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Why You DON’T Need a Coaching Certification (Do This Instead!)

Wondering if you need a coaching certification to become a coach?

That’s what I used to think. Before I became a coach and left my day job, I had NO idea I could do this without a certification. But a coaching certification is often a waste of money, and instead, you should get started coaching right away.

Want to learn more? Read on!

What is coaching? (And why you don’t need a certification)

How I grew a six-figure coaching business without a coaching certification 

The 7 reasons you can be a life-changing coach without a certification

Your roadmap to a successful and profitable coaching business 

What is coaching? (And why you don’t need a certification)

First, let’s start by defining what coaching is. The thing is: Coaching is not counseling, and that’s the key to why you don’t need a coaching certification. Here’s what you need to know.

What does a coach really do? 

Coaching is a service you provide to help people transform their lives in some way. For example, they might want to become healthier, find a relationship, overcome a mindset challenge, get a better job, earn more, or grow their business. Business leaders, professional athletes, and even top surgeons all use coaches to improve themselves in some way.

What you need to note is this:

Coaching isn’t counseling. 

Counseling often requires specialized training. But coaching doesn’t require any certifications. 

The reason is simple: As a coach, you act more like a mentor and help people achieve their goals by observing and giving advice. Your qualifications as a coach are based on your experience, skills, and, most of all, results. 

coaching vs counseling graph

Can you become a successful coach?

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Can I become a successful coach… Even without a certification?”

Let me ask you this: 

Have you gotten results or have you helped others get results?

If yes, you’re ready to become a coach.

Note that your results don’t have to be for paying clients. Instead, they can be your own or people you’ve helped for free.

For example, if you were struggling with eating healthily before and you overcame that and learned all about how to eat right, that’s something you can teach others as a coach. Or if you have helped friends figure out their careers, you might consider career coaching.

Take my client Anna, who is a career coach. Having built a successful career, she used that (instead of a certification) to show how she could get her clients results. Her business generated over five figures in her first few months and now she’s helping people thrive in their careers as a full-time coach.

Anna Cosic website

As you’ll see, she’s just one of hundreds of my clients who don’t have a certification, but who have used their skills and results to build coaching businesses. 

So the answer is yes, YOU can become a successful coach without a coaching certification.

How do I know? Because I’ve been there myself. Let me explain.

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How I grew a six-figure coaching business without a coaching certification 

When I started one of my first online businesses as a digital advertising coach, I had the same fear as so many people do: Would I be able to help my clients? Yet, I built a six-figure coaching business in less than six months without having a certification. Here’s how I did it.

How I accidentally became a coach 

When I first started as a coach, I was working with digital advertising in my 9-5. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that this service could be an actual business and that people would pay me for my skills. In fact, at the time, I even thought online businesses were a scam!

But I really wanted to leave my job, so I kept my eyes open for opportunities.

How I found my first paying client

By a streak of luck, I happened to come across an online Facebook group where people were asking about digital advertising. 

Facebook conversation example
I would regularly answer questions like this (about Facebook advertising).

In particular, I noticed a woman asking questions that I could answer. So I reached out to her and said:

“I do this in my day job all day long. I’d love to help you with this! I’m not trying to sell you anything, but in return, I’d love to ask you a few market research questions to see if this can even be a business.”

To my surprise, she said yes! 

After our call, she asked me quite a few follow-up questions, which I answered for her. And then, one day about two weeks after our call, I received a message from her saying, “Hi Luisa, you’ve given me so much value, I’d love to learn more about how I can work with you further.”

It came out of the blue, so I actually had to ask her to give me a week to put together an offer. I didn’t have any experience coaching, so I frantically started researching everything there is to know about how to do a sales call and what to put into a coaching offer.

When we eventually ended up on that sales call, I remember being SO nervous. But was I excited after we hung up and she had signed on with me? You bet. I felt so relieved: Online business and coaching was possible!

Payment first paying client
Once I received my first payment from my client, I realized just how possible online coaching is.

There was just one problem… I had to figure out how I would be able to help her get results. And that’s when I felt fear creeping up.

Why certifications don’t matter

After all, I didn’t know a thing about coaching. What if she didn’t get results? What if she would tell everyone that she hated my coaching after our time together?

And then there was that other fear: I didn’t have a certification. I had nothing that officially proved that I could coach her. Was I a scam? 

