Choosing a Life Coach – Ten Top Tips

November 1, 2013 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Life Coaching Articles


Choosing a Life Coach – Ten Top Tips

By Nick James Smith

There are really only two things to consider, namely the coach’s qualities (are they good at their job) and the relationship you have with them (are they a good for you to work with). These can be subdivided though as follows:

Coach qualities

1. Are they any good? Can you get a recommendation from someone you trust who has successfully worked with a coach in the recent past? If you can’t get a personal recommendation, what do other people say who have worked with this person? Ask for references or testimonials from previous clients, particularly those that you could contact for more background information.

2. What is their niche? Many coaches specialise, either in the type of issues they help people tackle, or in the particular people they seek to help. It might be coping with divorce, tackling career change, becoming more personally effective or a plethora of other issues that people regularly face. If a coach says they will work with anyone, it would suggest to me a lack of focus, no specialist expertise or inexperience.

3. What are their qualifications? Anyone can set up in business as a life coach so what qualifies the person you are considering to help you? What makes them a specialist in their niche? It is also worth asking what qualifications they have in life coaching – have they merely read a book a few years ago or have they attended a recognised course?

4. What tools do they use? Any reputable coach will have a number of professional tools and techniques that they can call upon to assist your development. The CIPD, in their report on hiring coaches, says coaches should be able to adapt their approach to fit your unique needs, using your tools where necessary — be wary of coaches who only push one particular framework or methodology. However, as my friend Mark Watkins of Natural Assets always says, it is worth looking for someone who uses aspects of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to help you.

5. How experienced are they? Have they just started out or have they coached hundreds of people before? The more people they have worked with, the more of the subtle aspects of your particular situation they will have already seen and worked through with other people. However, experience also links to cost, which is mentioned below.

Coach-client relationship

There are other aspects to choosing a coach that are less about who the coach is and has more to do with how well they fit you, your needs and expectations. Kate Ludeman describes it as a ‘collaborative partnership’.

6. Rapport: Coaches are trained in establishing rapport, so if you don’t feel a connection with the person, then you should be concerned that the relational aspect may not be strong enough. You need to be able to trust them, accept their help and be committed to carrying out their suggestions, which won’t be the case if you feel, for whatever reason, that they don’t relate well to you.

7. Values: If you come from a particular culture, religion or value-basis it would be wise to seek out someone from a similar position. Coaches are able to work in an unbiased way with anyone, however you may have less explaining to do with someone who has similar values to you, thus saving time and misunderstandings as you seek to describe your goals.

8. Personal qualities: If you want a coach to help you achieve goals, then you also want them to be direct, tenacious and strong enough to hold you accountable if necessary. Skills like listening, questioning and comprehension should be common to all coaches. These things, along with a gauge of the rapport between you can usually be judged from an initial meeting which many coaches offer on a free, no-obligation basis.

9. Location: Do you want to physically meet with your coach or will telephone conversations be sufficient? If the latter, then location is not an issue. Telephone coaching can be a cost-effective and efficient way for you to work with someone who you can relate well to but who lives remotely. If however, you want face to face sessions, then consider where the coach is based, as well as who is expected to do (and pay for) the travelling.

10. Cost: Some people say that coaching is too expensive, but they have not fully investigated the priceless payback of more happiness/wealth/success/effectiveness or whatever else is sought. If you want a well-qualified, experienced life coach who has assisted many people in the past, you will need to pay for that. However, coaches who are just starting in their practices may charge as little as £50 per hour.

And finally…

If the relationship aspect is not brilliant then the coaching will be less successful. If you have concerns, it pays to voice them early, before getting tied in to a process you are not convinced about. A reputable coach will not push you into working with them if that is not going to be successful; you should avoid any that do. A coach should be able to refer you to a friend or colleague where the relationship may work better. Likewise, a coach should pass you to other people who are better placed to help you if your issues are beyond their particular expertise.
However a relationship that works, with an effective coach, can turn your life around. Go out and find the one that suits you!

Nick is an Outdoor Life Coach and Trainer. Within his company, Square Pegs Coaching, he uses outdoor experiences to help people develop themselves. To understand better what this means in practice and to take greater advantage of his expertise, go to or read his blog at

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