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I’m a big fan of coaching… it’s one of the fastest ways I know to start and grow a business. But how do you know if you’re qualified to teach? You might be surprised to find out how many times my credentials have come up in conversations with prospective clients…

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56 Replies to “Are You Qualified to Teach? (The One About Credentials)”

  1. Jeff – I have to comment on this. I completely understand the self-doubt that holds talented coaches back from sharing their brilliance (that the work I do!). BUT to say that credentials are not required is just irresponsible.

    You are right that coaching is a completely unregulated industry, with no requirement for training or certification. Supervision has never been required. There is an idea that coaching causes no harm. There is NO research to support this. In fact, the lack of psychological awareness of coaches is a huge and growing problem. There is a world of difference between sports coaching and coaching that address the complex nuanced world of life and leadership coaching.

    There is so much focus on the ‘business’ of coaching but not as much on coaching ‘skills.’   These are dependant on each other, of course and there is no doubt that knowing how to market your work is SUPER important. But learning how to be an excellent coach takes time, thought and experimentation; it’s literally a practice. As coaches, we are invited into the inner world of our clients; it’s an incredibly intimate and privileged place to work in. When it’s just you and the warm, breathing human in front of you, and at times you feel uncertain, judgey, irritated or even bored, having the skills to know HOW to show up is imperative.

    • Christine Murphy


      Hi Sas:
      I enjoyed reading your response to Jeff. I have been coaching people for years. Never in an official capacity but because I have had large world wide teams for over 25 years and I always ended up being the person that people gravitated to with their life issues/problems/challenges/hopes and dreams. I decided after being coached by 3 different coaches myself for the past 10 years that I wanted to take this on in an official capacity and went and spent the money and the time to get “certified”. The interesting part of the course (and it was a great course so please don’t get me wrong) was that I had more experience and more “heart and care” in how I was approaching coaching than my instructors.
      I feel more than qualified to be a life coach, but you are 100% correct! Getting to the heart of the matter one on one with another human being is an heart form! After having one coach that I think shouldn’t have been a coach I know that it is so important that people search their own hearts and make sure that they are “qualified” in their life experience but most of all their heart and soul to do only good and not damage someone in the process.
      Thanks for taking the time to write your response.
      With Love and Light

    • I don’t think Jeff is saying that credentials are not required.

      I think he is saying that depending on what field you are in, “credentials are not necessarily necessary”. And the effectiveness of a coach is not dependent on credentials. I agree with this 100%.

      Credentials are necessary in many cases because business norms make them so. For example, most Fortune 100 companies would not hire an executive coach that wasn’t certified. You would never get on their approved vendor list. That being said, I’ve coached many executives and helped them develop greater awareness in many areas without the need for official credentials.

    • There is a wise saying I learn from my mentor… Fake it till you make it! And 30 years later in my career it is still true. Just do it and try to get better at it everyday, Start and good luck!

    • I think what Jeff is really saying if you take this video as a whole is that it’s the proven ability to get results (experience) that matters most in the majority of fields. That plus a certification won’t hurt you. But to be certified without the ability to produce results will show in the form of dissatisfied clients and low income. And marketing will only ruin a coach faster if they can’t produce results.

  2. Thanks Jeff, great video as ever! I’ve published five books through regular publishing houses and 45 digital self-published products. And one day, someone asked me if I had any qualifications to write?? I’m very glad I ignored him!

    • Yes! I’m so happy for you and your success WITHOUT being “knighted” by some self-appointed authority. Most “certification programs” are businesses started by marketers, especially the most well-known ones.

      It just shows some of us are still working under the brainwashing of the status quo. If it doesn’t make you better in any way than what you were doing before, then what is the use in the piece of paper. It’s just a way to extract money out of you, not to make sure that you are well-versed in your field. Bravo, Linda, Bravo!

    • Hi Linda, I am so glad you ignored him! I am a writer and I also teach writing classes. So many students have told me they’re taking my classes because they can’t write. We all learned to write in school. It’s about whether you want to write and whether you have a message you want to share. It’s also about hiring a good editor to ensure that what you write clearly conveys your message. All the best to you with future books and digital products!

