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FOR THE WIN?

Everyone is a life coach now, even on Airbnb

Two people stand on a rock facing the sunse
Reuters/Andy Clark
Learning how to live.
By Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Am I in the right relationship? Is it too late to switch careers? I’m never as assertive with my friends and co-workers as I want, but how can I change?

Just twenty years ago, if you had told somebody they should see a “life coach” to answer these questions, they wouldn’t have had any idea what you were talking about. Today, life coaching practitioners can be found practically anywhere—at counseling centers, gig economy websites, and even Airbnb. They contribute to the transformation economy, a growing collection of industries that also includes retreats, gurus, and adventure travel, where the product is a new and improved you.

“We are seeking out experiences that actually change us in some way, that help us achieve our aspirations,” the author Joseph Pine, who coined the term “the experience economy” with his co-author James Gilmore, told Quartz. “Increasingly that will be part of the economy where consumers and even businesses increasingly go to companies and effectively say: Change me.”

There are now over a thousand life coach jobs listed on the US jobs website Indeed.  These job listings are quickly rising, and their share of jobs on the site has doubled since early 2016. People are looking for a guide to help them successfully navigate a complex world, and the market is responding. (Similar “wellness coach” jobs rose by over 30% in the same period).

Life coaches are also among the fastest-growing categories for Thumbtack, a marketplace to hire local professionals—increasing by more than 60% each year. The site now features 5,000 active life coaches , who charge an average of about $110 per session.

 

In the early 1990s, when the term “life coach” was first regularly used, it generally referred the idea of a counselor who helped the mentally ill or homeless. The idea was that everyday life can be overwhelming for people with psychiatric disorders or those in troubled circumstances, and they need a partner who will look after them and help them succeed. Many current life coaching jobs still are focused on helping the at-risk get back on track.

Just as therapy and counseling were generally seen as services for the unwell, but have since become part of a healthy life for those in less acute conditions, so has “life coaching” slowly come to serve a wider audience. Particularly those with disposable income. As Michael Coren pointed out in Quartz, life coaches may be considered part of the rising number of jobs in “wealth work”—jobs that have appeared to serve the increasingly wealthy American upper class.

Unlike therapists, life coaches don’t generally focus on mental health, but rather on helping people achieve their life goals, whether those be personal (finding a partner) or professional (asserting yourself more at work). Also, unlike therapists, life coaches often talk about their personal lives and their own experiences as a way to relate to and guide their clients.

In 2016, the International Coach Federation (ICF), a coaching accreditation organization, found that there were over 50,000 professional coaches globally (pdf). Most of these coaches focus on professional and career coaching. Yet there is a fine line between career and life coaching, given that so many of a person’s work issues also bleed into other part of their life.

 

Another difference between therapists and life coaches is that anyone can legally call themselves a life coach. There are accreditation groups, like ICF, but there is nothing stopping anybody who thinks they have a knack for helping people to start offering their services on Instagram. Rosie Spinks noted for Quartz that though this gives talented people a chance to get into the business, it also means clients can’t be sure what they will get, and they have less recourse if the coach acts unethically.

In what is perhaps the ultimate sign of the rise of the life coach, you can even find them on Airbnb. The rental apartment website now lets locals offer tours and activities in addition to homes for rent, and Quartz found more than 20 “experiences” (as Airbnb calls them) are for life coaching. Airbnb told Quartz that the emergence of life coaches on the site happened organically, without any specific encouragement from the company.

Are you in Seattle, and you happen to want to “go inside to warm cafe where we can sit and discuss what’s holding you back from getting to your life goals”? You are in luck, there is a 2 hour, $75 experience just for that. Or maybe you are in Budapest, Hungary, and you need to “clarify your current situation in life.” That will take three hours, and cost you €117.

These life coaching experiences are signs that some people don’t just want to have fun when they travel, they seek to be transformed. Now even vacations are an opportunity to be coached into better lives.