The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring JRNI Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. In this episode, we look at how long it takes to become a life coach. Subscribe to get all our episodes!
In order to answer this frequently asked question, it's important to first consider what we mean by coaching. The definition is rapidly changing! While many people envision life coaching as a one-on-one process, today's coaches are launching increasingly expansive practices. How long it takes to get yours up and running depends on the route you choose. With that said, you can generally expect it to take about a year to lay a solid foundation for your coaching business. During that time, there's a few essential ingredients that you'll be assembling:
Understand what the job means for you
Will you be emphasizing one-on-one coaching? Publishing? Teaching? Facilitating groups? And how do you embody your practice? To be an effective coach, remember that it's not just about what you do. It's also about how you live.
Anyone can give advice. It takes an understanding of tools and techniques to facilitate an authentic growth process for clients. With JRNI Coaching, you can get certified within six months. It's a shorter process than becoming a therapist, and with good reason.
Coaching requires confidence. We build it through practice - with our colleagues, friends, family, and with clients. During this time, you'll also be learning how to use your voice - telling your story and building your brand as a coach.
Want to read more about it?
John breaks it down further in this blog post.
John: On today’s episode of Catalyst Intensive Life Coaching podcast, we’re going to talk about how long it takes to be a life coach. Noelle, are you there?
Noelle: I’m here.
John: Hey, I don’t know if that’s the right title, but that’s a fucking long title—The Catalyst Life Coaching Intensive podcast?
Noelle: Do you want to rename our podcast, John? You can rename our podcast.
John: Can we think of something very short and potent?
Noelle: John and Noelle show?
John: Magic and science?
Noelle: Magic and science.
John: I think magic and science, or science and magic. Science and magic sounds better—you have to give them the science first, and then you’re like there’s also magic.
Noelle: Science and magic solve your life.
John: So much better. So much better than the Catalyst Life Coaching Intensive podcast.
Noelle: We’ll tell the team.
Noelle: It’s official. Awesome. How are you?
John: I’m doing well. Before we get into our topic, what is one life lesson, revelation, ah-ha moment that you’ve had this week?
Noelle: Oh, gosh.
John: It could be anything, it could be simple, it could be complicated, it could be heavy, it could be light, whatever.
Noelle: Yeah, so my life lesson for the week has been to stand in stillness and proceed with grace.
John: Ooh. I love that. Can you describe that?
Noelle: Yeah, so from a psychosocial and emotional perspective, here’s some science—what happens in our brain when we experience anxiety, or frenzy, is that our focus gets hijacked. At any given time, we’re really typically unable to impact change in a rapid way that can actually ease our anxiety or ease our frenzy. So while those feelings might be really real and valid, you can always access a pool of stillness to surrender to the flow, and just say “I have to accept that I can’t change anything in this moment, and I’m going to be still, and I’m going to deploy grace”.
John: What does grace mean to you?
Noelle: To me it’s acting in a way that is forthright and gentle.
John: I love that. We live in a crazy world—there was just another shooting in Los Angeles, in a bar, I don’t know, I think 12 or 40 people were hurt or died—and the word gentle is becoming rare, especially with humans towards each other, you know?
Noelle: Yes I do, and I think that everybody is really freaked out right now, just kind of collectively. I don’t know anybody who’s not having a hard time in one way or another—and I think that the world, the mass shootings that keep happening in the U.S., the political climate that just feels shitty—I think everything is just kind of piling up and people are really struggling right now.
John: The word that comes to mind is uncertainty—and when people feel uncertain they feel unsafe, and when they feel unsafe they feel protective and panicky, and then isolation and feeling loneliness, and all of that trickles down.
Noelle: Absolutely. And in context, I think it’s really important to remember that all of these feelings of safety and certainty are social constructions, right? So, if we look at nature—nature is uncertain, it can be sunny one moment, raining the next. You could be a squirrel chomping a nut, and the next minute, there’s an alley cat. And humans—especially in Western society, especially in privileged arenas—have this really false feeling of certainty and safety, and it’s actually not true at all. We are so much more similar to squirrels.
