Life Coach Certification—your complete guide for 2023
Choosing the best life coaching certification for you isn’t easy—how do you find a program that gives you everything you need to become a successful life coach? This detailed guide contains examples, best ICF practices, mistakes to avoid and loads of inspiration.
Welcome to my “everything you need to know” created-with-love life coach certification guide!
If you’re searching for deep, decluttered guidance to 1. make it easier to compare coaching training programs, 2. understand why a multi-niche big toolbox is so important and 3. make sure you’ve found an accredited life coach certification that provides everything you need to succeed in today’s world—then this guide is for you.
Twenty-five years ago, when ‘life coaching’ was new, a student rushed up to me with, “Col, I’ve just come back from studying to become a life coach in the USA. The whole time I was so excited to tell you that you’re teaching a style of life coaching, and you don’t even know it.”
My intuition lit up with a strong feeling that this was my next career path—to offer life coaching to my clients and teach it to my students. I dove head-first, making many mistakes, getting my program ICF accredited in 2012, listening to our graduates each year to improve our courses and loving every moment.
So, I’ve drawn on decades of helping natural coaches become go-to master coaches to create this checklist guide for you. I want you to get the best skills and know-how because the world needs more wisdom-led coaches changing lives.
Whether you want to:
- Grow a rewarding coaching business.
- Add life coaching to your existing services.
- Or be a ‘Manager as Coach’ with door-opening new skills.
May this guide give you everything you need.
- What is Life Coaching
- How to choose the Best Life Coaching Certification
- 3 Checks before you enroll in a coaching course
- How to check if a Coach Certification is Credible
- What Certification Costs – time, money and effort
- 4 Biggest Life Coaching Certification Mistakes
- Do you have what it takes to be a Life Coach?
- Will you be able to find clients?
- 3 Life Coaching Business Models
- What to do after certification
What is Life Coach Certification?
What is life coach certification? The simplest definition is that it’s a qualification that first teaches, and then verifies that you have the current global best practice skills and knowledge to work as a professional life coach.
Because the coaching industry has exploded into a $3 billion global industry and is still growing, many free and cheap certification mills have popped up, making it more confusing and more important to be discerning when choosing a program.
According to the ICF International Coaching Federation 2020 Global Coaching Study, the number of professionally certified coaches increased by 33% from 2015-2019. The industry is maturing, so your potential clients are getting savvier. Clients are hiring coaches with trusted qualifications and are willing to pay more for them (especially companies).
What do you get from a quality life coach certification?
At the least, your quality certification should give you door-opening credibility, confidence and competencies to attract your ideal clients and serve them at the highest level.
At the most, I recommend that you also look for training that will equip you with:
- Flexible skills to custom-build coaching solutions for the client in front of you (as 3-12 month journeys, instead of selling 1 hour at a time).
- A multi-niche big coaching toolbox (so you’re not trapped in a 1-niche dead end).
- Conscious ethical business-building training (because without knowing how to find clients, even the best certification is wasted).
This 8-Factor Checklist will help you sort the quality certifications from the weaker ones.
Can you be a coach without certification?
“Can’t I coach without certification?” I’ve heard many ask. Short answer, yes, you can.
Life experience and your natural ability to guide others are important—it makes you a natural coach and will give you a great foundation, but natural skills do not make a Master Coach. A talent for cooking at home is different from running a top-rated restaurant; the life coaching profession is no different.
Our industry is unregulated, so most countries don’t restrict anyone from using the job title “Life Coach.” After all, the title “coach” is even used in sports.
Coaching falls outside the realm of mental health professions and is closer to consulting, giving us much more freedom than psychologists. But it also means that anyone can call themselves a life coach without training.
This infographic shows you some things to consider when weighing the pros and cons of no certification vs free or cheap certification vs ICF Accredited Certification.
You’ll see that, in our opinion, there are very few cons associated with the path to an ICF-accredited certificate other than upfront investment.
Do you need certification to coach?
Short answer No, you don’t.
