Several years ago when I was searching for my life passion, I kept bumping into two careers that intrigued me — counseling and life coaching.
Before I began my passion search, I'd never heard of life coaching. But once it landed in my field of awareness, I started reading about coaching everywhere, hearing coaches (like Martha Beck) on television, and seeing ads for life coaches in local magazines.
I even had a session with a career coach as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, although I didn't know that's what she was called at the time.
In speaking with my friends and family, I got a lot of encouragement to become a counselor or licensed clinical social worker. That certainly fit my personality type, and I'd talked for years about going back to school to get my graduate degree.
But the more I explored both career options, the more convinced I became that having a life coaching business (or personal coach) was the best path for me. It ultimately turned out to be my career passion.
First, as an English major in college, I didn't have enough psychology credits to begin a master's program, which is required to become a counselor. And as a mom of three kids all living at home at the time, I knew it would take several years to complete the undergraduate and graduate work required just to begin a practice.
This roadblock was daunting but not altogether off-putting. Had counseling turned out to be my ultimate calling, I would have happily gone back to school and put in the time and work.
C. Communicating Effectively
But the time and education factor did provide enough of an impediment to entice me to look at other options — and that's when I really began to explore coaching and how to become a life coach.
The Life Coaching Business
Many things intrigued me about coaching and the way coaches work.
First, I really liked the coaching model that emphasizes putting the client in charge of their progress, with the life coach serving as a challenger, accountability partner, and cheerleader.
Also, people who work with life coaches are generally proactive, emotionally healthy individuals who desire to do something better with their lives and take positive, growth-oriented actions. A coach really isn't the right helping professional for those going through emotional turmoil, grief, or mental illness — or for those who don't take action.
Because of my lifestyle with kids still at home, a life coaching business allowed tons of flexibility, as most coaches work from home and generally offer coaching sessions by telephone or Skype.
Coaching satisfied my calling to help other people, and complimented my natural abilities of active listening, empathy, discernment, intuitive insight, and good communication skills.
Once I landed on life coaching as a possible profession, I had to figure out how to become one. And believe me, there's more information on the internet about coaching than one could digest in a lifetime. Coaching schools seem to be everywhere, and it's hard to know the standards for what makes a reputable school.
Training To Be A Coach
Unlike counseling, coaching is not a licensed profession, which means anyone can say they're a coach and start a practice. And anyone can start a coach training program without jumping through any professional or government hoops.
However, there is an accrediting association for coaching schools, The International Coach Federation (ICF), which holds their member schools to certain professional standards of excellence. The ICF is internally-recognized and attending an ICF accredited school adds a level of professional credibility to coaches. The ICF also has established a respected Code of Ethics for certified members who must pledge to uphold these ethical standards.
Although there are many great coaches who've never been to coaching school per se, for me getting professional education and certification in coaching from an accredited institution was extremely valuable and important. I was building a business around my work as a coach, and I wanted the added legitimacy of a certification from a highly regarded, accredited school
If you are considering becoming a coach and want to investigate coach-specific training, I'd definitely begin with the ICF website which lists all of their accredited training schools around the world. And you can learn more about the various levels of credentialing and types of coaches (personal, executive, health and wellness, career, business, etc.).
I ultimately decided on Coach U, one of the oldest and most highly-regarded training programs. The training was extensive and invaluable, as I both learned the necessary and very specific skills of coaching, but also was given the tools and information I needed to begin a coaching business.
Becoming a life coach?
So how do you know if coaching is for you?
Well, if you are intrigued by this post and the idea of coaching, that's a great place to start. You likely have some natural aptitudes that draw you toward coaching.
However, there are some very specific skills a coach must possess. Here's a great list of 20 skills created by executive life coach Michele Caron:
Listening. There is more to listening than just hearing. Capturing the unsaid makes up the core of the listening skill.
Feedback. Be ready to give some constructive feedback without sounding partisan or critical.
Observing. Stay alert to the underlying factors so you can act on them.
Analyzing. As a Life Coach you will come across several information which you will have to analyze and draw conclusions from.
Communication. Be comfortable with communicating yourself, whatever be the medium.
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Timing. Be aware of when your client needs to move to the next stage. You should also know when to ask what type of questions.
