You know you want to change. You think you’re ready to find someone to help you reach your goals – but how do you do it? How do you choose the best life coach for you?
Making the decision to work with a coach is an investment of your time, money and heart. It isn’t a decision to make lightly. And it certainly shouldn’t be a decision based on cost alone.
There are many excellent, highly trained and responsible coaches out there, working in just about every niche (specialism) you can imagine. Trying to decide who would best match your needs can be overwhelming.
You might have come across a life coach in your social media feeds. They look enticing and appear to offer great gains, fast. But not all coaches are created equal, so how do you know if a coach you have come across is the right coach for you? Luckily, there are factors which can help you to differentiate between coaches and make your choice based on your personal needs.
I have put together this simple Essential 10 Point Checklist to guide you through the decision-making process involved in choosing the best life coach for you. Working through the checklist reduces uncertainty and removes the guesswork. It is designed to lead you through a series of questions whose answers will help you to assess any potential coach in a more evidence-based way.
To ensure you choose the best coach for you:
- Don’t rush into it
- Do your research
- Decide if it really is a coach that can best help you (a mentor or therapist might better fit your needs)
- Download the Essential 10 Point Checklist below (instant download – no email required)
- Go through each point in turn
- Experience coaching with your potential coach
- Above all, follow your instinct: the coach-client relationship is the most important factor in your success
How to Choose a Life Coach: Essential 10 Point Checklist – point by point
The Checklist will help you to become much clearer about the questions you need to ask to help you choose the best life coach for your needs. Try to work through them in order. Let’s go through the points one at a time:
1. What type of coach do you need? (Do you need a coach at all?)
Before thinking about the different types of coaches out there, it’s important to be sure that it is actually coaching you need. Perhaps therapy or mentoring/training would suit better at this time? Let’s distinguish between these different, one-to-one offerings based on what it is you want to work on in your life.
The difference between coaching, therapy and mentoring
Broadly speaking, if you are finding yourself hampered by unresolved past events, relationships or trauma, therapy is your best first route. However, attending therapy then moving on to coaching is not uncommon. A good coach will sign-post you to therapy during a Discovery Call (and help you to find a suitable one, at your request) if they feel that work is needed first.
Mentoring on the other hand differs from coaching in that it is delivered by an ‘expert’ to a ‘novice’ in order to upskill and support the novice. The mentor offers mentees their expertise to a specific end. For example, if you have a project to complete with one key skill missing from the equation, it may be that a mentor with that experience would be your best fit.
Coaching differs from both therapy and mentoring in that it does not focus on the past (therapy), or teach the client (mentoring), although great learning does take place. Coaching assumes that the client does not need ‘fixing’. It tends to be future-focused and solutions-focused, working towards one or more specific named goals.
There are crossovers between these three areas of personal development, however. The transformational coaching approach in which I am trained will work with you on past issues such as limiting beliefs or deep-rooted narratives when those things are preventing you from reaching your current goals. If you are in any doubt, talk with your potential coach. They should be able to help you clarify what type of one-to-one approach would best help you at this time.
Different types of life coaching
Having determined that it is definitely coaching you want, consider which type of coach would suit you best. You will find that there are coaches for almost every need out there. Take a look at these examples:
Example 1: Say you want to lose weight. You might consider a Weight Loss Coach, a Wellness Coach or a Health & Fitness Coach, depending on the angle from which you wanted to tackle the issue.
Example 2: You don’t exactly know what you want to work on but you know you are feeling stuck and that you want to change your life in one or more ways. You might consider a Self Development Coach or a Transformational Life Coach.
Example 3: You are happy at work but you know you want to aim higher, further your skills and eventually lead a team of people. You might consider a Confidence Coach, a Leadership Coach or a Mindset Coach, depending on what you feel you need most at this time.
Ask yourself the following:
- What are the one or two areas of your life that you most want to change?
- Which area of your life will you most need to work on in order to achieve this?
- Do you want coaching to help you make a straightforward plan with some accountability to work towards a specific, measurable goal?
- OR do you want a deeper approach to change the things that have been holding you back for years (eg limiting beliefs, stuck narratives etc)?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to be clear about what you want from coaching when you come to talk with a potential coach during a Discovery Call.
2. Does the coach have a recognised accreditation/qualification?
It is important to know that coaching is, as yet, an unregulated industry. In effect this means that ‘anyone’ can set up business tomorrow and call themselves a coach. While they may have the career and life experience to feel justified in doing so, the best way you as a potential client can ensure you are working with someone who knows what they are doing is to hire a coach with a recognised accreditation/qualification.
You may ask – yes but how do I know if the qualification is a good one? Good question! The answer is: be sure to look for a coach who has trained with an organisation accredited by one of the major coaching bodies. These bodies exist to hold coaches accountable and to a high standard of best practice.
Here are four of the best known coaching organisations:
International Coaching Federation (ICF)
European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)
International Association for Coaching (IAC)
Association for Coaching (AC)
This list is not exhaustive; but do make sure you do your research into any potential coach’s credentials. For the record, I received my training from Animas Centre for Coaching, whose courses are accredited by the ICF, EMCC and the Association of Coaching.
3. What do other people say about the coach? Are they recommended?
Take time to read or watch what other people have to say about the coach. You should be able to find written or video testimonials, either on the coach’s own website or if they do not have one, on a reputable platform like LinkedIn (look for the Recommendations section of their Profile).
If your coach is on a social media platform, have a look at their posts. Do you resonate with what they talk about? Are you attracted by their approach to life and work? Or is there something that doesn’t ‘feel right’? Pay attention to this!
