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Is The Life Coaching Industry In Disrepute?

Just over a year ago I published my free ebook ‘What The Hell Is Life Coaching?

At the time I was concerned with the direction the Life Coaching industry was taking and at what I saw as a massive over-selling of what Life Coaching has to offer, both to potential coaches and also by some Life Coaches to their clients.

It seemed to me as though Life Coach training companies were springing up all over the place promising prospective Life Coaches the life of their dreams.

Just as long as they were prepared to pony up a few thousand dollars for certification of course.

I’m on record as saying high quality, ethical training is crucial in a fledgling industry that’s still trying to find its collective feet.

If that is, it wants to gain credibility and establish itself in the public awareness as a profession and not just a hobby for people that like to give advice and want to work from home in their pajamas.

Before I go any further let me say this.

If you’re a Life Coach yourself, then this post may well get your hackles up, but it shouldn’t.

Unless that is, you see yourself in what I’m about to say and you’re guilty of dubious promises and over-selling yourself and your abilities.

There are a number of Life Coaches who read my blog who I respect and who seem to doing good work.

You know if that’s you because you’re as disturbed with the current situation as I am, even if you’re maybe not as vocal.

2011 – A Year In Life Coaching

I really wish I could say things have improved over the last 12 months.

That the promises being offered by training companies to Life Coaches and by Life Coaches to clients are being scaled back and represented in a more open and honest way, but they aren’t.

If anything, things have deteriorated still further.

Quite frankly I’m disgusted at the behavior of some large established training companies.

They don’t seem to give a shit about what happens to the people who’s money they take after they have completed their training and are left alone to run a Life Coaching business.

They mislead about the potential to make money as a Life Coach and do not divulge to potential coaches how ridiculously competitive the industry is and how difficult it is to attract paying clients.

The last straw for me and the primer for this post was when one of Australia’s leading training companies told one of their students, who happens to be a client of mine, to lie to her employer.

They reason they suggested she lie was to get time off work because they had lied to her about the prospectus and not supplied the promised evening modules that would fit in with her work schedule.

This is supposed to be a caring profession built on integrity and trust not deceit and impropriety.

Can you imagine that kind of behavior being tolerated by a University Psychology Department?

Is Life Coaching Really The Worlds Second Fastest Growing Industry?

According to a number of training and coaching sites “Life Coaching is the second fastest growing industry in the world


That sounds like total and utter bollocks to me as almost every Life Coach I ever talk to or work with is struggling to get clients.

Get this.

If you’re in the USA and type ‘Life Coach’ into Google, I am at the time of writing #6 on the first page. That fluctuates somewhat, but I haven’t been any lower than about 13 or 14 for some while

Other Life Coaches must see that and think “Wow, that guy must be beating clients away with a pointy stick

Yeh right.

If I never had any referral work, I would probably be out of work based solely on website inquiries.

Being on the front page probably brings me 3 or 4 inquires per week at this time of year (and about double that in January and February), of which 50% will be either time wasters, people that really need therapy as opposed to coaching or people that just aren’t a good fit for me.

Surely if Life Coaching were an exploding market place I’d be inundated?

How do you even measure a claim like Life Coaching is the second fastest growing industry anyway?

And more to the point, who would pay to do that kind of research (if indeed it exists) without having an agenda, such as maybe selling more Life Coach training?

Unless that is, they mean it’s the second fastest growing industry because of the hundreds of new Life Coaches setting up each month?

If that’s the criteria, then that makes sense because barely a day goes by when I don’t see another new Life Coach in my Twitter stream and I probably get 5 or 6 e-mails per month from new or wannabe Life Coaches looking for advice.

However, in terms of demand for the services of a Life Coaches I suspect it’s not even close to being true and Google stats would suggest there may actually be a decrease in demand.

Life Coach trendsThe graph above looks at the search term “Life Coach’ and you can see there is a very slight downward trend since 2004.

So whereas tens of thousands of new Life Coaches have set up in business, the demand (at least online) is fairly static.

That’s an amazing statistic made even more amazing when you realize how online users have grown over that period.

Online users worldwide – February 2004 – 745 million
Online users worldwide – June 2011 – 2.1 billion

Source: Internet World Stats

So even though there are about 3 times as many people using the Internet and most Life Coaches operate in the online environment (Social Media, Skype, VoiP, Blogs etc) there are no more searches by volume.

Does that really add up to a fast growing industry?

Or are the training companies trying to obfuscate what is really happening to encourage more people to hop aboard the gravy train before it’s too late?

And how realistic and/or ethical is it for a coach training company to guarantee paid clients after training?

Or to state clearly on their website that Life Coaching is a highly paid profession, when outside of the top 0.5% of coaches it clearly isn’t?

Or even to offer “the Internets fastest way to become a certified Life Coach?

I have seen those claims and more made whilst browsing training sites and advertisements prior to writing this post.

And that isn’t even getting into the clever language on some sites designed to make readers think all you need to become a successful coach and live life high on the hog is have a computer and to take their course.

I once described the Life Coaching industry as being like the Wild West, but in some respects it’s worse than that.

At least Dodge City had a Sheriff.

The coaching industry has no governing body that is looking out for the good of the client because there is no regulation.

It’s Not Just Life Coach Training Companies Either

I’m also disappointed, saddened and irritated by the behavior of some new (and not so new) Life Coaches who appear to think it’s ok to paint an ideal world picture divorced from reality.

