coaching session

Business Coach vs Life Coach: What’s the Difference?

As you may be able to guess from the names, business coaching and life coaching are not exactly the same. The truth is, both forms of coaching have their differences and similarities. If you’re thinking of working with a coach, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.

Being a business coach or a life coach require slightly different mindsets; the right one for you depends on the area you want to focus on. Nowadays, business and life coaching are just the start – there are many other niche forms of coaching that professionals use to set themselves apart. When it comes down to it, the difference is broadly one of emphasis.


Whether you work with a business coach or life coach, either way they will look at both aspects. A good business coach must also have strong life coaching skills, and vice versa. Life and business don’t exist in a vacuum – there’s going to be some overlap.

As a practice, all coaching is based on the same foundation: empowering clients to achieve their goals through listening, asking questions, and drawing on their own ideas and experiences. Coaching is not about being told what to do, but it is about taking action. There are many lenses through which one can alter the focus.


So getting down to it, what is the real difference between the two? Where a business coach is (as you might expect) business-focused, a life coach is YOU focused. A business coach will look at a problem with the prosperity of your business in mind. A life coach will look at the same problem more holistically, starting with where you, personally, are at.

Generally speaking, life coaching is broader. Sure, it could cover aspects of work, but it might also cover health, relationships, personal stuff. It’s altogether a more emotional sphere, but with the same intention of setting and achieving goals. Business coaching is more specific, looking at business and work-life as its primary focus. The tone, therefore, can be a little different.

women having a coaching session

Life coaching isn’t therapy

Here’s something to keep in mind: life coaching and therapy are distinct services. While their aims may occasionally overlap, life coaches and therapists have very different training and processes. Both are designed to bring about positive change; below are the key differences.

  • Working with a life coach is flexible and may be short-term or long-term. Therapists book regular sessions and the process is usually long-term.
  • Therapists are healthcare professionals; life coaches are not. Therapists can refer their clients for clinical treatment if they think it necessary.
  • The aim of a life coach is to identify goals and create a plan of action. The aim of a therapist is to diagnose and work through illnesses, pathologies and painful feelings.

Before you choose to work with a life coach or therapist, consider which it is you really need and what you’re looking to get out of it. Some coaches and therapists will offer free consultations to help get a sense of whether their service is right for you.

What about mentoring?

Another term that often gets mixed up with coaching. But unlike a coach, a mentor might be thought of as more of an informal teacher to their ‘mentee’ – establishing what is usually a long-term relationship based on passing down knowledge and wisdom. Kind of like Dumbledore.

Where coaches seek specific goals and results, a mentor is all about the long game of learning. Both can be transformative in different ways – but neither coaches nor mentors will ever ‘tell you what to do’. Part of the journey is finding the way for yourself, with a gentle guiding hand.

Here’s a handy table to help you know the difference between a coach, a mentor and a therapist:

Short-term or long-term Long-term Long-term
Not a medical professional Not a medical professional Medical professional
Goal-oriented Knowledge-oriented Mental health-oriented

Finding the right coach

The kind of coach you need comes down to identifying your primary goal.

Looking to conquer a challenge at work? Make your business more profitable? Hire a business coach. Concerned about family issues or personal troubles? Work with a life coach. It may be a little of everything, in which case, shop around. Different coaches have different strengths, and there are more of them around now than ever.

The ideal coach will:

  • Specialise in your desired area
  • Have proper training and accreditation
  • Charge fees that you can afford
  • Share your values

Working with a local life coach is great, but it’s not the only option. Coaching is essentially about having conversations, which means it can also happen over phone or video call. So don’t feel pressured to work with someone just because they’re nearby.

In summary, choosing to work with a coach – life, business or otherwise – could be one of the best decisions you ever make. A coach provides an outside perspective, helping you to see the forest for the trees, and enabling you to focus on your goals. Find out more about ethical business coaching.