build a coaching partnership and supportive space with them. With this experience under your belt, try taking on one client (maybe a close friend, coworker, or family member) and put your skillset to great use!
Taking on this first client will help you get your feet wet, and give you a sense of confidence in your coaching abilities. You’ll gain a better understanding of how much time, preparation, and energy you will need to dedicate to a client, helping you navigate your current schedule and priorities as you take on more clients. From there, you can make changes gradually to ensure that your progress happens at a pace that works for you.
2. Set clear goals.
How many clients can you reasonably fit into your schedule at any given time? What is the income goal you’d like to meet through health coaching? What kinds of health coaching services do you think would be a good fit for you? Are you planning on working within a certain niche, such as blood sugar management or hormonal imbalance? Creating attainable goals, especially if they’re SMART goals, will help you build your confidence and also give you flexibility, as you won’t be setting overly ambitious goals that may burn you out.
Maybe your goal is to work with new mothers as they navigate hormonal changes, or perhaps you want to focus on helping clients meal-prep or adopt a plant-based diet. Wherever your intuition takes you, remember that your practice can evolve along with you. You can adjust your goals as you get a better footing, but setting clear and realistic goals will help you stay on track as you grow your business.
3. Come up with a marketing strategy.
The path to a thriving business starts with getting your name out there! About half-way through the Integrative Nutrition program, you’ll get the official green light to begin working with clients. This is a good time to consider building a website, sharing your expertise on a social media platform, and building relationships with potential clients through word of mouth.
Whatever your strategy, make sure you are honing in on your target market or niche while carrying out your marketing strategy. Looking to work with older adults? Try getting in touch with your local community center or reaching out to an older relative’s friends. Interested in helping people learn to eat more mindfully? Try building an online presence with photos and descriptions of your personal recipes and helpful tips.
If you’re not the most media savvy, don’t worry too much! A marketing platform like IIN Biz can provide you with email newsletter templates and content guidance to help build your presence online. From social media marketing tools to building your client list, this tool can bring your business to the next level.
4. Get organized.
The more organized you are, the more efficiently your business will run and the more time you’ll save to actually coach clients! Here are a few simple ways to get organized that will make running your practice a breeze:
Set specific blocks of time aside for client calls or responding to client questions. This could look like an hour at the beginning and end of each day, or setting up “office hours” for your clients certain days and times, like Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-1p, so they know exactly when they can get in touch with you.
Set up a calm, aesthetically pleasing space to get work done and (virtually) meet with clients. A clean, decluttered space can help you focus, putting you in the right headspace to focus on your clients’ needs and concerns.
Create clearly labeled folders for each client containing all relevant documents, like their signed client agreement, Health History form, and session notes. You can do this with actual folders you keep in your office or workspace, or digitally on your computer (as long as they’re secure).
Create a printed or downloadable packet of your favorite educational handouts and guides, recipes, and other resources to share with clients. Be sure to have a few on hand when meeting with potential clients, too!
5. Grow your brand.
Once you have a little momentum going with building your business, you can start to build your brand on a larger level. What’s the difference between your business and your brand? Your business is what you actually do, which includes health coaching and any other services you provide. Your brand is how you represent your business to the world, including the language you use in your communication, your business logo and other design elements, and your mission.
To create and build your brand, ask yourself which part of your expertise resonates most with clients, and what type of messages you want to get across to clients when they first come to your page or view your business card. You will want your messaging and communications with clients and potential clients to reflect who you are, both as a Health Coach and as a person.
Growing your brand could include small changes like including your mission statement on your website to reflect your brand ethos, or curating your own online space for your clients to meet and discuss relevant topics. It could also look like designing your own business logo and coming up with a font and color scheme that you use in all of your materials, from your social media to your handouts, and beyond.
When it comes to virtual health coaching, specifically, clients resonate with consistent presence and messaging. Your brand story should give the same impression across all mediums and social media platforms, helping clients feel more familiar and intrigued by you and what your business has to offer!
Practice makes perfect.
Building a business and brand can take time and even require a few revisions along the way, so remember to be patient and don’t get discouraged if you need to pivot. Just as health transformation is a journey, so is building your business!
With a little experience, organization, and a lot of practice, your Health Coaching business can become a whole lot easier to manage. There’s no need to throw yourself into the ring headfirst when you don’t have all the basics sorted out! Kickstart your business with a couple of clients and posts on your Instagram, and see where the journey takes you.
IIN’s Health Coach Training Program is designed to help lead you every step of the way, teaching fundamental nutrition and lifestyle topics, as well as more advanced nutrition science, coaching methodologies, and business-building tactics. IIN’s program is online which makes it an ideal choice for busier folks looking to expand their health and wellness knowledge and explore new career options (without uprooting their life in the process).
Try a Sample Class today to get a taste of how a holistic health education can enhance your life—and your career!