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An Introduction to Life Coaching

If you found this article through a Google search, I’m going to assume that you already know what a life coach is. Even if that’s the case, reading my article “What is a Life Coach” will give you valuable information about what exactly a life coach does, how coaching contracts work, typical coaching formats, and how you should align your business if you are considering becoming a coach.

This article looks at the logistics you need to become a life coach and start your own business.

What qualifications do I need?

At the risk of this article scaring people away from life coaching, I’m going to give you the facts about people who call themselves coaches. Truth be told – there are NO professional requirements to become a coach. Sounds scary, right? Put up a sign, print some business cards, call yourself a life coach and you’re good to go. Pretty simple business, right?

Let’s take a closer look. What I’m saying is that by law, no professional certification is required for someone to call themselves a life coach – or a coach (often the word “life” is either omitted or replaced with another word like “executive,” “wellness,” “lifestyle management,” or “business”). Unlike a psychologist, a physical therapist, a registered dietitian, a contractor, or a lawyer, the state and country (USA) does not recognize a life coach as a recognized profession. Therefore, no license is required to call oneself a coach (at least at the time of this article’s publication).

Let’s look at some other examples of similar professions that might fall into the same category. How about the great term “consultant.” There are many consultants who advise on every conceivable topic – generally, a consultant doesn’t need a license to be a consultant, just experience in the field. Much like a coach, a consultant without any experience can put on a business card and start doing business. The big question, of course, is whether or not you will be able to sell your services to people with this background. A computer consultant would probably have trouble selling themselves if they knew nothing about computers!

Before you call yourself a coach….

If you are going to call yourself a coach, you should understand what it means to give yourself that title. I agree that you can call yourself a coach fairly easily without government regulations, but it is disparaging to professionals with years of experience and training to simply use the word as a lure to clients and to misrepresent in any way what being a coach is all about. I would suggest reading a code of ethics for coaches to see if what you are offering can really be considered coaching.

One problem I see is that many people who misrepresent the profession don’t even know what it means to be a coach. I’ve seen MLM (multi-level-marketing) companies put buttons on their marketers’ shirts that say “wellness coach” even though they only know a few herbal supplements the company sells. I’ve seen real estate agents calling themselves “real estate coaches” because they wanted to stand out from the crowd of agents. Obviously, these people market themselves as coaches without knowing what a coach really does. If you’ve read this far, it shows that you have a genuine interest in becoming an ethical coach, and I have no doubt that you’ve done your homework!

What kind of background do I need?

This is an interesting question. Coaches come from all backgrounds. As mentioned earlier, there are coaches in health and wellness, leadership development, relationship coaches, coaches for families with special needs children, stress management coaches – the list could go on and on. Of course, there are many coaches who cross-pollinate and focus on multiple areas.

If you choose to focus your coaching on a particular area – say, “parenting troubled teens” – it’s a good idea to have a background in working with troubled teens so you can best understand your client. A pure life coach recognizes that a client has his or her own answers and that it is the coach’s job to enable the client to see this for themselves.

Therefore, a coach is a generalist – their training and skill set is in communicating with people so that they can identify and develop appropriate goals and actions to achieve their dreams. If you have this ability naturally, you have the greatest asset a life coach needs. Some people have an innate inclination to be a “coach.” If you don’t naturally have this ability, you can develop it with practice.

What training should I take, if any?

If you are considering becoming a coach, I definitely recommend training. A coach training program often includes coaching and mentoring, not only to become a better coach but also to build your business. It’s an important decision whether or not you want to complete a full coach certification program, as you typically have to commit to 1-3 years, pay up to $15,000, and complete between one and two hundred client hours to become certified. Prices, time to certification, and program depth and intensity vary greatly depending on the program you choose.

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