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How to Become a Successful Career Coach: 4 Steps in 2024

Want to become a career coach?

You’re in the right place. Because today, you’ll learn how to get results like these:

Screenshot of client testimonial

With the steps I share below, you’ll learn how to build a successful career coaching business that helps others with your unique gifts and offers you more freedom and flexibility. 

Even if you’re in a 9-5, have a family, and your life is incredibly busy. 

Ready to learn more? Read on!

We’ll cover: 

What is a career coach?

Career coaching can be incredibly impactful – as a career coach, you help your clients reach their career goals, whether that’s finding a new job, or getting a promotion, or getting better results in their current job. Your clients could be at any stage in their careers, including people who are fresh on the job market, seasoned professionals, managers, or executives.

And coaching works. 62% of coaching clients say they improved their career opportunities thanks to coaching. 

Employees who receive mentoring receive higher compensation, feel more satisfied with their careers, are more committed, and get promoted more. 

Graph of career coaching benefits

But people often ask me if it’s even possible to become a career coach – after all, there are already so many coaches out there. 

Yes, it is. Just look at my student, Emily. 

Emily was a Fortune 500 recruiter for years before she built a 6-figure career coaching business.

Today, Emily runs her business Cultivitae and helps people find their dream jobs.

You can build a successful business regardless of how saturated your market is or how new you are to career coaching. 

I say…

👋 High five to that 👋

But before we look more at the steps you need to take, let’s figure out what the best career coaches do differently. 

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What does a career coach do?

As a career coach, you… 

  • Help your clients identify their goals and what’s holding them back.
  • Guide your clients to understand the right career path for them. 
  • Advise them on their career trajectories. 
  • Coach your clients to acquire hard or soft skills, like new tech skills or better negotiation skills.
  • Give feedback and improve their cover letters, resumes, and interview skills. 
  • Help your clients become more confident and gain clarity. 

You also need the right skills so that you can help your clients achieve the transformation they want. 

First, you need the experience to be a career coach. 

For example, my first online business was a career coaching business. 

I initially got started because so many people would ask me how I’d built a six-figure career at such a young age. 

I realized people were willing to pay to get my support and so I started offering paid coaching. 

Something that led me to publish guest posts on the topic…

Screenshot of a career coaching guest post

But to become a career coach, you also need to develop coaching skills, including…

  • Listening. Understand where your clients want to go and help them achieve their goals with actionable advice and support. 
  • Asking questions. Your services are a bit like Google Maps for your clients. Help them figure out the steps they need to take to transform their career. 
  • Problem solving. A major reason clients come to you is to get your help to overcome their biggest challenges. If something isn’t working for them, support them in finding a way that does work.
  • Believing in your clients. Help your clients get past mental barriers and build their confidence. 

With those skills you help others get results…and grow your own coaching business. 

Next, let’s look at how YOU can become a career coach (even if you haven’t coached before and don’t have a degree).

How to become a career coach without a degree

Now you know what a career coach is. 

But how do you start your own coaching business? 

After all, aren’t there a lot of other career coaches out there?  

Isn’t it nearly impossible to get clients…?

Yes, there are a lot of career coaches. 

But consider the size of the market – there are many people who want to move up in their careers throughout their 40+ years in the workforce.

Screenshot of career coaching reddit thread

Plus, other career coaches don’t have the experience YOU have to offer. 

The steps to become a career coach are: 

1. Find a niche

2. Get qualified

3. Create your first package

4. Get your first clients

5. Help your clients get results

Let’s start with step #1 – the most important part of starting your career coaching business.

Choose your career coaching niche (and get unstuck)

It’s time to start your career coaching business!

And the first step is to define your niche.

Your niche is what makes people think, “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for.”

For example, Apple used to position itself as a brand for creatives – not a corporate brand like Microsoft. 

That type of positioning made it one of the most valuable companies in the world. 

Photo of Apple MacBook

But how do you find your niche? 

First, you need to figure out who YOU want to work with.

#1: Individuals

Do you want to become a career coach to help people achieve their career goals? Choose this model. 

#2: Companies

If you want to work with teams or with employees within a company, this is the model for you. 

