10 Ways People Try To Scam Life Coaches

The rise in popularity of life coaching and the influx of coaches into the industry has brought with it a more insidious side – people looking to prey on coaches, especially those who are new and struggling to attract clients.

At little as three or four years ago there were no ‘high-ticket closers’ and there were no people promising coaches they could help them attract an effortless stream of ‘high-ticket’ clients, but now they abound.

A day doesn’t go by without somebody contacting me on LinkedIn telling me they can help me get more clients, or on Facebook wanting to help me set up a chatbot.

It seems there are more people helping coaches get clients than there are coaches, or even clients for that matter.

I can help you attract clients, but make no mistake it’s fucking hard and you have to be prepared to work like a trojan and follow tried and tested online marketing best practices.

But the reality is most new coaches don’t want to hear that it’s super hard.

They have got, or are getting into coaching to help people, not have to deal with stuff like branding, marketing and writing.

As such, being told that somebody can help you make the process effortless is super appealing.

Sure, you may sense deep down that it’s too good to be true, but so do most people who get taken advantage of.

So let’s take a look at what you can expect as you start your coaching journey and the people to be leery of.

Note: I confess I’m using a certain amount of hyperbole. Whereas there are people in every one of these categories ripping off coaches, other than the email scams segment, there will be some people who can offer value. Just not very many.

cute piglet

1. How Coaches Who Only Coach Coaches Scam Life Coaches

At the moment I split my time between working with life coaches like you and working with more traditional practice clients.

I may indeed transition to just working with coaches in the future because I love it, but, and it’s a big but, I have a track record of running successful practice since 2005.

Almost all of the coaches who are promising the earth, moon and the stars to new coaches have never run a profitable coaching practice themselves.

They have either tried and failed.

Or, they just see the potential for getting their snouts in the life coaching trough by convincing new coaches they are the answer to their dreams.

if you want to know what half of them are going to teach you, I’ll tell you for free.

Set up a LinkedIn account, preferably the pro version so you have more options.

Try and make as many connections as physically possible. Then every time somebody accepts your connection request shout them a DM that says something like this:

“Hi Tim, Thanks a lot for connecting. I see we have a lot in common and I really like the work you do. How about we hop on a quick call to see if can help one another. Click my calendar below to book a time.”

Vomit.

I kid you not, I bet I have had over 200 such request in the last 18-months to 2-years.

My guess is the first people who were doing this were killing it just because it’s a numbers game.

However, like anything that’s successful, once it become common knowledge everybody is doing it and this particular gravy train left the station a long time ago.

Even if it worked it’s still lame.

It’s not a lot different from walking down your local High Street and stopping random people to ask if they’d like to hire you.

Sales is about building relationships and trust.

I’m know there are great business coaches out there, but they are a tiny minority in my experience, so be careful and do your due diligence before you hire one.

2. The High Ticket Closer Scam

You’re probably tired of me saying I worked in sales for 20-years and that I was good at it. But I don’t care because I worked in sales for 20-years and that I was good at it.

The last decade was working on some big deals and selling at ‘C’ level in a team of very talented sales people.

I was good, but some of the people I worked with were world-class.

In all my time in sales I never heard the phrase ‘high-ticket closers’, and do you know why?

Because closing is the easiest part of the sales process, if, and it’s a big if, you have done your job properly prior to that in understanding a client’s pain point and easing them.

Here’s how you close a deal.

‘So if you’re happy with everything, should we set up the contract?’

Or something like that.

If you need to bring in somebody to close the deal for you, you’re ravingly incompetent or love to throw your money away.

This isn’t fucking baseball you’re not sending in a relief pitcher to close the game.

Can you imagine a comedian bringing in somebody to tell the punchline to the joke after he has done all the hard work setting the joke up?

Learn the basics of sales, it’s really not that hard and I teach people on the client acquisition course in under 2-hours.

3. The Webinar Scam

Webinars can be hard work and and aren’t cheap to set up.

You need to compile the material, pay for a reputable platform (I use Zoom webinar that costs $50 per month) and then in all probability, pay for Facebook ads to get people on to the call.

As such, I do not begrudge people running them and then pitching their services at the end. Otherwise they become unsustainable.