  3. Thanks Jeff
    Good words and do true.

    Experience trumps parchment every time. So the lesson is: go get the experience. I particularly like the question ” Who certify the certified”
    We used to hear that professors taught because they couldn’t or didn’t make it in the Real World.
    Thanks again,

    Charles Christmas

  4. Awesome! Our teachers are our coaches. It’s in the rub!!!
    Jeff you rock!

  5. Jeff – thank you so much for sharing! It is so easy to get drawn into the feeling of not being good enough. There is always going to be someone prettier, smarter, faster, more educated, etc., than we are at any point in our lives because we are all running our race (life) at different paces. In my 17 years of sales, I have learned that people buy from people they like and TRUST. If we can master those two things, then it doesn’t really matter how many letters are behind our name. 🙂

  6. Need to get into this. Funny thing is that I AM qualified to teach, and have done so; yet, creds seem to have gone the way of relationship degree (as in one’s degree of relationship with someone). Now, technology has changed the connection paradigm to how much they “like” someone, and how and what they share.

  7. i’m not an owner of PLF…not quite getting the green light (it has nothing to do wtih credentials, its just where I am at in life) but I agree. The more ‘credentials ‘ a person has, the less teachable they become. That is why I absolutely DESPISED school to the core,. Schools teach people to be SLAVES, slaves, and slaves.I am trying to UNDO my ‘educational learning’. Also, Medical Doctors have NO IDEA how to REALLY treat disease, which is why I had to go totally outside all boxes to continue to get well, actually, I had to get rid of the box. People don’t’ like it when a person tries to get rid of the box because they want you to be a slave. This world is totally backwards.- Everyone is a slave, mostly, and I am trying to break free.
    Mark Twain “Don’t let your education get in the way of your learning.’

    • Completely agreed! The majority of human beings walking around on earth have been forced into a system of indoctrination to follow directions and be told what to do. In essence, being led around by the nose.

      The truth of the matter is slave is a nice word for what we are going through today. It’s more like Mindless indentured servitude! I have had to completely undo all of my traditional thinking from being pushed through our antiquated school system. I think more people will come to this realization, but only when it has been forced upon them.

      I believe the people who are trying to learn about product launches and/or free themselves financially are the ones who will be most happy and most able to carry out their life dreams. I see the unbelievable misery everyday in people going to work and in people working their jobs.

  8. Hi Jeff

    Loving your videos. I read your book Launch a month or two ago and ever since I can’t stop watching your videos. I am in the middle of starting my very first online business and I am terrified because I have NEVER done it before and also I have no credentials in the field. Enjoying the process and privileged to learn from someone who has done it so many times! It gives me hope and comfort.

  9. Hi Jeff. I’m not usually one to leave comments, but your video really resonated with me. I am very used to chasing the post nominal, but This time I am trying to do it differently in my emerging business, and chase the client instead. Thanks for the post.

  10. Back in the day, a government customer encouraged me to apply for a project management job he had open. To qualify, I had to apply for and receive a GS-13 rating with what was then called civil service. I went to read about what I needed to do to get that rating. I discovered that the people handing out ratings had their own rating of…..GS-7.

    So I read their “rule book” and discovered that the GS-7 had a set of key words and sentences that they were trained to look for to make their decision. So I wrote my application based on their rules, always truthful and factual but, in their language. I received a GS-14 rating and then…. The president at the time declared a government hiring freeze.

    Don’t fall for the judgment making abilities of others. They may be reading from a different book!

  11. Thanks Jeff
    This is so pertinent for me… you’re right on!
    I’m a CA which is the South African equivalent of a CPA, studied, written board exams and completed years of articles etc so it’s difficult to back myself in a field so new to me, with no credentials and effectively no experience… in going for it tho… next stop …you’ll be seeing me as a case study

  12. It’s true that credentials do not always translate into quality or being a qualified expert. While those things are not guaranteed by credentials, it is imperative that you have some evidence that you’ve ‘earned the right’ to teach.

    Jeff, you’ve been in and developing your business for 21 years right alongside this industry. And you’re doing it successfully. That gives you credentials. You said it yourself, you’re looking to get coached by someone ‘with experience’. The biggest challenge anyone starting out has getting hired is their lack of experience.

    Here’s the conundrum; when a person has the experience or qualifications and wants to help others, they don’t doubt themselves. It’s the person who wants to help others that doesn’t have the experience or qualifications that has a difficult time getting started. So they seek a way to stack evidence in their favor. Where they must be very careful is to not ‘buy into’ an idea simply to justify their own behavior.

    What gives coaching a bad wrap is the people who are out there coaching for free, without experience, without training, without genuine expertise and without proper evidence of their ability. But they can talk. Or ‘market’ themselves. Marketing in and of itself does not qualify someone to coach. You need both the qualifications and the ability to market to be successful. Without them, it’s a dangerous game to play and it hurts everyone in the end.

