How John Williams Grew to Just Under $1 Million per Year

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  • Who: John Williams
  • Website:
  • Course Topic: Certified Coaching
  • Interesting Stats: Trained nearly 100 people at the University of Oklahoma

Who are you and what course have you created?

My name is John Williams, and I am a master-certified coach through the ICF with the goal of revolutionizing education by making coaching more accessible to those who need it most. I started my journey as an academic life coach before using my knowledge to create a course teaching others to become academic life coaches themselves. My course was the nation’s first ICF-certified academic life coach training program and has since expanded to include executive and wellness coaching.

What market does your online course serve?

Coach Training EDU serves professionals looking to earn a recognized accreditation as an executive, wellness, or essential life coach.

We also work with advisors and coaches who want to work with students to boost motivation, engagement, and clarity of future plans.

What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?

The biggest benefit of our program is the personal and professional growth people experience in the 6-month program.

John Williams site

How did you get into the market?

I started my career as a high school Latin teacher when I had my first coaching session as a practice client. Even that one session had an impact on me, and I eventually got trained as a coach myself. During the training, I realized that so much of the cutting-edge work being done on leadership development, peak performance mindsets by elite athletes, and the studies in positive psychology all pointed to a different approach to education.

I realized that the future of education isn’t teacher as knowledge dispenser; the future is a teacher as coach. Where curiosity is more important than recitation. - John Williams Click To Tweet

Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?

Because there was a huge gap in the education market. There is no opportunity for a student to work constructively with an adult outside of athletics or other competitions unless something is wrong. Students don’t usually work with tutors unless they are failing. Students don’t work with a wellness professional unless there is something someone wants to fix.

Coaching works differently. It assumes health and wellness and asks the question, “What are the insights, actions, and habits that would make a difference in your life?”

Most of us know what we want to accomplish and know the actions we most likely need to take, but the challenge is in the follow-through. Coaching excels in helping people understand themselves, their unique motivation styles, and actually doing their life’s work.

John Williams site

Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?

Our course is a hybrid self-study with live zoom webinars in small groups of 12 or fewer coaches. I had a constant struggle to balance the work of writing and creating video material while still leading hours of webinars each week. It was one of the toughest challenges I’ve taken on, and at times, I definitely doubted whether I could keep pace.

If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?

I believe so much in the value of the core skills of coaching—strengths-based leadership, active empathetic listening, personal growth, mindsets, and insight—that I often would imagine the difference in the lives of others if I kept moving this work forward.

It was doing this work for the sake of others that kept me going and kept me from getting in my own way.

What’s your online course like?

Our online course has both synchronous and asynchronous elements. Coaches-in-training meet weekly in a live training session with a trainer and 10-12 other coaches. Coaches can also watch demonstration videos, read research articles, and interact with other coaches via discussion boards as a way of supplementing their education. In addition, we provide case studies and quizzes for coaches to check their knowledge.

How long did it take you to create your course?

It wasn’t necessarily a pretty process. I started to put together a course to train others to be coaches for teenagers——based on the exercises I had developed and used the previous five years with my own clients. My first classes were more about trying to describe what I was doing and why it was working than any of the clearly defined learning objectives and developed curricula that we have today.

I basically kept two weeks ahead of the class as we went through a training session each week for six months. It was a frantic period of time where the class itself was the deadline for me to craft the next week’s sessions.

Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).

The first sale happened almost by accident. Rawan Albina from Dubai and Gina Halsted from Boston found me independently of each other and asked if I could train them to also work with teenagers as a life coach. There weren’t many people working with teens in 2009, and those two were the first people I trained.

And since I had “Dubai” on my homepage, I have since trained dozens of people in UAE and spoke at the first international coaching conference in 2014. It was a surreal and deeply meaningful experience.

John Williams site

Do you have a lead magnet?

Our syllabus is fairly detailed, and we soon were gaining students through referrals. Even today, many of our coaches come to us via referral. That said, we do also host a sample course, offered monthly, for prospective coaches to meet with me, learn more about the program, and experience a mini-coaching session live.

