Starting your own coaching business

You want to help people through coaching, and you want to do this as an independent professional. After reading this article you will know which steps you have to take to start your coaching business, and how you can set yourself apart from the other 14,000 coaches in the Netherlands.

Before actually starting as an independent coach, your write a business plan. This is not mandatory, but it will help find out if your plans are feasible. Writing such a plan will also help you find out whether coaching as independent entrepreneur is really something for you. At the start of your own coaching business you have to address the following.

Target audience

Even though you might prefer focussing on a wide target audience, it is a good idea to make choices. Stress and burnout coach Susan Neijens agrees. “In the beginning, I wanted to help everybody. But then the number of people I could help and the number of subjects I could help them with became too broad. I therefore decided to look for a target audience and subject that was close to me and in line with my abilities.”

To identify your target audience, you can ask yourself these 3 questions.

  1. What kind of service am I offering?
    Specify what you can offer your client. If that is not clear, the client will look elsewhere. It can be useful to set up a business model and determine a clear vision and mission.
  2. Who are my competitors?
    Conducting a competitive analysis will help you identify your competitors. Research what they are doing, where they are located, and how you can distinguish yourself.
  3. Do I want to coach businesses or individuals?
    Businesses are a different target audience than individual clients. Consider what your strengths are.

Business name

A good business name is recognisable, memorable, and makes clear what you have to offer. As a coach, you may decide to use your own name, like Neijens does: Susan Neijens Stress & Burn-out coach. “Clients deal with me, with who I am, and what I do. That is why I deliberately choose to use my own name in my business name.

Whatever name you decide on, make sure that your choice complies with all the rules.

Business location

Choose a location that fits your business; not only in character, but also financially. There are several options for locations where you can set up your business, such as a multi-company building, your own business space, or from home.

There are many advantages to starting from home. It allows you to be flexible and save costs because you do not have to rent a business space. However, you may also decide to meet at your client’s house or at a flexible office space. As soon as your business starts to grow, you can switch to renting a property or space.

Neijens started in a multi-company building, but soon realised that that was too expensive for her. “Now I work from home, and I use flex spaces if I want to meet a client at an external location.”

Hourly rate

You determine a realistic hourly rate. You can always adjust this rate, when it turns out to be too high or too low, for example. Ask yourself these 3 questions to determine your hourly rate.

  1. How much do I want to earn?
  2. What are my business expenses?
  3. How many hours do I want to work?

Use your answers to calculate the number of hours you have to work (billable hours) to earn the amount you need to live on with a certain hourly rate.

Your hourly rate can be the decisive factor in your client’s decision to choose your services. Therefore, you should also compare it with the rates of your competitors. ‘What rates do others charge?’ is a frequently asked questions from starting entrepreneurs, and for good reason.

Part-time business

You may decide to not start your business full-time right away. Increasingly more starting entrepreneurs work part-time, because they want the security of a reliable income and insurances. Because coaching is not limited to regular hours, you can combine it with a regular job. There are a few pros and cons here. The risk might be lower because you are still receiving wages, but you also have less time to spend on your business. Always verify that your employer allows self-employed activities next to your job.

Jet Bouwmeester of ‘By Jet interior design consultant’ opted for part-time entrepreneurship. “As a self-employed professional, I can manage my own time and do what I love doing the most. On the other hand, I have to find my own clients, and I do not have a fixed income. This means that it can be difficult to get a mortgage, for example.” Reason enough for Bouwmeester to keep a part-time job next to her own business.


Are you a true entrepreneur? This may seem a silly question, but the answer is less straightforward than you might think. If you have individual clients, it is fairly obvious that you are an entrepreneur, because you provide a service. But what if your client is a company? In that case, it is important that you avoid the appearance of employment. Especially if it concerns a large assignment for a longer period of time. In that case, you and your client have to prove the nature of your work relationship to the Dutch Tax And Customs Administration. The following criteria determine whether it involves entrepreneurship.

  • You are free to let someone else do that assignment, if necessary.
  • You determine how, where, and when you do the assignment.
  • The client pays only the invoice that you sent.

