A good life coach can offer their clients perspective, rapid-fire change and an invaluable accountability partner. A growing number of people seem to recognize this, and the coaching industry is expanding. It’s estimated that there were approximately 71,000 life coaches around the world in 2020, a 33% increase from 201. Additionally, the number of leaders and managers who have adopted life coaching skills in their careers has grown by 46% in the same time frame.
What Is a Life Coach?
According to the International Coaching Federation, the dominant organization in the space, life coaching involves “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
As life coaching has become more common, the list of potential roles in the industry has broadened. The ICF now uses the term “coaching continuum” to account for the widening range of techniques and opportunities available in the life coaching industry. These roles include internal and external coach practitioners and managers or leaders who use coaching skills as part of their leadership style.
What’s the Difference Between a Life Coach and an Influencer?
People love doling out advice, and many have taken to social media to do it — especially Instagram. There are online advocates for relationships, physical health, mental health, divorce, financial wellness and careers, including entrepreneurship. There are also hashtag-centered movements, such as FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. Social media is a world rich with guidance, but is it coaching?
If you want to work as a life coach, you should know that your work will go far beyond what the influencers and advocates on social media are up to. You won’t be able to limit yourself to sitting behind a computer and posting the day’s inspiration, but you’ll have to compete against people who do.
How To Become a Life Coach in 7 Steps
Becoming a life coach can help you set yourself apart professionally, taking your place in this growing industry. Here are the seven steps you’ll need to take if you want to become a life coach.
1. Job number one is to be client number one.
Have you ever heard the expression “stop asking people for directions to places they’ve never been?” It’s common sense, really — people can’t tell you what they don’t know. That will be true of you, too, so make sure that you’ve done the inner and outer work required so that you can offer people the kind of advice they’ll come to you for. That includes the ongoing work of healing from past hardships and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
2. Slip into the right mindset.
Vulnerability creates trust, so one of the best things you can do for clients is to show up as a human first and a life coach second. There’s no need to offer answers on a silver platter. Instead, consider this: research suggests that being curious and asking others the right questions sets the best stage for learning and relating. Think about how to show clients the aspects of your story you’re comfortable sharing and be relentlessly curious about their story.
3. Understand the market.
Coaching — whether it involves health, relationships, money or career — is a booming industry. Globally, revenue earned from coaching was estimated to be $2.8 billion in 2019, a 21% rise since the prior measure in 2015.
4. Decide whether or not you’ll have a specialty.
Think about your interests. Which topics would you love to be asked about? Research shows that picking a specialty pays off. Coaches with a niche focus report that 40% of their client engagements usually last for seven months or more, in contrast to 28% for general coaches who choose not to immerse themselves in one subject matter.
5. Pursue any needed certifications.
To properly compete, you’ll likely need credentials. In 2020, nearly all coach practitioners — roughly 99% — report that they have training in the coaching space, and most of them — around 93% — have accreditation or approval by a professional organization in the coaching industry. The percentage of coaches pursuing accredited instruction was 89% in 2015, so the pursuit of high-quality training is on the rise. It’s what clients expect, too, with the majority reporting that they expect their coaches to have relevant certifications or credentials.
6. Build your business structure.
Once you’re ready to get out there, you’ll need to do a lot of work to actually get out there. Create a launch roadmap that considers the following factors:
Factors To Consider
- What name will you operate under?
- Should you have a business license?
- Do you need an Employer Identification Number?
- Is liability insurance required or recommended?
- Will you need a healthcare plan for you and any employees?
- How much will you need to set aside for taxes?
- What are your marketing needs?
7. Network effectively and stay connected.
Referrals will be a part of how you land new clients as a life coach, so you’ll want to be known and respected in the industry. It’ll also be important to keep up with continuing education. You may find value in following up with former clients as well to see how they’re faring and incorporate any learnings from that into your practice.
What Can You Earn as a Life Coach?
A 2020 study from ICF found that in North America, coach practitioners with active clients earn around $62,500 in annual income on average.
Good To Know
It’s important to understand that coaching is not — as of yet — a well-regulated industry. When the ICF has asked coach practitioners what they perceive as their biggest emerging obstacle, the leading response has been untrained individuals who refer to themselves as coaches.
Future Outlook: An Industry Rife With Opportunity
The industry is growing rapidly, and nine out of 10 coaches say that they currently have active clients. For those with a vision and a desire to empower others, life coaching can be a lucrative and rewarding career.