How to Become a Better Life Coach
Just like with teachers or personal trainers, so much of what makes a life coach good can vary a lot from person to person and depend on the topics, coaching style, and clientele. Some of the skills and attributes that make someone good at career coaching may not work so well for relationship coaching or wellness coaching. However, there are some attributes and skills that are going to be universally useful for effective life coaching. This article lists some of the key ones. If you’re serious about becoming a better coach, take a look at that list, identify the attributes that don’t come as naturally to you, and devote some time to developing those.
But there’s more to being a good life coach than just having a few key qualities and skills. You also need knowledge, experience, and empathy, and you need an understanding of how a business like coaching works. Let’s take a look at some practices you can do to help you grow in these areas, become a more effective life coach, and boost your online life coaching business.
Knowledge Is Power
To be successful in any field, you need to have a solid foundational knowledge of that field and probably a specialized knowledge of at least one subtopic in that field. The same is true of life coaching. One of the most important things you can do to be a better life coach is to keep learning.
Perhaps you consider taking classes from a life coaching institute, particularly on topics that you don’t know as much about. Or topics that could prove particularly useful, such as using communication that fosters openness, developing and practicing empathy, building good listening skills, asking the right kinds of questions to get your clients to reflect). At the very least, follow the experts in the field to stay current on any major developments, insights, and trends.
You might also want to consider studying up on your psychology. Because psychology is the study of the human psyche—how we think and feel, why we behave the way we do, what motivates us, etc.—psychological principles underlie pretty much every aspect of coaching: habit formation, behavior change, goal achievement, motivation, relationships, and more. Therefore, by understanding how people operate, you can better hack your clients’ operating systems to help them achieve the success they’re looking for.
To learn some of these important psychological principles, you could:
- Take a class or a few from a local community college.
- Read some books on the topic.
- Watch educational videos (or listen to podcasts)
- Or even read the blogs and articles on Psychology Today’s website.
There’s so much more to coaching than book-smarts; however, you also need practical knowledge, experience, and wisdom. One of the best ways to get this wisdom is through practice. So get as much coaching experience as you can.
Consider offering free coaching sessions to friends and family or discounted (or free) introductory sessions for potential clients. Not only will this be a great way to get more experience, but it’s also an excellent way to market yourself and get some word-of-mouth advertising.
Lastly, one of the best sources of wisdom in this world is other people. Consider getting a professional mentor—another coach who can coach you on being a better coach. The values of having a mentor are manifold, but arguably the two most important values are:
(1) They give us a perspective of ourselves that we can’t see on our own
(2) They can teach us valuable lessons based on their experience so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes or go through the same struggles that they did.
Play to Your Strengths
As with most any profession, it’s important to specialize. After all, when people look for a life coach, odds are they’re looking for help with specific needs. So if you’re able to meet those specific needs, you’ll likely get more clients. However, beware of overdoing it. You can’t be an expert on everything, and if you try, you’ll either wear yourself out, or you’ll end up not being an expert at any because your attention will be divided among too many things. A jack of all trades is a master of none.
Instead, focus on what drives you. What is it that you’re passionate about when it comes to helping people? Is it their career growth? Is it spiritual fulfillment? Self-discovery? Remember what got you into this business in the first place.
Then find your key strengths. As a coach, what are you good at? What kinds of results are you able to get for your clients? Are you good at motivating them to achieve big goals? Are you able to help them gain important insights into themselves?
Now let these passions and strengths dictate your specializations (a.k.a., your niche). Not only will this make your job more fulfilling, because you’ll be focusing on the things that excite you, but you’ll probably be a better coach because you’re operating out of your strengths. Plus, when you’re working on what you’re passionate about, that passion will overflow into your life coaching sessions, further inspiring your clients.
Once you know your niche, advertise to it. As you promote yourself (e.g., writing your bio, describing what clients can expect in your sessions, posting on social media), reference these specializations and skills. This will draw in the clients that you can best help.
Lastly, and also an important coaching tip in its own right, learn more about the people in your niche. What drives them to come to coaching? How can you play to that motivation? Are there certain communications styles or a certain vernacular that these people resonate with? If so, learn how to speak their language. Do they like to be pushed hard in sessions, or do they prefer a more discovery-oriented approach? The better you know them, the better you can coach them in a way that works for them.
