Steps and systems used to coach well

By Jim LaDoux
There are essential steps and systems that, if consistently followed, support effective coaching.
These practices, approaches, and tools will set you up for success in the long run and help ensure that every client you coach has a high quality coaching experience. As you walk through the steps and systems below, celebrate the items you already do or have in place. Note which ones need attention and which ones need to be further developed or enhanced.

6  Steps  to  Support  Great  Coaching

STEP 1 | Set up digital space where clients can learn more about you.
Creating a digital space for clients where they can learn about who you are, how you coach, and what types of coaching services you provide will save you and your clients time. Most coaches create a functional yet engaging presence that includes one or more pictures of them, a bio or resume that describes one's background, training, and other relevant experiences, and how potential clients can reach you, or schedule coaching time with you. Coaches often create websites that include blogs, videos to view, or resources to download. Some coaches use LinkedIn as their primary online presence for sharing information about their coaching services.

STEP 2  | Offer a complimentary coaching session.
Use the session to demonstrate the power of coaching conversations and to help the client understand what coaching is and isn't. Before or after this coaching session, you may direct potential clients to your website or email them information about your background, coaching services, along with information on ICF's Code of Ethics.

STEP 3 | Formalize the coaching relationship.
Have conversation about the ongoing agreement, the overarching agreement, and the written contract. Determine rates, the number of sessions included or the duration of the coaching relationship. Mutually agree on the primary purposes of the relationship. Determine the regularity of interactions and who initiates them. Clarify the level of confidentiality and what can or cannot be shared by each party. Discuss what will happen if either party needs to cancel a session. Establish norms and expectations for coaching sessions and the coaching relationship. Make sure that the decisions that were made during this conversation are reflected in the written contract both you and the client sign. If you intend to record any coaching sessions, have the client sign an appropriate form indicating their approval.

STEP 4 | Begin the coaching process, focusing on building trust and being fully present.
Pay attention to the physical and digital space in which you're coaching - both for you and the client. Is it quiet and free of distractions? Is the sound and lighting good?  Is it safe space that ensures confidentiality? Build trust by creating safe space and being fully present.

STEP 5 | Provide periodic check-ins to evaluate the coaching pace, progress, and process.
Provide multiple opportunities to check in with clients. Ask them, "What was the most helpful part of today's conversation?" After a few months or several sessions, ask, "Are we still talking about things that are most important to you?" or "How do you feel about the progress you're making toward your desired outcomes?"  Make course corrections in your coaching based on the feedback you receive. Check-ins are also a good time to revisit the norms and boundaries that were established at the beginning of the coaching relationship and see if they are being honored and still appropriate for the coaching relationship.

STEP 6 | Bring closure to the coaching relationship.
At the end of a pre-determined time of coaching, taking time to wrap up the relationship will give a sense of closure and freedom to both parties.  Some coaches are asked to write an executive report summarizing key wins, ongoing challenges, new learnings, and potential next steps. If you are writing and sharing information with others, make sure that you have the client's permission to do so. If a sponsor of client request a report, I usually assist clients create the report that gets submitted to the sponsor. I want the report to come from the client rather than from me due to confidentiality issues. It's not unusual that when a coaching contract ends, that a new contract will be generated, with new desired outcomes that the clients wishes to focus on.  If the coaching relationship is not being be renewed for another cycle, it's important for coaches to discuss with their clients if, when, and how they'll relate to each other outside of the coaching contract.  It's not unusual that coaches may maintain a loose relationship with the client, often in the form of monthly emails, blogs, or sharing helpful resources. Make sure that you have permission to send them information, or to connect with them beyond the contract. When ending the relationship, coaches often ask clients if they'd be willing to share a quote or a few comments about their coaching experience that could be posted on the the coach's website or social media page.

10  Systems  to  Support  Great  Coaching

Steps matter and so do systems. Good systems help coaches be more efficient and help clients achieve their desired results. Below you'll find 10 systems that are essential for just about any coaching practice.

