Considering A Career in Life Coaching? Here's What You Need To Know
In this straight-talkin' guide you'll learn what a life coach does, how to become one, and what employment opportunities are available in the coaching industry.
Should I Become A Coach?
Wondering what it’s like to be a life coach, but not sure where to begin? If so, this is the place to start. Let’s get down to business and find out if this path is right for you!
Table of Contents
What is it?
- What is life coaching?
- How is coaching different from therapy?
- Why do people hire a coach?
Is it right for me?
- Should I be a life coach?
- How much do coaches earn?
- What can I do with a life coaching certification?
Where do I start?
- Is now the right time?
- Do I need training?
- How to choose the best life coach certification program
What Is Coaching?
A life coach is a professional who helps people set and attain goals in order to maximize their wellbeing and fulfillment in life. The purpose of this work is to help clients move from surviving to thriving - to shake up the status quo and reach for something higher!
In order to achieve that, an effective coach understands and applies coaching theories and models of change. They bring evidence-based tools for self-inquiry, focus, and accountability to the table.
What they don’t do is diagnose, dispense advice, or tell clients “what to do.” Instead, the aim is to create a strategic thinking partnership with the client. This is done through helping to clarify goals and developing plans to achieve them.
How Is Coaching Different Than Therapy?
Therapists help explore and process the events and influences of a person’s past, and how those experiences may be shaping their behavior in the present. A trained mental health provider is licensed to treat people using psychotherapeutic methods, and help clients achieve and maintain baseline mental health.
In contrast, life coaches do not diagnose or treat mental disorders. A coach works with individuals who are already at a baseline level of mental health.
This doesn’t mean clients don’t have hard days, or grapple with life challenges!
Emotions can and do arise within the coaching process. As a coach, you'll hold space for your client to process their experiences, and identify what may be getting in the way on the path to goal attainment.
In coach training, students learn about their ethical scope of practice, and how to properly recognize the line between coaching and therapy (and when it’s appropriate to refer a client out for additional support.)
For more on this topic, check out:
“I see therapy and coaching as being on a continuum, both equally important and beneficial, but at different points in a person's life. If your desire is to get where you NEED to be (back to baseline), hire a great therapist. If your desire is to get where you WANT to be (your best possible future), hire a great coach. That being said, I also believe that coaching and therapy don't have to be mutually exclusive. There are many people who could benefit from having both simultaneously - if done mindfully, intentionally, and with a fairly tight focus on the desired outcome.” - David Kessler, therapist and Lumia coaching graduate
Why Do People Hire A Life Coach?
When someone decides to work with a coach, they are usually seeking help with a specific problem or goal. While coaching can help a client find increased satisfaction across many areas of life, there’s often a clear point of entry that kicks off the process.
Clients hire coaches in order to:
- Change careers
- Set strategy for career advancement
- Get over a breakup
- Find a new relationship
- Make new friends or build community
- Improve fitness and health
- Explore their life purpose
- Start or scale a business
- Improve leadership skills
- And more!
So what do coaching clients get out of the process?
Let's take a look at the most commonly reported outcomes! According to the 2017 International Coaching Federation’s Global Consumer Awareness Study, coaching clients report a variety of positive impacts across the board.
Benefits of life coaching:
- Improved communication
- Increased self-esteem/self-confidence
- Increased productivity
- Optimized performance
- Improved work/life balance
Should I Become A Coach?
Is your current career feeling flat?
Do you long for a greater sense of meaning in your work?
Are you inspired by personal growth and achieving big goals?
Do you enjoy helping other people?
Attracted to the idea of working for yourself, and living life on your own terms?
If there’s a voice inside you exclaiming “YES!”, then coaching might just be for you.
People enter the coaching profession from a wide variety of backgrounds. In Lumia's coach training program, we've seen it all: therapists, personal trainers, business leaders, integrative health professionals, astrologers, stay-at-home parents, bartenders and much, much more.
If you’re thinking about coaching as a career path, here’s some questions to consider:
- What is it about coaching that draws me in?
- What difference do I hope to make - for myself, and for others?
- What problem or challenge do I want to help people solve?
- What are my natural skills and interests? How do these connect to coaching as a profession?
- What kind of life do I want to live? How can coaching support that vision, enhance my own potential, and contribute to my personal fulfillment?
It’s useful to think of life coaching as a vehicle for achieving your calling. Coaching is a tangible skill set that you can use to build a life and career that you love, on your terms.
What THAT looks like is up to you, and varies from one coach to the next! We'll cover the different pathways you can take as a certified life coach a little later in this article. But first, let's answer an even bigger question: Can you actually make a living as a coach?
How Much Do Life Coaches Make?
Ready for some good news?
The wellness economy is a massive global industry, estimated by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) at $4.5 trillion, and it’s on the rise! According to the GWI’s most recent study, they are projecting 9.9% average annual growth, with the wellness economy estimated to reach nearly $7.0 trillion in 2025.
As an aspiring coach, you will be entering an industry that’s positioned for massive growth.
According to the International Coaching Federation’s most recent study, the average annual salary for life coaches practicing in North America today is $62,500. More than 30,000 professionals were surveyed worldwide, whose practices range from side-gigging to full-time across a variety of coaching niches.
So how does this stack up against other professions? Pretty well, as it happens! Check out a few related points of comparison from the U.S. Bureau of Labor:
- Marriage and Family Therapist = $50,090
- Human Resource Specialist = $48,410
- Fitness Trainer = $57,370
- Real Estate Sales Agent = $56,290
Whether you envision creating a part-time side hustle or aspire to practice coaching full time, you’ll want to explore our in-depth industry analysis. In this special report, we slice and dice the numbers by average hourly rates, coaching specialties, years of experience, and services offered.