    • Josie – Just left my thoughts on this and then read yours. I have come across alot of coaches in my years as a coach and sadly have come across some that had the credentials but were lousy coaches. In fact I have cleaned up a few business messes from credentialed coaches. So to say it’s all inclusive it’s just not. A great topic to ponder in how we can all become better at our craft for the good of the industry and the people and businesses we serve.

  13. In my field, retirement planning, there are a zillion designations and certifications. None of them mean anything without experience. I’ve only pursued those that Give me more knowledge and kept me up to date in my industry, not the well known and respected ones that I find make people seem ” qualified” but generally are unable to put a decent plan togethet In fact, the premier designation is CFP, which I am not. But a retiring CFP wound up paying me$2,000 (not happily) to prepare his own retirement plan because he realized I knew more than he did. It just amazed him that I could change a higher fee than he did, and I wouldn’t work with him unless he paid it.

  14. Interesting topic and discussion here about it. I have been a Business Coach for 17 years and an Entrepreneur for over 30 years. I put $5,000 down when I officially started coaching (I had already been doing it for years with my clients). My years of owning my own business prior to becoming a coach gave me much more instinctual knowledge than coaching school ever did. And I love what you said about who taught the person giving the credentials. In my case I went to Coach U that was started by Thomas Leonard – a brilliant man. However Thomas created the school out of his experience in coaching people – long before coaching was an industry.

    I am a life long learner (and a PLF graduate) and feel that learning is everything and credentials mean nothing. It’s similar to hiring someone with an MBA versus someone with actual real world experience. Remember that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates never finished college.
    Thanks for sharing Jeff!

  15. When you design your own courses or programs, and they are unique and no one had it before, who do you go to to get a certificate?

  16. Hi Jeff, I live in Argentina and here most people rely on credentials. That’s why many coaches never start coaching before they are certified. The first thing you are asked after you say you are a coach, is where did you study. I say that the hardship I passed through by leaving a corporate career to become an entrepreneur in a total different area transformed my life and so I decided to help people that are not fulfilled with their jobs to try a second chance marketing and monetizing their experience so they can start a new career bringing joy and happiness to their lives. I consider those are my credentials. A colleague in Colombia told me: “You are more than a coach” and those were the words that drove me to be serious in this area. So I encourage people that are so shy to start coaching people, to begin coaching now. I don’t say you be irresponsible. I say find the persons that are willing to take coaching from you because if you are in this world you know that first you are going to do anything you should do to help that soul that is suffering, though you also had to go for someone to help you, and that’s responsibility. Let people who seek for people who has credentials, find the people they like, they will not take coaching from you anyway. I don’t say you don’t need credentials but don’t expect that a “paper” will bring you massive clients the day after you get it. They are different things. I am a forever learner and consistently take courses and seminars and seek mentors always trying to be better in coaching.

  17. PLF seems great for teaching and coaching…love all the suggestions, examples and success stories!

    Would love a product offering from you where you or your team would review/make recommendations for people who need a fit assessment. Or, maybe a podcast that talks about PLF considerations in different product categories (coaching, teaching, B2B, digital vs. physical, etc.)

    Thank you for your content and all you share and give this community!

  18. Jeff: This is a great video, and oh so true!

    At the end of the day, the only thing that matters are your experience and selling your results. Credentials behind your name don’t matter and shouldn’t hold someone back to starting a product launch. I don’t use getting credentials as an excuse to improve myself and the lives of others. The fastest way to move forward in any endeavor is to get a successful coach in the area you want to excel in (like learning Spanish for me) and take action (i.e., what is my next step?). I also agree with you that good marketing is so important now in an environment where everybody thinks they are an expert. Great stuff!

  19. giovanni pereyra


    Great timing blog post for me. I am from Dominican Republic and I have been an entrepreneur serial all my life. Now with over 30 years of experience starting and developing new business with almost no money, I decided to start I coaching service for entrepreneurs, focusing on the mindset process required to succeed. One block I need to remove from my mind is that I have no certification to show, except my results on 10 different successful startups and recently coaching my kids on their launch of Kikaboni snacks. Thank you Jeff, your comments have help me to visualize better this certification issue.

  20. Phyllis McCrory Rowan


    Thank-you for your thoughtful, encouraging words, Jeff. As you pointed out, credentials are important markers in professions such as law and medicine. However, it is experience that proves worth and gains trust in any field. A good reputation is priceless if it is based on merit.

  21. I’ve thought about this a lot. Having worked to put my first husband first through college and law school (before divorcing him) I got my education by navigating life. I have always studied the topics and areas that interested me and where my passions lay because I could not afford the time required to get credentials. I have a deep knowledge base but for a long time I felt “less than” without the titles. I’ve finally come to recognize that people turn to me for the wisdom I have to offer and if they need to see credentials in order to feel comfortable then I’m probably not the person they should be working with.

