How to Start a Financial Coaching Business

Money is the number one cause of stress in America.  It’s easy to see why: 67% of Americans wouldn’t be able to scrounge up $1,000 for an emergency, only 1 in 3 of Americans keep a household budget, 35% of Americans have debt in collections, and 1 in 3 people have NOTHING saved for retirement.  Financial stress is mounting, and there aren’t enough qualified people to help.  You know who can help – financial coaches. That’s why if you want to start a financial coaching business or have already started coaching clients, this article is for you. 

Who can become a financial coach and what do they do?

A financial coach is someone who educates clients on the basics of personal finance and creates a spending plan that reflects the values and goals of the client. The coach then empowers clients to take responsibility for their decisions, supports their learning and growth, and serves as an accountability partner throughout the process. You may use a personal trainer to help you achieve a level of health you couldn’t on your own. Being a financial coach is like being a trainer for someone’s finances. 

Does financial coaching sound like an interesting profession?

Maybe you have worked your way up from a pretty tough financial situation and feel empowered to help others do the same. Maybe you have always been good with your money and want to show others how to achieve financial freedom. Or maybe your position in financial services or coaching has allowed you to help people with their finances, but you never considered it anything beyond just part of your job.  

I am here to tell you that if any of these situations sound like you, you can become a financial coach!  You don’t need a degree in finance or business. All you need is good financial sense and a passion to help people.

I left corporate America and began my financial coaching business more than 10 years ago. I started by helping my friends, my family, and eventually some friends of friends, gain financial freedom. And I did it from my dining room table.  

Today I run my own successful financial coaching business. It has been successful enough that my husband left his corporate job to help me, and I now have a team of coaches and employees.  I never imagined I could have come as far as I have – going from starting a financial coaching business from scratch and working out of my home to helping thousands of people get a plan and stop worrying about their finances.  

If you have thought of helping people with their money, whether as a side hustle or as a full-time coach, here are the top 5 things that helped me create and start my financial coaching business.

Start a Financial Coaching Business Tip #1:

Figure out your “Why” so people know, like, and trust you.

First things first.  You need to ask yourself why you really want to become a financial coach.  Who do you want help?  Why do you feel this calling to help them?  What is your personal story and journey with money?

Figuring out your “Why” really helps solidify your passion for helping people.  It helps define your audience and create your message.  Maybe you paid off a significant amount of debt, realized how good it feels and want other people to feel the same way. Or maybe you saw your single mother go through financial stress and bankruptcy and have a passion for helping single mothers and women who are in need of guidance and compassion. Or maybe you’re called to help small business owners use their finances as a tool to help them achieve their earning potential.

These are all great “whys” for starting a financial coaching business. You don’t need to have a passion to help everyone achieve their financial goals. It’s ok to want to work with single moms and not small business owners. But figuring out why you feel that way is key.

When you start by clearly identifying your Why it makes every business decision you make easier!

Want to dive more in-depth into you why story? Watch this video where I help a fellow financial coach craft his perfect Why story.

Start a Financial Coaching Business Tip #2:

Craft and tell your story so clients understand your expertise and how your backstory relates to their specific needs.

Along with your finding your Why, crafting your story is one of the most important things to help you become a financial coach.  What is your personal story and journey with money and why does it make you want to help people with their personal finances and how does it help you relate to the people you want to help?

I have learned how to tell my story over the past 10 years in a way that gives me more credibility to my audience than all of my years of business experience combined. Sure a decade’s worth of experience builds credibility, but my story allows me to empathize with my clients and helps them understand where I am coming from on a personal level. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are parts of my story that to this day are still difficult to tell. But the more I’m able to own these details, the easier it is for my clients to open up to me and trust that whatever their story is, I get it.

What’s my financial coaching story?

It revolves around me growing up watching my single mother go through bankruptcy.  I vividly remember seeing her cry over her bills at the dining room table and being consoled by my aunt in the doorway of our house. I can still see the pain and the shame on her face as if it happened yesterday. And I remember how in those moments I knew I wanted to help people with money so they never felt the kind of stress that made my mother so sad and angry.

But my story doesn’t end there. I also reflect on how I was a financial advisor and didn’t like selling products, but loved helping people plan their budgets.  And how I worked in corporate accounting and loved crunching numbers but hated not working with people one-on-one.  And how I left it all to help my friends and family create a budget, all starting at my dining room table.

Need more convincing about why crafting your story is so important? Here is a TEDtalk by my friend Karen Dietz from Just Story It, about how crafting your own story can be so impactful:

Starting a Financial Coaching Business Tip #3:

Don’t sell yourself short. You ARE qualified to call yourself a financial coach.

Imposter syndrome is real. A lot of people have a hard time getting over the mental hurdle of feeling like they are not qualified to be a financial coach. It’s enough of a block that it can stop people from taking the first step.  I have a B.S. in finance and an M.B.A, but that doesn’t automatically make me a better financial coach.  

The number one requirement to become a financial coach is passion!  

Passion to help people first and foremost, and a passion for teaching them about personal finance. Not to oversell it, but let’s go back to your why.  If you are confident about why you want to be a financial coach, you are well on your way to becoming one – fancy degree or not.

My husband left the sports medicine/physical therapy world to work with me at Fiscal Fitness and the Financial Coach Academy. He had imposter syndrome big time when he first started because he did not have the education in finance nor the experience that I do. He decided to get some financial education certifications from The National Financial Educators Council and Financial Intelligence for Parents and Children. He didn’t really learn anything new, but he got some letters behind his name and more importantly some self-confidence in his own coaching.  

