Erin and I get the question in our DMs so often—“What do I need to do to become qualified as an online coach?” And sometimes, it doesn’t come in the form of a question—it comes in the form of insecurity and self-doubt. So many times, we see amazing coaches who should be helping people fail to start because they feel unqualified. You might think that all successful coaches have years of training and experience, but that’s just not the case.
Let me start by telling you my own story…
I had always envisioned success to come with some amount of relief and certainty in myself. “I made it!” I would envision proclaiming. I saw success as this arbitrary milestone of a seven-figure business, beautiful fiancé, dream home, car, and all the other bullshit that any young kid would look towards. What I didn’t realize was that none of these things would ever really make me feel qualified or successful in the ways I thought they would.
Just three years ago, you would have found me at my lowest. I was not far removed from overcoming an opiate addiction and had multiple failed business ventures and a soul-sucking job. My faith in myself had vanished. I took another corporate job, relocating several states away with hopes of a fresh start.
Things were okay for a while. The isolation from everything I had known before, similar to what we’re all experiencing today, forced me to re-introduce myself to myself. And I didn’t like the man I saw in the mirror.
Soon after I found a remote sense of normalcy and routine, my corporate position was eliminated following a merger. I found myself in an all-too-recognizable panic.
Seven hours from home, jobless, alone, scared, confused…I considered going back to the warm embrace that the pain pill addiction once provided. But I battled that urge, and thankfully I won. I won the battle against addiction more than once, but I was still facing a war. A war with myself. A war against doubt.
And to be honest, I’m still fighting that war today. Every move I have made since losing that job has been one predicated on momentum, setbacks, doubt, panic, and grace.
I’ve made changes, in small increments, to instill more belief in myself. But each ounce of faith I’ve found in myself leads to more risk. And those risks lead to more reward.
Those who know me often say, “Damn Jordan. You blew up, man. How does it feel to have the success now that you always wanted?”
The answer is always the same: I don’t know. I haven’t given myself the time or opportunity to feel anything aside from disbelief. I fear going back to the darkness that I one resided in, and worst of all, I have a constant fear that one day, someone will show up at my front door, reminding me that I’m not supposed to be here. They’ll escort me back to the levels that my subconscious is constantly pulling me towards.
This fear is rooted in imposter syndrome.
Whereas in the past, it would say, “I’m not qualified to help people in fitness.”
Now it says, “I’m not qualified to help people in their business.”
The bigger the levels, the bigger the devils.
Even with all the “success” I have found now, I still fight those feelings of being disqualified. But let me tell you—it’s the successes and the failures that have shown me exactly what it takes to not only BE qualified as a coach, but to FEEL qualified. And it’s that feeling of being qualified that ultimately leads to a higher level of success.
So what does it actually take to find the success you’ve always wanted in your coaching career? Here’s the deal: it’s not about your qualifications on paper. It’s about overcoming your own mental blocks, punching imposter syndrome in the fucking throat, and realizing that you’re probably already way more qualified than you give yourself credit for.
1. Understand Imposter Syndrome
We talk about imposter syndrome a lot–check out a couple key episodes here and here–and that’s because it affects so many people. If you’re not feeling it, it’s probably because you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. And to a certain extent, those feelings can be helpful, but more often than not, they’re holding you back from achieving whatever it is that you really want.
So what are some symptoms of imposter syndrome?
You might feel guilty about charging too much, or even for choosing coaching as a career. Who are you to do this when you’ve only done it for yourself? Or maybe you’ve done it for hundreds of people, but you still feel that lingering guilt.
You’re worried there’s someone out there who’s going to question your knowledge. They’ll call you out and say, “You’re wrong,” and then you’ll be outted as a fake.
➱Fear of Rejection
You know that the more you put yourself out there, the more likely it is that you’ll get rejected. How will you be able to maintain self-worth if people are turning you down all the time?
➱Fear of Responsibility
You’re afraid to take on the weight of being responsible for someone else’s health. Oftentimes, this fear stems from childhood. You were given a small task of responsibility, and you let someone down.
And what does it look like when this imposter syndrome is manifesting itself?
You resort to giving away your product or service, either for free or for way too low of a cost. You’re doing challenges or high-volume, low-touch coaching. This gets shit results and doesn’t make you any money.
