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5 Ways to Spot Fake Online Coaches (So You Can Find the Great Ones)

Investing in yourself is a smart decision. Make sure you get what you're paying for.
5 Ways to Spot Fake Online Coaches (So You Can Find the Great Ones)
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The online-learning industry is one of today's most glamorous -- and booming -- fields. Perform a quick Google search, and you'll find hundreds (if not thousands) of coaches who specialize in everything from health and business to love and mindset. 

The internet enables us to share a variety of valuable knowledge, and information is the new currency. It's no surprise, then, that so many people want to share their insights and experiences. Unfortunately, this situation also presents an amazing opportunity for all kinds of get-rich-quick schemes and self-proclaimed gurus. Both leave people feeling tricked instead of empowered.

Related: Why Real Leaders Don't Pay Attention to Phony Leadership 'Experts'

Still, that's no reason not to make an investment in yourself. Plenty of brilliant coaches have your best interests at heart. Here are a few tips to help you differentiate between the imposters and the real deals. 

Pay attention to the language.

Laws regulating media (and the internet, in particular) gradually are improving, but it never ceases to amaze me how many "gurus" exaggerate their outcomes and make claims that are too good to be true.

Is someone promising to teach you how to make $100,000 overnight? Lose 25 pounds in the first week? Change your mindset so you, too, can buy a yacht and cruise the Caribbean while your $1,000 investment makes you millions? Come on. You’re a big boy or a girl. You should know better. You're better off hiring a coach who cuts through the flashy language and guarantees results only if you put in the work yourself.

Related: Why It's Important to Have a Coach in Business and Life

Ensure your coach walks the walk.

This is one of the first items to vet when evaluating coaches. If a coach promises to teach you how to make seven figures a year but can't make it him- or herself, keep looking. To use another metric: Your health coach shouldn't be sipping on a soda every time you meet. 

Do your research. Make sure this person achieved what he or she claims to have accomplished. Then dig a bit more. Apply your critical-thinking skills to determine if his or her starting point was much more favorable than your own. In other words, are the coach's accomplishments likely a result of personal work or some other set of fortunate circumstances you can't replicate?

Related: Nurturing and Educating the Leaders of Tomorrow

Watch out for sales tricks.

Aside from inflated claims, pay attention to shady sales tactics. For example, a coach might “throw in” 10 bonuses to justify the program's high cost or keep a strict no-refund policy. A website with an annoying countdown clock is a red flag you're being pressured to make a decision -- especially if you're considering a four- to five-digit investment. These tricks reveal the coach is unsure of the program's value. Even worse, such questionable behavior also hints at the kind of relationship you'd be getting yourself into.

Choose a coach who understands your current situation or life stage. At minimum, a great coach is a decent human being who realizes you need some time to consider a hefty purchase. Instead of applying pressure, a solid coach will show the program's true value before you sign up. That makes your decision easier and saves you buyer's remorse later.

Related: Career Coach vs. Mentor: Which Can Help You the Most?

Analyze the free content.

Coaches, like many enterprising business owners, often offer free content to entice potential clients to pay for a full program. To be worth your money, the service must provide some sort of insight you can't find elsewhere for free. You can use these samples to evaluate the value of any given coach. Peruse his or her free content. If a few blog entries on "the best strategies to do X, Y and Z" leave you thinking, "Well, obviously," you haven't found your coach. She or he isn't necessarily out to get you and your money. After all, the advice could be useful to people in earlier stages of their journeys. 

The quality of free content directly correlates to the level of expertise you'll receive in paid courses. I've found that most coaches will state all their core strategies in free blog posts or videos. But you'll pay for the deep dive to guide you through each of the "how-to" steps. Look for content that blows your socks off with at least one of the following: wealth of experience, depth of information or originality of strategies. If you're not impressed with the information a coach provides for free, you shouldn't expect to see a higher caliber of insight from his or her paid program.

Related: Why the Key to Self-Improvement Is Not Complicated

Go with your gut.

If something seems off, it probably is. It could be an inconsistent story, a host of pressure tactics or simply a combination of attitude and behavior. A brilliant athlete or entrepreneur with a nasty personality can't possibly be a good coach. When you decide to invest in your growth and knowledge, you deserve a good experience. Great coaches -- just like great people -- don’t brag about themselves or put you down because you’re not at their level (or might never reach such a lofty plateau).

Investing in yourself can be the ultimate use of your resources. Just make sure you're getting everything you’re paying for.

Related: 8 Essential Qualities Necessary to Be Great in Relationships