If you want to empower others to achieve their goals, maximise their potential and make changes in their lives, a career as a life coach will suit you
Life coaching isn't just giving advice. It's more about developing a relationship with your client that helps them to decide what changes they need to make to achieve their potential.
Coaching and counselling are similar as they both develop on-going, confidential, one-to-one relationships. However, counselling focuses on deep emotional healing, while coaching concentrates on identifying personal strengths, areas for development and helps clients to plan positive goals.
As well as dealing with clients on an individual basis, you may also deliver personal development workshops for small or large groups. It's crucial that, as a life coach, you're able to identify when a client may need to be referred for alternative support.
Life coaching isn't a regulated service but clients may expect you to be accredited by a professional body to reflect your training and ethical working.
Types of life coaching
You would usually specialise in one area of coaching, such as:
- career coaching
- executive business
- group coaching
- health and wellbeing
- performance management
- personal development
- youth coaching.
For some areas of coaching, such as executive business, companies or individuals may expect you to have a background in HR and training, or business. It's important to research each discipline to have a clear understanding of what's expected of you in the role.
As a life coach, you'll need to:
- agree a coaching contract for a number of sessions, discuss confidentiality and work to a Code of Ethics
- build a good working relationship with your client that allows them to communicate their values and beliefs
- motivate and encourage your client throughout the change process
- use coaching skills to develop your client's self-awareness
- be aware of self-help techniques such as mindfulness and how this can help clients to manage stress and increase productivity
- help clients gain a clearer understanding of their beliefs and how they impact their feelings
- work with clients to develop agreed strategies for reaching their goals, continually reviewing progress
- have a clear understanding of coaching frameworks and theories of positive psychology with the ability to apply them in practice
- work safely as a reflective practitioner to develop greater self-awareness when working with clients.
- Salaries vary depending on which type of coaching you practice.
- It's likely you'll be self-employed, and as a private practitioner you could charge in the region of £40 to £60 per hour.
- Experienced coaches can charge up to £100 per session.
- Life coaches with extensive experience (10 years+), especially those specialising in executive coaching, can charge higher rates.
Life coaching is typically carried out on a part-time basis and so you may need additional work to supplement your income. It may be possible, however, to get a full-time contract with an employer to offer career coaching or personal development within their company, which will provide you with a more secure salary.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
As you'll typically be self-employed, you can set your own working hours. You should expect to offer evening or weekend appointments as this is when many clients will want to meet.
It's important to recognise that any form of intensive work with clients can be emotionally demanding. Your professional body may recommend a maximum number of hours of client per week.
Many coaches work part time to compliment other similar work such as counselling or careers consultancy. You'll need to invest time in building your reputation and networking with agencies, employers and potential clients and so may need to factor time for that into your working week. Also allow time for professional development activities and supervision.
What to expect
- You'll be office-based but may travel to other locations if you're employed or contracted to an employer. You may also need to travel for networking events or training.
- You may choose to work from home or rent an appropriate space to work from.
- You will need to have an understanding of being self-employed, such as having a business plan and registering with HMRC.
- As well as conducting face-to-face coaching, you should expect to carry out coaching over the phone or online.
- The job can be emotionally challenging especially with clients who may be resistant to change.
- You will need to have the ability to think flexibly when working with clients to find an alternative approach that suits them.
- Professional supervision is essential to ensure that you're working ethically but also for personal development. Group supervision is commonplace so that best practice can be shared.
Life coaching isn't a regulated profession and you therefore don't need to have specific qualifications. However, if you're serious about becoming a life coach, you should consider taking specific training with providers accredited by coaching associations such as:
- Association for Coaching (AC)
- British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)
- European Mentoring and Coaching Council UK (EMCC UK)
- International Coach Federation (ICF)
By being appropriately accredited, clients will know you're trained to a certain standard. To become accredited you may need to attend a course that has hours with your tutor rather than completing an online course.
Once you've finished your training, you'll need to record additional coaching hours in order to finalise your relevant accreditation. These can range from 60 to 75 hours of coaching practice.
You don't need to have a degree or HND to be a life coach. The majority of life coaches choose the profession as a second career and come to the role with previous experience in a range of backgrounds including:
- human resources (HR)
- social care.
A degree in any of these areas may be helpful, however life and professional experience are more important.
Many organisations affiliated with the NHS or Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) who employ life coaches will require you to have a counselling diploma accredited by a body such as BACP or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
You will need to have:
- excellent listening and observational skills, with highly developed communication skills and the ability to demonstrate empathy towards clients
- the ability to build a productive working relationship with your client in a short space of time
- a non-judgemental attitude and the ability to connect with people from diverse backgrounds
- the ability to motivate and inspire your clients
- confidence to challenge clients in an empathic way
- extensive knowledge of the theory that underpins your work that's linked to personal growth
- an understanding of your own beliefs that may influence your responses
- knowledge of confidentiality and the ability to work within appropriate boundaries
- excellent organisational skills to manage clients and associated paperwork
- entrepreneurial skills for setting up and running your own business
- basic skills to plan a marketing campaign, with an understanding of online advertising and websites
- networking skills for widening your client base and gaining s within the coaching industry.
You will need to undergo Disclosure and Barring Service checks if your client group are under the age of 18 or are vulnerable adults.
Relevant experience in a supporting role with a diverse range of people is helpful. There are opportunities to find work experience within the charity sector in a variety of settings including community centres, care homes and prisons. Some schools and universities will also accept trainee life coaches.
This voluntary experience can help towards gaining a place on a course accredited by a recognised coaching body. You will also need to find similar work experience to complete the necessary training hours that will be part of your life coaching course.
The majority of life coaches are self-employed although many people may incorporate their life coaching skills into their existing role.
Once you've gained experience it may be possible to set up your own life coaching business. If you do this, you'll need your own website and will need to promote your services through various channels including social media.
If you become a member of a recognised coaching body, you could also advertise with online directories such as Life Coach Directory. This is a great way to promote your work and develop your client base. It opens up opportunities to you as you can work both nationally and internationally via video calling or on the phone.
It may be possible to find work within the NHS or in Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), where coaching is offered internally to staff. To get a job this way, you'll typically need substantial experience along with a relevant accredited coaching qualification.
Opportunities are growing for life coaches to work in a range of community projects such as prisons, with organisations such as Coaching Inside and Out (CIAO), schools, the charity sector, health and wellbeing and professional support services. Higher education institutions are also using life coaches for supporting students through the university experience and for career planning.
These roles are not always advertised widely so you'll need to be proactive and do your research. It's a good idea to research funding that's available for community projects and approach charities who may be interested in expanding their work into life coaching.
Look for job vacancies and research potential opportunities at:
- Employer Assistance Providers Association
- Third Sector Jobs
There isn't one straightforward career progression route for life coaches and personal development is mainly self-directed.
If you decide to become accredited with a professional coaching body you will need to meet continuing professional development (CPD) requirements. For example, AC asks for 30 to 42 hours of CPD depending on the level you're working at. For more information see AC Coach Accreditation. You can continue your professional development by taking further study and advancing to the level of Master Coach with the AC.
It's important that you undergo a certain number of hours of supervision each year. The exact number varies depending on your professional body - for example, BACP requires 1.5 hours of supervision each month, while AC asks for you to have one hour of supervision for every 15 hours of coaching.
If you are a member of a professional body, you'll get regular updates on workshops and master classes that link to your CPD. Professional bodies will also run conferences which are relevant to your work, allowing you to stay up to date with developments in the sector and providing you with networking opportunities. In addition, AC provides a recommended reading list to help with your CPD. See AC Recommended Reading.
If you move more into executive, health or career coaching there may be opportunities to find work within different organisations who specialise in these areas, as well as the chance to advance into management roles.
With experience, you may begin to run workshops and take on extra responsibility by offering supervision to other coaches.
As you build your reputation with your own private clients, you may be able to expand and build your brand by writing blogs, books, magazines or newspapers articles, or contributing to radio and television items. In this way, you can build your client base and charge higher fees.