➱Not Making Offers.
You never put yourself out there because it’s too scary. You could approach potential clients by saying, “I can help you!” But that putting yourself out there comes with too much risk, so you never do it.
You give your clients 24/7 text access because you feel like you need to be available all the time to prove yourself. This doesn’t come from a place of wanting to serve, but from a place of being scared that your clients will be unhappy with you.
You’re reading articles, accumulating certifications, reading books, and never doing anything with the knowledge. It’s a vicious cycle because you tell yourself that you don’t know enough, so you go looking for more information, then realize there’s more you don’t know. This is motion without action, and you’re never putting your knowledge to the test because you’re so afraid that you’ll fail.
➱Comparing Yourself to Others
You look at other online coaches and think, “I’ll never be as successful as them,” or, “I’ll never have the number of clients that they have.” This is rooted in the middle-class mindset and ultimately, the fear of failure.
But let’s be honest: imposter syndrome happens to anyone with humility. Even the most qualified people have imposter syndrome, because the more they know, the more they realize that they don’t know.
The difference between those who deal with imposter syndrome and those who overcome it is the ability to forgive yourself for feeling all of these things. For being human. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re not going to know everything—ever. Literally everyone at some point, even the highest-level experts, was once a beginner. So fucking begin.
2. Get Your Hands Dirty
In the fitness industry, most gyms require trainers to have a certification to get a job. This means that every trainer, at least at some point, has probably held a certification. The problem is that most personal training certification are VERY BASIC in nature. A trainer being certified does not—at all—ensure that they are a good trainer.
Most trainers will tell you: 99% of what they learn on how to train comes from learning outside of their personal training certification. The best trainers have lots of hands-on experience training diverse clientele and are constantly seeking more knowledge in their field, be it through better certifications, mentors, or studying independently.
When it comes to the online space, though, there’s no governing body or real enforceable rules. As a matter of fact, the term “certified nutritionist” isn’t even a thing. Yes, you have to become licensed as a registered dietician (RD) to legally perform specific nutrition counseling, which includes the ability to diagnose medical conditions or provide prescriptions. We have an RD on staff, and I would suggest that you partner with or hire one once your business grows past a certain point, like $500k. And you should always consult with an attorney—we’re not in the business of giving legal advice here—but we do have learned a thing or two over the years. You can provide nutritional guidance, as long as you’re not claiming to prevent, solve, or cure medical conditions.
There’s this one story that Russell Brunson tells in his book Expert Secrets that I think is really relevant here. It’s about Tony Robbins, and how he refused to let the formality of a certification stop him from living his passion.
When Tony was getting into neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), he started a certification training program. He thought it would teach him what he needed to know to be qualified. But two days in, he’d had enough. He stood up and started to walk out. He was sure that he already knew enough. He was ready to help people.
The instructor stopped him and asked where he was going, so Tony told him. He didn’t need a certification because he already had what it took. And of course, the instructor wanted to convince him otherwise. But Tony didn’t listen. He walked right out that door and straight to a nearby diner. He found some smokers there, and he used what he already knew about NLP to help them quit. No certification necessary.
So yeah—certifications and formal training are great, but they’re not going to give you the hands-on experience and real-world, personal results you need to actually be qualified. In order to get there, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty.
And here’s the thing: you don’t need to be the “best” to “begin.”
We should all strive to be the best. But you don’t need to be the best in order to start creating value for others. This should be comforting, because it gives you permission to start taking action without needing to be perfect.
It’ll be challenging in the beginning, because there’s this human tendency to want to be perfect. And if you aren’t getting results or don’t feel good enough, I’d encourage you to keep moving forward.
Why? Because going through a period of being under-qualified is what makes you qualified as you move forward!
It’s kind of a paradox. If you haven’t accomplished your goal yet, or haven’t created that successful business, that means you aren’t yet qualified.
The pursuit of that goal is what qualifies you.
The outcome or achievement isn’t what qualified you, it was the process to get there. It was the journey that took you there that qualified you. I think we all know this, but we seem to forget whenever we try to accomplish something.
The action is what’ll eventually make you qualified, nothing else. And the most powerful thing about this is the empowerment it gives you. It shows you that you can accept where you’re at, WHEREVER YOU’RE AT, and begin to move towards your goals. If you’re not willing to go through a period of being “under-qualified,” then you’ll never be—or FEEL—qualified.
