Love to inspire and help others grow, achieve and succeed? Then it’s time for you to learn how to become a life coach. This unique and exciting career is perfect for those who like to develop and nurture others and for those who enjoy seeing people succeed. The path to becoming a life coach is more non-traditional than most careers, so many people may have the question ‘how do I become a life coach?’. For a motivated, persistent and determined person the path towards establishing yourself in this career is a relatively straightforward one. Some education, experience and certification is usually required, but this is an unusually flexible profession. Let’s take a look at exactly how to become a certified life coach.
What Does a Life Coach Do?
A life coach acts as a personal consultant to individuals who seek expert advice and input as they attempt to make significant positive changes in their lives. As a wellness-oriented professional, a life coach will help their client devise detailed game plans for self-improvement, in their health, relationships, careers, finances, or performance levels in a range of areas. During face-to-face and online interactions, coaches and clients focus on creating realistic and achievable goals, identifying obstacles or limitations that must be overcome, developing strategies that can boost personal effectiveness, and sharpening vital life skills that can produce impressive results in any endeavor.
Life coaches may specialize in particular areas, or function more as generalists. They may work as independent contractors, in partnerships, or with businesses or nonprofit organizations that hire them to work with their personnel or clients. With variations based on specialty, life coaches will work with executives, entrepreneurs, employees, creative artists, career changers, individuals with physical health issues, people in recovery from mental health or substance use issues, and others who are determined to make significant adjustments to improve life outcomes. While life coaches generally function as one-one-one personal mentors, they may also design and teach courses, give speeches or lectures, or arrange group sessions that allow them to instruct or advise multiple clients simultaneously.
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How Much Does a Life Coach Make?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not compile salary numbers in the life coach category. However, in 2019 the International Coaching Federation sponsored an exhaustive survey that focused on wages in the industry, and they discovered that the average yearly salary for life coaches in North America was $62,500. Individual compensation levels vary broadly, ranging from $28,000 annually on the low end to $101,000 annually on the high end.
There are currently somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 individuals employed or working as life coaches in the United States. Specific estimates of job growth rates are unavailable, but the profitability of the life coaching industry has been rising at an average annual rate of 6.7 percent since the year 2016.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Life Coach?
This is a field in which it is actually possible to get started almost immediately, assuming relevant skills, experience or education. There are no formal requirements for life coaches, so it typically can take anywhere from a few months up to five years to become a professional life coach.
If you happen to have a relevant degree, experience or have a large following of people who turn to you already for advice (through social media, blog, etc.) your first step may just be to start getting clients and, in this case, it would only be a matter of months to establish yourself.
If you have a bachelors degree in a relevant field (see step two below) then you should be able to get yourself set up in six months to a year after you receive a life coach certification (step three).
For details on how long it will take you in your specific situation, continue reading.
How to Become a Life Coach: A Step-by-Step Guide
You may be wondering how to become a life coach for free. As you’ll see, it is possible, but some cost towards certification and education will significantly increase your changes of establishing yourself, landing clients, building a reputation and charging higher fees. So, generally it is worth investing in some certification and education. And because of today’s interconnected world, you will also learn here how to become a life coach online.
Step 1: Assess Your Interest in Various Specialties
Once you’ve decided to become a life coach, the question you must ask yourself is, ‘what type of life coach would I like to be?’
Life coaches can find clients and build successful careers in many different concentrations or specialties. Some of the more popular options include:
- Business or Entrepreneurial Coaching
- Corporate Coaching
- Career Counseling and Coaching
- Dating and Relationship Coaching
- Nutrition and Fitness Coaching
- Financial Coaching
- Life Skills Coaching
- Addiction Recovery Coaching
- Mental Health Coaching
- Family Life Coaching
- Life Transition Coaching
- Health and Wellness Coaching
- Sports Coaching
- Religious or Spiritual Coaching
- Personal Development Coaching
These are some of the more recognizable categories in the profession. But you always have the option of creating a unique category all your own, filling a niche that you believe has been left unaddressed. Another possibility is to choose multiple interrelated specialties, combining your selections into a more comprehensive package that could be attractive to potential employers or clients.
Step 2: Study for a Bachelor’s Degree in a Relevant Field (if you don’t already have one)
Since life coaches are not licensed and do not have to meet any particular standards to enter the profession, a formal education is not technically required.