I’m not just talking about happy-clappy coaches that think a big cheesy grin and an uplifting quote on Twitter is the answer to everything either.

Certainly I think it’s somewhat lacking in integrity to lead people to believe all’s brilliant in your life when in reality your marriage is in tatters, you’re 150lbs over-weight and your business in the toilet.

However, that doesn’t mean to say you cannot be a brilliant Life Coach,  but you have a duty of care to be honest and open about it and not get all fearful about what clients will think.

If clients were really looking for a Life Coach who lived a perfect life, nobody would ever hire me.

To give you a taste of the kind of thing that I think is bringing the profession into disrepute, here are a few sample quotes from Life Coaches websites.

I could have filled a book of similar ones, but you will get the general idea.

Coach ‘A’ Will Transform Your Life GUARANTEED!

The only way I can guarantee to transform your life is by hacking your foot off with a scythe when you walk into my office. That should just about do it.

As coaches we’re merely facilitators who need to build rapport, ask the right questions and then shut up and listen.

The real work is done by the client in between sessions when hopefully with the right encouragement and explanation of the benefits, they will then implement what they’ve learned.

Neither I, nor any coach, can guarantee you a transformational experience because if you do fuck all between sessions it’s highly unlikely you will get the results you want no matter how good the coach is.

If you were to hire me, here is what I can actually guarantee:

I’ll do my very best.

That’s it.

“(My course shows you) How to eliminate stress completely from your life.”

The only way you can eliminate stress completely from your life is to end it.

We need stress to exist and claims like this make the Coach look like a complete incompetent to anybody that knows what stress is.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand what stress is and they may be suckered into thinking a stress free life is desirable and achievable, when neither are the case.

“The techniques Coach ‘X’ has developed are unique”

Well in a world of 7 billion people who wouldn’t want something truly unique?

Unfortunately a 30 second investigation reveals those unique skills are basic NLP practitioner level techniques and he’s being endorsed by the person that taught them to him.

The irony of saying your skills are unique and then bragging about who taught you them seemed to have been lost on this guy.

“Coach ‘Z’ in An Expert In the Law Of Attraction”

I can’t resist asking the question, “Then why is your website sat with an Alexa ranking of almost 10,000,000, Couldn’t you attract a few more visitors?

Flippancy aside, the only thing your Life Coach needs to be an expert in, is Life Coaching.

Lots of Life Coaches want to tell you they’re experts in this, that and the other.

I’m not sure why they do it other than to impress potential clients, but it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what coaching is. We’re not paid to be experts and unless we’re hired in more of a consultancy role any expertise should be left at the door.

If I get hired by another Life Coach to help them with marketing and building their online presence then, and only then, is my experience in those areas relevant.

But I Really, Really, Want To Be A Life Coach

Cool. Seriously, that’s cool because it’s a great profession in many ways.

You may think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not.

There’s always room in the Life Coaching industry for people who enter it with their eyes wide open and with a desire to help others and make that happen without cutting corners.

I would never discourage somebody from training to become a Life Coach and I’ve done just the opposite on many occasions.

The fact of the matter is, if this post has dissuaded you from becoming a Life Coach, then you owe me one!

I’ve just saved you a lot of time, money and frustration because if you’re deterred this easily you were always going to fail anyway.

Shortly after moving to the US in early 2006 I heard a talk given my the late Peter Drucker, one of the countries greatest ever business gurus.

In it he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that it takes a person about 7 years to understand their own business and be successful in their industry.

At the time I had only been coaching full time for a year and I was like “Holy shit I hope that isn’t right!” and quite honestly I laughed it off thinking it didn’t apply to me.

Drucker nailed it.

I’m in my 7th year and I  finally think I have a handle on things.

Saying that, there’s still a good chance that I’ll look back in 3 years and think I didn’t quite have it squared away, because I don’t know what I don’t know.

I happen to think things have changed somewhat and the Internet can short-cut the business building process, but not by a massive amount and not without what is officially known as a shit load of hard work.

I love being a Life Coach and taking it up as a profession is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it’s been really, really, tough and it still is to a large extent. Even if it is also very enjoyable.

I know there are some great Life Coaches doing great work out there as well as reputable, honest and highly competent training companies.*

Unfortunately though, and it makes me sad to say this,  I genuinely think both are in the minority and even with loud mouths like me ranting about it, I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.

* By the way, if you are looking to train to become a Life Coach. Do plenty of due diligence and my advice would be not to talk to newly qualified coaches about their training because they’ll still be in the throes of confirmation bias and will probably be all gushy and evangelical.

But I Really, Really, Want To Hire A Life Coach

Good for you and I really hope I haven’t deterred you, but instead made you committed to doing your due diligence to get the coach that’s right for you.

There are some really great Life Coaches out there helping their clients get excellent results.

However, you have to be prepared to do the work, otherwise keep your money in your pocket and save yourself from disillusionment when you realize your Coach doesn’t have a magic wand.

Ok, rant over!

I welcome your opinions, whether you think I’m right or wrong. I ‘d especially like to hear from anybody that had superb support from a training company well after they qualified, or felt they got short shrift on the business building side of things.

All that remains is for me to wish you and yours a very, very, Happy Thanksgiving!



90 comments to Is The Life Coaching Industry In Disrepute?

