I’m going to tell you right now that unlike what many supposed to be marketing gurus recommend this days (often while trying to sell you a miracle program that will allow you to build a coaching business that’s almost as good as a license to print money no matter what services you intend to offer), to find your coaching niche, picking a demographic, and adding a couple of adjectives to it to make it really specific, without any consideration for business strategy, most likely will not result in a profitable, sustainable coaching business. No matter how much you hustle.
And that’s why in this post we’re going to go over how to find your coaching niche, to make sure that you select a niche that not only you will be happy to serve, but that can also sustain a profitable coaching business.
Because on one hand, if you neglect to consider the profit potential in the coaching niche you select to target you end up without a proper business. And on the other, if you don’t take into account who what would make you feel excited to go to work in the morning, you may end up with a profitable business that makes you miserable. So, let’s see how we can take both aspects into account.
So today we will start with a brainstorming exercise to generate ideas of coaching services that you may consider offering and that you’d be exited to work on. That’s the part where we make sure that you will select a coaching area that will make you happy.
And then, we will use a little bit of business strategy, and go over 3 coaching niche mistakes that you must avoid at all costs, to make sure that you don’t fall in the trap of trying to build a business on a market that cannot possibly be profitable for a coach, especially if offering 1-on-1 coaching.
Let’s then start this process of finding your coaching niche with a the brainstorming exercise to generate some ideas of services that you might consider offering, shall we?
What we will start by doing, is a list of:
At the intersection of these four, is where you can find what the Japanese call Ikigai. Which is where you can live a happy, purposeful life.
But let’s start with our brainstorming, shall we? Note that this is an exercise that is worth investing some time to get right, ok?
Find your coaching niche brainstorming exercise:
Step 1: Let’s make a list of things that you enjoy doing.
- What activities make you the happiest while you’re doing them?
- What activities could you do for hours, and not even notice that time went by?
- List anything that comes to mind, as silly and unrelated to coaching as it might seem. Even hobbies and spare time activities can be useful here.
Step 2: Let’s make a list of things that you’re good at.
- Again, forget about the coaching for now, and just list things that you’re really good at. What things come naturally to you?
- What things are you good at, that you see others struggling with?
- What are you often complimented for? Or receive, or used to receive positive feedback at school, or work for?
- What do you think has allowed you to succeed in some area that you know you’re good at?
If you’re struggling to find your strengths, think of what skills you're using when you’re performing the activities in the previous list.
That’s why I asked you to write down even the seemingly silly, unrelated to coaching ones. Because if you enjoy those activities so much, you’re probably using a talent that you have to perform them. We don’t usually love to do things that we’re incredibly bad at.
So, even your hobbies can give good insights. Why do you enjoy them? What skills do you have that makes them enjoyable, and you, good at them?
Step 3: Finding you monetizable skills
- How could some of the skills and personal characteristics that you have just listed, together with your previous knowledge and experience, be helpful to other people? What could you help them achieve? What could you do for them? List everything that you can come up with. Please don’t rush this one. Take your time, because this is a key one.
- Then, of all the things you could help people with, what do you think you could get paid for? Of those, which ones do you think you could coach others to do themselves with your support?
- And finally, who would need that support from you?
Step 4: Describing who you'd like to work with
For each of the areas in which you believe you could help others. In which you believe people would want help. And in which you believe they’d be willing to pay to get that help, answer the following questions:
- What are the defining characteristics of a typical person who would want your help? If there are several potential client profiles, do this for each of them separately.
- What’s unique to that person? What makes him or her different from the general population?
- What are they trying to achieve, that you can help them achieve?
- Why is achieving it important for them?
- What exactly do they need your help with?
- Why can’t they just do it on their own? What are they struggling with? What frustrates them? Why are they having difficulties getting results?
- What have they tried before and failed? (if anything)
- If applicable: why don’t they just hire someone to do it for them? Why do some of them need a coach instead? (note that the vast majority may not need a coach, some some must need/want one)
- Why don’t they just buy a course on it? Why do some of them need a coach instead?