But a life coach without a degree may lack credibility, and struggle to market themselves to their chosen client base. Having a strong educational background, beyond any specific training you may undertake to develop life coaching skills, shows you’re dedicated to learning and improving yourself and will have good advice and insights to offer those who want to do the same.
Depending on the type of life coaching you plan to do, there are many degree programs that can help you develop useful intellectual and practical skills. Some common majors/degree programs that can benefit prospective life coaches include:
- Nutritional Studies
- Exercise Science
- Family Counseling
- Physical Education
- Organizational Management
- General Liberal Arts or Humanities
Essentially, any academic program that deals with people’s health and welfare, or helps you develop your analytical or communication skills, could add desirable depth to your knowledge base.
Step 3: Seek Life Coaching Training and Certification
Even though a career in life coaching is theoretically open to all, formal training and certification courses are available and represent a wise investment of time and money.
In the United States and internationally as well, a number of private and public training organizations are now offering certification courses in life coaching, which are designed and taught by professionals. The best of these organizations have been accredited by the International Coaching Federation, the most respected advocacy organization and accrediting body in the burgeoning life coaching industry.
Certification courses in life coaching offer intensive instruction in core competencies. They also provide more focused studies in popular concentrations (corporate coaching, financial coaching, life skills coaching, mental health or substance abuse recovery coaching, fitness or sports coaching, etc.), to help students get the specialized training they require.
Most certification programs are offered online, although there are still some programs that include a mixture of online and in-person instruction. Courses are largely self-guided, as students learn by studying workbooks, e-textbooks, and recorded video lectures and presentations. Live, interactive classroom experiences are also included in most curriculums, and students will also have opportunities to practice what they’ve learned during many hours’ worth of real or simulated coaching sessions.
Most comprehensive coaching certification courses can take between six months and one year to complete (a few take even longer). Shorter courses that provide certification are also available, but should only be taken as a supplement to at least one longer, more intensive training course.
For the convenience of aspiring life coaches, the International Coaching Federation website maintains a searchable list of all ICF-accredited institutions and their training and certification programs.
Step 4: Secure Employment or Open Your Own Practice as a Life Coach
The simplest way to break into the life coaching profession is to find a job with a life coach consulting firm, or with a business, community organization, or non-profit organization that hires coaches to consult with their managers, staff members, employees, or clients.
However, many aspiring life coaches choose a more self-determined path. This means setting up an independent practice, either alone or in partnership with others who have similar career ambitions.
Should you choose an entrepreneurial path, your initial marketing strategies will revolve around getting yourself noticed in any way you can. This will require both in-person and online networking, and you’ll need to be both creative and relentless in your efforts to find those first few clients that can help you get your career moving.
New life coaches can get started by:
- Establishing a presence on social media. Your online personality on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Clubhouse, or Twitter should be positive, encouraging, optimistic, and empathic. Life coaches are there to help, and you should adopt that helpful persona wherever you’re trying to make connections or market your skills and ideas.
- Creating a high-quality commercial website. Your SEO-friendly site should include well-written text and provocative video presentations that explain your approach and philosophy. You can also offer access to free newsletters, webinars, podcasts, and short ebooks to subscribers, to make sure they have plenty of intriguing content to evaluate.
- Becoming an active public speaker. You should look for speaking opportunities at conferences, meetings, conventions, public gatherings, or other events that will allow you to reach your potential customer base. To make a lasting impression, your verbal presentations should be concise, succinct, well-organized, and comprised of specific, detailed advice.
- Sign up to be a source for journalists. Through services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and SourceBottle, you can register as a potential source for journalists and researchers who need interviews spiced with juicy quotes for articles and reports they’ve been assigned to write. This is a somewhat unique way to introduce your ideas to a broader audience, but this type of exposure can help position you as a recognized expert in your field.
- Seek out chances to be interviewed online. Podcasts and live video streams are proliferating, and the hosts are all looking for interesting guests. While you may not reach large numbers of people this way, your participation in conversations that are relevant to your target audience will introduce you to the right demographic.
- Aggressively network yourself with friends, family, co-workers, former classmates, etc. Your personal contacts have personal contacts who have personal contacts, and so on. This creates a pyramid of people who might potentially be interested in your life coaching services.
If they give you good online reviews and are pleased enough to recommend you to others, even a small handful of clients can help you create a sustainable and profitable business.
Step 5: Become Credentialed Through the International Coaching Federation
Life coaches can verify their skills and experience by becoming certified through the International Coaching Federation.
