Hi Coaches. Today I’m going to cover the question of “Should you take on free clients?” in this post so that you know exactly where you stand in regards to this.

It is actually very simple. This post will clarify all things money when it comes to working with clients. 

 Jeff Shrimpton wrote a great post about charging clients and not doing things for free. Jeff made reference to the fact that it depends on the money mindset of the coach how much is charged and the mental wrangles about coaching fees that can go on in our minds. I agree it is what is between your ears that determines your confidence about the value of your coaching and asking for £2k plus per month fees when you sign clients.

Should you take on free clients?

To follow on from Jeff’s post about charging fees, there are some ‘however’ points for some of our ‘newbies’ to consider which I will share here and a couple of guidelines for even the most experienced of coaches.

New Coaches

So, if you are new to business and/or new to coaching, you need to establish your credibility and authority positioning to go alongside your 5 levels of marketing sophistication in your Linkedin profile. 

To accelerate getting your three measurable results specific testimonials and to get some coaching experience under your belt, Zander and I recommend that you use the P.R.O.O.F. method. This means that you will coach 3 business owners, preferably but not essentially from your target market of core clients. To get up and running as quickly as possible, we would recommend doing this free of charge.

The caveat to this fee-free coaching is that the P.R.O.O.F. method can be done for a fee if you feel that you already have some coaching expertise, or the value of your previous experience and skills, that you are able to bring into the coaching sessions may mean it makes sense to charge for the work you do over the 6-8 week period.

Established Coaches

For coaches who are well established, but do not have quantifiable results in their testimonials, I would recommend that you go through the P.R.O.O.F. Method to get testimonials that will augment the results of your marketing activity and help you to generate inbound leads.

I would expect an experienced coach to typically charge a fee for this. By quantifiable results I mean – 

 “Mr and Mrs Jo Bloggs achieved a 78% net profit increase within 3 months whilst spending 45% less on marketing and working 12 hours per week less.” 

Rather than –

“Mr and Mrs Jo Bloggs achieved good growth in their business whilst spending less on marketing and working less”

I’m sure that you will all get the gist…testimonials need to be in the language of business which is numbers. Fluffy testimonials will not generate inbound lead results.

What I totally advise against is advertising some free coaching when you are an experienced, accomplished business owner or coach. It can deposition you in the market place and truly annoy your paying clients.

A lot of coaches who I know from previous connections have lost paying clients during the recent Covid-19 pandemic because they promoted free coaching for new clients. It had the unsavoury taste of a Sky TV licence where the new customers get great deals whilst the long-term loyal customers get overcharged and none of the deals.

Uncomfortable with Charging 2K a month?

If you are reticent about charging high-end recurring fees then I would encourage you to work on your money mindset. This will help you to find the courage. You can also read our previous post that will give you a good guideline on what most business coaches charge.

Test the water, as you are likely to be pleasantly surprised like Jeff talks about in his post. You need to truly understand the value you bring to your clients based on their perception of the value and not your perception. It is not up to us to decide what something is worth to another human being. It is up to us to understand that value to them.

Ryan Christensen made a very valid point in his reply to Jeff, that even though we can recognise our ‘chimp brain’ and tell ourselves we can charge whatever high-end fees that the reality is our thinking and feelings are not always matched. 

free clients

In this situation, if you are really struggling with charging £2k per month fees then I advise you to start with a fee that makes sense for you. You can then increase your prices every 5 clients. After my first 10 clients, I increased my prices by £250 per month until I got to 20 clients and then I increased them by £500 per month.

At 30 clients, I increased them by £1000. I would not have dreamt it possible to charge the full rate that I did when I first started coaching. I went from £1000 to £5000 doing this.

 As people left through getting to where they wanted to be or exiting their business, my clients were replaced with higher fee clients… simple. This strategy can also be a great way for experienced coaches to increase their fees even if already commanding high fees.

Should you offer discounts?

I advise against offering discounts. It is so hard to put the prices up and can result in clients having a wobble and leaving – it is far better to add in some value.

Where it makes sense for experienced coaches to provide free 1:1 coaching is illustrated perfectly in the recent pandemic. Coaches have clients who they have worked with for months or even years. Some of those businesses have been totally floored and the business owners personal life totally shattered. 

For many, they did not have adequate provisions in place that could have reduced the impact. Equally many found themselves in a situation that is completely out of their control.

 Also, business owners in a state of desperation have reached out for support and guidance after reading messages and posts or attending webinars by the coaches. In this case, I too would coach them free of charge if they were stuck. As their coach, I would always advise you to stand by your clients and provide support to them when in serious need.

I know many of our coaches at all levels have done this over the past months. Be sure to establish the rules and their ongoing commitment whilst not paying. They need to still value the coaching.

What is not ok, is to run around like a headless chicken, yelling from the rooftops that you are offering free coaching to every injured business owner and offering to rescue them. 

Make your clients the hero and you the go-to expert. That does not mean putting on a cape and whizzing around like Superman as a rescuer whilst your own business is falling apart around you. This is serving merely as a distraction to anaesthetise the pain you are currently in and exacerbating your situation.

Be congruent with what you teach people

As the business owner of your coaching business, you absolutely must put your own business oxygen mask on first and be congruent with what you teach people. Walk your talk. Don’t let fixing everyone else come at a cost to your own security and business. Invest time in the activities that will close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. And then do whatever good you want to do in the world.

You will probably have seen the post by Stuart Mason who signed 5 clients this week as a result of coaching business owners for free through this pandemic. He recognises the need to work on himself and his own coaching business as much as the businesses he has supported. It is tricky to start asking for money when we have done something for free.

To summarise

  1. New Coach, and need 3 results-focussed testimonials – P.R.O.O.F. Method free of charge.
  1. Experienced coach or expertise in a skill – charge a nominal fee for the P.R.O.O.F. method to gain 3 testimonials.
  1. Never advertise free 1:1 coaching publicly when you are an experienced coach or expert.
  1. Quietly support your clients free of charge if they will sink without your support in a crisis. Agree on the rules.
  1. Never discount your prices – add some value in.
  1. Scared of your own prices? – work on it. Seek help here in the community, use the mindset knowledge, work out what needs to happen, create a plan, get on the group calls with me and Zander and ask for guidance.

It would be great to hear your thoughts about the content in this post, your key learnings you are taking away… what next steps will you take? Does something need to shift?

Is there something missing for you…what can you do about it? It’s probably changed colour outside by the time you got to the end of this post!

Pam Featherstone

Pam is a world-renowned, multi-award-winning, business coach, entrepreneur, global trainer, speaker and author. She has over 36 years of experience in entrepreneurship, management, and business planning.

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