Why Coaching For Free Isn’t Going To Bring You Clients…

Coaching for free isn’t the marketing tool that many coaches think (hope?) that it will be. Pro bono coaching does have it’s place, but it’s not as a marketing tool.

Coaching is an incredibly rewarding profession. Good coaching is transformational. I know, my life was transformed by it.

There’s a (yet another!) pervasive myth around finding paying clients and that’s the myth that says give away your coaching because those you coach for free will refer paying clients to you. This is rarely the case. Clients you coach for free may recommend you to others, but almost without exception, those others are ones who would also like your coaching for free.

If you’re going to make a living from coaching, you have to move away from offering free coaching and start charging for your services. Coaching for free is not as effective as it seems.

Why Coaching for Free Might Not Be Effective

Almost every coach I’ve ever spoken to has provided coaching for free for longer than is necessary.

The problem with free coaching is that clients who don’t pay for coaching are rarely as committed to the coaching process as they need to be. The reason for this is because coaching is about changing behaviour and changing behaviour is hard. Without some financial ‘skin’ in the game, these clients you coach for free lack that extra bit of ‘stickability’ that paying for something gives us.

When the changes become hard, the client doesn’t say hey, these actions I committed to are really hard, because they’re about change and I’m finding them challenging. What happens is that they turn up to sessions having not completed actions, or they keep moving sessions and eventually, they may disappear altogether.

Giving your coaching away doesn’t reflect the real value of your services and moving from giving your coaching away to charging a professional rate can prove impossible. I often speak to coaches who are charging £50 or £60 per session for their coaching and have done so for a long time, because the leap to a true professional rate was a leap too far.

When to Start Charging for Coaching

The transition from free to paid coaching can be challenging, but it’s essential if you’re going to build a financially viable coaching business. As a coach, it’s important to have confidence in your abilities before charging for your services – it’s why 25 out of the 100 hours for the ICF ACC accreditation can be pro bono. The expectation is of course, that you’ll charge a professional rate from hour 26 onwards, but in my experience, that’s rarely the case. (As an aside, having confidence in your coaching abilities doesn’t mean taking qualification after qualification so that you can add value to your clients. Apart from anything else, it’s really hard to add value to clients you don’t have!)

Waiting too long to start charging can damage your confidence and business and leave you with what is nothing more than a hobby – and an expensive one at that. Once you can provide value to clients, you should start charging for your services.

How to Determine Your Pricing

Pricing sits on the marketing side of your business. Pricing isn’t about what you want to earn, it’s about the perceived value your client receives when they reach the outcome they wanted.

Choosing a price-point can be challenging, but to give you a ball-park, private client fees should start at circa £125-£150 per session. While it may be tempting to offer discounts or charge lower rates when starting out, it is important to establish your value from the beginning.

Tips for Building a Financially Viable Coaching Business

To build a coaching business, it is important to have a focus for your marketing – a clearly defined target audience – and a solid understanding of the outcome(s) that target audience is looking for.

Here are my top tips:

1. Know who you’re marketing to.

Trying to market to ‘anyone who wants to….(insert random goal)’ isn’t good marketing. Describing the coaching process isn’t good marketing. Having a focused marketing message, designed to speak to exactly the kind of client you want to work with is good marketing.

2. Have a clearly defined coaching package.

Your coaching package should clearly define the steps that your client will transition through in order to reach their desired outcome.

3. Charge appropriately for your services.

While it may be tempting to charge low rates or offer discounts, it is important to charge appropriately. When you are crystal clear on the outcome that your target audience wants (eg: a promotion; to succeed in a new leadership role; to have better relationships etc) it is possible to place a financial value on it.

4. Don’t offer one-off sessions.

Selling one-off coaching sessions may seem like an easy way to make money, but it really doesn’t help you to build a sustainable coaching business or help your clients to reach a desired outcome. Instead, focus on building longer-term coaching relationships with clients and only selling coaching packages. After all, far more can be achieve with a series of coaching sessions (which is exactly what a package or programme is) than with a single coaching session.

5. Believe in your worth and value.

One of the biggest obstacles to building a successful coaching business is a lack of confidence and belief in your worth and value. It is important to understand the value (and transformation) that your coaching can bring to the people you coach. Once you understand this and you’ve had some success in gaining clients, your confidence will soar.


Transitioning from free to paid coaching can be hard, but it’s essential if you’re going to build a financially viable coaching business.

By having a clearly defined target audience, a coaching package that’s easy for your clients to understand and charging appropriately for your services, you can attract clients that are an absolute pleasure to work with, as well as achieve your financial goals.

Believe in your worth and value, and avoid devaluing your services by offering one-off sessions or just being too cheap.

Building a successful coaching business takes time, effort, and dedication. There will be challenges to contend with – of course there will – but with a clear business vision and marketing plan you can build whatever coaching business you want to.

Coaching is – in my opinion – the most rewarding and fulfilling work that there is. The hard truth is that you can only build a financially viable coaching business that provides value to your clients and a good income for you if you stop coaching for free and start charging appropriately.

Stop Coaching For Free!

If you’d like to chat with me, I’m always happy to talk.