Most coaches see a website as a #1 must-have before they can start their business and begin getting clients.
Not only is this wrong, but building a website too soon can actually be a phenomenally discouraging waste of your time and your money.
In this article you’ll learn why that is, and whether a coaching website will truly work for you at the stage you’re currently in.
Do you have a clear brand foundation?
If you don’t, you’re not ready for a website.
Forget what you’ve heard about “just getting something up” to “put yourself out there”. This is terrible advice. It won’t work for you. Right now, your time and resources are much better spent on first getting clear on the foundation of your brand.
There’s a lot of confusion over what a brand actually is, though.
Is it a logo? It is a color palette and fonts?
The answer is: no, it’s not any of these things individually. These are elements of your brand, but they aren’t your brand itself.
Your brand is an identity made up of your story, your message, your people, and the experience you create for them—which, altogether, form the perception of your business in their minds.
This perception is guided by:
- Your positioning, messaging, values, and mission…
- Your service offerings and how you deliver them…
- Your aesthetic — look, feel, and possibly acoustics … and
- Your relationships and reputation.
The thing to keep in mind about your brand is that it’s not something you create in a day and then call it done. It’s something that builds, develops, and evolves over time.
The place to start with building your brand is establishing a clear foundation:
What I call your Brand Heart.
Your Brand Heart is the essence of your brand: who you are, what you stand for (and against), what makes you unique, and who your people are.
Or as I like to say: your values, voice, vibe, and tribe.
It’s the foundational elements of your brand that are always true, because they’re integral to you—regardless of your niche, ideal client, and service offerings, which can change over time.
Your Brand Heart doesn’t include your logo or other visual elements. Those come later.
Think of it as the solid foundation upon which everything else is built. It’s what you want to establish first, before anything else.
When you have a clear brand foundation, it’s time to ask yourself:
Have you defined who your clients are?
If you haven’t, you’re not ready for a website.
Defining your clients is more than just picking a group of people like “stay-at-home moms”, “professional women”, or “entrepreneurs”.
Those are niches. Your clients will be a specific subset of people within your niche.
You want to think about the specific problems, needs, challenges, goals, values, and traits that align with your unique coaching style, skills, superpowers, and personality.
The people who meet these criteria make up what I call your Client Icon.
And before you can effectively define your Client Icon, you have to take inventory of yourself, the types of people you resonate with, and what you bring to the table. This is why establishing your Brand Heart is step one, in addition to recognizing how you can serve people in a way that’s meaningful to them and fulfilling for you.
This requires some inner excavating that may not be very easy at first.
Taking inventory of your obvious skills is only half of the equation. To really get clear on who you’re best suited to coach, you need to recognize the magic that only comes through you, and no one else.
In my work with lots of amazing coaches, that unique magic is usually the hardest for them to see in themselves, even though it shines like a beacon from my point of view. It’s the difference between playing small and moving into your full potential as a coach.
When you’ve defined who your clients are, it’s time to ask yourself:
Do you have a marketable coaching offer?
If you don’t, you’re not ready for a website.
This is THE thing that keeps the majority of coaches from ever having a successful business. In my experience, it’s also something coaches tend to underestimate when launching a coaching practice.
Most coaches think of their offer simply as a package of coaching sessions—something like 12 weekly coaching sessions over 3 months.
Then they spend a great deal of time and/or money on building a website that ends up not generating clients, leading to a slow and painful loss of enthusiasm in their coaching vision. At the very least, it keeps their coaching practice as more of a side gig or hobby than a thriving business.
The trap is seeing your coaching sessions as your selling point, and then trying to explain to people why they need them.
This requires a LOT of heavy lifting on your part, a lot of explaining what coaching is (and isn’t), and it’s generally just a hard sell—especially with vague benefits like “transformation”, “empowerment” or “living your best life”.
Which are great things, for sure. But they’re way too generalized.
People who pay for coaching have specific problems in mind that they haven’t been able to solve on their own, and they’re looking for someone who specializes in solving those problems.
The key to creating a marketable coaching offer is threefold:
- Specializing in a specific result…
- that people are actively seeking (and willing to spend money) to achieve… and
- creating a coaching framework that helps them achieve this result.