If you are certain that you are not working as an employee, and there is a commissioning party (the client) and a party accepting the assignment (you), you can put this down in a model agreement. With a model agreement you rule out fictitious employment. The Dutch Tax And Customs Administration provides model agreements (in Dutch) for various sectors.


You need a clear description of your target audience to make targeted acquisitions. Your existing network can be very valuable. It is Neijens’ experience that in the beginning, most assignments come from your existing network. “The people from your own network are the ambassadors of your business. They may not always be your first customers, but they can ‘warmly’ recommend you to others in their network.”

Proper online marketing will help attract new clients to your business. It is open to all, so prospective clients can find you. Use social media. This increases your online presence, and your target audience will get a better understanding of what you do. Bouwmeester is active on social media. “I regularly post pictures of my work on Facebook and Instagram. These posts get many views. In addition to social media, I also have a website, so the client gets an overall picture of who I am and what I do.”

Check out our articles for tips on how to build a business website, and how to design an effective marketing funnel for online sales.

Privacy rules

If you are an entrepreneur, you have to comply with the privacy law General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It describes what your obligations are if you process personal data. For example, a client can request access to their data that you stored, or withdraw their permission for the use of their data.


If you start your own business, you have to pay taxes. For example, the monthly VAT return. You file a tax return with the Dutch Tax And Customs Administration for the VAT you charged to your clients. You can deduct the VAT that you paid to your suppliers from this amount. For coaching services, you have to charge 21% VAT.

Tip! Check whether you qualify for the small businesses scheme (KOR). If you qualify, your services are not subject to VAT. You can use this scheme if your annual turnover excluding VAT is less than €20,000 and the Dutch Tax And Customs Administration considers you an entrepreneur for tax purposes.

In addition to your VAT returns, you have to declare your income for income tax purposes once per year. This tax is paid over your taxable profits. The height of your income tax is calculated retrospectively, and it increases when your profit increases. It is important to reserve money for this, so that you can pay the amount in the year that you file your income tax return.


You are required by law to keep proper business administration. You can do this yourself, or you hire someone to do this for you. “Everybody should stick to what they are good at, that is why I have outsourced my bookkeeping and tax returns to an accountant”, Bouwmeester said. A bookkeeper or accountant sets up your accounts, gives you advice, and is up to date on the various tax benefits.

You do not have to, but it can be helpful to have a separate account for your business. That way, you have an overview of your income and expenses, and you keep your business and private finances separate.


You are responsible for the things that happen in your business. You can take out insurance for the risks that you do not want to bear or cannot bear. A professional indemnity insurance can protect you if you accidently give your client the wrong advice, or act incorrectly, or if you make a mistake that causes damage to your client, for instance. Identify the risks for your situation, and ask advice from an insurance advisor.

Even though coaches do not have the duty of confidentiality like psychologists or lawyers do, your clients will expect you to treat their information in confidence. Put down in writing how you will address confidentiality. You can, for example, insert a clause about confidentiality in your general terms and conditions. General terms and conditions are the rules that apply to all your services. You inform your clients about your general terms and conditions before you start their coaching process.

Industry organisations

There are various industry organisations, sector associations, and interest groups that represent the interests of coaches. Their activities include drawing up general terms and conditions for a sector, as well as behavioural codes. You are not required to join a sector organisation.

Some sector organisations have their own quality mark. A quality mark indicates that you meet the quality standards that they set for coaches. If you have such a quality mark, you can state this on your website and use it as a selling point.

KVK registration

To register with KVK, you first have to make an online appointment. As soon as the registration is completed, you get your own KVK number. Then KVK passes on your details to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. Within 14 days, they will send your VAT identification number and turnover tax number by post. Registering costs a one-off registration fee.

If you register your company with KVK, you also have to decide on a legal structure. Most coaches choose sole proprietorship or private limited company (bv). Which legal structure best suits your business depends on the way you set up your business, the tax benefits that you have chosen, and how you intend to limit the risk of indemnity.

If you register your business with KVK, you receive one or more SBI codes. These codes indicate the exact nature of your business. KVK links the description of the business that you provided to the SBI code that best fits the situation. The code for coaching is 70221.

Do you combine your coaching services with other activities? In that case, determine what your main activity is, to make sure that you are registered under the correct code and sector.