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Find Your Calling
The 6 Steps to Becoming a Life Coach
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Are you the friend in your group that everyone else turns to for advice? Do you enjoy helping people process their concerns and thoughts before they make a big decision? Being the "counselor" in the lives of your loved ones may be a role in which you find real meaning and fulfillment. If that's the case, learning how to become a life coach might just be the next logical step for you. 

What does a life coach do?

Essentially, life coaches do exactly what you're already doing for your friends: help them deal with life issues big and small by acting as a sounding board and emotional mentor. Coaches also help clients make actionable changes in their life by encouraging them to formulate and follow plans for personal growth. These plans can involve achieving professional goals, overcoming emotional obstacles in their personal or professional lives and even finding a health and wellness regime (such as for weight loss or gain) that finally works for them. 

While a coach may find a niche for their business in any one of those areas or others, the "life" part of life coaching means they're going to spend time getting to know the whole person and not just their issues or concerns inside that particular area. A life coach is someone who will look at all aspects of their clients' lives to create big picture changes or improvements across the board.

Steps to become a life coach.

1. Get an undergraduate degree.

If you're still in college or considering going back to school, an undergraduate degree in a field related to coaching is a major plus. There probably aren't going to be undergraduate degrees in coaching, but that doesn't mean you can't pursue an area of study that lays a good groundwork for your future career. These related degrees might include psychology, counseling or social work.

2. Take classes and get certified.

If you already have a degree or are choosing not to pursue an undergraduate degree at this time, the next step in learning how to become a life coach is to take coaching courses and become certified. Be careful to find and attend only those programs accredited through professional coaching organizations. Once you complete your courses and any required hours of practice or mentoring (more on that, below), you can then go through the process of becoming a certified life coach.

3. Decide what kind of life coach you want to be.

Focusing on a coaching niche helps you find and market yourself to your ideal clientele. Do you want to work with college graduates just starting out, moms looking to re-enter the workforce or professionals close to retirement? Coaching offers a myriad of options from which you can choose. You can also, as noted above, take a direction more specific to relationships, business or health if that seems right for you.

4. Advertise your business.

Learning how to become a life coach also entails entering the realm of business ownership. You're basically a solopreneur once you launch this endeavor and are responsible for everything from marketing to bookkeeping. To begin finding clients, you'll need to list yourself in relevant online directories, build a website and explore other advertising options.

5.Set up your first "office."

How you initially set up your business will depend on a number of circumstances, many related to your financial situation. Most coaches just starting out don't have the money to rent or buy their own office space in which to meet with clients. Instead, they may invite clients into their home or meet with them somewhere else.

6. Continue to learn and grow.

Stay up to date on new or relevant certifications, services, trends and industry developments by attending seminars and/or taking additional classes. Seminars and other professional gatherings are especially useful places to network with your peers. They're also great places to cultivate a mentoring relationship with someone more experienced if you're just starting out.

Do I really need to be certified to become a life coach?

The life coaching industry is still largely unregulated. This means the quickest answer to how to "become" a life coach is just by saying that you're one. Basically anyone can do it. But this also means that just by becoming a certified life coach, you'll have quite a leg up over those more self-styled coaches and that you're held to a higher standard by your professional organization. This is something that will reassure your future clientele. So, while you can indeed become a life coach simply by saying that you are, pursuing an education in related topics and becoming certified and recognized as a professional coach is the more secure route to take if this is something you want to build a career on.

How long does it take to become a life coach?

The amount of training you'll need to complete will vary from program to program. Most certification programs, such as those approved by the International Coach Federation (ICF), require a minimum number of hours of training and also a set amount of time you'll need to spend with a professional coaching mentor. You then also need to complete at least 100 hours of coaching actual clients before you can become certified. Some programs require as many as 300+ hours of training, and any advanced certifications will call for even more hours spent training on specific topics. Depending on your personal schedule and availability this process could happen over the course of a few months or even a year or more.

How much money can you make as a life coach?

The answer to this varies quite a lot. According to ZipRecruiter, the annual salaries for life coaches range from around $10,000 to $150,000 or more. The average range falls between $25,000-70,000 annually. Why is there such a wide range? Because as a coach, you're an independent contractor. The rates you set and the income you make will depend on your level of experience, your clientele and the area in which you practice, as well as how good you are at marketing yourself and finding new clients to take on.

Is becoming a professional life coach right for you?

Being a life coach is about more than just chatting over coffee or ticking off the pros and cons of a challenging professional situation or decision. Coaching means being able to help your clients examine and process their particular concerns in a structured and educated fashion. You're responsible for providing consistent and effective care for your clientele, motivating each individual in a way that's ideally suited to their situation, temperament and other carefully considered circumstances. You won't be able to phone it in if you're just not feeling it that day.

In short, being a life coach is a job that calls for a lot of personal investment from you. Most coaches actually feel as if it's as much a calling as a profession. If this isn't you? It's okay to just be that go-to friend people call after a breakup. After all, we all need at least one of those. But if you think learning how to become a life coach still sounds interesting and you aren't deterred by the amount of training, time and effort you'll need to put in to become a certified professional, then this just might be the career for you.

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