Yes, we could watch a few tutorial videos and launch our new coaching career the next day (many do). But when we sit in front of a client, feeling the pressure of wanting to help—not just coach on the surface, not just add to our client’s to-do lists—that’s when quality learning matters.
And when you help clients in profound ways because you have the competencies, toolbox and confidence, guess what? They send you referrals and wonderful reviews. That’s how we become a trusted ‘go-to coach.’
If it worries you that without proper training and feedback (from mentoring and assessments) that you could cause more harm than good, you’re not alone. I feel we’re legally and morally liable for any advice we give. It’s a responsibility.
Many of us want to provide the highest service, truly help others, and make a difference, so we’re happy to work hard to get credible life coach certification.
And lastly, something I don’t say lightly is, “We earn the privilege of changing lives.”
By mastering our skills through attending live coach classes to practice with fellow students, getting expert feedback to improve daily, being assessed and earning our accredited certification.
Many InnerLifeSkills graduate coaches tell us how surprised they were to see how in-depth master coaching training can be. There’s so much more to mastering coaching than listening and sharing well.
Aren’t there too many life coaches already?
“Col, I want to be certified as a coach, but I’m concerned about committing to this path because aren’t there too many coaches to compete with?”
Yes and no (sorry, it’s just true).
- Yes – there are probably too many pop-up overnight life coaches these days. But if you have the right training, skills and know-how, you’re not competing with them.
You’ll only be competing with certified coaches (approx. 70,000 in the world, according to an ICF 2020 study), which is very little for an entire profession. There are over 1 million psychologists globally, so we still have a long way to go (Stevens and Gielen, 2007).
- No–life coaching is a plug-n-play professional skill set, which means you can easily add it to other services, adapt it to different niche markets and plug it in to help anyone to help themselves.
For example, my team and I equip many professionals with the same core life coaching skills, from financial planners to psychologists, Enneagram practitioners to school teachers, and CEOs to attorneys. These competencies (when trained at master levels) can empower you to empower others.
I suggest you consider creating a brand instead of calling yourself a ‘life coach’ to set yourself apart from the competition. Rather offer life coaching, among other services, than be a Life Coach.
So what’s the downside of being certified?
When learning to ride a bicycle, training wheels can boost confidence and have us zipping around in no time, but once we can ride, they change from being helpful to holding us back, with no wheelies and quick, fun movements.
Coaching processes, core competency guidelines and scripts are our training wheels, they can become severely limiting once you start knowing what you’re doing.
This is why it’s important to learn progressively; what works for a beginner gets in the way of an advanced student.
Some certification programs don’t adapt and move from “learn the structures” progressively to a “go beyond the structures” phase, which produces coaches who struggle to be creative and intuitive with their coaching.
That’s why we emphasize progressively moving into a more dynamic, fluid style of coaching, which is what master levels of coaching are all about. We learn the rules to break the rules. We leverage the foundational structures and scripts to strengthen our creativity.
Download the FREE Life Coach Certification 2023 CHECKLIST GUIDE
Before investing time, money and effort, learn 8 Factors to compare and check if your chosen program has everything, you need to succeed.
How to Choose the Best Life Coach Certification
The best certification is the one that’s right for you.
Even my Master Coach Certification program (which naturally I love) is not for everyone; that’s why we chat with students before they enroll to check if our course is a good fit (we turn a potential student away if we know we are not right for them).
Before investing time, money and effort, use these 8 Factors to find the right life coach certification. No education is a complete waste, but we’ve seen many aspiring coaches spend a fortune on training, with even years of study, to still not have what it takes to confidently coach and succeed in today’s market.
What does it take to succeed in 2023 as a Life Coach?
You don’t need to guess—learn from those who’ve found a way. We don’t just teach wisdom-led Master Coaches—we learn from them.
In 2022 we interviewed dozens of our most successful coach graduates, who have been full-time professionals for 5-15 years, and won 5-star reviews, 2-year coaching contracts, book deals and client referrals.