Once you know what type of client you want to work with, the next step is to determine your target audience. 

Ask yourself:

Is there a specific target market you want to work with?

(Millennials, women, minorities, a location, an industry…) 

For instance, my student Adunola works with millennials who want to achieve more in their careers. 

Screenshot of the EmployeeRedefined website

Plus, answer the question:  

Who has the ABILITY and WILLINGNESS to pay? 

For example:

A newly graduated and currently unemployed college graduate probably can’t pay your fees.  

Don’t try to sell to people who can’t buy or don’t want to buy – instead, focus on people who are ready. 

I talk more about it in this video:

Next, what type of career coaching services do you want to sell?

You can be a general career coach and help people find their dream jobs. 

Or, you can be an executive coach.

You could even focus on helping people reinvent their careers or brand themselves. 

Take 10 minutes and write down your thoughts to get clarity on the niche you feel passionate about.

Now, let’s talk about what you need (or don’t need) to get started. 

Get qualified as a career coach 

Can you become a career coach without a coaching certification?

Look:

There are no standard requirements for becoming a career coach. 

You can get certified… or not. 

In fact, many of my clients don’t have any career coach certification. 

But that doesn’t stop them from helping their clients find dream jobs, increase their salaries, and live fulfilling lives. 

Plus, there is no official coaching degree or certification.

In other words, a certification won’t authorize you to become a coach.

What matters is your experience. 

For example:

Have you worked as a recruiter, career counselor, or in human resources? 

Or have you achieved certain milestones in your career? 

Also, you don’t need a degree if you have the right experience.

I never went to business school. Instead, I’ve built businesses for 10+ years, including this one, which is a multiple 7-figure business. 

And I wouldn’t be any more qualified to help other people start their businesses with an MBA. 

But if you WANT to get certified, go for it. 

In that case, a good place to start is to look for programs accredited by the International Coaching Federation

This is the most reliable accreditation program in the coaching certification industry. (But it’s not an official accreditation.) 

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6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

A few well-known career coach certification programs are: 

  • Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC): This Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches program costs $1,195 and takes 12 weeks to a year to complete. 
  • Become a Certified Career Coach™: The program by Career Coach Institute is a 12-week long course. You need to complete 50 hours of paid or unpaid coaching to qualify for the certification. The total cost is $1,997.
  • Career Coaching: This New York University short course isn’t exactly a certification, but it teaches you the same skills. You can complete the program in two days and the full tuition cost is $525. 

Create your first package and set your rate

The next step is to create your own career coaching package.

A simple approach? 

Start with a 3-month coaching program and price it at $1,500.

Here’s why: 

This helps you get confident about your coaching pricing.

And ultimately, you can use this model to replace your 9-5 salary: 

Graph with coaching salaries
Example of how you can replace your 9-5 salary with a career coaching package.

But when can you raise your rates? 

Increase your rates when you’ve helped a few clients get results.

After all, you help your clients achieve their career goals. 

That means more personal fulfillment, but also more money in their pockets.

In fact, some of my clients charge $10,000 (or more) for a 3-month coaching program. 

(Note: My clients who can charge these prices can do so as a result of their experience. I’m sharing this to show what’s possible, NOT to say that this is where you should start.)

As a quick side note, you don’t need a career coaching website at this point. If you want one, go for it.

But you can just as well refer people to your LinkedIn profile. And build your website once you have a few clients.

That’s what I did. I had made $20,000 in this business before I built my first website.

That said, you need to get your first clients. 

How? 

Let’s find out.

Get your first career coaching clients 

Here’s where most people get stuck.

They know what type of business they want, they might even have opened an Instagram account, and set up a website…

But suddenly, it feels TOO hard. 

Look:

It doesn’t have to be. 

Here’s the simplest career coaching business plan you can use to get your first client (and money in your bank).

1. The mistake most people make (that keeps them from ever getting clients)

The biggest mistake I see new business owners make? (And I’ve coached thousands of businesses.)

They talk about their coaching program as a product. 

They explain the process and features.

You know, the number of calls their clients get, the skills they learn…

Instead:

What they should talk about is the TRANSFORMATION.

