• Monday, 6 March 2023

Becoming a Certified Financial Planner

The most successful and esteemed financial advisors started out right where you are.

They didn’t have an established client base or a business plan.

When you’re starting out, it all seems daunting and challenging, but with the right mentors and determination, you can grow your own financial planning practice too! 

Many financial professionals choose to explore the CFP certification to further enhance their knowledge and offerings to their client base.  

You’ll find some helpful information about the CFP, and why people choose this path below.

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1. CFP Vs. Financial Professional: What’s the Difference? 

Passing the CFP exam and receiving the certification will require resources and, more importantly, time. For many financial advisors starting their own practice, money may be tight as they get their business off the ground. So what’s the difference between a CFP and a financial advisor who is not a CFP? Let’s dive into some of the benefits. 

  • CFPs are seen as authorities in their field: 90% of consumers see an advisor’s certifications as important1. CFPs are often sought out by high net-worth clients who don’t want just anyone handling their money. In addition, as a CFP, you will have access to a greater variety of networks and professional organizations to grow lead generation. 
  • CFPs are seen as trusted fiduciaries: These days, the term “fiduciary” is often tossed around. A fiduciary is defined as someone who has a legal or ethical obligation to his or her clients. CFPs are, legally, fiduciaries by way of a legally binding contract. In a world where consumer confidence remains low, clients are searching for someone they can trust. As a CFP, you can join that trusted group. In fact, 84% of consumers who work with a CFP professional say they are extremely or very satisfied — and 71% are more confident about their finances.
  • CFPs have more knowledge86% of consumers prefer an advisor who has passed a certification exam1. To become a CFP, you need more than 3 years of experience working, in addition to the exam and educational requirements. The knowledge and experience a CFP candidate gains during the process are absolutely critical and often exceed the knowledge that non-CFPs have. The time spent obtaining this certification often pays off in the long run, too, when you are able to provide better services to your clients. 

There are so many benefits to getting a CFP certification, but perhaps the most convincing reason is that practices owned by CFPs often scale faster. It’s just smart business: CFPs are seen as experts in their field, and they often draw clients simply because of this. If you don’t plan on taking the exam yourself, consider hiring a CFP to grow your client services and the experience you provide your clients down the line. 

1. CFP Board (n.d.). The Standard of Excellence. 

2. CFP Exam – Getting Certified

 The CFP exam requires a two-part education requirement that includes:

  • Completed coursework on financial planning through a CFP Board Registered Program.
  • Completed bachelor’s degree or higher (in any discipline) from an accredited college or university.

You need to complete the first element before you take the exam. The average time to complete the CFP coursework is around 12 to 18 months. The actual exam has 170 questions, all of which are multiple-choice. You take the CFP exam over two 3-hour sessions in a single day. There are stand-alone, scenario-based questions as well as case study questions. 

Then, you have five years from the date you pass the exam to complete the second element, the bachelor’s degree requirement. 

In addition, you will need to fulfill the experience requirement. This part of the certification can be done before or after the exam. It involves completing either 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements.

There’s one final step on the path to certification: the ethics portion of the CFP certification. This means that you adhere to high ethical and professional standards when practicing financial planning – and ensures you act as a fiduciary when providing advice to your client. 

Once you complete these steps, you’ll officially be a Certified Financial Planner.

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3. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Asking for help is a sign of strength and wisdom – not a sign of weakness. Sometimes, you need help to accomplish your goals. How can you ask for help on your journey to becoming a personal financial advisor? 

  • Find a mentor in the industry and ask for advice and guidance to help you get started. Learning about their journey can help inform your own. In addition, you may be able to tap into their network for further career guidance. 
  • Reach out to family and friends to access their network. You never know who will be in need of a financial advisor. 

Likewise, consider joining professional networks within the industry and networking that way to build new contacts. You don’t have to do it alone – there are so many resources (and people) out there to help you! 

4. Invest in Marketing to Grow Your Business

Once you have your business established, you need to start working on your marketing. Marketing is absolutely crucial to growing your business – and you can’t skip this step! Marketing is all about establishing your brand, building your business, identifying your target audience, and acting as a resource for your clients. That means writing articles (like this one!) that help others with useful information – as well as working with social media, ads, and more. 

How to market yourself 

Understanding how to market yourself will be critical, especially when you first establish your business. Marketing is all about communicating your services to your potential market – but first, you’ll need to understand who your target audience is. 

Who is your ideal client? If you specialize in young adult finances, then your target audience is likely Millennials or the upper half of Gen Z. If you work specifically with inheritance plans, you will want to target families and those who own companies. 

Once you identify your target audience, you can start doing market research. Ask yourself:

  1. Where does your target audience spend time online? Are they on LinkedIn, or perhaps on Facebook?
  2. How does your target audience communicate with one another? You’ll want to come off as relatable and professional. 
  3. What is your target audience interested in?  

Understanding your target audience is the most important part of understanding how to market yourself. Once you’ve established your target audience, you can start highlighting all the elements that set you apart from the rest of the industry, including any certifications you may have (like the CFP certification), and create content for your specific audience.

That’s one of the reasons having a CFP certification can be so beneficial: it gives you a competitive advantage over other financial planners. The distinction doesn’t just set you apart – it establishes you as a clear authority in the field. In addition, peers will look to you for guidance and knowledge.

Planning Your Marketing

Marketing may sound like a lot of work, but trust me, it’s worth it. And you don’t have to start by doing everything. Instead, pick one focus for each month. For example, perhaps you want to build your blog for the first three months and focus on content marketing. Content marketing remains one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to bring in new clients. 

How can you tackle content marketing? 

  • Write guest posts or offer advice for other websites
  • Write and publish blogs on your own blog
  • Create “gated content” for your leads
  • Get quoted on other sites
  • Speak as a guest on a podcast

Marketing strategies like content marketing will establish you as a thought leader, elevate your private label and boost your online presence – all while you work on drawing in new clients. 

→ Curious about building your own private label with EWS? Click here!

5. Finding New Clients Can Be Difficult

One of the biggest struggles you may face will be finding new clients for your business. People within your target audience may already have a financial advisor, or they won’t see the value in having one. 

So, how do you find new clients? 

  • Focus on building your website: Keep your ideal client in mind, and build the website to target those clients. Once you establish yourself online and build a blog to draw in website traffic, potential leads will start finding you – and not the other way around. Your website is perhaps the single most important tool in your arsenal.
  • Establish yourself on online advisor matching services: Did you know that there are websites that will match clients to financial advisors? Setting up a profile on these websites is simple and easy to maintain – and helps get your business in front of more people. It’s a cost-effective way to find new clients.
  • Work on your social media: If you’re busy, pick one or two social media platforms that your target audience uses – and stay active on those platforms. Keep the content informational, to build trust with your client base.
  • Participate in your community: Some of your ideal clients may live down the street from you. You’d never know, either, unless you participate in neighborhood events and socialize – a simple (and fun) networking method!
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Becoming a personal financial advisor is much more complicated than most people think – and for many, the process may take years. However, there are few things as rewarding as helping a new couple afford their first home, helping a recent retiree take that bucket-list trip to Italy, or helping parents save for their child’s education. There are so many benefits of being a personal financial advisor, like knowing the real impact you have in people’s lives. Rest assured that no matter how long it takes, at the end of the journey, you can start helping make other people’s lives better. 

Are you ready to jump-start this process with a team of seasoned financial professionals at your side? Click here to learn more!


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