Becoming A Coach

Your First 100 Coaching Hours: How To Meet the ICF Requirements

What you need to know to meet the experience requirements to earn an ACC credential with the International Coaching Federation, and how to get it done!


How to meet the experience requirement for your ICF credential

Thinking about going for your International Coaching Federation (ICF) credential? If so, we salute you! You’re on the path to coaching mastery, which involves a serious combination of study and hands-on practice.

The first step is to complete an ICF accredited coach training program. Once you’ve done so, you’ll need to log a minimum of 100 client coaching hours in order to qualify for an Associate Certified Coach credential. 

For many new life coaches, the experience hours can seem daunting at first. You may wonder where you will find those first eight clients, and how long it will take to get all 100 hours under your belt. 

But let’s look at another way. The ICF’s experience requirement allows you to refine and enhance your coaching skills, which will make you a much more effective coach in the long run. To that end, the best approach you can take to knocking out the ICF requirements is to focus on making steady progress. 

Set yourself a target date for completion if that’s motivating for you, then take the steady actions you need to chip away at the goal one step at a time. Chart your accomplishments, and celebrate all along the way!

In this blog, we’ll take a look at some tangible strategies for knocking out the 100 hour requirement – at whatever pace is right for you.

What Counts Toward the ICF Client Coaching Requirement? 

You’ll need to log a minimum of 100 coaching hours with at least eight clients following the start of your coach-specific training program. 75 of those hours must be paid (more on that below). At least 25 of these hours (paid or unpaid) must occur within the 18 months prior to submitting the application for the credential.

(Not sure if you want to go for an ACC or PCC certification? Learn more about the differences here.)

You can meet the ICF experience requirement in a number of ways, including individual coaching, internal coaching, group coaching, and pro bono work. Regardless of type, you want to be keeping track of it all in your ICF coaching hours log.

A coaching hour is defined as 60 minutes of coaching time with a client that has hired you for this service. Other activities such as mentoring do not count toward your experience hours.

You can absolutely count sessions that are less than a full hour in length. If you conduct a 30 minute coaching session, for example, you’d simply document it as 0.5 hours on your coaching log.

Group and Team Coaching

If you are doing group coaching, keep in mind that you log the number of hours you coach, rather than the number of individuals within the group. For example, if you do a one hour group coaching session with 10 people, you’d count that as a single coaching hour in your ICF client coaching log. 

Team coaching can meet your ICF 100 coaching hours requirement

How Is Paid Coaching Defined?

The International Coaching Federation offers some flexibility in how payment for services is defined. The following all count toward achieving your 100 coaching hours:

1. When the coach receives payment from the client. The session price can be for any amount you choose. Payment itself can either be in the form of a monetary fee, or an agreed-upon exchange of goods or services. 

2. If you provide coaching as part of your job as an internal coach. There’s a couple of caveats with this one, so pay attention to the fine print! For example, if you are a supervisor any coaching that you provide to your direct reports does NOT count toward your ICF experience requirement. 

3. If you have a paid contract to provide third party coaching. This typically occurs when an organization is paying for coaching services, such as hiring a leadership coach to work with a member of the management team. Like individual coaching, payment can either be monetary or a bartered exchange of goods or services.

4. Peer to peer coaching exchange with another life coach. If you trade coaching services, that counts!

For Lumia graduates, this means that all your peer coaching sessions in both the Essentials and Signature programs count toward your paid coaching hours. However, coaching that takes place in a classroom setting (such as breakout sessions and in-class coaching practice and observation) does NOT count toward the ICF experience requirement.

Get Creative With Bartering

Bartering is a great way to accumulate more skills and experience while racking up the 100 coaching hours you need to apply for your ACC credential. As a new coach, it can take time to build up a roster of paying clients. As you develop your coaching business, consider how you can offer your services for mutual benefit in the meantime.

