How to Choose a Life Coach

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The International Coach Federation (ICF) has 36,000 members and estimates that there are 53,000 coaches in the world. Whilst this still equates to an unattainable 147,000 clients per coach if you agree that everyone could benefit from one, it does mean that there are a few to choose from. So how do you go about choosing the right life coach for you? You’re in the right place! Let’s do this in 5 easy questions…


  1. Why do I want a Coach?
  2. What are their Credentials?
  3. How do they Work?
  4. What is the Investment?
  5. Do we have Chemistry?

Q1: Why do I want a Coach?


Once you have decided that coaching is right for you and that you are ready for change, it’s time to focus on the reason why. This will help you determine whether or not is important to find a Coach who works within a specific niche, or one who has experience or skills in a specific area.


For example, if you want to change your relationship with money, you might work with a Coach who promotes money mindset results. There are Coaches who specialise in specific areas (e.g. wellbeing, leadership, careers) and Coaches who work with a specific client base (e.g. entrepreneurs, LGBTQ+, women over 50) – understanding your own needs will help you target your coach search.


Q2: What are their Credentials?


Life Coaching is an unregulated profession, which means it is possible to use the title ‘Life Coach’ without undergoing training. However there are several bodies leading the way in coaching self-regulation, training and best-practice. The largest and most respected of these is the International Coach Federation (ICF), followed by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and Association for Coaching (AC)


For assurance, you may wish to seek a Coach with accreditation or membership of one or more of these bodies. There are however many successful and talented Coaches who have never received professional training. Finding out about a Coach’s credentials can also mean finding out about their experience and exploring any testimonials. Choosing a Life Coach isn’t about finding the right Coach; it’s about finding the right Coach for you.


So this isn’t just about Coaching accreditation. Perhaps other skills, qualifications or interests are important to you. Find out whether the Coach you are considering working with has any other professional interests, past or present, that may be relevant.


Q3. How do they Work?


Rather than give you the answers, a Coach will guide you forwards as you discover your own. Consider whether you would prefer a direct or softer style, how far you would like to be challenged and whether you would like your Coach to bring in different techniques. Some Coaches are trained in NLP, hypnotherapy or mindfulness, for example. This may be offered as an additional service.


Your Coach may offer a structured programme, the option to tailor a package, or provided coaching on a session-by-session basis. Find out how many sessions are on offer, over what time period and what this might look like for you.


We have become very accustomed to meeting and working virtually, but if you would rather meet face-to-face, check if this is an option with your Coach. Coaching style, tools, methodology and success measures are all important considerations when finding the right coach for you.


Q4. What is the Investment?


The resources you allocate to Coaching are an investment toward your future. Your money, as well as your time and effort during and in between sessions, are part of your commitment to achieving long-term gain.


I will take a guess and say that you are not looking to work with a Life Coach because you are only interested in short-term change. Investment into a life coaching programme is an investment to your future, whether that means changing how your life looks, feels or continues to grow. Consider this when choosing your Life Coach and deciding how much you can afford. You may wish to discuss programme options and any payment plans.


Q5: Do we have Chemistry?


Your initial consultation with a Coach is really important. In fact, I’d say it’s the most important question here. The consultation is a two-way discussion and the opportunity to find out if this relationship really could work.


Use the time to tell your Coach where you are right now, where you want to be and what you need from a Coach (if you’re unsure, say this too!). Find out what they can offer you, how they work and what you can expect from them. Ask why they became a Coach, what motivates them to support others and what they will bring to your journey.


Chemistry with your Coach is essential, so do follow your intuition on this one. To get the most out of Coaching, you will need to be open and vulnerable, so work with someone you feel you can trust and be in a safe space with.


Finally, Some Coaching Warning Signs…

As much as it is important to consider what you do want from a Coach, it can also be worthwhile to consider what you don’t want. Here are some of my own warning signs that would lead me to question a Coach’s credibility.


A Coach who…

  • has never received coaching before
  • shows signs of bad-mouthing other coaches
  • is unable to talk about the reasons why they coach
  • cannot share the results they have achieved in their own life
  • attempts to direct, advise or tell (this isn’t coaching)
  • is disengaged or appears distracted
  • doesn’t have a clean exit clause!

Have you ever worked with a Life Coach, or perhaps you are a Life Coach yourself? Please let me know what you think of these 5 questions to ask when choosing a Life Coach and if you have any more you would add. All the best in your coaching journey!

Stevie Barnes is a Personal and Professional Coach, working with ambitious people who have been held back by fear or limiting beliefs. Following 13 years supporting growth in corporate HR roles, Stevie pivoted to start up her own Coaching Practice and HR Consultancy in 2020. She is now an ICF Approved Coach and works with amazing people who want to explore life outside of their comfort zone.

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