What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?

Buying targeting banner ads from organizations that we align with.

What online course platform are you using?

We used a simple WordPress page for years. We’ve since launched a hardcoded main website and will move to a similar setup for our LMS. Currently, we are using LearnDash to host our course.


LearnDash WordPress Plugin

LearnDash is the 4th most popular online course platform used by the successful course creators we interview. 

The biggest reason why course creators choose LearnDash is that it allows for more adaptability and control over courses.

*Our content is reader supported, which means when you buy from links you click on, we may earn a commission.

Do you like it?

Keeping it simple was a brilliance, but we’re getting to the point where investing in a custom system is worth it. Unfortunately, we are experiencing some issues with hosting our online course via LearnDash. These issues mostly stem from the complexity of our course rather than LearnDash itself. LearnDash simply doesn’t have the tools we require to host and sustain the various aspects of our course.

Are there any features you wish it had?

If we could offer LearnDash a wish list, it would include more robust features that didn’t require 3rd-party plug-ins, the ability to take attendance, a more robust “assignments” feature, built-in communication, and real-time collaboration tools. But more than any of that, we would be thrilled to have real-time support. As of right now, LearnDash only offers support during business hours via email, which has been difficult when our learning platform experiences issues after hours.

John Williams site

What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?

WordPress is easy, reasonably priced, and customizable.

Gravityforms are the best. 🙂

What other tools do you use to run your online course business?

Zoom. 🙂

What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?

Harry Beckwith: Selling the Invisible

Please share some idea of revenue.

Our average gross income over the past three years is just shy of 1M. Our closest was 2019, which was 980k. The numbers were down during the pandemic, but it looks like we’re going to easily eclipse 1M in 2023 if the numbers of the last quarter (July to September) hold.

Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.

In 2019 we were able to buy a house for the family. It was one of our biggest goals, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to buy a home we love.

We’ve bootstrapped our whole business, and without having any outside investors, I am now able to pour whatever extra revenue into growing the business. It’s a tremendous joy and honor to be in this position and to be doing this work using finances as a tool for positive social change.

In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?

We’ve trained nearly 100 people at the University of Oklahoma, and they have seen their retention from freshman to sophomore numbers rise from 86% to over 93%. The revenue for the university is massive and speaks to the efficacy of this program in conjunction with engagement and retention programs.

What has creating your course done for you personally?

I love what I do. On a regular basis, I have the feeling that I am doing the work that I was born to do. The feeling is electric. - John Williams Click To Tweet

The feedback from our participants is amazing, but when I’m pushing myself to my limits to work as hard as I do and to have a team as dedicated, connected, and effective as my team is, I know our work is making and will make a tremendous difference to future generations.

John Williams site

Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?

We have tons of success stories, most of which you can find on our website undergraduate stories. One story that meant a lot to me involved one coach who walked into the coach training program ready to do the work. She faced her assumptions and worked hard toward becoming a more self-aware person for herself, knowing that this sense of self-awareness would lead to more authenticity for the people she served. For years, this coach was very resistant to taking on the role of “educator,” but through this program, she learned to embrace that role. In doing so, she realized that she was finally walking toward her purpose.

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

Yea. Tons. Where to start? From hiring the wrong fit to not understanding the market at first, the one thing that I have done well: is not to be afraid to dig directly into the challenges, try something, and redo as necessary. At times there have been a lot of typos in the training materials, but at those times, it felt like the ideas and field were so new I could clean up the loose ends later. 12 years later, I still feel like I’m cleaning up loose ends. But we’re getting there, and I can see where years of work go to a point where things seem to tip all at once.

I still find it useful to ask myself the question, “If I had to make a positive difference in the life of 10 people in the next week, what would I do?”

Starting your own practice and business is one of the best challenges I’ve chosen to take on.

Being able to balance the unknown of viability while still working toward a large goal is no small feat. Go easy on yourself. - John Williams Click To Tweet

Take care of your inner world and be kind to the part of you that needs to be assured.

Learn more about John Williams of

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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