Please don’t be discouraged by these last few questions. I’m not putting them here to crush your ideas, I just want to make sure that you don’t waste your time pursuing a business idea that doesn’t have wings to fly. You must know why people would want your help.
By the way, I have a worksheet that you can download with these questions. I’ll link it below, ok?
Oh, and before I forget, an important note here: remember that you may need to have a license to do some types of coaching.
Please keep in mind that you cannot be pursuing a market in which you are not legally authorized to work. You must always check what are the requirements to dispense advice in the coaching area that you are considering in your jurisdiction, since they can vary widely from one place to another, ok? Great.
Now. All this passion related brainstorming and analysis is great to make sure that you build something you like, but the purpose of this coaching niche selection exercise, is to try to find a good market to grow a business on. So, it’s time to put on our business strategists’ hats.
Considering your business strategy
Let’s then start with the first question that always comes up regarding how to choose your coaching niche. Which is, how niche, or how broad should you go?
I’m afraid that there’s no simple answer to that. I’d be lying if I told you that one is simple. And anyone who tells you this is simple, is deceiving you (possibly unintentionally, but still…).
Because there’s a balance, of course; as you niche down, you decrease your potential market. As you broaden up, you dilute the fit between your offer and the pool of clients.
The great thing about niching down, is that having a well-defined target market allows you to improving value communication. Why? Because if that’s the case, you can create a single, clear value proposition that is highly desirable for all your target clients.
And, you also increase your credibility as a coach, since people are more likely to believe that you are an amazing coach if you are specific about what exactly it is that you do, and you even seem to have a process for doing it, and everything.
There are also operational benefits, since serving only one client profile allows you to create a standardized coaching package that you go through with all your clients, therefore saving you the work of constantly having to adapt what you do to each specific client, or having to keep track of what you do with each one of them. That would mean that you could spend less time serving each client, and therefore increase your profits.
And talking of profits, there are some crucially important things to look for in a potential coaching niche if you want to build a sustainable, profitable business. I personally believe that the best coaching niches gather 7 characteristics that make them ideal, but there are 3 that are absolute must-haves. If you fail to check for these 3 before you select your coaching niche, you may never be able to grow a profitable business (unless you meet these requirements by chance, which is possible, of course).
The 3 devastating coaching niche selection mistakes
Coaching niche mistake no.1: not confirming that potential clients in your target niche have a big dream or intense pain.
The reason why we need intensity of desire to achieve an envisioned result, and why it’s a non-negotiable requirement to find a profitable coaching niche, is that the more intensely people feel about their dream or their pain, the higher is the investment that they will be willing to make to achieve that dream, or stop that pain.
This is what drives willingness to pay. You need your target clients to have a burning desire to make a change in their lives. Otherwise, they won’t be willing to put in the effort, nor the money. And because coaching is kind of an expensive thing to invest in, if people aren’t absolutely motivated to achieve the result that you can help them with, you won’t be able to sell your 1-on-1 packages for premium prices.
Coaching niche mistake no2: not assessing whether potential clients in your target niche have the funds to invest.
Or, that there is someone else who does have the funds, and that would be willing to pay for your services. For example, parents paying for their children, employers paying for employees, or NGOs paying for the specific population group that it’s their mission to help.
But other than in those very specific situations, if the target population that you’d like to work with does not have the funds to hire you, they can’t, even if they wanted to.
In other words, willingness to pay isn’t enough; you need ability to pay to be present too.
And just as in the previous case, ignoring this requirement will completely ruin your chances of ever building a profitable 1-on-1 coaching business.
Oddly enough, failing to consider this one is incredibly common. You’d think it would be the most obvious one, but you wouldn’t believe how frequently I see this mistake.
For example, it’s not the same to try to sell… let’s say… strategic planning coaching to someone trying to start a business and has no cash flow (or has a negative one), and to someone who is trying to scale an already profitable business.
Nor selling career coaching to someone who is looking for their first job fresh out of school, and to someone trying to get a C-suite job. So… keep these seemingly minor differences in mind when trying to find your coaching niche. They’re not minor differences at all. Be extra careful with this one.