SYSTEM 1 | A place to manage client information and interactions.
For me, I use Apple Notes so that I can pull up client information on any device I use - my phone, an iPad, my desktop, or my laptop, or online via iCloud. I've organized my client notes in a way that helps me track next steps and assignments from all parties. Some coaches use MS Notes, Asana, Trello, Notion, Basecamp, SmartSheet, Slack, etc. I'm a minimalist and prefer to keep things simple and easily accessible. Apple Notes works for me but other coaches may be better served by other platforms. You'll also need a platform for storing images, videos and documents such as Dropbox, iCloud, Box, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

SYSTEM 2 |  An online calendar and appointment scheduling platform.
Right now, I use MS Teams for my online calendar that's connected to my scheduling app, Calendly.  Other than a few minor glitches, both have served me well.

SYSTEM 3  | A payment processor.
Common payment systems coaches often use include PayPal, Stripe, Due, and Square. You need to have a system to invoice your clients and receive payments.

SYSTEM 4 | Accounting software.
Vibrant Faith tracks business income, expenses, and quarterly taxes with Quickbooks. It has served us well.  I've also heard good things about FreshBooks which is easy to use and intuitive.

SYSTEM 5 |  A virtual meeting room for training, coaching, and meetings.
Zoom has been our "go to" platform. It's easy to use, reliable, and cost effective. You can record your meetings, share your screen, use a digital whiteboard to brainstorm, set up separate rooms for you to break out into sections, run webinars, and teach classes. Use Zoom to:
  • Create a virtual co-working space
  • Host workshops
  • Host individual and group coaching calls
  • Conduct podcast interviews

SYSTEM 6 | A communications/email platform.
Vibrant Faith uses an email campaign platform called ActiveCampaign that also serves as our database for clients. Coaches often use Constant Contact, MailChimp, or FlockNote to communicate regularly with clients.

SYSTEM 7 | Graphic design and content creation for marketing materials.
Vibrant Faith uses Adobe InDesign for most of our digital and print publications.  We frequently use Canva for handouts (coaching tools), social media images, and certificates. Canva is an all-in-one online content creation programs includes free templates to help design your marketing content. Use it to create logos, presentations, coaching materials, ebooks, Podcast covers, and more. The monthly subscription fee is less than $15.

SYSTEM 8 | Social Media sites (Instagram + Facebook + LInkedIn)
Use one or more of these three platforms together to grow your business and create engaged followers. Have a plan for providing consistently meaningful content. Follow others and observe what they share and how others respond to their content. Create goals for the number of followers you'll have for each site and how you measure engagement.

SYSTEM 9 | A website for highlighting how you help clients reach their goals.
We've already talked about the importance of having a website. You may choose to hire a website designer or you can also create your own site using web development companies like Wix, SquareSpace, and Weebly.

SYSTEM 10 | Plans and processes for gaps in technology and your skills.
Vibrant Faith encourages leaders to build on their strengths and work around their weaknesses.  Don't assume that you have to create and/or manage every one of these systems by yourself. Be good stewards of your time and energy and consider who else could assist you with developing these systems.

Also avoid setting up all your platforms at the same time. Create a plan for developing each system, determine how they'll be managed, and decide which ones need to be created sooner rather than later. As you gradually bring these systems onboard, they'll help you work smarter, and not harder, and will free up more time to coach clients and grow your coaching business.


  1. Which systems are absolutely essential for conducting your coaching business?
  2. What's your next faithful step toward developing or improving your systems?
  3. Who can help you develop and maintain these systems?
  4. Which of the 6 steps in a coaching relationship do you  do well?  Which step needs greater clarity and attention?
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Dan Solomon - April 27th, 2022 at 4:50pm

Essential systems, at this point, to support my coaching business include: an online appointment platform, a payment processor, a a virtual meeting room (and supporting hardware) and marketing materials (print and digital including a website). I would like to identify some basic Customer Relationship Management software to manage client contact info and reminders etc. It will also be important to develop a plan for adapting existing systems and working towards bridging gaps as the practice grows.

Next faithful steps include: completing my current work in developing marketing materials and a website. At the same time I will research the essential systems mentioned above and implement these by the end of the year if not sooner).

I'm working in partnership with an individual who has experience in graphic design, website design as well as software systems.