We asked them what was working and what was not. There were some big surprises. The industry has changed radically. What worked for life coaches from 2002-2012 (to learn the right skills, find clients and build a coaching business) isn’t working as well today. Clients are more discerning, the market is more competitive, and the standards of our profession have been raised.
Does that mean certifying as a life coach today is a waste?
No. Top certified coaches are more successful than ever, and quality training is critical to stand out from the fly-by-night coaches. In 2022, coaching is estimated to be a $2.85 billion global industry.
Here are 8 Factors to help you find the path for you, but this approach to choosing a course is also not for everyone.
THIS 8-FACTOR APPROACH IS NOT FOR YOU IF:
- You’re happy to stick to surface to-do-list style coaching, which has a place but only focuses on goal setting, action plans and accountability.
- You only want a small toolbox of generic coaching processes to repeat and rinse again and again, regardless of what your client needs. This is easier to learn but severely limits earning potential.
- You aren’t interested in striving for mastery, unwilling to UN-LEARN old listening and speaking habits or discovering new ways to improve your natural coaching skills.
THIS 8-FACTOR APPROACH IS FOR YOU IF:
- You want to coach deeper than the surface, to see your clients light up with “Aha” clarity, transform their fears, find inner wisdom and fulfil their purposeful heart’s dreams.
- You want a big toolbox of unique processes to be free to coach anyone, any niche, anywhere, custom-creating powerful transformative 3- 12 month journeys for your clients. This uncaps earning potential.
- You love learning and are striving for mastery, willing to UN-LEARN the old and discover new ways of listening and speaking to improve your natural coaching skills.
Naturally, if you resonate with this approach, we’d love you to add our certification program, “InnerLifeSkills Master Coach (ICF Accredited),” to your list of possible choices.
Let’s lead, coach and guide with wisdom together.
Use the 8 Factors below to help choose the right life coach certification.
Download the FREE Life Coach Certification 2023 CHECKLIST GUIDE
3 Checks before you enroll in a coaching course
I’m sure you don’t want to invest time and money in a certification program without understanding what a coaching career is.
So here is a summary of what Life Coaching is and isn’t. Remember, people often use the word “Coach” as a synonym for other modalities like training, mentoring and teaching, but there is a marked difference.
What Life Coaching is and isn’t
The word “coach” (mid-16th century) French ‘coche’, and Hungarian’ kocsi’ (wagon) from Kocs, means ‘coach’ or ‘carriage’ transport to take you to where you want to be.
In the 18th century, the word ‘coach’ started being used as a verb.
When we coach, we help people move, change, transform, and progress from where they are now to where they want to be.
What is PURE no-advise giving coaching vs BLENDED coaching
“Blended” is a term we created to help coaches understand this key difference.
- PURE COACHING = No advice. Full partnership, solution-focused exploration. Helping someone to help themselves. ICF International Coaching Federation gold standards.
- BLENDED COACHING = Using Pure Coaching when needed. And also add other roles, e.g. we train Managers as Coaches and Consultants who BLEND coaching with giving advice (because it’s part of their job). We become more impactful leaders, consultants and trainers when we learn pure coaching. We create more buy-in and empowerment by not just “telling others what to do.”
If you want to be a BLENDED COACH, ensure your Life Coach Certification supports this.
How is life coaching different from other types of coaching?
You may be surprised to learn that the foundation skills for Life Coaching are the same for Executive, Business, Career Coaching etc.
Even the ICF (International Coaching Federation) Core Competencies are the same for all forms of professional coaching. It’s only when we BLEND coaching that specialist knowledge is needed. Successful Master Coaches don’t limit themselves to life coaching.
Eduan Pieterse, a 2013 InnerLifeSkills graduate, became a go-to Master Coach for a client who told me, “Ed saved my marriage, got my business teams on track and helped my teenage son.” Ensure your certification doesn’t limit you to only life coaching; why not free yourself to be a multi-niche go-to coach?
