Skip to content

The First Hundred Coaching Hours

  • by

So. You’ve done your course in coaching; you’re full of enthusiasm and shiny new tools. You can’t wait to get stuck in! 

And… there’s nothing to get stuck into.

It happens. A lot. Most coaching courses have  a mixture of people who are already coaching, and those who are brand new to the profession. 

And for those who are brand new, getting clients can be tricky. Even if you’re not planning to get the certifications which require 100 hours of coaching time – it’ll still take time to build up enough clients for the ‘flywheel’ of momentum to kick in. So I figured I’d put these notes together on ways to build up your coaching hours if you’re starting from scratch. The first hundred coaching hours is the toughest! 

Step 1 – Find your niche

You might be perfectly happy to coach everyone on everything – but having a “niche” area that you specialise in, will help you find your tribe – and your tribe to find you.

It might be particular topics/issues – eg impostor syndrome, bereavement, finance – or audiences, eg ‘founders’ ‘young creatives’ ‘carers’ – or particular techniques/approaches eg systemic coaching, CBT, existential coaching. Or best of all, a mixture of all topics, audience and approach to really narrow things down. 

This could wind up being a slow process but keep thinking about it. The more you can figure it out, the easier it is  to work out who to talk to and where to focus. And the easier it is for people who want what you do best, to find you. 

After all, if you were looking for support in – say – financial coaching, and you were a student, you’d probably look for someone who specialised in coaching students on finance.

Step 2 – Work with what you’ve got

You’re not starting from scratch. You’ve probably got a ton of experience and networks built up in non-coaching areas – use these! 

Friends and family; former colleagues; neighbours and social groups. Does everyone whom you know, know that you’re coaching and need clients? Will you be the first person they think of, if someone’s talking about finding a coach? Even more importantly – if someone’s grumbling about feeling stuck, or that their behaviours and habits aren’t helping them – will your friends be able to explain that coaching – and you – can help?

Get a little bit more pushy with it than might be natural to you – people are usually happy to help and it’s little effort for them. Ask them who they can think of who might be interested in coaching; ask if they’ll tell those people about you when they next have a chance – and check in later whether they were able to. 

If you do social media – do you talk lots about coaching there too; would anyone seeing your profile, get a picture of what you’re like as a coach?

Step 3 – Explore Other ways of getting the hours

Most accreditation systems – ICF, EMCC, etc – all allow you to do a mixture of ‘paid’ hours and ‘pro bono’ hours, usually along the lines of 75 paid hours to 25 pro bono.

Pro bono is the easiest one – you’re offering coaching for free, so it should be the easiest ‘sale’. 

  • Think about the best way to use it. If you want to focus on a specific area, offer this free service to people who are prominent and well connected in the area.
  • It’s also a good chance to try new things that you haven’t really tested before as you’re offering it for free – eg, if you want to try team coaching.
  • Personally, I offered some pro-bonos as a short series of just 3 sessions – so I could offer this to more people and have more variety.
  • Or – like me – you might find a cause that matters to you, where you can offer a lot of help for free. 
  • Keep in touch with these pro bono folks in particular – they might be even more willing than the paid ones to go out of their way to recommend you to others.

Paid hours – as above: first stop is to ask your network for help! But there are a few other things to try:

  • Think about your rate (and read my pricing guide!).
    • You might be comfortable offering a much lower rate pre-qualification. 
    • Consider paid ‘mate’s rates’ and referral discounts – if someone comes to you from a friend or a former client, maybe they get a discount.
    • Maybe former clients get a discount on future sessions.
  • But bear in mind, that people’s perception of you – and thus their coaching experience – might actually be adversely affected by a cheap rate. Don’t sell yourself too short!
  • ‘Exchange of service’ options also count as paid time – eg if you need help with marketing or something else – offer coaching in return. Top tip: asking about things like this on LinkedIn can help you find people – and also keep your coaching in folks’ minds
  • Peer coaching is a particularly useful version of this – an exchange of coaching services with other coaches will not only build up your ‘paid’ hours and practice, but also being coached is always useful in itself. There are lot of ways of doing this:
  • Many coaches feel uncomfortable coaching friends and family, whether paid or pro bono. It is possible, but can take a lot more contracting. Figure out how and whether it could work for you.
  • You can do coaching hours that are paid by a charity donation – but the ICF requires that the client/donor gives that charity money to you, and that you donate it onwards to the charity. A lot of people find this more comfortable as an approach – but again, try not to undersell yourself.

Most of the other options are available only after you’ve certified and gained more experience:

  • Associate coaching – there are some companies around the UK who offer coaching services; they might be willing to take someone pre-qualification as additional support – but usually they are looking for highly experienced coaches. Worth a try if you know people there.
  • The big coaching platforms – Better Up and Coach Hub – require hundreds of hours of experience
  • Coachvox only looks for ACC level; worth listing yourself there when you can. 

