Is Giving Free Life Coaching Sessions An Effective Tactic?

A lot of Life Coaches offer either a free coaching session or something that is often called a discovery session.

On the surface it seems like a great way to tempt potential clients to start working with you without any risk on their part.

Then presumably after you demonstrate your undoubted coaching prowess they will want to continue working with you at your prevailing rate.

Only it rarely works like that.

The Truth Behind Free Life Coaching Sessions

Firstly, you have conditioned the client to get something for free and you have surreptitiously and very subtly devalued your service before you have even begun.

Secondly, unless you’re selling crack and giving free samples away to get people hooked, then literally the hardest sale to make is the one from a free product or service to a paid one.

And thirdly, you will undoubtedly attract some people who have no intention whatsoever of going past the first session and will be looking to squeeze every available minute out of you at your expense.

I know for example that by offering 4 free ebooks if you sign up for the A Daring Adventure newsletter I am likely to attract people who just want ‘free’.

However, it doesn’t cost me anything. The books are already written, the entire process is automated and it doesn’t cost me time or money.

If you are to succeed as a Life Coach then you have to put a value on your time. Without doing so it’s impossible to know whether you are using your time wisely or not.

The amount of time I wasted in my first 2 or 3 years is tantamount to a criminal offense for anybody wanting to build a successful business.

What Is Your Time Worth?

If you value your time at $100 per hour for example (which isn’t unreasonable), then every time you do an hours discovery/free coaching session it has cost you $100.

It wasn’t free and it doesn’t matter if you had anything else planned. And the reason it doesn’t matter is because you can do a lot in an hour when it comes to promoting your business online.

I was asked yesterday how much time I spend on Social Media.

I honestly couldn’t give an accurate answer because it varies from day to day and what I’m aiming to achieve.

However, I can say with certainty that apart from for personal use, it’s rarely more than an hour in any one day.

And if it is longer than that, then there is nearly always a specific reason such as a Coach the Life Coach launch approaching.

You have to do a client consult to make sure you’re a good fit for one another, but that is not the same as a discovery session or a free session.

A  Consult Does Not Require An Hour

Firstly, a consult will usually not run anything close to an hour long. I took on a new client this morning who is spending $5k with me and we were on for about 20 minutes.

15 minutes is often enough, but if they are stone cold leads who know nothing about you then you may need half an hour.

Secondly, if you set off down the coaching road you have no way of knowing where it will take you.

Good coaching is reactive and that’s one reason I’m not a clock watcher when working with clients. If I start a process I want to finish it whenever possible.

And finally, you know nothing about this person.

I understand the belief that some have that we should be able to coach a complete stranger with no knowledge about them whatsoever, but it’s not a belief I subscribe to.

I want to know a bit about the clients I am working with, I want to know their core values, and their hopes and aspirations. All that takes time.

I have no doubt you can find a coach who swears by free sessions, but if I’m going to work for free I want it to be for a good cause and not because I’m too scared to ask people to pay me for the work I do.

So what’s your take, agree or disagree?

Comments

  1. Love this article, Tim! I’ve done free sessions at various times. They are tiring and don’t work as well as other promotions I have done (like webinars).

    What do you now do to get clients?

    Thanks for the info today!
    Sue

    • Tim Brownson

      LOL, to answer that I’d need to write a book Sue Anne, but most of the answers are either in this blog or in my Insiders Guide newsletters.

      They’re on the course too obviously 😉

  2. Michael Wecke

    In the days that I was still heavily involved in consulting / coaching new immigrant arrivals to New Zealand about how to approach job searches, I never had the feeling that giving something for free was good for my business. You have just articulated the reasons. While not thinking consciously about devaluing my services, I thought that I had earned my expertise the hard way – and not for free – and I was thus fully within my rights to demand payment for my services. People generally respect that. The very same held true for my services as Handwriting Analyst, when I provided Personality Profiles of applicants who applied for positions in companies or when I was asked to provide Compatibility Profiles for people looking to enter into relationships with somebody else. My service was not cheap, but I had years of expensive training behind me and thought that the fees I charged, expensive but not excessive, were justified. My clients thought so too.