Sometimes prospective clients ask a coach if they can speak to one of their former clients, which the coach should be happy to arrange for you. This way you can really get a feel for the coach’s style – although remember this will be from someone else’s perspective: the very best way to make up your mind is to book a call with the coach yourself.
4. Does their life experience resonate with you?
Once you have decided on your potential coach’s niche/specialism, it’s a good idea to look a little further into their life experience. I don’t believe your coach has to reflect your own life experience, not at all. Coaching skills are all about helping all sorts of different kinds of people to think their best thoughts and work out their own solutions. However, you may feel more comfortable with someone who:
Has experience of a world or industry with which you resonate and which you understand
Has the background or life experience of someone who represents where you want to be
There are many types of ‘Business Coach’ for instance. You as a small business owner may, or may not, resonate with a coach who has been coaching high-flying corporate types for the last ten years. It all depends on your perspective and what your needs and goals are.
5. Is the coach committed to their own learning?
Coaches tend to be people who are deeply interested in self-development and personal growth. The best training courses will encourage this. My own training centre, Animas, positively supports all its alumni coaches to continue their learning and grow their skills. This could be in the form of accredited CPD or masterclasses. A commitment to regular coaching supervision is also a good indication of a coach’s willingness to improve.
You can ask your potential coach about their attitude to learning during the Discovery Call. It’s also worth having a look at what the coach posts online, either on their own website or on social media. Perhaps they have written a book or have a podcast. Is the content something you are drawn to?
6. Is the coaching program within your budget?
The price of coaching varies enormously. Some coaches are up-front about their fees, others don’t advertise what they charge and like to discuss this with you on a call. Don’t be put off by coaches who don’t immediately tell you their coaching fees. We are all different and coaching is a bespoke experience which means that sometimes a price needs to be arrived at as part of the contracting process.
Ask for what you need and can afford (a fortnightly program rather than weekly, say, or to pay monthly rather than all up-front). You may be surprised at what your coach will agree to.
TOP TIP: Sometimes it may be obvious that a coach is out of your range. On the other hand, if their fees are just a little higher than you expected, don’t compromise on quality for a small stretch in price. If the coach is worth their fees, you will reap the benefits.
7. Does the coach have a clear contracting process?
‘Contracting’ is the process of mutual agreement which should happen between a coach and coachee at all stages of the coaching process. As a prospective client, you should be clear about what exactly is included in the coaching package. Some coaches offer email support and accountability in the form of between-sessions check-ins, for example, while other do not.
You should also know how the coaching will happen (via video or audio call or in person); if you have a preference make this clear to the coach. You will agree the number of coaching sessions, dates and times in advance and know what, how and when you are expected to pay.
It is important to know what is expected of you and what you can expect from the coach. Good contracting also means that you know the coach’s policy on cancellations, no-shows, termination and refunds.
Contracting should also happen throughout your actual coaching journey. The coach will check in with you to make sure you feel the sessions are still on track; to review your progress; to flag up any timekeeping difficulties and to end your coaching journey with full acknowledgement of the road you have travelled together.
Find out what you can expect over the course of your coaching journey. If there is anything that you aren’t sure about, raise this sooner rather than later. This sets up a good contracting framework between you and your coach from the start.
8. What does the coaching program include?
You might find that the coaching program offered is a certain number of hours coaching and no more. Many coaches also include further support between coaching sessions. Consider what you need. Make sure you know what the coaching program includes.
For example, my 12 week Transformational Coaching program includes the following in addition to the coaching hours:
- A summary email after every session, with Main Insights and any Action Steps agreed
- Accountability between sessions in the form of an email check-in (if wanted)
- 24/7 email support. I love to hear about my clients’ reflections and breakthroughs
- Handpicked learning resources to further the client’s learning, where appropriate
- One Tree Planted for every coaching hour invested in by my clients
9. Does the coach offer a free coaching call? (really coaching, not selling)
Many coaches offer a free call of varying lengths to prospective clients. Sometimes it is called a ‘Discovery Call’ or ‘Chemistry Call’. Make use of this! It is vital to experience the coach’s style and find out if you can work together.
The following questions may be useful in helping you to evaluate the call:
- Booking the call – was scheduling the call easy and straightforward?
- Did the coach contact you personally before the call, not only via their automated scheduling system?
- Did the coach described the coaching process and answer your questions to your satisfaction?
- Did you have an experience of actual coaching during the call? How did it feel?
- Did you feel that the coach held you in ‘unconditional positive regard?’
- Did their coaching style feel like a good fit for you?
- Did you feel that you and the coach had good rapport? Did you feel at ease?
- How did you feel after the call?
- Were you clear on what happens next?
10. Above all, do feel a good rapport with the coach?
This is possibly the most important factor in choosing the best life coach for your needs. Your relationship with your coach will be the crucial feature of your coaching journey. This is why it is so important to experience some time with any potential coach before you make a decision.
Ask yourself: do you instinctively feel that this is the person for you? Is there a sense of empathy between you? Are they truly listening to you?
There is infinite power in being truly accepted and heard; and in feeling that your coach will hold you to account and gently challenge if need be.
If you are considering hiring a coach it is important to understand how to choose the best life coach for your needs. If you work through these ten questions you will be more likely to choose a coach who will help you fly.
Ultimately, I urge you to trust your intuition and work with the person you resonate with most. Remember, the relationship you and your coach create together is worth its weight in self-growth gold!
- What type of coaching do you need?
- Is the coach qualified/accredited/certified?
- What do other people say about the coach?
- Does the coach’s experience resonate with your needs?
- Is the coach committed to their own learning?
- Is the coach’s program within your budget (or close)?
- Does the coach have a clear onboarding/contracting process?
- What does the coaching program include?
- Does the coach offer a free coaching call?
- Do you and the coach resonate with each other?