But that’s when I realized: 

I had already helped her with all the free advice I had given before she became a paying client. She never once asked me if I had a certification (and by this time, she had already paid me). All she cared about was that I had been able to help her. 

coaching result example
These are the types of results my clients get. I don’t have an MBA or a certification.

This is what I say to all my students and I want you to remember:

You can do this without a certification. 

No, your clients don’t care about your certifications. They care about the RESULTS you get them.

Now, there are some exceptions in certain industries where you’re required to get a certification. But for the majority of coaches, this is not the case. 

How I went from my first client to six figures 

Once I had started working with my first paying client, I knew two things:

1) I was no longer concerned about needing to get a certification. I was getting my client results, she was happy, and I realized that I could start offering my coaching services to more people.


2) To grow my business, I couldn’t spend two weeks helping every potential client for free before starting to work with them. I needed a system I could leverage.

So, I looked at what had worked when I landed this first client.

Here’s what I realized: The reason she wanted to work with me was the fact that she knew I could get her results. 

I used that insight by condensing what I had helped her with over those first two weeks and created a 30-minute free session where I helped people with their digital advertising. Thanks to the value I shared during those free sessions, potential clients quickly realized that I could help them get results and they became interested in working with me. 

Facebook free call post
Here, one of my clients offers a 30-minute session. By the way, she doesn’t have a certification.

Want to see how this strategy works? Here’s a quick video I created for you that outlines it step by step:

The best part?

After four months of doing this, I had already made six figures in my coaching business.

Coaching business income

Imagine if I would have first tried to get a certification. One thing is clear: I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near those results in my first four months as a coach.

The 7 reasons you can be a life-changing coach without a certification

Look: Most of the time, coaching certifications are a waste of money. Sure, there are exceptions. But the almost universal truth is this: You don’t need a certification to get started. Here are the 7 main reasons.

1. Your real credentials come from results 

Feel like you can only be a qualified coach once you get that certification? Not true. What WILL make you a credible coach are your results. 

And look, if you’re thinking, “I need to get a certification to be able to help my clients get results,” this is simply not true.

You see, when I started working with my first paying client, I felt the same way. That’s why I spent three hours writing out the exact script I was going to talk her through on our first coaching call (yes, I like to come prepared).

The same thing for my second coaching call with her. Again, I spent three hours preparing for that call. After about three calls, I started realizing that my client was getting great results. I DID know what I was talking about, and I could teach it without a certification.

Coaching result example
Results, not certifications are what really matter.

Don’t get me wrong: As a new coach, there is a learning curve for you to become an even better coach. That’s what you learn while working together with your clients.

But the experience and knowledge you bring to the table are enough to get started. You don’t need a certification to take that step.

2. A certification won’t grow your confidence (this will!)

I’ll let you in on a secret:

I didn’t really feel confident that I could help my clients get results until I had helped over 50 paying clients. Sure, I was pretty confident about my coaching but it wasn’t until I had worked with 50 private coaching clients that I fully realized I was a great coach. 

Because you might think (consciously or subconsciously) that a coaching certification will help you gain confidence as a new coach.

The answer? Probably not. Confidence is built by experiencing achievement. So to become confident you can become a coach, you need to get started coaching. Getting confident as a coach is a process, so you build your confidence with every client you work with.

3. Your clients don’t value your certification

The biggest reason a coaching certification is a waste of your money? Your clients simply don’t value it! 

After over five years in business and having worked with thousands of paying clients, I can count on one hand the number of times people have asked me if I have a certification or an MBA. They care much, MUCH more about the results I can get them.

It’s not just me. Most of my clients don’t have (and never will have) a certification.

Take my client Estelle. She has a PhD, but it’s not at all relevant for what she offers her clients as a coach, energy healing. And no, she doesn’t have a certification. What she DOES have are multiple happy, paying clients who are getting life-changing results.

Activate your magic website

Or my client Julie. You might think that her niche, college consulting, requires a certification. It doesn’t, and Julie doesn’t have one. But she does run a multiple six-figure college consulting business where she helps her clients get accepted by their dream colleges. 

Julie Kim website

4. A certification doesn’t guarantee success

If you want real results in your coaching business, you shouldn’t rely on a certification to get them. That’s because certifications provide information, and information will only take you so far.

