Jay Cataldo gets JobShadowed about his career as a life coach.  You can find him at www.jaycataldo.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview. 

What do you do for a living?

I help people make major life changes and overcome challenges when nothing else has worked for them and they’re hopelessly frustrated with their current circumstances.

How would you describe what you do?

I help people discover specifically what they would like to achieve, identify the obstacles that are holding them back and break down what steps need to be taken to move forward and accomplish their goals.

If they are interested in improving their time management skills and eliminating procrastination, our work might include the following:

-Teaching them the productivity strategies of top executives

-Helping them prioritize their tasks on a daily basis

-Teaching them how to “get in the zone” so they can accomplish more in less time

-Teaching them emotional release techniques (self-hypnosis, eft, Sedona method, yoga breathing, etc) for shifting their negative emotions for when they get stuck in states of anxiety, overwhelm or apathy

-Explaining how both our physical health and our emotional states affect our productivity and then tweaking their diets, sleep habits, and leisure time activities

-Monitoring their progress and modifying their daily routines as necessary until the new habits are formed

What does your work entail?

I work with clients on a weekly basis either in person, over the phone or via webcam. Since I chose not to specialize (many life coaches pick a specialty such as dating help or career transitions), I work with clients of all ages, all over the world, with a wide variety of challenges. To give you an idea of what my clientele is like, here are a few of the people I am currently working with:

-A 27 year old single-mom who dreams of starting her own business
-A 26 year old male virgin who wants to improve his dating life
-A 27 year old male who is stuck in his current career and needs a change
-A 30 year old personal trainer who is having trouble marketing his business
-A 34 year old female attorney who wants to find a good man to settle down with
-A 55 year old businessman who is having issues with his live-in boyfriend
-A 25 year old struggling actor who developed a fear of going on auditions
-A 43 year old recently divorced man who has no clue how to get started dating again
-A 20 year old college student who needs help overcoming social anxiety and making new friends
-A 38 year old male who panics whenever he gets sexually intimate with a woman
-A 35 year old British actor who needs help winning his ex-girlfriend back

What’s a typical work week like?

I usually schedule about 20 hourly sessions each week. But in-between sessions I am answering email inquiries, following up with clients, working on my website, writing articles, creating products and constantly researching. I work 10-12 hour days, 5-6 days a week.

How did you get started?

To put it simply, as a teenager I was an absolute mess. I suffered from shyness, low self-esteem and heaps of negative thinking. I couldn’t afford therapy and there was no internet back then so I did a lot of reading in the hopes that I would be able to “fix” myself someday. After reading every self-help book I could get my hands on, I eventually discovered hypnosis and NLP (neuro-linguistic-programming) which were a tremendous help in changing my habits and thought patterns.

I eventually began studying dating and relationship dynamics and authored a book that teaches men how to win their ex-girlfriends back after a breakup (“Get Your Girl Back”) Guys would read my book and then contact me for additional relationship advice. I then began helping them in other areas -since I had done so much work on myself, I understood what they needed to move forward with their relationships and personal goals. I eventually moved away from offering just dating and relationship advice so I could work with a larger client base (and to be perfectly honest, I got really bored talking about breakups all day). This is a long-winded way of saying I essentially just fell into it.

What do you like about what you do?

I love being able help people move past their perceived limitations and tap into their unlimited potential. While I’m certainly not changing the world on a grand scale (curing diseases and such) when a client who has never been kissed gets into his first relationship or someone struggling with self-esteem issues and shyness becomes the life of the party, I feel so much satisfaction that I am making a difference in the quality of someone’s lifestyle. If I can help someone find more happiness and joy in life then I can go to sleep at night knowing that I have done my part.

What do you dislike?

Sometimes the lack of leisure time can be frustrating. But other than that, there is not much to dislike about my job. I am very blessed to be able to do what I do.

As far as my gripes with the profession itself, I dislike how anyone can take a weekend workshop and call themselves a coach (I have the same gripe with hypnosis certification seminars). I feel that most people need far more training then what is typically offered in most coaching certification programs.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I am paid on a per-session basis.

How much money do Life Coaches make?

As far as I’m aware, coaches charge anywhere between $50 and $1000 a session depending
on the type of service offered. Typically, business and executive coaches have higher fees and career coaches are usually a little less (but still typically more expensive than other coaches). I would guess that the industry average is around $100-150 per session (and a session can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 or more hours in length. industry standard is between 30-60 minutes). The good news is since you will be running your own business, you can charge as much or as little as you’d like as long as you find a market that is willing to pay your fees. And adding to that, you can see a few clients a week or more than 20 depending on your motivation and the demand for your services).

How much money did/do you make starting out as a Life Coach?

It all depends on your market and your marketing. If you have a way to reach your target market and people truly need and can afford your services, you can have a 6-figure practice in a very short amount of time. More realistically speaking, most coaches start out part-time as they tend to struggling with acquiring clients in the beginning. I have heard from a business coach that helps life coaches with their marketing that most of the coaches he knows are making between 15-50K a year.

