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Adam Haines
Organising and Planning

How to Deliver Coaching Online

Freely available until 30 June 2021 and then exclusive to UK Coaching Subscribers. Part six of Adam Haines’ six-step guide to becoming a successful online coach

Many coaches think that when transitioning their business to an online coaching model that they require advanced computer programming skills, the ability to set up advanced systems or pay for expensive software to allow them to coach effectively online. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The term "online coaching" suggests that you are required to run web or cloud-based software, however online coaching can often be delivered offline via documents such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel or the MacOS equivalents in pages and numbers. 

There is a plethora of free-to-use software and systems that you can adapt and adopt to help you manage your online coaching business (think email, Microsoft Excel, Google Forms and Typeform, amongst many others). These software options allow you to run your business in a way that suits you, without being restricted to the capabilities of ready-made online coaching software. 

However, a full-service software solution that enables you to manage all your client’s/participants data such as programming, assessment, communication and financials may be the best option for you as it often equates to less administrative time and allows you to dedicate more time to helping your clients/participants.

Choosing the right software

When choosing your software and delivery methods for online coaching, you must consider your service product. What services have you promised to your client/participant and what tools and software do you require to be able to deliver that service?

Elements for consideration:

  1. Onboarding. Think about the level of data that you require from a client/participant during the onboarding process and how you would like to collate this information. If you require only the basic information such as personal details, medical history and simple goal-setting tools, you will find that most ready-made online coaching software includes these already. If your service offering is a bespoke solution, you will need to utilise free-form software that you can manipulate and edit to meet your requirements. 
  2. Physical delivery of coaching programmes. Consider what you are including in your physical delivery and programming. If you are delivering physical preparation or exercise programming, will the software allow you to programme the way you need it to? Does the software have the ability for you to customise modalities such as reps/sets/tempo/rest and rate of perceived exertion? If you’re including nutritional coaching as a part of your coaching practice, does your chosen online coaching software have this functionality built in? If not, then you may need to create your own documents that allow you the flexibility and creativity to implement your own coaching practises. 
  3. Reviews and Assessments. Most online coaching software systems have in-built assessments that are simple and effective for managing your clients/participants. If you plan on including advanced evaluations and assessments in your coaching programmes, you may need multiple software solutions that help you to record, store and assess evaluation data. As an example, advanced movement screening or MS (max speed) testing may require additional software to help you evaluate your clients/participants progress if these tools are not included within your chosen full-service online coaching software. 
  4. Communication. Think about how regularly you need contact with your client/participant. Does full-service online coaching software give you the ability to contact your client when needed and vice versa? Often online coaching software can be the best option as this allows you to set boundaries for when your clients/participants can contact you and the method of contact. Consider that if you are giving your clients access to your phone number and email, this opens up the coaching client/participant to able to contact you 24/7. This is why it is important to set clear guidelines for contact during the onboarding process. 
  5. Nutritional Coaching. It’s important to understand your remit when undertaking nutritional coaching. Ensure you refer to your qualification framework to understand the breadth and depth of the advice you are allowed to give under your qualification. You can also refer to the Association for Nutrition for guidance. Similarly to when thinking about your physical delivery, ensure the software you choose has the ability for you to deliver your nutritional coaching in a way that you are comfortable with and allows you to review and asses your client’s compliance with your programme. If you are planning on using separate software to host your nutritional coaching, it is important to think about the end user as often clients/participants can find it off-putting when they have to login to too many different software platforms and you may find compliance drops. 
  6. Mental Health and Wellbeing. Mental health and well-being coaching comes in many different forms and it depends on the depth of your programming as to whether you need a software solution for your coaching delivery. This type of programming can be implemented with something as simple as daily affirmations via a messaging system that could either be delivered through a coaching software solution or more traditional solutions such as email and messages. 

Protecting yourself when delivering online

It’s vital to protect yourself as a coach when delivering online. Ensure you have all the correct legal documentation, policies and procedures in place in relation to your specific coaching practice. All the documentation you would usually require to have in place when delivering in person coaching is still needed when coaching online. 

Using a purpose-built coaching software can be beneficial when thinking about the documentation you need in place as most platforms will have the necessary documentation built in, however always check the terms of use to ensure that you have everything you need covered.  

Some of the documentation and policies you will require to have in place when online coaching include:

  • Privacy Policy: A privacy policy is a statement or a legal document that discloses some or all the ways you as a coach gather, use, disclose, and manage your client’s/participant’s data.
  • Medical History Disclaimer/Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire: A Medical History Disclaimer is a record of information about a person's health. A Medical History Disclaimer may include information about allergies, illnesses, surgeries, injury history and results of physical exams and tests. Also known as a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (Par Q). 
  • Client-Coach agreement/Terms of Service: A Client-Coach agreement is the legal agreement between yourself as a coach providing a service and your client/participant who wants to use that service. The person must agree to abide by the agreement in order to use the offered service. Also known as a Terms of Service document.
  • Informed Consent/Liability Waiver: An Informed consent is a process for getting consent from your client/participant to partake in your services and a method for recording that they understand the general objectives of your coaching programme, the potential risks, the potential benefits and their responsibilities before commencing
  • Payment procedures: Also consider if you need any legal documentation in place for processing payments and the documentation you have to produce as part of the payment process such as receipts, invoices and refund policies. 

This by no means an exhaustive list and please note that the legal documentation required will vary depending on your coaching practice and geographical location. Take your time to research the legal documentation required in your area and seek legal advice where necessary to ensure you have the correct documentation and procedures in place. 

Have a go

Make a basic list of your product and service offering and the deliverables for your online coaching programme. Use this list as a checklist to ensure that you have the correct documents and software in place to able to provide #GreatCoaching online. You can also use this checklist to ensure that any purpose-built coaching software you are considering has all the features you need to be able to deliver your coaching programme digitally. 


Guide to Online Coaching

Read the rest of the six-part series geared towards helping you develop your skills and business acumen as an online coach


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Adam Haines