Plus, coaching certifications are a one-size-fits-all solution. A coaching tool might work in one industry… But what if it doesn’t work in your niche? 

Again, the real experience comes from coaching your clients. Going out there and learning how to get clients does position you for success.

5. Certification programs aren’t always credible

When you’re trying to find the right coaching certification program, you’re likely asking yourself, “Will this program get me results?”

And you should because not all coaching programs will do that for you. Think about it: If you’re learning from coaches who teach as part of a certification program, they might be wonderful coaches… But they probably don’t know much about business. If they did, they would be charging more as independent business coaches.

And look: You already know how to coach and get people results. What you need to learn is how to build a business and get clients.

Take life coaching certifications. “Life coaching” is way too broad as a coaching niche. You likely won’t get many clients. Instead, you should niche down (I explain why here.) At the end of the day, your life coaching certification won’t be worth much.

6. You risk getting stuck and never building your business

If you get a coaching certification, you risk getting stuck in consuming information instead of doing (because remember: You’re building your confidence by getting that certification). But the latter is what builds your business and lets you quit your job to coach full-time!

If I would have waited until I had a certification before I went out there to provide value and answering questions in Facebook groups, I likely wouldn’t have gotten that first paying client. The reason is simple: No one would have known I existed or that I could help them. But by putting myself in front of them and showing I could help, I started growing my coaching business.

My recommendation for my clients is always this:

You know enough to help at least one person. That’s enough to get started. 

7. Coaching helps you become a better coach

Finally, you are likely not the best coach you can be today. And that’s more than fine.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t start coaching. As you coach (and as you get more experience coaching), you become a better coach. 

Plus, as a new coach your rates will be lower than when you have more experience. It makes sense, right? When you know more (and you can help your clients in an even more impactful way), you get paid more. I always recommend my students to start at around $1,500 and then raise their rates. 

increase coaching rates graph

This doesn’t apply just to your first or second year in business. You’re always going to be growing. For example, I’m a better coach now than I was a year ago, two years ago and certainly three years ago. I’ll be a better coach next year than I am this year. That’s because growth comes from action.

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Your roadmap to a successful and profitable coaching business 

You now know why you don’t need a coaching certification to get started. But without a certification, how DO you get started? That’s what we’ll look at next.

The one thing that will build your business 

You know, there’s a better “version” of a coaching certification. It’s the one thing that will help grow your business. What is it? 

Simple: Results. 

When you have results, you will be able to get clients who pay premium prices. Your results can be:

  • Your own results.
  • Results you’ve helped others get for free (either someone you know or someone you met online).
  • Client results.

Remember, that’s how I got my first paying client. I helped her for free before we started working together. Plus, I was already doing the same type of work (digital advertising) in my day job.

Don’t get stuck in thinking your results have to be extraordinary. They don’t. As long as you’ve transformed your own or someone else’s life in one way or another, you’re good to go. For example: Have you edited resumes and helped people get job interviews? Maybe you’ve advised friends on how to date better and helped someone find a relationship, or you work as a marketer or sales person in your 9-5 and can draw on the results you have. 

coaching result examples

How I used my results to grow my business fast (and you can, too!)

Once you have results, you can use them to grow your business fast.

That’s what I did. After I had helped my first client get results, I was able to leverage the testimonial she gave me by showing it to my next paying client and the next after that. It started a snowball effect, which created more momentum for me. I eventually grew my 6-figure coaching business, as well as this business, which is a multi 7-figure business. 

first year business income graph

To get more clients, I simply repeated what I had done before. I continued leading with value, helping others and sharing amazing content to show that I knew what I was talking about and could help people get results.

And once I had worked with my first few 1:1 clients, I was able to draw on those experiences and show people how I could help them and the results I could help them get.

That’s when I created my first group coaching program and used it to leverage my time. By working with people in that group program, which was 7 weeks long, I was able to help people get results at scale.

The best thing about this? I got even MORE people to sign up for my premium 1:1 coaching package. At the end of my first group program I reached out to every single person who had participated in the group program and I said:

“Hey, I’m so excited by the results that you’ve already gotten in this program. I know that you came in wanting to achieve these specific goals, which we crushed, but also that you had bigger goals that you wanted to accomplish in the grand scheme of things. As you can see from this program, I deliver and I’ve loved working with you as your coach. I’d love to talk about how we can continue to work together to get you those big results in my private coaching program.” 

