Case study

Life coach — Richard Harris

Richard turned his passion for bringing out the best in people into a rewarding career. Discover the most enjoyable parts - and the biggest challenges - of working as a life coach

What made you want to become a life coach?

I had a career as an entrepreneur for the ten years before opening my life coaching practice, Richard Harris Coaching. Though some of my previous businesses were successful, I wasn't deeply passionate about any of them.

While on a trip to South America, I realised that even when I was free to do whatever I wanted, I was drawn to the psychology and philosophy of personal development and wanted this to be my contribution to society.

What did you need to do to become a life coach?

Anyone can become a life coach - there are no legal requirements for qualifications. However, to be anywhere near effective, the following skills are essential:

  • a background in business and marketing, as this is an extremely competitive field with more providers than there are clients
  • deep understanding of human psychology and behaviour change
  • an accredited life coaching, counselling or psychotherapy qualification, which help you train
  • a passion for helping people
  • commitment to your own personal development, so that you can speak from personal experience when helping your clients.

What are your main work activities?

Running my coaching business is split between marketing, administrative tasks (such as accounting, updating my website and checking and responding to emails) and holding the coaching sessions.

Each life coaching session is unique to the individual. Sessions might involve exploring and healing past life hurts, planning the weeks and months ahead with long strategic conversations, focusing on accountability and commitment to goals or looking into nutrition and exercise.

Bringing out the best in a client is at the core of each coaching session, and there are many tools available for achieving this. One of my favourite coaching tools is 'the five whys' - where the coach answers each of the client's answers with another 'why', eventually reaching the client's root challenges.

How relevant are your qualifications?

My degree in psychology helps a great deal in life coaching, as it provides a theoretical foundation for all further study. An understanding of Western psychology and knowing how the scientific method works are excellent tools in my industry, and universities are still good places to learn this.

However, self-study and practical experience are the best way to develop skills in business management, marketing and the specific practices of personal development.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

When we achieve a particularly hard goal, or make a tough breakthrough, I feel an excitement which lasts for hours. I love the daily study and feel so lucky that geeking out on the nuances of human psychology is now my job. The work I do makes people better - knowing this makes me very happy.

What are the challenges?

Getting started was really tough. Of the seven start-ups I built, my life coaching practice was the most difficult to establish. There are much easier ways to earn more, if money's your primary motivation. Sometimes your clients are going through truly harrowing times, and holding that space together can be painful.

Do you have any advice for aspiring life coaches?

If you're passionate about personal development, and have a desire to help others grow, then life coaching might just be for you. If you're curious, start with yourself. Try to implement behaviour change for your own deficits. The combination of theory and skills required to develop your own life is almost identical to what's required to help others. Heal yourself, then heal yourself again, and if you have a taste for it, try healing someone else.

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