How much does a life coach make? This simple question can be answered in several different ways.
If you’re looking for just one number, the average life coach in North America makes $61,900 per year, according to the most recent study conducted by the International Coach Federation.
In reality, though, the real answer to this question will depend on several factors. Let’s discuss some of those factors so you can gain a more complete sense of what you can expect to earn as a professional life coach.
The most obvious factor that will influence a life coach’s salary is their location. This is true for practically any job and life coaching is no exception.
Take two identical life coaches, but place one in New York City and place the other in San Antonio, Texas. According to recent job listings on ZipRecruiter, the life coach in NYC can expect to make $76,500 whereas that same life coach in San Antonio can expect to earn $63,044. That’s nearly a 20% pay cut just for living in one city instead of another.
(If you’re wondering, the average life coach salary nationwide is just shy of $70,000.)
The impact of location only becomes more drastic when you zoom out to the rest of the world. The recent ICF study mentioned earlier also surveyed life coaches worldwide, and found stark differences in average salaries depending on what part of the world you are practicing in.
Here is the breakdown, by region:
- North America: $61,900
- Latin America and the Caribbean: $27,100
- Western Europe: $55,300
- Eastern Europe: $18,400
- Middle East and Africa: $35,900
- Asia: $37,800
- Oceania: $73,100
- Global Average: $51,000
Clearly, coaching is thriving all across the world, not only in the United States. As the impact of life coaching continues to spread around the globe, we expect these figures to steadily rise.
Again, this should come as no surprise. Coaches who had more experience tend to earn more than coaches who are just starting out. Here are the survey findings from the aforementioned ICF study:
- 0 – 1 year experience: $128/hour
- 1 – 2 years experience: $152/hour
- 3 – 4 years experience: $194/hour
- 5 – 10 years experience: $256/hour
- 10+ years experience: $321/hour
Not only are more experienced coaches able to command higher rates than coaches who are just starting out, but experienced coaches have also grown more adept at finding more profitable coaching opportunities than coaches who are just learning the ropes.
As is the case in any line of work, seniority matters.
Education and Training
There’s a good reason why life coach certification programs can charge upward of $10,000 for their basic training programs. Being certified (especially through an ICF-accredited coach training program) is proof that you’ve been trained using the latest, most comprehensive coaching techniques and ensures that you’ll be bringing decades of academic research to your coaching practice.
If you’re not certified, it’s still certainly possible to be an effective coach, but it will be much harder to convince potential clients that you bring proven expertise to the table as opposed to your own thoughts and opinions.
About 90% of coaches that took part in ICF’s Global Coaching Study had received formal training from an accredited institution. To forgo this credential is to put yourself at a significant disadvantage compared to the vast majority of your peers.
While it can be tempting to skip training and hit the ground running with nothing more than your own life experiences to draw from, it’s probably wise to put yourself in your clients’ shoes.
Would you take ski lessons from someone who isn’t a certified instructor even if 90% of his peers are? Would you learn karate from an instructor with no formal training, even if 90% of karate instructors are indeed certified?
Needless to say, certified life coach salaries will tend to be greater than those who practice without any formal training.
Coaches come in all different types. While some coaches choose to stay general and offer their services to anyone going through a major life transition or professional hurdle, most coaches prefer to specialize in one of many different areas of focus. Here are some examples of the different areas of focus you’ll find:
- Relationship coaching
- Career Transition coaching
- Leadership coaching
- Divorce coaching
- Wellness coaching
- Executive coaching
- Parents & Teens coaching
While exact salary figures for each of these areas of focus don’t yet exist, the 2018 Executive Coaching Survey by Sherpa Coaching revealed that Executive Coaches earn an average of $386 per hour compared to Life Coaches who earn $190 per hour. That’s more than twice the hourly rate simply by specializing in executive coaching as opposed to personal life coaching.
The 2020 Executive Coaching Survey shows that figure has improved since then, with experienced executive coaches now earning $450/hour.
A quick search on ZipRecruiter shows that the average yearly salary for an executive coach in the United States is $140,568, compared to the previously mentioned figure of $61,900 for life coaches in general. Again, more than double.
Intuitively, this makes sense. An executive at a multi-billion dollar corporation will have greater available resources and financial incentive than someone going through a divorce or a parent struggling to get through to their teenage son. In many cases, the company will pay for the executive or executive team’s coaching services, which only increases the pool of resources available to compensate an executive coach.
As a self employed life coach, you have the benefit of working for yourself and making your own decisions. One of the perks of working for yourself is the ability to expand your product and service offering well beyond your official title. Let’s take a look at some examples.
