Life coaches help people move forward in their lives, achieve results, and overcome difficulties. If you feel the urge to help others and have relevant competencies that allow you to do that, you may wonder what a life coach is and how to become one. What steps should you take to get started as a life coach?
Quality education cannot be overlooked if you want to become a professional life coach. Beyond developing in your niche, as a coach, you should constantly educate yourself in the art of communication, cognitive psychology, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), time management, and many other fields. As the coaching market is booming, clients’ expectations of a coach will only continue to grow. You will need to meet these demands with the help of your professionalism, skills, and top-quality education.
In this step-by-step guide, we provide you with all the essential knowledge on how to be an effective life coach and how to set up a successful coaching business.
What is a life coach and how can you become one?
A life coach is an expert who helps people achieve long-lasting life transformations. These transformations could entail finding contentment in life, setting new goals, building a successful career, or building a better relationship with a partner. A professional life coach can help clients develop a systematic approach towards attaining their goals based on their unique skills, talents, and life experiences, helping clients build inner strength.
People who perform successfully in their careers and become great professionals, such as great athletes or experienced nutrition experts, can develop themselves further as coaches and help people live better lives.
The life coach closes the gap between thinking about doing and actually doing.
Life coaching differs from other types of coaching. A life coach may not necessarily be proficient in a client’s profession. What a life coach must be is competent at building a connection with the client, advising the client, and helping the client achieve results they can’t reach on their own.
Coaching vs therapy — what’s the difference?
Some people may have false beliefs about coaching, conflating it with counseling or therapy. To illustrate the difference, let’s take two people who have lost their jobs. One person feels disappointed about losing their job and doesn’t know what to do in their career. The other person experiences depression after losing their job. Someone who is feeling sad and lost because something unpleasant has happened needs a different form of assistance from someone who is experiencing clinical depression. A person experiencing depression should visit a psychiatrist. Life coaches do not treat behavioral or emotional problems, but they can help people who may lack direction, for example.
Therapists are educated to support people with mental health difficulties (cognitive, emotional, or behavioral issues). A therapist can dig into a person’s past and look at a person’s medical history to find the roots of their problems and work them out, while a life coach is concerned about what’s happening in a client’s life in the here and now.
Fundamental coaching skills
As a coach, you have the power to uplift your clients during your sessions or make them feel worse. Check out what skills are fundamental for a coach to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Build a rapport
To build trust with clients, a life coach must learn fundamental skills in developing a rapport and must communicate from the perspective of the client’s needs, matching the client’s body language, words, and amplification (the volume of your voice). There are three ways to establish a good rapport with your clients:
- Language construction. Constructing your language means that when you have a client who processes information visually, try to explain the meaning of what you say in your own words, creating visual images. When you consult an auditory client (someone who learns better through speaking and listening), you should pay attention to your tone and voice to make them remember sounds. Kinaesthetic clients who learn through action want to feel safety and stability.
- Body language. Facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, and other physical behavior can help you establish a good rapport. For example, a smile can elevate a client’s mood, create a positive atmosphere, and help your client feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Amplification. Amplification means lifting the volume of your voice to a certain threshold to match the client’s tone and pace. For example, when you coach a visual client, they may speak quickly and with a higher pitch, whereas kinaesthetic clients may speak more slowly and at a lower volume and pitch.
Coaches can use cognitive methods to alter people’s thinking. Cognitive psychology focuses on people’s thoughts and what social biases or negative patterns stand behind them.
For example, say your client is a CEO who wants to improve their decision-making skills. As a coach, you can start to ask questions and monitor the client’s thinking process to realize where the roadblocks are. Then you can work on and modify the client’s old thinking patterns to help them think differently and make new decisions.
As a coach, you can amplify communication with your clients using the Milton model. Milton H. Erickson was the first president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. It’s even supposed that Milton’s approach was the ground upon which Bandler and Grinder developed neuro-linguisting programming (NLP).
Milton’s ideas about artfully vague language (initially designed to support hypnotherapy patients) can help coaches significantly improve their sessions. Artfully vague language is about forming sentences with no real sense. While listening to these sentences, the client can give them their own meaning derived from personal beliefs, values, and experiences.
When you’re artfully vague, the client can respond to your questions honestly based on their needs and goals. This prevents you from accidentally telling or suggesting something that might negatively influence the client’s success. Artfully vague language helps your clients understand your words in the way that best suits them, helps them in making the right decisions, and aligns with their reality.
