10 Things No Life Coach Should Ever Do

Because Life Coaching is entirely unregulated, any Life Coach can set up a business and do pretty much what they want (within the law) with impunity.

However, that doesn’t mean they should, and here are 10 things that are pretty much a no-no for any Life Coach who wants to be credible and also run a thriving business.

I’d love to get your take in the comments after on whether you agree or disagree or even if you can add to the 10 I listed.

1. Coach Family or Friends

You cannot do it!


And that isn’t just an ethical call.

You literally cannot do it effectively no matter what you think or even if the family member or friend tells you you were amazing afterward

I don’t care if you are brand new and practicing, or seasoned and just helping out, DON’T.

Life coaching relies on the coach being totally impartial and without any agenda other than the clients. That literally isn’t possible with people we know.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try and park your presuppositions and agenda of what is right or wrong, your unconscious mind won’t let you.

This is possibly the biggest cardinal sin for any coach this side of cajoling clients into coaching when they don’t need it and maybe murdering clients with a blunt farming instrument.

2. Treat Life Coaching As A Hobby

Some Life Coaches do this unconsciously and some do it intentionally, and both undermine the credibility of the coaching industry.

If you want to make a business out of Life Coaching and delivering win/win situations then you had better learn the business aspects of running a Life Coaching practice as well as how to coach effectively, otherwise you’re screwed.

If you want to be a coach as a hobby, take up jigsaws or crochet instead.

Life Coaching is a skill and as such requires hours of practice, reading, researching, learning etc.

It’s not offering advice to your friend Veronica who should ‘obviously’ leave her dick of a husband for forgetting to put the toilet seat down for the 3rd consecutive time!

People coming to you with problems on a regular basis at work or socially speaking doesn’t mean you’re a Life Coach.

It may mean you are suitable to become a Life Coach, but that isn’t the same thing.

Coaches can and do shape peoples lives and that’s not to be taken lightly.

3 Refuse To Shut Up

Do you know why we ask questions as Life Coaches?

Yep, it’s because we want to get the client thinking differently and to then elicit answers.

It is NOT because we want to look clever by then answering the question ourselves.

When you ask a question, STFU.

I don’t care how uncomfortable the silence is, still STFU.

Leonardo DiCaprio said in The Wolf of Wall Street, “He who talks first loses’.

He was talking about sales and there is a strong element of truth to that even if I don’t like to think of sales as a zero sum game with winners and losers.

So let’s change it somewhat to make it more coach friendly, shall we?

If you ask a question and answer before your client has had the chance to, or as they are still thinking, you lose.

Oh and by the way, so does the client because they hired a poor coach who doesn’t know when to STFU.

4. Ignore Ongoing Learning

I have been a Life Coach for the best part of a decade and I’m still learning on the job.

It’s a practice and as such we should be constantly looking to improve and fine tune our craft.

A few years ago I mentored a young coach and at the end of the process had this conversation (and I’m not embellishing for effect either).

Me: I think you’re well on your way.Client:

Yeh, thanks a lot.Me: I’ll e-mail you a list of books you can read that will help with your ongoing development

Client: Nah it’s ok, I think I’ve read enough books

Me: (stunned silence)

Unfortunately he still appears to be coaching.

Even more unfortunately he’s very good at marketing so probably has a steady stream of clients who have no clue that the last time he read a book on coaching Twitter didn’t even exist.

5. Offer Unsolicited Advice

I often give advice to clients, especially other Life Coaches who hire me because that is why they have hired me.

However, unless our clients ask for advice or hire us in more of a mentoring capacity then we’re not paid to give advice and in many ways it’s the antithesis of good coaching.

I often stress to clients that I’m not suggesting they follow one path or another, merely giving them food for thought.

The moment you convince yourself you know what is right for a client and that’s where you are going to guide them, is the moment you have failed both your client and yourself.

If you really, really want to give advice, ask for permission and explain it’s only an opinion.

6. Copy What Other Life Coaches Do

95% of Life Coaches earn less than $10k per year, yet I see so many coaches replicating what other coaches are doing without stopping to think why.

They join every Social Media platform, they imitate their websites, they try to remain happy go lucky 24/7 and they price their services based upon what seems like the ‘going rate’.

