How to Become a Life Coach: A Start-To-Finish Guide

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Do you have a gift for helping people improve their lives? Do your friends often lean on you for support and counsel along their personal journeys? If so, you might have started wondering how to become a life coach.

A life coach career may be your calling, but it’s not as easy as charging for advice that you used to give for free. To earn income and change lives on this career path requires learning, growing, and mastering new skills. But we’re here to help!

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk alongside you as we explore how to become a life coach: from understanding the field to choosing your coaching niche. We’ll dig into essential coach training programs that help shape successful leaders in the field. We’ll also offer practical and logistical tips for starting your life coaching business.

What Life Coaches Do

Let’s start with an overview of what life coaching entails and potential areas of specialization.

Life Coaching at a glance

Life coaching is not about giving instructions on how to live or acting as a counselor. Rather, it involves guiding individuals towards achieving their own personal and professional goals. As a life coach, you give your clients the tools and accountability to create the life they want for themselves.

Thus, a life coach acts as a facilitator for self-growth and personal development. They help clients explore their life purpose and how they can achieve their aspirations by developing actionable plans. A life coach is not a therapist, but a catalyst.

Contrary to some popular opinions, life coaching isn’t just a “woo-woo” field that anybody can stumble into. The coaching profession has standards instituted by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). We’ll mention the ICF a lot in this piece, because as a governing body, they maintain professionalism and credibility for the coaching industry and provide great resources for aspiring coaches like you.

The Average Salary for Life Coaches

If you Google life coach salaries, you’ll see some wildly different estimates. Don’t let them scare you! Because coaches work for themselves, it is a popular career for people at a stage in life where they need flexible income and flexible hours. This means that some years, professional life coaches might not be focusing all their time and energy on their work.

You can look at existing life coach hourly rates for a much better approximation of the income you can bring in. While many coaches offer long-term packages at discounted rates, most charge anywhere between $100-500 per hourly session. If you charge, for example, $250 per hourly session, you would only need to meet with ten clients a week to make well over six figures–not bad!

Keep in mind that as an entrepreneur, you won’t earn a salary while you put the grunt work into your website, business plan, and daily logistical activities that keep the machine rolling. At the start of your life coaching journey, your first clients will likely be few and far between and your up front costs will be higher. If you’re willing to put in the work and take on the risks of entrepreneurship, you will reap the benefits further down the road!

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Establishing Your Niche

Life coaching is a vast field with many potential areas of specialization. Some possibilities include career transition, leadership development, or even personal wellness coaching. A successful life coach tends to focus on an area that aligns with their unique area of expertise while also meeting market demands.

Imagine walking into a store that sells everything. It’s overwhelming, right? The same can be said for a life coach without a clear niche. A well-defined coaching niche not only helps you stand out in the crowd but also attracts your ideal clients.

Your coaching niche is the intersection of your passion and expertise. You’re passionate about what you do because it’s rooted in personal experience or interest, making it more likely to resonate with others facing similar challenges. You’re qualified to coach in this area because of a unique perspective related to your background, education, or a combination of the two.

A good starting point when identifying your people niche could be thinking about who you want to help most and why. New parents struggling with work-life balance? Executives aiming for healthier lifestyles? Mid-career women facing burnout?

You might realize that you want to help a group of people, but you lack the qualifications to do so. We’ll talk later on about how continuing education, additional life coach certification programs, or mentorship can help you gain those qualifications.

The Importance of Market Research

As you establish your own unique coaching wheelhouse, market research plays an integral role. By studying current market trends and looking for gaps, you can better understanding the needs of potential clients. Then, carve out a service tailored specifically for them.

To conduct effective market research, ask yourself: What are my potential clients’ biggest struggles? How can I offer solutions uniquely suited to their problems? Who are they asking for solutions, and what is that person, company, or resource failing to provide?

Find the places where your clients congregate in person and online and listen to what they are saying. Adjust your proposed coaching offerings to meet their needs. This will make pitching your services much easier!

Narrow vs. Broad Specializations

Finding a balance between being overly specialized (limiting potential client base) versus being too broad (appearing as ‘jack-of-all-trades’) is key here. Becoming known as an expert within a specific domain might mean fewer overall prospects initially, but it’s best for the long term.

On the plus side,  those who do approach you will have greater trust in your ability to solve their specific issues. Getting great results for your first clients means you can raise your prices earlier. Then, you can expand to a broader audience once you have positive testimonials and higher rates.

Becoming Certified

Taking the plunge into life coaching is a thrilling experience. Getting clients might not be so thrilling, at least at the outset. With the coaching industry booming, potential clients are discerning and only interested in working with legitimate professionals. That’s where coaching certification comes into play.

Importance of Accreditation in Life Coaching

There aren’t specific education requirements for coaches. Rather, there are several reputable coaching certification programs that are accredited by the ICF that support different types of coaches. Whether you’re a life coach, health coach, executive coach, or financial coach, there are recognized and reputable programs that help you channel your experience and interests into a professional coaching career.

