Originally published in August 2020, this post has been substantially updated to highlight emerging trends and include new resources.
Considering becoming a life coach? Wondering where the industry is headed next? At JRNI Coaching, we talk with aspiring coaches every week, and one of the most common questions we hear is: “Once I’m trained, can I make a viable living in this industry?”
Short answer? Yes.
However, success as a life coach requires: focus, insight into your strengths, and clarity about who you intend to serve. If you try to help everyone, you’ll inevitably get lost in the crowd. Discovering your niche is one of the defining elements behind building a successful coaching practice.
Here’s the thing: most new coaches will tell you that certification all by itself doesn’t automatically translate to a full roster of clients! Graduating from a reputable program such as JRNI’s Life Coach Training Program is just the start.
To succeed as a coach, you’ll need to figure out what problems your ideal client wants to solve, and define how you are uniquely positioned to help them meet their goals. The most direct path to achieving this is by narrowing down to one or two specialties for your coaching practice.
TRENDS TO WATCH
1) Overcoming Crisis Fatigue
“Consumers are demanding mental wellness solutions geared towards addressing specific symptoms of modern society, as well as the divergent needs of those living through an era of collective crises.” - WELLTODO, 2021 Consumer Wellness Trends
We know that burnout and exhaustion were already an epidemic before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, the World Health Organization officially classified "Burn Out" as an occupational phenomenon defined as "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." (WHO) Over the past year, the need for solutions has only grown more acute.
The invitation to wellness providers and coaches is to map out and modernize a new mental wellness ecosystem that provides different routes to entry, direct access to resources, and more relatable and attainable outcomes. In your work with individual clients, this will likely include supporting people through stress and fatigue, and - when ready - helping them shift out of survival mode and into a more expansive state.
Burnout and fatigue coaching skills can naturally weave through many of the coaching niches below, or stand alone as a coaching specialization in itself.
2) Workplace Wellness
As COVID-19 wanes and the world begins to open back up, workplace wellness will take center stage as employees demand fair wages and working conditions, fair treatment, workplace well-being, and greater balance.
The way we work is also changing. The pandemic completely disrupted notions of how and why we work, as well as when and where. A shift towards collective consciousness, referred to as “Generation Woke” in some spheres, will continue through 2021 as consumers and workers lean into expectations for brand purpose.
Millenials and Gen Z are driving consumer behavior change towards personal responsibility and responsible consumption (WELLTODO, 2020.) This change signals that participation in social change will be expected through and with the brands and businesses.
Coaches can enter the workplace wellness space from either the individual or corporate angle. With individual clients, we can support their efforts to find meaning and balance in their work and personal lives. Business coaches can partner with corporate and nonprofit organizations to offer wellness programs and employee coaching through company sponsored programs.
Growing Life Coaching Niches
Not sure what coaching pathway to take? Check out the following hit list of some of the fastest growing coaching specialties as your place to start. We encourage you to research industry trends (see JRNI CEO Noelle Cordeaux's 2021 State of the Wellness Industry report for a start), but also look to your own life experiences and expertise as a guide toward the coaching niche where you’d be a natural.
For a closer look at the most current data on coaching salaries and income potential, be sure to also check out our Ultimate Guide to Life Coach Salaries.
Mindset and Accountability Coach
An accountability coach understands the value of “planning the work, then working the plan”. If you're organized, know how to rock a task list, and are experienced in holding a team accountable to achieve exceptional results… mindset and accountability coaching could be your sweet spot. Mindset involves an understanding that our actions are influenced by emotions, which often stem from the thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world.
As a coach, it’s not so much about getting your client to develop the “right” mindset, as it is discovering along with your client what perspectives and beliefs best fit their lifestyle, values, and goals. Whether the client’s ambition is to run a marathon or launch a new business venture, your job is to make sure their goals, perspective, and habits are aligned.
Then it’s time to hold them accountable (with love!) as they take tangible action steps toward achieving a specific objective.
“What should I do with my life?” It’s a question that comes up at several points during the course of our careers, which for most people will span an average of 35-40 years. Gone are the days of settling into an entry level role, working up the ladder, and retiring from the same company after 40 years of service.
The average worker today will change jobs 12 times during the course of their career – which adds up to a lot of shifting and soul searching! Those just entering the workforce today are finding they need to carve their own path. And for people who aspire to work for themselves in the gig economy, there may not even be “a path to take”. Further down the road, mid career professionals are grappling with burnout and the desire to shift into something new, but aren’t sure how to make the transition.
The list of career decision points is vast, and most people will contend with this several times in their working lives. As a career coach, you can help clients find clarity and map their next steps through positive inquiry, strengths assessments, and other techniques. The desired outcome for these clients is forward momentum toward satisfying work that meets their interests, talents, values, and income goals.