    So: I do not agree with the idea that giving free “discovery sessions” is a good idea when it comes to Life Coaching. I DO agree that in the coaching business a prior Client Consult is essential to find out whether there is a resonance between coach and client. I found that most valuable (and interesting) to go through the Values process with you first, because apart from defining my values, it gave me an idea about my would-be Coach: Could we work together or not, now and in the future.

    • Tim Brownson

      That’s twice this week we have been in total agreement. We must stop meeting like this 😉

  3. Obviously this is a controversial issue within the coaching profession and I think each coach needs to find what works best for him/her.

    For example, if you’ve ever read the book “The Prosperous Coach” they actually say that you should start with a two hour free session and go as deep as you can with the potential. They claim that coaching is so unique that something actually has to experience it firsthand to truly understand the benefits. And in my own personal experience, when I’ve offered a 90 minute free session up-front, the general reaction has been “wow, how can I get more of that???”.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of other coaches who agree with your perspective.

    Here’s what I don’t understand though. How do you convince someone to pay you $5,000 after only a 15-20 minute chat? Seems like most people would need much more in order to part with that amount of money.

    • Tim Brownson

      I haven’t Ed, although I am familiar with it, but if that is a sample of the advice I’,m not likely to bother.

      My guess is that the author is looking to long-term coaching relationships all the time when many of mine are much shorter. 6 sessions is typical.

      if II answered that last question I’d have to kill you!

      To be honest he’d pretty much made his mind up already and that is often the case with people who book my VIP package. They have usually done their due diligence more than people looking to spend a lot less.

      Twice this year that I can remember I have talked prospects out of my VIP package because I knew they didn’t really need it and 6 sessions would do the job.

      • I’m pretty sure the author markets to high end business people and he charges them a lot. So I can see how maybe they need a bit more warming up before making a commitment.

        I also think the answer to your question depends on how “warmed up” the client is when they first contact you. If they’re coming via referral from a friend or prior client or if it’s someone who’s been reading your blog for a while, then they me coming to you ready to buy after a 15-20 minute chat. But if it’s someone who just recently came across your work, they may need a lot more “warming up” in order to buy.

        • Tim Brownson

          That makes sense. If he’s looking to get $50k from a client, then I get that.

          I still think you can warm somebody up in 20 minutes Ed. Not always admittedly and I have on occasions had consults go to an hour.

          But here’s the deal. I bet if I’d kept stats that the calls that went to an hour had a lower conversion rate than those that only lasted 20 minutes. in fact I am absolutely sure of it.

  4. I’m still undecided actually. On the one hand, free sessions have been a great way to promote my business in a small town. Not everyone (well hardly anyone) knows what coaching entails and so it is a good way to show people the results they can get. I’m also about a 50% conversion rate, which has been worth it. I’ve been strategic about it – offering sessions only to groups I know or to people who would give me feedback on my website (which was also a good promo). I do agree however that it is not a good long term strategy. Thanks as always for the blog.

    • Tim Brownson

      50% is an excellent conversion rate, I’d hire you as a sales person.

      Having said that I’d probably hire you as a strategist first because you have obviously been clever about who you have offered them to.

      I think maybe you hit on something.

      I was really talking about people offering them on their website to all-comers. Maybe if you’re doing a consult and the client is wavering they could possibly work.

      Good comment, got me thinking.

  5. Hi Tim,
    I guess this is a forever returning topic. I once did a 3 hour free workshop, wanting to sell a 4 day one, and had about 15 people come. None of them signed up for the 4 day workshop, and even had 2 other coaches there, who shamelessly started handing out their business cards, and ended up with new clients. It was my first ever workshop, and there I decided I will never give away anything for free.:) Was a great lesson, but also a great experience, that I can easily do this kind of workshop.

    I do a 30 minute client consult, to see if we are a good fit. Someone asked here, how will you convince the client to pay in 20 minutes? I don’t ever try to convince anyone. I have a blog, which has brought me new clients already, even though I have only about 50 people signed up. But those that somehow started reading it, like it, and feel that I’m talking to them, so that makes them want to work with me. I also write articles in some HR or coaching portals, which is well worth the time investment. And I enjoy it.:) So by the time they call me, they have a lot of information about how I work, my values, my style etc.

