How to Start a Spiritual Coaching Practice
OK, so you like the idea of starting a spiritual coaching practice. But what does it involve, and how do you begin?
What Are the Steps to Starting a Spiritual Coaching Practice?
- Keep some income rolling in while you start your practice.
- Investigate laws and ethical norms affecting a spiritual coaching practice in your area.
- Get training and certification.
- Get practice.
- Set up practical aspects such as meeting space (could be over the phone or computer), forms, note-taking, rates….
- Get clients.
- Get more clients.
- Keep your clients happy.
The process and the sequence might not be the same for everyone. However, Now, let’s go through these steps in more detail.
Step 1. Keep some income rolling in while you start your practice.
We don’t recommend quitting your day job early in the process. Unless you have some financial support that doesn’t involve a job, it’s probably a good idea to keep money coming in, to pay the bills.
When you have made it at least through Step 6, you might want to cut your former source of income back a bit. See if you can go to part time, while you build up your clientele.
However, it might not take as much time as you think. A typical hourly rate for a spiritual coach is higher than that of most jobs. As an example, if you have been making $35 an hour at a job, and then you decide to charge a modest rate of $100 an hour initially, while you build your business, then it only takes about seven hours of client-work to replace the income from 20 hours a week at the job.
Of course, individual mileage will vary, and that’s just an example. (See Chapter 4 of this series for more information about rates and income for a spiritual life coach.)
The good news is that many potential clients would love to have a coach that can work outside normal work hours. Many people have difficulty taking time off work during the regular work-day. So if you keep a full-time job, and begin by adding client sessions evenings and weekends, this can be a good fit for many potential clients.
Basically, do what makes sense and is practical for you, keeping your financial risks to a minimum.
Step 2. Investigate laws and ethical norms affecting a spiritual coaching practice in your area.
Although in general, life coaching is unregulated, we aren’t guaranteeing that’s the case in your area. So it’s a good idea to get qualified legal advice, to find out what you need to do, to comply with local laws.
One thing that is necessary everywhere that we know about is to make a clear distinction between what you do vs. therapy, counseling, and psychology. (See Chapter 3 of this article series for more information about this distinction.)
It’s a good idea to use an intake form that asks potential clients to sign an acknowledgment that you are a spiritual life coach, and not some other sort of professional.
We aren’t lawyers, and we aren’t giving you legal advice here. However, we are at least making you aware of some of the questions you need to bring to a lawyer who is familiar with laws applying to you.
In addition, it’s a very good idea to follow the major ethical norms that have been established for other personal change oriented professions. For example, keep a client’s information confidential, unless you are legally required to give the information to a third party. (It’s a good idea to ask your lawyer for exactly which circumstances this would be.) If your client gives you reason to believe that he intends to commit a crime, for example, you may be legally required to pass this information along to law enforcement.
Also, it may be already obvious, but it’s important to know that sleeping with a client or any sexual contact with a client (or former client) is unethical, illegal for many professions, and may also be damaging to your client. It’s absolutely important not to do anything that could be construed as such. It’s better to keep your client relationships on a professional level. If you do find yourself attracted to a client, be sure to investigate the legal situation in your local area.
Because there isn’t a legally-recognized body that makes ethical rules for life coaches, it’s better to play it safe, use common sense, avoid causing any harm to your clients, and when in doubt, get qualified legal advice. This isn’t a complete list of ethical considerations, but it’s a start.
Step 3. Get training and certification.
There are three goals here:
1. You need to know what you’re doing. You need the skills to actually help your clients transform their lives.
2. You need a way to convey your skills to potential clients.
3. You need to be positioned in a legal manner that fits your skills and qualifications.
Of these goals, number one is always important. If you don’t have skills, you need to gain some. And even if you already have enough training and experience to help clients, you can improve your results and client satisfaction by improving your skills.
Number two is accomplished by taking certification trainings. That’s right, “trainings,” plural. Start out with one, but plan on “continuing education” down the road. Continuing ed isn’t required for life coaches (or at least we’ve never heard of any legal requirement), but clients respect coaches who continue adding and refining their skills. (See Chapter 2 for more info about certification.)
Number three is complicated, as we discussed in Step 2. However, a Life Coach, Spiritual Life Coach, or Coaching Skills certificate can certainly help establish your position as a Spiritual Life Coach.
Step 4. Get practice.
Some coaching certification programs include lots of practice built-in. Ideally, a certification course will also involve high-quality feedback through peer review and supervision, so that instead of practicing your mistakes over and over, you’re getting input for improvement.
However, if you take a certification course that doesn’t include lots of practice, be aware that you’ll need to practice with family or friends, probably for free, to develop your skills enough to accept paying clients.
Step 5. Set up practical aspects such as meeting space (could be over the phone or computer), forms, note-taking, rates….
Do you have a space to meet with clients in person? Or can you make arrangements for it? If not, it may be possible to work with clients over the phone or computer.
Zoom and Skype offer ways to have a “virtual” meeting space. You’ll need to have a good internet connection, and a quiet, private room with a neutral or professional-looking background.
It’s a good idea to have an intake form, which accomplishes several purposes:
• It clarifies your professional qualifications and role
• It gathers information about your client’s goals and obstacles, saving time in your first session
• It allows you to do some initial screening, in case it is clear that your client’s issues aren’t a good fit for your qualifications or desires.
Also, have a way to take notes, and a system for keeping track of them, and keeping them confidential.
And you’ll need to decide on your rates. See Chapter 4 to help with this decision.
Step 6. Get clients.
Where do you find new clients? There are many, many possible ways to find new clients.
This can be a long topic, but we’ll give you three ideas here:
1. Give some free sessions.
2. Public speaking. Let people know about what spiritual coaching is, and what it can accomplish. Find specific topics that are of general interest, such as “Improving Relationships” or “Changing Habits”, especially if you have personal experience of change in one of these areas.
3. Blog. Starting a blog can be a way of getting your name out there. Talk about the amazing experiences that you and others in your certification class have experienced (taking care to get permission and preserve confidentiality for stories involving others.)
Many newly minted spiritual coaches find marketing to be the most difficult part of starting a new practice. And that’s why marketing your practice is part of the curriculum for our Core Transformation Coaches Certification Training.
Step 7. Get more clients.
I know, I’m being redundant here. This is just to emphasize this isn’t a step you do once and then it’s done forever. Most likely, keeping a full practice will require ongoing work on your part.
You can find a way to encourage your existing clients to share your information with others. Referral fees are ethically questionable, but most people want to share something great with those they love. So why not offer an initial session at a reduced rate—or even free—for anyone referred by an existing client?
Fortunately, depending on your financial needs, it may be possible to make a decent living working less than 20 hours a week. It doesn’t have to take a huge number of clients to keep you going. (See Chapter 4.)
Step 8. Keep your clients happy.
The best marketing is word of mouth. Keeping your clients thrilled with your work keeps them coming back, and can lead to referrals, especially if you make it easy for them to refer to you.
Now that you know how to start a spiritual coaching practice, our next chapter goes into more of the details about certification and training.