A few ideas to consider: 

  • Want to save some money on everyday activities? Offering to trade your coaching for professional services you’d otherwise pay for out of pocket. It’s possible your hair stylist, massage therapist, photographer, or other service providers may be interested in an exchange. 
  • Hankering for some new home decor? Perhaps an artist or craftsperson whose work you admire would be willing to barter in exchange for coaching.
  • Do you need support getting your business off the ground? Explore whether a trade is possible with a graphic artist, website designer or copywriter.
  • How about childcare? Maybe your sitter would be down to exchange some hours for coaching.

As you begin to get the word out, offering sessions on a “pay what you can” basis can also be a great way to jump start your coaching practice. 

Did you know that the ICF offers a Reciprocal Peer Coaching program? 

This service matches you with other coaches to support you in your professional growth and gaining experience hours. You must be an ICF member to take advantage of this, and there is an associated cost.

For more information, you can find details here

Two women looking at a computer tablet to find peer coaches

Don’t Forget About Those Pro Bono Coaching Hours!

Remember too that you can document up to 25 unpaid (“pro bono”) hours on your ICF client coaching log. These are sessions that you volunteer or donate, and they count toward your 100 coaching hours.

You can offer pro bono services to your existing network of contacts, and we’d also encourage you to cast that net a little wider if you can. Done well, an initial free session can often lead to future paid sessions.

Pro bono coaching possibilities: 

  1. Donate coaching sessions to nonprofit auctions and other fundraisers in your community.
  2. Partner with a community organization to offer free coaching sessions to its members.
  3. Volunteer to participate in - or initiate! - an ICF Coaching for Social Impact project.
  4. Offer to lead a group coaching program within a community you are already a member of - your gym, church, professional association, or other organization.

An important thing to keep in mind about your pro bono work is that it needs to be of the same quality as a paid session. The ICF ethical standard here is to “assure consistent quality of coaching regardless of the amount or form of agreed compensation in any relationship.” (ICF Code of Ethics Section 1, Standard 13)

How To Document Your ICF Coaching Hours

If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to start keeping a client coaching log. You can download an ICF coaching log template here, or create your own document using the following guidelines.

Individual/Outside Clients

For each individual client coaching engagement, you must log:

  • The client’s name and email address or phone number
  • The start and end date of the coaching relationship
  • The number of paid and pro bono hours that you coached the client

Individual clients who do not consent to have their names listed must be left off of the log. The consent should be documented in compliance with all relevant laws (e.g., GDPR). 

For internal and third-party coaching, an exception to this may be made if the organization’s confidentiality policy does not permit disclosure of client information. In that case, you would include a reference letter from the organization that verifies the number of coaching hours you provided.

Group Coaching

To qualify as group coaching, participants must set the agenda, and the session must be interactive (synchronous interaction between the coach and participants). Documenting individual client coaching hours and group coaching hours need to be done separately on the client coaching log.

For group coaching sessions, record the following:

  • The name and email address of one individual in the group (you do not need to provide the names of other individuals in the group or the name of the group itself)
  • The start and end date of the coaching relationship
  • The number of paid and pro bono hours that you coached the group
  • The number of individuals in the group (only groups of 15 or fewer will count)

Each individual in a group counts as a client for the purpose of meeting the total number of required client coaching hours. (Training/teaching, mentor coaching, facilitating workshops, etc. cannot be claimed as client coaching.)

Additional Resources

Man reading a book and holding a cup of coffee

Still wondering how to get more coaching hours? Check out these resource guides for additional tools and tips to help you attract new coaching clients.

Ready to Expand Your Coaching Toolkit?

Coaching is a rapidly growing field that is continuously evolving. Even for seasoned coaches, there’s always more to discover. If you’ve not already earned your ICF accredited coach certification, there’s no better time than now to get started! Grounded in science, our program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, business skills to prepare you for liftoff as an entrepreneur, and a network of fellow coaches dedicated to becoming a collective force for good.

Lumia Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

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Lumia is accredited by the ICF as a Level 2 Pathway Program. Want to learn more about the ICF credential requirements? Click here for further details.