  • Rob: “Tim, you do realise I’m expecting miracles from being coached by you”
    Tim: “You’re fucked then”
    I’ve been bent over & lubed up for over a week, and you still haven’t delivered. How disappointing. We’re due to start coaching together tomorrow, so there’s still time :)

    Tim, I think you’re right to call BS on the industry in this way. There’s a clear lesson to be learned here – avoid coaches named after the alphabet like A, X or Z. Are these guys extras from a James Bond film?

    The one guy I know who tried life coaching as a career (albeit many years ago) quit after about a year. When I asked him why, he said it was due to lack of clients. So I can totally believe that this is a problem that affects the whole industry.

    P.S. I’m stupidly excited about tomorrow!

  • Angela

    Tim, I agree with you wholeheartedly! Coming from the real estate industry (heavily regulated), I was more than disappointed to learn there is no such governing body for life coaching and there most certainly should be. An association should be offered with educational courses, certification, governmental regulation, on-going training, specialization, and of course an annual conference and perhaps even a monthly magazine. I understand some people miss the point of such things but it’s important to have them in order to enforce the fact an actual industry exists. If you’re a Realtor, you’re a member of a local association, a state one, and a national. You’re able to specialize with on-going training and designations, you must be licensed by certified instructors with actual curriculum and that license must be renewed every 2nd year by taking on-going courses. If you misbehave, your license is suspended or revoked. It’s a professional industry and regulated as such. Dues even pay for marketing to enhance the image and awareness of what realtors provide in service to consumers. The essence of life coaching and what it is should require such regulation. Anybody and everybody can call themselves a life coach. I suppose at one time real estate was the same which is why people were always told to never buy land in Florida. Times have changed for the real estate industry and it’s time things were changed for life coaching, bringing it into today’s standards for a professional occupation, thus eliminating the wannabes who are not in it for the service given to others, boosting consumer awareness of what coaching is and why it’s needed, and awarding clients to those coaches who truly deserve them and work hard to maintain the professionalism that all clients deserve. All we need is a dedicated group of individuals willing to put forth the effort to create such a thing. Interested???

    • I have considered it in the past Angela. Starting a group of like-minded coaches to promote responsible coaching. The thing that’s held me back is, what do I want to give up to free up the requisite time to take on such a task?

      The answer usually comes back, nothing!

      And in any case there are groups like the ICF that have an element of power and could do more in terms of self regulation imho. Although I guess like many things, it comes down to money.

    • You’ve reminded me that a friend of a friend is setting up a website which will be a TripAdvisor for life coaches. It’s not as good as proper regulation, but it’s way better than nothing. Tim, I’ll have to hook you up with him (not in *that* way).

      My wife is a member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Sometimes it feels like she pays a lot of money for not a lot in return, but then we remember that it helps to ensure that anyone calling themselves a Speech Therapist is actually qualified and competent.

  • Shalini

    Thanks Tim, I have been quite very skeptical about the tout of ‘second fastest growing blah blah’ stuff. I never believed that, nor did I believe all the ‘above the world’ promises that Life coaching would give to clients, but still and still I enrolled for a course and I am still wanting to be a Life Coach for I see genuine value in it.. a lot of it,for the benefit of many people, including myself. I am so thankful for your email, for it grounded my discomfort that I felt right from day one and wanting to find the ‘reality’ of this profession.

  • Tim- exactly! We seem to be in a similar vein. Runs in line with: Is It Possible to Do Financial Harm to Your Clients;

    Oy gevult.

  • Well said, Tim…and quite sad really! It seems to be sort of the nature if the beast (human beast, that is…) that we tend to fuck things up when we try something “new”. It seems to take some measure of pendulum swing for us to settle into what makes sense…if we ever do!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well!

  • This is absolutely great, because there are similar truths for nutrition coaching (the field I am in) along with writing blogs (also in). So many promises of ‘make it big in no time from the comfort of your pj’s!’ ‘Let social media take over for you and make you huge!’ Umm, it takes work to get your stuff read on any social media platform, and you are constantly competing against every other person out there doing something similar. Getting clients means doing work EVERY DAY to get clients, FOREVER. No matter what you do in life, you actually have to work to become successful. All the time. No way around it.

    • I bet it’s similar for many unregulated industries Christine, especially in wellness. Unscrupulous people can always exploit the weaknesses of others for their own financial gain.

      And of course you’re right, I spend at least 3 hours per day on marketing.

  • Tim,

    So right you are! I couldn’t have found my niche without a REAL coach to guide the transition. The hours we spent a few years back changed the direction of my life with solid tools that I still use.

    I am no life coach. I have a passion and track record with confidence, and that is where I serve. Just as you have walked your path, and own your experience, others need to take heed at trying to lead where they have not truly been.

    Certifications be damned! Integrity and character come through in qualified people. It is too bad that the heinous salesmanship is colluding for a degradation of a most useful product!!

    Best always,

    • No you’re not a Life Coach Mike, but I’d rather send a family member to you for coaching than some of the people whose websites I have been reading the last day or so!

  • Would it be ok to call this post “brilliantly blunt?” I mean this in the most flattering way!

    And wow, there must be something in the air lately …

    I don’t have formal coach training but I do consider myself a business coach … at least to the extent that I use a coaching “style” in my consulting work with clients. So far, it’s served my clients well. But I am very honest and real and UPFRONT with folks about what I can or cannot offer/how I can/cannot help/facilitate/etc.