We’re not just talking romantic relationships! In reality, this specialty covers the entire spectrum of human connection. As a relationship coach, your aim is to help clients develop healthier and more satisfying relationships of all kinds: couples, parents and their children (youth, or adults!), between co-workers, and among friends.
If you’re considering this niche, it’s a worthwhile choice because the hunger for more satisfying interpersonal relationships is only increasing. Relationship coaching involves collaborating with your client to identify tools and mindset shifts that will result in improving the most important connections in their lives.
An integral component of this work also requires an exploration of the client’s relationship with themselves. Whether the client is processing a difficult breakup, seeking a better relationship with their parent, or wants to widen their circle of close friends, a relationship coach can walk alongside them through the process, and help them come out the other side with new skills and internal resources moving forward.
Sexuality coaching is a fast growing specialty, and for good reason. Our world is rapidly evolving, along with our understanding and acceptance of the full continuum of human sexuality. Alongside these expanding definitions, there’s also bound to be some confusion. Sexuality continues to be a fraught topic in most cultures, rife with misunderstanding, self-criticism, judgement, and shame.
As a sexuality coach, you create a safe container in which your clients can explore who they are, what they desire, and how to achieve it in a healthy and satisfying way. Coaches in this field help clients work through any challenges or uncertainty they may be experiencing in relation to sexuality - from intimacy, to sexual expression, to unnecessary anxiety. The end goal is for clients to feel at home inside themselves, understand the importance of open communication with their partner(s), and feel more at ease with the vulnerability that may come with embodying and expressing their sexuality.
Leadership & Executive Coaching
Great leaders surround themselves with a winning team, which often includes the services of an A-Level coach. The scope of leadership coaching includes helping C-Suite executives build and manage high performing teams, supporting mid-level managers as they transition into broader leadership roles, and guiding ambitious young professionals seeking to accelerate their career advancement. As coach you serve as a trusted advisor, and confidential mentor for executives. This can include exploring complex management issues or bouncing potential scenarios before rolling out tough decisions.
Executive coaches also foster strong self-management skills. Emotional intelligence and wise leadership comes first from within. Self-aware leaders have the potential to create a profound ripple effect that benefits an entire organization, and a good coach will help their clients make this kind of profound impact. Executive coaches are those who have “walked the talk” - generally people who themselves have served in executive level positions, and possess the experience necessary to serve as a credible mentor and peer to fellow leaders.
Women’s Empowerment Life Coach
Like it or not, the gender gap is still very real. Study after study confirms that women continue to earn less than their male counterparts, while also shouldering more responsibilities on the home front. In a culture that breezily tells women they can “do it all”, many are now experiencing cognitive dissonance. Overextended and exhausted, high achieving women are increasingly turning to coaching as a means to rectify this imbalance and restore inner equilibrium.
As an empowerment coach, your aim is to support clients in identifying and overcoming the gap in their own lives. What’s disempowering them at work, at home, or in their own thoughts? This work often involves an exploration of internal limiting beliefs, as well as an examination of the very real power dynamics at play in the workplace.
The goal of coaching for empowerment is to help the client more effectively navigate these internal and external landscapes. Your job as coach is to help clients recognize their inherent strengths, and develop the mindset and toolkit to achieve and sustain a sense of personal power, agency, and joy in their lives.
Small Business Coaching
As technology allows more people to “strike out on their own”, business coaching offers valuable support to small-scale entrepreneurs. This can range from those who are building a brick-and-mortar store to those offering personal services or running an online company.
We all know that it takes more than having a great idea to build a successful business. Many entrepreneurs get started because they possess a particular skill, but may require coaching as they ramp-up into operating a new business. Small business coaches understand the difference between established operations and start-ups, and ideally have real world experience running a business of their own.
As a coach to entrepreneurs, your services might include helping clients develop a business plan, financial forecasting, setting up efficient bookkeeping and other systems, crafting a clear vision and mission statement, evaluating business models and outlining action plans, and considering revenue strategies to make sure their business succeeds. Business coaches also provides an accountability framework to ensure clients are maximizing their time by addressing the highest priorities first.
While effective sales is a necessary component for most business ventures, it remains a skill-set that does not come naturally for many people. Proven sales techniques abound, but it can be tricky to choose the approach that best meets business needs while also feeling most authentic to the individual salesperson. This is where sales coaching enters the picture.
Your job as coach is to work hand-in-hand with sales representatives, or entrepreneurs building their own practices. An effective sales coach helps client assess their own style, apply the sales techniques that feel right for them, and bring the discipline and implementation skills necessary to achieve their goals.
