Why a Niche Coaching Business Doesn’t Work (And What to do About It)

Did you know that nine out of ten coaches that start a niche coaching business fail?   I’ve worked with hundreds of new coaches who wanted to start a niche coaching business, but I almost always tell them not to.

Below (and in the video) I’ll explain why a niche coaching business doesn’t work and what to do about it.  Check out the video right here (and you’ll see the full transcript and notes below in this article):

We’ll also talk about…

  • What to do BEFORE you identify your niche.
  • The two things you need to know to get a SMART answer to the question “What is my niche?”
  • The biggest problem that niche coaching businesses create for new coaches.
  • How to find opportunity areas for finding new coaching clients (HINT: It’s NOT a niche strategy.).

What to do Before You Identify Your Niche

I’m working on identifying my niche before I start coaching.

01:03  The most important thing as you get started is to get coaching.  If you’re not coaching at this point,  then figuring out your niche is way ahead, that’s getting way, way, way ahead of yourself.

You should at least:

  • have a couple of people that you’re coaching, even if they’re not paying clients (whether it’s pro bono or paid), or
  • be running complimentary sessions in an attempt to get clients, whether that you’re going to ask them to pay you or not.

01:50  The reason I say that is that you really don’t probably know what your niche is at this point, and you probably don’t have the references to make that decision in a long term fashion.  I’m not saying you can’t focus on a market right now and say, “Here’s the market I’m going to go after,” because you could totally do that.

However, there’s a big difference in saying that and actually making a niche selection that’s going to have a business basis for the long term.

02:21  You can market to so many different types of people, but the question is not just “Can I do that?”.  The question is “Is that niche best for me and am I going to have the staying power, the passion, and the commitment focus on that niche over the long term?”

The other question is, “Can I really help those people?”

02:36  You can maybe get them as a client, but maybe you’re not really that helpful to them.  That’s not really a great business for somebody that really cares, and even if you didn’t care, it’s probably not going to be a lasting coaching business…  Word will get around that you’re not much help to someone in that situation.

02:51  Part of  getting your coaching niche clarified (and doing it successfully for the long term, not just for the moment) is having a ton of results that you’ve been helping others produce.  Through that coaching experience, you find out:

  • what works and what doesn’t work with your clients
  • what kind of difference you can make for them (the results you can produce through working with them)
  • who you’re best suited for (the type people you can produce those results for)

The Two Things You Need to Know to Get a Smart Answer to The Question “What Is my Niche?”

03:18  When you select a niche, those pieces of information like WHO (“Who is my customer?”), answering that “who” question, and then the second area of WHAT (“What benefit do I provide them?”, “What do they want that they’re willing to pay me for?”)…

…those two questions are really critical in answering the ultimate NICHE question, “What is my niche?”.

…those two questions help you in fully answering that NICHE question in a way that’s truly going to help your coaching business for the long term, not just for a moment of getting you to “do something”.

03:47  So where do those answers come from for a coach?

It comes from coaching.

In fact, I just got out of a seminar yesterday, where one of my mentors (he runs a $20 million dollar per year coaching business) said,

The first thing you need to do when you start these types of businesses (where you’re selling information, education, training, et cetera), is to start getting coaching clients.

In this seminar, he’s not talking to COACHES…

He’s talking to information sellers (books, seminars, etc.).

Here’s the punchline:  An information marketer is telling other information marketers to SELL COACHING FIRST.  NOT information!

He’s telling people that are NOT coaches to get coaching clients.

04:32  This guy is doing $20 million in revenue per year.  My translation of what he explained is…

If you want to figure out your niche, the best and first thing you want do, especially as a coach, is to go out and help people, and figure out who can you “fit with”, who you’re really excited to help, and who is willing to pay for that, and what kind of help do they want from you.

You’re going to get so much from just that.

The Biggest Problem That Niche Coaching Businesses Create For New Coaches

05:05  By the way, you can do that with all sorts of different people.  If you want to focus that energy, that’s great. I would warn you, be careful of saying,

I’m not going to ask that person to run a session with me because they’re not in my coaching niche.

…because frankly, how do you know at this point?

