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Remote coaching: How to deliver client transformations without in-person meetings

Want to expand your coaching business? Remote coaching could be the answer.

by Kat Boogaard
Updated Sep 30, 2022

The term "coach" alone probably makes you think about being hands-on. In the trenches. Down and dirty. Working right alongside your clients.

But here's the thing: 

You don't need to be co-located with your coaching clients in order to have that sort of impact. 

Remote coaching makes it possible for you to provide more value, reach new clients, and scale your business.

Do we have your attention? Here's what we'll cover in this guide: 

  1. What is remote coaching?
    A definition of remote coaching and how it differs from traditional coaching.
  2. The rise of remote coaching
    A quick look at how remote coaching has grown in recent years.
  3. Six big benefits of remote coaching for you and your clients
    A few reasons why you should consider offering a remote coaching program.
  4. How to set up a remote coaching program in seven steps
    Simple steps and tools to get your own remote coaching offering up and running.
  5. Five remote coaching pitfalls to watch out for
    Some common remote coaching snags that you can proactively avoid.

What is remote coaching?

Remote coaching shares one key similarity with all other types of coaching: 

It still involves working directly with clients to help them achieve their goals.

But the big difference is that remote coaching is done…well, entirely remotely. 

Rather than meeting with coaching clients in person, you can use a combination of digital methods — phone calls, video chats, recorded resources, emails, and more — to guide your clients through your programs.

And it’s on the rise! 

A Staggering Shift: The rise of remote coaching

It's no secret that remote work has skyrocketed in recent years, with 59% of U.S. workers working from home all or most of the time — a dramatic increase over the 23% who said the same before the pandemic. 

Coaches certainly aren't immune from that uptick in remote approaches. A study from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) found that 83% of coaches have increased their use of audio/video platforms for coaching in 2021 and 82% say they've decreased their in-person sessions.

It's not a stopgap either. A separate ICF study found that 63% of coaches disagreed or strongly disagreed that coaching will return to pre-pandemic methods anytime soon. 

It's proof that the coaching landscape is shifting right along with the rest of the working world. 

But how can you determine if remote coaching is the right fit for your coaching business? And what do you stand to gain from going the remote route? 

Six big benefits of remote coaching for you and your clients

Bringing your coaching offerings online can feel like a drastic shift, particularly if you're used to breathing the same air as your clients. 

But, making the switch (even just for a few select clients) can be well worth it. So let’s take a look at a few of the major advantages:

Remote coaching benefits for coaches

  • Global business growth: When you aren't limited by location, you can offer your coaching services globally. That provides vast opportunities to expand and scale your coaching business.
  • Time savings galore: No commutes, packing up, or getting yourself "meeting ready." Remote coaching means you can offer your guidance and wisdom from wherever. That means less time spent on travel or other extraneous tasks and more time spent actually investing in your clients.
  • Calm and consistency: Because remote coaching gives you the flexibility to decide where you want to work – you have more control over the resources available to you. You don't need to skip an exercise or lesson because you forgot to pack the necessary supplies. Everything you need is within arm's reach so that you can deliver more consistent programs.

Remote coaching benefits for clients

  • Convenience: Remote coaching means less of a time strain for your clients too. They can participate in coaching from their couch, the carpool line, or wherever they can access a device. 
  • Comfort: Coaching can be nerve-wracking for clients, and people might feel more secure in their own spaces (not to mention the ability to wear sweatpants). Remote coaching gives them the choice to identify an environment where they feel comfortable and confident, so they can get the most out of your coaching program.
  • Options: While more competition isn't exactly an advantage for you, it's a perk for clients. Remote coaching gives clients more choices for who they can select for a coach. They don't need to look for someone in their immediate geographical area. They can focus on finding the coach that's the best fit for their goals— regardless of location.
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How to Set Up a Remote Coaching Program: 7 steps to get started

The benefits are compelling, and you've decided that you want to give remote coaching a try. 

Now what? 

Whether you're starting from scratch or want to tailor an existing coaching program to work in a remote environment, here are seven steps to follow.

