Should you coach people for free?
Yes, but not too much.
Every successful coach started out by giving free coaching.
Most veteran coaches offer a free, one-time discovery session.
And so should you.
But that’s it. No. more. free. coaching.
Any more free coaching will cost you paying clients… and possibly, your coaching business.
Any more free coaching will cost you paying clients… and possibly, your coaching business.”
What are the problems with too much free coaching?
Free coaching clients have no emotional investment in coaching…
…so they’re a lot less likely to take action and get results.
…AND they’re more likely to quit.
Too much free coaching ‘talks clients out of hiring you’…
If you go “overtime” on a discovery session…
…a client that was ready to hire you… might change their mind.
Letting a session go ‘on and on’ without inviting a potential client to hire you…
…projects a lack of confidence in your coaching.
…and likely lowers your coaching’s perceived value.
Letting a session go ‘on and on’ without inviting a potential client to hire you…projects a lack of confidence in your coaching…and likely lowers your coaching’s perceived value.”
Let your discovery session go too long…
…and your client will simply say…”I gotta go”.
Then it’s too late to invite them to enroll in continued coaching.
Yes, you could follow up to schedule more time with them…
…but you’re pushing a weak position.
The climax of the discovery session has passed.
They probably feel satiated with whatever breakthroughs they got from that one session…
…and most clients aren’t going to get back with you for 10 minutes, just so you can ask them to pay for more coaching.
Too much free coaching attracts the worst clients you’ll ever have.
Ongoing free clients are the WORST clients you will ever work with.
Ongoing free clients are the WORST clients you will ever work with.”
WORST CLIENT #1: NON-COMMITTAL
Non-committal clients quit coaching as soon as they’re about to have a breakthrough.
Emotional investment in coaching usually stems from a financial investment in coaching.
Emotional investment in coaching usually stems from a financial investment in coaching.”
Without the emotional investment, coaching starts feeling like a drag.
It weighs on a client, rather than lifting them up…
…because they aren’t pulling THEIR WEIGHT in the coaching relationship.
Without pulling their own weight, they’ll reject any accountability coaching…
…because it’s easier to escape than it is to change.
WRONG CLIENT #2: “Takers”
Takers don’t honor professional boundaries.
Give a little too much free coaching…
…and they’ll push to see how much more free coaching they can get from you.
If you tell them “no more free coaching”…
…some will even try to guilt you into changing your mind.
Coaches fall for this guilt trip more than you’d expect…
…thinking they ‘could’ve done a better job’ coaching.
But ANY coach would struggle to help a client that’s not truly invested in coaching.
Takers will put a lot of faith in you, which might feel good at first…
…but they’ll expect you to rescue them every time.
Takers try to make you their entire emotional support system.
Takers suck all your time and energy, leaving you exhausted.
Takers see you as their own personal assistant, or shoulder to cry on (but not as a valued professional).
No matter how much you try to deliver for them, it’s never enough.
The more you give…the more they take.
Takers will suck you dry and burn you out.
There’s nothing wrong with a client taking, when it’s paired with giving.
Healthy coaching relationships are give and take.
Healthy coaching relationships are give and take.”
Takers only focus on ONE SIDE of that equation, and staying in that coaching relationship is the END OF YOU.
Broke clients don’t want to pay for coaching (because they’re broke).
Broke clients have nothing else to do, so they’ll happily ‘talk your ear off’.
Clients with money WANT to pay you, because they understand:
- It’s in their best interest to work with a worthy professional that gets paid.
- It’s unsustainable to keep you working with no pay.
- You’ll be more motivated to help them when you’re paid well.
- They wouldn’t feel right about just taking from you.
Too much free coaching encourages ‘chasing the client’.
Investing hours in a client with no pay…
…can tempt you to waste even more time chasing that client.
You won’t want to feel like you’ve wasted all that time and energy by walking away.
This is commonly known as…
The ‘Sunk Cost’ Fallacy:
“A cognitive bias that occurs when someone continues to invest time, money, or effort into something that they know is a waste…
…only because they have already invested a significant amount of resources into it.”
This mistake is based on an emotional attachment to the wasted resources that have already been invested…
…rather than considering the lack of future upside coming from throwing ‘good resources after bad’.
Instead of trying to make a bad decision into a good one…
…reinvest your time to meet clients who will actually hire you.