However, what I do object to and what I will never do, is dress up a sales presentation as a webinar.

I have been on webinars where the sales pitch is underway 5-minutes in and I knew damn well that the host wasn’t going to share the ‘secret sauce’. That was going to be the upsell at the end.

Unfortunately this process works, or rather it worked – past tense.

The problem now though is that people are starting to get webinar fatigue and they’re gun shy of signing up for them because it’s exhausting constantly being sold to.

I’ve run maybe 20 webinars and every single one offered massive standalone value. Even when I had a course to fill I still only pitched in the last 5-minutes.

Is my approach the best way to get as many people to sign up as possible?

Sadly no, but it allows me to sleep at night.

dog in disguise

4. The Fake Webinar Scam

Have you ever clicked on a link to an exciting ‘this will change your life’ webinar only to notice a countdown clock telling you it starts in 3 minutes 19 seconds.

Phew, lucky you, you only just made it. Now go and grab yourself a coffee, settle down and prepare to be showered with words of wisdom.

Shortly after the webinar starts you decide to throw your hat into the ring and ask the host a question in the fast moving chat section.

You get blanked.

So you ask again.

Nothing.

Oh well, she is obviously very busy. Oh… and here comes the pitch!

Of course the reason your comments weren’t answered was because the host was probably lying on a beach in Bali counting her cash and laughing a lot.

I have no idea how many people really believe these webinars that are going round and round on a loop are really live, but if you didn’t know any differently and ignore the comments, it would be easy to think so.

I have no issue with recording and replaying webinars, in fact it’s sensible, but I do have an issue with trying to deceive people.

People reading in book store

5. The Become A Published Author Scam

Everybody has at least one book in them, or so the adage goes.

And most coaches think they have a great idea for a book about coaching or general self development.

I’ve had two books published and the other eight I have self published. (and by the way, you can grab all but one of my books free of charge by going here).

There’s no doubt about it that having a book hit the shelves is a lovely rush for the ego, especially when it’s in China!

However, getting a book deal is nigh on impossible if you don’t have an agent (and agents are super hard to get), and still incredibly difficult if you do have one.

Then from pitching the outline or submitting a manuscript (unless the content is time sensitive), it can be upwards of a 2-year process before the book makes it into the stores and onto Amazon.

Nevertheless there is a certain amount of kudos being able to say you’re a published author – maybe not as much as there once was, but there’s still some.

Enter stage right the person or company who can help you become a published author.

They’d love to take on your book and can even help with editing, proofing, layout and design.

All for a small fee of course.

A small fee that may run into several thousand dollars.

We received about $100k worth of advances for How To Be Rich and Happy and turned down some smaller ones. We didn’t give it to a publisher for free, or pay somebody to publish it.

The reason why it’s hard to get published is because the book has to be liked by the agent.

Then it has to be liked by the first person to read it at the publishing company and then probably a second.

Nobody wants to publish a book they think will be being pulped in a years time so they are super cautious. This is why so many amazing books have been turned down multiple times before being published.

But these companies don’t care if you never sell a copy because they make their money up front.

I’m not saying don’t take this approach, but understand calling yourself a published author it a bit of a reach at best.image of a sales funnel

6. The Sales Funnel Scam

Friend, I have to admit that I was at an all time low. My wife had left me for my therapist. My business had gone bankrupt and my kids had gone to live with my wife’s parents in Uzbekistan.

I had been living in my car in San Francisco for 6-weeks living off peanut butter and jello and I have to confess I was at my wits end with nothing to live for.

It was then I realized I must put my fate in the hands of the Universe.

I got out of my car and started to walk out of the city toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

I decided that if on my journey not one person smiled at me as I went past them, then I would know that that was the Universe telling me my time on this earth was to come to an end.

I passed one person and then another and then another. A dozen, then a score passed me without a solitary smile.

Most had their heads down, but the few that didn’t just looked straight through me as though I were ghost.

Maybe I was.

I stopped at the entrance to the bridge looking toward my fate. Oh well I thought if this is what the Universe wants, then who am I to say no?

I took a deep breath and started to walk. Nobody else was on the bridge, but as I approached the midpoint, the place where I was to leap to my untimely death I noticed a car stopped by the side of the road.