Provide feedback for development
To become a more effective coach, give your clients constructive feedback to let them understand how far they’ve progressed or where they are stuck. For example, you can tell a client how their behavior and habits have changed to encourage them to work further on their lifestyle. Always ask for client feedback to ensure you’re not missing out on any vital details during your sessions.
Types of life coaching services
There are many different types of life coaching niches. General life coaches provide all-around support. Specialized coaches focus on only one or a few areas, helping particular types of clients with their unique needs, wants, and inner blocks.
- Career coach. A career coach deals with people who are already successful in their jobs but are not fully satisfied with their lives. Clients who visit a career coach may want to understand what goals to set or how to become better leaders.
- Lifestyle coach. A lifestyle coach helps clients incorporate effective habits on a daily basis and change their lifestyle in the best possible way.
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) coach. With the right approach, ADHD coaching helps clients become better organized, more attentive, and less stressed, and empowers them to set their own goals.
- Wellness and fitness coach. A fitness coach helps people achieve their desired look, such as by building muscles, losing weight, or maintaining the desired figure. A fitness coach can help a person prepare for a marathon or adopt healthy dietary habits to change their lifestyle.
- Mental health coach. A mental health coach helps people who lack motivation or experience stress, anger, or other emotional issues. A mental health coach can identify inner blockers that prevent an individual from achieving what they want and can help them gain self-confidence and inner strength.
- Relationship coach. A relationship coach educates clients on how to build successful relationships with family members, partners, bosses, and others; resolve conflicts; and live harmoniously with other people.
- Spiritual coach. A spiritual coach supports people who seek alternative spiritual help and want to become more conscious. A spiritual coach helps clients deal with anxiety, anger, or fear without turning to traditional religion.
How to become a life coach in 9 steps
How does someone become a life coach? Life coaching is not just about showing empathy, advising, listening, and motivating. Being an effective life coach entails much more. First, you’re an entrepreneur who has precise goals and should know how to make them a reality. Once you’re ready to set up your life coaching business, follow these steps:
#1 Choose a niche
Instead of jumping into many spheres, consider your background and skills, find what you’re passionate about, and deepen your knowledge in that area — nutrition, personal growth, family relationships, business, etc. Doing this will allow you to build a professional reputation in your clients’ eyes and get more referrals. You’ll be able to promise your clients specific results in a measurable time frame and offer tools and strategies that have proven to work for other clients.
#2 Define your perfect client
Visualize your perfect client to create an accurate and descriptive client persona. This will give you a generalized view of your potential target audience and help you understand the answers to these questions:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What are their common problems?
- What services do they prefer?
- What coaching model works best for them?
#3 Define your unique selling proposition (USP)
Your unique selling proposition distinguishes you from competitors and makes you stand out. A USP that communicates your values and business offers shows your prospects why they should choose you rather than your competitors.
Here’s a great example of a unique selling proposition:
From this guide, you’ll learn why you need a well-established unique selling proposition (USP) to stand out from the competition and how to create one.
#4 Get certified
From the legal perspective, becoming a life coach is not the same as becoming a therapist, which requires a corresponding degree and years of training. Yet, if you want to master your coaching skills, become more qualified in your niche, and implement higher ethical standards in your practice, you can enroll in a training course that is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) — the leading global organization for coaches. Check out three credential levels for coaches offered by the ICF:
In the ICF’s Training Program Search Service, you can find a coaching certification course that fits your business needs.
#5 Choose a coaching business model
There’s no one-size-fits-all coaching model that equally benefits all practicing coaches. The right coaching model is the one that best fits you. For example, you may start with private coaching sessions and then scale your practice and start to provide group sessions. Take a closer look at the top ten coaching business models:
- Private coaching — This model is suitable when you’re starting your coaching practice and still building your clientele.
- Group coaching — This is suitable when you want to expand your business or have clients who are eager to participate in group sessions.
- Selling products — Selling products is a great model to receive passive income from your ready-made services and programs, such as by selling a book or an online course.
- Online coaching — Providing coaching services online will allow you to reach clients across the globe without regard to their physical location.
- Membership — If you successfully practice one-on-one coaching, you can take it a step further and adopt the membership model. You can charge a monthly fee to provide clients access to a broader range of your coaching services.
- Retreats — This model requires strong organizational skills. You can go beyond private or group coaching at your usual location and offer your clients retreats that last at least a few days in some fascinating place.