One of the most common ways to supplement your income coaching clients is through motivational speaking. After all, so much of your client/coach interaction is simply helping the client reframe his or her own self-perception and motivate the client into taking actionable steps to enact positive change. This is essentially all motivational speaking is, but to a larger audience. Even for beginners, speaker fees can range anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per event, depending on your level of experience and reputation in your field. It isn’t difficult to see how just 5 to 10 speeches a year can dramatically impact your bottom line as a coach.
Writing a Book
Speaking of reputation, one of most common ways to solidify your name in your industry is by becoming a published author. If the idea of writing a book sounds intimidating, don’t let it be! Whether you’re a coach specializing in the elderly, widows, divorcees, teenagers, or busy executives, coaches possess a treasure of information on such a wide variety of topics that writing a book should feel almost like speaking with a client.
Are you an divorce coach? Here’s your opportunity to write about the three different ways people typically respond to divorce, and which of the three is the only way to see lasting positive change.
Are you a wellness coach? Pull out your sample client meal plans and organize all of them into a comprehensive recipe book.
Are you an executive coach? Write about the five most common limiting beliefs that holds executives back and how to overcome them, all while maintaining your humanity and sense of purpose.
The possibilities are endless! Best of all, receiving royalties on book sales (or getting paid directly, if you choose to self publish) will serve as an excellent source of passive income while you continue to expand and promote your existing coaching business.
As the saying goes, it’s about who you know. Those words ring true in the coaching industry as well, not just in terms of booking clients through referrals, but also in terms of referring existing clients to other businesses. When you refer a client to another business as an affiliate or partner, you will receive a commission based on the terms of your partnership agreement.
Let’s imagine you are a wellness coach and your client lets you know that she wants to get more serious about her fitness regimen, and she’d like to hire a personal trainer. Luckily for you, after the last time someone asked you for a personal trainer recommendation, you made it a point to contact your favorite personal trainer in the area and come to an agreement. For every client you sent her way, she paid you a commission of 20% for the entire first year of billings.
This arrangement is a win for everyone involved:
- The client wins because she gets a trusted recommendation and saves time looking for a trainer
- The trainer wins because she gets a client that otherwise may have gone elsewhere
- Finally, you win because you receive supplemental affiliate income from doing something you’d be doing anyway–helping your client!
Nine times out of ten, if you own a life coaching business, you’ve already set up a life coaching blog. It’s a fantastic way to get traffic to your site and maybe even some paying clients who liked what you had to say.
But far from just looking at your blog as a way to attract readers and build your brand, you should consider your blog as a core component of your overall business. Here are some ways you can monetize your coaching blog:
- Affiliate marketing
- Member’s Only Content
With just a few well-placed ads and a sales funnel leading readers to your products, it isn’t unrealistic at all to supplement your coaching income by at least $10,000 just using your blog, possibly much more depending how much traffic you’re able to generate.
Starting a Podcast
As of 2020, 75% of Americans are familiar with podcasts, and podcast listenership (yes, a real word!) has steadily risen every year since 2015.
In other words, podcasts are here to stay.
And I know what you might be thinking: “Wait, aren’t podcasts free to listen to?” Indeed they are, but anything that attracts attention is able to be monetized, and the most common form of monetizing a podcast is through sponsorships.
Depending on your niche and audience, savvy companies that understand your podcast’s reach and influence potential will happily pay you a fee for a quick shoutout at the beginning, middle, or end of your podcast episodes. The amount your earn will largely be determined by how many listens your podcast episode receives, so the more popular your show, the greater your earning potential.
It doesn’t end there, though. Since coaching is a relatively focused niche (your particular niche might be even more focused than that!), you can usually negotiate custom contracts that offer even greater payouts for advertisers who really value the specific audience that is tuning into your show.
The beauty of podcasting is that you control the content, and nothing comes more naturally for coaches than sitting back and talking about mental health, wellness, and reaching your full potential.
If you dread the idea of writing long-form articles and would rather speak your thoughts into existence instead, podcasting might be the perfect medium for you.
As professional coaching makes it’s way further and further into the mainstream and as the coaching industry continues to gain the confidence and respect from academics, businesses, and the general public, you can expect a steady rise in the average salary of a life coach. In fact, the ICF study showed that 75% of coaches expected an increase in salary over the next 12 months.
There’s no denying it: the coaching industry is growing at a rapid pace, and as the world around us grows in complexity and the web that binds us continues to interweave more and more rapidly, the societal need for coaching will only increase as well. As a profession, it appears that coaching is here to stay.
For aspiring coaches, this is obviously great news. Those who have a passion for coaching and constantly strive to supplement their income by any means necessary will see the most success and attract the greatest number of clients.
In the end, succeeding as a coach is like succeeding at any other endeavor in life: all you need is focus, dedication, and an insatiable appetite for improvement. If you feel like you already possess those those three critical ingredients for success, there is simply no limit to the earnings potential you’ll have as a certified life coach.