Assimilation. Be prepared by integrating all your information.
Organizing. If you are not organized, you are bound to get confused. Keep your entire information and work load in an orderly fashion.
Empathy. Be kind and compassionate to your client’s needs and problems.
Ethics. Maintain your client’s information in confidentiality.
Complimenting. Feel free to compliment your clients whenever necessary. It makes them happy.
Motivating. Encourage your clients and make them feel happy about what they are doing.
Empowering. Empower your clients to move ahead and succeed.
Intuition. Having a good read on your “gut feelings” and being able to communicate them.
Energetic. You have to be energetic because you need high levels of vigor to be able to motivate.
Positivism. You as a life coach should be positive in your approach, attitude, tone and even writing. It is your positive outlook that spreads to your clients.
Creative. You have to come up with a number of new ideas to help your clients. Idea formation plays a major role in the career of a life coach.
Interested. You are sincerely interested in your clients and their success.
Self-Assured. You should be confident enough in yourself to be able to make the coaching conversation “all about the client.” It’s not about you!
Thirst for knowledge. There are new things happening every minute and you, as a life coach, have to be familiar with the changes around you. Update yourself with research and get familiar with new areas that you may encounter. This is so you can help your client with what he/she prefers to work on. (List courtesy of Michele Caron.)
Getting your certification as a coach is just the first step of the process. Once you are certified, you have to begin building your life coaching business. Unless you become a coach or a particular company or organization, more than likely you'll be working on your own from your own home.
Here are a few things you'll need to do to launch your coaching business:
1. Determine your niche.
If you haven't determined a niche or specialty for your coaching practice, this should be your first step. If you simply offer your services as a “life coach,” it will be much harder to find clients because you aren't specifically addressing a particular need or challenge.
By narrowing your focus and honing in on one niche, you can become an expert in that niche and attract clients who are seeking exactly what you offer.
Here's a list of coaching niches you can consider as you search for you perfect coaching specialty.
2. Set up your business entity and bank account.
You'll need to decide whether you want to be a sole proprietor, an LLC (limited liability corporation), or some other business entity, and then complete the necessary paperwork to establish your business.
The Small Business Administration has a great resource to help you understand the various entities and which one is best for you.
In addition, it's smart to have a separate business bank account for your coaching business so your professional income doesn't get mixed up with your personal funds. You might also want to set up a Paypal account if you want to accept credit cards or Paypal payments.
3. Create an online presence.
The vast majority of my coaching clients find me through my blog. When you have an online presence, especially a blog in which you're attracting people from all over the world interested in your niche, you exponentially increase your clients leads.
With a blog, you can write articles related to your niche, allowing readers to see the value you offer and get to know and trust you.
I think every coach should create a blog or other platform (like a podcast or YouTube channel) so they can eventually expand into other income streams beyond coaching. Coaches can create courses, write books, and promote related products as they grow a following on their blog.
4. Start marketing yourself.
This is hard for a lot of new coaches because they really just want to coach. They don't want to be pounding the pavement looking for clients.
That's why having a blog is so valuable. As you write articles relevant to your niche, clients will find you. Just be sure you offer your coaching services on your blog with a special page dedicated to the services you offer and how to hire you.
In addition, you can write guest posts for other related blogs and link back to your coaching page in your bio. You can also be active on social media, attend networking events, offer a free workshop, be a speaker at events, and send out a weekly newsletter.
There are hundreds of ways to market your services, but the key is — you have to do then! As an entrepreneur, you have to market your coaching business intensely if you want to have clients.
5. Save your money.
Like any new business, a coaching business takes time to develop. You won't have a full slate of clients the minute you get your certification. It can take a year or more to build a livable income as a coach.
You may need another source of income as you grow your business, or you might consider saving 6-12 months work of living expense income prior to changing careers.
Coaching is one of the most rewarding careers you can pursue, and you can make a good living from it. But you'll need to work hard and have patience before you start making decent money. Average annual incomes for coaches are between $55 and $110K.
If the idea of creating a life coaching business intrigues you, you'll be joining a profession of people who are dedicated to helping others become their best selves. It is a heart-centered business that is not only fulfilling but life-altering for both the “coachee” and the coach.