The Truth about Life Coaches
The Truth about Life Coaches
Every now and then I come across someone throwing dirt on life coaching on social media, and they go on about what a sham it is, how coaches deceive people, etc.
Usually, I don’t pay attention to it because every time I challenged it, it turned out to be an opinion without legs, shared by someone who heard it somewhere and hasn’t had an experience of personal coaching, or it’s made by a frustrated coach fed up with his/her own industry.
I understand. It could be hard for someone to swallow that he/she could make a fortune by having a “chat” with someone. As a life coach myself, I know that coaching works — I’ve seen people’s and my clients’ careers, businesses and lives transformed because of it. But as with anything: if you hear something and it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.
Here are a few facts about life coaching that no coach wants to talk about, and I’d like you to keep in mind before you make a judgement.
1. Life coaching is no different from any other business.
This often comes as a surprise to wannabe coaches who have a shiny, happy image of having transformational conversations and getting a hefty pay for it. When I tell them what it takes to start and run a coaching business, their jaw drops. The actual coaching sessions are just a reward for all the hard business work coaches need to do — in the same way that, for a musician, playing a live concert to adoring fans is a reward for all the nights spent in the recording studio, and all the travelling needed to promote a new single.
As entrepreneurs, life coaches have to deal with branding, marketing, sales, accounting — the whole thing. It’s not any easier, and any coach who doesn’t understand it will starve.
2. Bad coaches won’t last.
Thanks to the internet and social media, we live in a very transparent world. If anyone is shaming or disappointing clients or fellow colleagues in the same industry, they will go out of business because people talk. Period.
3. Most coaches will never get paid
Read this one twice. Most coaches will never get paid. Yes, there are many people who have gone through some coaching training (or not), who call themselves coaches and want to help people. It’s the altruistic desire to help other people that got them into coaching in the first place, and it’s often the very same thing that stops them from asking for money in exchange for coaching.
Immediately after completing coaching trainings and earning a degree in Psychology, I coached for 6 months for free to make sure I’m delivering true value. Then one day, with a shaky voice I asked for £20 per session, and over the years I’ve been increasing my fee because I’ve gotten exponentially better at what I do. It took me over 2 years of small increments to become a full-time coach. But because most coaches cannot make that step and turn their passion into a business that would make a living, they coach on evenings and weekends for a cup of coffee because they like it.
Show me one other industry where people help other people for free in the same proportion?
4. It’s not life coaching; it’s people.
Yes, there are a few individuals who trick people, over-promising and under-delivering. I know about it, and it’s pissing me off. But some have already been exposed, because people talk (see point 2!) But that’s not a problem of coaching. It’s a problem of human nature. Spineless and rotten people are everywhere and always will be. In any culture, in any nation, in any industry, and unfortunately some, of course, will see their opportunity in coaching.
There are several industries (which I’m not going to name but you know what I’m talking about) that have a reputation for misleading their clients just to quickly get their commission. They are way more regulated than coaching, and YET, the concentration of rotten apples is much higher there. Don’t blame coaching. Blame people. If anything, true and good coaches are improving this situation by helping people get better and sort their shit out.
5. Life coaches are not sorcerers.
The idea that life coaches can prey on gullible people and lead them off the cliff of life is just laughable. Have you ever tried to talk your family member or a friend who is wasting their life, or is in a bad relationship, bad job, (you name it), to do something about their situation? It’s often very hard to get people to do something that will actually and clearly change their life for better. It’s right in front of them, they see it, they know it, and they will do jack all about it. How easy do you think it would be to talk them into something that would actually make their situation worse? People are not stupid. People naturally resist any kind of change, let alone a change for worse. Come on!
6. Life coaches are not life mentors.
If you question life coaches by asking “Who are you to tell me what to do with my life? Is your own life amazing? Do you have all your duck in a row?”, you’re missing the point. Life coaches are not gurus or life mentors who mastered it all and now pass their knowledge on to others. Life coaches are not all-wise. Life coaching is a process of provoking your thoughts and guiding you to clarity, because you alone cannot see your own blindspots. And sure, some coaches may be more directive than others, but some clients want that.
In fact, it’s often the clients who ask what I think they should do and who need a direct push.
Coaching is much harder than telling someone what to do.
7. People need life coaches because you’re not there for them.
This one stings, right? For most of my clients, I’m often the only person in their life they can truly open up to without feeling like they will be judged, without fear that I’ll just feel sorry for them, or that I have my personal agenda. I’m often the only person who supports their personal interest. It’s a neutral ground where people feel safe. Every one of those people have a network that you may even be part of, but they feel like they cannot trust it and be truly themselves.
Being able to open up is very healthy and therapeutic (although no, coaching is not therapy), and just by hearing them out and asking the right thought provoking questions, amazing insights come up. Insights like that are sometimes all that a person needs to make the right changes in their life. Coaches will have clients as long as everyone is self-centred, judgemental, or just plain too busy to hear others out. And you’re right, it’s not your job to listen to other people’s problems and helping them sort their life out, improve their relationships, and overall get better. But it is a coach’s job, so let us do it. Needless to say, after (hundreds and thousands of) hours of coaching, coaches will simply become better and more intuitive to understand what someone needs. They will see patterns in their behaviour and help them realise it. Coaches have clients because these clients need coaching support. Any while it’s not for everyone, for those who do see the value in coaching take that step forward and start working with the right coach, boy do they have a load of good in store for them.
Written by Tomas Svitorka