Join the Social Media platforms that you like and give the opportunity to talk directly to your audience (more in a moment).

Don’t even look at other coaches websites (the vast majority are awful – mine included to an extent, which is why it’s relaunching very soon) because your website is about YOU and what YOU can offer your potential clients.

More in a second on the happy go lucky approach, but prior to then, ignore what other coaches charge. I know coaches who’s bare minimum is $150k, yes that’s $150,000 per client.

And I know others that will coach for $50 per hour.

It’s a personal choice which is why I explain it in detail on the Coach the Life Coach course.

But it’s  also a financial decision based upon what value you can deliver and what money you need to survive and thrive.

There’s 10’s of thousand of coaches out there and the last thing you want is to be is an amalgam of them all and sat in the middle of a very large pack where nobody can see you.

7. Pretend Life is Awesome 24/7

Life is pretty much awesome for a lot of time, but life also sucks at times.

I have a load of tax and dental bills to pay very soon, and to be honest that sucks.

On the flip side, the training for Coach the Life Coach staring on May 25th is almost full and that’s awesome.

People connect with REAL people.

Sure you can go for the aspirational route of attracting clients by pretending you are the one person on the planet who has nailed life and never thinks, “Oh fuck it, that sucks”, but it’s very tiring and inherently dishonest.

To do so you are wearing a perpetual mask. You’re inauthentic and you are less attractive to (most) clients who know life aint really like that.

Has anybody ever pulled this approach off?

Sure, and a handful of people spring to mind, but they are so few and far between that as a marketing strategy it’s right up there with buying some magic beans and advertising on Craigs List.

Note: I understand that some people are naturally happier than others. I’m not saying try to be more miserable if you’re one of them, just don’t pretend you’re something you aren’t or that everybody can be like that because science may have something to say about that.

8. Ask For Help (Like An Amateur)

Yesterday I got the following e-mail:


I’ve started a Personal Development Blog, called xxxxxx. It’s going to be simple personal development that people can integrate into their lives, on a wide range of topics. I would greatly appreciate if you could consider having a look around and maybe mention the name, or even a link?

Also if you’re up for it, I also plan to do some ‘Expert roundups’ on various subjects in the future, is this something you’d be happy for me to include you in? It would just be simple questions, or opinions on certain topics.

It would really help me out and I’m sure you know how challenging it can be when starting out. Hopefully you’ll genuinely like my content as well, it’s written to be the best I can produce.

Thanks so much.

I get up to a dozen requests for help in any given week and I don’t mind in the least.

However, here is my particular beef with this one and the reasons why I won’t help.

  • He hasn’t even been arsed to address me by name which suggests it’s a blanket e-mail sent out to load of bloggers
  • Even though I have no idea who this guy is, his immediate contact with me is to ask me to help him
  • He wants a link from a GPR4. Well no shit, don’t we all? But me linking to him potentially weakens my link profile and gives him a huge bump. Would you stop a total stranger in the street and ask them to help you promote your business? If so, good luck and let me know how you get on.
  • He uses the lame “’I’m sure you know how challenging it can be when starting out.” Yes, absolutely I do, but I also know that when I approached bigger bloggers in my early days I researched them, understood their needs and their readers needs and went in with something highly targeted. You did none of that, you just formatted a crap e-mail and sent it out to a lot of people

By all means ask for help. But be respectful and try and offer some value to the other person first if you want to be taken seriously.

9. Try To Do Everything

You maybe short of cash to begin with and think you can do everything and anything yourself to be successful.


You need help, and lots of it, and here’s some ways of attaining it

Joining an awesome course like Coach the Life Coach to improve your coaching and client attraction skills led by that super modest chap, Tim Brownson.

Hiring a business coach who can help you set up processes in place to maximize your online (and offline) efforts.

Joining a free support group populated by other Life Coaches who you can brain storm with, such as this one maybe.

Outsourcing things such as design, SEO, accounting and anything else you either don’t like or aren’t very good at. This can be a much cheaper option than you may imagine if you use services like oDesk and Elance.