A credential from the ICF isn’t merely an accessory on your resume. It’s proof that your coaching skills have met stringent standards set by industry professionals. Completing a life coach certification program gives credibility to your practice, reassuring clients that they’re investing their time and money wisely.

Certification also means gaining access to resources offered by accredited bodies—think mentorship programs, networking events or additional life coach training opportunities. It shows dedication and commitment which can boost trust among potential clients who may be unsure about hiring someone new.

Cost Considerations of Certification

The cost of a life coach certification program might throw you for a loop at first. Just like a startup, life coaching requires significant investment. A program accredited by the ICF could cost you $10–12,000 for an 18-24 month experience of learning and practicing professional coaching.

Coaching certification programs cost a lot of money. But don’t write it off indefinitely for that reason! The return on investment of being a certified life coach includes added skillsets, expert insider knowledge, and resources to help you guide your clients.

Nothing is worse than a bad coach–and life coach certifications are backed by data, compiled by experts, and regularly updated based on current research in psychology, professional development, wellness, and other related fields. Can’t afford to get certified when you first figure out how to become a life coach? Put it at the top of your priority list for when you have the funds.

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Developing Essential Coaching Skills

Life coaching starts with a listening ear, but goes far beyond. It requires honing certain coaching skills so you can create a roadmap for client transformation.

The ICF outlines specific core competencies every international coach should master. They range from maintaining professionalism to effective communication skills. Below, we’ll cover few more skills you should master as you learn how to become a life coach.

Crafting Effective Goal-Setting Strategies

A goal without a plan is merely a wish. You and your clients can turn those wishes into reality by mastering effective goal-setting strategies. This includes understanding how to create SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Following the SMART strategy, you can easily check in on your progress and adjust your goals as necessary. Once you feel confident with this framework, you can show your clients how to use it to reach and crush their goals.

Fostering Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

A high EQ enables coaches to recognize and respond appropriately to clients’ emotions – critical when dealing with sensitive issues or resistance during sessions.

The foundation of successful coaching is communication. As a coach, you need to register not only what your clients say, but the feelings and experiences behind the words. Active listening helps decipher hidden meanings in conversations, ensuring that no vital information slips through the cracks.

Empathy, another crucial skill, lets you connect with clients on an emotional level. It gives them comfort knowing they are understood and valued – something all humans crave.

Directive & Non-Directive Coaching Techniques

To coach effectively, you need to find the balance between directive (providing advice) and non-directive (encouraging clients to find their own solutions) techniques. Maintaining a flexible approach and adeptly transitioning between directive and non-directive techniques will help you get real results for your clients.

These coaching techniques can only be mastered with time, so ask for feedback early and often as you start taking clients. Developing essential coaching skills isn’t an overnight process, but an ongoing learning experience. Integrate these skills and whatever else you find essential to your niche into your SMART business goals and you’ll be off to a great start!

Starting a Business

Mastering how to become a life coach is like setting sail in the open sea. With big horizons come big challenges! In the early days of your business, you need to navigate through legalities, insurance policies, and create marketing strategies to attract potential clients. Becoming a life coach requires many of the same essential steps as any entrepreneurial endeavor. We’ll cover a few of them here.

Business and Legal Prerequisites

Getting proper legal protection is crucial when starting a life coaching business. Whether you opt for an LLC, Sole Proprietorship, or another status depends on several factors such as taxes, ownership structure, and liability considerations. It’s wise to seek professional advice from attorneys or accountants who specialize in small businesses.

While it’s not fun, having your insurance, tax status, and any required business registrations in order before you take on clients is paramount.

Creating a Business Plan

Before you launch your life coaching business off into space, you should create a business plan to keep you on track. Deciding on a mission & vision, a Unique Selling Proposition, a financial plan, and a marketing strategy are all necessities no matter what field you’re in.

As a certified life coach, you should also create a plan for your coaching program. It’s ok for this to change quite a bit as you figure out what gets the best results over time. However, a repeatable method and structure to take each client through will make things easier on both of you and help establish a timeline for results.

Great life coach programs can serve as the basis for training courses, books, and other resources you add to your suite of coaching products. We’ve had many coaches as guests on our podcast who coach, write books, speak, and sell courses as part of their business model.

Marketing Yourself

In this ocean of opportunities, how do you make sure that the right people notice you? That’s where effective marketing comes into play.

A simple yet creative website can serve as a beacon guiding potential clients towards your practice. The ICF offers resources for coaches looking to build their online presence effectively.

Your brand should speak directly to your ideal client – those individuals who would most benefit from what you have to offer. Harmonize your brand across your website, social media, and other advertising campaigns. You can also take advantage of networking events to connect with other professionals and spread the word about your services.

These steps are only part of launching a successful coaching venture, but they are worth putting at the top of your priority list.

Building Experience and Credibility

Coaching is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. More people are prioritizing personal flourishing and wellness by seeking life coaching services as people like you step up to the task by learning how to become a life coach. Demonstrating your value and establishing trustworthiness will create the bedrock from which a successful coaching business can bloom.

