10 Things To Consider When Starting a Coaching Business With Limited Capital

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Starting any sort of business is hard – whether it be a small coaching business or Amazon.com, it ain’t easy! While there are more than 10 things to consider when starting a coaching business with limited capital, this blog will cover the top 10.

While there are unlimited problems and issues that arise when starting a business, some are more impactful than others. This is also likely why the failure rate for start-ups is quite high. When you’re drinking out of a firehose at the start (and throughout the lifecycle of a business) of a business, it’s easy to put your focus on the wrong areas or at least the ones that are not as impactful as other areas.

While you’ll likely need to put out some cash before you get enough athletes to break even or turn a profit, the goal is to have this stage be fairly short in duration.

Below are some key pieces of advice to keep in mind when starting a coaching practice.

1. Don’t Go Over Your Head

It’s easy to go nuts in the start up phase of a business and overspend on every little thing that seems important. You look at other successful coaching websites and think you need to have that to get started. So you drop 10K on a website/web developer, 1K on a fancy email marketing platform and another 5K on a search engine optimization expert to get you ranking at or near the top of Google for {insert sport} coaches.

Now you’re 16K in the hole before you even sign up your first athlete! Do you know how many athletes you need to sign up and retain to make 16K? A LOT!!

2. Run Lean

As an adjunct to #1, in order to become profitable as soon as possible, it requires you to put off purchasing that 10K custom website and start smaller. Fortunately, there are a lot of great options out there that look great and don’t cost a fortune. The goal is to look like a million bucks but without spending anywhere near that amount. Whether it be your website, search engine optimization, marketing, etc… the less money and the more sweat equity that you put into your coaching business at the start, the more it will pay off in the end.

Here’s why, by running a lean business in the beginning (or at all times!), you’ll be profitable sooner and that will enable you to grow your business faster and if you so choose, have more money to put back into the business to upgrade it.

3. Your Full Time Business is NOT an Investor

Unlike venture capital, angel investors and business loans, getting money from your full-time job is easy to do and in the beginning, likely a necessity. However, unlike investor capital where there are often multiple rounds of capital injections, using your full-time business as a long term investor is ill advised.

But why?

It’s not because you risk losing your house or going bankrupt by financing your coaching practice from your full-time job’s revenue (though I suppose it could happen). It’s because you don’t want to get into the mentality that this capital is always there and therefore you can be less aggressive with building your business and more aggressive with spending.

UESCA CASE STUDY

When I started UESCA in 2014, it was a side-gig that I hoped would someday grow into full-time business. I was working as a general manager of a corporate fitness facility in NYC and used some of that money to start the business. However, I hired a friend from high school to design the website and researched inexpensive (ideally free!) but practical solutions for other areas such as email, logo design, etc… While the business made a shockingly small amount of money the first few years, due to keeping things lean, it was profitable within a year.

Fast forward to 2018 and UESCA had grown to the point where it was taking up more and more time but not really enough where I could comfortably quit my job as an in-home personal trainer. However, while the business at this point was self sufficient, it wasn’t growing much because I didn’t have the time to put into it. I decided that I had three choices:

  1. Close up shop
  2. Invest more money and time into UESCA via my full-time job until it grew to the point where I felt comfortable before going at it full-time.
  3. Quit my day job and commit 100% to UESCA

I chose option #3. I clearly didn’t want to fold UESCA and I also didn’t fancy the idea of siphoning a lot of money from my full-time job for something that was already self-sustaining. Plus, when you’re already paying what seems like the national debt every month for a 1 sq/ft apt in NYC, there isn’t a lot left to siphon off the top!

So I took a gamble that by quitting my day job and putting 100% time/focus on UESCA, it would grow to the point where it would be enough to live off of and lucky the gamble worked out.

TAKE AWAY

It’s easy to get complacent and comfortable when you’re drawing money from your full-time job to grow your side gig. However, oftentimes the result is that the side gig becomes a money pit due to easy access to capital (i.e., your piggy bank) and being too comfortable. This inevitably leads to reduced productivity and therefore, slower growth. I’m not saying that my route (#3) is the correct route for you, but it’s important to understand that being too comfortable isn’t always a good thing.

Or in the words of George Addair, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

4. Build Your Infrastructure First

It takes exactly ZERO dollars to build an infrastructure… or at least the infrastructure that I’m referring to. When I use the term, ‘infrastructure,’ I’m referring to a network of individuals that can help to start and grow your business. It might be a referral network that can help refer athletes to you such as physical therapists, dietitians, doctors or running/bike/tri shop employees. Or it might be networking within your local community to source professionals that might be able to assist/consult in starting your business. While there might be costs incurred hiring these people, making these connections takes no capital and will likely prove invaluable to starting your coaching practice.

5. Focus on What Matters

It’s very easy to focus on the shiny objects in the room when starting a business. I’d be lying if I said that I also wasn’t attracted to them. I mean who doesn’t want a kick a$$ looking website with all of the bells and whistles? The one drawback, that shiny website that you go to every day likely cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not millions to build and maintain.

As I noted above, I hired a high school friend to develop my first website and needless to say, the website wasn’t going to win any ‘best looking website’ awards! Even more, the first version of UESCA had downloadable PDF’s for modules – no online modules, no videos… nothing. However, I believed that while the delivery of the content was less than desirable, the content was solid. And my belief was that content is king and if I could get some users to get past the rudimentary website and PDF downloads and actually focus on the content, the business would grow.