3. Invest in Yourself (and Know Your Worth)
Okay great—so now you’ve come to understand imposter syndrome and know that real-world experience is going to make you more qualified than any sheet of paper ever will. So what comes next? Constantly investing in yourself. Knowing your worth. And fucking demanding it.
Whenever we first start something new, and get passionate about it, we want to post about it all the time and share it with our friends and family. Our excitement overrides the worry about what people think. But this all changes once we decide to start CHARGING for this content. All of a sudden, you’re overthinking every single post you make. You’re afraid you’re giving the wrong information, or that you won’t stand out among the other more “qualified” coaches in the space. This is just imposter syndrome rearing it’s ugly head.
The fact is: you deserve to be paid for the value you provide. And if you don’t think you deserve it, no one else will, either.
Erin and I have gone through so much trial-and-error over the years, and we put together the IFCA Immediate Impact Course to give you all of the tools you need to feel well-equipped in your business. From the basic business fundamentals like taxes and how to perform check-ins to the more complicated things like copywriting and app development, this program gets you set up to understand what’s essential in coaching far better than any certification can.
We see so many of our students raise their prices the second they sign up for IFCA. Why? Because they feel more qualified just by knowing all of the things they’re about to learn.
And that’s exactly how investing in yourself and knowing your worth go hand-in-hand. That’s why programs like the IFCA Immediate Impact Course are going to give you the mindset shift you need to succeed. If you’re putting your energy into the right places—surrounding yourself with people who are going to challenge and better you—you’ll begin to truly believe that you’re worth the money you’re asking for. Because you are!
Say you’re charging $1,500 a month for your coaching. You’re going to have calls when people say, “Oh man, that’s too expensive.” But you’re also going to have calls where people say, “Oh my God—I can’t believe you’re charging so little for this. You should be charging more!”
Everything is subjective, but especially the cost of coaching. Only you can determine what’s reasonable based on your knowledge, experience, program, and talent. There will always be people who don’t see the value in it—just like there are those who don’t care if they get a purse from Walmart or Louis Vuitton. They might not see the difference in quality and all that comes with it. They just want something to hold their shit and they don’t care about anything beyond that. But I don’t think those are the type of clients that you really want. You want the client who understands what you have to offer and why it’s worth what you’re asking for it. You want the client who likes Louis Vuitton and is willing to pay for it.
4. Escape the Middle-Class Mindset
Erin and I talked about the middle-class mindset and how to escape it in a podcast back in October, and you should definitely check out the episode or read the full transcript of the podcast here. Because if you want to be qualified, you’re going to have to get the hell out of the middle-class mindset.
This mindset tells you that you should avoid being uncomfortable at all costs. That it’s okay to settle if it means security, and that you’ll never be able to really make it because there’s just not enough business to go around.
That mindset is completely ass backwards.
If you’re living in scarcity, you’re convinced that in order to find clients, you have to take them from someone else. In order to win, someone else has to lose, and that’s just not fucking true. Live in the mindset of abundance–whether it’s about money, clients, or anything else in your life. There is definitely enough to go around, and the more you give and live in abundance, the more you will receive.
The middle-class mindset is similar to imposter syndrome because they’re both negative thought processes that are trying to convince you that you’re just not good enough to achieve the success you desire. It will make you believe that you don’t deserve better.
This is another bad habit that generally goes back to something that happened in your childhood. Maybe it’s because your parents scrutinized you when you asked for the more expensive toy. Maybe they were happy with working a boring 9-5 because it came with a measly retirement program and two-weeks paid vacation, so they raised you to be satisfied by that life, too. Either way, it’s a story that you’re telling yourself—about yourself and what you deserve—that stops you from taking the risks you need in order to grow.
Whether you’re holding yourself back because you think you’re fine where you are or because you think you’re not qualified to do and achieve more, you’re ultimately choosing your own fate. You’re limiting yourself and capping your potential based on what you’ve already done, because it’s safe and you know you can do it.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be okay with feeling unqualified for the life you really want. (Because hint: this shit never goes away!) If you’re not in the mindset to be able to take risks, then you’re never going to get the reward, either.
