Modern lifestyles are fast paced, highly competitive and come with the added pressure of meeting (often unrealistic) expectations. Many people find it difficult to juggle personal & professional responsibilities and do justice to both. Against this backdrop, a lot of individuals are turning to professionals who can help them navigate life situations and meet their goals, making life coaching the second fastest growing industry, worldwide!
But it is also one of the most unregulated sectors with no formal guidelines or requirements for specific qualifications, certification or licensing. As things stand, anyone who wants to become a life coach can become one!
However, you’ll find that though life coaching may be an unregulated industry, there are still some general business rules and legal frameworks that apply. As a life coach, it is necessary for you to be fully cognizant of the legal bindings so that there are no troubles for your coaching practice in the future.
Read on to find out whether you need a life coaching license to practice, other necessary legal requirements of life coaching businesses, whether certification is necessary and does it enhance a life coach’s profile…
What does a life coach do?
The focal point of a life coach’s job profile is to guide & empower clients on their journey of self-awareness – help them identify their strengths & weaknesses, challenges & opportunities, overcome roadblocks that are holding them back, encourage them to unlock hidden potential, develop newer capacities – all with the aim of becoming more rounded and fulfilled individuals, both in personal and professional speres.
Do you need a license to be a life coach?
No, in India you do not need to be licensed to become a life coach, but if you are looking to have a half-half arrangement (life coach + therapist/counsellor etc.) then you will most definitely need one as psychologists, counsellors, social workers, and therapists do require a professional license to practice.
Although you do not need a license/certification or a specific educational degree to become a life coach, most individuals who choose life coaching as their career do have professional training/degrees in certain faculties (such as Human Resources, psychology, social sciences, etc.) that aligns with the life coaching profession. And even though not mandatory, having a professional accreditation on your resume gives it that extra legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of clients.
But all said and done, life coaching is essentially about having an instinctive connect with your clients – gaining insight into their core issues and having a true passion for helping them overcome their problems and move forward successfully.
Some of the best life coaches who have a proven track record of delivering transformative results are ones who have had no formal training, nor have any certifications but have created a solid impact for their clientele due to a fine combination of exceptional skills, past experience, business acumen and, importantly, due to strong word of mouth recommendations.
Benefits of certification
Whether you choose to get certified at the start of your career, acquire one later on or opt to not have any certification is an individual choice. And though certification does not automatically ensure steady or increased revenues, it does have benefits.
Having a professional credential
- gives you exposure to structured coaching tools & techniques
- gives you the ability to plan a step-by-step process for client acquisitions
- offers training to handle difficult situations/clients
- reduces your chances of making rookie mistakes
- conveys to your (potential and current) clients that you have worked hard to educate & train to offer the best possible services
- helps get across that you are fully committed to excelling in your chosen profession of coaching
For those desiring a professional credential, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the premier institute for globally recognized certifications and offers 3 levels of credentials – Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and Master of Certified Coach (MCC).
EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council), AC (Association for Coaching), APECS (Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision) are some of the other renowned institutes that offer various coaching certifications.
Get an in-depth guide to acquiring coaching certifications here.
What are the legal requirements for life coaching?
There are no legal requirements for life coaching and a coach is generally free to have their own set of rules and methods. But the ICF does encourage life coaches (indeed all coaches) to follow their ethical guidelines while operating as professional coaches.
But as with any other business, there are some legalities of running a life coaching practice that need to be followed to protect yourself and your practice from any legal troubles down the road.
1. Choose the business type
When you start your own life coaching practice, you need to choose what type of business that practice will be. Generally, life coaching businesses are either sole proprietorships or LLCs (Limited Liability Company).
A sole proprietorship means you are the only owner and are responsible for all its legal aspects. There is nominal paperwork for a sole proprietorship, and you can also keep the costs low. Such a business type is fine for low-risk ventures such as life coaching which mainly follow the freelance or self-employed model. But there is a downside to a sole proprietorship, in case the business goes bankrupt or is prosecuted, the owner’s assets come under the scanner.
If you want to hire employees and have a separate company, then you can choose the LLC option. The LLC framework costs more and requires extra paperwork upfront but protects the owner’s personal assets (house, car, etc.) against being held personally liable in case of insolvency or litigation.
2. Name the business & then register it
Once you have selected your business type, choose a business name that is distinct, reflects your coaching brand and is separate from your own identity, even if it’s a sole proprietorship. Legally, however, sole proprietorships do not have a different identity from the owner even if the name is distinct.
In this day and age, you also need to make sure a website domain name is available before the registration process. Generally, life coaches don’t require licenses and permits to run their business (therapists/counsellors do) but check & follow the rule of the land and make sure there are no omissions that can cause trouble (fines or shutdowns) later. All this should be done before accepting any clients.
Registration of your business is essential for opening business accounts and later for tax purposes.
3. Open business accounts
The next step that is important for any business is to open business accounts, completely separate from your personal finances (even if your business is a sole proprietorship). This not only sets proper boundaries between personal and professional, but it also makes it easier for accounting and taxation purposes. Another important reason to separate personal and business bank accounts is that it provides a real picture of the business’ financial situation.
4. Get insured
For any business, making provisions for potential risks, unforeseen events, natural calamities is a must. Invest in a good insurance policy that is suitable for your life coaching business. Normally, life coaching businesses or other small-scale ventures opt for general liability insurance that covers claims against damage to property as well as personal injuries. Another popular insurance is the business owner’s policy or BOP which is a customizable policy tailored depending on the business requirements. One of the key parts of a BOP is the professional liability insurance that protects the life coach against claims of negligence while executing professional duties.
Other insurance policies that a life coach can apply for include property & vehicle insurance, workers compensation insurance and cyber liability insurance.
Also, you can register copyrights or trademarks as your own intellectual property (in case of logos or coaching conditions) to prevent any copying or theft of content or visual elements of your business.
6. Legal contract between coach and client
Having a watertight, legally binding contract between you and your client is absolutely necessary. This is to protect your and your client’s rights and also to prevent legal hassles in case of any problems in the coach-client relationship.
Ideally the contract should contain personal details (name, address, contact number, email etc.) of the coach as well as client. Further as a coach, state clearly the coaching services that you will be offering, number and duration as well as frequency of the coaching sessions, fees agreed upon as well as the specifics of cancellation/termination policy.
Life coaching, or any coaching actually, only works when there is mutual trust and collaboration between coach and client. A legal structure is a deterrent that helps prevent any coaching process mishaps.
Apart from any legal requirements of life coaching businesses, the real requisites to become a life coach who can deliver desired outcomes to their clients is investing in your continued skill upgradation and development, to keep learning, remain flexible and adapt to change, stay determined against setbacks, work hard and grow.
In this business, you may not need a life coaching license, but experience is worth its weight in gold and having a true connect with your clients is the key that unlocks the door to success.
1. Is life coaching regulated in India?
No, life coaching is not regulated in India, neither is it in most countries across the world. Coaching is considered a profession that is conducted in public view and as such is self-regulated. Generally, in India, there is more importance to accreditation of the life coach with highly experienced & certified life coaches commanding premium clientele and fees.
2. What qualifications do you need to be a life coach?
One of the most important qualifications that any life coach needs to have is a true desire and passion to help others and encourage them to move forward. Good communication and listening skills are a must. Education (any learning and training aligned with life coaching is handy), certification (not mandatory), experience, industry specific skills are other requirements that are a value addition to a life coach. Continued learning, adaptability to situations, willingness to put in those hard hours, a never say die attitude may be intangible factors but are vital for any life coach aiming to leave a positive impact on their clients’ lives.
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