Becoming a professional coach is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. It’s such an honor to be able to help people grow in their personal leadership skills and pursue their true purpose and passions to make a huge impact in the world. I love facilitating “a-ha moments” for people and guiding them towards success. I never thought I would become a coach because I didn’t even know that the coaching industry existed until about 3 years ago. Since then, I learned more about it, volunteered and practiced it as much as I could, and took steps to call this my career. Today, I wanted to answer some FAQs for people who are interested in becoming a coach or adding coaching skills to their repertoire. As you read this, imagine us chatting together at a coffee shop with the freedom for you to pick my brain. My hope is that this gives you more insight to the industry and provides a little bit of direction of your next steps.
Q: I love helping people. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring and guiding younger people. Is coaching right for me? A: Yes! The heart of coaching is helping people to figure out what they want, why they want it, and provide the support and accountability for them to be successful. When you get down to it, a coach sees someone for their potential and equips them with the skills and resources for them to be the best version of themselves. A coach is someone who wants to facilitate change, growth, and get people from where they are now to where they want to be. It’s definitely considered to be a “helping profession.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be with someone younger than you, but people tend to work with coaches that they can relate to. The question to ask yourself is, “WHY do you want to become a coach?” Get clear on your definition of success. If it’s genuinely to help people get better in a motivating way, then coaching may be a good fit for you.
Q: What are my options as a coach? // What can I do as a coach? A: There are many paths you can take, or make yourself! Typically you could: be to go-to coach for your current company, be a coach that consults for other companies, or start your own private coaching business/practice. There are many different niches as well: including health/wellness, business, life, executive, leadership and success, and career. Or, you could get coach training for basic coach skills (communication, listening, asking questions, goal-setting/accountability) that could equip you to be a better leader in your current job.
Q: How can I get started with coaching? A: Start Where You Are! First, if you’ve never experienced working with a coach yourself, I highly encouraged you to do it. That way, you know first-hand what it’s all about. You can go to local workshops and seminars hosted by a coach, or invest in working with one yourself. Then, the best way to see if coaching is right for you as a career is to engage in opportunities to learn and practice coaching. Find people and opportunities where you can offer your listening ear and expertise. If you're working 9-5, what are some ways you can add value to your company by helping others grow? For example, it could be a book club, speaking in a professional development series, or creating an accountability group. The key is to find practical ways to practice (even if it’s on your friends!) Think of it as an experiment: Who do I love to help? What kind of problems are they dealing with? What value am I providing them? Do I even like this?
Something you can try to practice with people one-on-one: create a survey asking questions about people’s needs and desires, send it out to friends and people in your network, and offer a mini-coaching session to those who have filled it out. This gives you a better idea of what people need and are looking for, and also real-world experience in coaching people.
Q: Do I need training or certification? A: Getting training is like the difference between between street smart and and school smart. You may naturally have great coaching skills, but training hones them to take to the next level. I like to think of it like the difference between a street basketball player and a professional one. A street basketball player is naturally skilled and may have fun playing the game, but when you’re ready to go pro, training helps provide structure and expertise, and confidence in helping you know what you’re doing. Coach training is an investment and can range from $500-$2000 per module (and even up to $10,000 for the whole shebang), so carefully consider it before going all in. I went to Erickson International, and have heard good things about Co-Active Coach Training, and Lifeforming.
Certification is getting officially registered by the International Coach Federation. You need to have at coach training and at least 100 hours in order to apply. It’s a great route to consider if you value professional development, and a must-have if you want to work for corporate companies for executive/leadership coaching. A lot of corporate companies will only hire coaches with those credentials. But if you worked with clients one-on-one in your own private practice, it’s not necessary. Keep in mind that clients buy for results. As long as you provide value and results, clients will be happy to work with you.
Q: Let’s be real. What does it take to have a coaching business? A: It’s pretty awesome and rewarding work. But having a business around coaching is difficult. I’ll share a few things I wish people told me when I first started:
- Building a business takes a lot of time and persistence. It’s one thing to be a great coach but it’s another thing to be a great business owner. It takes a lot of focused intention and attention, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I always say that building a business is the BEST personal development because you’re always learning new things (that constantly keep changing) and pushing yourself to grow.
- People don’t buy coaching, they buy results. This is a marketing thing. To more clear you are about who you help and how you help them, they better chance you’ll find the people you’re meant to serve and get paying clients. I naively thought that saying “I can coach!” would attract people to me. Instead, I had to learn some savvy marketing skills and get clear on my audience, message, and services.
- Things are constantly changing. Things within the industry are constantly changing. The coach I was one year ago is way different than the coach I am today (for the better!) Business is the same way. Things that worked before may not worked now. So I’m constantly experimenting with new marketing channels and offerings. I like the challenge of trying new things, but I’m also balancing it with trying to remain consistent in things like my voice and helpful habits.
- Invest in things that matter. Some people may think the only expenses needed for an online coaching business is a laptop, internet, and a phone (which you already have). But realistically, start-up costs could be education, training, web site/marketing materials/branding, office supplies, legal fees, etc. Those things add up. It’s good to have a budget to set aside money to invest in things to matter to you. For me, that was education, branding, and working with a coach.
Q: What are your favorite books/resources? A: I love reading! Here’s a list of my recommended books for leadership, business, and creativity. I continue to add to the list, so let me know what your recommendations are!
I hope this Q+A session helped you get a better peek into our world and give you clarity for the direction of your coach journey. My vision is that someday coaching will become more mainstreamed and that everyone would be equipped with basic coaching skills. Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?!
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