  22. Jennifer Payette


    It’s fairly common for people to wonder incredulously how an entrepreneur with no “credentials” can possibly be so successful. Examples are Jeff Walker, Richard Branson and Tony Robbins. They have simply learned to be resourceful and glean knowledge from experts and quickly apply it to succeed. They’re quick learners who have tremendous capacity and vision. “Credentials” are just red tape for them when they have found a way to rapidly learn what they need to solve problems in the market with their products and services. They are geniuses.

    • People confuse credentials with education. There is a lot more to being qualified than sitting through ‘X’ number of classroom hours. Life, by far is the best teacher, however, stepping up to embrace possibility is a requirement to reach any accolades, credentialed or not.

  23. Thank you Jeff, so helpful and encouraging. One of my focuses has been to help all kinds of people find and embrace their creative joy, both in and out of business. But, so often in the back of my mind, I wouldn’t focus on my life experiences in teaching and relating to people, but think about the lack of papers or letters and think, who the h– do I think I am, and why would they even want to listen to me?. I’ve always taught from the heart and seeing the growth and joy in people’s eyes as they awake to an understanding of their creative abilities and life has been the best thing ever, but that nagging feeling of being ‘not the expert’ just wouldn’t let go. What you have shared has really struck a chord. Your work is important and life changing.

  24. I think Jeff, your certification is call honorary degree from “SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCK”. Importance of certification depends on the Field. I have a master degree in Microbiology & Biochemistry, and a doctorate in Nutritional Biochemistry which is important when it comes to “healthy eating” but all people who COOKS your food at restaurants probably never even have a bachelor degree in Biology. They do have to complied with preparing food to prevent food poisoning from health dept. but that it. They served food that responsible for all the degenerative diseases. Meat, dairy, saturated fat and OIL.
    The people in my town are all immigrants, can’t even speak English, and they have businesses that do the Chinese, Thai, Mexican and the high school kids at Hambuger joints etc.

  25. Sadly, my concerns about credentials was holding me back, until you boldly breeched the subject today! Credentials is one of the false fronts for all those negative forces that keep people, from getting started.

    Thank you, for helping me to have courage!

  26. Hi Jeff, Thanks for your insights. I’m one of those with letters after my name who has been self-employed for almost 30 years. The difference is often in the level of expectation based on the culture you operate within. I have lived and worked in Germany since 1983, but I am still an American citizen. The German culture puts credentials above everything else. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to start my business, and it took me six months of filling in forms and being interviewed to be allowed to legally start my own business. This happened in 1988, and fortunately the world has changed a lot since then. The internet has opened doors to many people that were closed to them before. Depending on the audience you want to serve, the paperwork is still very important here. I think it’s vital that we make sure we examine the context of our work. I spoke to a young man recently and tried to encourage him to work for a platform as a freelancer, so that he could gather some experience. His answer was, such platforms are not reputable and he was very skeptical to give such an opportunity a try. Culture plays a role that is often underestimated. Since so many people are in contact with you, from all parts of the world, your view is a great help to them, but in the US things often work differently to other countries. I would still encourage people to move forward and gather their experience and not depend on the credentials, but not to disregard where they are and who they’re working with to make sure that their needs are fulfilled on all levels.

    • It’s not that different in the US or Canada where I’m from. Society has higher expectations from those with licensed credentials. You bring up a very valid point here Rhonda about the perception society or a potential has when someone is trained in their craft. Just look at the way authors are valued vs someone else talking on the subject. Now, there does come a point when the scales tip in favor of an Expert once they have made a big enough impact, like Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins, but they didn’t start out that way. So while there are many paths to becoming great at what you do, knowing where you’re starting from and starting with can make all the difference.

  27. Thanks so much for this blog post Jeff! I needed to reminded this this morning that it’s not the credentials that make you a good coach. It takes so much more! The ability to share your experience and make it available to others so they can relate and grow is one of the essential qualities of a great coach . I personally got lots of credentials and other certifications to try and feel more secure, more confident, more professional … to end up working in a completely different area where I have lots of experience and very little “official ” credentials. Even though I occasionally have self-doubt – we are human after all!, I now feel more entitled than ever and know I am finally really making a difference in people’s lives.