Is it possible to be successful as a general life coach who helps all kinds of people with all kinds of different problems? Sure, but generally not without either working for someone else, or spending a LOT of money and/or years of time gaining momentum.
Now, building a successful coaching business doesn’t happen overnight for anyone—but it doesn’t have to take years. When you start with a solid brand, a well-defined client, and a marketable, specialized coaching offer, you can begin seeing success within a month. And within a year, if you’re strategic and committed, you can achieve a level of success that changes your life.
When you have a marketable coaching offer, it’s time to ask yourself:
Have you worked with a few paying clients?
If you haven’t, you’re not ready for a website.
This is where the rubber meets the road.
Even with a marketable coaching offer, you want to work with at least a few paying clients before building your website so you can get the kind of real-world experience and insight that’ll make your website a true marketing powerhouse.
- Smoothing any rough spots in your coaching framework…
- Getting more insight into what your ideal clients are needing, wanting, and thinking…
- Having a more informed idea of the amount of time your clients need with you…
- Getting more clarity on your value and your pricing…
- Getting those first all-important testimonials for your website.
These experiences will enable you to build a website with stronger, more emotionally-resonant messaging, a more attractive coaching offer, more clarity and confidence in your pricing, and best of all: real-world proof that you have a potential business that’s worth investing more time, money, and resources into.
You’ll know that your continued investment in your business will have a meaningful return.
And these first clients can be found through leveraging your existing network, as well as low-cost (including free) social media marketing methods.
When you’ve worked with a few paying clients, it’s time to ask yourself:
Do you have a realistic budget?
If you don’t have clarity on a realistic budget that will meet your needs and expectations, you aren’t ready to begin building your website.
There are 3 main problems coaches tend to run into trying to figure this out:
- The prices of professional website design are all over the place…
- Lower-cost, DIY solutions (like Squarespace, Kajabi, Showit, and Wix) can be more costly in the long run, and…
- There are lots of additional costs to consider that aren’t obvious at first.
Let’s go through each of these one by one, so you can plan a more practical budget:
Professional website prices
Generally speaking, a professionally-designed coaching website will fall into 3 categories of price and quality:
- Low price and low quality: $2000 and below
- Medium price and decent quality: $2500 – $5000
- Premium price and high quality: $6000 – $10k and above
Now, you’ll notice there are gaps between each pricing tier. These gaps represent zones where the quality could go either way. And a more expensive website doesn’t necessarily mean a better one, and vice versa.
The best advice I can give you when seeking a web designer (beyond checking out their services, portfolio, and testimonials) is to schedule a phone or Zoom meeting first, so you can get a feel for who you’ll be working with. Look for some level of personal chemistry—believe me, it matters. Also, look for a willingness to answer your questions and explain their process in a way that’s simple, thoughtful, and clear.
Check in with your gut feeling.
Beware of anyone who seems to be promising the moon, throwing lots of tech-speak at you, and/or pushing for a yes from you.
DIY solutions like Squarespace, Kajabi, Showit, and Wix
These website building platforms (and even WordPress templates or kits) can be great if you’re reasonably tech-savvy and you’ve done your research into what makes a website effective (things like user experience, how to structure your site, and writing copy).
You’ll just want to be very mindful of the fact that, as a non-professional, you’ll likely have blindspots when it comes to creating a website that’s fit for generating leads and conversions. These blindspots can (and often do) lead to having a website that didn’t cost much to create, but costs you a lot in missed clients.
Do your research or even consider investing in a course that teaches you the essentials.
Additional costs to consider
Aside from the cost of your website itself, you’ll have a number of other potential expenses that you’ll want to keep in mind when figuring out a realistic budget:
- Branding: logo, color palette, fonts, business card, and graphic design templates (for social media, digital resources, etc.)
- Domain, hosting, and email: these will be ongoing yearly/monthly costs.
- Professional photos: can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand.
- 3rd party website apps: scheduler, online payments, email marketing, etc.
- Business costs: setting up your business, filing fees, bookkeeping, etc.
- Marketing costs: can vary from free (social media), to low-medium cost (boosted social media posts and DIY social media/search ads), to expensive (agency services).
