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Become an ICF Certified Coach: Hidden wisdom for a no risk journey

I did it, Mom! I finally become an ICF Certified Coach.

After a one-year journey, over 130 hours of training, 100 hours of practice, 3 books, and over 5500 euros invested, I got a shiny diploma that says I’m an ICF Certified Coach.

While I’m excited about the opportunities that are ahead of me, I’m still a promoter of getting your education through personal experience. In fact, I don’t encourage anyone to study something just to get a diploma. The diploma, in most cases, is useless and the more I dig around ICF, the more I get the same feeling about the Coaching Certification.

And since you clicked on the title of the article and started reading, the chances are you’re interested in becoming an ICF Certified Coach yourself.

In this article, just so you know what you’re about to read, you’re going to discover my journey of becoming an ICF Certified Coach. I’ll talk about how I started coaching and what made me want to get certified. I’ll share with you some general info about ICF, the duration and costs of the training process, and some of the things that nobody told me, but I discovered by engaging with the process.

David The Optimist Coaching Credential

How I started coaching

I’ve been working as a freelance digital marketer since 2012 and started writing about personal development in 2009, which became my passion later, in 2012-2013.

At the same time, in 2013, I found my first mentor and for the next 4-5 years, I learned from him a lot about the corporate world, about public speaking, training, and coaching. Thanks to my mentor from back then, I got the chance to build and have a strong foundation for a lot of business-related activities.

Combining the little knowledge I had of coaching with my passion for personal development, I started helping people and coached others whenever I got the chance.

I was obsessed with it! So obsessed most people found me annoying.

And my obsession with helping others is what got me my first client.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a freelance digital marketer and was having marketing clients. In 2018, I got my first coaching client, who was at first a marketing client. That’s how I started.

I had no specific training and no certification, but had a lot of experience from all the things I did around personal development.

What made me want to become an ICF Certified Coach

From a point on, I started thinking about having a bigger impact through coaching.

My first client was an entrepreneur who had a small marketing agency, with 1-2 employees. The next client was similar. And little by little I got to a point where I was coaching entrepreneurs with small & medium businesses, with 10 to 15 employees.

In 2021, I looked at what I was doing and decided that I wanted to have a bigger impact through coaching and started to find ways of doing that.

It was only one year later, after constantly looking for answers, that a dear friend of mine recommended I speak with a certified coach, which my friend knew personally.

That’s how I found out about ICF and, after doing some research, realized it’s one of the biggest coaching institutions in the world.

If I’m going to become a certified coach, then I’d better be an ICF Certified Coach” is what I told myself.

General info about ICF

ICF stands for International Coaching Federation and, in March 2021, ICF had 44035 members in 151 countries.

If you are an ICF Member, it doesn’t mean you are a certified coach. Also, if you are a certified coach, it doesn’t mean you are an ICF Member.

Being a certified coach and being a member are two different things. You get to become an ICF Certified coach after a number of training hours, practice hours, and an exam. You get to become an ICF Member by simply purchasing a membership.

And there are two reasons to become a member:

  1. Becoming an ICF Member before the exam will give you a discount for the exam fee;
  2. Becoming an ICF Member will give you the opportunity to connect with certified coaches around the world (even in your city and country) and volunteer for various ICF activities. This is great if you know you want to become an ICF Certified Coach and want to have a head start.

And there’s a third reason, but I think you also need to be an ICF Certified Coach, not just a member. If you’re both a member and a certified coach, you get access to a lot of learning resources, such as written articles, PDFs, webinars, and so on.

When I first become a member and planned my exam, in March 2023, these were the fees:

  • ICF Membership: $245
  • ICF Exam: $325

But there are two discounts available.

If you become a member, you get a $150 discount for the exam, which means you’ll pay $175 instead of $325.

Also, there’s a hidden discount that I discovered by accident.

I wanted to create a member account two months before I was ready for the exam and in order to complete the account creation process, I had to pay the membership fee.

I postponed it and eventually the marketing automation emails were in my favor. A few days after trying to create my member account (and not finishing the membership purchase), I got an email with a 10% discount code for the membership fee, and instead of paying $245, I paid $220.

Therefore, instead of paying $570, I only paid $400. That’s a total discount of $170 or 30%.

You can find more info about ICF Membership and Credentialing by clicking here – a fact sheet PDF will open.

ICF Exam requirements

ICF Exam requirements

There are a few credentials available and I’d recommend you to check the ICF Website. They have created a specific website if you’re interested in becoming a certified coach. Click here for more info.

But I’ll tell you about my credential and training without mentioning the organization that delivered the training process, and I’ll share with you why in a second.

