Are You A Fraud Coach?

Heather Demetrios
5 min readAug 29, 2019


Photo by ROOM on Unsplash

Coaching is the Wild West of the self-development industry, making it easier than ever for dreamers to get taken advantage of.

A friend of mine, meditation teacher Liza Kindred, threw a quote up on Twitter that got me thinking about many of the coaches I’ve been encountering these days:

“If they haven’t been there, don’t ask them for directions.”

I immediately pictured all the writing “coaches” — and coaches of all stripes — hanging up their signs when they have no business coaching in the first place. These are people who tell you they can help you get published — but have never been published themselves or have experience in the publishing industry. Health coaches who have no medical background or certifications. Meditation teachers who’ve never had formal instruction in the practice. Life coaches whose personal lives are a shambles and so they participate in pyramid scheme coaching: since they’re not qualified to coach you on anything, they coach you on how to be a coach yourself, all of it a Hail Mary pass toward getting their own heads above water.

Modern Day Snake Oil Salespeople

The Internet has made it far too easy for fraud coaches to gain a foothold, and the wellness industrial complex doesn’t help.

The current culture is one grounded in entitlement: manifest what you want, by all means necessary.

Now armchair experts — once harmless hobbyists who enjoyed jamming on things they were curious about — are trying to monetize. They think that just because they want the title of legitimate Expert, they are.

Want to be a life coach, advising people on career, but have never been able to get a business off the ground yourself? No big deal! Just build a website and they will come — the coaching IS your successful business and clients are proof that you are successful. The culture tells you that you deserve to be a coach, you deserve the money people will give you, you deserve this business.

You’ve already decided you earned it without lifting a finger.

The culture, with its focus on sham branding, tells us that you don’t need expertise anymore to be a teacher or consultant as long as people are willing to follow where you go. But the culture is wrong, and it’s harming coaches and clients alike.

You’re a fraud coach if you are advising people on topics you have no professional qualifications in and no demonstrable success at — end of story.

Does this mean you shouldn’t coach at all? Perhaps. Or maybe you need a coach makeover, to ensure you aren’t pulling the wool over people’s eyes and taking their money when you have no business doing so. How do you know if you’ve gotten stuck in an ethical quagmire? And if you’re in one, how do you dig yourself out?

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Your answers to the following questions will help you determine whether or not you’re a Fraud Coach:

  • Have you experienced real world success in whatever it is you’re coaching someone in? For example, if you say you’re a business coach, have you successfully run a business of your own? Real talk — don’t give the glossy interview answer or get into semantics such as, Well, how do you define success? Show me the money, honey.
  • Are you qualified to offer advice on the subject? By qualified, I mean: Do you have the professional experience and the necessary education? We live in a culture that, in many ways, looks down on organized systems, but the truth is that someone who has been taught by experts at an accredited institution — and had to put their knowledge through the wringer through writing papers and doing presentations and research projects — is going to know more than someone who just read a few books on a subject. Same for someone that has been taken under the wings of seasoned professionals who gave them on-the-job educational experience. Vetting is important in all areas of life — why not coaching?
  • If you are qualified, do you actually know what you’re talking about — and are you good at it? By this I mean, have you been successful at putting your knowledge into practice, and have you been able to help the clients you’ve had get to where they want to go?
  • Is coaching a vocation for you, or a get-rich-quick scheme? I’ve encountered many coaches who think it’s easy money, and in some ways it can be: Desperate people don’t always think straight and predatory coaches will take advantage of a client’s fear and pain to line their own pockets. And they’ll justify it by saying that no one forced that client to sign up with them.
  • Would you hire you? Better yet, who would you hire instead of you and what does that say about your positioning as a coach? Why should someone hire you over your ideal coach?

By now you should have an idea if you’re a fraud. If you are, you have two choices: Get qualified or step away from coaching entirely.

The Problem Is Entitlement

We all have that friend who gives great pep talks — but we wouldn’t necessarily pay her thousands of dollars to give them to us.

Pep talks can be dangerous, especially if the person giving them has no idea what they’re talking about. This leads me to another major problem in the coaching industry:

If you’re coaching people on how to be a coach, you might be a fraud. (Or you might be a real deal coach who is paying her wisdom forward — do a gut check and figure out where you land on the spectrum).

We live in a #girlboss culture that encourages women in particular — the vast amount of coaches are women, from what I can tell — to “get it, girl.”

But so often what we’re doing is no better than a Mary Kay pyramid scheme in which we sell makeup we don’t want to our friends and then tell them they should sell the makeup too and then we’ll all have pink Cadillacs.

There are fantastic coaches — such as Martha Beck, Oprah’s life coach — who should be training coaches. We need coaches who have been under the tutelage of wise teachers. Unless you have demonstrated that you are a successful (business-wise) and effective coach (transforming and aiding your clients), then leave the coaching training to Martha.

Knowing When To Retire Your Coaching Jersey

You know it’s time to hang up your coaching jersey if you’ve recognized that you simply aren’t qualified to consult on the topics you’ve been taking on clients for.

Just because people are paying you doesn’t mean they should.

If you want to be a coach, do the work that will enable you to transform your clients’ lives — in doing so, you’ll transform your own.

Heather Demetrios is an author, writing coach, and teacher for scribes. She liveswith her writer husband and very imaginative Devon Rex cat. Her novels include Little Universes, I’ll Meet You There, Bad Romance, as well as the Dark Caravan fantasy series. Her non-fiction includes Code Name Badass: The True Story of Virginia Hall. She is the editor of Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love. Find out more about Heather and her books at and visit her on Twitter: @HDemetrios and Instagram @heatherdemetrios. Her newsletter, The Lotus & Pen, provides resources for the writing life.



Heather Demetrios

Author, coach, editor, & mindfulness mentor. Newest: LITTLE UNIVERSES and CODE NAME BADASS.