    That said, I think Life Coaching is a different animal, though biz and life coaching do overlap in my opinion (business ownership is such a personal / wrenching / spiritual thing at times).

    Bottom line: too many coaches of all kinds are taking advantage of people’s confusion over how a coach can/cannot help. Jen Louden called this something to the effect of “heart twisting” in the comments of Mark’s aforementioned post. Bang on IMO. Yet the collateral damage doesn’t stop there as we know.

    Do I think all Life Coaches need coach training per se? I honestly don’t know. But probably. What I do know is that coaching on the WHOLE needs to GROW the f*ck UP as an industry. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, that can’t happen fast enough.

    So happy you shared this Tim.

    • Yes it is perfectly ok to call anything of mine brilliant ;-)

      And you’re right there is an overlap although I would never claim to be a business coach per se like I rather naughtily did when I first started up because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

  • This is great, Tim. I’m not a life coach but have contracted the services of more than one — with good results.

    The hype out there is sickening. Seems many folks figure — and sadly, correctly so — that outrageous claims work for diet pill advertising, so why not get on board. It’s essentially legal theft of hard earned money and the destruction of hope when the results don’t materialize.

    I believe that good, honest folks like you will win out.

  • “At least Dodge City had a sherriff”


  • BRAVO!!!

    The other day I was talking to this wonderful person Meredith on my search for a mentor/coach who has done what I want to be doing. (Tim, you know a part of my vision).

    It wasn’t so much that I was looking for someone to guide me, or ask me empowering questions, I was looking more for a mentor than a coach, more someone who understands the “Expert Industry” and can help me get there.

    While chatting with her, I wanted to make something clear. It annoys me extremely when I see people coach others in certain topics…only to find out there aren’t “there” yet themselves in that area.

    I find this to be true in the “make money world” where people teach others to make money online but tell them to use what they know to go ahead and create a biz of their own..and they right out fail.

    It got me thinking in regards to speakers who make lots of money and yet…you ask yourself what did they do already to get known as an expert in their field.

    And then I realized there are three types of experts.

    The one who studies the industry but not necessarily have walked the walk.

    The one who is involved in the industry but does his own thing.

    And then the one who studies and walks the walk. And this is who I want to be.

    True, many NFL coaches weren’t players themselves…but they understand the game.

    However, I want to be in the game and coach others as well.

    And having gone through NLP/Hypnosis by a top training center in NYC (as you know), and then going around to see what Life Coach Training there are..I’ve found so many are just…eh. Perhaps it is my training in NLP that put me ahead…but I yet to find (except the one you mentioned to me which is not around till next year here in NYC) a center that is solid.

    That said, it is my personal belief that I can make a HUGE difference with my skills and that I can also provide a great income doing so.

    • Good NLP training trumps good Life Coach training by a whisker in my opinion. However average NLP training hammers crap Life Coach training into oblivion.

      I like your sentiments Roy, but it is ok not to be perfect. Tiger Woods golf coach isn’t better than he is ;-)

      • Not talking about being perfect at all.

        Talking about truly understanding the topic which someone wants coaching in. And for me, the best way to understand something is to experience it (unless of course, one can’t/won’t).

        And ya, Woods’ coach is not better than him..and that’s OK cuz’ he is obviously a great coach.

        I mean, thinking of Tony Robbins and how he coached many athletes, the man probably never played the sport they want coaching in and yet he is able to guide them. Interesting.

        • I know you, weren’t so let me put it this way.

          I trained with one of the most well known NLP trainers. The person in question (at least when training me) was significantly overweight, very short-tempered and smoked.

          What does that tell us about his training abilities?

          Should he be training if he isn’t ‘walking the walk”

          Not an easy question to answer Roy.

          • Of course!

            I mean, look at Richard Bandler…the man used to smoke and still is overweight and yet he is able to guide people to change habits…

            I remember searching about that and saw lots of discussion on the matter.

            It is like people criticizing Tony for speaking on relationship when he himself got divorce (though if anything makes him understand more cuz he was in one that didn’t work).

            It is a tough question.

            Something I ask myself that when talking to others and when they ask me for input…

  • Great post, Tim!

    I, too, have been at it for 7 years. Specifically, I do life & CAREER coaching. My niche is helping people figure out their Vocational Calling, build a Compass/Filter around their Vocational Calling, make career decisions based on this Compass/Filter, and then follow a Proactive Job Search method.

    I have found that a very specific, targeted type of coaching that produces very specific results is what has allowed me to grow my business. What’s more, if people are looking for something besides what I listed above, I’m not the coach for them and I’m very upfront about that reality (which shocks them when I tell them this).

    Again, great post. There are a lot of great coaches out there, but there are just as many that really don’t bring much to the table.

    Kent Julian

  • I’m in my 10th year in this business and it still has scary roller coaster moments! Which is why those “6 figure promises” and “fill your practice in 3 month” programs really tick me off!

    I’m glad you finally wrote this. I’ve been hearing rumours of a rant for some time and this one was so needed! And very appreciated!

