Guide To Becoming A Professional Life Coach
Your Guide To Becoming A Professional Coach
Before we dive in, I’m curious to find out more about you.….when people find me they are usually in one of these three phases of their coaching journey.
I've included a handy little infographic to help you identify which phase you're in.
Where are you in your journey to become a coach?
Phase 1: Are you considering becoming a coach? Is it one of those dreams you’ve held in secret and you think maybe now it’s time to get started?
Phase 2: Or, are you in the midst of coach training and you’ve started to wonder. “Hey! Maybe, just maybe, I could be a life coach. I love coaching, and I love helping people feel fulfilled. What if I could start my own coaching practice and eventually quit my day job?”
Phase 3: Or perhaps, you’ve finished your training, and you want to put all that life-changing learning to great use. You want paying clients, but you’re not sure where to start, and you feel overwhelmed and nervous.
Wherever you are, welcome, I’m glad you’re here, and I’ve got lots to share with you.
I’ve broken this guide into four sections:
- First, I’ll talk about the qualities of an excellent professional coach. What types of people make the best coaches? What do you need to consider when choosing your coach training?
- Then in the second section, I’ll talk about how to get started with finding clients and the components of a thriving coaching practice. Creating your coaching practice intentionally will eliminate much of the overwhelm and worry that’s common for new coaches.
- In the third section, I cover the business side of your coaching practice and help you understand why that’s important.
- In the fourth, and final section, I answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
Section 1: Qualities of Professional Coaches
I’ve met many coaches and there are a few things exceptional coaches have in common. Scroll down to the bottom of this sectionand you'll find a handy infographic that captures the qualities of great coaches too.
- They are endlessly curious, and they love to help people overcome challenges and reach their dreams. These are the type of people who always want to understand what makes people tick. Coach’s typically love personality tests and you could see a coach sitting at the local coffee shop people watching, simply because it’s interesting!
- They are open-minded. They’ve learned how to put their own opinions and perspectives aside to help the client reach new perspectives and move forward towards their goal.
- They don’t “just tell people what to do”.
- They are great listeners.
- They are kind and caring people.
Here's one of my Youtube videos on characteristics of great coaches. It's a quick 10 minute video that captures the topic.
If you’re considering becoming a coach, I would highly recommend you experience coaching for yourself first. It’s odd, but many people who sign up for coach training don’t have any direct personal experience of what coaching is like, and how powerful it is. You might think you an idea or an assumption…. but unless you’ve tried it yourself and experienced the results, you won’t know if it’s right for you.
What do you do once you’ve experienced coaching and you’ve decided you want to sign up for coach training?
Most people head to Google and search for “coach training near me” and then they are faced with a huge assortment of choices.
One reason there are so many choices, is the coaching profession has only been around for about 20-years and it’s still similar to the wild west. It’s an unregulated industry and there are many slick marketers who will gladly sell you a 4-hour course and tell you that once you’re done…you’re ready to start coaching. If you want to be a coach don’t be fooled. You need training to learn coaching skills and lots of practice to integrate these coaching skills into the way you support your clients.
I’ve told you this because I want you to be informed. Forewarned is forearmed!
There are hundreds of coaching schools out there. How do you find and choose a coach training program? Do you choose a formal certification program? Do you want it to be digitally delivered or in-person training? What about practicums, peer coaching and coach mentoring? It can be mind-boggling. I recommend you do your homework. Just because a website looks attractive doesn’t mean they provide quality training. And if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
What’s the best way to make your decision?
Instead of feeling confused and overwhelmed, turn to one of the few organizations who aim to provide consistency and professionalism within the coaching industry.
One of the top organizations is the International Coaches Federation, or the ICF. It’s a global organization that supports potential and practicing coaches to make sound choices and it is working towards fostering a shared understanding of the coaching industry as well as to drive measurable standards, consistency and professionalism for coaches. You can check it out here >>> https://coachfederation.org/
I recommend attending an established school with a level of training that adheres to an ICF accredited coach training program.
On the ICF’s website, you will find many quality accredited schools. So, this is a great place to research training options.
Some considerations for you when deciding on your coach training:
- Do you want to attend training in person or online?
- What is the cost of the program?
- How long is the training program?
- How much time outside of class is required?
- Are the faculty members certified as coaches at an expert level?
- Does the school’s mission align with your values?
- What kind of support do they offer after you’ve finished their training?
- Do they have an ongoing community?