John: Yeah, my attention span.
Noelle: But it’s really true, and while that fact might be unsettling, it’s also comforting in a way—because when you really strip it down, what’s the point of our existence, why are we here? We’re here to live, and survive, and grow and build things, and if you’re playing it safe, if you’re leaning into complacency, if you’re relying on feelings of safety and security, you’re not really living or filling your life’s purpose.
John: Right, right. I love that. The problem with Noelle and I is that we can announce that we’re going to talk about something and not talk about that topic at all in twenty minutes. Speaking of squirrels. So I gonna come back, and we need to answer this question, because we get it so often—and it is, how long does it take to become a life coach? So, Noelle is going to start, while I buy some time and I will give you my thoughts. And I actually hope that our answers are different, because it will stretch—it will give a 360º perspective on this question.
Noelle: Yeah, so I think the first thing we have to do is qualify what is a life coach, because what was true maybe two years ago, that a life coach was someone who saw individual clients and took one client for one hour and that was your job, that’s no longer true at all. Today, if you’re a life coach, you are producing content and inspiring people, you are writing for publications, you are creating podcasts, you are leading groups in your local neighborhood, you are leading retreats out in wilderness—you are still taking on one client per one hour but you’re also running online tribes of people through Facebook, you’re creating virtual and digital communities. So, it’s really become an exciting and an expansive role, and how long it takes someone to actually start doing that is the moment they decide to really.
John: Okay, let’s put a pause there because what you just said is so important, and I want to italicize this, bold it. So many people, including our students, think that life coaching means that it’s just the whole I need clients, I need sessions, it’s one-on-one. And I keep trying to tell them exactly what you’re saying. That’s such a small piece of life coaching—and because of the world we live in, and because of social media, and we all have our own platforms now, and brands, because we are all holding a megaphone today, which is such a great gift—the way that you live your life and allowing that to ripple, and manifest on how that’s gonna manifest is what life coaching is. So like Noelle says, it could come in the form of retreats, or a book, or a secret group on Facebook, or maybe you do a Instagram live once a week. The way that you live, and then how that ripples and how that impacts people, that I think is the definition—or new definition—of being a life coach, not so much one-on-one sessions.
Noelle: 100%. And it really goes back to the way that you want to show up in the world. Do you want to show up in the world as a force of light and a force of positivity, and I think that goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning. People who are life coaches understand that transformation is possible at any point, and to live your life in a way that you’re a beacon for other people of hope for transformation, well shit, you know?
Noelle: It’s pretty sacred.
John: Sure. And I think what’s really cool, and what a great time to be a life coach, is not only do we have this megaphone and this reach today—you could literally just wake up and actually reach as many people who are willing to listen to you, or watch you. The stigma is slowly fading, where life coaching, and self betterment, and getting a therapist, and becoming mindful, and meditating—everything that is happening in the world, and especially because of the uncertainty in the world, us now needing coping tools—this has become a way of life. So, I think because of that, life coaching or someone viewing you as a life coach is now more accepted now more than ever before.
John: It’s not woo woo, you know?
Noelle: No it’s not woo woo, and I’ll point to some very real things that have been happening internally in our company. We are now getting outside organizations who want to hire coaches directly, asking us if they can post jobs with us. So there’s an actual emerging market for life coaching jobs and they’re taking place in the space of wellness, they’re taking place in the space of diabetes and medical adherence, they’re taking place in space of fitness, retreats, and those are all real things that have been coming down the pipes. So, it’s also a really hopeful time of looking out there and saying where are the jobs of the future gonna be? I’ve been saying for a long time I think it’s in wellness and now I don’t have to actually just say it, I can point to the data and say look in the past 3 months we’ve had four organizations show up on our doorstep wanting to source life coaches.