For practicing professionals, ICF certifications are considered the gold standard in the industry. Those who carry a recognized ICF credential will be able to market themselves as certified experts, giving themselves an edge in a competitive field.
The ICF certifies life coaches with three separate designations:
- Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – Requires 60 hours of formal coaching training and 100 hours of coaching experience with at least eight clients.
- Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – Requires 125 hours of formal coaching training and 500 hours of coaching experience with at least 25 clients.
- Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Requires 200 hours of formal coaching training and 2,500 hours of coaching experience with at least 35 clients, and is open only to those who’ve previously reach PCC status.
Certification candidates must successfully complete a Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) examination. Candidates for a PCC or MCC credential will also have to submit audio samples and written transcripts of actual coaching sessions, so their performance can be evaluated directly.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Life Coach
How much it costs to become a life coach depends on your background. With some relevant experience and education it could cost you almost nothing to start landing clients and starting up a practice. With some hustle and persistence you can grow your practice without spending much money.
However, generally you will need to spend some money on certification and credentials. Depending on which specialty you choose, which certification program you attend and how many certifications and credentials you choose to acquire, the total cost to become a life coach will be about $2000 to $10,000.
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Life Coach
Pros of Becoming a Life Coach
Life coaches usually get to work with truly motivated clients, and that makes their job easier and more likely to produce results. Because they provide a service that is highly personal, life coaches tend to find new clients through direct referrals more frequently than is the case with most professions. Life coaching is generally considered a low-pressure profession, since life coaches don’t usually answer to supervisors and aren’t asked to offer quick solutions on short deadlines. Life coaching is an exciting profession for those who are intrigued by the challenges involved in building a reputation and a successful business from the ground up, and the fact that they can this while helping people transform their lives is an added bonus.
Cons of Becoming a Life Coach
Independent life coaches are small business people who must learn to market themselves effectively in order to succeed, regardless of their actual skills and abilities. This isn’t always easy for those who lack previous business experience, or who are essentially introverted by nature. It can take some life coaches months or even years to find enough clients to make their career choice financially viable, which is reflected in the fact that wages in the life coaching business are so volatile. While clients who consult with life coaches are generally well motivated, they aren’t always able or willing to do what it takes to change course or break free from unproductive habits. This can leave life coaches frustrated by their inability to achieve meaningful results.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Life Coach
Success as a life coach depends primarily on your mindset. Coaches of any type must be excellent communicators, and life coaches literally make their living from their ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The best life coaches are eloquent and inspiring; they can explain important concepts in terms that their clients will understand, and to do it in a way that really motivates those individuals to strive for greatness. Superior life coaches are skilled and attentive listeners and observers, and can quickly and smoothly adjust their message based on the verbal and non-verbal feedback they receive. In addition to having good interpersonal skills, the most successful life coaches are also gifted and willing public speakers, who know how to write brilliant speeches and present them in a way that is compelling and convincing.
Successful life coaches will possess a great quantity of perseverance. Entrepreneurs and self-starters must have this quality, otherwise they could become easily discouraged in the early stages of their career, when persistent energy and effort don’t always produce immediate results. It takes perseverance to build a business and/or a reputation from scratch, as new life coaches will inevitably have to do.
The top life coaches are highly organized and detail-oriented. To achieve impressive and sustainable results, they must create intricately detailed action plans that their clients can comprehend and will eagerly follow. Life transformations are not easy, but motivated clients can achieve them if the advice they get from life coaches is specific, descriptive, relevant to their lives, and targeted directly at the ultimate goal.
One of the truly unique challenges of becoming a life coach is figuring out how to customize messages and strategies to break through roadblocks. Because everyone is different, it is essential that life coaches be creative, so they can imagine and invent personalized solutions tailored to fit the complicated situation of each individual. Life coaches usually work with men and women who’ve tried to make significant changes on their own but failed, and that is why they must be clever enough to come up with fresh ideas and approaches.
In this article we have provided a guide which answers the question of how do you become a life coach. While it is possible to learn how to become a life coach without certification, this requires that you already possess relevant skills, education or experience. And, even so, a certification will lend credibility to your practice and allow you to charge a higher rate. Becoming a life coach is a unique and fun path which can provide you with enormous fulfillment and impact. Life coaches help to make our world a place filled with success and achievement, so please share this guide on how to become a life coach online with anyone you think may be interested or possesses the right characteristics to succeed in this field.