    This makes life so much easier.:) And the reason I don’t try to convince anyone, is because I don’t want to work with anyone, who doesn’t want to do the work. That is a very high demotivator for me, and if we go into a session like this, I will end up putting in more effort than that client, and the client will end up disappointed, because his/her goals will not be achieved (only mine).

    So I thnk it’s great that Tim you have a blog, where you write in your own style, and with this you build interest in people, who appreciate this style. I also think that sometimes it is a good thing to give away something for free, but we need to know where to draw the line. It could also be something connected to entering into a challenge, or doing some work for it. Tim you did this before, putting up a free CTLC course place, if someone could answer questions related to your blog.

    This could have brought you many new readers, and it was also a great way of getting to know you through your posts. So I think it is ok to offer something for free, but only if it bribgs the wanted results.

  6. Tim Brownson

    I agree, working with lazy clients sucks donkey balls and makes the sessions seem like a chore.

    And I agree entirely on the ‘convincing’ bit.

    it’s like using closing techniques in sales.

    if you need cute closing techniques it means you didn’t do something properly leading up to the close. So many people don’t understand sales and many of them work in sales!

  7. Nancy

    What I have been given to understand is that the free session allows people to really understand what coaching is, what coaching might do for them. I also imagine it gives the potential client the opportunity to see that you really do have a clue about what you are doing. However, if you market on the basis that you have a solution to a client’s problem rather than marketing on the basis that you are offering coaching, I can really see how the free session is likely to be unnecessary. Between your blog post and my own writing of this comment, you have me convinced. 🙂

  8. I advise my clients to approach the “free consultation” as a conversation about the prospect’s desires or needs, and how they offer the solution to those desires or needs. When sales are carried out from that approach, the central focus on offering solutions creates a kind atmosphere in which many coaches feel better about “selling”. It also encourages the prospect to envision the solutions in place and how it will feel to be more empowered to get that they want. Instead of coaching for the sake of an example of what coaching is like, the coach can spotlight the solutions they provide and touch on how coaching is one of the tools they use to provide the solutions.

  9. Tim,

    There are two point s that I’d like to share here. One it’s because I’ve been a client of a free service.
    And the other is what one of my copywriting mentors once said.

    I agree, if a coach thinks FREE sessions work, they need to think again.
    I once met two career coaches who both claimed to do a fantastic job for clients.
    But the moment I listened to them I felt like someone who is incompetent trying to add me in his incompetency shed.
    I later decided that the only coach that I’d run to is the one who value his time. Because when you think about it,
    giving away an hour for free isn’t really something I think has a good impression.

    Now in advertising, we see people give samples and free whatevers just to get the buyer hooked. But when I read the book
    The Scientific advertiting and I realised that FREE stuff kills businesses than anythingthing else.

    Claude C Hopkins wrote this classic back in 1923… and without shame, I consider his book my mentor. And his advice goes like this:

    If you decide to give your potential customers something for free, they will assume that it’s worth nothing much than free.
    In the book he goes on to give an example of two traders who one gave free samples and the other one said to his customers…
    I’ll buy the first product for you…

    And after the initial launch, the business guy who bought his products impressed upon his potential customers the value of his product.
    The sales went up… while the sales of the other businessman couldn’t even start at the intended price. He had to lower his prices.

    Claude C Hopkins writes,

    ‘It’s hard to pay for an article which has once been free’

    Tim, thanks for your great thoughts.

    I’m about to join coaching and I think your site is the right place to gather some insights.

  10. Hi, I’m a bestselling author, inspirational speaker and recently became a certified life and grief coach. I have been a writer for so long, I find people cannot see me as anything else. I have had several people call me for coaching and spend time telling me their problems yet no one wants to pay me for my time. I am back and forth on the free sessions, having read both sides. I am trying to get this off the ground but not sure how to go about it the correct way. I enjoy your blog, thanks! 🙂

    • Tim Brownson

      Yep it’s tough Lisa, which is why we cover it on the course.

      Simply put, you HAVE to be able to sell yourself and your value otherwise nobody will hire you. What was the book or books btw?