Manage Your Business
There’s a lot involved in running a life coaching business. Not only do you have to conduct the life coaching sessions themselves, but you have to engage in marketing to connect with prospective clients. You have to track the progress of your clients, you have to plan for your sessions so that they’re maximally effective, and you have to stay educated in your field. And on top of all that, you have to manage the business itself: track and collect payments, manage expenditures, have a place to meet with clients, etc.
Some of this is easier if you’re an online life coach: because you meet with clients virtually, you may not have to lease an office space, and you probably have more flexibility in your schedule, which could allow you to have more clients. However, coaching online can have additional complications: maintaining a website, collecting payments virtually, using streaming software, etc. Luckily for you, ZentasticFit manages these administrative aspects of the business. Our all-in-one platform allows you to connect with clients, send them messages, book sessions, and collect payments), enabling you to focus more of your time on your clients.
Even so, there will still be some administrative duties that need to be handed. Maybe you set aside a day or two during the week just for the administrative and planning aspects of your business (e.g., jotting down notes and ideas about your clients, monitoring their progress, creating plans and exercises for your sessions, keeping track of finances); on the other days, you could dedicate your time to coaching. Or you could do administrative tasks in the morning and leave the coaching sessions for the afternoon and evening. Find the system that works for you. But, it would be wise to separate the administrative tasks from the coaching.
Humans do not multitask well (even though we might like to think we do, we don’t), so this division of labor will help you stay “in the zone” for each type of task by not constantly switching mindsets as you go between different tasks. What this ultimately comes down to is that you’ll be more fully present and engaged during your online coaching sessions. And when you’re more engaged in them, your clients will get much more out of them.
A good coach is someone who is coachable. Moreover, you cannot teach what you do not know. So if you want to get your clients to challenge themselves and grow, you need to be challenging yourself and grow. This is another instance where having a mentor becomes vitally important.
Besides providing you with an external perspective and valuable wisdom, a mentor can push and challenge you and make sure that you’re growing in your goals. You have to practice what you preach. It’ll keep you as the best version of you that you can be (including the best coach you can be), and it’ll help you gain respect with your clients because they’ll know that you’re able and willing to do the same things you’re asking them to do.
It can also be helpful to coach yourself. As you take notes on your clients during your sessions, also take notes on yourself. How was your performance? What did you do that worked well? What didn’t work well? Where could you have improved (e.g., said more, said less, asked more questions, dug deeper, pushed harder, pulled back, etc.)? More importantly, how could you improve? Without being unnecessarily hard on yourself, take these critiques to heart. Keep doing what works well, and then improve in the areas that need improvement. Not only will this self-reflection help you coach, better, but it’ll also help you become a more self-aware and observant person.
Another important part of self-growth is experiencing new things. So open your horizons. If you want to connect with people, it’ll help if you have similar experiences about which you can connect. So get out there and experience this great, big, beautiful world. Learn something new. Go someplace new. Try something new. It’ll probably be uncomfortable at times, but it’ll be worth it.
Relatedly, and by extension, you may want to consider learning about spirituality, particularly if you’re not a spiritual person by nature or experience. A lot of people have some degree of spirituality, and it may be relevant to topics that come up in your sessions, so if you shut the door on all things spiritual, you may be shutting yourself off to a world of potential clients. I’m not saying that you have to start practicing a religion, or even that you need to bring up spiritual topics in your sessions. But, if your clients bring up spiritual or religious themes as they relate to stuff you’re working on, it’ll help if you can speak about those themes from an informed and understanding perspective.
This final bit of advice isn’t specific to being a better life coach; it’s top-tier advice for being a better person in general. People respond positively to authenticity, so know who you are and be who you are, both in your sessions and beyond them. If too much of your energy is being spent maintaining a facade, you won’t have enough energy left to coach your clients. So if you want to be a better coach, start by being you.
But it’s more than just energy and focus; authenticity is contagious. Even when you do a good job of creating a safe, empathic environment that fosters openness and honesty from your clients, there still might be some clients who are reluctant to open up. In these situations, if you’re courageous and authentic enough to be open and vulnerable, they’ll likely follow suit, which could lead to significant breakthroughs.
So there you have it: keep learning, get experience, know your niche, manage your schedule, practice what you preach, and be you. These are simple, actionable steps you can take to help you be a better virtual life coach, regardless of your style of coaching or the topics you coach. And if you’re looking for access to more clients or for some help with managing the logistics of your online coaching business, sign up as an online life coach on ZentasticFit. We’d love you to help you help others on your time and your terms.
By Dustin R. Meriwether