Exchanging your services. This is the first site I have ever paid a penny on. The A Daring Adventure site that is due to change in May 2014 didn’t cost me a dime as I exchanged services and coached the designer.

Too many coaches forget that what they have is of value and there may be a designer, or bookkeeper, or business coach out there who would love Life Coaching but cannot afford it.

10. Use Social Media Without a Strategy

The importance of Social Media is growing literally by the day. It’s almost impossible to generate traffic to your site without using it effectively.

Using it effectively does not mean signing up for every single account available and then posting the occasional quote or link to your blog in the hope that you will build a huge loyal following and a steady stream of clients.

I am just trailing Facebook advertising because unless you are prepared to pay to use Facebook you’re probably wasting your time since the recent changes. You can read more here on why Facebook just effectively became a paid product.

Think about why you use which Social Media platforms and what you are trying to achieve, and then keep that in mind when you are using your precious time and avoid getting into a 2 hour debates on Facebook on why we should save baby seals with people you don’t even really know.

So come on, let’s get your take in the comments. Agree, disagree, would like to add some more no-no’s?

Image: Danger Do Not Enter’ Courtesy of Berni Andrew


  1. Terra

    Thank you for the happy go lucky part!!! I sometimes feel as if I am a weirdo because I am just not that “woo-woo spiritual coach” that projects the image that everything is sunshine and rainbows 24/7!
    I fully support that a positive mindset helps us achieve… but still! Life can and will be freaking hard sometimes, and sometimes we just gotta stew in our own pot to get to the next point.

    My opinion is if we push our clients out of the pot before they are ready by asking them to “think positive” or do some forgiveness mantra to get over whatever is causing them a struggle at the moment — we are doing them a disservice. I’d rather let them take a break and come back to me when their resistance isn’t apt to be as high because they are having a moment.

    But, that maybe a newbie mistake.. not sure yet. 🙂

    • Tim Brownson

      Firstly you’re not a weirdo, you’re a human being.

      Secondly, that’s not a newbie mistake at all, it’s good coaching.

  2. Eva Tornallyay

    Tim, these are great, and also tough. But very valuable all of them.
    Maybe not copying others is the toughest one, but I think it takes time and practice to find my own voice, my own style. But it is possible.:)
    Also, this might not be a good advice, but due to someone’s advice, I started giving away free coaching. Not just one trial session, but complete processes. And then I got frustrated, when the clients were not showing up, cancelled in the last moment, and I was never sure why they were coming at all? Only cause it’s free, or also because it brought them value?
    For new coaches it can be hard to ask for money in the beginning, but I now see it works much better, if I give away only the first, which is actually a proper coaching session, but after that, the clients all come back for more.:) And this gives me so much confidence.
    So maybe that could be a rule too…..only give away pro-bono, when you have learnt how to coach for money.
    Anyway, I will look at them all again, when I’M not so tired.:) Plenty to read.
    Thank you. Eva

    • Tim Brownson

      If I made a list of the 10 toughest clients I have ever worked with 5 would have been pro bono clients from early on.

      People need to value what we do otherwise they (to coin an English phrase), take the piss 😉

  3. Tucker Dinnes

    Thank you Tim, I appreciate your straightforward approach. Not getting caught up in what other coaches are doing has been a challenge for me, finding and using my own voice. Part of that process has been honoring my own experiences, that life is not all good, all the time, and that just “thinking positive” does not make it so.
    I just picked up David Richo’s book “The 5 Things We Cannot Change…” and am looking forward to diving into it; I have spent a lot of time reading and studying, so I agree with you, as a coach ongoing learning is a must.

      • Tucker Dinnes

        I can tell you now because he puts them out there right at the start:

        Everything changes and ends
        Things do not always go according to plan
        Life is not always fair
        Pain is a part of life
        People are not loving and loyal all the time

        (He states these are givens in life, they may seem negative but each has a positive side.)

  4. Mea culpa, mea culpa …

    I coached a few ‘friends’ during my Diploma for my 100 case study hours, especially in the beginning. And I fully acknowledge what you’re saying about the inability to be impartial.

    We were told not to coach ‘friends who you socialise with’, so I managed to persuade myself that if I didn’t ‘socialise’ with them, then it was ok. They were, after all, more colleagues than friends.