How is life coaching different to therapy and training?
- Picture a trainer (mentor) on the top of the mountain guiding and giving advice.
Now picture a therapist (counsellor) at base camp exploring the path and pain of the journey to the mountain.
The coach walks beside their client to the summit, helping them to help themselves.
Blended coaches mix these roles depending on their skills and the client’s needs.
Check that you are clear on which role/s you are interested in and find a program to match.
How to check if Coach Certification is Credible
According to the ICF Annual Surveys:
“Credentials are important to consumers. Among those who have been in a coaching relationship, 83% said certification/credential is important. For those aware of coaching but not yet been in coaching relationship, 76% considered certification/credential important.”
We usually check a certification or brand’s credibility first through online testimonials. But understandably, we’re sceptical because of so many online scams and exaggerated claims.
Here are 3 quick ways to check the Credibility of a Certification.
Full disclosure, I am a big supporter of the ICF, a non-profit global organization that bench-marks the gold standards of professional coaching. There are others, but in my opinion, the ICF is the most trustworthy.
In 2012 when we had our Master Coach Certification program accredited as an ACTP (Accredited Coach Training Program), we were impressed because they put us through the mill checking every piece of training material, our assessments, policies and faculty. Plus, we must renew every 3 years with proof of continued integrity and quality.
1. Check for Social Proof
Testimonials: Yes, read testimonials and case studies, but also CHECK out a few graduate coaches online to check if they’re real and what kind of work they’re doing. Why not pop a past graduate a polite, short DM on LinkedIn with “Hi, may I ask how you found your studies with…?”
Reviews: Remember that only 1-2% of graduates usually take the time to review, and people are more likely to post if they are unhappy. Also, check that the reviews are real with a DM or google search of their name. Some people may not be reachable, but 1-2 should be enough.
Partners: A great place to check credibility is among licensed partners, faculty and trainers—who are they, and are they credible? Most training providers hire freelance faculty, not full-time staff.
2. Check for Trademarks
Trademarks: It’s expensive and can take years to register a trademark (® = registered, TM = pending), so this could say something about how established a brand is. Look in the footer of their website for the ®. It’s illegal in many countries to use ® without owning the trademark.
Copyright: Next to the copyright notice is a date, e.g. InnerLifeSkills 2002-2012. Often (but not always), companies who’ve invested in creating original materials (not copied or plagiarized) enforce copyright.
Original IP (Intellectual Property): Even among ICF certification programs, you’ll find a lot of generic methods (which is understandable when they align with global standards). You can’t own an idea, only a methodology, design or way of expressing that idea. So check what’s offered that’s not generic.
3. Check for ICF Accreditation
ICF: In my opinion, ICF ACTP (Accredited Coach Training Program taught live online or on-site, instructor-led with a group to practice with, not 100% self-study) is the only way to go.
I am biased, and the courses I’ve authored are ICF ACTP. Our graduates win 1-2 year corporate coaching contracts because their certification is respected and their toolboxes are substantial.
If someone claims ICF ACTP, you can check their site for a listing. Also, check that instructors have ICF PCC or MCC, not ACC (check LinkedIn official ICF Credential badges).
Are you ready to commit to the time, money and effort?
This is an easier check, but I’m sure it’s important to you.
When students enroll, we often hear these reasons for it being time to commit:
- “People already come to me for inspiration and guidance; I want to turn my natural coaching skills into a professional career path.
- “I’m tired of not having a career that makes my heart sing; it’s time for a change.”
- “I want to start coaching professionally within the next year.”
- “I’m adding coaching services to my therapy practice to take my clients to another level of growth and to attract new clients.”
- “I’m a manager who wants to empower my teams using coaching skills.”
- “I retire in a few years; my dream is to have a consulting-coaching business.”
How much time does life coach certification take?
- CLASSES (3-4 hours weekly): Tempted to opt for intensive training, a few days instead of weekly classes spread over months? This can work, but remember that the weekly gaps help you integrate your skills. The ICF considers 60 hours of dedicated coach training entry-level, 125 hours for professional and 200 hours for master levels. Weekly classes are often 3-4 hours each.
