The Future of Coaching: Insights from the ICF’s 2023 Study

We need to stay ahead of the curve in the coaching industry.

It’s really crucial to our success as coaches, and that’s why I devote a lot of time to keeping on top of research, insights and trends.

In this article, I integrate key findings from the 2023 ICF Global Coaching Study into my observations on the latest trends in 2024 for the coaching industry.

The growth and evolution of coaching

The coaching industry has demonstrated huge resilience and growth post pandemic, with a 54% increase in coaches from 2019 to 2022.

In 2024, the ICF is anticipating an upward trajectory that will continue to reflect the growing global interest in coaching services.

From my perspective, I think more people are aware of coaching now, which is amazing.

Coaches who are successful, that I have worked with over the last year, have either gone super big in their marketing and really stood out, or they have micro niched. So these would be my top two tips for you.

Demographics of coach practitioners and clients 

Currently, 48% of coaches are from generation X and 72% are female.

The majority of coaches hold degree level qualifications with 65% having advanced degrees. I have definitely noticed this in my client population.

86% of coaches have certifications or credentials, highlighting that importance of professional development in the coaching industry.

This is an interesting statistic, and could be to do with the fact that the ICF has carried out the study.

Personally, I think there are probably a lot more than 14% of coaches who don’t have a qualification, from my standpoint of being part of many forums where people call themselves coaches.

For example, I’ve been in situations where no one had heard of the ICF when I mentioned coaching qualifications.

So, I think there are a lot more than 14% of people out there who are calling themselves coaches when they’re not qualified coaches.

I think it has become an overused word, and defines something that isn’t actually what coaching is meant to be about. There are many people in the business coaching industry, who call themselves business coaches and offer similar services to me, but they’re not really what the ICF would consider as coaches.

Coaching client demographics

31% are managers and 25% are executives, indicating that strong corporate presence in coaching. The client demographic has a good gender balance, with 58% of clients being female.

Coaching specialisations and revenue drivers

Business coaching, leadership coaching and executive coaching are all gaining real traction.

Coaches with more experience tend to earn higher fees, and those sponsored by companies are far more likely to receive above average income.

This trend suggests a growing recognition of the value of coaching in the corporate world and is something I’ve definitely noticed in my client base.

I would say that at least 80% of my clients are approaching corporates and that’s where their main income is coming from.

There is definitely a growing trend of coaches wanting to secure a bigger, more stable client or two, rather than only seeking individuals.

Internal and external coaching dynamics 

A significant 34% portion of coaching is focused on leadership and 17% is focused on executives. Business and organisation is 13%, and 16% of coaches work both internally with organisations as well as externally, indicating that blended approach to coaching services. Again, this is something I have definitely noticed with my client base.

The vast majority of 93% offer additional services like facilitation, training and consulting.

I’m really pleased the ICF has covered this as it’s something I talk about a lot, and I help my clients to build strong businesses that cover a variety of different services.

As the ICF’s study shows, only 7% of coaches do pure one-to-one coaching work. The other 93% are building a full business of different services, and many of those services, like workshops or facilitation, are your way into providing coaching.

In my Business of Coaching programme, we focus on building you a programme that you will become known for as an expert in your space but, alongside that, you may wish to offer other services to really build your income as a coach.

Future outlook and opportunities

The future of coaching looks promising, with expectations of continued market growth. The importance of credentials and qualifications is increasingly recognised, especially by organisations.

This may eventually lead to more structured and standardised practices within the industry.

As you may know, coaching is currently an unregulated industry, so you don’t have to be qualified to use the word coach, which is what we see happening a lot.

This is partly why I sometimes now call myself a business mentor because, although I’m an ICF ACC accredited coach, what I do is not pure coaching.

It used to be, when I was doing different types of coaching but now, most of the time, I’m providing a mentoring service and bringing in my coaching skills to help my clients move through blocks.

In business coaching, which doesn’t really seem the right term, people are generally signing up because you have the knowledge that they want to know.

There is also an opportunity to address the gender pay gap, ensuring equality and fairness in the profession.

I know I’m generalising, but the women I have worked with have definitely had more money mindset issues than the men I’ve worked with.

It’s not always the case, but I do think that our caring and nurturing roles over history mean that some women can have the mentality that they should do their coaching work for free.

This can make the cost side more difficult and it’s why I really strive hard to charge a good rate for my own services and encourage the women I work with to charge a good rate for their services too.

My predictions

The insights from the 2023 ICF Global Coaching Study paint a picture of a dynamic, growing and diversifying industry.

As we move into 2024, embracing these trends and adapting to the evolving landscape will be key to the success of the coaching profession.

My predictions are that we’ll see more voice noting and we’ll see more use of video. In my work, I often use Loom and send videos to my clients.

I also think that emails and other types of messaging are becoming more prominent. It’s definitely my favoured approach and I now use it in my programme.

Rather than someone waiting a week or two to discuss their issue in our next scheduled coaching session, they can flag it to me whenever, and I can respond to them immediately with ways of moving them forward.

Obviously, there are times when there is nothing better than a really good solid coaching session, and I’m not saying that messaging should replace coaching, but it’s an amazingly effective additional tool.

AI is also dramatically transforming the industry. I think that software like Chat GPT should be utilised to speed up creation time, but it can definitely be overused and there is nothing more powerful than your own personal story, your words, and the unique way that you express things.

I think it should be used with caution but, if you’re not using any AI in your business at all, you may fall behind because other people are really speeding up their business and their marketing creation using AI.

So, I think it’s worth you taking a look at it, while continuing to really ensure that you and your voice are the heart of your brand.

My final prediction is micro niching. I talk about this a lot. I really do think that your best bet is to bring yourself into your micro niche and dominate a part of the market rather than be swallowed up by the mass market.

And, one last thing, there is a huge trend towards group coaching and community-based practices. It’s obviously my favourite thing to do, which is why I choose to fill most of my time with my group coaching programme.

I don’t believe it’s a second rate option to one-to-one coaching.

In fact, I believe it’s a first rate option because a group environment means that you are more likely to take significant action and you are therefore more likely to get results, all because the greatest, most under-rated route to your success is being regularly and consistently inspired to take action that you wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise taken.

Zoe, one of my clients, said, “You need your weekly dose of Jo to make this happen.” It was a lovely thing to say, and meant a lot to me, because she’s a super smart cookie and really good at marketing.

When you’re in my programme, you might come to a call with a challenge you need to tackle and, after the call, you’ll take more action than you would have if you hadn’t brought it to the call.

In our group call two weeks ago, I kickstarted the £2k in 2 week challenge that you may have read about in my recent newsletter.

On yesterday’s group call, we had several people saying that they had beaten their target and that they would never have done so if it wasn’t for that challenge.

So, sometimes, the secret to your success is being given a small task, or even what might feel like a big task. And it’s about being accountable for achieving that task.

That can be one of the difficult things about self-employment. You can procrastinate and take ages to deliver something because no one is there questioning why you’ve taken so long producing your offer.

In an office, a boss might give you a day to produce something. But, when you work for yourself, there’s no one chasing you, querying why it’s taken you two months.

And, again, that’s why it’s super powerful to be part of a community where people know what you’re doing, care about your progress and are very likely to ask you what happened to those plans you had.

I hope this article has given you a lot of useful food for thought to take into 2024.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and successful new year for us all!

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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.