  • The timing of this post is spooky. I’d been ranting away quietly to myself this afternoon about the increasing number of emails I’ve been getting from various biz coaches/internet gurus offering discounted services, free coaching sessions etc all making big promises & riches if I signed up in the next 45 seconds, the usual scarcity tactics etc. And all I could keep thinking is if they’re so innundated with clients, they wouldn’t need to be doing this. Of course that’s not strictly true as on going mailings do work, it’s just the totally valid point you’ve made that coaching is a tough industry & is not the ‘you can work in your PJs from anywhere’ scenario that it’s often portrayed as. Likewise, the amount of training support on the biz/marketing side of things, let alone follow up, is sadly lacking on many so called coach trainings. I’m totally with you that personal referrals outweigh enquiries to my site by a long way so the promises that abound that you throw up a site & floods of coaching clients flock to you is simply not true. I could go on, but I’ll stop there as your post has already put into words what I’ve been thinking far better than I could. And don’t even get me started on the coaches who promise to change people’s lives as if by magic, and the coachees who believe this can happen without any action on their part…!!?? Thanks for the spot on post. Rant over! Atb Tamsin

    • Agreed!

      Why do I run coaching offers in July/August and then again around this time of year?

      Because I’m never as busy, in fact August sucks for me usually.

      At the moment I’m about a week out and my guess is if previous years are anything to go by it will stay like that until the 2nd week in January when it will go nuts.

      OTOH, this kind of cycle has bitten my on the ass twice recently when people told me they were planning on hiring me anyway and the offer was just the icing on the cake. Daggnabbit ;-)

  • “Coach ‘Z’ in An Expert In the Law Of Attraction”

    “I can’t resist asking the question, “Then why is your website sat with an Alexa ranking of almost 10,000,000, Couldn’t you attract a few more visitors?”

    hahaha This is SO true. I couldn’t help but to laugh out loud on this one! (I’ve said it to myself soooo many times)

    • Don’t laugh Tony, I manifested your comment of support.

      BTW, have you ever noticed how LoA ‘experts’ don’t manifest being rich, they manifest abundance? It’s so much nice to want abundance than stink in’ money ;-)

  • Wonderful to see someone saying this. Many thanks Tim.

  • jon

    nice post ! Tim how come you moved to the U.S when there maybe more demand for life coaches in U.K ?

  • Helen

    Great post. Absolutely agree. For those of us who got into life coaching to help people, it’s a massive hurdle just to get potential clients to see past the perceived bullshit that I ‘might’ be full of.

    And for us relatively new coaches who want to do some more training in other areas, knowing which course to go on is a decision riddled with doubt in an unregulated industry.

    • Indeed it is. I get asked a lot about who I would train with. I pretty much always reply David Rock’s company because I know the guy really knows his coaching stuff, but I’ve never worked with him so in some way I’m rolling the dice.

  • It does annoy me that there are so many companies out there that just don’t provide quality checks on their practitioners. I’m in the UK and was lucky to find a training company that expects their students to write a thesis before qualifying as well as having a coaching session supervised, among other things. They are also lobbying for a board that oversees the industry. I hope that happens.

  • Hi Tim, No, it’s NLP Excellence. I’ve done both NLP and coaching training with them, but i’ve been ‘doing’ NLP for a while anyway. They are really good trainers.

    • Not familiar with them, but just checked the site.

      I dunno Beth, offering an NLP Practitioner certification in 5 days (or even 7 with the diploma) is really pushing it. My first Prac course was 15 very long days and even then there was stuff that was skated over.

      I worry that people leave with that certification thinking they are ok to do therapeutic intervention, which is often what NLP is, and they definitely are not!

      OTOH hand at least they take 12 days to teach the Master Prac, and that is more reasonable.

  • Most companies in the UK now do the NLP Practitioner in a week so it’s what people expect sadly – they offer a lot of online material to back it up, which most companies don’t – and they encourage you to repeat the study.

    I wouldn’t mention the company unless I was proud to have trained with them – honestly, I wouldn’t risk my own reputation! The guy who runs it was spoken well of by Andy Austin on an NLP forum, which is what encouraged me to try them, as I really like Austin’s work.

    • Now you’re talking! The Rainbow Machine by Andy Austin is THE best book I have ever read on NLP, by some way.

      • I’ve almost finished that book. On the whole it’s pretty cool to have so many interesting insights into his NLP practice, but I’d offer the following criticisms:
        1) He describes his use of NLP eye accessing cues, which have been thoroughly debunked. Even Tim has called this technique an NLP “myth”. It worries me that this NLP expert is still using a technique known to be bollocks. It makes me wonder which of his other techniques are actually ineffective.
        2) He seems far too pleased with himself a lot of the time. It’s not just the fact that I personally really dislike arrogant people. It’s the fact that arrogant people tend to be blind to their own flaws and mistakes. So I’d worry that he misses opportunities to improve his own practice because he’s far too busy being a renegade to listen to feedback that might help him. IMHO, a dose of humility would make him a far better practitioner, and certainly would have made his book more enjoyable to read. I prefer to make my own mind up about whether an author is great or not – I don’t need them to try to convince me.

        • I wouldn’t say EAC’s have been thoroughly debunked Rob. I’d say they have been proven to be unreliable and the therapist has to have a firm baseline before using them.

          Austin is a brilliant therapist and maybe you need a bit of arrogance to do some of the stuff he’s done?

  • I have to agree with you there – I hope to check out one of his workshops soon :)

  • Excellent rant Tim! And one that seems to have been bubbling for a while so it must have been time to get it out there.

    In part your post scares me, because I hate to think prospective clients might see this as the lid being lifted off a rotten industry, but the bigger part is excited about you being real and honest and willing to say that your own industry has it’s flaws. I think that stands those, like you, who are operating in the true spirit of coaching in a strong place, while the pretenders will fall.