- PRACTICAL (1-4 hours weekly): If you opt for weekly classes (recommended), count on at least 1 hour a week to practice your new skills and processes and 1-2 hours for supplementary materials. Check that your certification has a lot of in-class practice (not mostly theory) because coaching (like learning an instrument) is about mastering many SKILL SETS.
- ASSESSMENTS: For professional certifications, usually a theory assessment plus submitting a recording of a 30-60 minute coaching session is required. Its often suggested that students practice 10-20 sessions before attempting a final assessment.
Here is an infographic outlining 3 credential and skills milestones with the duration each takes.
How much does a life coach certification cost?
ACTP: We recommend comparing prices for a few ICF ACTP programs. Most providers offer payment plans. Usually, an ACTP includes assessment and mentoring costs. With an ACTP, if you apply to the ICF for a Credential (ACC, PCC, MCC), you can use their ACTP path, which is the lowest cost, quickest option and does not require you to repeat your oral assessment.
SHORT COURSE: If budget is a concern, some programs offer a module-by-module certification plan (like ours), giving you ACSTH (Approved Coach Specific Training Hours). With ACSTH, you could apply to the ICF for a credential using their ACSTH or PORTFOLIO paths, which cost more, take longer and would require you to submit an oral assessment to the ICF for them to mark.
How long does it take to make an ROI return on investment for your certification costs?
If you limit your niche, sell individual hours, and have a rigid coaching style and a small toolbox, it can take 1-3 years to recoup. If you un-niche, sell coaching journeys, build a silver business model, custom-build solutions and especially if you also upgrade to train and teach, a good 6 months of business could bring a return and become profitable. See FACTORS 4, 6 + 7 for insight.
What can a Life Coach Earn?
Life coaches make between $100-$150/hour, but I strongly suggest you break free from selling 1-hour to 1 client at a time.
Coaches who include a multi-niche approach can double that. Think of coaching journeys rather than hours. Think “What value can I add?” instead of what is coaching worth?
I ask my coaching students, “Where does your coaching take clients? What is the change you facilitate? Now, what is that destination worth? How valuable is that change?”
Can you see the mindset change? See FACTOR 7 for important Business Model frameworks.
We make our investments back and much more in the long run.
According to the International Coaching Federation: “Compared to a peer without a credential, Credentialed coach practitioners command higher fees from coaching. Report more clients and greater annual revenue from coaching.”
Here is what an average Coach in the USA earned in 2020-2021. Average hourly fee/client type.”
- Executive: $340 USD
- Business owner/entrepreneur: $240 USD
- Manager: $230 USS
- Team leader: $170 USD
- Staff member: $130 USD
- Personal client: $120 USD”
What energy and effort do I need to complete a coaching course?
PASSION + PURPOSE: Your passion for building a purposeful career that makes a difference is vital. Motivation helps with commitment – so choose a course that inspires you.
Keep tapping into why you’re on this path.
Download the FREE Life Coach Certification 2023 CHECKLIST GUIDE
4 Biggest Life Coaching Certification Mistakes
Will your certification free you from 3 big coach traps?
Honestly, this is a SECRET to success. As I type these words, I feel my cringe meter rising because it sounds like a cheesy marketing line, except this is a massively important factor that’s hardly ever taught. Many coaches are told to do the exact opposite. So I’m pleased to share this ‘not-really-a-secret secret.’ I want you to be free to FULLY CUSTOM BUILD your coaching services EASILY and QUICKLY for the client in front of you.
Can you tell how passionate I am about this?
It saddens me when coaches are taught that to succeed; they need to first
- Choose a NICHE, then
- DESIGN a PRODUCT, then
- LAUNCH in some way.
This poor advice approach is why many coaching career dreams die.