I believe I have a basic grasp of the 6 steps (with the exception being Step 2). I continue to work to implement these steps. Seeing Step 2 as a chance to have conversation and intake, in contrast to a free coaching session, will aid my implementation of step 2.

Jason D. Bland - April 28th, 2022 at 1:53pm


With where I am professionally, in my pursuit for clients, I like the idea of a complimentary session to reveal to uncertain peoples what coaching is all about. This to me is a business outreach opportunity. The other option is to offer "free" coaching via bartering, i.e. pay for a cup of coffee and I'll coach you. This is also similar in that it helps people see what's possible through the power of coaching. Both options could be quite powerful to connect people with an idea/concept that is unfamiliar to them. From my interactions with the chamber of commerce, friends, and family, not many people really understand what coaching is, and what it can do for you. That's where I see the benefit. With that being said, I'm still wrapping my head around how best to implement this for my business purposes, because everyone's approach will be different.

Mary Eide - April 29th, 2022 at 4:21pm

Dan, WOW! I'm so excited for you and the way you have things planned out...and how far you are into the coaching business process. Thank you for the idea of partnering with a graphic design expert, because I can see now how this could be a great 'bartering' opportunity. We have a university in town that has a graphic design program, and actually, a friend's daughter is just starting out in the business.

Sherry Villanueva - May 1st, 2022 at 4:07pm


When I had my private practice, I offered a 30 minute consultation with more of a meet and chat flavor. I can honestly say that over 75% of those that came in for that consultation decided to work with me. It takes courage for someone to step outside their comfort zone, let alone doing it to seek help. This 30 minutes was usually enough for both myself and the potential client to "get a feel for the right it."

Dan Solomon - May 2nd, 2022 at 4:12pm

Sherry, your experience with a free consult with a meet and greet flavor sounds like a helpful model. Thanks!

Jason D. Bland - April 28th, 2022 at 1:48pm

As I look back over the past six months there were several key steps I took to develop my business. First, acquiring domain name and associated email address. This helped me establish a professional link to people by not emailing/corresponding from a personal email. It also allowed me the space to develop my website, which I continue to update from time to time. I also spent considerable time developing a business brochure, which is something I can post on social media and also email to potential clients, etc. This leads me to my social media presence which is 100% on LinkedIn. I’ve considered FB and Twitter, but after using those sites for a while, I realized it wasn’t reaching people as effectively as LinkedIn. So now I dedicate time each week to continually posting/adding info that is beneficial on my personal site, so that I can continue to build name recognition. In other words, when people see my posts I want them to see them as synonymous with coaching, leadership, growth, and development.

Each of the systems/products discussed above are constantly in a state of development. As I grow as a coach, learn something new, or incorporate a new paradigm, I’m able to quickly adjust my marketing, verbiage, materials, etc. This is one of the great benefits of being a small business, solo-entrepreneur – “semper-gumby”.

I believe I need to continue to develop step 5 (check-ins & pacing). This is critical to make sure the coaching process is working for the client. Perhaps my coaching relationships haven’t been lengthy enough to warrant this step, but as I move forward I must incorporate this into my coaching gameplan.

Mary Eide - April 29th, 2022 at 4:26pm


You have accomplished so much in the past 6 months, and I appreciate the wisdom/ideas you shared in this post. SO HELPFUL! You've helped me...and no doubt other sharing your experience in the coaching business. You mentioned using LinkedIn as being THE place you are putting your efforts into promoting your business. Honestly, I haven't used my LinkedIn account hardly at all in the past 12 years...and had heard not so good things about the site. Your input will DEFINITELY get me looking into LinkedIn...thanks!

Brian Hooper - May 1st, 2022 at 3:58pm


I appreciate your introspection and "trying on" different methods of getting the word out about your coaching business. I like your idea of "name recognition", and this sounds like a great way to gain clients. It sounds like you have a strong willingness to change styles and ideas as you coach. This sounds helpful as you evoke awareness for the client and yourself.

Mary Eide - April 29th, 2022 at 4:16pm

A place to create/manage contracts/client info/interactions, a payment processor, and an accurate email platform are all essential systems for beginning and conducting a coaching business. The actual software or we use may change over time, but it is vital to have a plan on how we will track important client information (coding system and proper storage for confidentiality keeping); a plan for getting email/contact data on an electronic system (not sticky notes); and a way invoice and receive payments from clients.