From a group of about 16 people, I made an additional $20,000 in sales. This helped me achieve those six figures I made in my first four months.

group coaching income

Leverage your time and income, while you change lives

Once you have your first few client results, you can continue building your coaching business. Getting more results means that more clients will trust you, so you can raise your prices. 

coaching income graph

You can also build an online course or launch a group program and that way, leverage your time and income. In fact, when you launch a group coaching program or an online course, your coaching business doesn’t have to be huge. When I launched my first group program, I had less than 200 people in my audience. 

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Instead of having a huge audience, the secret to a successful group program or course launch is this:

After you’ve worked with 1-3 1:1 clients, you can use the content you’ve created for your coaching offer and implement it as a group program or course. 

The benefit of these two offers is that you don’t have to spend as much time on 1:1 calls and giving your clients personalized support. Instead, you can offer a weekly call and a support community for your group program clients. And a self-study online course will require even less of your time.

The point is this: 

Once you’ve worked with a few coaching clients, you can create even more flexibility and freedom in your life. And none of that requires you to get a certification. 

Want to get started coaching today?

Now you know why you don’t need a coaching certification to become a coach (and why it most likely would be a waste of your time and money).

The great news is that you can get started coaching today and building an impactful business that will let you work flexibly with what you love. 

Now, over to you:

What’s the #1 result you’ve gotten yourself or helped someone else get?

Leave a quick comment below and let me know.

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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20 Responses

  1. Not sure I agree with this. Are you encouraging every person at home just to become a coach? This is why coaches are a dime s dozen. It is currently unregulated, as opposed to the APA,. A solid foundation in theoretical knowledge is essential in anything we do. Pursue excellence, not mediocrity.

    1. Hi Julie, Thanks for your comment. Yes and no. I am encouraging more people to build businesses around their skills and experience. Coaching, consulting, whatever the name. The crux of my argument is that in many cases experiential experience is a better qualification than theoretical experience. As I note in the article, of course there are exceptions (psychologists being one of them).

      1. Hi Luisa–Thank you for your thoughtful response. And by no means am I diminishing the importance of hands on experience– as this is critical. I feel, however, that this seems to be a bit misleading and may lead to underserving clients which negatively impact those coaches who have been properly certified and/or earned appropriate degrees. In a day and age when anyone thinks they can hang a proverbial shingle on their door and call themselves a coach- I become very weary of the quality of service. I do agree with you that experience is essential–followed by getting degreed in coaching, psychology, social work or the like is essential. And I do agree with you that potential coaches should be very weary of the classes/programs they enroll in! As a coach-I look to empower, elevate and enhance my client’s lives and I think 100% transparency goes hand in hand with my mission. Luisa, I love your branding and intelligence! I would be happy to discuss further!

      2. Agree with you…Life Experiences far outweigh this so called trained certified (any career) who have zero life experiences. Someone unqualified will immediately lose customers. Great job you are doing here Luisa.

  2. I agree. Coaching certification is just a waste of money unless it is from a really reputable organization. There ae so many ways to learn and teach online and it doesn’t require any form of certification.

    1. I really love that I found you. When I researched the coaching certificate it sounded like a downer. I thought “Oh my goodness, I have to go back to school?” It was almost exhausting. I have certificates up the butt, and I stuck them away and no one ever asked me about them. I was told that I’m a natural so why go back to school and waste money and time. I’m retiring soon and I want to help people like I’ve been helped. A coach, mentor or friend is my other niche. We all need a coach, and a great coach is a coach who can learn new things along the way.

  3. Hi Luisa,
    This is such a great blog post! It has confirmed my experience. I have been providing value to my audience through my youtube channel ‘Multiple Careers’, and my first coaching client came from my audience. I had not even set up a webpage or offer for coaching yet, but since the person asked me to coach her, everything rolled from there. Your journey and achievements are truly remarkable and I wish you the very best for your business!

  4. I personally believe that everyone needs coaching to be successful. Though we can find many self-made successful people around us, if you dig enough down you will always find someone like a mentor or a guru (it can also be totally spiritual). The best thing about having a coach is you never make silly mistakes that cost a lot.