My husband’s certifications have given him a lot more confidence when people ask what his qualifications are, but he has crafted a story about his journey with finances from childhood to now, and that story makes a bigger impact than a few letters after his name. I’m willing to bet that if you asked our clients why they trust my husband, it’s because of his passion. They probably don’t care about his certifications. 

Your financial journey is not a weakness. In fact, I consider it your greatest asset to you being a successful financial coach.

What is more compelling to someone that wants your help?  Saying you have a B.S. in finance and took a course in financial coaching or saying you were in a lot of debt yourself and took 5 years of self-education and hard work to get out from under it and achieve financial freedom?

Overcoming your own financial obstacles means you understand the emotions behind that journey. It means you’re more likely to help coach your client through those same challenges because you experienced them yourself.

However, if you feel like some letters after your last name will help you overcome your imposter syndrome, take a look at the financial certificates and programs listed at FINRA.

Start a Financial Coaching Business Tip #4:

How to justify charging people when they are in a financial crisis

I know it’s a very weird thing that I ask for money from people who are either not good with paying their bills or are trying to pay off debt. It seems like a bad way to build a business asking for money from people who feel like they can’t afford the bills they already have.

I promise, you can build a business this way, however, if you feel a calling to help people and not charge them, I applaud you.  In fact, I started that way too. But my business didn’t stay that way. I first started charging people $50 per session and would have been happy making $2,000 a month, max.  But as my client list grew, I was able to see the value in what I offered and, in turn, was able to show people that they are investing in themselves when they hire me as a coach. It’s allowed me to gradually increase my prices to meet the demand for my services.

I stress to all my clients that when I charge people hundreds of dollars per coaching session they are actually investing in themselves.  

They are paying me to help them stay accountable, stick to their plan, and provide unbiased strategies and advice on their finances.  Doing that will save them thousands upon thousands of dollars in the long run, putting the couple hundred dollars into perspective. Also, they are more likely to engage during our time together. 

Paying for something means they don’t take my time for granted. They come to our meetings, take notes, ask questions, engage in the process, and in turn get better results from our coaching sessions. The difference in the person’s attention, preparation, and nonverbal communication from those who came in for free consultations compared to those who had to pay something for the advice was staggering. 

Reflect on how it is you would hold or are holding yourself in integrity as a financial coach. Do you:

  • practice what you preach?
  • have policies about client privacy and security and do you share those policies with your clients?
  • allow third party groups and vendors to pay you for referrals or affiliate links or do you have any other conflicts of interest that you tell your clients about?
  • allow people to cancel and reschedule over and over again because of fear and avoidance?
  • Can you be empathetic and give tough love and know when to use them appropriately?

All these things are very important because clients will see that.  If they feel that you are trying to sell them something they won’t trust you.  If you appear to not have your finances in order, they won’t think your coaching is effective. And if you allow them to control coaching sessions or cancel or reschedule willy-nilly they won’t respect you or your authority as a coach.

And their results will suffer. Period. 

One of the ways I make decisions about my business is by asking myself “Is this good for my client? Is this good for me? Is this good for both of us?” I’m always looking to institute the policies, procedures, and business practices that fulfill that final criteria – it’s good for both of us. Charging for the coaching I provide is one of those things.

Start a Financial Coaching Business Tip #5

Focus on having conversations and creating relationships to maximize referrals

This seems simple and stupid (hear us out) but we live by Angelique Rewer’s axiom, “Conversations Create Cash”. Financial coaching is a weird thing in that no matter what great information, plans, and statistics you put in front of people, they rarely trust you upfront.  But if you have conversations with prospective clients, referral partners, friends, and family members, etc., you will hit home run after home run.

Marketing yourself as a financial coach can be hard. The biggest bang for your buck is to have conversations with as many people as possible. From an outside perspective, financial coaching is an odd thing. People can be very secretive about their money, feel ashamed or are just naive or in denial.  But when they hear about you from the right person at the right time, that’s where the magic is. Don’t start marketing with Facebook ads and social media.  

Provide value and good content but focus on finding people that would be good referral partners and let them do the work for you.

I get a lot of my referrals from previous clients, financial advisors, accountants, and divorce attorneys. When I first started out I was big into networking groups like BNI and my local Chamber of Commerce. Networking groups like these are where I would start, and as you gain momentum and referral partners, they will start doing the work for you.  Then you can really push to have an online presence to solidify your word of mouth credibility.

Now what? Start your financial coaching business. Become a financial coach. And own it.

Now that you have thought about your why, maybe crafted a story, and gotten a little more organized with technology (maybe you even have a website and a business Facebook page!), all you need to do is just go out and start helping people. Be an expert and allow people to know you, like you, and trust you.  

Some of you don’t feel the need to charge for your services. You see financial coaching as a service or calling to others.  Maybe you want to do some work on the side and charge a nominal fee as some extra income.  Or maybe you have been growing it as a side business for a while and are ready for full-time coaching!  Wherever you are in your financial coaching journey, I want you to continue to grow and be of service to more people. And maybe even make it a career, just like I did.  

We have a lot of great resources and courses for new and aspiring coaches through the Financial Coach Academy and our free Facebook group, Financial Coaches Unite. Join the group and check out the guides for lots of free training and resources about the questions we are asked most frequently by newer financial coaches.