As a sales coach, you won’t have direct contact with customers, but instead work with salespeople to help them meet their sales targets. Your client’s success in effectively closing more and bigger deals is your ultimate metric of success!
Marketing is another subset of business coaching that’s in very high demand. While it may feel like a close cousin to sales coaching, there’s an important distinction between the two. Whereas a sales coach helps clients hone their ability to “close the deal”, the marketing coach is focused on the actions necessary to fill the pipeline of prospective customers to begin with.
The ideal background for this type of coaching is… you guessed it… hefty professional expertise in marketing and communications, and a track record of success. As a marketing coach, you’ll help clients develop their brand identity and core messaging. This may include guidance for establishing a graphic look and feel, taglines, logos, and written materials. You may be called upon to understand both traditional and online strategies and tactics for increasing visibility and attracting new followers or clients.
This field continues to evolve rapidly, so a willingness to stay dialed into the ever-changing social media landscape is a must!
Health and Fitness Coach
This may well be one of the original coaching niches, and certainly remains among the most popular. We know that many people set out every day with strong intentions to lose weight, or pursue a healthier lifestyle. Judging from the number of New Year’s resolutions that are all but abandoned by January 15th, the journey to better health is easier said than done.
As a health and fitness coach, it’s your job to make sure clients keep their eyes on the prize and persevere. It’s important to note that a health coach is different from a personal trainer. What sets a health and fitness coach apart is that you work with clients to manage the roadblocks that keep them from sticking with their intentions to get healthy. This often includes uncovering deeper issues around anxiety, body image, mindset, procrastination, and stress that may arise along the way. In fact, many personal trainers are now pursing coaching certifications as they recognize that the main impediment to their clients’ success at the gym is often more mental than physical.
A health coach takes a holistic approach to helping clients develop tools to improve their body through exercise, proper diet, and healthy decision making.
There’s a growing emphasis across the health industry on developing integrated, holistic approaches to improving our health and well-being. With so much information available online, it can be difficult to determine which exercise regime, food plan, and self-care strategies are optimal for our individual situation. Wading through it all can easily turn into an overwhelming mess!
Enter the Wellness Coach. Often coaches in this niche have training and expertise in one or more health related fields. One popular example is nutritionists. Many add coaching into their practice because they know they can create a more meaningful impact if they dig deeper with their clients around mindset and core beliefs.
As a wellness coach, you’ll be collaborating with clients to reprogram their habits and make healthier choices. This goes well beyond the traditional focus on calorie count and meal plans. The work involves really knowing your client’s preferences, lifestyle, and roadblocks to develop custom-fit strategies that can be maintained for the long term.
Money Mindset Coach
The subject of money almost always runs deeper than just what’s in our wallet. It can be a difficult topic to grapple with, and people are realizing that in order to build a life that they love, they may need to re-frame their thinking about money. Like the health and wellness field, personal and business finances can easily become a maze of contradictory advice.
As a money mindset coach, your number one job is to reduce the anxiety and disorientation that often accompanies this topic. A good coach can make dealing with finances less stressful, and more rewarding. So many people struggle with their relationship to money, and that energy is what keeps them stuck or stagnant. Money mindset coaches help clients develop the soft skills needed to navigate their internal world, which in turn can help them make better sense of their finances.
Once the mental blocks are identified and cleared, it becomes much easier to put a realistic and achievable action plan in place to meet their financial goals. A good money mindset coach understands both finances AND the human condition!
Another rapidly growing niche is in the area of personal development and confidence. This area of coaching is all about improving a client’s well-being, self-confidence, and relationship towards themselves. In the words of JRNI self-love coach and trainer Pam Davis, the question here is: “How would my life be different, if I loved myself?” This is what the coach and client work in partnership to discover.
As a confidence coach, you meet your clients exactly where they’re at today, and help them explore ways to achieve inner harmony. The self-love practitioner’s toolkit includes mindfulness techniques, strategies for identifying and working with our “inner critic”, and an exploration of the client’s deepest hopes and desires.
Mindful self-compassion has roots in Buddhist wisdom teachings, and despite our advances not much has changed in the human heart and mind over the last 2,500 years! Genuine self-compassion remains a fundamental skill that many of us were never taught growing up. With each successive generation, we are invited to again discover and learn these essential tools for inner peace and expanded joy.
Most people experience anxiety from time to time. But for some, it can take an enormous toll on quality of life. In our fast paced, “always on” culture, there are a lot of things that either cause or trigger our anxieties. To counterbalance this, anxiety coaching is now trending as a growing specialization. As an anxiety coach, you’ll be working with clients who are at baseline mental health, but may need extra support to stay present and not let their worries derail them.
