Becoming A Coach

Can I Be Successful as a Life Coach?

John Kim, a leading voice in the life coaching industry, breaks down how he built a succcessful practice. Find out if you, too, have what it takes to succeed!

October 30, 2018
This article was updated in April 2022 to add resources that were not previously included.

Can You Succeed As A Life Coach?

John Kim

By John Kim, Lumia Coaching co-founder

You want to know if you can make it as life coach. I get it.

But what is a life coach, really?

Many still roll their eyes when somebody announces that life coaching is what they do. Put those eye rolls away for a second and let's really take a look at this.

Chances are, there's a small (or possibly big) part of you that wants to be a life coach as well. Maybe secretly, maybe not so secretly. That's why you're here, right?

The explosion of wellness (fitness, yoga, nutrition, anything under the umbrella of self-betterment) + the Internet handing us a megaphone and an instant billboard has made all types of coaching into a real career path.

Because you, like everyone else, have gone through some kind of journey where you came out the other side with more wisdom, know-how, and compassion. You are human. You naturally want to help others with what you have overcome. It doesn't matter if it was a social anxiety, a tough career transition, or a broken heart.

That's very specific, you say? Yes, and that's one of the greatest misconceptions of life coaching.

Life coaches don't have "life answers," which is what I tell anyone who wants to be a life coach. That's basically like saying "I know everything," which is why people roll their eyes at life coaches.

I get it. And anyone, whether you're a life coach or not, who says they have Conquered Life and want to help you conquer yours, will be saying that to themselves.

(Tip to life coaches: if you're a life coach presenting yourself that way, it's why you have no clients. Time to get more specific and honest, man.)

jrni life coaches gather at annual retreat
Lumia Life Coaches gather at our annual retreat

Life coaches help you through one life area at a time.

We are snipers. Not shotguns. And what we want to help you with is directly tied to our story.

Since we probably don't have letters after our name, since most of us are not therapists or have other areas of expertise, our story is what verifies us. Well, of course, plus whatever training you have as a life coach.

If you have zero training as a life coach, you shouldn't be life coaching.

It doesn't matter how many followers you have. Life coaching is a craft and without proper training and practice, you will not be effective. Chances are, you'll just be giving people a shit ton of advice and that's NOT life coaching.

Oh, it's not? No, it's not. In fact that's the number two misconception about life coaching.

Now you're slightly confused but also getting less judgmental about life coaching. Good.

Life coaching is also NOT therapy. Someone can have a therapist and a life coach. Many actually do. Life coaching is not treatment. Life coaching is not business coaching. Life coaching is also not "life coaching."

Here's what Life Coaching actually is:

It's "I'm going through a giant life transition" coaching.

It's "My boyfriend just dumped me what do I do?" coaching.

It's "How do I use mindfulness?" coaching.

It's "Help me with my social anxiety" coaching.

It's "I want to be better in relationships" coaching.

It's "I'm single - dating help!" coaching.

It's "Help me break through my mental blocks" coaching.

Life coaching is niche driven. And also about asking questions and exploring rather than giving advice and a lot of shoulds.

Now, can you make it as a life coach? Yes, one hundred percent.

How To Make It As A Coach

Besides training, you need two things to be a life coach. A passion to help others + a story.

Everyone has the latter. Is it easy? You mean, can you just take a quick course and have a full thriving practice because you pass inspirational memes while you're at your real job? I'm sorry, but no. Like anything in life, a life coaching practice is built.

But how?

In the last decade as The Angry Therapist, I've coached thousands. On and offline. And people think this is because I went to therapy school. The truth is, it's not.

The clinical system didn't do anything for me as far as building my practice. They trained me to be a therapist then said, "Good luck." They don't teach you marketing or branding. I had to learn that shit on my own.

One can argue, people did sessions with me because I was a therapist. But the truth is, even though technically I am a therapist, I advertised myself as a life coach online, where my entire practice was created.

Here's How I Did It:

#1. It wasn't my degree that built my practice. It was my story.

I didn't know it at the time, but documenting my journey post-divorce and sharing my story as I went through my own self-betterment process is what built my practice. Not my degree. People related personally to what I was going through. Not what I "knew."

I humanized myself. And when you do that, you build trust. You are coming with people instead of at.

(Tip to life coaches: This is the tone. "With" not "At." Put that into your intentions when you are writing or making videos.)

#2. I quickly redefined what a "practice" looked like.

I switched things up and worked in a way that was honest to me.

I know I can't sit still. I know I thrive when I thread things into my life instead of separating work and life. I know I need to "play with Legos" as I often say, experiment, get out of the house. I can't just sit in front of a computer and do sessions all day. I know this. So I started seeing clients around town, in coffee shops, at the CrossfitBox, on walks, etc.

I created video courses, audio courses, a podcast. I sold shirts and hoodies. I did tons of things that didn't work, but I learned from them. Eventually I wrote a book and that led to another book I'm passionate about.

Today, I define "practice" as practicing to live a certain way. I don't define a practice as one on one sessions. That's a product, not a practice in my opinion.

I practice my concepts and ideas that I try to help others with. From connecting to myself daily, living at higher frequencies, being in an attracting state, to all the relationship stuff I write and talk about, to standing on my truth.

That's my practice. It all starts there.

Then from there, the writing and videos and stories flow. And products are produced. These products can be one on one sessions, a sweatshirt with my latest words, or a weekend retreat. It doesn't matter as long as they are products that are honest with me and my message / journey.

It doesn't matter if I am doing a fifty-minute session online or teaching for our Life Coach Training Program. It is all my "practice." It's the result of me living a certain way and doing what I believe in.

(Tip to life coaches: Redefine what your "practice" means to you. Get away from the idea that a practice is just one on one sessions.)

john kim the angry therapist riding motorcycle
Me, at the start of my journey. Motorcycles have always been a big part of my story.

#3. It took me nearly a decade.

I'm not saying that to scare or discourage you. And it doesn't mean it will take you that long to build a "practice." I'm saying that to puncture the idea that you can quit your day job and built a thriving practice over a weekend.

You need practice to build a practice. And that's okay because you also need an audience and building one takes time.

Life coaching is a craft. You need to hone your craft by doing many sessions. I started by doing a shit ton of free sessions, then only charging fifty bucks. It's about the long game. That's why I say life coaching is a lifestyle. It's not just about living a certain way. It's about it being a life long process.

No, you may not life coach forever. But I'm talking about the mindset. You have to see coaching as something more than an idea that you are going to try out for two months. Or you're not going to last.

Like anything worth building, it takes time. There is a journey involved. You will have to push past fear and discomfort. You will have self-doubt and zero views. You will post articles that sink. You will go unheard.

But if you keep living it, in an honest way, the people you are meant to help will start to come.

So, can you really make it as a life coach?

That is not the question to ask yourself.

The questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you have a story to tell?
  • Do you have a passion to help others?
  • Do you believe you have value?
  • Do you believe you went through what you went through for a reason?
  • Do you want to express your true self?
  • Can you practice what you preach?
  • Can you document your story and be consistent with it? Not to get followers, but to show yourself and tell your story?
  • Can you turn life coaching into a way of life?

If the answers to all the above is "yes," then YES... you can really make it as a life coach.

Ready to Get Coaching?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our life coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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