Even though life coaching is not regulated by any body or state, the International Coach Federation is recognized as the world’s leading coaching organization. Founded in 1995, and now with a footprint in hundreds of nations all over the world, the ICF has become the gold standard in life coaching. Because the ICF is the largest professional body for life coaches, it confers instant credibility upon its members. One of the reasons the ICF is distinguished is because of the stringent measures applied when awarding credentials to its coaches. In short, any life coach who wants to stand out in his or her profession must consider becoming ICF certified. Here is a step-by-step guide from the ICF on what you need to do to become a life coach:

1. Ask questionsInternational Coach Federation Guide

Before considering where to get your training and certification, take time to consider if life coaching is really a perfect fit for you. To help you make up your mind, ask yourself these three self-searching questions:

a. Do I have a passion for helping people to pursue their solutions?

Some people who show interest in life coaching do so because they have been told by friends and family that they “give great advice.” They feel this qualifies them to become a phenomenal life coach. But this reveals a lack of understanding of what life coaching is all about. The work of a life coach is not giving advice but rather helping the client to find their own path. In fact, those who are inclined to give people advice would not make good life coaches because giving advice is “coach-centered” rather than “client-centered.” If you are wired this way, it is better to seek a career as a mentor or maybe a therapist, but not as a life coach. If, however, you still want to pursue life coaching, you will need to unlearn the habit of giving advice to others. As a life coach, you must be ready to:
  • Discover what the client is intending to achieve and align with it
  • Encourage your clients to discover who they are and what they are after in life
  • Inspire client-generated solutions to issues they are dealing with
  • Hold the client accountable

b. Do I have what it takes to start and run a business?

Organizations are gradually realizing the importance of working with life coaches, and some of them even have a life coach on staff. For the most part, though, your best shot will be to set up a life coach business. Even the organizations that want to work with life coaches prefer dealing with independent businesspeople. Therefore, it is to your advantage to set up a life coaching business, and it is imperative to have at least some business acumen. Granted, not everyone is naturally skilled in business, but most of the proficiencies you need to prosper in business are skills that can be acquired through training and self-development.
From the outset, think of yourself as a businessperson who is out to set up a business from scratch. This is important because the core competencies that will be covered in your life coach training do not include training on how to setup and run a successful business. Knowing this from the start will help you to have the right frame of mind as you prepare to launch out after finishing the prerequisite life coach training and receiving your ICF certification. If you lack the necessary business skills, it might be a good idea to take advantage of the Business Development Series provided by International Coach Federation. This training was especially created for life coaches and will equip you with the business tenets and skills needed to become a successful life coach.

c. What else can I offer that will distinguish me from other coaches?

A career as a life coach can be rewarding, but the reality is that only a few life coaches earn all of their income entirely from life coaching. According to the ICF, life coaches spend an average of 13.9 hours a week coaching their clients, giving them an average of $47,900 in annual income. if you only work for 13 hours a week, you will be left with a lot of free time that you can convert to meaningful use. Start by asking yourself what else you can offer your clients apart from life coaching. Can you also provide consulting and training? Can you offer mentorship and teaching? Can you give them counseling?
Think of other creative ways of diversifying your income. This would work particularly well if the other service you offer is somehow linked to life coaching. For instance, you can make yourself available as a speaker to conference and seminars on the niche you specialize in. If you are getting into life coaching as part of a long-term strategy to quit your day job, keep in mind this principle: fulltime coaching should only happen when your coaching income overtakes your current employment income on a consistent basis. Having this mindset will allow you to grow your business without straining you financially.