There’s no need to be trapped in 1 niche or hands tied by a generic (every-coach-does-the-same-thing) coaching style. We can co-create magic with our clients—free to customize intuitively so we can serve any niche at the highest level. But we earn this privilege.
We earn the privilege of falling asleep at night knowing we made a real difference and waking each day inspired to work because our unique, diverse master coach toolbox empowers us to empower others.
Mistake #1 – Choosing a coaching niche
Every coach I know who tried to choose a NICHE as a first step struggled, and many failed.
Why? Isn’t every coaching guru telling you to choose a niche?
Yes, but this approach doesn’t work well on the ground, where we see new coaching careers live and die. Imagine an aspiring chef, artist, or musician trying to choose their niche market or speciality BEFORE mastering the basics.
Finding a niche is only vital for marketing, for what you put in your ‘shop window.’
CASE STUDY: When we met Murielle Marie, a practising coach, we un-niched her, giving her a much bigger, flexible coaching toolbox to experiment with what worked and brought her joy finally.
Hundreds of happy client sessions later, she discovered her marketing niche.
Most of our top Master Coaches don’t even have websites; they rely on being able to become their client’s go-to multi-niche coaches and win referrals because of serving their clients at the highest level.
Mistake #2 – Having a small limiting coaching toolbox
Imagine your client hits an inner obstacle like self-doubt; what do you do? With a traditional toolbox, you can only: ask a solution-focused question, challenge limiting beliefs, or use a stock-standard NLP, often manipulative method.
Check that you will get many customizable tools, especially for coaching inner obstacles.
Imagine your client wants to focus on mindset, relationships, understanding their personality, building a brand, or handing back family baggage; without an extensive customizable toolbox of processes, you’d be stuck. Consider adding Intuition, Relationship, Systemic, Purpose, Dream building, and Enneagram toolboxes. Yes, we offer these.
Mistake #3 – Having a to-do-list coaching style
The ICF credential coaches at three levels, ACC (Associate), PCC (Professional) and MCC (Master). These are incredible milestones to aim for even if you don’t plan to be an ICF member.
Why is this important?
The 3 ICF levels of credentialing, ACC, PCC, and MCC, are a map for achieving higher competency levels.
- ACC competencies are valuable but tend to be surface, goal setting and to-do-list coaching. Which still is worthwhile but entry-level.
- PCC competencies start to give us the skills to change lives. This is holistic, deeper than the surface, and intuitive coaching.
- MCC competencies are a level beyond all masters. They make the coached conversation look natural and effortless.
There’s no performing, mechanical scripted communication, just a true partnership and flow of insights from skilful coaching.
ACC-level coaching tends to be surface and rigid, frustrating the client and the coach. Like a musician who can jam creatively, MCC master levels give us maximum flexibility. Our coaching stops sounding mechanical and becomes a journey of discovery with space for intuition, “Aha” wisdom epiphanies and endless variety.
Master levels of skill plus an extensive customizable toolbox will enable you to coach a client over many-many sessions, keeping the coaching relevant, fresh and alive.
GOT QUESTIONS? WE CAN HELP.
Chat to us for guidance and no-strings generous advice about your certification journey.
Book a Zoom call with our advisor.
Do you have what it takes to be a Life Coach?
Does your program boost your confidence to life coach?
Make sure your certification is focused on hardwiring your practical skills, not theory.
Learning a skill set without feedback is missing out on so much. Nothing accelerates your coaching development like in-the-moment feedback when you need it most.
That’s why the ICF insists that coaches at the Professional and Master Levels receive 7 hours of group mentoring and 3 hours of individual mentoring, as well as written feedback for observed coaching sessions (all included in any ACTP ICF Accredited Coach Training Program).
When you feel stuck or unsure, timely feedback can help you take that next step, get back into the flow, and replace doubt with confidence.
Why is mentoring so important for your confidence as a life coach?
Even if you don’t plan to reach master levels of coaching skills, mentoring and guidance from a Master Coach Instructor are invaluable.