While it’s very possible to launch an effective coaching website with a modest budget, knowing what to expect will help you avoid making “penny wise, pound foolish” decisions that end up costing you more in the long run.
When you have a realistic budget, it’s time to ask yourself:
Do you have professional photos + branding?
If you don’t, you’re not ready for a website.
For one, your branding (logo, signature color palette + patterns, and fonts) will be necessary to create a professional, cohesive look + feel for your website. Starting the website process without them—unless you’re working with a web designer who also specializes in brand design—will just result in a lackluster end product that doesn’t present a polished image of you and your coaching.
And while you may not like the idea of getting some photos taken, I highly recommend doing so. It’s an investment that will not only make you more appealing to your potential clients on your website, but also your marketing + promotional content, social media, and more.
Getting your photos done before starting on your website will prevent unnecessary delays and potential mismatches of look + feel.
So which comes first… photos or branding?
There’s no “correct” answer to this, but in my experience, it’s best to get your photos done first. That way, your branding can be designed more intentionally to complement your colors and personality as they’re portrayed in your photos.
When you have your photos and branding done, it’s time to ask yourself:
Have you made your business official?
If you haven’t, you’re not quite ready for a website.
By the way, you can do this step much earlier, before you spend any money on your business and even before you get your first clients. It’s in your best interests to do it before moving forward from here, though.
Lots of coaches are tempted to bypass creating a legal structure for their business, or they figure they’ll deal with it later and just dive into building a website first.
Here’s why I recommend creating an LLC for your business first:
- It protects your personal assets in the event of a lawsuit…
- It allows you to get a separate bank account and credit/debit card solely for your business, which is ideal for depositing revenue and paying business expenses (including your website)…
- You can link your business bank account to your online payment platform(s) which allows you to process payments under your business name, rather than your personal name…
- All of your business expenses will be tax deductible…
- Keeping your business finances fully separated from your personal finances will make tax time simpler and less prone to red flags from the IRS…
- It establishes healthy business habits and nurtures a mindset of abundance, because you’re treating your business like a real business rather than a hobby or side gig…
- It looks more professional for your clients.
Creating an LLC for your business may seem trivial right now, but it sets the right tone for you mentally and professionally, and becomes increasingly beneficial as your business grows.
When you’ve made your business official, it’s time to ask yourself:
Do you have a post-launch marketing plan?
If you don’t, you’re almost ready for a website, but not quite.
By this point, you’re already building your brand, serving clients with an amazing signature coaching offer, getting paid, and feeling official AF. You’ve ideally gotten some professional photos done, gotten your branding designed, and you’re ready to take your business to the next level.
A website will help you get there. But how will you get people seeing it?
“Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to having a website, unfortunately.
Many coaches don’t realize this, and end up spending good money and time on building their websites only to watch them become beautiful ghost towns.
Before your website will do the thing that it’s supposed to do—turn pre-qualified visitors into believers who schedule consultation calls—you’ve gotta get the right folks seeing it. You also need a well-planned strategy for how it will generate leads and support your marketing content. The way to get all of this going without unnecessary confusion and delays is through first establishing a post-launch marketing plan.
Marketing ideas to consider for your post-launch plan:
- A social media strategy: your ideal platform(s) and a strategy for your content.
- An email marketing strategy: how you’ll attract subscribers and deliver email campaigns.
- A content marketing strategy: how you’ll use blog articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to be discovered, trusted, and remembered.
- Search + paid ads: how you plan to show up in Google searches and ad networks.
The specific strategies and content that will work best for you depend on what you’re naturally good at, what you’re willing to learn and become good at, what you can pay for, and how your people are most likely to be reached.
When you have a post-launch marketing plan, and you’ve completed the other tasks outlined in this article, I’ve got great news for you:
Now you’re ready for a website.
And it’ll be one that’s practically guaranteed to be worth the time, money, and effort—unlike the vast majority of other coaching websites, which are built too soon and without realistic expectations.
Your coaching business is like a garden.
Start with planting your seeds in the fertile soil of the foundational work. Nurture and tend to them with resources, commitment, and time. Don’t try to rush the growth process or expect immediate results. And the day will come when you get to enjoy a beautiful, bountiful harvest.