An anxiety coach supports their client in determining the roots of those anxieties, and helps to develop an effective and appropriate approach. Before you think that you yourself have to be in a State of Zen 24 hours a day to excel in this area, know that effective anxiety coaches need not live stress and anxiety-free lives themselves. Part of what makes a coach authentic in this field is personal experience with the subject matter.
Anxiety coaches may themselves also grapple with anxiety. They’ve been there and know what it feels like. The difference between coach and client is that the coach has already developed the inner awareness, resources, techniques, and tools to manage their own anxiety, and has the training and experience to now help others do the same.
Spirituality or Life Purpose Coach
For those who are looking to define and explore their purpose and place within the Universe, a spirituality coach can be a welcome partner in that journey. In today’s world, many of us are disconnected from the spiritual traditions we grew up with, if we were introduced to any at all. For those who feel the inner yearning for “something more”, but who haven’t yet found a satisfying spiritual home, the quest for a personal connection to the divine can be challenging.
Spirituality coaches walk this path of discovery alongside their clients, with an open heart and mind. As coach, you may come from a particular tradition or belief system that your clients would like a mentor to help them explore. Spirituality coaches may also be healers and medicine men and women from particular traditions and lineages.
Manifestation and Abundance Coach
We’re talking Law of Attraction here. Sometimes combined with spiritual healing work, manifestation coaching helps clients align their thoughts, subconscious beliefs, and intentions in order to achieve their dreams. Ever hear the saying “Where your thoughts go, your energy flows”? That’s what’s happening here - the client has dreams they want to manifest, but they’re also creating their own roadblocks, whether through a fixed mindset or unconscious limiting beliefs.
As a manifestation coach, you help your clients figure out what those blocks are and determine how to remove them. Some may ask: Why hire a coach, when anyone can look up the Law of Attraction for themselves? Answer: Accountability. It’s exceedingly difficult for us to accurately pinpoint our own blind spots.
Through insightful inquiry, a coach can help their client verbalize their desires with precision, diagnose what may be holding them back, and develop a tactical plan for removing those blockages. This work requires rigorous self-examination, and a willingness to be honest about our shadows. A coach can make the process more comfortable, supportive, and efficient.
Note: not all trauma can be worked with through coaching, and it's up to you as a responsible coach practitioner to know when to refer a client out to therapy.
For those who want to move from surviving to thriving in the aftermath of trauma, coaching can be a valuable asset. Trauma comes in many forms. Regardless of its source, both physical and mental forms of trauma have a similar impact on the heart, mind, and nervous system.
From those who have experienced combat, assault, auto accidents or abusive relationships, trauma survivors have many faces. As a trauma coach, you work with clients who are at baseline mental health, and support them in rebuilding their sense of agency and inner safety.
A good trauma coach is well educated in this sensitive field, and brings techniques that may include positive psychology, somatic processing, mindfulness and more.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a form of energy medicine used by coaches who are professionally trained in this field. You may have also heard of this process referred to as the “tapping solution”, or psychological acupressure. The EFT technique is used to support a client working through various challenges such as stress, negative emotions, financial issues, anxiety, physical pain, and many others. It involves tapping various points on the body along energy meridians in a set sequence, and works by clearing energy blockages.
EFT practitioners and coaches provide a safe space for their clients to uncover core issues and provides the client with a simple tool for relief that can be done at almost any time, anywhere once the process has been learned.
It seems like every day we are presented with exponentially expanding opportunities for distraction! Maintaining focus is a challenge that most of us grapple with, whether or not we are formally diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Research is confirming that the human mind is wired for distraction, and we are testing those limits more profoundly than any previous era in human history.
Coaching has become a powerful antidote for those who may struggle with “monkey mind” by helping clients learn how to stay present and disarm those ever-present distractions. This type of coaching tends to be much more directive and implementation-based than some other areas we have explored thus far. As an ADHD coach, you are firmly in the lead, limiting your client from steering off track. ADHD coaches help clients become calmer and prioritize so they can get more done and make greater progress toward building the life they desire.
Of all the niches discussed here, you are likely to hear the term “life coach” most frequently. That’s because it is something of a catch-all for many of the personal development specialties we’ve covered. For coaches who specialize in more than one area, this simple term can serve as a succinct umbrella. It’s also the title many new coaches may start with before settling into a niche.
There are many coaching programs that focus on “life coaching”. But what exactly is a life coach? Simply put, a life coach helps a client define exactly what they want to experience, feel, or achieve in their life that is different from where they are now. The coach then utilizes a set of tools and assignments to assist their client in honing the self-insight and skills necessary to make greater progress toward those goals.
There are many factors that inform how an individual life coach approaches this work. These include specific coaching modalities and techniques that have been acquired through training and certification programs, as well as their own “secret sauce”: their unique combination of professional expertise, life experiences, and perspective.
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