Mentoring fast tracks your practical skills progress (picture a chef cooking while a master chef guides vs going alone). Check that you’ll receive personalized mentoring from Professional or Master-level coach instructors.
Also, watch out for certifications that sell big student groups, where you’d be drowned out in a massive online class; the smaller the class size, the better – less than 15 in a group is ideal.
Why is LIVE coach training with feedback critical?
Learning to coach is, ideally, a progressive learning path. It’s best to understand the big picture of where you are heading (what master coaching looks and sounds like) and then to steadily layer one skill onto the next, starting with foundation skills. Make sure your program helps you identify the priority skills for each progressive learning level and gives feedback to match.
As you grow and become more skilled, the feedback level must match. It’s no good only getting feedback at the final assessment when it’s too late to unlearn a foundation mistake.
How does Life Coach Certification work?
It’s natural to feel wary of assessments; they’re stressful. We’re being judged on our efforts, so it can feel very personal.
Here are some essential questions to ask when selecting your life coach certification:
- What assessment readiness does the certification offer? For E.g., a mock assessment and mentoring with detailed feedback are best.
- What pass rate do they have on final assessments?
- Will you have access to example assessments (audio) to learn from?
- What happens if you don’t pass your first attempt?
- Are the assessments aligned with the ICF standards and code of ethics?
This means assessors are trained to offer helpful feedback to find “evidence of demonstrated competencies” rather than judge the coach.
Will you be able to find clients?
Will you learn how to find clients (ethically in a non-cheesy way)?
Even with a credible, comprehensive certification, your dream of being captain of your career destiny, free to coach when and where you want, may end unless you find a steady stream of people to coach.
Aspiring coaches must realize they’ll need marketing (visibility) and sales skills (client conversions). And those who do know this feel stuck because many of us want to find clients ethically, naturally, refusing to sell our souls for sale.
Some coaching qualifications teach business building, but most teach a niche-first approach (see FACTOR 4), which explains why many certified coaches get lost in a client desert with little to no income. Factor 6 recommends that you check that your certification teaches ethical and proven (not outdated) heartful ways to find clients.
How to find multi-niche coaching clients
I’m repeating myself (see FACTOR 4 Coaching Certification Mistakes). If you plant seeds that don’t grow well, it makes sense to try new soil and make adjustments. We can’t make natural learning adjustments if we must choose one niche upfront and stick to it.
What if instead of only growing organic herbs, you can grow veggies and fruit (metaphorically.) Can you tell I grow some food at home? It’s taught me a lot about natural business growth; the wisdom of first giving to the soil to get in return is inspiring.
If you have niche blinkers on, please take them off.
So many wonderful clients are waiting for you in different spaces. Remember, only our digital marketing messages must be “niche” focused on working well. Marketing should ideally happen later once you know what to put in your “shop window.” Until then, why not explore many markets by having natural conversations (online and offline) focused on learning a straightforward thing: “How best can I serve this person?”
You don’t need to sell coaching if you do this instead
I used to cringe at the word “Sales” until I swapped it for “Share & Serve.” Sharing became far easier when I realized I could only find those who needed my services.
Your coaching skills also lend themselves to natural ‘consultative selling.’ Instead of trying to push off-the-shelf coaching offers (which feel unnatural and often fail)—I recommend custom-building coaching solutions for the person in front of you. To do this, your toolbox must be diverse and your skills flexible (Factor 4).
Find out where someone is stressed, struggling, stuck or suffering and co-create a solution—this approach makes excellent business sense and is the very definition of service.
What marketing methods do successful life coaches use?
Many of our top graduate coaches don’t need marketing; they’re busy enough using naturally conscious sales methods across many niche markets.
But for those who want to build a sustainable client-attracting business, marketing is vital. Instead of marketing systems, why not build eco-systems based on principles of slow, steady natural growth, giving to get and ethical, honest sharing?
Check what types of marketing methods your coaching certification teaches.
3 Life Coaching Business Models
What business-building skills do you need?
