The unconventional business of online life coaching

Leadership and life coaching aren’t new, but there’s been a steady increase in people entering the space online. I wanted to learn what was driving its growth and I was surprised by the answers I found.

According to Wikipedia, the term coaching originated in 1830 and is identified by a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be. 160 years later, coaches began to develop standards through the creation of professional organizations like the Association for Coaching, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, the International Association of Coaching, and the International Coach Federation. From that point on, coaching has grown exponentially in popularity, with and without the oversight of professional organizations.

Life coaching, in particular, has become a big business. If you search for life coaches on Google, you’ll see a lot of results for coaches in your local area. For the searches I did, the majority of life coaches I saw were psychotherapists that had either rebranded themselves or expanded their list of services to get more clients. However, psychotherapists hardly own or control life coaching. Nobody does.

There are plenty of life coaches without a counseling or psychology degree that promotes their Life Coaching Certification. Certification doesn’t mean much though because anyone can offer one or get one. For example, Udemy sells a $9.99 Life Coaching Certification.

Cheap Life Coaching Certification
Udemy offering a Life Coaching Certification for $9.99.

Within the last few years, a new breed of life coaches has appeared, and they’re doing most of their work online. They come from diverse backgrounds, don’t belong to any professional coaching associations or care about certifications, use labels that don’t always include the word life or coach, and seem to be less concerned about making money and more concerned about changing lives.

3 online life coaches – 3 Similar stories

To learn more about online life coaching, I reached out to the three people who, unbeknownst to them, are the reasons I became interested in this topic. They all have significant experience in digital marketing and have decided to enter the online coaching space.

I spoke with Selena Vidya, President of Orthris and a Creative Consultant, Pam Lund, Founder of That Pam Chick, Inc., and Kristopher B. Jones, Founder and CEO of Special Guest App.

Life Coaches
From left to right: Selena Vidya, Pam Lund, and Kris Jones/

What attracted you to lifestyle coaching?

Selena Vidya

It’s funny because it happened accidentally and then I realized I was good at it. It was a natural extension of what I was doing in multiple spaces as a consultant. I have ventures that cross into the creative space, and I started building relationships with a lot of creatives and creators. Many discussions were focused around balancing personal lives, business, creativity, managing the fears that keep them from taking action on what they want to do, not being sure how to turn things they love into businesses and taking steps to get them unstuck and moving forward.

I consider myself a bit more of a creative coach, and I was attracted to it because I geek out on seeing personal growth in others. I know how hard it is to make mental shifts to accomplish what you want to in life – especially in creative spaces – and sometimes we need another person to believe in us and hold us accountable for our shit. Most of the time it’s our fears that keep us from realizing our greatest selves. I also realized I’m a “coach” by nature, even when I don’t intend to be, and I get a lot of joy out of it.

Pam Lund

I struggled with low-grade anxiety for the better part of my life, though I didn’t identify it as anxiety until recently. Once I started talking about my anxiety, I realized that nearly everyone feels the same way. I think there are a lot of people who have anxiety but they either don’t know that’s what they are feeling or don’t want to label it as anxiety.

I want people to know that they don’t have to feel worried, stressed out, and on edge all the time. I believe that by learning more about how our brains work and why we get anxious and using that knowledge to make practical changes to our behavior, we can reduce stress, be more productive, and feel happier.

Kris Jones

I had an interest and desire for work-life balance.

Do you have a revenue model or is it 100% altruistic?

Selena Vidya

It’s a mix. I lean more towards the altruistic side at the moment while I experiment with a few methods, but I do have a paid model, and I’m working on something paid that can be available to more people and have a wider reach.

Pam Lund

I have a 10-week course called The Life Manifesto that people can enroll in for $67 but if I’m honest, it’s mostly altruistic right now. I don’t market the course heavily and haven’t done the work to build my audience as I should. I felt imposter syndrome very strongly when I launched the course, so I didn’t market it well, but I have some amazing new things planned for 2019 that will be revenue generators, including a money mindset course that will reduce anxiety about finances and a planner + course that will help people pinpoint their anxiety triggers and learn to overcome the anxiety or remove the triggers from their lives.

Kris Jones

I’m big into building a personal brand, but I don’t calculate or over think ROI.

What methods are you using to grow your audience?

Selena Vidya

I have a podcast (permissionLESS) that discusses these types of topics with creatives and entrepreneurs, so I spend a lot of time promoting that and building awareness through email, social postings, and writing. I’ve been brainstorming new methods that involve video content, and I’m looking forward to exploring that as a growth mechanism!

Pam Lund

Mostly Instagram organic posts right now but I have used Facebook lead-gen ads and a lead magnet which worked well.

Kris Jones

I use video and also contribute content to Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Forbes, Inc, and other publications. I also do public speaking, participate in community boards, and appear on local and national TV and radio.

What makes a good lifestyle coach and can anyone do it?

Selena Vidya

This is a hard question to answer but if I had to narrow it down, I would pick these three things: 1) A good coach has to be willing to call you on your bullshit; 2) They have to be a good listener; and 3) Should be able to hone in on what your triggers, issues, and roadblocks really are (instead of what you’re telling them) so they can hold you accountable for the change you’re seeking.

As far as whether I think anyone can do it… I think anyone can do anything (for the most part), but I don’t know that everyone can be effective with it. If you don’t have the life experiences to draw from, then it’s difficult to dig in and help get someone unstuck really.

Pam Lund

I think anyone can do anything because different clients will click with different coaches but to be a good lifestyle coach, you need to have empathy and be able to understand why your client feels the way they do so you can get to the root of the issue rather than give them platitudes. You also have to be able to call people on their bullshit without worrying that they will get mad. You have to know that you can’t help everyone, and like with any consulting business, you have to choose who you work with carefully. You also have to have good boundaries, so you protect your mental health.

Kris Jones

It’s about delivering immense value without any immediate or near-term ROI.

Some of the most fulfilling entrepreneurial endeavors are ones that are driven by a founder’s passion. That’s especially true when it involves authentically sharing a part of one’s self with the world with the goal of having a positive effect on people’s lives.

The thing I like the most about what these three entrepreneurs are doing is that they are approaching it organically. Sure, they’re promoting it, but they’re also not quitting their day jobs (yet), and they’re putting parts of themselves out there and then seeing if it resonates with other people. Then once they identify something that resonates, they find ways to monetize it. That’s something I can get behind, and I hope more people consider pursuing.

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Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the primary author reporting for Coywolf News. He is an industry veteran with over 25 years of digital marketing and internet technologies experience. Follow @henshaw