1. Determine if it's the right fit for your coaching business

Nearly any type of coaching can be offered remotely, especially with the right tools on your side (which we'll get to a little later).

But, just because you could do a remote coaching offering doesn't necessarily mean you want to move forward with it. Take some time to think about whether or not going a remote route is the right fit for your coaching business by asking yourself questions like:

  • Why do I want to provide a remote offering? What benefits will it offer?
  • Are there any parts of my coaching business that I worry will suffer if I offer them remotely? How will I overcome those challenges?
  • Have my clients expressed an interest or desire for remote coaching?

Again, remote coaching offers plenty of benefits — but that doesn't mean it's something you absolutely have to implement to run a successful coaching practice.

2. Craft your remote offering

If you decide that remote coaching is a smart move for you and your clients, it's time to turn your attention to the actual content of your coaching program.

But how you approach this will depend on your starting point.

If you already have an existing program that you want to adapt to offer remotely, you'll need to do some tweaking and tailoring like:

  • Swapping in-person sessions for remote conversations (and perhaps getting your clients to adopt new tech)
  • Changing any hard copy handouts or resources to be digitally accessible
  • Creating other resources (like a knowledge base, email templates, etc.) that will be helpful as you manage your remote offering

If you're starting from scratch with creating a remote coaching program, you have a little more work ahead of you.

Fortunately, crafting your remote offering is similar to any other coaching program you'd put together — you just need to make sure that everything can happen digitally. 

Start by deciding on the timeline for your coaching program. After that, you can begin to create and arrange your materials, which could be any combination of: 

  • Assignments, worksheets, and other "homework"
  • Downloads, handouts, and resources
  • Group sessions and communities
  • Live sessions and 1:1 conversations
  • Recorded videos and training

Still feel stuck on how to make remote coaching work for your business? 

As you create your offering, you could get some extra help and inspiration by:

  • Reviewing feedback from your other coaching programs (if you've held them)
  • Talking to other coaches who offer remote coaching to learn from their experiences
  • Reflecting on times you participated in remote coaching as a client (if you have) and what you did or didn't like about it

3. Gather the necessary tools

Remote coaching happens completely digitally, which means you'll need some apps and tools to serve your clients and keep your business organized. 

From communication to contracts, here are a few popular coaching tools that are worth considering:

  • HelloSign: Use it for contracts with your clients
  • Stripe: Use it for processing client payments
  • Whimsical: Use it for client collaboration in whiteboards and docs
  • ZipMessage: Use it for asynchronous conversations and coaching sessions
  • Zoom: Use it for live conversations and coaching sessions 

Of course, that's not an exhaustive list — and the exact tools you'll need will depend on your specific coaching program. But the important thing is to identify and then secure the tools you need to launch and manage your remote coaching service.

4. Find coaching clients

You can build the best remote coaching program — but it won't do anything to scale your business if you can't find any clients who are interested in signing up.

Finding coaching clients can feel daunting (especially if you're just getting started), but clarity will go a long way here. Make sure you have a solid grasp on:

  • Who specifically your coaching program is for (e.g. "busy moms")
  • What problem your coaching program solves (e.g. "who have no time for self-care")
  • What the benefit of solving that problem is (e.g. "so they can feel more fulfilled and less frazzled")

That messaging will underscore all of your marketing — from your website to your social media posts — so that your target customers can immediately recognize that your program was built for them.

From there, you can use a variety of marketing tactics to spread the word about your remote coaching offering, from asking for client referrals to creating social media advertisements.

5. Onboard your coaching clients

When you've landed clients for your remote coaching program, it's time to turn your attention to a crucial part of their experience: onboarding. 

Remote coaching offers far more accessibility for your clients, but that doesn't mean they'll onboard themselves. 

You need to empower them with information and expectations so they know what they're in for and how they can be the most successful.

Here are a few questions you should address upfront with your remote coaching clients, whether it's through an initial conversation or a written resource:

  • What can your coaching clients expect from you?
  • What do you expect from your coaching clients?
  • How will you monitor their progress?
  • Are there any tools they need to secure or accounts they need to create?
  • Do they need any training on any tools or processes?
  • How often will you meet for live conversations?
  • What is the best way for them to get in touch with you?
  • What is your typical response time to messages?