Marketing: the practical stuff

You might be able to get clients without any of these – but most of us will need to spend something here. Most of the below cost money and effort – so work out what you are comfortable spending, and what is most likely to work for you.

  • Website/blog. Having your own domain (eg just makes it easy for people to find out more about you and get in touch. Having a blog (or vlog) helps in showing your approach and what you’d be like to work with.
    • Assuming you don’t work in technology – keep it simple. Wix or WordPress have relatively cheap starter plans for a few quid a month which will probably do just fine. Play with the free versions / free trial to get a feel for it. Personal take – I’m happy with WordPress which is more words-focused; but Wix might be better if you do a lot of imagery/photos.
  • Measurement – If you’re spending on marketing, pause occasionally and check what’s working
    • If you do a website, you’ll probably end up using Google Analytics for tracking visitors and dwell times. I work in tech and must admit that GA baffles me – it’s way more complex than most folks need. Just focus on the couple of things that are important to you and ignore the rest. At its core – you probably just want to know what marketing is working. So the main areas to focus are just visitor numbers and where they come from.
    • Otherwise – track your spend on the various other media and look at areas like click through rates; ask where your clients found you. Use this info to decide what’s next. That’s basically all a ‘marketing strategy’ is.
  • Imagery. Also worth considering – put together a set of photos / images that you’re happy to use – this helps a lot for your website, blog, ads,  socials etc.
    • As well as your own photos, you can try sources like istockphotos or even play with Dall-E to generate an image based on your description.
    • Canva is brilliant for putting together designs
    • If you want to spend, Fiverr and similar freelance marketplaces will often put together a useful set of assets for you.
  • Booking system. Very handy to avoid the back and forth around availability, and allows clients to book spontaneously with you.
    • Personally, having a Calendly account has been really useful as I tend to have a load of different work calendars, all of which sync into Calendly so my availability stays up to date.
    • But if you just have one calendar, you might be able to share that publicly with just free/busy information.
  • Advertising. A necessary evil for most of us. It’s a huge topic; you could spend a lifetime working in this – so brace yourself for some complexity, but just focus on what matters to you.
    • Print ads – you could consider local newspapers, or putting simple ads into locations nearby (yoga studios, cafes, etc).
    • Online ads. Big and complex but not necessarily that expensive – spending £10-30 a month is likely to be helpful.
      • Google Ads – I tried this a lot but didn’t get much back – it seems less good for general advertising as you can get lost in the noise. Complex interface; no way of saying what audiences you want to target. Probably more rewarding if you’re doing something really specialist / niche, with clear unique search terms of interest.
      • Linkedin Ads and Facebook ads – both felt relatively more successful, and somewhat easier to use – maybe because I’d cut my teeth on Google Ads already. Both are much better at specifying what audiences you want to target. LI is probably better for professional networks, and FB for personal ones.
  • Directories. There are quite a few coaching directories out there; mostly paid per listing, typically £10-20 per month. Many of them require qualifications, but not all.
    • I’ve used the Life Coach Directory (use referral code 8n6Y72bB for a free month) – some success and bookings; it also does decent stats reporting (eg, number of views, popular keywords). It looks for qualifications from variety of sources – as well as the usual ICF, EMCC, AC, it also accepts certifications from ANLP, APECS, , IAPC&M, NLPEA, and INLPTA
    • is a bit more flexible – add qualifications as you get them.
    • Psychologies magazine is available to Barefoot alumni, with the option of blogging. As it doesn’t have any stats reporting, not sure how well this is performing – but I’d guess the blog articles get more visitors than the ones on my own site!
  • Other social networks. Too many to mention! It’s generally an easy win as it’s free to post and share. So even if you don’t use them all personally, it’s worth putting time in professionally.
    • Sweat your assets. Re-use anything you create, across all the networks. The same video can be posted on tiktok, facebook, instagram etc; and re-used to make video ads. Words can work across all these and linkedin, twitter, etc. Put words on top of a motivational picture to use on instagram and ads.. etc.
    • Post frequently – aim for  a few a week. 
    • Batch create – eg, spending a full day on video could create a month’s worth of content.
    • Dislike? If you hate this area, just think about what is likely to be your best fit and focus on getting your first bits going  – eg, if you are happy doing video,  tiktok might be a natural fit. 

Other things to try. Sit down and come up with other ideas to increase your exposure, so more people are aware that you exist and of your offering – that’s all that marketing is! Ideally, the content will be all about coaching – but all publicity on all topics is good. Some ideas:

  • create a course on a topic you know and love – online webinar, or in person tuition
  • arrange meetups on a favourite coaching topic
  • give talks to existing groups – there’s always appetite for speakers!
  • beyond blogging – write articles for publication in online zines or print, or collaborate with others on these
  • got journalist friends? Maybe they’d like to quote your opinion on whatever they’re writing about.

Above all – just keep ploughing on. Keep a record of those hours and watch them mount up over time. You’ll get there! And when you do – see my post on getting the ACC, which covers the voice recording and the ICF CKA exam.