Once you’ve found a few schools that look interesting, dig deeper. Look closely at their websites and the specifics of the training programs that appeal to you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does it give you ample time to practice coaching and work with clients in a supervised environment where you will get feedback to hone your skills?
- Does it fit with your lifestyle and the potential coaching niche you are drawn to?
- How much is the investment? When you’re answering this, take into account the tuition cost, any travel you might need to do as well as other costs such as hiring your own coach, additional memberships etc.
Then call the school and speak with them. Do you like what you hear? Are they attentive, responsive and informative? Do they give you a realistic view of their training program? Are they respectful of your questions and do they answer them thoroughly?
At this point, you will have narrowed down your choice of schools to one or two.
Finally, for the training programs that seem like a good fit, speak with some of their past students and where possible attend an orientation session or demonstration call.
Becoming a coach is an important investment both of your money, time and energy.
The extra time you spend doing this research will add immeasurable satisfaction to your journey!
Section 2: Start Your Coaching Practice
Many of the people who take coach training, plan on integrating coaching as part of their current career. They might be an HR specialist, or a people manager who wants to shift their management and leadership style.
Other new coaches plan on becoming an internal coach. This type of coach is an employee whose role is to provide coaching to staff members and more and more companies are engaging internal coaches to support the growth of both their employees and the company.
Even if you are planning on including coaching in your current role or becoming an internal coach you may also want to build a coaching practice.
A coaching practice can be any size. There are people who want a small side income doing something they love, perhaps they only want 2 or 3 clients. Others want to build a coaching empire where they do high end one on one coaching and layer in group coaching programs, workshops and speaking engagements.
One of the best things about a coaching practice is you have the freedom to choose!
Whether you want a small venture, an empire…. or anywhere in between it’s completely up to you!!!
You get to choose how you work, where you work and who you work with.
In this section, we’ll talk more about an independent coaching practice.
While a coaching business is relatively simple, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused if you’ve never had a business before. You may have never considered yourself as an entrepreneur. And now it’s time!!!
When you take your coach training you learn coaching skills. These are not the same skills that you need to start and grow a coaching practice from scratch.
It’s very common for new coaches to feel nervous and unsure where to start.
In fact, I’ve even met new coaches who confided in me. “I’m sort of surprised, while I was taking my coach training I never even thought about where I would get clients, and all the business stuff that goes along with it….now I feel nervous.”
One of the good things about starting a business is that many of the steps you only ever need to do once!
So, where do you start?
Your life coaching business is based on six components:
You: You must show up authentically, ready to welcome clients to your practice.
Vision: The impact you want your coaching to have in the world.
Clients: The people you help.
Results: The challenges you help your clients overcome or the goals you help them reach.
Coaching Program: The way you help a client get results.
Marketing Plan: How you intentionally attract the perfect clients to grow your business.
The Path To Your Successful Coaching Practice
- You: First, it’s important that you show up authentically and ready to welcome clients to your business and that you coach them powerfully. You need awesome coaching skills and you need to continue to grow as a person for your own satisfaction and so you can continue to expand as a coach.
- Vision: Next, what vision do you have for your coaching practice? What impact do you want to have through your coaching? When you understand your big “why” it helps you to make decisions easily, stay motivated, overcome hurdles and most importantly feel deeply fulfilled.
- Clients: Next, understand the type of people you are most drawn to help. This is often called your target market or your ideal client. It’s the “who you help”. Is it C-Suite Executives or new parents? You get to choose.
- Results: Fourth, help them GET Results you need to decide what problems you can help them overcome or the goals you help them reach. What kind of coach do you want to be? Do you want to be a life coach, executive coach, business coach, health or relationship coach. There are so many options This is described as your “niche” or the results you help them get. Examples of niches include weight loss or improving family relationships. Many new coaches have a problem choosing their niche, there are proven steps you can take to choose the most profitable and satisfying niche for you. Take my handy niche quiz to start narrowing down your best options.
- Coaching Program: Be clear on how you specifically help your clients. Design signature coaching packages that clearly demonstrate the value your coaching brings to potential clients will help position you as the go-to coach that they will want to hire.
- Marketing Plan: Finally, design your marketing plan to be visible and invite clients to coach with you intentionally. The methods you use to market your coaching services will be key to your success.
You can be the best coach in the world but if no one knows you exist your business will stagnate.