My next faithful step at this time is honestly complete all final assignments and study for the test. From there I’ll be considering what 4 people I want to contact to begin my coaching, and review what technology I already have available (and know how to use) for working on the systems named above.

The resources on the class website and a variety of other sent via email will be an ideal place to find what we need for some of the contract development and the kind of information to track for clients. I will be looking to fellow students (like Paul) and other coaches I’m connected to for advice on setting up email content and payment processor software/hardware.

I really haven’t had any coaching relationship, outside of class, to determine which of the 6 steps I do best. At this point in my journey I’m focused on: establishing the contracts and contact/content storage/tracking systems, determine what niche I may be best suited to work in, and be realistic as to what kind of time I actually have available each week/month to pursue coaching. I’ve been working so hard to create healthy boundaries between work and home life, so I don’t want to threaten the progress I’ve made to that end by adding too much more to my plate right now.

Ladd - May 2nd, 2022 at 10:49am

I love your honesty in getting done the most important stuff first like finishing the class. For some crazy reason I know it needs to be done, but my mind goes past that fact. I believe in getting it all done I will feel more relieved to proceed forward with the other things that need to get done. Thanks for the reminder!

Brian Hooper - May 1st, 2022 at 3:49pm

I am recognizing that there is more and more systems to put in place to begin a successful coaching business. I admit at first glance it appears a little bit overwhelming. I will aim to put one system in place at a time. The first step will be to get the word out of my coaching business. I will focus on a digital footprint, with emphasis on what and what not the coaching business is. I will put together a website and promote that through FB or other online resources.

A communications/email platform system will be next. Do I create a separate email account for coaching, or is there a good way to filter coaching emails.

A scheduling system will also be a system that sounds helpful next. Perhaps Calendly, or another platform that has been shared in class.

Nathan Luitjens - May 2nd, 2022 at 3:26pm

I appreciate your honesty in recognizing that there is a lot to do and it can feel overwhelming. I also like that fact that you realize that this is a one step at a time kind of thing. If I ever get to the place of actually wanting to set up a coaching business I will remember your advice to take things one step at a time because I can easily become overwhelmed when I allow the "to-do" list to just get piled up without organizing and prioritizing when needs to come first.

Sherry Villanueva - May 1st, 2022 at 4:01pm

Which systems are absolutely essential for conducting your coaching business?

- Coaching Website (bio, info on what is coaching etc.)

- Platform that holds client information and notes and a calendar for clients to schedule appointments and accepts payments. (Used Simple Practice in California) .

- Payment system (also provides tax info at the end of the year)

- Advertising platforms (social media, local chamber, maybe print)

- Make a business budget, associated funds, business accounts

What's your next faithful step toward developing or improving your systems?

I will begin reaching out to website/marketing developers and put together a financial business plan. Since I like working in person (although I will also offer online) I'll look to see if I can find a boutique office.

Who can help you develop and maintain these systems?

Web masters, marketing, financial institution, payment vendors, realtor. In addition, I will tap into coaches who have been established to bounce ideas off of them.

Which of the 6 steps in a coaching relationship do you do well? Which step needs greater clarity and attention?

I feel my strength in coaching is being able to be fully present and fully empathic. I'm good as pausing. I however, need to work on not stacking questions and not rephrasing if I think the client has not understood the question.

Dan Solomon - May 2nd, 2022 at 4:15pm

Sherry, I'd like to know what platform you end up choosing to use for your practice (especially since you have prior experience in working with a similar platform).

Ladd - May 2nd, 2022 at 10:46am

Which systems are absolutely essential for conducting your coaching business?

I would say the most essential is to create a place for people to learn about you and find out how to reach you. The next would be for keeping stuff smooth would be having forms already created so you don't get slowed down in the paper work, like some of the basic language in your contracts. Also finding a system for keeping notes and setting appointments.

What's your next faithful step toward developing or improving your systems?

I would say for me it is working on creating some templates when it comes to contracts as well as a little did you know form about coaching.

Who can help you develop and maintain these systems?

