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Learning Curve

Although you don't need formal training or a professional license to become a coach, a number of training centers continue to open nationwide. More than 1,000 would-be business coaches have graduated from Coach University, which offers its courses over the telephone.

Coach U's 36 core TeleClasses (each is four weeks long; you can take up to four classes per month) cover everything from the language of business coaching to tips for counseling clients about specific situations such as job transitions and starting a new business. For about $3,000, most students can earn their coaching certificate in one to two years.

"There's a lot of innate ability involved in coaching, but a formal training program can really help you hone that listening process of letting people brainstorm for themselves before giving any advice," says 25-year-old Chris Hamilton, who recently graduated from Coach U and began coaching part time. Becoming a coach was a natural move for Hamilton, a bank services officer at Wells Fargo Bank in Palmdale, California. "I find myself using coaching skills every day in my job supervising bank tellers--listening to people without judgment and helping them resolve personal and professional conflicts," he says.

Daimler, too, found that her previous jobs led naturally to a career in business coaching. In addition to working as Coach University's national enrollment manager for a year, she had worked in several companies' training and development divisions. "All the jobs I did before coaching were essentially 'coaching,'" she recalls. "However, they weren't called that at the time."

In addition to a training program, should you choose that route, you'll need about $500 to buy office supplies, a good organizational system and an answering machine for your phone. A PC with word-processing and accounting software programs is also helpful; that should set you back another $2,000 to $2,500. Most coaches secure clients by word-of-mouth, so investing in advertising and marketing may not even be necessary.

Cashing In

Most coaches working with individuals charge between $200 and $500 per month for one half-hour phone call or meeting each week (some throw in counseling via e-mail as well). Hamilton, for example, charges individual clients $250 per month for four weekly coaching calls and unlimited e-mails and faxes. Business coaches hired by a corporation to coach individuals or executive teams usually charge more because more time is involved; some corporate clients work with a coach for as long as an hour or two a week. Companies such as IBM and AT&T contract with coaches to work with their employees for fees that can run anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per month. According to Coach University statistics, after two years the average full-time coach earns between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.

As in any worthwhile business, money isn't the only reward. "I help people find the fun that's missing in their jobs, and learn how to use fun as a strategic weapon to achieve results in all areas of their lives," says Terrill Fischer, 36, CHO (chief humor officer) of Humor University, an Austin, Texas, coaching company. "People take themselves way too seriously, and I help them see the truth about themselves--and laugh at it. That relieves a lot of pressure and stress, and helps them to see more clearly what to do next."

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