Life coaching? What does that have to do with business?
I was shocked the first time I heard this question. Twenty years ago, the life-coaching industry was in its infancy, and professional coaches were hard to find. Today, this growing field employs more than 50,000 people worldwide.
According to a 2010 study from the International Coach Federation, an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of people are so satisfied with their coaching experience, they would recommend it to others. Some project that life coaching will mature from a cottage industry to a full-fledged one some time in the next few years. Life coaching as an industry is here to stay, and the prospects for life coaches look bright.
Communication has taken a new turn with the advent of social media, text messaging and online reputation management. This can be positive or negative. When we're constantly bombarded by information, it can be a real challenge to discern what is best for us.
Coaching's effects are similar to mentoring, but it is more precise and specialized. Induron CEO Davies Hood had this to say about his mentor and life coach, Louis A. Prosch, Jr.: “He was demanding, critical and forceful in his commands. ... He was great about making the job clear, criticizing poor work and praising good work. He taught me the importance of concentrated, hard work.”
The true benefits of having a trusted guide are immeasurable, but our economy tends to measure results in terms of the money to be earned. This isn't the industry for everyone. Perhaps you're interested -- but, like me, you don't want to make it your full-time career at present. If you have experience to share and find fulfillment in helping others succeed, life coaching might be the right side gig for you.
Here are a few basic steps to get you started.
Take time to learn the concepts.
Rushing into the life-coaching business will prove to be a very costly move. Getting certified as a life coach isn’t as expensive as getting a college degree, but it's still a significant commitment of time and money. Before you spend the $5,000 to $10,000 to earn your credentials, take time to consider your reasons for wanting to explore this avenue. Learn what life coaching is -- and just as important, what it isn't.
By far the most popular and widely respected introduction to the art of life coaching is "Walks of Life," written by Jill Fratto and certified life coaches at the National Coach Academy. This step-by-step guide has helped thousands of new coaches establish their practices. Get to studying and gain clarity on the concepts and methods.
Find the right certification program.
When you're satisfied your vision is 20/20, you'll need to find the right program. You may have natural skill and even real-world experience, but potential clients will want to see some proof before they give you their hard-earned money.
Many companies offer an honest, credible program. Some life-coach "certifications," however, are downright scams. Make sure the program you select is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF is the world’s foremost coaching organization and is dedicated to advancing the coaching profession. ICF-compliant companies must align with professional standards that ensure consistency in coach-training support, knowledge and other tools.
Next, narrow down your search to programs that cover the specialization areas you find most interesting. For example, are you passionate about teenage development or helping people realize how to integrate healthy living in their busy day-to-day?
Choose how you'll deliver services to stay viable.
Method of delivery is an important factor, and you should think through the logistics before you enroll in a training program. In the age of Skype and teleconferencing, you needn't be physically present in a classroom or seminar with your clients. Plenty of programs offer remote learning, which is perfect if you’ve got a busy, unpredictable schedule.
To stay viable, you'll need to remain visible. Will you be comfortable sharing your best work via a Twitter page, YouTube channel, or other platform to help you establish yourself as an influencer? As its name suggests, influence.co can help you learn the art of influencer marketing. Or you might choose to share regular podcasts (WordPress and iTunes both can help here).
Complete your certification and launch your business.
Once the certification plaques are on the wall and your website is fully functional, it's tempting to call yourself a life coach and wait for the phone to ring. In reality, coaching is no different than any other business: You need to recruit clients to your online presence -- it's your virtual front door.
Facebook, Twitter, multimedia channels and your own website are just the beginning. If you're interested in serving a younger demographic, you'll need to be active on Instagram, too. You might even be able to make contacts with the counseling or career-services staff at local schools and colleges. Do you love to work with active seniors or the elderly? Visit area retirement communities and reach out to directors at local nursing homes.
Technology makes it possible to coach clients anywhere in the world, but the only way to get started is to first market yourself in your own home neighborhoods. Your company will perform at its best when you don't rely on just a single marketing channel.
As you implement these initial marketing efforts -- and before you meet with your first "real" clients -- volunteer your services to someone you know well. This will help you get acclimated to the process and give you a safe space to make a few rookie mistakes.