Given the cost of some of the most popular life coach certification programs on the market today — some of them even carrying a price tag of $10,000 or more — the idea of a free online life coach certification has been used as a marketing ploy by some training programs to lure in students on a lower budget.
Is it possible to complete your life coach training completely free of charge? The answer is both yes and no.
There are definitely life coach training programs online that offer free training materials and samples of full (paid) courses. Some of these programs will even send you a certificate via a downloadable PDF that you can print yourself at home.
As the old adage says, however, you get what you pay for.
The truth is that this type of “certification” will not carry any professional weight when it comes time to start attracting clients. The certification they provide is nothing more than a simple certificate of completion, and does not equate to or help you attain true ICF certification.
While you can still gain knowledge and build your skills from free training, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of such courses, and to make sure that you are selecting training programs that support your long-term business dreams and goals.
Where To Find Free Online Life Coach Programs
There are countless free life coach courses online, and some are more helpful than others. Some offer free training that is basically a small snippet of a large paid course, while others are stand-alone programs. Usually these programs are as short as a few hours, while others can offer weeks’ worth of study.
As with any program of learning, you need to do your research to make sure that you are receiving up to date information that is rooted in research and science. Learning skills that are based on theory and not grounded on tested processes will not generate the end result you want. In fact, such learning could prove detrimental to your coaching practice in the long run.
If you decide you still want to look into free online coaching courses and training seminars, the ones listed below are a good place to start:
Life Coach Training Institute
This 10-section, 30-hour training program offers on-demand video access and also provides students with a self-paced learning model that fits conveniently around their existing schedule. The Institute itself is accredited by the ICF and the IACC, but their free course only offers a small amount of the material needed to become a credentialed life coach. In order to complete all training requirements for the ICF exam, you will need to level up to one of their paid programs.
Oxford Home Study Center
This program covers close to 20 basic coaching topics, including group coaching, career coaching, behavior coaching, and more. All training is self-paced, and once you complete the program you receive what they call “certification” — essentially just a completion letter issued by their organization via email.
Inner Life Skills
This course includes 16 coaching tutorial videos, a PDF coaching roadmap, video training, and audio recordings. All course material is comprised of lesson snippets that are a part of the ILS Master Coach program, which is a paid program and does provide you with hours needed to qualify to take the ICF credentialing exam.
Life Purpose Institute
This free hour-and-a-half training walks students through a birds-eye view of what it takes to become a life coach. While some high-level coaching and mentorship principles are taught, students are encouraged to enroll in one of the Institute’s paid courses in order to learn high-level, usable skills.
While you might know Udemy for their paid courses on a variety of different skills like web design, coding, and marketing, they also offer free courses on coaching, where you will be given an introduction on starting a coaching business and coaching techniques. The courses are somewhat outdated and–you guessed it–are just a way for students to get introduced to the instructor’s paid offerings.
Why “Free” Life Coach Certification is Actually Quite Costly
For many people, the cost of pursuing a new path when they are already deeply entrenched in a career can make it difficult to take the leap into following their dream of becoming a life coach. Most legitimate training programs will cost thousands of dollars, which can be burdensome for someone that needs to continue working to make ends meet while they learn. This is why an obvious benefit of free programs is that they are, at the end of the day, free. They require nothing from you but your time. And since they’re free, most of these programs are usually quite short in duration.
A closer look will reveal the true costs of a “free” education.
Your Time is Your Most Valuable Commodity
Skimping out on the fullness of learning that needs to take place in order to truly understand the nuances of life coaching will likely only hurt you in the long run. You can’t rush quality education, and you can’t put a price on the value of targeted, fully mentored and supported learning.
It is a misconception to think that spending your time on something that “can’t hurt” is an acceptable risk. More than money, time is actually your most precious commodity. You can always work to get more money, but once you spend your time, it is gone and can never be replaced. If you are going to spend the time learning how to become a coach, it is well worth an additional investment into making sure you are spending that time on a depth of knowledge that is grounded on proven principles.