I would say my wife. She would bring a good perspective to this as she is not fully familiar with coaching and could ask some great questions to help me in developing this information to give to others.

Which of the 6 steps in a coaching relationship do you do well? Which step needs greater clarity and attention?

I believe I do well with #5 - looking at next steps, I want to work on #2 - and get to the point I can truly name what it is that they want to walk away with. I sometimes get lost in the weeds when they talk.

Tom - May 2nd, 2022 at 7:02pm


I appreciate you lifting up the need for all the forms and documentation so that as the coaching picks up that administrative piece flows smoothly and doesn't get in the way of caring for our clients. I suppose there will be times when its two steps forward, one step back with a lot of this but starting with foundational practices like contract and agreement language is really smart.

Nathan Luitjens - May 2nd, 2022 at 3:20pm

At this point I am not looking to start a coaching business, but rather to use the skills that I have learned in this coaching class to be better in the role in which I currently serve. At the same time, I do need to work at letting people in my system know that I offer this service to them and that I want to be there strategic partner in figuring out who God is calling them to be in their setting. To this end I recently wrote a short article about my experience in the coaching class and will talk some more about what coaching can offer to pastors and congregations when we gather for our annual meeting in June. It is also about tending the relationships in my system and sharing what I have to offer every chance I get.

The two things I really need to work on are formalizing the relationship and bringing closure to relationships. I have not been in a situation where I have needed to bring an end to a coaching relationship, so I worry about doing that well. I also have not entered into any formal coaching relationships where I need to write a contract or anything like that, so doing that part fills me with some trepidation.

Tom - May 2nd, 2022 at 7:31pm

Which systems are absolutely essential for conducting your coaching business?

Creating a coaching business is a huge undertaking. I needed to say that to remind myself of the challenges ahead. While it may not involve manufacturing and staffing, a coaching practice has all the challenges of any small business: marketing and sales, administration, accounting, product management and delivery, customer care, technical support. On top of these needs of course, is the need to coach-to develop the skills that will wow my clients turning them into my sales force.

I’m developing a simple-not simplistic-website whose homepage will tell readers the journey they will take when entering a coaching relationship with me. This involves two separate yet parallel tasks/expertise: technical/artistic and content. You can have great content but a poorly crafted website and no one will read it and vice versa. I’m working/reflecting on my core values, tag line and logline-that one or two sentence elevator speech that explains what I offer.

I’ve decided for now to offer two free coaching sessions. The first will allow time to connect with a new client, share what I offer and answer questions. Maybe do a brief coaching session as a demonstration. The second session will be a 30-minute coaching session. My thinking is that by offering two separate opportunities to connect with a prospect it will enable my to build a stronger connection with them as well as setting me apart from everyone who offers a free 20 minute session.

I also think a scheduling system like calendly is needed as well as a client manager service/email list system. Also, I need a zoom account-currently only have the free version. Lastly, a system for prioritizing my reading list of coaching books and documenting my learnings.

What's your next faithful step toward developing or improving your systems?

I have a practice name, domain name, hosting company (hostgator) and a company email. I’m struggling with designing the website-wordpress is so complicated for me. I must be missing something because I don’t remember it being so hard to use. Once I figure out the technical stuff, I’ll add content that includes a free eBook titled: Slaying the Dragons: Five Questions that Will Change Your Life. Persons may download it in exchange for giving me their email address. I split my time between trying to figure out Wordpress and writing this book. Also need to develop templates for contracts and agreements as well as email shell documents.

Who can help you develop and maintain these systems?

I need to find someone who can help me with Wordpress or some web design language. My wife is detail oriented and has offered to help me with the administrative aspects of a coaching practice.

Which of the 6 steps in a coaching relationship do you do well? Which step needs greater clarity and attention?

I feel like I do a decent job of listening and evoking awareness and avoiding offering advice or too many leading questions. Plenty of room to grow, of course. I have no experience in formalizing the coaching relationship beyond the on-going agreement so I need lots of work there with contracts and the overarching agreement.