The more information you can provide upfront, the more equipped your clients will feel to move forward confidently in your remote coaching program — and the smoother your relationship will be.

6. Run your remote coaching sessions

Now you're up and running and into the actual work. Your program is created, onboarding is complete, and you and your clients are working through your actual coaching sessions. 

As we discussed earlier, your remote program will likely involve a combination of live conversations, resources, assignments, and more. 

But, if you think remote coaching has to mean a calendar stuffed full with endless video chats, think again!

ZipMessage can help you deliver client transformations without relentless meetings. 

You can easily exchange video, audio, and text messages in a threaded conversation. This type of asynchronous messaging means you can give your clients the attention and face time they crave — between or even instead of live calls. 

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7. Collect feedback and improve your program

Your remote coaching program probably won't be flawless from the start, and that's okay. 

Coaching is a learning process — for your clients, yes, but also for you as the coach.

Commit to continuous improvement by ending each coaching engagement with a survey so that you can understand your client's experiences and use their insights to improve future offerings.

Here are a few important questions to ask to get your client's most honest and valuable feedback:

  • What did you find especially helpful and impactful about this coaching program?
  • What would you like to change about this coaching program?
  • Do you feel that you've successfully achieved your goal through this coaching program? Why or why not?
  • Did you have access to the right tools and resources to participate fully in this coaching program?
  • Did you run into any roadblocks related to this coaching program happening remotely?
  • Did you feel that you had enough access to me as your coach?
  • Would you recommend this coaching program to other people? Why or why not?

Some answers might be hard to hear (hey, feedback can sting — even for coaches), but it's relevant information you can use to make smart and strategic changes that help you become even more successful.

Beware of the risks! 5 remote coaching pitfalls to watch out for

Remote coaching can offer a big boost for your coaching business and your clients. It's convenient, accessible, and flexible. What could possibly go wrong?

Well…a few things, provided you aren't proactive and careful. 

Let's take a quick look at five common pitfalls of remote coaching so you can steer around them:

#1 Glitchy technology

Slow downloads, obnoxious echoes, videos that won't stop freezing...

Technology is an asset to your coaching business, but it can also be a frustration for your clients.

Choose coaching tools that are trusted and reliable, and make sure to test out your tech before any important meetings or deadlines to ensure it'll work the way your clients need it to.

#2 Outdated course materials

Especially if you're adapting an existing program, you need to take a fine-tooth comb to all of your course assets and resources.

Ensure they're tailored appropriately for remote coaching.

The last thing you want is for clients to access a calendar that lists in-person events, for example.

#3 Incomplete onboarding

Remote coaching might feel like it's a little more hands-off, but you're still the one responsible for guiding your clients.

That might involve checking in frequently as they get up and running to ensure they're taking the appropriate steps and don't feel overwhelmed by getting started.

#4 Overscheduling

You have access to clients around the world, and you no longer need to schedule in buffers for travel or other time-eating activities. That's a good thing.

But it also makes it far too easy to overcommit yourself.

Make sure you pay close attention to your capacity, so you don't spread yourself too thin.

#5 Constant availability

Similarly, the convenience and accessibility of remote coaching might make you feel like you need to be continuously and readily available — which can quickly lead to burnout.

Remember to set clear expectations with your clients about your availability and response times, so you don't feel like you need to be chained to your desk or inbox at all hours.

Broaden your business with remote coaching

Not that long ago, you probably never would've imagined the possibility of serving your coaching clients without being in the same space, much like doctors never would've pictured telehealth visits or bosses never would've dreamed they'd be managing distributed teams.

But today? Remote coaching isn't a leap. In fact, it's becoming more of the norm. And that's a good thing.

Remote coaching offers convenience and comfort for your clients while also providing you the opportunity to scale your business and have a bigger impact — with less time and stress.

Want to run a successful remote coaching program? ZipMessage has you covered for all of your async messaging. Grab your free account here.

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