Yes, There is Always a Catch
Students involved in these courses need to be wary when working through free material. Often the author may have an agenda (getting you to purchase their long-format course, for example) and as such, they are less concerned with providing you with proper training and tools and more concerned with enticing you to hitch your wagon to theirs for the long run. Credentialed and fully accredited training programs always put the welfare of their students first, and they are continually being audited for quality by the international accreditation board.
You’re On Your Own
Another downside to free, quick training programs is the lack of support that they provide. While there are certainly exceptions to every rule, by and large most of the free options out there will not give you access to the kind of mentorship and one-on-one training that you need in order to master the skills you are learning.
If you want guided learning from licensed teachers that have coached clients before and know what you are going through, then you need to level up your learning and enroll in a program that is able to support you at every turn. This includes live training sessions where you can ask pressing questions and get immediate answers, as well as group training that partners you with fellow students for real-life learning that is both practical and easily applicable to your coaching practice.
A Certificate Of Completion vs ICF Certification
When free training programs claim they offer “certification,” it’s important to understand what this means — and what it doesn’t.
A certificate of completion states that a student has completed a specific course or program. That’s all it means. It carries no actual weight with international accreditation boards such as the ICF.
ICF certification (as well as certification from other credentialing organizations like the IACC) offers a third-party perspective on the knowledge base that an individual has gained by completing a specific program of study. It is a rigorous testing process and holds significant weight in the coaching community. It signifies that you’ve been trained in accordance with industry standards, and as such, clients will respect what an ICF certification implies about your expertise and professionalism.
The Bottom Line
Generally speaking, free online training usually covers the extreme basics when it comes to coaching skills, but developing a well-rounded skill set is not something that can be cultivated in just a few short training sessions.
Coaching is about helping clients reach inside themselves and discern where they need to improve, and then working with them to adjust habits and implement positively-reinforced changes. This takes time and practice to master. Once you have put in all of that hard work, it just makes sense that you would want to honor the time you have spent with a certification that actually carries some weight.
To put it bluntly, a quality coach training program is not going to be free.
ICF-Accredited Programs Can Be Affordable
If becoming a life coach is something you want to do but need to accomplish affordably, the good news is that there are many fantastic online programs that offer cost-effective courses, many of which can be paid for in low monthly installments. Deciding which training program is the best fit for your needs and financial situation will depend on the learning elements included in each program. Many offer mentoring, offline assignments, skills training, and supplemental learning programs. You also need to consider the duration of each program as well as the number of ICF approved hours they provide.
The following four programs are all ICF-accredited and are among the most affordable life coaching certification programs available online:
Coach Training Alliance
The life coach certification program at the Coach Training Alliance costs just $3,797. Compared to other programs of its caliber, it is a substantially more affordable option, and provides you with all the hours needed to qualify for certification. This is the program we recommend to most readers.
The life coach certification programs at the iNLP Center cost between $3,400 and $7,500. Payment installments are available, and both programs offer you more than enough hours to satisfy all of the ICF requirements for certification.
Universal Coach Institute
The life coach certification program at the Universal Coach Institute costs $297. These programs provide up to 18 hours of ICF-approved training, which means that you can put those hours toward the credentialing exam requirement.
The life coach certification programs at CoachU cost between $3,195 and $4,195. Payment plans are available, and all three of the programs they offer are filled with certification-approved hours, and provide all necessary foundational learning you need in order to pass the ICF am.
While some certification programs certainly charge an arm and a leg, there are still plenty of ICF accredited programs that charge a fraction of those exorbitant prices and will still adequately prepare you to run a thriving coaching practice.
While enrolling in a free life coach certification program may seem appealing, you need to do your homework to ensure that what you are learning complies with coaching best practices and provides you with a baseline of skills that are actually usable in your coaching career. If you are spending time to learn, you want to make sure that you are learning accurate, impactful skills, not filling up your knowledge reservoir with outdated or incomplete coaching theories and processes.
There is a wealth of fantastic coaching resources and training programs available online. The key is doing your research and selecting programs and tools that will truly help you realize your dream of becoming the most effective and impactful life coach you can be for your clients.