The Biggest Mistake Life Coaches Make

Sometimes I can be so naive, I really can, and last weekend was no exception.

I had been told about a free webinar being put on by self-professed ‘leading expert on women entrepreneurs and money’, Kendall SummerHawk.

In the webinar, she was going to explain how to implement VIP days which have become increasingly popular with many Life Coaches, or more especially, financial or wealth coaches.

Very briefly, a VIP day is a few hours (usually 5 or 6) spent with one (or I guess even 3 or 4 if you want) clients paying you higher than normal fees for intensive coaching and rapid help.

People Want Results And They Want Them Now

The theory seems reasonable.

After all, we live in an age where people are looking for fast results and are very often prepared to pay a premium to achieve those.

I have done such things a handful of times in the past, usually with clients who want face-to-face coaching and don’t live close by.

I have had clients drive up from Miami and down from Jacksonville and even a couple who have flown in and dropped their family at Disney as we have spent a day or two working.

They can be fun and rewarding, and even though I personally don’t put my rates up, I don’t necessarily think it’s unreasonable to do so as there is usually more prep work to do.

Especially if you’re doing them in person rather than via Skype or the phone and you have to deal with 3 very curious Dobermans.

Unless that is you adopt Kendall’s approach to coaching because she suggests once you have built your cookie-cutter, er, I mean template there’s no need to do any more of that work stuff.

With this method, you just deliver the same information again and again and you have yourself your very own cash cow with a golden goose sat on her back for good measure. Result!

Sarcasm Alert!

After all, as a coach I’m sure you know that every client is the same, all people react in a similar manner to different techniques and processes and coaching isn’t at all reactive.

I could make this entire post about stuff like that and the methods she utilized to get people on the webinar to sign up for her real offering costing several hundred dollars that came straight out of, “Marketing 101 for the integrity challenged’, but I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to share with you the secret that the post title alludes to and one that Kendall so generously shared with her listeners.

The Biggest Mistake Life Coaches Make

When she first announced she was going to share this secret my mind started racing and wondering what it could be. For the first time on the call, my interest perked up.

Now for honesty’s sake let me say this.

She shared a couple of mistakes coaches make and whereas I *think* she claimed this was the biggest, she may have just said it was a very big mistake, so apologies for my misleading and no doubt scurrilous headline if the latter was the case.

I started thinking of things in my mind that could trip Life Coaches up and which was potentially the biggest

  • Not understanding marketing?
  • Failure to use social media properly?
  • Pitching rates too low?
  • Having an awful website that makes small children run away in fear?
  • An inability to attract clients?

All of those are big and all can negatively impact any Life Coaching practice, but it wasn’t any of them.

Nope, according to Kendall, the big problem was over-delivering.

Too many coaches over-deliver and as such cannot then up-sell to their clients.

Here we are at the crux.

On a couple of occasions, Kendall mentioned how she loved to help people and I think that’s probably true.

But I’m fairly confident she doesn’t love helping people as much as she loves to make money and tell other people how much money she makes.

Well, not if the ratio of ‘helping others’ comments to ‘I made x number of dollars’  statements was anything to go by.

I was half expecting a slide of her bathing in asses milk in her gold plated bath whilst sipping on a chilled glass of Dom Perignon just in case anybody missed the message that she earns loads of money.

Over-Delivering Is Not A Problem

My guess is you are a Life Coach because you want to help people. You definitely want to get paid for your skills otherwise unless you are financially independent then it becomes an unsustainable business model.

Over-delivering may indeed mean you get a few less dollars from a particular client, but it also means you generate rabidly loyal clients who want to tell others about your services.

With my newsletter I over-deliver. There really is no need to give 4 full-length ebooks away to get people to subscribe, but I can so I do and as such, I have several thousand newsletter subscribers that hopefully know I’m trying to add value.

  • Zappos over-deliver
  • Nordstrom over deliver
  • The Ritz-Carlton over deliver
  • The Cheesecake Factory over delivers
  • The guy who cuts my grass and will do random weeding and tidying but never charges me, over delivers

And do you think Morton’s Steakhouse was over delivering with this customer (courtesy of Mental Floss).

In August, author and business consultant Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a flight that was the last leg of a long day of traveling. It just happened to occur over dinnertime, and he knew he would be starving when he deplaned and headed home. “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” Imagine his surprise when he got off the plane to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 oz. Morton’s porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware.

You should over-deliver!

Over delivery get’s you noticed. It makes people like, trust and respect you. It also breeds loyalty. I have no idea if I could get my grass cut cheaper, but I don’t even care, because I LOVE my guy, he’s made me a rabid fan.

