By developing empowering relationships with clients, you'll help them decide what changes they need to make to achieve their potential

As a life coach, you'll help clients identify their personal strengths and areas for development. In a similar way to counselling, you'll develop on-going, confidential, one-to-one relationships with clients, but where counselling focuses on deep emotional healing, your concern is in helping clients plan positive goals.

As well as dealing with clients on an individual basis, you'll 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 expect you to be accredited by a professional body to reflect your training and ethical working.

Types of life coaching

You'll usually specialise in one area of coaching, such as:

  • career coaching
  • executive business
  • group coaching
  • health and wellbeing
  • performance management
  • personal development
  • relationships
  • retirement
  • spiritual
  • 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.

Responsibilities

You'll need to:

  • agree a coaching contract for a number of sessions, discuss confidentiality and work to a Code of Ethics
  • build good working relationships with clients, allowing them to communicate their values and beliefs
  • motivate and encourage clients 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.

Salary

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 charge up to £100 per session.

Coaches with extensive experience (ten years+), especially those specialising in executive coaching, charge higher rates.

Life coaching is typically carried out on a part-time basis and so you'll 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.

Working hours

You'll likely be self-employed, so you can set your own working hours. Expect to offer evening or weekend appointments, as this is when many clients 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 contact 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 this 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'll 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, 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'll 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.

Qualifications

Life coaching isn't a regulated profession so you don't need to have specific qualifications. However, if you're serious about becoming a life coach, consider taking specific training with providers accredited by coaching associations such as:

By being appropriately accredited, clients will know you're trained to a certain standard. To become accredited you'll need to attend a course that has contact 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:

  • business
  • counselling
  • human resources (HR)
  • psychology
  • 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).

Skills

You'll 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 clients
  • the 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 contacts within the coaching industry.

You'll also need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate if your client group are under the age of 18 or are vulnerable adults.

Work experience

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 accept trainee life coaches.

This voluntary experience can help towards gaining a place on a course accredited by a recognised coaching body. You'll also need to find similar work experience to complete the necessary training hours that will be part of your life coaching course.

Employers

The majority of life coaches are self-employed, although many people incorporate their life coaching skills into their existing role.

Once you've gained experience it will 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 advertise with online directories such as Life Coach Directory. This is a great way to promote your work and develop a client base. It opens up opportunities as you can work both nationally and internationally via video calling or on the phone.

It's 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 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 potential research opportunities at:

Professional development

There isn't a straightforward progression route for life coaches and personal development is mainly self-directed.

If you decide to become accredited with a professional coaching body you'll 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're a member of a professional body, you'll get regular updates on workshops and master classes that link to your CPD. Professional bodies also run relevant conferences, 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.

Career prospects

If you move into executive, health or career coaching there may be opportunities to find work within different organisations which specialise in these areas, as well as the chance to advance into management roles.

With experience, you can 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'll be able to expand and build your brand by posting vlogs, 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.

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