- Mastermind coaching — This model fits if you have clients willing to join group coaching and share their experiences with others. You can organize mastermind sessions to help those clients find a support team and work together on reaching their goals.
- Partnership — If you want to offer your clients a more immersive experience, you can provide coaching sessions in collaboration with another expert from your niche. For example, a career coach can partner with a company executive.
- Coaching book — If you love writing, creating a book to capture all your knowledge will help your clients achieve their goals and solve problems on their own. However, it would be best to align another business model with the coaching book model.
- Thought leadership — If you want to be a thought leader in your coaching niche, social media can be the perfect place to get loyal followers. For example, by developing your online presence on LinkedIn, you can network and build your own community with trusted clients.
Want to work with fewer clients and get higher revenue? This guide explains how to create and sell high-price coaching programs to grow your business.
#6 Define services (packages) and pricing
To charge your clients fairly and earn a fair profit, you should set pricing policies to make your coaching offers worthwhile. Once you decide on your business model(s) (how you prefer to work with clients), evaluate existing billing options and choose which ones align with your needs. The most common pricing models are:
- Single consultations
- Long-term coaching packages
- Monthly retainers
- Hybrid payment model
However, dealing with accounting tasks can waste time you’d rather spend growing your business and helping clients. You can avoid a lot of finance-related barriers if you opt for coaching practice management software that supports automated payments and enables clients to pay on their own. We also recommend implementing a prepayment option that guarantees your payment even when a client skips an appointment.
#7 Start your business (legal side)
Providing paid consultations requires you to comply with your state’s legal requirements. You may want to consult with a lawyer when getting started. Here is a quick overview of what you must do to set up your business:
1. Choose your business name. Define your unique coaching business name to provide services under your brand name. Check the availability of your chosen business name by doing a search on your state’s website for business filings to ensure another entity is not already using it.
2. Register your business in your state. To do this, visit your state government’s website and file an official business application to register your business. You’ll have to define the type of business entity, such as a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability company, corporation, or limited partnership. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a sole proprietorship and limited liability company (LLC):
A sole proprietor is the only person who runs the business and takes full responsibility for it.
With a sole proprietorship, all the money you earn is yours, and you pay taxes on it as an individual. The taxes you owe are entirely on you. You won’t need to file a separate business tax return.
With a sole proprietorship, you have personal liability for any financial losses, damages, and debts. Opting for liability insurance would be a wise choice.
It’s not complicated to form a sole proprietorship. Once you register your business name and file your DBA (Doing Business As), you can file for an employer identification number (EIN) on the IRS website if you decide to run your business under a name other than your legally given name. The IRS doesn’t mandate sole proprietors to apply for an EIN if they work solo. You can use your Social Security number. However, if you decide to hire employees, you’ll be required to get an EIN.
A limited liability company (LLC) is another type of legal entity you can select as a coach.
When registering an LLC, you can decide how you want to be treated by the IRS for tax purposes. Depending on elections made by the LLC and the number of members, the IRS will treat an LLC either as a corporation, a partnership, or a pass through entity.
When you run a limited liability company, your company, not you personally, is responsible for any business losses, as the client signs a contract with your company, not you. An LLC provides legal protection against personal liability by separating you and your business.
Every US state requires LLCs to have a registered agent — a person who manages formal documents as a representative of the LLC. Note that the owner of the LLC can typically also be the registered agent (make sure to confirm all current requirements in your state).
Information you need to provide when forming an LLC may include:
- business name
- address where your business operates
- business purpose
- LLC duration
- registered agent contact information
Go to the U.S. Small Business Administration website to learn more about possible business structures.
3. Insure your business. As a coach, you’re not required to get insurance. But as a business owner, it might be risky to run a business without protection. Consider the following types of insurance for your coaching practice:
- General liability insurance. General liability insurance defends your business if a client submits a claim against you for property damage or personal injury. For example, a client can claim property damage if you accidentally spill coffee on their laptop. In this case, general liability insurance can cover the damages.
- Malpractice insurance. If you unintentionally reveal sensitive client information or if your advice hurts a client, the client can sue you. Malpractice insurance can help you cover legal fees.
- Cyber liability coverage. If you provide online services, you can use third-party platforms to store your clients’ data. If a data breach occurs, cyber liability insurance will cover costs for lawsuits and all related fees.
4. Apply for a federal tax ID number. Once you register your business, you should apply for an employer identification number (EIN), your business’s federal tax ID, to open your business bank account, apply for licenses and permits, and pay federal taxes. You can visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website to request an EIN.