Over-delivery also shows you don’t have a greedy and/or scarcity mindset and that you put your client first and foremost.

Over-delivery isn’t coaching for free (unless you want to), it’s not letting an hours session turn into 3 hours or giving away all your intellectual property rights because you’re afraid to say ‘no’.

  • It’s maybe ordering a book for a client off Amazon that you know will help her and sending it as a gift
  • It’s allowing a session to run over the hour because you are halfway through a process and don’t want to kill momentum
  • It’s agreeing to see a client on a Sunday when you really fancied lying in bed
  • It’s not getting all precious about your time when a client is having Internet problems and the call keeps crashing
  • It’s occasionally sending a premium priced product to somebody who you know couldn’t normally afford it
  • It’s agreeing to chat with a newbie Life Coach and replying to e-mails asking for free help
  • It’s giving masses of free and useful information to your readers without the need to see an immediate financial return
  • It’s adding a free 2-hour module to a Life Coach training course because you underestimated how much information you had to share.

And of course I could go and as I’m sure you have realized they are all things I have done, some many times.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, tactics like those adopted by Kendall do work.

If that is by work, you mean generate cash. Pop up ads and spam works too because they work on the same ‘numbers game’ principal.

However, you have to decide whether they fit in with your personal values, or whether you feel the need to justify them.

If you ever need to self justify your marketing tactics based on something like, “Well everybody else does this or that” then you’re out of alignment with your values and your chasing money not looking to add value.

Image: ‘Zappos Tour’ Courtesy of Robert Scoble


  1. Bobbi K

    I would love to be a part of a coaches group. I am in the very beginning stages of becoming a life coach (researching all of my options)and would love to be able to ask questions, gain insight, and lend any help on issues concerning life coaching 🙂

  2. I’m with Bobbi–just getting started with coaching and could certainly benefit from discussion, shared knowledge, collaboration (!), etc. among like-minded folks. Great idea.

  3. First, they really need to hurry up and invent that sarcasm font.
    Second, would love to sign up for the coaches group!

    I’m taking your advice already: I’m leaving you TWO comments for the price of one!

    Thanks for offering to organize a group, Tim!

  4. While I think that there is value in providing service, as a coach, at every opportunity available, there is a distinction I want to make.

    When we over-deliver, we really want to be certain that we are doing so in a way that is in service of our client’s highest and greatest self. When we overdeliver for our clients by doing things like lowering our rates, providing them with extra flexibility, or providing to them that which might be a breakthrough for them to generate themselves, we actually sell our clients short.

    As a coach, we must always have our eyes fixed on the client. What is the client’s next breakthrough, and what will have them actually generate that breakthrough?

    • timbrownson

      I actually did make that distinction Adam.

      However my distinction is probably murkier than yours.

      I have lowered my rates MANY times and never was it a disservice imho.

      I NEVER lower because I am asked to, and only when I am sure a client is really struggling to pay me. My job is not to add financial harm.

      And being flexible with a client who is having Internet problems, has a screaming baby suddenly kick off, or phones from an airport to let me know their connecting flight has been delayed by 15 minutes, is not a problem to me. I only see 3 clients per day and they’re usually 2 or 3 hours apart.

      That is the kind of disservice I’m ok with being accused of 😉

      That’s all part of life, and I also appreciate it when my clients are ok when I have the inevitable dog related mishap or am late for a call for reasons out of my control.

      I once waited 2 hours to see my doctor and the following time I got stuck on the I4 after an accident and was 20 minutes late. They billed me for being late and surprisingly wouldn’t allow me to reciprocate for being kept waiting the two hours prior.

      I think too much is made in the coaching industry of sticking strictly to the co-active (solution) coaching approach.

      85% of the time or thereabouts it’s the best option, but there’s that 15% when sticking to it definitely does create a disservice and as coaches I feel we should be flexible and be able to react, not stick to a script because the ICF says so.

      An important note: If a client starts having a laugh and being constantly late, then that’s a different matter and I won’t stand for that.

      • Agreed Tim. At the end of the day, the questions must be:

        “Who and how is the client being?”; and, given that

        “What will be in the greatest service of them?”

  5. Bill Thornhill

    If I wanted a large money stream I’d sell iPhones and iPads on eBay. Personal fulfilment while helping others will do me just fine.

    Love the idea of a group. Count me in.

  6. timbrownson

    Ok thanks a lot everybody. I’d like to get to at least 20 people so if you know anybody else that could benefit please let them know.

    Appreciate the interest!