2. Get coach-specific training

Getting coach-specific training is the first indication that you are serious about becoming a life coach. A recent report published by the Coach Federation found that the biggest obstacle in the coaching industry is people who are fronting themselves as life coaches, even though they have not received any training. Training will equip you with the necessary skills, make you more credible, and help you to grow in your profession. The ICF does not train individual coaches; rather, the organization sets quality standards for coaches and accredits training programs such as Aim Higher Life Coach Certification. Only approved programs receive the ICF’s ACSTH (Approved Coaching Specific Training Hours) program accreditation.
Before a training program is approved by the ICF, it will have gone through a stringent review process that demonstrates how the given curriculum adheres to the ICF definition of life coaching and follows and teaches the eleven core competencies. Accredited programs must also adhere to the code of ethics as stipulated by the International Coach Federation. Even though going through ICF approved training is not necessary in order to set up your coaching business, doing so will give you a big advantage over your competition. Without coach-specific training, you may not be properly equipped to handle the intricacies of life coaching. ICF approved training equips life coaches with skills and tools necessary to become an expert coach. As you go through the training, you will interact and connect with other like-minded life coaches, both fellow students and faculty, and these relationships can help you network and grow your business

3. Join the International Coach FederationJoin the International Coach Federation

Joining the ICF starts with getting coach specific training. For you to qualify, you must have completed at least 60 hours of training from a school that meets the requirements set out by the ICF. In other words, you want to take a program that is ICF accredited. Joining the ICF comes with many advantages. These include:
    • Credibility – As an ICF member, clients tend to trust you more. Just adding the ICF logo on your life coaching website can dramatically increase your conversions.
    • Professional Clout – The ICF has set in place a detailed code of ethics that every member is expected to adhere to. When you are an ICF member, everyone knows that you are part of a professional body that will hold you to high standards.
    • Leadership growth and development – As an ICF member, you have many opportunities to participate in various networking events. Volunteering for leadership in such events will expose you to unique tests and challenges, which will help to enhance your leadership skills.
    • Growing your network – As an ICF member, you have unlimited access to local, national, and even international events organized by the ICF. This can help you to network with other life coaches and make new friendships and partnerships.
Marketing tools – As an ICF member, you will be given a marketing toolkit that will help you to set up and grow your life coaching business.
Access to industry research – Knowledge is power. ICF members have access to the ICF Research Portal, which can be used to keep tabs on the latest trends and developments in the life coaching fraternity.
Suffice it to say that becoming a member of the International Coach Federation will help your business flourish!

4. Earn a credential

There are over 20,000 credentialed life coaches throughout the world, which sets them apart from those who have not gone through a credentialed program and received the necessary training. If you are serious about your life coaching practice, you will want to get your credential too. A recent poll by the International Coach Federation found that 83 percent of clients think that the fact the coach has a credential made a difference in their life coaching sessions. In fact, the same research established that 77 percent of the life coaches would not be hired if they did not have their ICF credential. Because the ICF is recognized globally as the de facto life coaching gold standard, it is imperative for any serious life coach to obtain at least one of the credential levels.
Obtaining an ICF credential calls for the fulfillment of rigorous procedures that have been laid out as a measure to maintain quality in the industry. Some of these requirements include:
Completing coach-specific training from an ICF accredited program such as Aim Higher Life Coach Certification
Attaining the designated number of coaching experience hours
Completing the prescribed number of mentoring hours
Demonstrating the mastery and clear understanding of the ICF’s life coaching core competencies, the code of ethics, and the ICF definition of life coaching through passing the CKA (Coach Knowledge Assessment) test
Demonstrating the mastery and clear understanding of the ICF’s life coaching core competencies, the code of ethics, and the ICF definition of life coaching through passing the CKA (Coach Knowledge Assessment) test


Once you go through the four steps outlined above, you will be an ICF certified coach, which is the best foundation for setting up your life coaching business. Following the steps highlighted will not guarantee instant success, but you will have greater proficiency in the eyes of those seeking a life coach, giving your business a greater chance of thriving. And even though life coaching is still widely unregulated, this could change as the profession gains even greater popularity. It is always best to invest in proper training and credentialing, because one never knows what the future holds for the industry.
Learn how to become a International Coach Federation Life Coach
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