Paul - May 14th, 2022 at 3:10pm

Tom, I have found Wordpress to not always be the easiest website development to work with. Have you looked at Wix which I think is a little easier for people coming and learning how to use website design. Also if you are looking for classes on how to use Wordpress have you looked at Udemy yet? They're a lot of low cost classes there that can help you with learning Wordpress. I also like Udemy because they have a lot of low cost classes about other different parts of business.

I like how you put your self awareness down about how hard it is to get a small business off the ground. Having started two of them before and making a ton of mistakes, I can attest to how hard it can be to get everything together. The one thing to keep in mind and the thing that helps me is that any failure is a good learning experience. It helps me for the next time of how I can do stuff differently and better.

So what systems are you going to put in place to help pull ourself through these different systems of coaching?

I love you idea of the free e-book. One of the books, I have read b Gary Vee, talks about how to get business by doing things for people. When we give people value they tend to want to invest in our business. Thank you for reminding me about how this is key, when I look at this new business.

Tom - May 16th, 2022 at 10:52am

Thanks for the referral on wix. You are right about Wordpress. I am having lots of problems trying to work with Wordpress and learning about plug ins, etc. Very frustrating at times. Appreciate your question about systems needed to work through these systems!

Amelia - May 3rd, 2022 at 3:38pm

Just the reminder to plan launch of systems rather than doing it all at once releases a sense of pressure that can quickly feel very overwhelming to me. Stepping back to notice the systems absolutely essential I think having an online presence is a top pick to me. It helps the client get a feel for who you are and gives them a glimpse as to what the relationship could look like. This system can include contact information and serve as a communication Hub.

Accounting software is so important. The IRS will gets its money! Ha! It may not seem as important at the stage of coaching development and business development but having this system in place from the very beginning helps the business grow more smoothly. And of course the system for virtual meetings is business critical. This let's you coach anyone from anywhere!

My next faithful step is in the graphic design and content creation. People remember visuals and a logo is great for brand recognition. I am currently working on graphic design with Canva and Vistaprint. I also have a nephew who is a graphic designer and he has agreed to help me. Along with that I need a plan for system implementation. I am also working with marketing materials, but have to admit, while this is a next important faithful step I need some time to breathe into summer so my creative juices can flow.

For accounting, my husband has agreed to partner with me by keeping QuickBooks.

Being fully present and creating an environment of trust is one of my gifts. Interestingly while I like to talk about what my niche is and the impact I can have on others I back away from actually offering free coaching. I missed two excellent opportunities this past weekend because I couldn't go for the ask. I will follow up with these people, butt, I wish I would be more confident in the moment. Along those lines then formalizing the coaching agreement is also an area I need to solid. I often minimize the work I do and short sell myself.

Paul - May 14th, 2022 at 3:24pm

Which systems are absolutely essential for conducting your coaching business?

I think for me the most important piece is going to how am I going to organize my business. Having crafted several websites as well as having produced a lot of YouTube content, I am not worried so much about the content for my business. I need to wrap my head around getting the forms figured out. What is my process to intake people in my coaching; what is my process to wish people well after a coaching relationship; how will I do billing; how will I handle scheduling; how will I keep track of the money? Once i get this organize not just in my head but a written out policy and procedure manual then I will be setting myself for success. What i have found out about myself is that I often keep too much stuff in my brain and not enough of it written out. So when I forget, because I have too much stuff crammed into my brain, I need to have a process. Maybe it is even better to say I need a routine like when a customer comes in to my coaching they get this and this form. This is the bets way to set myself up for success.

What's your next faithful step toward developing or improving your systems?

Blocking some time and beginning to work on my policy and procedure manual. This way I can figure out each process and begin to set up that routine.

Who can help you develop and maintain these systems?

I think my mentor coaches can.

Which of the 6 steps in a coaching relationship do you do well? Which step needs greater clarity and attention?

Again, I have a lot of experience with website design and stuff. If I get too bogged down in the process there is always Fiverr. So I ain't worried about the digital stuff.

The step I probably need the most clarity around is bringing closure to the relationship. One thing I have to remind myself is that coaching relationships will end, not because I did anything wrong but because the client has made their goal, or need to turn their energy to something else. How do I close the relationship knowing I did the bets I did, I helped the client, and I should be happy that we had some good productive coaching time together.