This is one of the most frequently asked questions, particularly by new coaches. Of course, there is no single correct answer. You should do what’s right for you and for your vision of your coaching business. As such it’s critical to stay mindful of your objectives.
There are generally 4 reasons why as a coach you would undertake pro bono work:
1. You are a new coach and want to build your confidence and coaching hours.
2. You are a coach that has been practicing for some time and perform pro bono work for benevolent reasons.
3. You use a free session as part of your sales process.
4. You are a practicing coach that performs pro bono work as a strategy to build your business.
Here are our thoughts on the above:
1. As a new coach, it’s very important to build your confidence. Your confidence (or lack thereof) will play an integral role in your success or otherwise. With this in mind, offering pro bono sessions in the early stages of your business can be worthwhile.
2. Offering free coaching sessions for benevolent reasons is simply a matter of personal choice. As a coach, you should have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. If delivering free sessions for benevolent reasons fits into your vision, then go for it.
3. Many coaches offer free introductory sessions as part of their sales process. Their reasoning is that a free session upfront assists the potential client understand the coaching process and builds rapport. Whilst we strongly advocate testing different strategies to improve your business, this may be a dangerous practice. Offering free introductory sessions can devalue your service and attract a lot of ‘tyre kickers.’ We suggest that you try a twist to this strategy. If you want to offer a free introductory session, you do so as part of a longer-term contract with a guarantee. IE You get your prospect to sign up for a 3 or 6-month coaching contract, and as part of that contract you provide a free introductory session. This will ensure the prospect is serious and upsells them into a larger contract that may otherwise be difficult to achieve later. This strategy can work well when used in conjunction with a guarantee. You simply say to your prospect that if they enter into the contract, you will provide them a free introductory session, and if they feel for whatever reason that coaching will not assist them to achieve their goals, they can opt out of the contract at any point.
4. Many coaches provide pro bono sessions to assist them to build their business. They achieve this by very carefully selecting their pro bono clients. A pro bono client can assist build your business if they are well networked within your niche and willing to provide referrals or can assist you in other business building aspects of your business. IE They can assist you to get public speaking arrangements; are willing to be a ‘specialist’ on your teleclass session; will provide a testimonial etc.
If you decide that you want to deliver free sessions for whatever reason, here are 6 important things to keep in mind:
1. Treat all pro bono clients as paying clients. There is nothing worse for word of mouth than undervaluing the coaching relationship with a pro bono client. Remember, word of poor service spreads 10 times as far as word of good service!
2. Find them, don’t let them find you.
3. Get testimonials. Testimonials are a very powerful endorsement of your service. When prospects consider contracting your services they can be dramatically influenced by testimonials. Even more so if the testimonial is from a recognized leader, expert or acknowledged person within your niche.
4. Get clients from your niche, and preferably someone that can help you into a network. If you can do this, it will be a powerful leverage for your business.
5. Get paying referrals. Always get referrals from pro bono clients. And don’t offer pro bono work to referrals of pro bono clients.
6. Don’t overload. This stands to reason. Your time is your commodity. If you spend all your time providing services for free, you’ll have no time left for paying clients.