(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the life coaching sector
Life coaching is part of the wider self improvement industry that has grown rapidly in recent years as more and more people have become aware of the possibility of improving and taking charge of their own lives. Life coaching initially began in the US - growing out of the management consultancy and business coaching industry. As people recognised the effectiveness of coaching at a business level they began to offer similar services to help people with their personal lives. The influence of celebrities using life coaches and self help gurus has also raised the profile of the industry and helped it to grow so quickly. In 2015 there were some 300,000 people employed in coaching and this was forecast to grow to about 330,000 by 2020.
Techniques such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) have become popular within the life coaching and mentoring industry in recent years, although some of the claims made for techniques like these are quite controversial. NLP is based on the theory that people operate on well established lines learned through their previous experience and need to change their thoughts and actions to achieve change in their lives. Practitioners claim that NLP can be used to overcome fears and phobias, improve workplace performance and achieve personal happiness by making these changes. The technique requires the practitioner to build a rapport with their clients, gather information about them and set goals.
According to industry sources the self improvement sector as a whole in the UK is worth several billion pounds a year and looks likely to continue growing as people's lives become more complex and stressful. Some sources estimate that one in five people in the UK has had, or is involved in having, some form of self improvement service.
Bear in mind though that the market is likely to become increasingly competitive as more and more life coaching businesses start up. Demand is also affected by the state of the economy - when the economy is buoyant people are more likely to spend money on self improvement services (which can be seen as a luxury). When the economy weakens, as it did during the late 2000s and early 2010s, people tend to cut back on the amount of money they spend on non-essentials. For example, they might invest in a self-help publication instead of paying for a series of life coaching sessions. The economy started to pick up in 2013 and the improvement carried on throughout 2014 and into the first half of 2015. However it slowed again in the second half of 2015 and into 2016, with further economic uncertainty arising out of the vote in June 2016 to leave the EU.
The continuing economic uncertainty due to the ongoing negotiations for leaving the EU, together with the fall in the value of the pound, rising inflation and a loss of consumer confidence in the economy, led to slower growth during 2017, which is expected to continue throughout 2018 and into 2019. Reduced spending power is likely to affect expenditure on non-essentials and this may affect the amount spent on life coaching until the economy starts to pick up. You'll need to think about whether demand for your services can weather an economic downturn.
One of the major issues facing the industry is regulation and accreditation. Life coaching is currently unregulated in the UK as it is a relatively new profession and is not seen as a therapeutic technique. This lack of regulation allows people who have received no formal training in life coaching to set up in business - sometimes resulting in an unsatisfactory coaching experience for the client. It would be well worth undertaking a training course with a fully accredited training provider to demonstrate to prospective clients that your life coaching services are of a high standard. It is unlikely that any form of regulation will be introduced in the near future.
Keeping up to date with developments
Your network contacts and accredited training provider are useful sources of up to date information about developments in your industry.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) is a worldwide community of coaches that provides its members with a wide range of up to date resources, has a 'credentialling' program and offers a database for people searching for coaching services. Visit the ICF website for further details.
The Life Coach Directory website includes a database of life coaches in the UK as well as comprehensive information about different aspects of life coaching.
Subscribing to a trade journal is another good way of staying up to date. Publications for the life coaching industry include International Coaching News as well as various overseas titles.