Instead of trying to make a bad decision into a good one…reinvest your time to meet clients who will actually hire you.”
One of my favorite antidotes to the ‘sunk-cost fallacy’ is one I heard from Eben Pagan, a very profitable coach, who told me:
“no matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road…
There’s a fine line between building enough trust for a client to hire you (which I cover HERE)…
…and trying to FORCE a coaching relationship when you didn’t “click” with the client in the first discovery session.
Too much free coaching can lead coaches to take a client’s quitting personally.
If a client quits coaching that they didn’t even pay for…
…then coaches wonder if the coaching was worth anything to the client.
Some coaches take a ‘free client’ quitting as an insult…
…as if their coaching was a priceless gift that their client rejected.
A lot of coaches will think a free client quit because they are a bad coach.
The real problem?
That client wasn’t emotionally invested in coaching.
How should you use free coaching in Discovery Sessions?
Coaching for free is THE proven way to get coaching clients…
…but you’ll need to decide HOW to use free coaching effectively.
A one-time “sample” Discovery Session is the only free coaching you ever need to offer.
I’ve found 30 to 45 minutes of coaching is the “sweet spot” length for Discovery Sessions.
45 minutes gives you time to make a difference for your client…
…but not so much that you overwhelm them.
A few ‘gurus’ recommend giving a two hour long Discovery Session (the Dean of Master Coach University will run his Discovery Sessions around that long… but he CHARGES for them).
So feel free to test different lengths to find your own sweet spot.
But I’ve found, for most coaches, that the MORE time you spend with a client…
…beyond 30 to 45 minutes…
…the LESS likely you’ll enroll that client.
Bottom line: You’ve got to find a happy medium…
…between giving massive value to your client…
…and withholding coaching enough to enroll them in further paid coaching.
A one-time “sample” Discovery Session is the only free coaching you ever need to offer.”
Why do we tend to coach too much for free?
Coaches are helpful people.
Many of them are more concerned with helping…
…than getting paid for their time.
Those coaches say…
“It’s not about the money.”
And it doesn’t HAVE to be about money for you.
You can still be helpful, but be wary of the deeper issues that keep coaches from charging.
Here are a few reasons why coaches give too much for free:
Needing Validation From Clients
Many coaches need the client’s validation.
They make that VALIDATION more important than getting paid.
They don’t mind NOT being paid as long as the client gives them validation.
Validation becomes the currency that this coach works for…
See the problem?
As long as you think VALIDATION is more important than your coaching fee…
…you’ll always settle for validation ALONE.
…and get no money.
Lot’s of coaches think that validation will lead to enrollments.
These coaches have ‘collapsed’ validation with getting a paying client.
When they get validation…
…they feel as if they enrolled the client!
They celebrate their victory… thinking their work is done.
But they didn’t enroll anybody…
…so those prospective clients ‘die on the vine’.
VALIDATION and GETTING PAID are two different things.
Sometimes a client isn’t going to “like” coaching.
Coaching doesn’t exist ‘to be liked’.
Your purpose as a coach is to make a difference for your client…
…not to get a pat on the back.
Your purpose as a coach is to make a difference for your client…not to get a pat on the back.”
Avoiding Responsibility or Expectations
Many coaches believe if they get paid for coaching, they’re responsible for their client’s results.
The truth is, you’re NEVER responsible for your clients’ results.
Let clients know they are responsible for results.
You’re only a catalyst.
Let go of putting extra, unnecessary pressure on yourself just because you were paid a fee.
Coaching is Coaching – paid or free.
Discomfort Talking About Money
Some coaches feel that making money negates their contribution.
They think money cheapens the coaching relationship.
They feel the client will think the coach didn’t really care…
…just because they got paid some money.
NONE of this is true, but since these myths create discomfort about money…
…a lot of coaches don’t bring money up AT ALL.
They’re stuck coaching for free.
If you ever want a real coaching BUSINESS…
…then you’ll need to talk about money with your clients.
The good news?
- Paying a fee for coaching is GOOD for your client.
- Getting paid for your coaching is the gateway to helping the most people.
- Clients EXPECT to pay for quality coaching.
- You feel good when you give good coaching.
- Clients feel good when they give good money for coaching.
Professional coaching is a dance of giving and taking.
Give yourself permission to charge for coaching.
You’ll enjoy coaching more when you have clients paying you…
Kristoffer “Paid Coaching” Thompson