05:25  If you start limiting your coaching to only certain groups at this time, you’re limiting your insight, research, clients, and everything that could help you to answer those critical questions to finally discover your niche.

I think limitation is great when you are a marketing and when you’re marketing in large scale, you need to limit.  You need to niche to some extent or else you don’t even know who you’re selling to and you’re trying to be Tony Robbins.  The time that you can become “Tony Robbins” just because you have some coaching skills… that time has passed.  We can’t all be the guru at Barnes & Noble anymore, so we need to have a niche at that point.

05:47  But when you’re just connecting with people over the phone… people that are friends, or people that somehow you’re networking with and connected to, having those limitations ends up as an excuse not to help them, not to reach out and offer a session because you don’t know how they’d respond because you’re not even sure how you’re going to help them yet.

06:09  The fact is that you don’t get to be certain about how you’re going to help them yet.

At that time in your business there is some uncertainty and you’ve got to dive into that uncertainty and say,

I’m going to figure it out and I’m just committed to helping as many people that I can in any way that I can, and I’ll search for things I didn’t even think about or I wasn’t even expecting because I’m diving into that uncertainty and just finding something out because it’s necessary at this time.

06:46  If you’re a beginner at coaching, you can actually be whoever your prospective coaching client wants you to be.  If they want to talk about relationship, or career help, or fitness, you can help them.

07:03  Once you’re able to get a market where you’re helping in a very valuable way, then you can say, “Okay, now, I just want to specialize in this area,” but at this time, being a beginner, you can help whomever needs help.

07:17  That doesn’t mean don’t go niche.  There are all sorts of cool things you could do to create niches and opportunities in niched areas, niched opportunities to go ahead and get a bunch of coaching clients.

If that comes up, go after it.  Go for it.

Just remember, don’t say no to anybody yet.

07:37  Because by the time you get niched, what happens is a lot of times we end up saying “no” to a lot, which is a good thing if that niche is successful.  But if it’s not successful, then that’s not a good thing.

We got to be careful in trying to think that, “Okay, this is the way it’s going to be, and yeah, that’s going to be my business,” because we just don’t absolutely know.

There are huge startup companies or even well-established companies that are well financed.  They’ve got millions of dollars and they’re generating revenue, and they’re still trying to figure out their business model, or their customer, or their niches… and stuff like that.  So for us where we’re just people that can help, there’s a good chance that we’re still in that mode as well, and we don’t’ want to let that stop us from going out there and making a difference today.  That’s the most important thing.

How to Find Opportunity Areas for Finding New Coaching Clients (HINT: It’s NOT a Niche Strategy)

08:25  Coaches that succeed tend towards specific opportunity areas.

What do I mean by an opportunity area?

I don’t really mean a niche per se, because for instance, if you work with a particular community of people… Perhaps you say, “Hey, I’m a sales coach, I work with salespeople,” that’s not a niche.

Salespeople are not a niche.

Salespeople are a community.

A niche is an opportunity.

People are not an opportunity, they’re just people.

08:59  When we’re talking about niches, we’re talking about a business opportunity within a community, and just saying “I work with salespeople,” doesn’t cut it.

However, salespeople are an opportunity area for sure.  It’s a community where there are opportunities that are within it.

So if you think about communities that you’re connected to, you may not have a list of those people.  You may not be able to say, “I’m friends with all of them,” but you can say, “I’ve got a lot of experience in sales and I can probably go work with a lot of salespeople and help them.  I don’t know these guys, but let’s find some places to find them. I definitely have some networks I could tap into and others that I should probably contact.”

09:37  I’ve got a longtime mentoring client I’ve worked with for years and she works with salespeople, and half of her clients came from Facebook.  How did she find them?  Facebook wasn’t the source of opportunity for her.  Facebook was just a place where she found her opportunity area, and since she works with salespeople, she tapped into people that work for direct sales organizations.

She would direct message them through Facebook.

A lot of people have their phone number on Facebook, and she would just call them.

She would cold call them and say, “Hey, I saw you on Facebook and I see you’re working with Norwax and I want to talk about some of the things that I’ve been doing with some of the Norwax distributors in that area.  There might be an opportunity for us to either work together or share some information that will really make a difference for your downline and for your group.”