    The state of the industry, particularly in the US, is alarming to me and I am hoping and praying that it doesn’t filter into New Zealand. It is a hard enough time getting clients in such a small population of “she’ll be right” citizens who really don’t get coaching, without the taint of the industry joining in.

    And while I could easily be one of those coaches that irritated you so, I hope not because I agree with all that you have said and I would hate to be in that group unknowingly. Either way, your post has encouraged me to recheck my copy, claims and promises, just to make sure I am I being honest about what my business is about and not making offers for anything I can never deliver.

  • I totally agree with you Tim! Thanks for sharing these information, I find What the Hell Is Life Coaching very useful to me because I work in the business industry. I’d love to download it from your store page.

    • Er, ok, download it then :)

    • Howdy! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve
      this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share.
      Appreciate it!

  • Spot on as usual matey! I don’t want to become one of the endless self-feeding circle of coaches who end up coaching other coaches on how to get more clients but it does sometimes feel as if the only people who are prepared to pay for coaching are coaches. Over the two years I’ve been in business I’ve been clinging on by my fingernails and I’ve carried on because I see the massive impact that my work has on the people that do choose to become my clients. Like you, most of my work comes through recommendation and while I put a lot of time and effort into my online presence, it really doesn’t make much difference in terms of bringing in paying work. ANd if one more person tells me it’s because I’m thinking in terms of lack instead of plenty I shall beat them to death wih a copy of “The Secret”…

    On another note, I also trained with NLP excellence and I can vouch for everything Beth says – John Cassidy-Rice is an outstanding practitioner and the training he provides is some of the best I have ever received, in any field. He has a deep understanding of and respect for NLP and his level of integrity and authenticity is inspiring.

    • “ANd if one more person tells me it’s because I’m thinking in terms of lack instead of plenty I shall beat them to death wih a copy of “The Secret”…

      LOL, I wish I’d said that!

  • “… not just a hobby for people that like to give advice…”

    I’m going slightly off-topic here, so I apologise in advance. I heard it said by many people that life coaches only give advice as a last resort, and it’s more about the life coach asking questions than giving advice. In “Life Coaching For Dummies” they explain that this is based on a Socratic belief that people have all the answers they need inside themselves already. That sounds like nonsense to me.

    Surely *some* advice is absolutely necessary, and finding examples where the Socratic method doesn’t work is really easy! If I was coaching someone who was learning golf, it’d be ridiculous if all I did was ask them, “Why do you think your swing is rubbish?”. At some point I would need to give them advice on what a good golf swing looks like.

    It seems dogmatic and illogical to me that life coaches often say, “life coaches don’t give advice”. My question is, “Why not?”. Is it purely so that life coaches can show that they are different from counsellors and therapists? Is it a legal issue that life coaches can be sued if they give bad advice?

    Surely all that matters is this: How effective are the various techniques at delivering the results that the client wants? Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass what techniques a coach uses on me, provided it’s been empirically shown to be effective.

    I can understand the educational argument that people tend to be better at effecting change in their lives if they have been allowed to reach their own conclusions, but I still think it’s a little to strong to say, “life coaches don’t give advice”

    I’m not a life coach (yet), but for me I’m willing to beg and borrow techniques from any field (psychology, CBT, REBT, crystal gazing (OK, maybe not the last one)) if it will be effective for my client.

    I’ll use whatever blend of techniques actually works.

    For me, I would change “life coaches don’t give advice” to “I will do whatever it takes to help you get the results you want”

    Am I making a valid point? Or do I have the wrong end of the stick?

    • I’ve just answered my own question. You discuss this very topic in your book, “What the hell is life coaching?”

      It seems like you were way ahead of me on this one and in fact we’re in agreement on this matter.

      “Being an effective coach requires I be flexible in my approach and not be confined to a certain way of doing things. This is not surgery, it‟s not an exact science, and there is no ‘the way’ of doing things.”

      Nice one. Tim, you rock :)

    • Life Coaching For Dummies is wrong mate, or more accurately out of date.

      That was the original reason, but now we know that helping the client come to their own answers is much more powerful because of the way the brain is wired up. David Rock touched on this when talking about insights.

      Having said that, no amount of questioning will help certain types of people and that’s when we need to be stepping in and getting our hands dirty.

  • Hi Tim,
    I love it as usual…..”Consumerism compromises ethics”… about under promising and over delivering instead?… that would be a pleasant twist.
    be good to yourself…..and keep up the good stuff

  • Hi Tim,
    A very upfront and honest post. For me, I’d like to think of a Life Coach not just as a career, but as an identity. Holding this identity comes a lot of responsibility and real hardwork, because we are one foot into people’s lives, and I really don’t want to take money if I am not changing anything that’s sustainable.

    I believe that one don’t have to know everything to be a Life Coach, but more importantly is the Life Coach’s will to keep working on himself to be a better person. And that’s why I have been reshuffling my priorities in life to really become a Life Coach.

    Having the requirements to be a Life Coach, Doing the work as a Life Coach, and Being a Life Coach, I believe, are 3 different areas we need to fulfill. The last one to me, is of utmost importance, because it drives the former 2. And it makes you hold a totally different intention while in coaching.

  • Awesome article!!!!
    I’ve been saying that the Life Coaching industry is being diluted by individual ls who offer gimmicks.
    Clients explain that they view Coaching as the ‘traveling carnival’ and the ‘experts’ as side show Bobs. It’s a sad assessment but I have to concur.