  28. Dear Jeff,

    This is such an important topic. I have spent 28 years in mind transformation and deep inner work. I now coach people with no credentials, except a massage license, and yet I have a huge gift for healing the mind. I know that thinking you need credentials can hobble people, because life has taught us so much, molded us into who we are, and yet, many people don’t value their life experience. My clients get results. That’s what matters and I know that we don’t realize that our life experience gives us the dedication, life work and personal transformation that makes us extremely valuable. Learning how to market is the key to profitabilty. I am always learning more about how to value who I am and how I help clients get the results they want. I am extremely focused on them. I think that’s what people need to feel from a coach…thanks for bringing it up and clarifying the issue for me.

  29. Great video, Jeff! Too many people are focused on degrees today when life experience also carries weight. I’ve worked most of my adult life in Silicon Valley as a writer and editor. Clients often ask how I can help them when I don’t have an engineering degree. I explain that they’re the experts about their product. I’m the expert who will make their words about their product shine.

  30. Jeff Thank you sir you are my mental vitamin LOL.
    I am a retired marine of 23 years and now i am a work from home dad with my 8 year old girl life is different hahahah
    I have 3 websites , I sell cigars , Bikinis( don’t laugh) and on eBay, your information has helped me immensely sir.
    I moved $92 grand thru pay pal last year , I have not gone to your seminars as of yet (saving up) but i have seen all of your video’s have down loaded all your free ebooks and i thank you Thank you sir
    You a true inspiration sir.
    Thank you again

  31. Hi Jeff again and again you are amaizing you share so much with people !! I am drinking all your words and as a first membre of PLF I have to say that all your video is changing my BUSINESS LIFE day after day better an better !
    Take Care dude

  32. Hi, Jeff, thanks a lot for this video.

    I’ve been looking up Credentials:

    A qualification, achievement, personal quality, or aspect of a person’s background, typically when used to indicate that they are suitable for something. Testimonials or certified documents showing that a person is entitled to the credit.

    Hence, there are much more forms of Credentials, then “just” official certificates.

    Here are my 20cents:

    Get your first client, then another one and another one. If you get to 10 clients start thinking about Marketing. If you do NOT get your 10 clients, start working on your offer AND your credentials. Remember, you can only market something that exists.

    IF you have something to say, you can build it, and they WILL come.

    If you have nothing of value or with a demand to say or offer, you can build it as long as you want, and they will NOT come.

    I’ve been coaching & teaching for 20 years thousands of clients without an OFFICIAL Certificate. And you see, the emphasis is on OFFICIAL certification. I’ve studied so much about psychology, business, philosophy and have gained EXPERIENCE that has been confirmed with TESTIMONIALS (in my opinion the best form of Credentials). Now, thanks to a customer of mine (he paid half of the fee – otherwise I wouldn’t have done it), I’ve got certified after being 20 years using the tools of coaching 🙂 and what it has done, It has been a CONFIRMATION of what I’ve been practicing the last 20 years successfully w/out the official certificate. By the way, in Switzerland, you’re no-one in the business without the minimal coaching certification to your name. This has cost me 100’000sends of dollars throughout my career – why? Because I’ve been stubborn, believing I can make it without 🙂 Now I have opened those doors as well.

    Final words: If you don’t make it as a coach. Don’t blame it foremost on your missing credentials. Start working on your message and foundation, get testimonials and then use marketing. Remember, you can only market what truly exists. And yes, if you don’t have the necessary practice and experience, get a minimal coaching certificate, showing you the methods and didactics. You then at least know what you’re doing and are talking about.

  33. Great conversation! I’ve spent so much money on training and credentials over the years in business. The only people who seem to care about credentials are those who have credentials, or the organizations that promote and sell credentials. I’ve never had a customer or client care about my credentials. I have a ton of proof and publish regularly to demonstrate proof, as well as developed hundreds of products that thousands of people have benefitted from. Yes, I have training and credentials, but they are nothing compared to my practical experience and evidence of my results in practice. I appreciate your posting this. Thinking about writing an article, The Myth of Credentials. 🙂

  34. Good video and tons of lively comments! I think some people missed one very important thing Jeff said about experience in lieu of certifications; 10,000 hours. When someone spends “10,000 hours” on a particular skill set, that’s the equivalent of 5 solid years of full time training. It doesn’t mean people cannot start coaching before that time, everyone has to start somewhere. It does mean that a person will invest a similar equivalent of time (and perhaps money) into their experience that they would getting a college degree. And if you think about it, we allow people in their early 20’s to teach our children in schools. Why? Because they have a degree and credential, they have invested 10,000 hours. The key to being a good coach in any field is immersing yourself in continuing education, whether just starting or 30 years into it.

    Thanks… Terry

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