What Skills Do You Need to Be a
Successful Life Coach?

See also: What is Life Coaching?

Life coaches come from all backgrounds and have varied skill sets, so there is no specific background or previous employment record you need to have to be successful in this career.

However, there are certain skills that can really benefit you if you’re considering this line of work, enabling you to help others more effectively and even specialise in certain areas.

What does a life coach do?

Before we get into the skills needed, you may be wondering what a life coach does. Award winning psychotherapist Maggie Morrow states that “life coaching uses a solution-focused approach to personal development that is designed to help you make positive and lasting changes to your life. Your coach will facilitate this change via tried and trusted tools and techniques to empower you in a caring, supportive, inspiring environment”.

A life coach helps clients find direction and motivates them to take their life in a certain direction, whether that’s improving how they connect with others, identifying the hurdles they’re facing that are holding them back, or helping them find new ways of dealing with challenges. It’s a fulfilling career that can be incredibly rewarding and is an ideal job for those who like meeting new people and helping others. But what skills do you need to be successful in this line of work?


As a life coach, you’ll be speaking with people who are struggling. They might feel directionless or hopeless and find it difficult to move their lives forward in a way that feels meaningful. You’ll be speaking with people from all different backgrounds and experiences, so you need to show sensitivity to where people have come from and where they’re at currently. Empathy enables you to understand what a client is feeling and going through, and allows you to find a solution for them that fits their specific needs. Identifying with them in this way also ensures that you ask the right life coaching questions with sensitivity and compassion.


Building such rapport is important, but can also lead to the possible drawback of becoming too attached emotionally to your clients. You want to be invested in their wellbeing and goals, but not to the point where it’s clouding your judgement. For this reason, objectivity is a skill that life coaches need to have, to be able to take a step back and offer advice that’s in the best interest of the client. No-one is immune to biases and it’s natural for all of us to have our views coloured by our own experiences, but as a life coach, being able to foster objectivity can really improve the service you provide to your clients.


Communication skills are an essential element of working as a life coach. You need to be able to communicate effectively with people from all backgrounds and of all ages, but excellent communication skills don’t start and end with talking – there are various forms of communication to build on. You also need to have strong writing skills, be able to listen carefully to what your clients are saying and have the capacity to observe people’s visual cues and non-verbal signals. Life coaches don’t only communicate with their clients during an appointment. You’ll also need to follow up with your clients to ensure they’re making progress, and to develop a lasting relationship built on trust.


Your clients are dealing with real problems and are looking for practical solutions. Some of those issues might be sensitive and difficult to open up about. You’re asking clients to be vulnerable and that can be hard for many people to do. You will therefore need to be able to handle these issues with care and confidentiality, to inspire confidence from your clients that they can comfortably open up to you without judgement. The role of life coach requires you to encourage people and build trust with your clients, with confidentiality sitting at the heart of that.


You will be working with multiple clients weekly, each with their own appointments and specific goals and issues to resolve, so you need to be organised to handle it all with efficiency and confidentiality. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re missing appointments or mixing up details between clients. This will only damage your reputation and won’t inspire trust for the future. Whether you consider yourself to be an organised person or not, it can be beneficial to brush up on your organisational skills before getting into this field, to stay on top of your daily tasks and scheduling.


Successful life coaches should have a desire to learn and make a positive impact on the people around them. After all, it’s most likely the reason why you’re interested in this particular career path. While a passion for this subject isn’t a skill you can develop necessarily, curiosity is something you can build on. Not only does curiosity help to create a more fulfilling career for you as an individual, it also helps you to think actively rather than passively when you’re talking to clients. It puts you in the right mindset to observe and find new ways to resolve problems that can benefit them.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Coaching and Mentoring

The Skills You Need Guide to Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring require some very specific skills, particularly focused on facilitating and enabling others, and building good relationships. This eBook is designed to help you to develop those skills, and become a successful coach or mentor.

This guide is chiefly aimed at those new to coaching, and who will be coaching as part of their work. However, it also contains information and ideas that may be useful to more established coaches, especially those looking to develop their thinking further, and move towards growing maturity in their coaching.

In summary

Working as a life coach is a rewarding career that can help other people enormously, whether you choose to specialise in the advice and guidance you provide or the people you work with, or you choose to work with a broad range of people. It’s an interesting, diverse and ever-changing role that will keep you learning all the time. You will want to prioritise your communication skills and empathy, as well as your ability to stay organised. But you should also understand that while you may be invested in your clients and their wellbeing and happiness, you also have a duty to remain objective and unbiased to really help them in the best way possible.

About the Author

Dakota Murphey is a writer based in Brighton, specialising in management training, HR and effective talent acquisition. Having authored pieces for numerous online and print magazines, Dakota has undertaken independent studies to discover how managerial styles and practices can positively impact business productivity.