    Having said all that, and not meaning to diminish the message at all, those ‘friends/colleagues’ have made the most amazing changes to their lives during and since their coaching sessions.

    A close friend offered to be one of my last case study clients, and I suggested it wasn’t a good idea as I really didn’t want to ‘spoil’ our closeness – and I’m really thankful we didn’t pursue it.

    Coaching people I haven’t previously met was initially scary, but I totally resonate with your words – no hidden agenda or pre-conceived knowledge or judgement, strengthens the coaching relationship and degree of coach/client trust.

      • Loving the ‘young’ analogy Tim – you’ve made my morning!

        I once wrote a piece for a midwifery journal called ‘Delivering friends and relatives’. We’d had a couple of disastrous cases where midwives cared for relatives with poor outcomes, and Supervisors of Midwives wanted to ban anyone from caring for a relative or ‘friend’. My article (British Journal of Midwifery, 1999), explored that deeper by asking when does a person become a ‘friend’? A community midwife builds up a relationship with the woman in her caseload, and by the time she’s in labour they have most likely become ‘friends’, though on a professional level. The outcome was that the midwife would ‘buddy up’ with another midwife so that her decision making remained sound.

        So I guess my question would be – are you saying/recommending don’t coach anyone you know in the slightest?

        When does an acquaintance cross the friend line?

        Or am I complicating the issue …

        • Hm tough call. In the slightest? Probably not because that could mean the mail man or the person who serves you in your favorite restaurant.

          I would say a rule of thumb would be if you already know the names of their close family and where they went on vacation last year you shouldn’t coach them.

          Then again I just pulled that out of my ass where it probably should have stayed so a better rule of thumb would be to listen to your instinct. if you’re trying to justify it then you probably shouldn’t be coaching them.

  5. The thing I see a lot of life coaches doing is creating a website with no strategy behind it. Whenever I’ve done a website review for a coach, 100% of the time they’ve slapped up everything they can think of that they want to be recognised for – videos, blog posts, interviews they’ve done … without considering the service they’re providing and what value each element is adding to the lives of their clients (or potential clients).

    This is similar to your point on using social media without a strategy – don’t just do it because everyone else is … because you’ll then just be everyone else, and not yourself.

    – Razwana

    • Tell me about it, I was just looking at probably the worst website in the world that belong to a coach. Telling your visitors you have a degree in mechanical engineering probably won’t seal the deal unless they’re a mechanical engineer.

  6. Tracy

    Thanks Tim and others for the awesome back and forth. I have been silently sitting back reading your posts and ebooks in awe. Thanks for putting yourself out there! I am starting my first fundamentals class next month in the twin cities through CTI. I do worry about getting lost in a big organization. Website design I feel is very huge and a tad bit intimidating. Yes, I am reading tons and can’t wait to do formal training. I am leaving the field of education in the next two months. I know I shouldn’t have quit my day job as a school psychologist (school psycho I say!) Frankly I can’t see the road, if I don’t take this fork out of my eye, which is my current profession. So wish me luck on not doing any of the 10 plus things you all have informed me about. Loved your goal setting guide too!

    I am pretty sure your May 25th course is full, but I might do your September round. Beginner question…. is your course something I would take in addition or instead of CTI?

    Thanks again for your unfiltered take on things. Very refreshing!

    • Tim Brownson

      Thanks for the kind words Tracy.

      Yes the 25th is full and the next one after that will probably be August, still playing about with dates.

      The course is specifically designed to offer skills and business help that is usually not covered off by companies like CTI, but also to be self contained so that further training isn’t absolutely necessary, even if it’s always a good thing to have ongoing education.

      I’ll be sending out info well in advance and I am also planning a one day course purely aimed at the business element of running a coaching practice.

  7. Terry Kenney

    Thank you, these are very helpful for me as the new gal on the block. I graduated from CCI in May and I am working on my certification. Your insights into coaching friends and relatives couldn’t be more right on and speaks to what I am going through currently. I have had 2 friends and a relative volunteer as part of the recorded sessions I must submit. Not going as well as I hoped for the very reasons you mentioned. Thank you for your insights