Coaching niche mistake no.3: not assessing whether the niche is large enough to sustain your business.
Because while most people aren’t specific enough about who they want to work with, and end up becoming marketing Frankensteins, and create a weird marketing monster with value messages from all over the place and no clear selling point, the truth is that you can be overly specific. It’s not common, but it can happen.
To avoid this, what I’d suggest you do, is to begin, check if other people are building successful coaching businesses in the niche you want to target. If they’re making money, there’s money to be made.
But if you’re considering a more differentiated thing and you don’t have that many references around you to use as benchmarks, what I’d suggest you do, is calculate how many clients you’d need to sell your services to every month, and from there, based on your closing rate, calculate with how many prospective clients you’d need to book sales calls with, to get your target number of sales.
The question then becomes a lot simpler to answer than “how large is the market”. It turns into: is your target market large enough to be able to find these many people on a sales call once you have the experience and network required to be able to connect and sell effectively?
Not necessarily now. You may be terrible at prospecting and sales now, and improve as you gain experience.
Or, will finding these people always be a problem, no matter how good you become at client prospecting and sales, because there just aren’t that many potential clients around?
Keep in mind that depending on your prices, you may only need to sign a handful of clients per month to meet your financial goals (or not even that). However, also keep in mind that whatever that number is for your business, you must be able to meet it consistently. So make sure you don’t target a market that is just too small.
Most people err on the side of lack of specificity. True. But don’t you go and be the special outlier that does such a great job at niching down, that you go after a target a market with 5 people in it. That’s just as bad. If not worse.
And now a bonus characteristic to look for when trying to figure out how to choose a coaching niche, especially if you’re just starting, and don’t have an email list or a following yet. Which is: target a niche whose clients congregate around a common interest.
The reason why I recommend this, is that it's easier to find potential clients if they gather around a common interest, when you have no existing contacts to try to sell to. This way, you can find several potential clients in one same place, instead of trying to find them one at a time.
Remember that if you want to sell to a group of target clients, first you must figure out how you can find them, so that you can put yourself in front of them.
There’s no point in figuring out which is the perfect niche for you from a business strategy perspective if you cannot find a way to put yourself in front of your target clients to be able to sell to them.
You cannot simply say “I’m going to offer the ultimate coaching experience to billionaires”, if you have no idea of how you’re going to find a single billionaire.
And that’s why being able to find a group is a great help. Not only will this help you find several potential target clients at a time, but it’s also a lot more likely that they talk about you, share your content, and recommend you among themselves, if they’re already talking to each other.
Do they have to congregate around the area that you work on?
Well, that’s not really necessary, as long as they gather in communities around topics that attract a significant number of people that fit your target profile. So if you don’t find a community (for example a Facebook group) that’s centered around your specific topic of work, you can brainstorm which other interests people with your target client profile commonly have, and try to find them through those common interests instead.
An important note
All of these characteristics that we just went through are intrinsic to each niche, and you cannot change them no matter how positive you try to be about it, how patient, consistent and persistent you are, or how much you hustle.
And that’s why you must be careful when selecting the niche you want to target, because it’s difficult, if not impossible to succeed in a poor market.
And markets are what they are. You cannot change them with your positive attitude, no matter how much positive attitude you have. Don’t let anyone convince you that if a niche sucks, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough, or you did something wrong. Some markets just suck.
Don’t dismiss one before giving it a good try. Experimenter example with:
- Different positionings for your service.
- Different key value claims.
- Different ways to do your marketing.
But at some point, don’t beat yourself up if you see that things just don’t work. Pivot. Try different thing. This is super simple to do with coaching. Because being positive is a great thing, but being deluded is not. Watch out for that line.
So, as much as possible, try to check whether the niche you’re getting yourself into is likely to be a profitable one before you invest too much effort into a business that has little chances of working out, if any.
And if it doesn’t work after you gave it a solid try, chose another one! It’s that simple.
But I hope these tips help you making a more strategic decision for the start, and can avoid you some wasted time.