As I neared the car I could see a man crouched down by the back wheel struggling with something.

I stopped to look down and could see he was trying to put gas into his tank. But his can was large and he was struggling to hold it with one hand.

He obviously sensed me staring at him and he turned round to look at me.

He immediately beamed a smile at me and said, ‘Hi, I’m sorry but I’ve run out of gas and I need both hands to pour it in, could you please hold this for me?’

‘Yes, yes of course I said’ almost crying with joy and I reached out to take the object from himn.

It was a funnel.

Well friend, it was then that it hit me. In that moment I knew all my troubles were over, the idea that was going to make me a multi-millionaire sprang forth into my mind.

Yes indeed, it was then that I realized all I needed to make myself rich beyond avarice was a sales funnel.

Since then I have used the funnel I designed to generate over $10,000,000 in revenue and I currently earn $7,212 per second.

How does this help you I bet you’re wondering? Well friend, this funnel can be replicated by anybody to sell anything to anybody.

Sure I’ve amassed vast piles of cash and I could be out on my private yacht sailing around the world enjoying the fruits of my labor, but I’d much rather be scuttling around Facebook trying to convince coaches to pay me $5k for a funnel that any half wit could develop in 15-minutes.

Why are so many millionaires running crappy Facebook ad campaigns in an attempt to sell people the very thing that made them a millionaire?

Because the vast majority are bullshit artists and the only way they’d get close to being a millionaire would be to take the little money they do have  and exchange it into Venezuelan bolívar.

I can talk about sales funnels another day, but for the average coach they really aren’t that difficult to implement and you don’t need to be handing over thousands, or even hundreds of dollars to strangers.

public speaking audience

7. The Free Motivational Coaching/Speaking Event Scam

A coach contacted me recently to ask me if I had heard of JT Foxx the motivational speaker.

He claims to be the Worlds Number 1 Wealth Coach (although don’t ask me how you measure something like that) and he was giving a one-day free talk about branding, marketing, relationships, coaching and time management.

I took a look at the blurb only to see him claim that he rarely did free talks and this was a can’t miss one-off opportunity.

He even advised you don’t bring your employees with you because you don’t want them getting hold of his secrets and starting their own businesses!

This must be some powerful shit.

Only when you do a bit more digging, it appears about all this guy does is give free talks all over the world and he even pays celebrities to appear on stage with him.

What people like JT Foxx truly are world-class at, is backroom sales.

The reason why there is no admission charge is because he is going to pitch the crap out of you.

He’s going to use every trick in the book to pump the audience up into a state of frenzy and then drip feed offers with amazing never to be repeated deals.

His wealth creation program is normally $25,000, but today he has just 20 available for only $9,999. But be quick because people are already rushing to the back of the room credit card in hand and you could miss out.

I have no clue if he has such a program or what the price is, but I know there will be multiple offers like that through the day and it’s incredibly hard not to be caught up in the euphoria.

If it’s free there is almost certainly a catch.

Go by all means, but if prior to going you don’t want to buy anything, leave your credit cards at home or you’ll be paying for the speakers next $10k suit.

envelopes rushing to a laptop

8. The Email Scam

These are really on the rise at the moment and like most email scams I suspect that most coaches don’t fall for them, but some will, especially if they are desperate for clients.

In most cases the scammer will send a generic email not using the coaches name asking if the she takes credit card payments.

This alone should be a warning flag, I cannot ever remember getting a serious inquiry that either didn’t come from my contact form and/or using my name and immediately asking about payment terms.

The vast majority of people hiring a coach have done at least some research and know the persons name who they are contacting.

If you get an email asking whether you take cards or even if you would coach two members of the senders family, delete it immediately and do not respond.

blue water behind boat

9. The Life Coaching Directory Scam

As I said at the beginning, not all of these are out and out scams and there are some that can occasionally add value if you’re super careful.

There are a growing number of sites that offer life coaches the opportunity to sign up and be listed in a coaching directory.

These sites then spend a boatload of money on advertising using pay per click and on hiring competent SEO (search engine optimization) people so that they will rank in local searches when people search for a coach.