There are three levels of certification:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – Completed 60 hours of coach specific education and 100 hours of client coaching experience
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – Completed 125 hours of coach specific education and 500 hours of client coaching experience
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Hold or have held a PCC Credential, completed 200 hours of coach specific education and 2,500 hours of client coaching experience

The training I got was accredited with ICF – ACTP and consisted of 138.6 hours of training, which is enough for the PCC certification.

Even though I don’t have the 500 hours of client needed for PCC, I got more than the hours of coach specific education needed for PCC. This means that when I get to 500 hours of client experience, I can simply apply for PCC and nothing else will be needed.

Whenever you decide to become an ICF Certified Coach, make sure you choose a training option that comes with over 125 hours of coach specific education.

I started my training in May 2022 and it ended in November 2022. The early bird was around €5200 which I was able to pay in 3 installments.

The training was online, via Zoom, and there were mentoring and practical activities included.

Fun Fact: 0 % More Effective

Did you know that optimistic leaders are rated 30% more effective?

How I got my first 100 hours of client work

There are a few things I did to get the needed hours.

In my case, because I had prior coaching experience, I wanted to use those hours too. But ICF doesn’t allow it and you can only start counting the hours after your first day of training.

Since I started my training on 16th of May, I could have started counting my hours right after that day. But because I was more engaged with learning new things about coaching, I was too focused on the learning process and started looking for clients only in the middle of June and finished the 100 hours required in February. So, around 9 months needed in total.

First, I contacted everyone I knew and told them about what I was doing. I contacted old clients, friends, and friends of friends. Basically, I spread my arms and tried to reach as many people as possible.

When I was at around 70-75 hours, I asked one of the lead facilitators for guidance and found a great platform.

That platform is called ReciproCoach and it’s great for two reasons:

  • You get access to quality coaching at a small fee

In general, a coaching session (of one hour) starts from around €150 and can go as high as a few thousand euros.

On ReciproCoach, through Peer Coaching, you get to have access to programs of 6 coaching sessions (30 to 60 minutes each) for only €50 for all the sessions.

At the same time (and this is how I made over 20 hours), you have to coach someone from the platform.

  • You get to coach great people

I was lucky enough to coach some great people through ReciproCoach. One of them was the Executive Director at J.P. Morgan, another one was an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience, and the third one was a Forbes 30 Under 30.

With this type of client, you get to have a real coaching experience, understand who you are as a coach, and know where to improve, even though it doesn’t bring an income right away.

Oh, and one more important thing.

Out of the first 100 hours, you can have 25 pro-bono hours.

Out of the first 500 hours, you can have 75 pro-bono hours.

And for the first 100, I know that the paid ones can be like this:

  • A donation: the person you coach can donate some money (even something as small as €5) to a charitable cause
  • A service: the person you coach can do something for you in return (proofreading, dancing lessons, etc)
  • A meal: the person you coach can pay for the meal/coffee you have together when you coach them

I’ve been told that for the first 100 hours, these kinds of payments are valid.

Be aware of these things before you become an ICF Certified Coach

Be aware of these things before you become an ICF Certified Coach

There are a few things that are really important to know and I wish I knew them before I started.

First, don’t get too attached to the idea of joining an organization right after you become certified.

As I told you before, a friend of mine recommended that I’ll speak with a certified coach, which my friend knew personally. This certified coach is the global chair of the organization who provided the training.

In the first call I had with the global chair, he promised that after I’ll get my certification, I’ll get to join their business and be part of it, as an ICF Certified Coach.

They didn’t keep their promise and I was really mad because of it.

Don’t fall for the same trap. If you get the chance to join the organization you’re trained by, that’s amazing. But lower your expectations.

Second, there are many platforms that you can join as a certified coach. BetterUp is one of them. But nobody told me that first I’ll need to have a PCC credential to be able to join such platforms, at least not at first.

Third, don’t rely too much on ICF for whatever you think you need for your coaching career.

Since I got my certification (two months ago), ICF provided me with two opportunities to engage with potential clients and I got to speak with 7 different people, one of them representing a company.

Nothing happened yet and I didn’t really expect anything to happen. I’m just putting it out there, keeping my curiosity active while trying to understand ICF as an organization.

The diploma you get is just a diploma and nothing more.

In the end, it’s your responsibility as a coach to find clients and it’s your responsibility to get involved and know people. And that’s important because if you don’t have clients, you don’t get to practice your coaching skills. Have that in mind before you decide to become an ICF Certified Coach.

Final words

Being an ICF Certified Coach seems to be a great opportunity for getting a chance to work with even more individuals.

I decided to get my certification to be able to help executives and the whole training process was built around that. But you can also become an ICF Certified Life Coach.

It’s all up to you.

Have in mind that being a certified coach doesn’t mean that right after you get your certification, you get to practice coaching. It all depends on your skills to connect with people.

If you have any follow-up questions, reach out using the contact page and I’ll do my best to help you.

If you’re curious about my coaching process or programs, click here.

With love and optimist,

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