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Life coaches are skilled at drawing out a person's own wisdom to help maximize work or personal potentials. According to Damian Goldvarg, the International Coach Federation (ICF) president, "A life coach helps a client bring about and fulfill new behaviors that will lead to successful communication in business or interpersonal relationships." Clients usually spend about 6 months with a life coach to establish goals, line up priorities, monitor progress and figure out solutions to set-backs.
Education and Skills
As of now, there is no formal education or certain path a person must take to become a life coach. However, a bachelor's or master's degree in counseling is beneficial. A life coach must possess good listening and organizational skills, be successful at getting others to look introspectively, know how to guide people with step-by-step instructions and stay with clients until goals are reached. While the profession is currently unregulated, the ICF has the only globally recognized credential program that offers training programs and credentials.
The 2012 ICF Global Coaching Study says that 86 percent of life coaches are independent; only 14 percent work within an organization. This means the majority of life coaches need excellent business and marketing entrepreneurial skills. According to Goldvarg, social media is key. "Coaches need to have a website, Facebook and LinkedIn presence." Goldvarg says that because a life coach works independently instead of with a team, he has to work harder to obtain clients. One way is to network. Members of the IFC can attend local chapter meetings, where coaches can learn from experts and exchange experiences.
Meeting with Clients
Client meetings are in person, on the phone or in video-chat sessions, and range from weekly to monthly depending on the client's situation and goals. According to Goldvarg, 31 percent of life coaches deal with business-related concerns, such as staff-team effectiveness; 36 percent specialize in interpersonal relationship issues; and 31 percent deal with issues ranging primarily from poor communication skills. After revealing issues and discussing solutions, the life coach puts a plan into place where the client must reach certain goals by the next meeting.
Getting Clients to Open Up
A life coach is skilled at getting clients to look inward to identify problems that are holding him back. For example, a life coach will ask a question to which a client might reply, "I don't know." The life coach will then say, "If you did know, what would the answer be?" This makes a client see that he really has the answers, but just needs help with finding a solution. Another client question is, "What has to happen for you to achieve this?" This separates what must happen from what's negotiable. It gets clients to see there are certain steps that he cannot avoid when solving the problem. Life coaches also "reframe" situations, such as suggesting a client view something differently or get the client to pinpoint excuses versus true obstacles.
The benefits of life coaching include working from home, being your own boss, and creating a flexible work schedule, says Goldvarg. "Making a difference in people's lives brings a great deal of joy to coaches. As a result of a client's hard work, a coach can see the effect it has in his client's families, work environment and organizations."
Outlook and Salary
A 2012 study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the ICF concluded that the life coach profession is growing. There are an estimated 47,500 professional coaches generating almost $2 billion in annual revenue. ICF membership has grown from 11,000 in 2006 to more than 19,000 members in 2013. As a result, life coaches are expected to see a steady increase in clients, sessions and fees through 2013. The median salary in 2011 was $25,000; the average annual revenue from coaching was $47,900. According to the ICF the differences in revenue are reflected in coaching experience, education and hours worked.
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.