Your marketing plan can be simple, you don’t need to show up everywhere. You will need a website, social media presence along with in person networking. But you don’t need all these things at once. It takes time to build your presence, consistent action combined with deliberate planning will help you take the right steps in the best order, so you can grow your business in the most effective way. You want to show up as an excellent go-to coach in your specialty. This gives you a platform to find new potential clients and invite to a sample session.
Once your foundation is in place, you are ready to start attracting great clients.
Your market is best served when you show up and add value where your ideal clients typically spend time both on and off line.
When you have complete clarity about your coaching practice you will comfortably and confidently be able to offer complimentary calls and start to sign up high paying clients that you are thrilled to work with.
You will build the thriving coaching practice you want when you create your plan and take consistent daily action towards achieving it.
Build your foundation, decide on the number of clients you want and then create your plan to have the right number sample sessions with potential clients to fill your calendar.
Plan and schedule your activities so your results become inevitable.
Here's a brief video where I talk about the essential steps to becoming a successful life coach.
Section 3: The Business Side of your Coaching Practice
If you’re like most coaches, I know you want to coach and to have the freedom to work from anywhere while making an impact.
When you organize your business the right way you will enjoy your coaching practice even more because:
- You won’t be shuffling paperwork around on Sunday night.
- You won’t feel embarrassed because you haven’t sent your clients any invoices for months and now, they owe you a lot of money.
- You won’t feel resentful because you’re doing lots of coaching sessions, but your bank account is empty.
- You will be able to spend less time onboarding a new client and make their experience seamless and more welcoming too.
- You will get more referrals and repeat business.
- You will get hired by more clients….and you will feel more satisfied too.
How does all that sound? Pretty good right?
I want you to enjoy your coaching, your clients and your business. So, here’s what I recommend.
Take the time to get organized.
There are only a few groups of things for you to organize and you can tackle them one by one.
Your calendar. Make it easy for your clients to book their next session by using an online scheduler. This will save you tons of time. You set it up once with the dates/times you are available and then your clients can quickly and easily book their next session.
Your invoices. You’ve got three choices, either use a website equipped with a shopping cart or use online bookkeeping software (e.g. QuickBooks) or use something like PayPal to send electronic invoices to your clients.
When your clients sign up for a coaching package you only need to send one invoice. This saves you from having to track and invoice for every single coaching session. These options allow your clients to pay by e-transfer, PayPal or credit card and you don’t have to take cheques to the bank for deposit.
Your expenses. Open a separate bank account and credit card for your business. When you need to buy something for your business use one of those business accounts. Enter your expenses monthly into your bookkeeping software and keep your original receipts. That way when it comes time for you to do your taxes you will already be organized and won’t miss out on claiming any allowable expenses. This could save you hundreds of dollars in taxes. Plus, being organized will minimize the amount you pay to your accountant at the end of the year.
Organize your client onboarding paperwork. You will need a coaching agreement with payment and cancellation policies and a welcome package. Have your welcome package template created and ready to go on your computer so the minute your next client signs up you can send them exactly what they need. When you have an electronic template ready to go, you will save time doing administrative work and it’s easier for your clients too!
Filing. Create and use a secure and confidential filing system (electronic or paper) where you keep track of your clients.
Mindset. Finally, treat your business like a business, not like a hobby and you will build your business more effectively. Allocate time to work ON your business and time to work IN your business.
Working on your business will be marketing, paperwork, networking. Working in your business is doing sample sessions and coaching. By getting and staying organized you will have to spend less time working ON your business which frees you up to do other things!
Market. You’re going to have to learn how to market your business. The skill of marketing your coaching services is just as important as the coaching itself. If you can’t find the clients, you want you will quickly become frustrated and disillusioned. There are many excellent coaches who give up on their dream of being a coach because they can’t get enough clients or make enough money to sustain their practice. I don’t want you to be one of them, so start planning your marketing early.
I've created a free resource library for coaches and filled it with all kinds of resources to help you get started. It's called the Coaches Online Business Academy, sign up here to get free access.
Section 4: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions new or aspiring coaches have asked me.
Question #1: Do people really pay for coaching?
Yes, they do. The world has changed so dramatically in the past few decades and people now realize there is no such thing as a “job or employer for life”. As a result, we’re all learning to be more self reliant. Coincidentally, at the same time, the field of personal development is growing. We’re no longer happy living complacently, the way our parents or grandparents lived. We’re not satisfied with staying on the old treadmill of life from birth, through school onto college and finding a job…retiring at 55 with a pension, sitting in a rocker on the porch and then eventually dying.
