So you want to be a life coach?
So let me guess…
You’re not sure what you want to do in life.
You feel like something’s missing.
Perhaps — like me — you wandered from career to career, never quite feeling like you fit in.
And then you hear about life coaching.
(Or perhaps you take the Myers-Briggs assessment, and it keeps coming up with “coach”.)
You start looking into it.
It sounds amazing!
This is what you do in your day-to-day life anyway!
You’d love to get paid for cheering people on and helping them improve their lives!
How come you never heard about this before?!
You feel like your whole life has changed.
You’re going to change the world!
People all around you are going to be better, and happier, because of the work you do.
So you start looking into it more seriously.
You look for a class near you.
Turns out there is a class… in your neighbourhood!
(Or if there isn’t: there are many excellent-sounding courses online.
You can do it virtually — while the kids are in bed, or at the weekends while you work at your full time job.)
And all the ads say that life coaches can make six figures in just a few months…
It sounds so amazing.
Almost too good to be true.
(And there’s your first clue ;)
Because — while life coaching is an exciting, important service (and god knows how much my life has improved because of the sessions I’ve had) — there are some pointers I want to share that they don’t tell you at the start.
For anyone who is thinking of embarking on the “steps” to become a life coach.
And I use “steps” in inverted commas, because it’s a myth — there are no clear tried-and-tested steps.
Just like there are no guaranteed steps to setting up a successful business.
If there was an A-B-C map, everyone’d be doing it ;)
So here, in no particular order, are my pointers for anyone on the cusp of taking life coach training:
1. It’s a new field.
A very new field.
Now this is super exciting.
But it also means that you’re battling against issues that other industries don’t have.
Namely, that most people still don’t really know what life coaches do!
I get this all the time: “Oh, so you tell people how to live their life?”
Not at all.
There’s no advice-giving.
As a coach, you work with your client to walk them through tools and exercises that help them find the answers they need.
(Yes — it sounds very “woo-woo”. But it also works, and is incredible to experience.)
The other thing I hear is: “Oh, life coaching — so you’re like a counsellor, yes?”
Well, only in that we’re in the same “family” of professions.
The same as social work or psychology.
All different… but all designed to help people or move them forward in some way.
Counselling and life coaching are two very different professions.
And you may end up explaining the difference to people... a lot :)
So while you might think it’s pretty obvious what life coaching is, know that not everyone you meet will be as aware, or understand what you do.
2. Your training is the start, not the end.
This was a big learning for me.
I naively thought that when I finished my training, I would be a life coach.
I’ve got the designation… surely now I just start work as a life coach, yes?
Well, technically, yes.
But there’s one thing missing in all of this.
The “creating a business” part.
(And if you don’t like the word “business”, let me put it another way: making money from your coaching.)
See, when you finish your training, it’s easy to think you’re done.
But really, it’s just the start of it.
Cause now you have to:
Note: all of these things are doable.
But they might not be covered in your training.
So learn from my mistake when I tell you this:
Your training is the start of the process, not the end.
Having a life coach qualification will not automatically bring you clients or generate a business for you.
3. There are a lot of companies ready to take your money to “set up your coaching business”
A caveat here: I haven’t actually used any of these companies.
So you’re welcome to take what I say with a pinch of salt.
But here’s my experience:
You finish your coach training.
The initial excitement then turns to: “Oh sh*t… how am I going to do this?!!!”
You panic, and flounder… and then find a company online that has been set up just to help you with this!
(Hint: there are lots of them — and they cost a lot of money.)
They are also very, very good at sales and marketing.
Impressive free webinars… 3-day conferences for people just like you… stories of clients who have made six figures from their coaching business in their first month!
They know your fear, and they have made a (lucrative) business out of it.
[Note: there is nothing wrong with being a successful company, and as I said, I haven’t tried any of these companies.]
But what I have seen is the lure of taking training course after training course…
And before you know it, you’ve spent $20,000 and you still don’t have any clients.
These guys are good at tapping into your fear and lack of knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying don’t take additional training.
I’m saying know what you’re getting out of it…
Can you get your money back if you don’t get what they say you’ll get out of the program?
If “all” their clients are making six figures in three months, is there a guarantee that you will too? (If that’s what you want.)
Or are they just showing you five of their best students, and not mentioning the 499,995 who don’t have any clients and are only further in debt and more confused?
Don’t get panicked.
There are some good places out there.