Most of these sites will charge you for each lead and a few will indeed translate into clients – but most won’t.

However, there is a bigger issue with using sites like this in that it creates a race to the bottom.

The key to marketing yourself as a coach is to create ‘clear blue water’ between you and your competitors so people can easily see why you are different and better.

It’s almost impossible to do that on such a site, other than on price.

People who are using one of these sites are in all probability price conscious and they can just scroll through a bunch of coach bios looking for the cheapest, or close to being the cheapest.

The key to online marketing is to present your own distinctive personality (brand) and to build value for what you offer.

It’s super appealing to throw your details up on a coaching portal or directory and just sit back and wait for the inquiries to flow in, but that flow is far more likely to be a trickle and the quality of inquiry will suck.

Learn online marketing. Better still, hire me and I’ll teach you!

10. Over To You – What’s You Most Disliked Scam?

So you have had chance to read about my pet peeves, but what irritates you?

Leave me a comment and together we can help new, and not so new, coaches avoid the pitfalls that are awaiting them on their coaching journey.

Comments

  1. Hi Tim,
    Thanks so much for your scam alerts. I sometimes feel exhausted at the sheer quantity of people acting as you mention above and have started an unsubscribe and IGNORE campaign to help me out of a fair few things that seemed a good idea about a year ago – and just to STOP me clicking on things that seem tempting.

    One of my pet hates is being phoned up by skillful and experienced people selling advertising space in various magazines or online places. I’m aware of it now but when I first started receiving calls I admit to feeling flattered by the person who had obviously looked up my website and knew how to lure me into parting with money. Yes – some are a good spend and you can get advertorial included to boost your ad but I admit to not checking out a publication only to find that there were numerous other coaches advertising on the same page. Hard to stand out at business card size!

    • Tim Brownson

      It’s interesting you mention that Indra because I used to get those kind of calls, but I don’t remember having one in ages.

      My response to any telesales people selling advertising is an immediate ‘no’.

      I sold advertising for a few years and it’s wickedly hard to make work if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s also very easy for them to blind you with circulation figures that in and of themselves mean nothing but my sound impressive.

  2. A great post Tim, however, I think a big one that you’ve missed out is the, “You Too Can Become a Successful Coach / Therapist / Consultant” Scam

    That’s like saying “You Too Can Become A Navy SEAL”

    Yeah. Right.

    Just ask how many signup for their contract, how many DOR (Drop On Request) and ring the bell and how few actually pass out at the end.

    About 50% drop in the first few weeks and if they’re lucky 20% make it to the end of their initial training, however, even that number will reduce as their training progresses.

    So the reality is wanting doesn’t equal succeeding, however much of a positive spin we put on things.

    Some people aren’t cut out for certain careers and since coaching has a Very Big psychological component, I’d suggest many people enter it supposedly to help others but without having sorted out their own poop first.

    The usual criteria for signing up is simply, do you have a credit card?

    Axe-murderer? Passive-aggressive? Lacking social skills? Egotistical? Nah, doesn’t matter my friend, after all “You Too Can Become a Successful Coach / Therapist / Consultant”, just like me.

    Just sign here …

    • Tim Brownson

      I dunno Charles, whereas I agree that some people who try to become coaches clearly aren’t suited, I think it’s a bit of a reach to compare it to become a Navy SEAL.

      You have to be pretty special just to take SEAL training and I think there are a lot more competent coaches than there are Navy SEAL’s!

  3. Tracy

    I had major problems working with a book writing coach who now advertises that she creates “best selling” authors. What I learned after working with her is that she uses obscure keywords the day she publishes the books so that the books almost always end up on Amazon’s “best seller list”, at least for one day, then she can claim her authors are “best sellers”.

    She ran a contest to get attendance at the podcast she put on to introduce the authors and their books to the public before the books got published. I won the contest which was worth $300, but after I won, she sent me an invoice for $300 saying I had gone over my allotted time with her but “we could call it a wash and that would be okay” with her. She was a nightmare to work with and I’m still having problems with her company.

    I’ve wanted to call her out publicly but I haven’t…yet.

    • Tim Brownson

      I’m not saying you should, but as long as you tell the truth there’s no reason you can’t call her out.