More and more people want to LIVE a fulfilling life where there is satisfaction and growth and choice at every age and we’re willing to risk being uncomfortable for the sake of our growth and happiness. Working with a life coach is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
This means we’re questioning our limitations and most of all questioning how we want to live. We might have addressed our mental health and now we're ready for more fulfillment, satisfaction and dreams.
Coaches support people to get more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. We support people to weather transitions, and build lives based on choice not on habit. AND we help them to do it faster!
All of this combines to fan the demand for coaching, it’s growing exponentially, and people are eager and willing to pay for the support of a coach.
Question #2: How do I get my first few clients?
Your first few clients will probably come from your immediate circle. We all have a network of people that want to get unstuck, get ahead or improve their life in some other way.
When you concentrate on your personal growth and mastering coaching skills you will feel more energized and enthusiastic. Those positive emotions are catching, and the people around you will start to ask….” What are you doing? You look so, so, so happy!!! Tell me what you’re doing, because I want some of that too.”
Your mindset plays a key role in finding and retaining clients. When you know how valuable and helpful coaching is, you will easily encourage others to try it too. The invitation to an initial complimentary conversation (often called a sample session or clarity call) is how most new coaches get their clients.
So, in a nutshell to get your first clients. Learn coaching skills from a top-notch school, then practice your coaching and realize how much coaching adds to peoples’ happiness. Learn how to deliver powerful sample sessions and finally invite people to work with you.
Question #3: Can I do this? Is it really possible to create a business that I love that is also financially rewarding???
This is perhaps the most frequently asked question I hear from aspiring coaches. It comes from a place of hoping and dreaming….and from the place where they are worried that maybe their dream won’t come true.
Sometimes we are so used to being disappointed that we get nervous taking a risk to try and reach for a dream, any new dream. It’s sad, but we’ve been conditioned by fear and disappointment to settle for less than we are capable of.
I’m here to tell you, rest assured that you CAN do this. You can build a successful coaching business.
You truly can create a thriving coaching practice from scratch. It takes courage and hard work, but it’s certainly one of the most satisfying goals to achieve. To build a coaching business where you really make a difference in the world while doing something you love.
There are many who have done it, if they can do it then you can too!!!
Question #4: How much does it cost to start a coaching business?
To start it costs very little. Most new coaches begin coaching using their existing mobile phone and computer. This means you can dive in and start coaching without spending a dime.
Remember though, an important part of creating a coaching practice means you will be an entrepreneur. Becoming an entrepreneur means you are taking on a new and unfamiliar role, the role of business owner!!!
As a business owner, it’s important to treat your business as a business.
Even though you can start without spending any money, you will soon want to invest in business cards and a website, networking and perhaps even setting up a coaching space within your own home. The reason? You want to make your business efficient and effective and there are some things that are worth investing in for the longer term.
In addition, most new coaches continue to invest in themselves by hiring a coach specifically to help them grow their business more quickly.
So, to start, there is no cost, but if you want to grow a sustainable and thriving practice you will need to invest. To find out more about the start up costs you can read >>>> this blog.
Question #5: There are so many coaches these days, is the coaching industry saturated? Should I even bother becoming a coach, is it a complete waste of my time?
Ok let’s get down to it. Is the coaching industry saturated? Everywhere you turn you hear of people who are becoming a coach. You’ve probably also heard of people quitting. They say there’s too much competition. You can’t be successful as a coach.
So, what’s true? Recently the ICF, the International Coaching Federation reported they have about 50,000 members registered worldwide.
Since, coaching is currently an unregulated industry, anyone can call themselves a coach. Some coaches have thousands of documented hours and have taken hundreds of hours of training. Others who call themselves coaches have taken a four-hour afternoon workshop.
This means that there are more people coaching than the ICF has registered. Let’s say the ICF only represents 50% of the coaches in the world. This could mean there are as many as 100,000 who classify themselves coaches.
So, is the competition too stiff? Considering the number of people in the world who would gladly use coaching. The answer is there is still plenty of room for well trained professional coaches.
Coaching is still a relatively new industry. Even today most people have never experienced being coached. They have heard of coaching, but many really have no idea how it can help them live a more fulfilled, satisfied life and how it can help them reach their goals. If they knew how it could help them, the demand for coaching would skyrocket. Your goals should be to help spread this awareness. This alone will foster growth in the industry and the more people who know about coaching, the more they will be looking for a good coach to hire.
Take heart, anytime you worry that there is too much competition remember you are an original. You are unique and if you are drawn to be a coach, you are meant to be doing this work.