    I hope that the fact getting clients can be a pill, filters the wannabes and let those of us who are truly passionate about what we do, take over.

  • Hi Tim,

    That’s quite a rant you have there. One of my big issues with the life-coaching industry is the lack of support post-training, and the fact that no-one tells you (especially not the training companies!) how hard it is to make a living as a life-coach.

    I get a few emails/calls a month from people interested in becoming a coach (although as I write this I realise these have dropped off recently…). I am always honest. I recommend keeping their day job. I tell them it’s not so much about being a good coach, but about networking, marketing and sales. I tell them it’s hard work and it takes time to build a successful practice etc etc.

    Another thing I would like to see is more honesty in our profession. I stopped going to local ICF meetings a few years back because there was this ‘big white elephant’ in the room that no-one wanted to talk about – lack of clients/difficulty making a living. There was also a closed/competitive energy that I found uncomfortable – and ‘un-coach-like’ (although I recognize of course that saying that is a judgement… Coaches are human beings too).

    Personally I’m not particularly worried about people calling themselves ‘coaches’. Results will out. I’ve not seen any articles in the press about so-called coaches messing up. Or heard anyone (other than coaches) ever say anything negative about so-called coaches. Yes, it’s definitely irritating when someone pitches up, uses the term ‘coach’ without formal coach training. But the term ‘coach’ pre-dates the (life etc) coaching profession. We took over a word that already existed. Other people are now just jumping on the bandwagon. And there is a certain onus on the client to do their research first. Who picks a doctor or a plumber or a builder without checking out their credentials and testimonials first??? Why should picking a coach be any different?

    80% of the time my clients asked me where I trained, how long for etc. The other 20% I assume they’ve already checked me out on my website.

    Anyway, I don’t want to go on here. I love your passionate rant – it shows you care and I agree with the vast majority of what you say. It almost spurs me on to do a post about the use of the word ‘coach’. And I might just do that! Thanks for the prompt.

    Warmly, EL

    • No need to apologize for ‘going on’ I appreciate you taking the time Emma-Louise!

      In terms of training, I would say less than 1 in 20 people ask me about mine. Not sure if that’s because they have already seen it on my blog, or they just don’t care, but that’s a huge difference.

  • Mary-Ann Hill

    Frank, honest, gutsy! With comments adding more of the same. Most of those comments seem to be from other coaches or people who are already familiar with what a coach does and can do. I’m a soon to be consumer of these services and the openness of this post and the responses tipped me to choose to do it now not wait. I got/get a real sense of the integrity of the many coaches in the industry who deliver good work to high ethical standards and take on board that there are others who take advantage and worse, do harm. Thanks for the read/rant Tim, and PS, where you trained is buried in a couple of places on your site so that’s probably why you don’t get asked that question :)

    • Yeh I know it is, but I’m still not sure people are very bothered. OTOH, that may simply because they can see how long I have been coaching and how many clients I’ve worked with and maybe that gives them more assurance. I’m honestly not sure.

  • Wow, have just read this and as a newly qualified coach completely agree with it. I trained via an open learning course and feel I have what it takes however most of this did not come from the training more from within. I paid quite a bit for the course and having researched other companies realize that I could have paid a hell of a lot more. I do not feel I was ready to take on clients after I had finished the course and certainly did not feel I could run a business from it. I have researched things myself and also read numerous books from other coaches who have made the mistakes and am learning from them all the time, who knows whether I will “make” it or not I know I will do my best as it is important to me corny but true I want to make a difference!!!

    • And that last bit is THE best reason. You can make it if you really want to. The people that I see fail are the ones that never really had a clue how hard it is, especially getting clients.

  • What a wonderfully honest article! Thank you Tim and also to all of the other people who have contributed comments. It gives me a relief just to read what’s here.

    It is so true that we are led to believe that we can accomplish big things out there as life coaches but nobody tells us how few people actually want to be ‘coached.’ I’ve been in this field for over a decade and switched my focus some years back specifically because of the saturation of this market with little demand for the services offered by life coaches. I instead have developed and offer a system that is designed to make life coaching more tangible and guided, providing coaches with a tool that allows them to take their clients on a valuable journey with ‘hands and feet.’ I think a lot of the reason why demand hasn’t increased is because word of mouth hasn’t traveled fast enough. The people who have tried out life coaching haven’t had good experiences and have no improvements or results to show from the time and money they have invested (and not to mention your comment Tim about how people hype up what you will achieve through their coaching. This is a rule-breaker for me as I find it so much better to play down on some of your qualities or benefits and exceed expectations of your clients. If you promise them the world and leave out the realism, then disappointment will follow for sure.

    This is all food for thought – thank you.

    • Angle, you have given me food for thought for maybe another blog post. I’m about to go on a client call, but I’d like to ask you this.

      Would you rather a client aim for 10 and you help them get to 8. Or aim for 5 and hit it?

      I’ll be back later with why I ask ;-)

      • Hi Tim,
        This isn’t a simple answer – so I can see why it would make a great article on its own. :) The answer is so dependent on the client and where they are right now.

        For example, if self-esteem and confidence are extremely low, it might be a good idea to start with some small goals that the client does achieve to restore belief in themselves. If you begin too high, their gremlin voices may cause them to quit before they really get going. But even in this case to stretch them just a bit to get them to see that they may be underestimating their power and magnificence.