Check it out here: The Ultimate Guide to Life Coach Salaries.
What Can I Do With Life Coach Certification?
There’s a variety of ways you can apply coach training, depending upon the direction you’d like to go. Let’s take a look at the three most common pathways that Lumia graduates take.
Solo Coach Practitioner
When people think about life coaches, “working for yourself” is often what first comes to mind. And after talking to thousands of prospective coach training students, we’ve uncovered a set of common elements that many people are looking for from a career in life coaching.
Do any of these resonate for you?
- Autonomy to set your schedule
- Flexibility to work at your own pace
- Working from wherever you want
- Doing your best work for even better pay
- Deciding which clients you’d prefer to work with
- Creative control over your workload, priorities and outcomes
What this all adds up to is the freedom to design your own life.
Now here’s an insider’s secret: life coaching in itself doesn’t provide these benefits. What actually makes those things possible is self-employment. So if you’re fired up about the idea of starting your own business, coaching opens up a wealth of possibilities.
Here’s another fun fact. According to the International Coaching Federation, more than half the coaches surveyed have more than one income stream. In other words, the majority of professional coaches are doing something in addition to working with clients in one-on-one sessions.
So what does that look like in real life? Running your own coaching business is likely to include a combination of a few activities. Common revenue diversification strategies for full-time coaches include:
- 1:1 Coaching
- Group Coaching
- Membership Programs
- Guest Speaking
- Teaching Classes
- Leading Retreats
- Publishing Books & Articles
Want to explore these possibilties further? Listen in to our 3-part podcast series Can I Make It As A Coach?
Working for an Employer
Not all coaches want to run their own business, and that’s OK. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, and there’s more than one way to earn a living as a coach.
Serving as a corporate in-house coach offers the benefit of a steady paycheck, which can be attractive if you don’t have an appetite for self-employment. What you may trade-off in terms of personal freedom could be worth it in terms of competitive salaries, health insurance, and amazing benefits!
Best of all? The demand for coaching expertise is on the rise.
Heavy hitting human resource firms such as Gartner, academics like the Harvard Business Review, and publications such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have all been calling for coaching skills to supplement (or replace!) hierarchical management practices as we know them today.
More and more companies are hiring coaches, and it’s a trend that will continue growing. To learn more, check out our recent podcast Facebook’s Hiring a Head of Coaching?!
Incorporate Into Your Existing Career
An investment in coach training is another way to level-up in your existing career. It's a transferable skill that you can immediately bring back to the office, and carry with you throughout your career.
A large percentage of our students come from business and industry backgrounds, and many of them aren’t looking to leave their current careers. They’re here to enhance their skills as leaders and managers where they're at.
The tools aspiring coaches learn in ICF accredited programs have incredibly broad applications. From executive directors to corporate human resource professionals, anyone who works with people can benefit from understanding the science behind what helps human beings flourish.
These skills are becoming so valuable, in fact, that many employers are willing to support you in acquiring them. For ideas on how you might approach your own boss about this possibility, check out: How to Ask Your Company to Pay for Life Coach Training.
Is Now The Right Time?
Many people hesitate to say they want to be a life coach because they’re afraid of what others might think. This is often because they believe that good coaches must have EVERYTHING figured out in their own lives before they can actually help other people.
Spoiler Alert: You don’t!
Life is messy, and rarely (if ever) perfect. If you wait until you’re in the “right place,” odds are that day may never come.
On average, Lumia students think about joining our life coach training program anywhere between one month and a year. That’s a pretty big spread, and there’s no right way to decide!
Some factors to consider regarding timing:
- Do you have significant responsibilities right now that aren’t flexible?
- Deadlines or passion projects you’re already hard at work on?
- Are you currently processing a major personal loss or trauma?
- Any major health or life concerns that could prevent you from putting in extra hours to study and attend to your coursework?
We all live complex lives, and none of these conditions are necessarily barriers. The main thing to understand is that it does require time and effort to learn how to be a coach.
If you’ve been thinking about this for a while, it’s usually worth the leap. Many of our students tell us that they wish they’d started sooner instead of allowing uncertainty to keep them stuck in analysis paralysis!
Do I Need Training?
Coaching is an unregulated industry. And while anyone technically CAN call themselves a coach, we don’t advise it. Becoming a successful coach requires hard work, study, and a business mindset.
The theoretical roots of coaching stem from sports psychology, goal setting theory, human development models, positive psychology, mindfulness, and neuroscience. Understanding the science behind why coaching works alongside the application of those techniques is a fascinating and worthwhile endeavor.
Life coach certification programs will teach you coaching theory, frameworks and ethics to help you facilitate effective client sessions. These are the skills necessary to help others achieve real, lasting results.
Great programs go one step farther, providing you the opportunity to put what you're learning into practice through peer coaching, mentoring, and feedback. Many programs will also provide business training on how to define your voice and brand, attract clients, and launch your business.
A reputable training program will prepare you to deliver transformative outcomes for your clients.
It will also help you clarify YOUR path: what kind of coach you want to be, and the steps you can take to get there.
The type of training and credentialing you need will depend upon your goals. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach - it’s all about finding the right one for you!
Need more information before making the leap? These resources can help you chart your course:
Ready for the Next Step?
A lot of talented people like you dream about becoming a coach, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. If you’d like to explore the possibilities, we’d love to talk with you! Schedule a call to get your questions answered by a member of the Lumia team, and discover how you can put your dreams in motion.