That’s what your clients pay you for.

For example:

You show your clients how to become their teams’ top performers, the best salary negotiators, or thought leaders in their industries.

Your clients don’t care about how you get them there. 

What they want to know is how you change their lives.

2. A simple marketing plan for your career coaching business

So how do you get your first client

You might be thinking:

“Why would anyone want to hire me to help them with their careers?”

You know what? 

There are plenty of people who would love to work with you.

But it’s your job to find them. 

How? You could:

  • Let your network know that you’re starting a business.
  • Find clients on LinkedIn, TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, X, or Reddit.
  • Go to networking events. 

My student Emily (who I mentioned earlier) got her first client after posting a message on LinkedIn asking people what their biggest career questions were. 

You can do something similar. 

Publish a post on LinkedIn similar to this one (but don’t copy anything – make it sound like YOU). 

“Exciting news! I’m starting my own business that focuses on (your niche). 

And I’d love your help. Know anyone who needs (how your business helps people)? 

I’m passionate about helping (your audience) who are: 

  • Criteria 1
  • Criteria 2
  • Criteria 3

Then, I’d love to offer a free consultation call with me to get to know one another and see if we would be a good fit to work together. 

Here’s the link to schedule time on my calendar: 

<link to your call scheduling software>

Thank you so much!”

Now, you might think you need to reach so many people before anyone buys from you.

But that’s not true. 

It’s not about having a BIG audience. 

It’s about having the RIGHT audience. 

Even your existing network or a small online group can help you land your first few clients. 

And in this video, I help you figure out the right places to find those clients: 

That said, people are probably not going to line up to work with you right away. 

Just because they don’t know HOW amazing you are!

So to get your first clients, you need to show them how much their lives could change for the better if they hire you as their career coach. 

And to do this, offer potential clients a free coaching session. 

This is a short, 20-minute session.

During your call, focus on ONE thing you can help them with. 

At the end of the call, you simply ask:

“How was this call?” 

And when they say they loved it (of course they do!), you say:

“Imagine how much we could get done in the next 3-months. Would you like to talk more about how we can work together so you achieve your desired results?”

Being able to help others get results is key. Otherwise you won’t be in business for long!

So let’s talk about how to help your clients get great results. 

Hold transformative career coaching sessions 

How do you become a great career coach? 

I like to think of coaching as “coach-sulting” – a mix of coaching (partnering with your clients) and consulting (giving specific advice). 

Ultimately, the success of your coaching depends on the results you help your clients get. 

And the “secret” is to break your coaching program down into milestones.

Then, break every coaching session into sub-goals that people need to check off to achieve those milestones and their bigger goal. 

Every coaching call is focused on a sub-goal.

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In between calls, you then help your clients answer their questions through email, Voxer, or a similar tool.

To keep them on track, you can ask them to send a summary of their work 24 hours before each call and answer these questions: 

  • #1: What did you do this week?
  • #2: What went well?
  • #3. What do you want to focus on during this call? 

Next, what does it really take to build your career coaching practice?

Here’s how three of my students started their businesses.

Examples of successful career coaching businesses [case studies]

I saved the best for last. 

Now you know how to build your career coaching business. 

But you might still be unsure if it’s really possible for you. 

Here, I share how three of my clients (with families, careers, and busy lives) were able to build their businesses.

Read on!

1. How a 6-figure career coach planned her wedding during her most successful launch

Emily liou headshot

Emily Liou, a 6-figure career coach, founded her business, Cultivitae.com, in 2016. 

Before starting her business, Emily worked for years as a recruiter for Fortune 500 companies.

That experience made her decide to branch out on her own.

And today, Emily helps people who want to feel fulfilled and happy when they wake up on Monday mornings find a new job, get promoted, or switch industries. 

Screenshot of Cultivitae website

Her main product is Happily Hired, a course with coaching as an add-on. 

But she didn’t start there.

Her first coaching clients came from LinkedIn, when she announced her (then) side hustle and asked her network what they needed the most help with when it came to job searching. 

After private messaging with people who reached out to her, she offered to coach them at a lower rate. 