  7. I agree whole heartedly with your comments and have always been taught and teach to over deliver. Count me in thanks

  8. Angela

    Yes im really interested in this group. Im also just at the starting stage looking for good courses and information to start my life coach business. I would really appreciate some help from the more experienced coaches out there.

  9. Please, please, please count me in Tim…. as we’ve discussed (in one of the gazillions of emails you get from random people – oops, sorry)I’m new to coaching and want to help people without feeling like I have to turn into an internet / social media version of the demtel man (but wait you get steak-knives with that!!!), or a real-estate /used car salesman (don’t worry about the reliability, just think how envious your friends will be!!!). I may be an idealist, but I want my clients to get value from what I provide them with sessions tailored to their needs, through understanding their world. Is that so wrong?!?!? Under-promise and over-deliver wins me, and I’m sure it wins others too. Thanks for the thought provoking blog (as always).

  10. timbrownson

    Hi all, ok I’m going to set up a group in Facebook.

    I’ll send out the notification via my newsletter when it’s up and running. I’m hoping to do it today but it maybe early next week at the latest.

    Thanks to you all for your enthusiasm!

  11. timbrownson

    One other thing. This blog is for you people. So if any of you ever have an area on coaching you want me to post about please let me know. I cannot promise I’ll cover it (especially if it’s something that would take 2,000 words or more), but I’ll do my best.

  12. Hi Tim
    Thanks for the offer and great to ssee you will be setting up the group. I have been coaching for a long while but now for the first time am setting about getting the clients for myself, previosuly been subcontracting. I finally get to see that to get to do it my way I have to do it my way 🙂


  13. Bravo! Well said! I wholeheartedly agree – under promise, over deliver every time. That’s our heart. God help us all what’s the coaching industry coming to with the Kendalls of this world out there making newbies believe they can change $440 an hour straight out of college. Please. Keep up the good work Tim.

  14. Hear Hear agree very much with idea of over delivery. I believe in the theory of abundance – the more you give the more you get so everyone is a winner.

    Look forward to joining your group.
    Best regards

  15. Hi Tim and everyone! I’m in the UK, but have family and coach colleagues in US so I hope that qualifies me to join your group!!

    I bought into an on-line/e-mailed course in UK that was run on a similar-to-Kendall philosophy. I soon found that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and asked for my money back, as the course didn’t relate to the stage I was at (which wasn’t clear at the outset) but was told tough doo-doo, I should have realised that before paying the fee.
    I did enjoy the many mentions of the coach’s lavish lifestyle and seeing her walking round her beautifully appointed and luxurious house on the video and seeing the many photos of her with her famous friends though… (that was English sarcasm, just in case anyone didn’t get that!!! Ha Ha! Diving into your link now! Sousa

  16. Franc

    Love this article! I have watched a lot of webinars recently providing help for coaches and unfortunately been introduced to a very ego driven sales process for the majority of the session. Yes I want to make money but I love helping others, I’m all for a coaching group!

  17. I attended her teleseminar on this topic, and I definitely understand your perspective. I learned early on to over deliver, and it serves me well because it serves my clients well. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I don’t think it’s said enough in this industry.

    Additionally, I would love to be a part of your group.

  18. Anna

    Hi Tim, I am in. I love helping people I feel the Call and I could use your and other professionals advice and experiences. Thanks a million

  19. Wow! I just found your website and I am so happy I did. I am a new coach and would love to join your group on Google.

    I am surprised to hear that someone is promoting greed and under-delivering. Most of the successful people I follow today give away massive amounts of information on their blogs and pod casts for free. They develop a huge following who are then more than happy to pay them when a paid product is released. That is the model I hope to follow.

    I am now off to sign up for the mailing list, and join the Google group!

  20. karalawton

    Hey Tim, if you haven’t received a dose of “you’re awesome” today, then please accept this one. I really enjoyed the insights here. As well as your total real-ness, which is so refreshing. Thanks so much for providing value for those of us who want to over-deliver!

    • timbrownson

      I’m sure my youngest dog thought that when he dragged the sofa cushion to me when I got up this morning, but it’s nice to get it in human too 😉 Thanks!

  21. Jody Phillips

    I have been a grateful recipient of your over-delivering. I haven’t said thank you.
    So, THANK YOU. Your work has made a difference in my work.

    Today’s post was more of the same good information, and even though I feel my life is very full already, I signed up for the group.

    • timbrownson

      Jody, apologies but since I wrote that post the group has been allocated to people who have done the course or have worked one-on-one with me. I explain in my latest post and sorry for any confusion. And I appreciate the kind words!