If you don’t have a solid plan to acquire clients and you are not completely self-motivated to do the work, then you may struggle in the beginning stages of building your practice. The good news is, you can keep your day job while building your coaching practice on the side.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

The coaching field is not regulated in any way so you do you not need any special schooling or certification. Anyone can put up a website and call themselves a life coach without having any credentials of any kind. However, most coaches have enrolled in a training program for life coaches or have been mentored by a coach.

In my personal opinion, while learning about the various tools and methodologies that coaches use to facilitate change is vital to your success as a coach, I also feel that personal experience is extremely important. For instance, if at one point in your life you were extremely shy but now you are warm, outgoing and feel completely at home while conversing with groups, then you might want to help others with similar challenges.

Similarly, if you have struggled with your weight for years but eventually learned how to maintain your ideal weight without constant yo-yo dieting, then you might want to look into becoming a health coach. Ideally, you should have experienced the same (or similar) challenges your clients are facing in addition to possessing a burning desire to help others overcome these challenges. If you have these two things going for you, then you can figure out the rest as you go. No matter how much classroom training you might have had, there is no substitute for facilitating hundreds of hours of sessions with a wide variety of people as this is the only way to hone your skills and become an amazing coach.

As far as my own credentials go, while I have taken various training courses over the last 15 years, the only certification I possess that I’m truly proud of is this one: Certified Master Hypnosis Trainer for the International Association of Counselors and Therapists.

What is most challenging about what you do?

The most challenging part of what I do is accepting the fact that you can’t help everyone. If the person coming to you does not TRULY want to change, there is very little you can do. Until you accept this fact, you will struggle with frustration and self-doubt. But once you move past this, you will stop wasting time with people who are not ready for a breakthrough and only work with people who are willing to put in the time and energy to change their lives.

Many coaches also get frustrated when nothing they try seems to be working i.e., the client is stuck at a particular crossroad and can’t move forward. I personally enjoy these challenges because they force you to get creative and think outside the box to help someone move past their sticking points.

And finally, I find myself getting so caught up in my client’s lives and invested in their success that I’ll be constantly thinking about them and brainstorming new ways to help them. This can get overwhelming when you are seeing 20+ clients each week. But this is a minor gripe and nothing to be too concerned about. It is a privilege to be able to peek inside the inner workings of someone’s lifestyle and it’s my job to help them break through to the next level, no matter what
it takes.

What is most rewarding?

The most rewarding part is knowing that the person I worked with has changed their future outlook and become a happier human being because of our work together. These results help me feel great about myself knowing that all the hardships and struggles I endured help me inspire and motivate others.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Don’t start out like I did (being everything to everyone). Pick a niche, preferably one you are both knowledgeable and passionate about (health coaching for women, for example). Get the best training you can and never stop broadening your toolkit. Make sure you work with a coach yourself. And have a plan for acquiring clients otherwise you will get frustrated and have to find other work to pay the bills.

Oh, and most importantly, don’t even consider this profession unless you truly love your fellow human beings and have a burning desire to help others.

How much time off do you get/take?

You can take as much or as little time off as you’d like since you’ll be your own boss. I personally take off 2 weeks a year but I know of coaches who take full months off at a time.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

The two most common misconceptions are: 1. People who work with coaches are “screwed up” in some way, and 2. Since a life coach is not a therapist or psychiatrist, there’s no way they can help me.

My responses are:

1. People who seek out coaches are usually not “screwed up” in any way. They simply have a desire to better their lives, they understand the value of guidance and support and most importantly, they value their own time! If you want to start your own business, you could certainly figure things out on your own through trial and error – but it might take you 10 years! Why not work with someone who can shorten your learning curve by 75% and save you YEARS of wasted effort? And since every professional athlete has a team of coaches helping them develop their talents, shouldn’t we learn from their example and go find our own coaches to help us reach greater levels of success?

2. Most of the people I work with do not require therapy (I will always refer people out if I feel they require it) yet they still need some form of help. If I’m having trouble working up the courage to talk to a pretty girl because I have no clue what to say, why would I want to go to therapy to cry about my problem to a man that is happily married to his high school sweetheart? I would rather go learn from someone who has a great track record with women and who can teach me, step-by-step, what specifically to say while helping me tap into my emotional motivation system so I can overcome the hesitation and self-doubt that is keeping me stuck. This is what a coach can do for you.

Whereas therapy is typically focused on the past and discovering how your problems were created, coaching is more future oriented and focuses on the steps you need to take right now to move past your problems.

Oh, and the other big misconception is that I’m way too young to be doing this. I blame it on my baby-face. 🙂 But all kidding aside, while I may look young, I’m 34 years old and I took my very first hypnosis training back in 1997 (I was 19).

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

My dream is that our educational system will one day see the value in coaching and make sure that every student has his own personal life coach and mentor.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

If you are interested in learning more about this career path, the first thing you should do is work with a coach yourself so you will have a better understanding of the coaching process.