Why You Shouldn't Do a Coach Certification Program (And What To Do Instead)

Most new coaches assume you need to complete a coaching certification program in order to build a successful coaching business. They figure it's the starting point to becoming a powerful coach.

What a shame.

More often than not, the time and money that coaches spend on certification programs is counterproductive.

Here's the truth: if you want to build a profitable coaching business that really helps people, you don't need to go to coaching school.

Now, before I go any further, let me clarify something. I don't believe that all coach training programs are a waste of time or money. What I DO believe is that most people would be better off spending those resources elsewhere.

You absolutely need to learn the fundamentals of coaching and business. But you don't need to drop $15,000 and one year of your life on a coaching certification program. Let me tell you why...

Six Reasons Not To Get Certified As A Coach

1. The most skilled and successful coaches I know aren't certified. Look at the people you respect most in the personal and business development industry. Tony Robbins, for example, never went to a traditional coach certification school and he seems to be doing okay. Likewise, there are a lot of terrible coaches out their who are certified. The correlation between certification and success is weak at best.

2. It won't give you the confidence that you think it will. Most people get more education with the hope that it will make them feel less like a fraud. It won't. These coaches will still have the same feeling of unworthiness after the program ends, just with a certification now. Often the coaches that I find struggling the most are ones who just got certified.

3. No one gives a shit about your coaching certification. Turns out, your potential clients don't care whether you are certified or not. I have never once been asked by a non-coach whether I have a certification. Your sales and marketing should be focused on their problems, frustrations and desires. Talk less about yourself and more about the results you get for other people. Don't have results yet? That's because you spent the last 12 months in coaching school.

4. There's a difference between training and certification. I invest in training all the time. Tens of thousands of dollars each year. But instead of looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, I seek out the best program for whatever competency I want to develop and then immediately apply it to my client work and my business. This is what the best entrepreneurs do.

5. Coach certification does not equal a profitable coaching business. If you want to be a coach, you better realize right now that you've signed up for a job as a sales person. Coaching is not the hard part for most people. Getting clients is. Even though some certification programs attempt to teach business, it's really not their zone of genius and they'll basically just tell you to pick a niche and start networking.

6. There are many different sources of credibility. And in coaching, certifications are one of the weakest. Credibility can come from your personal success story, your client results, even the success figures you are associated with. The ultimate form of credibility is having your potential clients feel 100% that you understand their situation and that you have the solution to their problem (hint: the latter is a natural response to the former).

How To Kick Serious Ass Without A Certification

So, if I don't think you should do a whole long certification program in order to build a successful coaching business, what do I suggest instead? And if you've already gotten certified, but still feel like somethings missing, what should you do next?

There are three things you need to do right now if you're serious about this whole coaching thing:

STEP 1: Get a coach

Your number one imperative is to invest in working with a coach who has built the type of business that you want to build. You resonate with their message, you like the way they coach, they have been successful at making a full-time living from their work.

It's true that some certification programs include a mentor coach as part of the deal. Here's the problem with that: if that coach was really able to build a successful business from their coaching, they wouldn't be working for the certification company. Instead of being matched with someone who may or may not be the type of coach you want, take responsibility for investing in the best of the best.

If all you did was this one step, you would probably be okay. If you don't invest in your own coach, though, a few things will happen:

  • You won't have had the experience of investing in and benefiting from powerful coaching, so you won't be able to stand behind coaching when you try to sell it to others.
  • You won't learn firsthand what good coaching looks like, so you'll be missing out on all of the learning that comes from experiencing something yourself.
  • You won't have developed yourself, as a coach or as a business owner, to the point where can actually transform your clients in any significant way.

If you can't invest a lot of money in coaching right now, make sure that you're at least investing in courses and trainings that help you build your business. This is a more affordable way to get support while still staying in integrity as a coach.

STEP 2: Get clients

At this point you might be asking yourself, "How do I get clients if no one ever taught me how to coach?"

Here's the deal: you don't need outside permission in order to serve someone. You can start coaching now. Chances are, you're probably already helping people in your own way.

Offer to have a limited number of free conversations with people who are struggling with a specific area of their life. Focus on the results they want. Get on the phone with people and actually do the work.

As you're doing this, feel free to get training, read books, and work with your own coach on what those sessions should look like. Do some buddy coaching with people so that you can get feedback on where to improve. Just remember that eventually, you're going to have to start selling.

Single sessions can only get you so far. Eventually, you'll get to the point want to work with people for a longer period of time (3-12 months) so that they actually get to experience lasting change. If you want to learn how to fill your calendar with potential clients, read this article.

Once you start working with paid clients, that's when you really get good. Why? Both of you are committed! So you can finally begin to figure out what works.

STEP 3: Get results

All I care about in my business is results. All your clients care about is results. And that's all you should care about too.

How do you get results?

From deliberate practice. From listening to recordings of your coaching. From applying new techniques and asking new questions. From taking the extra five minutes after each call to figure out what went well and what didn't go well.

This is how actual people achieve mastery in the real world. You can't become a great coach in a classroom. You have to actually live this stuff.

Most coaches never do. They're hoping that they can just get the certification and then move on. They aren't actually interested in growing themselves.

To help you out, I've written up my 20 Commandments of Powerful Coaching. You can download the PDF by clicking on that yellow box below.

Here's The Bottom Line

Coaching is a multi-billion dollar industry. It's often cited as the second fastest growing profession. Every day I feel like I get more questions from people wanting to become coaches.

And that's great. There's still plenty of demand out there. People spend about $1 billion dollars annually just on business coaching.

But the sad reality is that most coaches fall into one of two groups:

  1. They are sham artists who don't understand how coaching works, they aren't actually interested in helping people, or they're really just internet marketers calling themselves coaches.
  2. They truly do want to become great coaches, but they never will because they focused too much on getting an unnecessary credential and not enough on learning how to build a sustainable business that helps people.

Fortunately, there's a third group. And it's the group I want you to be a part of. It's made up of savvy coaches, people who are intentional about where they invest their time and money and who understand the importance of constantly growing their expertise as a coach and as an entrepreneur.

Don't wait to be picked. If you want to be a coach, start acting like one.