If you still need to do this, calculate how many hours of coaching you need to sell per month to:
1. Make ends meet.
2. Make your ideal living.
When coaches realize how many new clients they need to find every month to meet the quota of sold coaching hours, they’re often shocked.
It’s almost impossible for most new coaches to find 23-45 new clients monthly (you’d need a database of 3,000+ orbiting clients).
And even if you did this, it’s a recipe for burnout. But there is another way.
So please ensure your coaching course teaches you how to sell coaching journeys, add value, and offer you a level-up to natural income growth.
The selling individual coaching hours business trap
It may seem like the low-risk, easy-entry approach to selling one client 1 hour at a time, and most newly certified coaches do start this way to gain confidence. But please consider breaking free of this as soon as possible.
Besides the financial limitation, more than 1 hour is needed to make a real impact. Seasoned coaches know that the “real coaching” (real issues and real change) happens a few sessions in.
Package 3 options of short, mid to long duration coaching journeys, with lots of value, to walk the path with your client.
This doesn’t mean encouraging dependency; fortunately, you can coach unlimited topics and goals when you have master-level skills and a diverse, extensive coaching toolbox.
This way, 5-10 new clients every 6-12 months is usually enough. Whew! That’s far more realistic.
The 3 Life Coaching Business models and which one I recommend
Picture an apple tree (my symbol for our true being-based natural purpose) with bronze apples at the base, silver mid and gold at the top. These represent three tiers of a business model.
Silver is often a coaching business model sweet spot.
Gold can take years to build well but can provide significant income from very few clients. Bronze is the toughest business model for coaches (yet most try it) because it requires a large database + lots of admin, + expensive marketing to work.
- Gold clients have a larger disposable income and often want “done for me” complete bespoke solutions that save them time. You’d need massive credibility and value adds.
- Silver clients have moderate disposable income and often want “done with me” semi-bespoke solutions with partial time savings. You’d need decent credibility and added value.
- Bronze clients have limited disposable income and are often happy with “DIY”, more time-consuming off-the-shelf solutions. You’d need credibility and fair value.
Case Studies: Some of our most successful master coach graduates offer a consulting phase to ‘scope and advise,’ then a training phase to ‘transfer knowledge and skills,’ and finally, a long-term coaching phase of journeys to ‘integrate and sustain change.’
Check if your coaching certification provider offers a next-step level-up “train-the-trainer” license opportunities to maximize your long-term cash flow potential and positive impact.
What to do after certification?
What post-certification support and growth is offered?
Does your training provider offer a community with post-certification support and ongoing development?
Building a coaching business can be an incredible long-term journey, especially if you are among visionaries who share your love for inspiring and empowering others.
Once you’ve established a proven coaching product, Joint Venture Partners can be a cross-pollination (yes, more nature metaphors) booster for your business.
A JV is someone who:
- 1. Serves the same market you do but is not a competitor, e.g. you coach natural wellness, and they sell natural supplements.
- 2. Has a broader service offering, e.g. you offer Enneagram coaching for relationships, and they provide general Enneagram coaching.
- 3. Serves the same market at a different stage of their journey, e.g. You serve entrepreneurs who are already trading, and they serve start-ups still testing their business ideas.
JVs are opportunities to create free marketing or paid events (webinars, talks) and co-created products, which can be career boosters or divorce-scale legal disasters.
Check if your certification teaches and guides JV creation.
Here are some questions to possibly explore with your training providers:
- After certification, what programs or partnerships do you offer?
- What ongoing support can a graduate receive?
- After certification, how can graduates continue to learn from each other?
- What ongoing masterminds or workshops can a graduate opt for
- After certification, what networking opportunities do you offer?
- Would you be able to teach me how to create JV joint venture partnerships to scale my business?
These are some of the top graduate Master Coaches and Trainers we interviewed to compile this guide; we had a wonderful Saturday together on my patio and in my garden (where organic vegetables do grow :-))
Thank you for taking the time to learn to coach.
May this checklist help you to become the coach you were born to be.