Money is the number one cause of stress in America.
It’s easy to see why. Sixty-seven percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to scrounge up $1,000 for an emergency, 35% of Americans have debt in collections, only 1 in 3 of Americans keep a household budget, and 1 in 3 people have NOTHING saved for retirement. The financial stress is mounting, and there aren’t enough qualified people to actually help them. What they need is a financial coach.
So what exactly is a financial coach?
A financial coach is a person that educates clients on the basics of personal finance and creates a spending plan that reflects the values and goals of the client. A coach empowers clients to take responsibility for their decisions, supports their continual learning and growth, and serves as an accountability partner throughout the process.
And the best part is that you do not need a degree in business or finance to build a financial coaching business like I have. 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 help show other people the path to financial freedom. All you need is good financial sense and a passion to help people.
When I began my financial coaching business nearly 10 years ago, I left corporate America to help friends and families gain financial freedom, and I did it all from my dining room table. Now I have a successful financial coaching business and my husband left his corporate job to help me run Fiscal Fitness. I was too busy to do it alone.
If you have ever 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 it took me 10 years to figure out. In hindsight, they are really the things that launched my financial coaching career.
Tip One: Find Your “Why”
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? My why has defined who I am and as a result helped me create this business with drive, purpose, and intention.
Figuring out your “Why” 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 and realized how good it feels and want other people to feel the same. Maybe you're drawn to the energy and passion of small business owners and only want to work with them. Or maybe you saw your single mother go through financial stress and bankruptcy and have a passion for helping other people in the same position who are need guidance and compassion when it comes to managing their finances. Starting with a clear vision of your why gives you a solid footing to start a business. Every decision in your business becomes easier to make because you can reference your why as the guiding force behind everything you do.
Tip Two: Tell your story in a way that clients understand your expertise and how your backstory relates to their needs.
This deserves a little deeper dive to go over the finer points. Along with your finding your why, crafting your story is one of the most important things to help you become a financial coach. In fact, they are usually intertwined. Many times, your life story informs or creates your why. What is your personal story and journey with money and why does it make you want to help people with their personal finances?
A well-crafted story will give you instant credibility with your clients: It's why I have fine-tuned my story over the years. I can empathize with my clients and help them understand where I am coming from. There are parts of my story that are still to this day difficult to tell. As with most people struggling with finances, there are a lot of emotions tied to my experiences and memories around money. 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 watched my single mother go through bankruptcy. That is a central part of my story. I remember seeing her cry over her bills at the dining room table and watched her be consoled by my aunt in the doorway of our house. Those experiences made me want to help people with money so they never felt that the stress that my mother did. I still remember seeing the pain and shame in my mother's face as if I just saw it yesterday. This is my story.
Tip Three: Don't sell yourself short. You ARE qualified to call yourself a financial coach.
Imposter syndrome is real and often a hurdle to get over to get over on your way to becoming a financial coach. It can stop people from taking the first step or stop them dead in their tracks. I have a B.S. in finance and an M.B.A, but that isn't what qualifies me to be a financial coach.
The number one requirement to become a financial coach is passion - a passion to help people first and foremost, and secondly a passion for teaching personal finance.
My husband left his career in sports medicine/physical therapy to help me and is now teaching workshops and financial wellness classes based on the budgeting system we created. When he first started working with me, he had imposter syndrome big time. Because he doesn't have a degree in finance, he decided to get some financial education certifications from The National Financial Educators Council and Financial Intelligence for Parents and Children to help him feel less like an "imposter." Sure he got some letters behind his name and some self-confidence, but for the most part, did not learn much beyond what he already knew.
You probably already have a good understanding of personal finance and want to use the resources here to further your knowledge. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to have degrees and letters behind your name to help people.
My husband's certifications have given him a lot more confidence when people ask what his qualifications are, but he has also crafted a story about his journey with finances from a child to now and that makes much more of an 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 recall or even care about his certifications.
Tip Four: How to justify charging people when they are in a financial crisis
Most people would consider building a business based around people who are bad at budgeting and paying their bills a bad idea. And I know it’s odd that I charge people at a time in their life when they may feel the least like they can afford it. If you feel a calling to help people and not charge them, I get it. I started that way but gradually began charging people $50 per session and would have been happy making $2,000 a month. As my client base grew, I was able to see the value in what I offered. I got busier and had to slowly increase my prices as my time became more in demand.
It took me a while to make this mental shift in my business: When I charge people hundreds of dollars per coaching session they are actually investing in themselves. They are paying me in part to help them stay accountable, stick to their plan and provide unbiased strategies and advice on their finances. Doing that will save them thousands of dollars in the long run. Because this is a service they pay for, my clients come to our meetings, sit up at the desk, take notes, ask questions, engage in the process and get better results.
One of the ways I make decisions about my business is by asking myself "Is this good for the 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 where I can answer yes to that final question - it's good for both of us. And charging for coaching is one of those things.
Tip Five: 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 up front. 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 is very hard and the biggest bang for your buck is to have conversations with as many people as possible. From an outside perspective, financial coaching is a mystery. 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. Focus on finding people that would be good referral partners and let them do the work for you.
I get most of my referrals from previous clients, financial advisors, accountants, divorce attorneys, and very few from Facebook, Google and Yelp reviews. When I first started out I was big into networking groups like BNI and my local Chamber of Commerce. Start by joining a few networking groups like these and as you gain momentum and referral partners, they will start doing the work for you. After that, you can really push to have an online presence to solidify your word of mouth credibility.
If you've made it this far, chances are you are interested in creating a successful financial coaching business. It doesn't matter if you have no experience, have already been helping people but aren't charging a thing, or have a coaching business that you are looking to fine tune., we want to help you. That's why we created the Financial Coach Academy - an online resource and community for financial coaches. Check out our Facebook group - Financial Coaches Unite - or if you're looking for some more formal training, sign up for the live course or check out our self-paced course.
We have a passion not only for helping people achieve financial clarity: We also want to help you create your successful financial coaching career.