How To Become a Personal Development Coach (With Steps)

Many people value an outside perspective when trying to achieve their goals. Personal development coaches provide support and guidance for a variety of personal and professional pursuits. If you’re interested in a career helping other people realize their potential, you might benefit from learning about the role of a personal development coach.

In this article, we review what a personal development coach is, what a personal development coach does, the steps to take to become one and the skills this profession requires.

Key takeaways:

  • A personal development coach, also known as a life coach, helps people achieve their personal and professional goals, become healthier and more confident and overcome various challenges associated with daily living.

  • If you want to become a personal development coach, earn a bachelor’s degree in a field like communications or psychology, determine a niche to coach in, acquire a coaching certification and market your services.

  • There are several skills that can benefit personal development coaches in their work, including entrepreneurship, leadership, networking and creative skills.

What is a personal development coach?

A personal development coach, sometimes referred to as a life coach, is a professional who creates and oversees strategies that help people achieve goals. Personal development coaches use psychological and behavioral insights to make recommendations for individuals striving to succeed in a certain area of life. Someone might hire a personal development coach to improve their approach to:

  • Work life: Personal development coaches can help people plan careers, transition between jobs and improve how they present themselves professionally. They also might support improvements in someone’s current role by teaching productivity and task management skills.

  • Health: Personal development coaches can encourage efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle. For instance, someone might seek help to maintain a consistent routine so they can sleep more, eat healthier and prioritize exercise.

  • Interpersonal relationships: Personal development coaches can provide counseling on how to be more thoughtful and present when interacting with coworkers, family members, friends and acquaintances. Enhanced interpersonal skills result in clients feeling more connected and fulfilled within their communities.

  • Communication skills: A client might want to improve how they communicate as professionals, organizational leaders or family members. Personal development coaches can teach listening skills and how to share thoughts productively.

  • Parenting: Some personal development coaches focus on helping parents raise their children. They might review parenting philosophies, discipline strategies and how parents can share responsibilities.

  • Creativity: Personal development coaches can either encourage clients to develop their creative abilities, or they might help established artists and creative professionals find fresh approaches to their work.

  • Finding purpose: Some people might feel their jobs don’t provide a clear sense of purpose. Personal development coaches help clients find activities or other professional opportunities they would find more meaningful and inspiring.

What does a personal development coach do?

Personal development coaches might specialize in a certain area, such as work-life or relationships and communication, or they might meet a variety of client needs. Regardless of their focus, personal development coaches meet with clients to discuss the obstacles they’re facing and their hopes for the future. A personal development coach might ask questions that encourage clients to think of their issues from different perspectives or clarify their intentions for a coaching relationship.

When the personal development coach and client have a shared vision for the future, the personal development coach’s expertise enables them to create a plan of action. The plan of action includes a series of smaller goals the client can take and long-term strategies to increase the likelihood of success. Throughout the personal development process, the coach can help the client resolve issues, remain motivated and find helpful resources.

Personal development coaches typically avoid telling a client exactly what to do. Instead, they guide the decision-making process so that, in the future, a client is better equipped to develop their own strategies for achieving goals.

How to become a personal development coach

Here are the steps to take if you’re interested in becoming a personal development coach:

1. Consider a bachelor’s degree

There are no formal degree requirements for becoming a life coach. However, pursuing an undergraduate degree is beneficial for gaining the business and subject expertise personal development coaches require. Here are several degrees to consider and their benefits:

  • Business management: Business management expertise can help you provide professional advice to clients who operate their own businesses or want to excel within a company. This major also prepares you to operate your personal development coaching business responsibly and profitably.

  • Psychology: Many clients seek personal development coaches to become motivated, determined and focused. A psychology degree prepares you to customize your coaching strategies for distinct personalities and dispositions.

  • Organizational leadership: Organizational leadership majors learn how to direct groups of people toward a well-defined goal. The lessons of organizational leadership are relevant both in business and in community life.

  • Communications: Personal development coaches often help people develop communication strategies to better collaborate with coworkers, improve marketing strategies and enrich their personal relationships. As a business owner, you can make use of communications expertise within your own operation, as well.

  • Philosophy: Philosophy majors develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that translate well to a variety of settings. Often, clients need help finding a new perspective on their work-life, their personal relationships or their own sense of purpose—all subjects philosophy addresses.

