Navigating The Coaching Industry: Do You Have To Be Licensed To Be A Life Coach?

So, you’ve seen the light. You’ve decided to banish negativity, hop on the self-improvement train, and bring some true goodness into the world.

Now, before we get started, we’d like to say good for you! 

Jumping into a new career means learning a bunch of new things, and though you may already have a decent understanding of what it means to be a life coach, newbies can sometimes get overwhelmed when they’re starting out.

Before you let your fear run away with you though, take a deep breath.

We’ve got the skinny on what you really need to become a life coach and it’s really not as complex or intimidating as it may seem! 

Do you need a certification to be a life coach? 

Before we get to the nitty-gritty surrounding the question “do you have to be licensed to be a life coach?”, we thought we’d give you the simple answer first.


Now, this doesn’t mean that certifications aren’t helpful, but so many people with the zest for coaching bow out due to the fear of being underqualified. Equally, many clients who have chosen to give life coaching a try have been put off by the fact that not all coaches are certified by top organizations.

These misconceptions can be super frustrating for coaches, and some choose to dive into certification thinking it will bring credibility, success, and a solid client base.

I’m currently on the fence – should I pursue a coaching license? 

Don’t get us wrong, there are excellent skills to be learned from coaching programs. In fact, certification often gives life coaches the confidence and drive they need to really get started!

However, if licensing simply isn’t on the cards for you, then that’s okay too. In fact, the most successful coaches build their businesses on personal credibility, successful sales, and great marketing!

It’s worth noting that becoming a licensed life coach doesn’t make clients magically appear. 

Though this would be totally awesome, certification isn’t the magic solution that many coaches believe it to be. Unlike academic degrees that you need for certain industries, life coaching simply doesn’t hold this requirement. 

In reality, many life coaches are successful because of word-of-mouth recommendations. Now, we LOVE word-of-mouth, as not only is it free marketing, but it’s a great way to gain credibility too.

Also let’s be honest, clients are unlikely to be reeling off your massive list of certifications over your personality and ability when recommending you!

[ Read: Life Coaching 101: Exactly How Much Does It Really Cost To Become A Life Coach? ]

As long as you’re not claiming to cure the sick, there are no legal requirements for life coaching.

A certification is just proof that you know the score when it comes to the coaching profession. In even more basic terms, it means that you have completed a program that’s offered by an official training organization and have learned the tools needed to practice out there in the big bad world.

As there aren’t specific legal requirements for coaches, the best way to become a successful life coach is to invest in knowledge and skills for yourself. 

Just look at Tony Robbins; the guy is one of the best business strategists and life coaches in the world and he hasn’t a certification to his name!

This may come as a surprise to those just starting out, but as seasoned professionals we can’t stress this enough; when it comes to life coaching, experience is everything. Coaching is all about personal connection, and without the ability to appeal to a client on this basic level, you’re unlikely to get far as a coach.

How to become a life coach without a license

Get yourself a coach!

Though it may sound weird, one of the best ways to become a life coach without a license is to find YOURSELF a coach! Professional advice is amazing when you’re just starting out, so having a guide to help you out in those early days is sure to give you some great ideas.

So, if you don’t want to get certified, try finding a coach that has the same principles as you and work together to make your dreams come true! 

Look for clients 

Though this one is slightly harder, one of the best ways to start coaching is to search for clients yourself. You can test out those skills on your closest friends and family members, but after that just go for it! 

Though no-one likes hearing the word no, eventually you’ll hear the most beautiful word in the English language – YES!

Get yourself out there!

Coaching is all about connecting, and without a license you’ll want to connect with as many people as possible. Whatever you choose to specialize in, try offering your services to small businesses and try to give some talks at local establishments. 

You really never know whose life you may touch, and whether or not you get any new clients, it’s a great way to get your name and services out there!

With experience comes opportunity, and these are all excellent free ways in which to market yourself. Hooray for personal growth!

What’s the point of a coaching license then? 

We’d like to point out that we’re not poo-pooing the value of coaching certifications.

It’s not that they aren’t useful (they are actually extremely valuable if you’re looking for specialized knowledge and further training), it’s just that life coaches don’t NEED to become licensed.  

Before you get ahead of yourself though, if you’re looking to offer any mixture of therapy and coaching, you will absolutely be required to hold a license to practice. 

For example, if you’re looking to operate as a psychologist or social worker in addition to being a life coach, you’ll need to be licensed to avoid almost-certain legal disaster! Similarly, if you’re looking to coach at the executive or government level, a certification is bound to come in useful.

Finally you may encounter some roadblocks with clients who have unique personal or business requirements. In these cases, professional coaching tools can be extremely useful, as not only will they help you nail your coaching sessions every time, but they can really help you to troubleshoot for tricky clients. 

What are the benefits to becoming a licensed coach?

·         Professional training can benefit a coach by helping them discover a niche. Niches may lead to greater profitability and can make you the “top dog” in your field.

·         You gain the credibility that comes with the gold-standard in coaching.

·         Certification can help coaches discover their blind spots through professional coaching tools.

·         A certification can improve your influencer skills and bring your clients closer to where they want to be.

·         Becoming a licensed coach is crucial if you’re looking to become a specialized coach in a certain area.

Though these are only a selection of the benefits that come from licensing, they’re well worth considering if you’re on the fence!

Will becoming licensed change how much I can earn as a life coach?

With life coaches bringing in an average of $27,000 to $73,000 annually (you can, however, earn significantly more than this depending on your experience), it’s certainly a great little earner. 

However, becoming certified won’t guarantee an amazing income stream. All life coaches must be able to identify personal obstacles, keep to tight schedules, and help clients achieve their goals. So, getting the necessary skills through practice, research, and personal investment are all more important if you’re looking to really become an incredible coach.

Does a life coach need a business license? 

Generally, no.

However, you WILL need to figure out what business structure you’ll be using for your coaching business for tax purposes. After all, there are only two certainties in life, eh?

Though you don’t need a business license to be a life coach, it is recommended to name your business and set up your legal entity. If you’re planning on really going for it, it’s worth setting yourself up as an LLC so that you qualify for liability protection. Sole proprietors are more common in the life coaching industry, but if you want to completely cover yourself, it’s worth transitioning into an LLC!

If you’re looking to establish yourself in this way, we do recommend seeking legal advice as we’re not trained lawyers- it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your business.

So, are you considering licensing after learning about the ins and outs of certification?

To round things up we thought we’d leave you with a few things to ponder.

It’s difficult to say whether a coach should get certified as we’re all different. 

As your coaching business grows, you’ll have to invest in business education and development, so we recommend keeping this in mind when you’re weighing up the pros and cons of a qualification!

However, to say that all coaches must be licensed to be successful just isn’t true. As we’ve said, successful life coaches overcome obstacles with their clients and are extremely good listeners. At the end of the day, this cannot be taught!

Realistically, most clients won’t care about where you went to school. What they will care about is whether you’re a great coach!  As clients are seeking guidance and action from their life coach, they’ll care more about your experience and ability to troubleshoot than your perfect record from the ICF – that much we can promise!

So, as long as you know your stuff and can help clients solve their problems, you’ll find yourself earning excellent testimonials faster than you can spell ICF!

licensed life coach pin 1
By Grace Roberts
October 16, 2020

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