5. Capitalize on Your Flaws
Yup—you read that right. Identify your flaws—what makes you your imperfect self—and realize that those features may just be the key to making you stand out.
Are you so afraid of being underqualified that you stop yourself from showing up for others? This fear of being underqualified is an ESSENTIAL personality trait that will help you become the coach you deserve to be.
It doesn’t matter how many certifications you have or how many thousands of clients you may have helped. People will never invest in you if they don’t believe in you. Clients want to feel like you have walked a mile in their shoes. That you’re a real person who understands their hardships and struggles. That you aren’t so far outside of what they can relate to that you seem unapproachable.
When Erin started out, she shared everything on social media. People were able to see her growth and how she got from point A to point B, so she never had to explain her qualifications. People saw it firsthand and were able to relate to her struggles because they saw it reflected in themselves.
Erin recently had a follower—let’s call her Suzie—reach out to her in her DMs after listening to episode 106 of the podcast—5 Tools for Eliminating Imposter Syndrome and Owning Your Awesomeness. She said that she was was afraid to post content because she didn’t feel qualified. Because she didn’t have the best body out there.
So why did Suzie reach out to Erin? Because Erin’s never shied away from sharing her (very few) flaws with her followers. She’s positioned herself as being relatable by being herself.
And that’s exactly what Suzie is missing. If she just showed up, exactly as she is, then there would likely be others who related to her, too. They’d see a little bit of themselves in her and they’d begin to trust her—and then she’s got the opportunity to change their lives for the better. The “imperfect character” concept explains that people most easily relate to someone just one or two steps ahead of them, and with potential clients at all different levels out there, you are already in a perfect position to help them.
The bottom line is this: “People buy coaches—not coaching.”
Life isn’t always fucking rainbows and puppies—no matter how much we want it to be—so your clients don’t want to see that unrealistic portrayal of yourself, either. The posts where you share a bit of your true self on top of providing meaningful fitness information are going to get way more engagement than plain old mirror selfies and swipe workouts ever will. Because when you do that, you’re not just the ‘Dancing Bear’—you’re the relatable, qualified fitness coach that your future clients want to learn from and alongside of.
So be honest. BE REAL with where you are at. The right clients will respond.
Here’s the takeaway, guys. A certification or degree doesn’t guarantee a good coach, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee integrity. Whether you’ve been doing this for 10 days or 10 years, you’re never going to feel fully qualified, and that’s okay. That feeling of imposter syndrome means that you’re staying humble. Still excited about how much there is to learn. And it means that you really care about your clients and giving them the best (although flawed) version of yourself that you can.
Angie Lee is a crazy successful marketer and she actually started off as a fitness coach. She’s a great person to listen to when it comes to this and something she said really resonates with me…
“The person qualified to do it is the one doing it.”
And that is spot on. The most qualified coaches in the industry are the ones actually doing it.
If you’re feeling like an imposter, you probably just need some validation. We see this come up a lot for IFCA students. They just need to feel validated—to feel significant. And that’s a completely valid and understandable need, but the truth is that it’s your responsibility to give that to yourself. Entrepreneurship and external validation don’t really go hand-in-hand. Outside of courses like IFCA, you might not have someone running next to you and cheering you along. But if you’ve already set yourself up with the right mindset, then you don’t need someone else to tell you you’re worth it.
If someone were to pay you $10,000 to change their lives, and they were your only client and had your sole energy and focus, would you be able to do it? If the answer is an undoubted yes, then you have the all the experience and evidence you need.
So ask yourself this question: What is it that you don’t feel qualified about?
Chances are…you’re just afraid to put yourself out there and be judged.
Chances are…you’re already qualified, and it just comes down to realizing it.
If any of this resonated with you, we have a special oppurtunity available for a limited time.
If you would like to learn how to grow a real full-time fitness coaching business, while developing the systems that unlock the time and income freedom you have always wanted (and deserve), then click below. You’ll see how we’ve helped hundreds of past coaches, personal trainers, and fitness entrepreneurs just like you not only eliminate this feeling of “imposter,” but thrive in their mission of serving others through fitness.
If you want to hear Erin and I talk more about being qualified and overcoming imposter syndrome, you can check out some of our episodes of Flow State of Mind, linked below.