2. Determine coaching aptitudes

Finding a coaching niche can help you identify promising sources of clients. Consider the skills and expertise your educational and personal backgrounds have provided you. Your niche directly affects your personal brand, marketing strategy and initial business objectives. For instance, if you studied child development in college and have children of your own, you might decide family and parenting coaching is a suitable niche for you. You therefore would pursue a more informal brand image, market through networks established from raising children and study parenting philosophies before taking clients.

3. Consider coaching certification

Personal development coaches don’t have to earn any certification to operate a coaching business. However, certifications give clients confidence in your abilities and teach you useful practices. Most personal development coaches earn certification through the International Coaching Federation, or ICF. The ICF accredits individual coach training programs that teach you coaching fundamentals and offer you practical experience. Choose the program that fits into your schedule, budget and preferred learning style, either in person or online.

Once you complete your program and have enough work experience, you can apply to take the ICF’s Coach Knowledge Assessment. The assessment tests:

  • Ethical guidelines and professional standards

  • Coaching agreements

  • Communication skills

  • Questioning practices

  • Developing trust

  • Strategizing and plan creation

  • Progress management

Depending on how long your training program was and the amount of hours you coached, you can get one of the following certifications:

  • Associate Certified Coach: This certification requires 60 training hours and 100 hours of coaching experience with at least eight clients.

  • Professional Certified Coach: This certification requires 125 training hours and 500 hours of coaching experience with at least 25 clients.

  • Master Certified Coach: This certification requires 200 hours of training and 2500 hours of coaching experience with at least 35 clients.

4. Develop a business plan

Research the coaching market you would enter with your services. Determine who your competitors are, what they charge and the services they advertise. Your business plan determines your start-up costs and describes how you plan to acquire clients. Business plans also detail:

  • Company description

  • Products and services

  • Marketing plan

  • Sales strategy

  • Competitor analysis

  • Current and projected finances

5. Establish your business

With your plan ready, register your business and prepare all the resources you need to function smoothly. Establishing a business requires following government regulations and implementing management and financial infrastructure. Prepare to:

  • Choose your business structure

  • Provide a business address

  • Register your business name

  • Register with the IRS and local government agencies

  • Research necessary licenses and permits

  • Determine any insurance needs

  • Set up business social media accounts

  • Build a business website

  • Set up your email and administrative systems

6. Market your services

With your business ready to sign clients, you now can market your services to the public. Use a combination of paid advertisements, social media engagement and in-person networking to make your target demographic aware of how you can help them achieve their goals. You might host a blog on your website to optimize your search engine presence for potential clients. For example, if you focus on coaching professionals, you might write articles that provide tips on how to boost productivity or be a leader in the workplace.

Equally important to actively marketing is ensuring you give your first clients excellent service so they recommend you to peers. Having well-prepared and informative materials and an organized coaching process convinces clients you deserve their and others’ business, setting you up for continued success.


Important skills for personal development coaches

Here are several skills personal development coaches use in their work:

1. Entrepreneurship skills

Turning an idea into a profitable business requires entrepreneurship skills that empower you to remain organized while providing a great product. As an entrepreneur, you manage finances with proper accounting methods, develop business strategies with careful planning and provide quality customer service with strong interpersonal communication. Personal development coaches also use presentation and public speaking skills to meet and pitch potential clients their offerings.

2. Leadership skills

Personal development coaches function as leaders for their clients. Leaders use their active listening skills, motivational skills and ethical integrity to inspire individuals to change their behaviors and pursue challenges. Leaders model positive behaviors while giving their clients undivided and consistent attention. They also use positive teaching skills to introduce new ideas and perspectives.

3. Creative skills

Creative skills are important for developing clients’ individualized action plans. Each client has a unique set of challenges that require creative skills such as interpretation, problem-solving and collaboration to overcome. Personal development coaches’ creativity might be especially useful with clients who themselves wish to achieve artistic or expressive goals.

4. Networking skills

Personal development coaches benefit from becoming well-known presences in a community. Networking skills help you impress new acquaintances with your professionalism and keep in touch with your already established connections. Networking skills include relationship building, thoughtful communication practices and knowing how to offer potential clients value before asking for financial commitments.

Salary and job outlook for personal development coaches

The average salary for a personal development coach in the United States is $46,608 per year. Pay may vary depending on education, experience, geographic location and coaching niche.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide statistics specifically for personal development coaches. However, it reports on job outlook for the similar professions of school and career counselors, predicting faster than average job growth of 11% per year through 2030.


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