John: Right. So now that we’ve accomplished the definition of a life coach, going back to the question how long does it take, maybe now we get a little more logistical. So, our program is 16 weeks.
Noelle: True story.
John: True story. And that’s actually pretty quick, because as a therapist, it took me 2 years to graduate grad school and plus another 5 or 6 years to do the hours. So, 16 weeks plus—I’m gonna add the plus, and this is something you determine—how comfortable you feel with yourself and actually charging for your services.
Noelle: Yeah, absolutely. When I talk to people about coming into the Intensive, something that I hear a lot is “will 16 weeks qualify me to do this work?”. And yes, the answer is yes. So, coaching is a very different discipline than therapy. To become a therapist, the 2 years is necessary, that learning that you went through helps you deal with people that are dealing with really complex psychological problems.
John: Yes. Clinical problems.
Noelle: Clinical problems. Life coaches don’t do that. Life coaches meet well people where they’re at and partner with them on an equal playing field to strategize about how to move your life forward. You really only need a handful of really good techniques that you can absolutely learn in 16 weeks, and then practicing with real live humans will get you really good at what you do.
John: Life coaching is not treatment.
Noelle: No, life coaching is NOT treatment.
John: And I think that’s why a lot of people are scared, because they actually desire and want to help other people and they have this dream of being a life coach, but they think they’re unqualified because they think life coaching is treatment, and it’s not a clinical practice.
Noelle: No, it’s absolutely not, and if somebody wants to continue to go back and continually process pain, that’s the number one signal for a life coach that this person is in the wrong discipline, they should go back to therapy.
John: Right, absolutely.
Noelle: Absolutely. So, taking a look at how long does it take to do this, I would say also it’s important to consider how you want to approach your career as a life coach—do you want to be a well known blogger that pulls in clients that way? Do you want to work for a spa or a wellness center? Those are two very different paths. If you want to work for a spa or wellness center, what you need to do is find someplace to work and pitch your services or maybe there will even be a legitimate opening, and that’s instantaneous. If you want to go the content route, you have to start writing, and you have to start creating content.
John: It takes time.
Noelle: I’d say a year on the content side of things, that’s probably realistic.
John: Absolutely, I think you can do it simultaneously. Here’s my answer—Noelle said a year on the content—I think you could become a life coach in a year if you need like an exact time roughly. You could take a life coach training program like ours while you’re doing it—you could start playing around with content, writing, doing videos, doing things that feel honest to you, what you like, what you don’t like, and you could also start incorporating those concepts on yourself so you could see how they work, and you could start coaching friends and family and people for free so that you’re practicing. So, as you’re doing all of that, as all those pistons are pumping, you can get a lot done, and you could evolve and become a coach and be confident and have a community sort of listening to you, I think within about a year.
Noelle: Yeah, 100%. I think a year is a really good time frame, and I really liked what you said about the try this at home aspect of life coaching. That’s why we built our organization the way we did—that you go through the life coach training program, it takes 16 weeks, and then you have an organization that supports you playing around for that year while you find your voice, and you’re not doing it on your own dime, you’re not creating a website and pushing out content until you know what your voice is—you have a test kitchen to really get all your skills down, and that’s the fun part.
John: Yes, and I want to also emphasize the word fun. If you take this too seriously—and I’m not saying that helping people shouldn’t be taken seriously—but if you take it too seriously, you’re going to put so much pressure on yourself, you’re not going to leave any room for it to be fun. So that’s why I’m silly, and I’m dancing, and I’m doing stupid shit, and I’m being very myself, because if I don’t, and if everything is serious, I won’t have fun anymore and then I won’t like what I’m doing.
Noelle: Oh yeah, 100%. And I’d say that that’s the long view looking back after maybe a decade of being in this industry. It’s important to honor people who are at the starting line. I remember what it was like to be at the starting line. Do you remember how nuts I was when I first started writing for The Angry Therapist blog? And I would like obsess over every paragraph.
John: Well because you’re a perfectionist, and a very talented writer, and you come from the academic world.