        Overall though, I believe it’s probably something in between. You want a client to have stretch goals – supported by your motivation and belief in them. They are coming to you for a reason. Perhaps one of which is that they typically aim lower than what they can actually accomplish so that they don’t risk failure or disappointment. Their goals still need to be achievable but require them to get out of their comfort zone, perhaps using a different mindset and strengths than they would typically do on their own.

        It doesn’t really matter if the client aims for 10 and they get to 8 – as long as there is an evaluation as to why they didn’t get to 10. Perhaps the goal was too demanding, wrong timing, they over or under estimated something, etc – all of which offer wonderful learning anyway. (This is also a great thing, by the way, for clients to realize that failure to achieve a goal does not mean that they are a failure!) The role of the coach is to help the client see that X is possible, the client just needs to be willing to put in the work – and to understand the benefit and the payoff once it is achieved (the WHY behind the goal needs to be very clear). And to know and understand, of course, that no matter what, they are still a valuable and worthy person.

      • Oh – and of course, that wonderful quotation:

        Aim for the moon, that way, even if you miss you’ll still be amongst the stars! – W. Clement Stone

  • I truly enjoyed reading this post, Tim.

    I am not a coach nor do I have any inclination to be. But I have long been wary of life coaching. Certainly, as you say, there are truly good coaches who do a lot of good. But I’m not sure the stats are wrong. If someone said law was the fastest growing industry, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that we are become even more litigious, but that law schools are spewing out even more wannabe lawyers opening up businesses in their mom’s basements.

    So with life coaching. Demand for a coach doesn’t have to balloon for the industry to grow. All you really need is a profession where there is no training required, no degree necessary, no certification mandated, where a high school biology teacher can start a blog and declare himself a coach and presto! He’s a coach!

    And that would explain your claim that a ridiculously high percent of coaches aren’t worth their salt — as coaches.

    I think that if the industry wants to win the respect it needs to remove smirks from faces of those hearing others explain what they do for a living, the industry will need to read this post and follow its advice.

    Very well done!

    • I get what you’re saying and you may well be right Ken, but that ends up with an Emperors New Clothes scenario as more and more people train because they see more and more people training and presume there is a demand. When in reality demand is static and just being spread more thinly.

      I think to be a truly growing industry supply cannot continue to massively outstrip demand.

  • This one is a big one in many different aspects of life…

    “Coach ‘A’ Will Transform Your Life GUARANTEED!”

    I can’t guarantee you’ll make any money with this product. I can’t guarantee you’ll lose weight if you read this weight loss guide. I can’t guarantee you’ll find the love of your life if you read this relationship guide.

    Wanna know why? Because I can’t guarantee you’ll do a damn thing with the information I give you.

    Getting results is all about the individual. It’s about taking action. No life coach can do anything if the person they are coaching isn’t willing to do something themselves.

  • Word up Tim! I think life coaching became big just as selling encyclopedias once did, or being an SEO expert or Internet marketer recently has….because it SEEMS to be an easy route to money. People simply join the bandwagon and the wheels end up coming off. The Law of Attraction is a prime example but the worst named ideology for centuries as why does virtually every trainer or coach of it I know have no money, has attracted nada, and is looking for another job? Life coaching is a commitment not a pastime or spare income. If people want to help, help yourself and get a job you can actually do. I wonder what the next craze everyone will jump on now passive income has topped out?

  • Justin Brokop

    Hi Tim,

    First of all – great website. Second of all, I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I’m quite passionate about life coaching myself, and I think you’re right. It’s not all roses out there. There is a TON of competition, and it is so important to weed out the ‘good’ coach training schools from the bad.

    In online courses, I find that effective teaching methodologies are far too often overlooked. The content of a life coaching course can be great, but if it is not taught in an effective manner that really ‘connects’ with people, the course is lacking. I hope that more people realize the importance of not only knowing your content, but of being a great teacher too, before they open up a training program.

  • Excellent post Tim. I really appreciated your frankness. On the point about NLP, I use it to help people who stammer increase their self-confidence. Unfortunately some people within the community are put off by NLP because there are literally tons of NLP companies (especially in the UK) offering all kinds of bizarre sounding promises. I just wished the field was consistently regulated.

  • Tom

    Tim….what an amazing post. I am replying quite a few years later and I feel much has improved yet so much more work has to be done. I really appreciate the fact that there is an organization that desires “law and order” in this new profession.

    I was very glad to see that you and Mark Silver have so much in common. I an currently using his guide heart of business at the moment and will check out your free download (which by the way, thanks!!!!!).

    It upsets me a great deal that there are so many folks out there, who call themselves Life Coaches and make it harder for those of us that want to “play by the rules”. I am going into my third year and doing well. I find that part of my business is to educate both potentials and actual clients what coaching is and is not.

    I make no promises to my client. Actually there is one, I usually say something like “If you are honest with yourself and want to live the life you love, I am certain you will not be the same person down the road”.

    I encourage my clients to know the differences between needing coaching, wanting coaching and ready for coaching. If they are not ready, I give them my card and say call me when you want to be or are ready. They usually push back and say “I’m Ready!”

    I appreciate the ethical standards put fourth by ICF and use them to govern and direct my business. I liked your comment you mentioned to Mark Silver you had some of his wording yet added some swears (smiles)

    Thank you for your passion, efforts and energy in promoting professionalism in the Life Coaching Industry