That way, she got testimonials and referrals and could properly start her business.

Emily also used Facebook groups to reach people. 

After she posted a poll asking what people needed help with in groups for jobseekers, many in those groups reached out to her and asked her about her services.  

Today, Emily gets clients through Pinterest and Google and the traffic these platforms bring to her website. 

Her business has grown to a multiple six-figure business. 

And, fun fact: Emily managed her biggest launch to date while planning her wedding.

2. How this stay-at-home mom and career coach made $20,000 in her first 4 months

Anna Cosic headshot

Anna Cosic (TilesCollab.com) is a career and leadership coach for busy and ambitious women who want to earn more, achieve more, and have more. 

For almost 10 years, she climbed the career ladder before taking her experiences, skills, and learnings to start her own business.

She then decided to turn her experience into a business to help others achieve success in their careers. 

Screenshot of TilesCollab website

But when she started her business, she was a full-time stay-at-home mom with an 18-month old son. 

That didn’t stop Anna…

Her first clients found her through her LinkedIn network.

And within four months, she had made $20,000.

How? 

She focused on one thing at a time and she used her time in a smart way.

Every day, she’d work two hours when her son was napping. Four evenings a week, as well as Sundays, she’d also take time to get her business up and running. 

And that’s how Anna was able to build a thriving, six-figure business that today is her full-time job. 

3. How a lawyer is building her career coaching business without sacrificing family time

Toni Patterson career coach

Toni Patterson is the founder of ToniAPatterson.com

As a single mom who is a successful litigator in an Am Law 100 law firm, her co-workers would often ask her for guidance because it seemed like she had it all figured out. 

Toni quickly realized that she had a passion for mentoring women who were trying to be successful in their careers without sacrificing their home lives.

And she was able to help them get just that thanks to the processes she had created for herself.

Screenshot of Toni Patterson website

Toni’s first client came through hosting a telesummit. Since then, she’s moved on to social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. 

And the best part is that she’s able to do it while building her business around her daughter’s schedule – with a demanding, full-time job. 

What’s next?

That’s it. Now you know how to become a career coach. 

Look: 

A coaching business can be highly fulfilling, flexible, and help you increase your income.

I’ve worked with thousands of coaches. And many of those have gone on to build five, six, and multiple six-figure businesses (and beyond). 

There are a few things those who succeed have in common. 

Want to know what they are? 

Get my free blueprint that shows you how to build a massively profitable and meaningful online career coaching business…starting right now!

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Read more: 

How Much Do Career Coaches Make? 

How to Start Your Coaching Business

Marketing Strategies for Coaches

What is Coaching?

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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9 Responses

  1. It’s great to hear that there aren’t really that many requirements to become a career coach. My husband just retired and is looking for a way to spend his time these days and it’s great to see this may be a good fit for him. He’s had work experience in HR and did pretty well for himself, considering he managed to buy a house and send all our kids to college. It sounds like he can give a solid yes to both the questions you asked when it comes to qualifications. I’ll tell him about it and see if he’s interested in taking any career coaching courses. It’ll be a good use of his free time, and who knows? he may just help create the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

  2. This is the most amazing and easy to understand steps to becoming a career coach I have ever seen. Your website is designed in a clean and attractive to read way. Your videos are to the point. As a new career coach, I found your career guide the best especially I like when you said, “our clients doesn’t want information but transformation”.

  3. Hello!

    My name is Tara Odell. I’ve been in banking for almost 20 years and I am frankly burned out. Not to brag, but I have a fancy title and fantastic sales record with over 6 figure salary and 6 figure bonus – all in commercial banking. It’s great but I am at this point that I want to transition into coaching and helping other women succeed. I have a passion for it and I think I would be good at it. But to be honest I’ve never thought very entrepreneurial and I haven’t the slightest idea how to set up my own coaching practice, and what my value prop should me. I am thinking something around sales and leadership. Maybe even some “life coaching”. I have a unique story that includes a lot of adversity.

    Long story short. I wondered if you offered 1:1 consulting to help launch practices?

  4. Your website is a very detailed short course on its own, and what’s amazing is that there’s so much information for free! Keep up the Good work💖

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