People like Becca Tracey have tons of great (and free) resources, and have set up businesses to go against this “prey on your fear and doubt” kind of set-up.
Just be smart!
Sure, take a free webinar to learn how to get your first client.
Just don’t still be taking those webinars in a year’s time, with nothing else to show for it.
At some point, you have to actually do the work, rather than take another course ;)
Perhaps taking an extra course is the right thing for you to do.
Totally fine if so.
So how do you go about choosing which program to do?
There are hundreds of them out there!
Well, get to know a bit about the people running the program.
If they have a blog, read their blog.
Do you like what you’re reading?
Learn a bit about the course leaders.
Do you get a good vibe from them?
Could you go for a coffee or beer with them and have a good time?
I.e.: are they real?!
I’ve paid for some great online courses; I had great results from some… and mixed results from others.
The ones I got the best results from?
Were the ones I took the time to research properly:
4. Life coach schools are a business, at the end of the day.
Perhaps this is more obvious to my North American friends.
But as a Brit, I forgot about this.
I heard a lot of rhetoric and a lot of sales-push from coaching schools.
“You can coach anyone in the world — so you have up to six billion potential clients…! The work will be never-ending!”
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
What they don’t tell you is that people generally don’t pay someone half way across the other side of the world for a service they know little about, without having a referral or another way of vouching for you.
I mean… would you?!
What would make you sign up — and pay — for something in another country, from someone who was qualified but you knew nothing about?
Don’t get panicked — I’m not trying to be Mrs. Doom and Gloom!
I’m saying be realistic and use your common sense.
Don’t get caught up in the shimmering, exciting “sales speak” of coaching schools.
Use your head while you’re listening to their spiel.
Because it is sales spiel, first and foremost.
You could have access to six billion clients… and you could also marry Brad Pitt ;)
5. There is a lot of secrecy in the industry
A lot of coaches don’t want to share how many clients they have or what they charge.
It’s all a bit hush hush.
Now, I get that people might not want to share what they charge.
That’s personal information.
But when we asked our instructors about the people they coached, it all got a bit vague.
No one ever gave numbers.
No one gave a step-by-step account of how they got their first client, or how long it took to start making an income from it.
[Caveat: the course I took had a business module offered afterwards, so our instructors were likely told not to give too much information away as that would be covered in the (just-as-expensive) business module ;)]
But when we emailed our instructors after the course (after them saying “contact us any time — we’d love to hear from you!")…
When I sent a message to an acquaintance’s mum asking if I could buy her a coffee and ask her how she became a life coach…
Now they could both be coincidences, admittedly.
All I’m saying is, it’s a funny old game :)
6. You are essentially setting up a business.
Life coaching is a fantastic field, but if you want clients, you are essentially setting up a business.
(Sure, not all life coaches will agree with me on this or have had this experience. But I’m guessing that the majority have.)
Plus, you’re setting up a business in an unregulated environment.
Of course, there is accreditation for life coaches.
But there’s no degree or diploma.
And most “normal” (i.e. non-coach) people don’t know about this accreditation.
Life coaching is not covered or acknowledged by most health benefits.
And you’re setting up a business doing work that most people aren’t 100% sure what it is.
I’m sorry if this sounds frightening and scary!
I feel like I just told a child that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.
(I’m a horrible person!)
But we have to break up this belief that “If I’m a life coach, clients will come to me…”
It’s a bit like taking a massage course and then waiting for clients to come knocking at your door.
You need to build it up… get referrals.
Plus, there’s not many places you can (currently) affiliate yourself with — easily — as a life coach.
If you’re a yoga teacher, for example, it’s clear where to start — you ask around at local yoga studios.
If you’re a massage therapist, you can see if any studios are looking for massage teachers.
It’s not quite as easy with life coaching.
The framework isn’t set up (yet) for obvious and easy affiliation.
Having just ruined your day (!), I do want to mention…
7. Enjoy it! Just be aware
I loved my life coach training.
I felt like I’d found my “thing”.
It made sense all of a sudden why I hadn’t found a career that was right for me up to that point.
I learnt a ton, and it helped me in my personal life as well as my working life — I listen better now.
I don’t (or I try not to) give unsolicited advice.
I’m more self-aware.
So I’m not saying that life coaching isn’t a worthwhile or enjoyable profession.
It was 100% the right decision for me to take life coach training.
I will never regret it — and I will use the skills I learnt for the rest of my life.