Note that all of the information above is only relevant in the US
#8 Set up your workspace
If you want private space and plan to work in an office, make sure you evaluate additional costs for rent, equipment, furniture, and office supplies. You can rent an office space either monthly or hourly.
Generally, rental costs depend on the office’s location, size, and building type. Office rent can vary from $31.00 to $83.00 per month per square foot in different states.
Tip: You can visit the Peerspace website and find a space for any coaching type and budget, starting from $15 per hour.
If you want to render effective online coaching services, consider what technology and equipment you may need, such as internet-connected devices, a camera, a microphone, a headset, and speakers.
||$36-$58 per month|
We recommend software with comprehensive features to make your coaching practice run smoothly and stress-free. ExpertBox life and business coaching software can automate every step of your coaching practice workflow, from client intake to automated appointment reminders that are sent to clients at specified times. With workflow automation, you’ll be able to:
- automate your coaching workflow
- manage payments
- automate your bookings
- go paperless
- communicate with clients on the go
#9 Build your online visibility
To start making money on your coaching programs, you need to tell about your services and gain leads to convert them into clients. Here’s how you can easily promote your coaching services:
Create a website
Searching online is one of the most popular means of finding coaching services. According to a survey conducted in the United States in November 2021, 21% of consumers used the internet to find a local business daily, while 35% of respondents stated that they used the internet for this purpose multiple times every week.
A professionally crafted website can help you build an online presence and promote your coaching offers. Through a website, you can:
- tell your clients about your services and yourself and cater to your prospects
- sell your digital offers, such as ebooks and courses, and boost your passive income
- showcase your brand and draw in clients with the same values
- support and develop your social media profiles by sharing links on your website
- allow clients to reach you through various digital channels
Create a landing page as a lead magnet for your first prospects. Compared to a website, a landing page is a free-standing web page to attract leads and encourage them to book a consultation with you or purchase your offer.
A lead magnet should educate your potential clients and show what you can help them with. Provide your prospects with some kind of digital educational material like a free guide, checklist, webinar, or podcast in exchange for their contact information. With the email addresses you obtain, you’ll be able to send prospects emails with educational materials and other content to raise your brand awareness.
This example shows how a nutrition coach can offer a free masterclass related to a specific topic.
Life coaching can be incredibly profitable and beneficial for your career. At the same time, you need to develop a business mindset and back yourself up with technology to ease the operational processes and let you focus on your coaching practice.
Consider adopting life and business coaching management software to automate your workflow, scale your coaching business, provide online sessions, and take care of your clients wherever they are.
A life coach is an expert in a specific sphere, such as sports, business, or finance, to whom people turn when looking for long-lasting life transformations such as achieving fulfillment, building a successful career, or maintaining relationships with partners.
Life coaches do not treat mental, behavioral, or emotional illnesses, whereas therapists do. An individual can visit a therapist at the same time as a life coach in order to get motivated and recover faster.
Additionally, therapists often dig into people’s pasts and look at medical histories to find proper treatment methods, while life coaching is about people’s here and now.
Here are spheres in which you can become a coach and build a thriving coaching career:
- Leadership and career coaching
- Financial coaching
- Business coaching
- Wellness and fitness coaching
- Mental health coaching
- Relationship coaching
- Spiritual coaching
First, you should be an entrepreneur who has precise goals and should know how to make them a reality. Once you’re ready to set up your own coaching business, follow these steps:
- Choose a niche
- Define your perfect client
- Define your unique selling proposition (USP)
- Get certified
- Choose a coaching business model
- Define your services (packages) and pricing policy
- Set up the legal side of your business
- Choose the proper technology stack
- Build your online visibility
Each coaching education program is different, and pricing depends on a program’s format, style, and duration. Costs for a professional coaching program can vary from $1,500 to $16,000.
The International Coaching Federation offers a membership with an annual fee of $245.
When registering your business, you’ll need to pay filing fees of up to $300. You’ll also be charged fees by the state in which you register your LLC (if applicable).
To protect your business, you can apply for general liability insurance, which costs around $60 per month.
Becoming a certified life coach requires not just money but also time. The duration of life coach training programs ranges from three months to a year.
More comprehensive educational programs (such as those offered by the International Coaching Federation) require many hours of practice and learning. For example, the ICF offers a Professional Certified Coach program that requires 500 hours of coaching experience with at least five clients. At the end of the program, you’ll need to complete a test and prove your expertise to become an ICF-credentialed coach.