  5. I was a performance coach for a mortgage company that recently decided to close down our entire Growth and Development team (due to rising interest rates and slower production) along with all of my coaching programs. I was working with around 100 loan officers in 1:1 and group settings who now don’t have the support they needed/valued. I’m considering setting up my own business but not sure where to start or what I could charge. Where can I go for more ideas/insight?

  6. I am a personal trainer for over 30 years with an excellent track record for results. i am 67 years old and i am in good shape, but suffered an unexpected heart attack several months ago resulting in loss of income due to my lack of ability to continue as a trainer. Ive been told by many of my clients that i have changed their lives not only with exercise, but with my motivational words. i had a client tell me yesterday that i would make an excellent health and fitness coach. Here i am!!! im going for it and can definitely use some tips to get started!

  7. Oh, Luisa! You have no idea (or maybe you do) how helpful what you’ve written here is. So many of us, myself included, are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the idea that we *must* be certified in coaching before we can begin. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned how many coaching programs are not legitimate, anyway! In fact, I completed one a couple of years ago…but, little did I know, once I got to the end, there was an ‘error’ and I was unable to obtain any kind of certification proof. It was not a cheap school, either. My attempts to contact anyone affiliated with this bunch were unsuccessful too. Talk about a scam! Sadly, I guarantee that I am not the only one.

    Since completing that schooling, I have thought many times of pushing back the fear and just starting my coaching business. What you’ve shared here is *exactly* what I’ve been feeling; “what if I can’t help my clients, what if I don’t know enough to be good at this, what if I do need more training,” etc. It has kept me stuck and ineffective for far too long.

    I’ve been to the school of “hard knocks” in my life with everything from childhood and adult narcissistic abuse, being bedridden for years with life-threatening illnesses, and much more. Praise be to the Lord, my life looks totally different today! I desperately want to help people live their lives in wholeness; spiritually, physically, and emotionally. To think of making a living actually helping people, nothing brings more joy than that!

    Thank you again for this article. I am going to pursue this dream that has been sidelined for too long.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened with your certification experience!

      BUT it sounds like you’ve come through it stronger and are back on track to pursue your dream while helping others! Happy to hear this article was able to help a little. 🙂

  8. I Love this! I find in my field, I get much better results than those who do not have the knowledge of experience. I have the degrees also, however, people trust me more as I can tell them exactly how they feel and how to change too as I did it myself. My problem is most people want to use insurance to pay for my services which does not pay at all what I deserve. I am a Licensed Addiction Counselor and I hate being tied down to the ways Corporations want me to help clients. They literally set people up to fail so they return and get more money. I know there are Addiction Coaches. I know I could make a difference. Thank you for sharing this! I also wondered if you have classes on where to go to develop websites, how to be one of the names that come up under online searches. I will continue to follow you. Thanks again!!!

    1. Absolutely – having done the thing you’re helping others with yourself, is a huge trust builder!

      I totally hear you on wanting to connect directly with your clients so you can help them versus being bound to policies that might not be in their best interest.

      We do have trainings on how to get found online! Here’s a link to our free training on this:

      (And if you want more, the training also details about our in-depth course that walks you step-by-step through getting found online.)

      Hope that helps!

  9. I have been contemplating for some years now about getting certified as a coach. I decided to search the internet and came across your page and I must say as an author, a pastor, a counselor I realize that as you have stated that experience and results are key to a coaching business. Thank you for this, my mind is more at ease now. I can confidently start influencing lives for the betterment so that they can function in their spheres of influence as confident individuals. Starting in June!!!!

  10. Hi Luisa,
    I am enjoying reading what you have to say about coaching. The idea of coaching was revealed to me in the last hours, maybe a day ago, yet I am fascinated. I have been doing things in my life the last few months with the aim of bringing positive change into my life, to be the very best version of myself now and into the future. I’ve been sharing with my supervisor at work much of what I have been learning and she told me just the other day that the things I have shared with her have made a difference in her life. Now, I discovered this thing called coaching amidst this persistent desire to do work I love, to attract work I love, to change my life around professionally speaking.

    1. That’s wonderful! I believe we find what we need when we’re ready for it. It was definitely a life-changing moment (although I didn’t realize it at the time) when I first learned about coaching years ago. Wishing you all the best on your journey!

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