10:34  Just start contacting people within an opportunity area.

An Example of Getting Coaching Clients Through an Opportunity Area

There are plenty of coaches who work with people in the personal growth opportunity area.  How would you find people on a personal growth opportunity area?

That’s not hard.

Go to seminars.

Every weekend there is Tony Robbins, or Brian Tracy, or Byron Katie, or Landmark Education, or some organization running a personal growth seminar.

There’s just a ton of people that showed at that location, hundreds, if not thousands, and all they care about is their own personal growth and some “eureka / aha moments” that are going to come from that event.  They’ve already spent thousands of dollars and many, many hours to be there.

There’s your community… right there!  It’s a huge opportunity area.

11:24  I know plenty of coaches who get all of their clients this way… not just some, but 100% of their clients.

They go staff personal growth seminars (they get paid nothing to staff the seminars).  I used to think,

How can you just travel around with Tony Robbins, working as his servant?

The secret is that they get in front of all his customers.  These people have spent $10,000 to hang out with Tony Robbins, or go to one of his seminars, or get a tape set, and Tony is not going to coach them (1 on 1, at least), so they’re sitting there and trying to use the seminar to get what only a coach could probably give them.

12:04  Do you see the disconnect?  These guys’ marketing their seminars get their customers to think “this is what’s going to help me”.  They don’t have a clue that this seminar’s not going to help them.  They don’t realize they need somebody to personally hold their hand through the transformational process.

So they show up at the seminar, they spent money, time, et cetera.  They will start to realize that it’s not enough for them.  Later on in the seminar, guess who just happens to be there?  A coach, and then that coach (who’s there for free, paid his own travel, put himself up in a hotel and all that kind of stuff to be there) is there saying, “What’s the challenge?  Okay, well, tell me about that,” and then all of a sudden that ‘unpaid volunteer’ just starts coaching.

12:45  There’s no sales involved there.  He’s just helping.

By the end of that conversation, he’s probably already transformed that individual.  What is that individual going to say at that point, realizing that this guy who he has spent nothing to talk to was more valuable than the $5,000 seminar he just attended?

He’s going to say, “Please can I get your card? Let’s connect.  You know I need to get more advice from you, and we don’t have time for now because I’ve got to go back to the seminar.”

Heck, you could even provide that same conversation.

13:11  That’s a huge opportunity area that tons of coaches are working with.  In fact, if you step into those areas, which are ripe with opportunity, you’re probably going to meet some of those coaches.  You’re going to rub elbows with them, which is great, because then you could just learn how they do it and you can copy from them.

13:30  That said, we also have videos that cover exactly how we have done that, and how some of our students have done that as well, literally attending seminars and utilizing that kind of “parasitic” marketing to generate clients.

There are lots of other opportunity ares like that.

Again,opportunity areas are not really niches.  To discover opportunity areas, you ask the question,

What communities do I think have people that might want/need coaching?

That’s a much more vague idea, but it’s enough.  It’s enough to give you some direction with where might you find these people.

Then you just have to answer the question, “Where are they?  Where do they hang out?  Where are they most likely to buy coaching or get involved with somebody like me?”, et cetera.

14:22  I hope you took some great value out of this tutorial today.  What’s your experience with a niche coaching business?   Have you found an opportunity area for getting paying coaching clients?  Why or why not?

What’s your plan now that you’ve read this tutorial?

I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions.

Special BonusLearn 3 simple ways to become a life coach with the “30-Days to Become a Coach” video toolkit when you fill in the form at the top right and click the“Watch The Videos Now” button. You’ll learn how to change your client’s life in 45 minutes.

Jeffrey T. Sooey
CEO, JTS Advisors
Founder, Coaches Training Blog community

Click here to subscribe

Facebook comments:


  1. Addie says

    I think its important for a person to start trying everything that is there before finding that perfect niche just for you. Just like in this post, we can see why it hasn’t been working out so far.

  2. Flor-Maria Grant says

    Good evening, my name is Flor-Maria Grant. I am a life coach who is interested in volunteering to support clients with coaching services. It is my intent to demonstrate my coaching skills to eventually become a part of your team.

    I am thanking you in advance, and is looking forward to communicating with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *