Can you be a life coach without certification? Yes, you can!
This answer always prompts other questions:
- When everybody is chasing a coaching degree, why am I even validating the non-learners?
Would you choose a doctor without a degree? Then why would you choose a coach without having a certificate in life coaching?
- Is this even a topic worth talking about?
Let me address these questions one at a time.
Do you need certification to be a life coach in order to be a life coach? No, you don’t.
The truth is that coaching is still an unregulated industry. You do not need a life coach degree to be a coach. But you certainly need to know what you are signing up for. And a degree will not necessarily get you either the skills or the training to become a life coach. Is this even a topic worth talking about?
You may not want to talk about coaching without certification. But a lot of people are. I typed in words like “Life coach without certification” on Google. Listed below are some of the top questions that people are asking:
- Can I be a life coach without certification?
- Does a life coach need a business license?
- Do you need a degree to be a life coach?
- Can anyone be a life coach?
- How do I become ICF certified?
- How is a life coach different from a therapist?
- How do life coaches get clients?
- Can I be a therapist without a license?
- What is a life coach salary?
- Do coaches need life coaching insurance?
- How much does life coach certification cost?
- Can you make money as a life coach?
Lastly, certifications are no guarantee of the qualitative excellence of a coach.
The market reality for life coaches without certification
- The International Coach Federation boasts 53,300 members. It has a steady growth trend.
- The average income for life coaches ranges from $27,100 to $73,100. Specialty coaches can charge more than $100,000 annually.
- Growth projections for the life coaching industry are an estimated 6.7%. This would take revenues to $1.34 billion by 2022.
- 92% of life coaches remain active in the field.
- In Asia, there were around 3,700 coaches. They contributed $113 million in total annual revenue.
- More and more corporations are hiring life coaches instead of mental health counselors to work in-house with employees (no stigma).
- Life coaches remain unregulated. There are no state licensing life coach requirements. This suggests freedom of practice, but also raises concerns about quality.
- Executive coaches can earn a handsome salary too. Salaries start at $150 and can go up to $350 for most coaches. Executive coaches can also charge $1,000 per session.
This news report reported from the 2017 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study. The research was also conducted by PwC Research. It stated:
- 89% people in India are aware of life coaching
- 59% have partnered with a life coach at some time
- 97% were satisfied with the experience
The market is still growing and evolving. An increasing number of organizations are waking up to the benefits of executive coaching. The need for qualified, trained and reputable coaches is on the rise. Increased awareness is driving interest whether in sports, religion, personal or business coaching. This could very easily lead to massive gains for good coaches in the market.
Whether you take up coaching as a full-time option or not, the truth is earning could go up to a five-figure return on your investment. Find out how a simple shift in mindset helped me to grow my business here.
Life coaching without certification: how does it work?
There are several reasons why life coaches are not chasing a degree or certification. Some of the top reasons are:
- Becoming a certified life coach is not a guarantee of success. As a life coach you are in the business of helping people. Your client can be facing issues in any sphere of his life: relationship or career choices or even adapting to change. At times like these a client will be looking for a life coach with experience, good reviews among peers and one who fits his budget. He will not necessarily look for a certificate.
- A life coaching certificate from an institution is merely documental proof. It is possible to be a successful life coach, help people, make an impact and create a five-figure income for yourself without a degree or certification.
- Life coach Certification does not give you confidence. Knowledge and skills do. Invest in training for yourself. After all you can only ask a client to invest in you after you have invested in yourself!
The way forward for life coaches without certification
So, if you want to know how to become a life coach without certification, let’s see what you should do?
- Find a coach: Use the same principle that you will be applying on your clients. Get yourself a coach. Find a coach who has the same business principles as you. Or someone whose coaching style you admire and want to adopt. Then start working towards achieving that goal. Having a coach or mentor who will understand your challenges is a strong move. You will often need professional advice as you start out. Having experienced good coaching yourself, you will know what standards to set for your clients.
- Start working: Do so even if you don’t immediately start earning. Think of it as a practice session and build a solid foundation of experience to start out with. Chances are you are already a natural coach and are helping out friends and family. Now, widen that circle. Write out a list of businesses who would be your ideal clients. Make a business plan and offer them your services at discounted rates. Or even for free. The experience you gather will be worth every penny you have ever earned.
- Network, network, network: Several people choose a formal set up as it connects them to peers. You are choosing to stay away from a formal set up for now. But you will still need the contacts. So start building them. Attend networking events and host library talks. If there is a need in your locality, fill it.
For example, has an old establishment recently downsized? See if they have a network for support. Offer counseling to them. Or perhaps you could arrange a networking event for young entrepreneurs. Jada Willis, the founder of Willis Professional Services, once said that your competitors do not have to be your enemies. You should connect with other coaches, and even join a local networking group.
Working as a life coach for free is difficult. But it is worth it in the long run?
Why is it so important?
The ICF requires that an individual completes at least 60 hours of life coach-specific training. He can only apply to join the ICF or obtain life coach credentials after that. Obtaining coach-specific training is essential for professional practice. Rethink your opinion about the “free” work that I am advising.
Once you have dedicated significant hours and helped multiple contacts, work out case studies for each of the clients that you helped. Did they achieve success? If they did, they will most certainly want to hire you. If they can’t they will refer you. Word of mouth is the most powerful referral. And it’s free!
Attributes of a life coach matter more than certification
What are the top attributes of a good life coach?
To understand the top attributes a life coach must have, let us first define what a life coach does.
As the name suggests, a life coach empowers you for life. A life coach helps you:
- Identify obstacles
- Set measurable goals
- Work towards achieving results
How does a life coach work with a client?
This depends on the client and the specific needs. Today technology has enabled coaching to be available 24/7 across all locations. You can gain experience by working with global clients from the comfort of your own home. At zero overhead costs!
Just as there are different styles of leadership, there are different types of coaches.
As I have said in earlier blog posts, coaches come from different backgrounds. They have varied skillsets. Some of the popular coaching types are personal (career, finance, health, life coach, personal and relationship coaches), religious, wealth, business (sports, executive). And within these wider categories exist niches such as life coach, motivational coach, etc.
As a life coach, you would have to decide what areas to work with. I have earlier written about how identifying a niche area helped me revamp my business. There was an initial period of loss and uncertainty for me. I lost out on $100,000. Since then, I have always recommended that those who want to become coaches do some introspection, market research and business analysis to figure out their niche as soon as possible.
The traits that all good coaches have are:
- Being an effective listener: Notice how I did not say that a good life coach needs to be a problem solver or a “great” listener. Being a great listener is a vague compliment for a life coach. Coaches listen, not to solve but to encourage the client to verbalize his problems. And then solve the problems himself. The coach facilitates and empowers the client. But does not solve his problem for him.
- Empathy and compassion: Industry experience is helpful for coaches of certain categories. For example, it helps to have a former football player to be a football coach, doesn’t it? But it is not crucial for most life coaches. What life coaches need to have are attributes like empathy and compassion. Life is harsh. Change is hard. And being judgemental about a client’s life choices will not make a great life coach. You have to genuinely love helping people in order to be a good coach.
- Interpersonal skills: It doesn’t matter whether you are an introvert or extrovert yourself. As a coach, your job is to build a rapport and relationship of trust with your client. There is no magic potion that will help you do this. Even coaching school does not teach you how to do this effectively. Sure, you will learn about the importance of processes. You will hear a lot about the GROW model.
And you will learn the business side of things. But nothing will prepare you for the real life experience of helping a client. I had earlier penned down about 44 questions that coaches MUST ask their client. You can read the blog as a start to your coaching journey. The first few times will be like riding a wave. And then you will get better at it. I promise!
There are several other traits that a good life coach must have. Life coach certification does not guarantee those traits. I have earlier written a post about coaching skills you must have as a life coach. You can read the blog post here.
However, an aptitude for coaching is only half the requirement of a good life coach.
There are several other things that you will have to learn/practice in order to become a successful life coach without certification. You can read my earlier post about how to become a successful life coach here.
As I say, knowing how to coach is simple. To be a coach is much tougher.
You need to have funnels in place to attract clients. You need to have a website that has been designed specifically to attract them. You need to learn how to create webinars that convert the most. You can learn all this in my free webinar. Details are mentioned in the last segment of this blog.
Some of the skills you need to pick up in order to be a successful life coach without certification are:
- Brand building: This is the most important skill as it covers all others. I have written several articles about the importance of the brand building. You can read a few here and here.
You need to answer the following questions for creating your brand.
- Who can I help? Who is my target market? What value do I provide?
- What groups would most benefit from my coaching?
- After being part of your workshop, what should a client be able to do that he couldn’t do before?
- How has his life, career or health improved? How is my coaching style different from my rivals? Most importantly, what can I do for him/her?
- Marketing: Do you need marketing skills in your life coach career? I have earlier recommended that everyone budgets for marketing. Read the post here.
I have tried to establish that marketing is much beyond financial returns. Only if a customer is aware of your brand will he feel the urge to connect. Every brand has a story to tell. It is up to you to tell that story well. And this is where marketing can help.
Your task is to understand requirements, create needs, influence sales and serve people. To do this, you need to do 3 things:
- Conduct an intelligent market survey to establish your target audience
- Identify the gap you are seeking to fill in the market
- Find out what gives you an edge over your competitors
Knowing these 3 things will be helpful for you, irrespective of which stage your business is in.
Understanding who your ideal customer is, or even drawing one out, allows you to build your entire business, message, coaching services and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined customer group.
- Social media and SEO basics: You do not need to be an expert. But you need to start with one basic task and then learn more. Allow social media integration on your website for starters and start picking up the basics of Search Engine Optimization for the content you want to upload. Although you can hire an external agency to do this, you need to learn the basics so that you know what you are signing up for.
- Personality traits: Not everyone that starts out as a life coach has this particular ability. It takes years to learn! What am I talking about? The ability to “Not take things personally.” Some clients will be good, others not so much! Over time you will learn not to stress over the ones you could not help. Instead, celebrate the ones you could.
And who are the ones who should not hire a life coach? Read here. It will bring a smile to your face!
Books help life coaches who are not opting for certification
I have earlier written a blog on books that every life coach must read. You may access it here.
A simple search on Google also threw up a few suggestions. Reading books on coaching is the first empowering step to becoming a life coach, especially if you are practicing without certification.
Some popular life coaching books are:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
- Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills by Tony Stoltzfus
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené
- The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha N. Beck
- Becoming a Professional Life Coach: Lessons from the Institute of Life Coach Training by Patrick Williams
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
- Rising Strong by Brené Brown
- Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives by Henry Kimsey-House
- The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
- The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
- Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life by Laura Whitworth
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
- Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha N. Beck
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
- A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” by Marianne Williamson
- I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brené Brown
- Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life by Michael Neill
- The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
- Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches by C.J. Hayden
- You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay
- The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
- Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher
- The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV
- The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for? by Rick Warren
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman
- Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath
- The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way by Wayne W. Dyer
- Instant Life Coach: 200 Brilliant Ways to be Your Best Instant by Lynda Field
- The Business and Practice of Coaching: Finding Your Niche, Making Money, Attracting Ideal Clients by Lynn Grodzki
- Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
- The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
- Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills, and Techniques to Enhance Your Practice . . . and Your Life by Lloyd J. Thomas
- Life Coaching for Dummies by Jeni Purdie
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
- If You Want You Can Fly: An Inspirational and Motivational Book, Coaching Single Moms & Dads in their Quest for Love, Happiness and Fulfilling Relationships by Rossana Condoleo
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance and Dreams by Debbie Ford
My journey to success
And now let me tell you about my journey as a way to show that achieving success is an ongoing process. We may not build a successful business right at the start. That is the time to introspect and resurrect our business if need be.
In a previous post, I have highlighted why it is important to find a niche. Working to please everyone and target a large crowd as my clientele, I lost $100,000. And this was years ago! Then, I realized that I had something to offer that no one else at that time could think of. I could target a very niche crowd and sell them my services.
Make sure you learn from my mistakes and proceed!