To stand among the ample competition, you must hone your skills with real world coaching experience. Life coach certification and continuing education programs, networking groups, and reaching out to your friends and community can all help you find opportunities for honing your life coaching skills in a low pressure environment.

Establishing yourself as a credible certified coach requires consistently delivering positive results for clients over time. As soon as you start getting those results, ask your clients for testimonials. Yes, even those you coach for free!

Get their permission to display testimonials on your website and other marketing materials. Testimonials are the best proof of your competence and will make a big difference to potential clients.

Adhering to Industry Standards

The International Coaching Federation sets the gold standard for professionalism in the coaching industry. When you adhere to their rules, you tell potential clients: “I’ve got my act together”.

As a life coach, it’s essential that you stick closely to the ICF guidelines and ethical standards. Staying faithful to the ICF principles and ethical rules demonstrates that you are committed to the highest standards of your trade and initiates a relationship of trust with your clients.

A crucial part of upholding these guidelines involves continuous professional development. Staying updated with industry trends isn’t just good for business—it ensures compliance with evolving regulations too. Maintaining confidentiality and respecting boundaries are cornerstones here—as they should be in any client-focused service field.

Becoming an Advocate for Professional Standards

Beyond practicing ethically yourself, consider becoming an advocate within your coaching community. Share these guidelines with fellow coaches, participate in ICF events, and work to elevate the standards of the profession.

Many people still raise an eyebrow at all the self-styled life coaches popping up here, there, and everywhere. Promoting professionalism, credibility, and reliability in the industry will set you apart and help bring greater respect and trust to coaching as a whole.

Virtual Coaching

The rise of digital platforms has revolutionized the coaching industry, as many life coaches conduct their businesses entirely online. It also explains why many seasoned professionals are turning to coaching as a more flexible career pivot. As an aspiring life coach, you might question how to leverage these online coaching opportunities effectively. It’s like standing at a buffet table loaded with choices but not knowing where to start.

Online and in person coaching share the same goals, with different formats and functionalities. One major advantage of online coaching programs is their accessibility. Your clients can be anywhere across the globe without geographical limitations hampering your ability to guide them towards self-improvement.

Face-to-face interactions can provide deep connections while online engagements allow for broader reach and flexibility. With online coaching, you can focus on clients who really fit your niche, regardless of location. In person, you are more likely to build a lasting relationship with your client that extends beyond your first coaching program.

As you decide how to become a life coach, you will find the right balance of virtual and in person coaching. Remember–none of these decisions are set in stone for the rest of your carer, so get comfortable experimenting.

Harnessing technology for online coaching

Alongside stellar coaching, digital tools are key differentiators in this sphere. Learn how to use software for scheduling, goal check-in, video meetings and more to your advantage. Streamlined use of software and technology will ensure your online life coaching clients trust your reliability and give great testimonials.

As an online life coach, your digital footprint (website, social media, and email list) matters even more. Prioritize your online branding as you market yourself to virtual clients and keep all your digital assets up to date.

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Continuing Education

As a life coach, it is imperative to cultivate an attitude of constant learning. This means continuously seeking out new education, knowledge, and skills to enhance your coaching practice. By staying curious, you can stay abreast of best practices and outstrip your peers who remain attached to out-of-date methodologies and systems.

One possibility is pursuing additional training and certification programs in specific coaching methodologies or techniques. Attending conferences, workshops, and seminars is another valuable way to expand your knowledge and network with other professionals in the field.

Another avenue for ongoing learning is through professional organizations like the International Coach Federation. The ICF offers a Continuing Coach Education program, which provides a range of resources and training courses to support coaches in their professional development.

Remember, becoming a life coach is not just about acquiring a certification or completing a life coach training program. It’s an ongoing journey of personal and professional growth. By committing to continuous learning and professional development, you can provide the best possible support to your clients and thrive in your coaching practice.


Deciding to become a life coach is an exciting career milestone. Actually figuring out how to become a life coach is a thrilling and transformative obstacle course of certifications, software, and liability insurance.

Today we’ve covered all the essentials that go into that obstacle course, like choosing an accredited program, honing essential coaching skills, and identifying your niche.

By learning how to become a life coach, you aren’t just starting a new career. You’re committing to make an impact and forging an incredible path of working for yourself. Should you want to amplify your impact on the stage, you can always get in touch with us at The Speaker Lab here.


What are the qualifications of a life coach?

A successful life coach typically has certification from an accredited program, life experience in their chosen niche, and finely-honed coaching skills with demonstrated results.

How do I start being a life coach?

To kick off your life coach career, choose a niche, set up your LLC or sole proprietorship, and get certified. Then start marketing yourself and your business.

Is it worth getting life coach certification?

Certification is a huge asset that ensures credibility to your business and showcases your commitment to best practices.

What does a life coach do exactly?

You can’t learn how to become a life coach without knowing this! A life coach guides individuals toward personal and professional growth. In contrast to a therapist’s focus of mental and emotional health, a life coach equips clients with the tools to achieve greater quality of life overall or in a particular area of focus.


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Finding the Best Life Coach Near You: A Comprehensive Guide
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