Therefore, in terms of starting and growing a coaching practice, focus less on your website and more the following areas:

  1. Be as knowledgeable as possible and get out there and show off this knowledge
  2. Network, network, network!
  3. Be a professional – return emails/calls promptly, be kind, always be on time, avoid typos, etc… these things matter!
  4. Provide value
  5. Go above and beyond for your prospective and active athletes

Because remember, even if your website is on par with a Fortune 500 company – if your customer service sucks and you aren’t focused on the needs of your athletes and improving yourself as a coach, no matter how awesome your website looks, it’s all for nothing.

6. Perform Due Diligence

When starting a business of any sort, every dollar matters. Before spending money on something, make sure that it’s what you really want/need. For example, if something has a free trial – go for it! Or in the case of something is pretty standard such as liability insurance, do your homework to find out the different rates and to learn about the specifics of each company/offerings. While this approach takes more time up front, it will save money in the long run.

7. Market to What The Athlete Wants

Marketing takes time and money and in the case of a website, there is limited real estate to get your ‘sales pitch’ across. Therefore, your messaging must be on point and as targeted as possible to get the most bang for your buck.

The biggest mistake that I see coaches make is that they focus on their own results, personal records, education, etc… see the problem? It’s all about the coach. The marketing process should start in reverse.

What does the athlete want and what are the looking for?

For example, what do you think is more impactful, someone telling you that they went to the national championships on three different occasions or that they can help you sprint faster, ride further and learn race tactics to help you be at the right place at the right time at critical moments in a race? See the difference?

8. Just Do It

I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things, especially the look and ‘feel’ of UESCA. This is natural because when starting a business, it’s your baby and you want everything to be perfect before you hit the ‘launch’ button. Here’s the problem with this… your website, content, SEO rank, marketing funnel, etc… will never be perfect. If you take this route, there will always be one more thing to fix or add to to make your business perfect and you will NEVER launch. And even if you do, you will have spent so much money and time, it will take years to likely recoup what you invested in it. In other words, the longer you wait, the more you will experience the law of diminishing returns as you become stagnant and lose momentum and perhaps even lose enthusiasm.

This is also why setting firm deadlines is so important. Set a deadline (ex: finish website) and stick to it. Nothing kills productivity more than moveable deadlines. An example of this is biting the bullet and registering for a race. The race won’t change its date so you have to train for it knowing that it’s a hard deadline and isn’t flexible. Now imagine if you were able to keep changing the date of the race until you were at 100% of your peak physical and mental potential – you’d never race!

It is better to get things 80-90% of the way there and launching than waiting until you feel it is perfect. Or better summed up in the quote, “Perfection is the enemy of done.”

9. Go Ahead and Ask

Many business owners are afraid to ask other business owners for advice for fear that they will say no or give them bad advice. The reality is that most business owners are friendly and openly share with others things that worked (and didn’t work) for them. By asking a fellow coach what website builder they used, or what type of email system they use can likely provide valuable information as they can also tell you what they love, like and hate about their systems.

Reaching out to fellow coaches is always a good thing as it’s a small community to begin with and outreach can only help strengthen this community. And remember, the worst thing that someone can say is ‘no,’ in which case you can find another coach to ask questions of.

For example, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t get asked at least once what platforms I use to run UESCA. I even got asked this by a fellow competitor. However, none of this is proprietary and I’m happy to share if it can help another coach or business make more informed decisions.

10. Two Way Street

In effort to reduce your start up costs, partnerships are often a great route to go. However, for any partnership to work, it must work both ways! I see this ALL OF THE TIME where a coach wants to partner with a company but the only benefit is to the coach – no bueno!

Here’s an example of a solid partnership proposal:

Joe Smith speaks to a local running store about doing a monthly talk series where he speaks about running-specific topics. More importantly, Joe stresses that in addition to the running store marketing the talks, Joe will reach out to local running clubs and other runners he knows to attend the talks and partners with a bagel store to provide bagels and coffee before the talk so that participants can mingle in the store and check out the shop’s inventory. At the end of each talk, Joe gives the talk participants 10% off coupons for the store.

In this example, Joe benefits from leveraging the store’s mailing list to get as many attendees as possible and the store benefits from Joe providing value to their brand and creating a presentation schedule (bagels/coffee) that facilitates in-store purchases and also by attracting attendees that might not otherwise come to the store. Win – Win!

Summary

There are a lot of things to consider when starting a coaching business and determining a budget should be one of them. While a coaching practice’s online presence shouldn’t look like or function like train wreck, it also doesn’t need to be perfect – whatever that means.

When starting a coaching business, run it lean, take an appropriate amount of risk, leverage your community both on and offline, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and since we’re in the endurance sports space, the phrase ‘Just Do It’ is quite applicable!


Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning, cycling and triathlon coaches (nutrition coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.

Click on the one of below links to learn more about our certifications!

Click here to check out our UESCA Triathlon Certification

Click here to check out our UESCA Running Certification

Click here to check out our UESCA Ultrarunning Certification

Click here to check out our UESCA Cycling Certification

Click here to purchase the Endurance Sports Nutrition Certification (Presale Price!)

Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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