According to the ICF, there are over 53,000 life coaches throughout the world, with 17,000 located in North America. These numbers are steadily growing because life coaching continues to resonate with clients. So what exactly is life coaching, who is a life coach, and how can you become one?
Becoming a life coach is easy—there are no barriers to entry because life coaching is still an unregulated industry. That means you can decide to become a life coach today and instantly be one. However, all life coaches are not the same, and those who have completed an ICF certified life coaching program tend to be more proficient than those who have not.
Like all professions, becoming a good life coach requires an investment of time, dedication, and preparation. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a life coach.
Six Steps to Becoming a Life Coach
Understand What Life Coaching Is
Before you consider pursuing a career in life coaching, it is important to first understand what life coaching is and what it is not. A life coach helps his or her clients achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and/or make positive changes or shifts in their lives. Working in partnership with clients, coach helps clients find answers they are looking for to create the changes they seek. A client can be an individual or a group, and the changes sought can vary from life balance to a business restructuring.
Life coaches should not be confused with therapists, mentors, or consultants. A therapist will typically examine the past in order to deal with present-day pain points that might have caused the problems the client is dealing with. Mentoring is most often a long-term relationship in which the mentor is seen as a source of wisdom, teaching, and support. A consultant is considered a “fixer” or “troubleshooter”. He or she provides expert opinions, analysis, and recommendations to organizations or individuals, based on her or her own expertise, in order to prevent problems and improve performance.
Life coaches, on the other hand, are always forward focused. A life coach is someone who helps his or her clients identify goals and develop an actionable plan to achieve a desired outcome. This is an important point to note because, unlike therapists, you don’t need to be a failure in order to work with a life coach. In fact, life coaches love working with clients who are already doing well but are looking for ways to do even better.
Define Your Niche and Micro-Niche
In the medical world, there are general physicians and specialized surgeons. Surgeons typically charge more for their services, due to their expertise. Knowing your niche is what makes you marketable in your field of coaching expertise. Therefore, it is very important to define your niche even before you start training on how to become a life coach. In fact, the niche you select will determine the type of training you should take. Some life coaches focus on professional development, while others focus on personal and relationship issues.
There are coaches who specialize in health and nutrition and others who specialize in spiritual life coaching. It is still possible to go the “general physician” route, but defining your niche and sticking to it will help to brand you as a professional in that area. Finding your niche shouldn’t be too difficult—simply look to an area you are passionate about or one in which you have training and experience. However, defining your niche doesn’t mean that you will not touch on other areas if your client wishes to. For instance, a client’s career and personal life will always intertwine, and a good coach can help the client see problems or issues in various areas and help the client make decisions that are in his or her best interest.
Get Coach-Specific Training
The next piece in the how-to-become-a-life-coach puzzle is getting coach-specific training. This training fully prepares you to be an exemplary life coach. It is not enough to have a generic certificate from a non-descript program, nor is it enough to simply reply on your talents and experience. Proper training from an accredited program will prepare you for the unique challenges and expectations of the clients you will meet, once you start your life coaching business.
There are two important considerations to make when choosing which training to take. The first and most important is ICF accreditation. The ICF is the gold standard in life coaching and you should, therefore, only register for a program that has their accreditation. This is the surest way of knowing you will get quality training. The second important consideration is your niche, as that will guide you toward the certified training you will take. For instance, if you want to be a Christian/spiritual life coach, then you should receive training from a Christian life coaching school.
Get Your ICF Certification
Apart from accrediting programs, the ICF also certifies life coaches. Before becoming a coach, the ICF will require you to complete training that covers the core competencies of life coaching. This is why it is important to attend an ICF accredited program. An ICF certification will let your clients know that you are committed to the life coaching profession and that you are serious about your practice.
As an ICF certified life coach, you will be considered more proficient than non-certified coaches. Certification also means a deeper level of respect and the ability to charge higher rates. The verification also allows you to network with other likeminded life coaches, not only in your region but anywhere in the world where the ICF has a footprint.
Set Up Your Business
The next step is to decide whether you want to start a life coaching business or if you want to work as an in-house life coach in a company. If you want to set up a business, you will first need to decide the type of business you will be running; the two best options are a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company. Depending on the state you live in, these different forms of business require different registration details. It is also a good idea to develop a business plan that will help you to determine the startup costs, the source of revenue, and the breakeven analysis.
In addition, you will need to create a comprehensive marketing plan, including an awesome website, a LinkedIn page, and social media platforms. As you start taking clients, remember that the first people who come to you can make or break your business. If they have a good experience, they will tell their friends about it and will write excellent Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook reviews. Remember, word of mouth is still the best source of advertising.
Determine Your Rates
Determining your rates can be complicated. You do not want to overcharge your clients, but you don’t want to give away or undervalue your services. How do you know the best rates to apply? You can start by determining your mode of payment. Will you be billing per session, per day, or per hour? Will you offer packages? Can you provide any special incentives? Are there any other associated costs? For instance, do the coaching sessions involve travel, or will you operate your business solely online?
Factoring in all variables is important because it will help you to know if the industry average meets your requirements, or if you need to adjust for pricing schedule. But don’t get too hung up with what you will charge; experienced gained over time, along with a plethora of satisfied clients, will help you find rates that accurately demonstrate the worth of your services, as well as meet your needs.
There you have it: the six steps necessary on how to become a life coach. While these will take a little time and effort on your part, each one is paramount to your success. It is better to put in the work now and build a solid foundation that will benefit you for years to come. The Bible tells us to never grow weary in doing what is good, so that we can reap the benefits (Galatians 6:9). And this is great advice if you want to become a successful life coach.