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In my work, I get to talk to so many people who know they want to be an entrepreneur. They know they want to do something, but they aren’t totally sure what that something might look like.
At times, they really do know what they want to do, but they aren’t giving themselves permission to do it.
I see a lot of people who really want to be a coach of some kind, but they haven’t been able to say yes to it yet, because they’re afraid they don’t have the qualifications or experience. Then others are totally gung-ho and ready to start promoting themselves as a coach but they have yet to build any expertise in their chosen area.
So let’s address the elephant in the room: Can you be a coach if you haven’t done it yourself?
The answer? It comes down to what exactly you mean by the term ‘coach’.
Are you a coach or a consultant or a hybrid?
Generally when people use the term ‘coach’ in the online space or talk about coaching certification they are referring to life coaching. You can do more specific coaching training after this but it stems from the same model.
If you are a life coach your role is to ask the right questions in order to guide your client to their own right answer. You are expressly forbidden to give advice, or consult, you can only facilitate your client’s own answers.
If you are a business coach or a specialist coach of some kind and not using the model of asking your clients questions so that they find their own answers, you are essentially a consultant rather than a coach; you’re giving clients advice on how to solve particular issues.
Both models are valid and they can both be used by the same coach. But can you imagine how frustrating it would be to go to a business coach to find out how to start or scale your business and have them ask you “Well, what do you think you should do?” I would want to smash my head against the wall and I have heard of cases of this happening. When seeing a coach do find out how they work before signing up. I call myself a strategist because I want to avoid potential mix up.
So really, is it any wonder people are confused about what coaching is and whether or not it’s for them?!
So why does this difference matter?
If you are giving specific advice on how to do something, like for example how to build a business, then you are more of a consultant than a coach, so I (personally) think you need to have some experience in this area to be offering your advice on the subject. In business coaching, you need to be ahead of your clients. It wouldn’t make very much sense for someone to hire a business coach who was also brand new to business.
When I started off my consulting business, I had just come off running a successful business (that I ultimately decided not to continue with) and I focused on just helping people find the right business idea. I only added coaching once I felt I had enough experience and knowledge to be able to help my clients with building their businesses, essentially after clients started requesting it from me.
If you truly are using the life coaching model, it looks different
If you are essentially a life coach then the nature of the coaching is different. You help people find their own answers, you don’t have to have gone through it yourself. Your role is more that of a facilitator.
Of course, you may have experience in your particular niche and that absolutely helps. For example, if you specialize in helping people overcome eating disorders, or survive divorce, it almost always helps to have gone through some of those experiences yourself.
So the question is are you really a coach or really a consultant (but everyone uses the term coach)?
If you are a life coach then you are not giving advice, so you don’t need to have lived it. If you are a consultant you are going to be much more credible if you have some experience. If you are somewhere in the middle then it’s your judgement call!
Do you need a coaching certification?
If you want to be a coach then it’s going to be really useful training, although not everyone decides to do a certification. I don’t believe a coaching course or certification is absolutely essential to becoming a successful life coach. There are some very successful life coaches out there who have never done a certification. That said, I do think those sorts of programs can provide you with the tools to be a more efficient or effective life coach. If you are serious you likely want to get some training.
If your coaching requires giving advice you may find a coaching certification frustrating and limiting. Because let’s face it how the hell will you help clients if you can’t advise them?
Ultimately, I don’t think people hire any kind of coach — or any other professional — based on the letters that come after their name, or the certificates hanging on their walls. They hire the coach they believe can get them the results they want.
So if you are still unsure ask yourself this: “Am I sure I can get clients results?” and that will be your answer right there.
Do you agree?
I know this can be a somewhat controversial topic, and people may have different opinions, and these are just mine, so I’d love to hear yours:
Do you agree that you should have some business experience to be a business coach?
Have you been confused about the term coaching?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!