This story originally aired on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
Last year, U.S. consumers spent more than 11 billion dollars on CDs, books, seminars, and coaching all aimed at making some part of their lives better.
The particular field of one-on-one coaching has grown exponentially since the beginning of the recession in 2007.
Miami's Dan Silverman grew his coaching business out of something he was doing free at bars all over South Florida.
Silverman used to get groups of guys together to practice meeting women. Most of them were quiet guys who found the South Beach scene intimidating. The group grew so popular, participants started telling Silverman he could turn it into a business, and he did. He launched MiamiDatingCoach.com in 2006.
Howard Lieber was a client. Lieber describes himself as that guy who sat in the corner at high school parties and didn't speak. He moved to Weston from California and had to grow a new social network. He swears by Silverman's techniques.
MiamiDatingCoach.com offers packages for men and women that run anywhere from $200 for phone sessions to $12,000 for matchmaking services and an extensive dating-life makeover.
The dating-life makeover could mean anything from cleaning up your Facebook profile to fixing up your apartment. Silverman also coaches clients on what to talk about, what to wear, and where to go on dates.
But his job isn’t all goat cheese and grapes. Silverman spends many professional hours in front of the computer working on online content management, SEO, and social media.
John de la Rosa, who studies the self-improvement industry at Market Data Enterprises, says it's no surprise Silverman's business grew out of the recession.
"Well, in a weak economy where there aren’t that many good jobs to be had, things like personal coaching become an attractive job option," says de la Rosa. "It’s very easy to get into a business and there isn’t much of a financial investment involved."
De la Rosa says there are almost 15,000 coaches in the United States working either full time or part time. Self-improvement services and products are largely purchased by affluent women in their 40s who live along the coasts.
The top tier of coaches can turn it into a six-figure gig. The super-top get a reality show, like Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger.
Years ago, Stanger worked for a matchmaking company in South Florida. She also graduated from the University of Miami.
But it’s not always about getting the girl. Very often, it’s about getting the gig and doing it well. CEOs and high potential leaders often receive coaching, bought and paid for by their corporations.
Martin Echavarria left a corporate job to run his own consulting business, Coherence360. He describes today's coaching marketplace as "the wild, wild West."
Echavarria says, "Very few of them actually go and get certifications and learn, and build a methodology, and understand and implement that methodology."
Right now, 20 percent of his business comes from executive coaching. Corporations like American Express and MasterCard have paid him to work with some of their high-potential leaders.
Folks who are technically exceptional but who may have a ways to go as a manager or a leader.
Says Echavarria: "What happens in the hard skills become the soft skills and the soft skills become the really hard skills."
Employees with exceptional technical skill may not know how to lead a team, for instance. CEOs and other leaders often get coaching bought and paid for by their corporations.
American Express, Verizon, and the health care district of Palm Beach County have paid Echavarria to work with some of their high potential leaders.
Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has said getting a coach was some of the best advice he ever got, but he resented the idea when he first heard it.
Schmidt said: "I don’t need a coach. I’m an established CEO. Why would I need a coach? Is there something wrong?"
But the explosion of coaching as a new income stream makes sense. It is personal service that can’t be automated or outsourced internationally.
And in an economy where people are looking for stability, it is no surprise that many are trying to turn their passion into profits. The answer to whether coaching will be a new middle class career remains to be seen, however. It depends on your network, your chosen area of coaching and other marketplace factors.