So enjoy your training.
Soak it up.
Love what you’re learning, and the people that you help.
Just be aware of the things I’ve written about, as you’re doing it.
So where am I with it all?
As I said, I loved my coach training.
I’m still in touch with many of my classmates, and I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
The training I took changed me.
So I’m definitely not saying don’t be a life coach, or don’t take life coach training.
I am saying that it is not necessarily an easy road.
It is not an “easy way” to make money (when you first start out, at least).
And if you do take your coach training, know that it is the start of the process and not the end.
Where am I now?
Well, I’m not working as a life coach, per se.
The one-on-one thing isn’t for me.
I run group workshops instead (and love doing them).
I run an accountability program where I use my life coaching skills pretty much every week.
So while I’m not a “Life Coach”, I’m still using the skills in a way that’s right for me.
And I guess that’s the most important and exciting thing about coaching: you can find what works for you.
You can use it in a way that works for you.
You can specialize in coaching people with troubled kids… or seniors with long-term illnesses… or teens setting out into the world… or women looking to find love (like my friend Katrina).
So the upside to the points I mentioned above is that you can make it work for you.
With a little patience, a lot of hard work… and your BS-meter set to high ;)
Update after writing this article:
I asked some people in the life coaching community for their thoughts and advice on this article. Here are their tips:
Now your turn — I’d love to hear:
Are you a life coach?
Do you agree with what I’ve said above — or disagree?
Are you thinking of getting into life coaching?
Have you been told it’s an easy way to make money?
We have to support each other on our journey!
Thanks for reading :)
PS — I’ve noticed that nutritionists have a lot of similarities with life coaches in this regard. Are you a nutritionist going through the same thing? What have your experiences been? Did you relate to anything I’ve written above? I’d love to hear!
Liked this article, or know someone who is thinking of becoming a life coach? Share it with them, so they can go into it with their eyes open!
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I am at the beginning of this journey. When I read about Life Coaching it sounds right for me, but I am very wary of all the "amazing" courses out there. I agree wholeheartedly that you're building a business, and that can't come from a brief Life Coaching accreditation. I agree with your "BS meter on high" approach. I'd say try to get contact info from some other students, and get their opinions of the course. Personally. I have a goal of building my new business to the point where it has earned at least 1/3 of what I earn in my full-time job before I think of quitting to do it full time. But then, I have the luxury of a self-imposed deadline and relatively low absolute living expenses (by choice, though).
8/13/2017 09:41:43 pm
Thanks for your comment, Jason. Yes, I think it's a great idea to talk to other students first. And I LOVE your plan to earn 1/3 of your full-time salary at least before you leave your FT job. That's a smart approach - and means you're not putting pressure on yourself (so you can actually enjoy the process!) And I 100% agree: you might have low living expenses, but that is something that YOU'VE created. We have way more control over our lives than we realize! Good luck on your journey. It sounds like you've set yourself up well so far... I wish you good vibes and fulfillment!
I fully understand what you mean. At my end, I am not trying to make a business, not really, out of my experiences. I just would like it to spread messages across. share lessons learned, FOR FREE. And it just seems as hard to find a reader as you may be for you to find a client!
8/14/2017 09:42:04 pm
Hi Nathalie, thanks for your comment. Yes, readers take time to build up. You have to just keep believing in yourself and your message - and don't give up when things are tough! In terms of life coaching, I don't work one-on-one with people - I do group workshops and run programs. But I'd be happy to give you advice about either of those if you'd like to drop me an email... I'd be happy to hear from you! Thanks for your well wishes and I also wish you all the best with your life coaching.
8/17/2017 11:16:03 am
Thanks Craig! Yes that's exactly it - I was under that misguided belief of "take course, become a life coach..." and while it is possible, I wanted people to know that there is more to it than that. Thanks for your comment!
7/22/2021 09:06:58 am
This past spring, my nephew graduated from high school. He's always loved helping people and thinks that becoming a life coach is a career he'd love. Thanks for explaining that he should find qualified schools that fit his requirements, such as the cost and type of life coaching classes they offer. Maybe he should also look into a life coaching certification service to figure out which option will be best for him.
10/15/2021 04:49:58 pm
Hi Erika, big apologies for my slow reply! I've been dealing with some personal issues this summer. I'm wishing all the best to your nephew, and hope he has fun along the way while discovering what he wants to do!
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