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How to become a certified life coach - What you'll need to know

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Updated on:
December 12, 2022
December 12, 2022
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Becoming a certified life coach can help many people lead a fulfilled life. After all, thanks to your coaching, many individuals can turn their life around and become a better version of themselves. You're getting paid to do good, so what's better than that?

So, how do you become a certified life coach? What are the steps you'll have to go through? If you are ready to go down this path of personal growth, we are here to help you.

Note: if you are running or planning on starting a life coaching business, try Bonsai. Bonsai is an all-in-one small business tool hub. From task management, time tracking, tax, contract, proposal, and invoice templates for life coaches--our software has you covered. Claim your 7-day free trial today.

What Do Life Coaches Do?

Life coaches use their people and organization skills to help clients identify their goals, along with any potential obstacles. Rather than focusing on the present, a life coach will focus on the future.

One thing to keep in mind is that life coaches aren't therapists. They simply make the connection between where you are now and where you want to be, helping you build a bridge. They will come up with a detailed plan for you to reach your goal, such as getting promoted or entering a relationship.

Do You Need a License to Become a Life Coach?

Technically speaking, life coaches aren't regulated by federal or state agencies, so they don't need a business license - not unless they plan on starting an LLC. However, they may need the training courses and a document that proves they meet the ICF core competencies.

Steps to Become a Certified Life Coach

Becoming a professional certified coach is not that difficult, but there are certain steps that you have to go through. Here is what you need to do to make sure everything plays by the book.

Consider a Life Coaching Specialty

Life coaching is a fairly vast field, so you cannot expect to be able to teach it all. You need to pick a niche.

Do you want to keep your focus on mental health and spirituality? Do you want to go for the standard business coaching? Executing coaching? Or perhaps you prefer wellness coaching.

Regardless, you must narrow it down to niche coaching. This way, you will be able to master your coaching skills and market yourself better.

Get Your Education and College Degree

As a life coach, you will be teaching 'life' to all of your clients. And to teach, you need to prove that you are qualified to do so. You can't expect others to take your word for it if you don't have any formal education.

You should at least have your bachelor's degree, but if you want to coach high-profile people, you should get a master's degree as well. A doctorate wouldn't hurt either if you have the option. It will offer you a well-rounded curriculum.

Get the Correct Life Coach Training

Now that you have your education handled, you need to look into a good accredited coach training program. Some programs work just with credits, whereas others will offer a degree at the end of the program.

During this training, you will learn many things such as positive psychology, coaching ethics, and how to properly communicate with your client. Depending on the course that you go for, you might spend up to two years in training.

Get Your Life Coach Certification

Once you complete your coaching certification program and are over with your training, you may apply for the actual certification. To get your credentials from the International Coaching Federation (ICF), you need to prove that you have coaching experience and expertise in your niche.

For instance, to become a certified professional coach, the ICF may require you to have 500 hours of experience in coaching. You also need to show you had at least 25 clients. Last, but not least, you must pass the test they will ask you to take.

Set Up Your Life Coaching Business

If you are planning to run a coaching business, having life coach certifications will not be enough: you need to establish yourself as a legal business owner, with your own business license and documentation.

Depending on your preferences, you may go for a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Sole proprietorships are a good structure type when you are starting your life coach business, but they offer you limited liability protection. If your business goes through any issues, your personal assets and accounts may be accessed for recovery.

On the other hand, if you go for a Limited Liability Company or Corporation (LLC), then you will receive liability protection. You will be able to open a business account on platforms such as Bonsai's business account to store your business funds while protecting your personal assets.

Make sure to clear your tax issues with the IRS as well. Bonsai Tax can help you in this matter, as it puts aside the money that you owe for taxes.

Set Up Business Insurance

As a life coach, there is a good chance that you will not need any insurance - but it won't hurt to have it either. In the off case that something goes south with your business, that insurance plan will be there to protect you.

Plus, an insurance plan for your life coach business only costs around $60 per month. It's a small price for the peace of mind of your client. Plus, when they see that you are insured, they will feel more comfortable paying you for your coaching services.

Note: If you are a life coach who needs help streamlining your business (in one place), try Bonsai. We have task management, time tracking tools as well as invoice, proposal and contract templates for life coaches. Claim your 7-day free trial here.

Build on Your Coaching Practice

You have your credentials, you have your coaching bio and you have your business set. The foundation is there, so now you have to build on your coaching practice - in other words, start your career.

Try to get as many clients as you can. You can use the Bonsai life coach proposal template to present your value proposition to your clients, and then use the contract templates to seal the deal. The more clients you get, the more exposure you will gain.

How to Choose a Life Coach Certification Program

In order to get the best life coach certifications, you need to find a program that resonates with your skills and calling. No certified life coach program is the same, and there are certain things you need to make sure of:

The Focus Is on Coaching

Life coaches that are looking for a good coaching program should focus on programs that teach coaching, not helping. At this point, you already know how to be emphatic and help people. But you also need to learn how to coach. Always begin by asking the correct life coaching questions.

ICF Accredited Program

There are many certified life coaching courses out there that you may take, but not all of them are ICF-accredited programs. Life coaches will only be taken seriously if they are accredited by a higher authority, and not having the ICF label may cause your clients to look elsewhere.

Make Sure It Matches Your Values

Depending on the program that you go for, you'll spend at least 6 months on specialized training. This is why you need to go for a program that meets your values and speaks to you in general. This way, you will have the motivation to keep going.

It Differentiates Marketing and Coaching

Life coaches should know that coaching is more than trying to sell a dream for a better future. As a result, the coaching program that you go for should be able to make the difference between marketing and coaching.


When you become a life coach, you may have a couple of questions. Here are some of the most common questions, together with their answers.

How Long Does It Take to Get Your Life Coaching Certification?

Life coach certification programs are different, and while one course may take up to 6 months to complete, others will take even more. Some programs can allow up to 18 months to practice your coaching skills. On average, you should be able to get your life coaching certification within half a year.

How Much Do Life Coach Certification Programs Cost?

One thing that you must know is that these coaching programs are not free - especially if they come from a certified life coach institute. Since life coach training programs are different, so are their prices. Life coach certification costs range from $3,000 to $12,000. Cheaper ones may be available as well, but there is a good chance that they may not be accredited by the International Coach Federation.

How Much Can You Earn as a Life Coach?

As a life coach, your earnings are based mostly on your clients and your services. On average, a certified life coach's salary can be up to $42,000 per year. That sum can easily increase if you work with a professional. For instance, if you are coaching a CEO, you may expect to get a higher payment.

Can You Get Your Life Coach Certification Online?

Pretty much anything can be done online, including applications to life coaching certification programs. There are thousands of programs out there for you to pick from, all of which may be completed from the comfort of your home.

The Bottom Line

Becoming a certified life coach is not that different from starting a business. You just need to take the training course, apply for the certification, and then start coaching your clients. Once your career starts growing, you may easily win a few thousand dollars per month.

Access task management, time tracking, tax tools with proposal, contract and invoice templates here.
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