      I had a Facebook message from a coach who read this and who had been ripped off for $10k with a sales funnel company. It makes me so angry.

  4. Michael

    Oh Tim, I love it when you write stuff like this.

    I’ve had a massive increase in people who are going to ‘help me make a fortune’ coaching and speaking.

    And the best direct email ‘Michael, have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a book published with your name on it?’

    I had one recently via LinkedIn telling me I could earn ‘£10k a week’ with my skills. When I told her I was currently earning £11k a day for corporate training she came straight back with, ‘You could double that with my help’.

    My fave at the moment are the people who will teach how to be a world class speaker, but they don’t speak for a living and never have. And best of all the video testimonials from people who can barely string two words together.

    Anyhoo. Enough of this. Good luck to them. I just hope more people have read this article and they are watching carefully what they spend their time and money on.

    • Tim Brownson

      PMSL, that’s funny.

      If somebody were to ask me who the most successful coach is who I know personally, I’d say Michael Heppell by some considerable margin.

      I have fun sometimes when people approach me wanting to help me with SEO. When I take a look I’m almost always kicking their butt, so I say something like, ‘sure I think we should hop on a call and I can show you what you’re doing wrong. I charge $1,000 an hour, should I send you a Zoom invite?’

      Strangely they never get back to me – and that makes me sad 🙁

    • Tim Brownson

      I have no idea.

      Other than you can see 13-years of coaching history, I guess.

      And I suppose you can see over 2,000 articles I have written that are all over the web, plus about 150 interviews I have given.

      Plus you can join my Facebook group for coaches and ask people in there either in open sight or via messenger.

      And I could hop on a Zoom call and I can show you my stats in terms of visitors I get to both my sites, plus how many people are on my lists.

      Also I can show you a Serpstat report showing that I rank on the first page of Google for over 100 different search terms relevant to what I do.

      Then there are dozens of testimonials across both my sites that all use photos and, where applicable, link back to the person’s site to demonstrate they are legitimate.

      Other than that I’m stumped.

  5. You’ve already mentioned these but the number of FB and Instagram ads I get promising to help me make $100k the first year drives me crazy. Not interested, not in my first year and doing fine. Just ugh. Thank you for this article!

    • Tim Brownson

      Yep, but sadly those ads work with some people. It would be awesome if they didn’t because people wouldn’t batter us.

  6. LadyP

    Great article Tim. I think it does say something about your character to have taken the above comment from Jonni seriously and to have addressed it because nothing happens in a vacuum so I am sure others who chose not to ask the question had the same question. Kudos to Jonni for having the courage to ask.
    My ‘rub’ is when is when people claim to NOT be trying to sell you something when they are. If you are in business for yourself you have to as you mentioned in a previous post “sometimes sell” in order to continue to finance what you do. That is real. Above you say, “hire me, I’ll teach you online marketing”. We all sell our services as coaches. That is the nature of being a business person so for people to imply they are not selling something when they are in business for themselves is just as dishonest.

    • Tim Brownson

      Agreed LadyP and I’m happy for people to challenge me.

      And yes, there are a lot of nefarious tactics being implemented out there. To be fair, you have to use certain techniques otherwise you never sell anything, but there’s a big difference between adopting a technique and trying to manipulate people.

  7. Thanks for the article Tim! I’m a new coach and although I’m great at tech stuff (and coaching 🙂 ) I’m new to marketing (consciously incompetent one might say!) so I’ve been looking at info on that. Webinar fatigue is definitely with me! I went on one where the host kept saying, I’m not selling anything and gave some info but it was all leading to a call where they would try to get you to sign up to their course. Luckily I saw through it after I did some research and realised that the free chat would be another sales pitch. All trust was immediately blown with that company because of the lack of transparency and honesty. I want a business where people know what they’re getting and, like you, I want to offer value not a sales pitch. I also hate all the talk about earning 6 figure salaries, it makes me feel icky 🙁

    Thanks for your helpful post.

    Linds

    • Tim Brownson

      You’re welcome Lindsey and yeh, I just cannot come to terms that there are so many people peddling solutions that they must know in their heart of hearts, don’t work.