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Coaching vs. Consulting: What’s the Difference?

Coaching vs. Consulting: What’s the Difference?

Learn about the similarities and differences between coaching and consulting. Find out what each professional can do and who should seek which services.


Coaching and consulting are different at a fundamental level. Although both coaches and consultants guide clients toward achieving goals and work to improve people’s lives, they follow different approaches.

The most basic difference between consultants and coaches is that the former tells clients the way forward, while the latter mentors clients to discover it. Consultants, therefore, often have niche knowledge and give more prescriptive advice. 

Whether seeking help from one of these two professionals or considering becoming one, this guide is for you. Here’s all you need to know about coaching and consulting.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a wellness field spanning a range of focus areas –– from health to business. These services focus on helping clients set goals, chart action plans, and motivate themselves. The practice also centers on encouraging habit changes so clients experience long-term results after completing a coaching program.

Coaches believe clients have the answers within themselves, which is why they encourage clients to make discoveries. Coaches, regardless of the niche, create a trusting environment so clients feel confident opening up. 

Sometimes, people view coaches as partners. Coaches prompt clients to share their goals, needs, and roadblocks –– and this information helps coaches establish clients’ strengths and opportunities for improvement. Then, coaches provide direction and tools to help clients (hence, the term “partner”) chart a course. They guide clients every step of the way. Although they don’t directly tell clients what to do, they help clients figure out a way around an obstacle.  

How does consulting work?

Consulting is an advice-driven field that works around various specialty areas –– often professional ones. These services help managers, businesses, or entrepreneurs find a way forward when they face challenges. 

Consultants advise people and organizations seeking assistance and expertise to solve problems. In the consulting model, clients look for direction from outside resources, and consultants provide knowledge and hands-on guidance. 

Consultants are subject-matter experts. Like coaches, they start by assessing a client’s situation, followed by finding opportunities for improvement. However, instead of guiding clients to solve a problem themselves, consultants use their know-how to offer actionable solutions to the problem. Their work gravitates toward specialized industries such as human resources, information technology, and operations and strategy.

What is the difference between coaching and consulting?

Coaches empower people to make changes from within, while consultants guide their clients to implement a plan for change. Here are some other key differences between the roles that go beyond these distinct characteristics: 

  • Approach: Coaches are more “hands-off,” while consultants are “hands-on.” Coaches equip clients to develop self-reflection skills to discover themselves. They also encourage clients to make life-altering changes and motivate clients to work toward their goals. On the contrary, consultants are domain experts who use their knowledge to offer solutions to clients and create an action plan, outlining each objective and steps to achieve those action items.
  • Level of authority: Consultants take on authoritative, advisory roles, while coaches meet the client at their level. In a coaching relationship, both parties share equal power. Clients pursue coaching services when they want to learn alongside someone who can help them stick to a path. Sometimes, coaching clients may have a higher level of education than their coach, but this doesn’t affect the success of the working relationship. On the other hand, clients seek consulting services because they’re at crossroads and need an expert’s opinion.
  • Level of contact: While some coaches specialize in group sessions, many work directly with clients one-on-one. Coaching is a more private practice focused on building trust through conversation, and these relationships succeed when the coach and client deeply understand one another. Consultants, however, often work with organizations and groups, such as boards and teams. Since consultants provide action plans and advising, they may not need to foster closer relationships with individual clients.
  • Habits: Coaches focus on helping clients make habitual and behavioral changes. Instead of creating an action plan, they encourage clients to take small steps and trust the process. To cultivate a long-lasting relationship, coaches promote clients to be transparent with them, which also helps clients trust coaches and feel more confident. However, consultants don’t tap into the behavioral side of things. Rather, they use their expertise and directly offer solutions and action items to people or organizations. 


How are coaching and consulting alike?

There’s a reason people confuse coaching and consulting. The terms are similar, and these two careers do share some overlap. Here are some similarities between coaching and consulting:

  • Clients: Both consultants and coaches always prioritize clients. They want to see clients succeed — they focus efforts on helping individuals make changes in their lives and organizations achieve goals. 
  • Field experts: Consultants and coaches have niche authoritative knowledge on particular subjects, such as finance, business, and health. Although common-field coaches and consultants provide generic services, niche-specific coaches (such as health and wellness coaches, executive coaches, life coaches, and financial coaches) and service-specific consultants (including strategy consultants, information technology consultants, and operations consultants) offer domain-specific services. 
  • Good listeners: Both coaching and consulting require professionals to actively listen to clients before offering solutions. Even if consultants are primarily advisors, they must deeply understand a client or organization’s goals and roadblocks before assisting to get a better picture of the client’s situation. Coaches must also listen to their clients’ problems before guiding them.
  • Problem-solvers: Coaches and consultants possess excellent problem-solving skills and clearly communicate solutions or action items to clients. Typically, clients seek the help of a coach or consultant when they hit a roadblock. Both professionals identify opportunities the client hasn’t thought of and pinpoint weaknesses hindering success. 
  • Excellent leaders: Coaches and consultants are role models. They demonstrate confidence, authority, and a strong sense of ethics. 
  • Analytical skills: Coaches and consultants track clients’ progress toward goals through metrics. Consultants analyze an organization’s data to spot opportunity areas and evaluate how that data changes as the client implements the consulting strategy. Similarly, coaches use metrics to show clients their progress so they remain motivated.

Who should seek which services?

If you’re considering hiring a consultant or coach, you might be forming a better idea of which service you need. If you still need guidance, check the following lists of ideal candidates for each service. 


  • Businesses or managers looking to cut costs or improve time-management skills 
  • Organizations that have hit an operational roadblock and seek strategic help from a business consultant
  • Companies exploring ways to revamp their corporate culture 
  • Entrepreneurs pursuing expert advice on a specific industry 


  • Individuals who want to improve a specific area of their life (health, finances, life, etc.)
  • People who have a short-term goal but don’t know how to reach it 
  • Individuals looking to achieve more and push past limiting beliefs 
  • Couples or families struggling to communicate or connect 

Coaches and consultants need excellent organizational skills

Both coaches and consultants must stay organized to focus on their client’s needs. This means having excellent time-management skills and control over administrative tasks. 

A customer relationship management (CRM) program helps these professionals stay organized and save time. Practice’s CRM tool is ideal for both coaches and consultants seeking to streamline their administrative processes. Store client data safely, send messages and documents, and take bookings all in one place. Try us today.

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