Will you coach me for “free?”

Many of you describe “coaching” as at least part of your business model.  And as such I am constantly surprised to hear how many of you are giving your services away, either literally or by charging far less than they are worth or by offering “trial coaching” periods that are several sessions long.  I see people scouting through the 48Days.net community to see who will coach them for free and actually feeling like they can be “selective” about who they work with.

This seems to come up again and again.  Prospective clients will frequently present themselves as desperate for our help but because of life’s challenges, unable to pay for our services.  Unfortunately, there is little to be gained by either party with a “free” payment plan – everyone ends up losing.

Rather than helping make the world a better place, free coaching is likely to:

  1. Breed Resentment – just think about it.  Charity tends to create resentment in both the giver and the receiver.  The giver ends up feeling used, drained by the time and effort expended.  And the recipient experiences growing resentment, guilt and anger at being expected to be grateful all the time and for the loss of self-esteem with each gift being another reminder of what they cannot do for themselves.
  2. Devalue Coaching – if you get something for free, you typically view it as being worth very little.  There is a clear connection between cost and perceived value.  Clients receiving free coaching will be quick to cancel and slow to implement any changes.
  3. Undermine Professionalism – when was the last time you saw an attorney, a doctor or an engineer set up shop and then offer months of free services?  Would you take them seriously as professionals?
  4. Violate a core tenet of health and wellness – one thing all helping professionals learn early on is to take care of yourself first.  You can’t help others if you are sick yourself.  If you can’t pay your own bills, you’re in a weak position to help someone else.  You can help people more from a full cup than an empty one.

Don’t assume that those who claim they can’t pay are in fact those most in need.  And certainly don’t assume that those who can’t pay could benefit the most from our coaching.  That seldom is the case.  Someone who can’t pay probably has a history of making poor decisions and has less likelihood of acting on and implementing coaching suggestions.  Agreeing to buy into their “poor me” syndrome may simply prolong their bad choices and patterns of not accepting responsibility.

Now – that being said, I still do a fair amount of “ministry” coaching.  It’s usually at the recommendation of another professional who really does understand the situation.  And it is always a very brief encounter with me.  I may agree to a one-hour intense session, but not a fully developed Eagles Club process.  If you want to donate 4 hours a week to working with prison inmates, temporarily homeless individuals, or those who just experienced a serious setback in life, that’s fine and honorable – but don’t make that the norm for your coaching business.

But be very careful with this issue.  Don’t get trapped in coaching that opens the door for two-sided resentment.  And don’t establish yourself as someone whose time and services are lowly valued.

We’ll be covering this and much more in the Coaching with Excellence live event May 30-31st.  And no, you can’t come for free.  But come with the confidence that with one client you will more than recapture your investment and be on your way as a highly successful coach.

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