Noelle: And then putting together profile pictures with my sunglasses on, and you were just like “Noelle, you can’t have a picture of yourself with sunglasses on”.
John: Show yourself.
Noelle: But it’s true. It’s true, I was a baby coach. It was so scary to put my voice out there for the first time, and now, 6 years later, well shit, I send out press releases every day, you know. I just got published in Elite Daily and Bustle, and it’s really starting to flow, and I don’t have a reaction to sending my words out into the world anymore, and it’s really important for everybody who’s at the starting line too to understand that one day, you won’t either.
John: Right, and with that being said, there will always be a certain amount of fear because we are human, we care what people think, we are hard on ourselves, all that stuff, right?
Noelle: Yep, it’s part of the process. The thing that I love love love the most about life coaching as my chosen profession is that I get to be human throughout this process, and I get to say I’m not okay, I’m having a bad day, I need to take space for myself, I need to take time, I need to rest—that’s wellness.
John: That’s such a great reminder and also what I love about that is when I was in the clinical world, they don’t directly, but they kind of indirectly don’t allow you to humanize yourself. And that’s why I went rogue, or I hopped a fence, and what I love about life coaching is life coaching actually embraces your human-ness with open arms. I think that’s what makes life coaching sustainable, exciting, and I think practicing life coaching is also forcing you to be more solid in yourself, which I talk about a lot. The therapy world—because of the professional, and the board, and the guidelines and the rules—makes you work with a veneer. And I get that, because you’re supposed to be neutral, you’re treating people, and that’s why I’ve always gravitated more towards life coaching, and that’s why I say I’m a life coach with a clinical background, I’m not a therapist with a life coaching background.
Noelle: That’s true. That’s true and what do you think about this—that when you really engage in living your life as a life coach, you become radically honest.
John: Yes. Well, here’s the thing—not everyone does, but that’s actually the gift of life coaching. It takes courage, but becoming radically honest by practicing it in your practices is one of the greatest gifts of life coaching. It’s not about making money for me.
Noelle: What has it been like for you to work in the environment that you do with our company, where everybody’s radically honest all the time?
John: I love it, because I think there’s a movement there. I think being honest, but with also being responsible, and with the right intentions of course, I think we attract a lot of people who have been living under rocks. We attract a lot of people who have not been living honest, and it’s grayed them out, and they’re unhappy. And I think through our program, we are giving them the training wheels or the push, or the courage to start living a life that’s honest to them, and then through that process they can become a life coach as well. And I think if you stack the cards that way, then holy shit, we should be doing this in high school.
Noelle: I know, so interestingly, the UN releases every year goals for sustainable development, and I’m a big dork and so I read them. This year, for the first time, I saw measures that were introduced to support healthy communities, healthy social communities, and to support education around neuroplasticity. And I just thought “wow, this is fascinating”. And I know that it’s a really long trickle from the UN, out to society, out to the hands of everyday people, but globally, we are moving in this direction of the recognition of how healthy communities, healthy social communities which are embodied by radical honesty and acceptance, and understanding how your brain works with neuroplasticity can really really really heal and support growth in this world.
John: Yeah. I love it, and I also love that you provide that information in our partnership.
Noelle: That’s my job.
John: It’s amazing. Alright guys, so we’re gonna close it. I hope that answers your question. I hope at least it gives you some perspective, but also maybe allows you to redefine what life coaching means. So if you want a hard, simple answer, we’ve both come to the conclusion it takes about a year—that includes the training program and building confidence and all of that. It took me as a therapist, holy shit, 6, 7 years. I think life coaching obviously you can do it much faster, but it also depends on your effort, how much time you put into it and all of that. So, roughly a year to be a life coach, and anything else Noelle?
Noelle: No, I think that’s about it. Get your hustle on people.
John: Yes. Come over, give us a call, or contact us if you have any questions about life coaching.
Noelle: Alright dude, take care. I’ll see you later.
John: Be well.
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