*This is part of a series of blog posts created in collaboration with writer and fellow existential coach Marcie Boyer based on content produced with my fellow podcasters Siawash Zahmat and Nicki Drab. These articles are aimed at coaches who are just starting out, but you can always send us a question at any level and we’ll cover it for you!
Coaching fees vary greatly.
When it comes to setting fees, most new coaches find it a challenge to set the right price for their coaching services. “How much should I charge for coaching?” is a common question and an important one. Not only are fees vital to maintaining a coaching business, but the question itself brings up many other issues such as money stories, whether to charge by the session or in packages, and which factors play into your hourly rate other than what your time is worth. So there are many angles to consider. Let’s dive into some of them!
Oh and just to mention upfront that you can dive even deeper into the question of how much to charge, how to charge more and how to increase your fees confidently in the following episodes of our podcast Talking about Coaching:
You’re holding an incredibly valuable space for your clients!
Every person’s time is valuable. Add in a set of coaching skills (even if they’re still developing) such as active listening, some great questions and being genuinely committed to your client’s success, and you’ve got a powerful space that is well worth paying for! People live busy lives with few opportunities to pause, be curious, reflect and think. Regardless of your coaching style or niche (if you have one), holding space for your clients and being fully present with their journey is powerful and changes people’s lives and relationships. Most coaches can charge a significant amount of money even early on simply because people get so much from the service we provide. We tend to underestimate the space we hold becuase it comes so natural to many of us. We also take it for granted that people make space to reflect and think but that’s rarer than you might imagine and most of the people in our clients’ lives try to give advice or they’re simply too close to offer the kind of service or space that a coach holds. It’s powerful and quite special and it’s important we remind ourselves of this from time to time.
Money buys commitment and commitment buys change and success.
As with everything in life, commitment is often the key ingredient that creates success and change for people. If we apply ourselves and stick with a process, we work hard because we are invested, then we tend to get what we want. And the fees you charge let your clients buy that kind of commitment from you. So when it comes to coaching fees, a fee that ‘stretches’ your client (an amount that is perhaps a bit more than they wanted to invest or just slightly over what they feel comfortable with) will create the kind of commitment that makes them so much more likely to turn up prepared and on time for sessions, do their work in-between sessions, go out of their comfort zone to “make this work” and to really apply themselves to the process and the coaching work. When clients are fully committed and invested in the work, the tend to go further, higher, deeper and faster. After all, they’re looking to get a return on their investment, and the end of the coaching relationship is an excellent deadline to motivate them to get what they need out of the work. That is why when you’re offering your services for free (which is fine to lower the “barrier to entry” as to get some practice hours in), you’re often not doing your clients a favour. Even when you’re starting out, agreeing on a fee or something else to exchange for the time and space you’re offering (such as testimonials, referring a friend or other forms of non-financial payment) is gonna be really helpful and I reckon you’ll notice the difference straght away. Some argue that one of the biggest mistakes coaches make is offering their services for free or not to be clear about what the exchange is. If you’re not sure where to start, start small. Even the price of a cup of coffee can create a commitment. So can travelling an hour to see you. Make sure your clients are committed and you’ll see your coaching practice thrive. And the more you stretch your clients with the fees you’re charging, the more likely they are to be really committed to the process.
There is no one size fits all to fees.
Finding a fee that ‘stretches’ your client can be tricky and requires some up front discussion. For some clients, 50 pounds a session will be a stretch. For others 10k for a 3 month package is a drop in the ocean. It’s important to realise that like our clients, there is no one fee that fits all. Making a decision whether your fees will be set and the same for all your clients, or whether you will (potentially) create a different fee for each client based on stretch, that’s up to you. Often coaches work with similar groups of people and that sort of niche can help you figure out the kind of fee that will offer a little stretch while still being affordable. We’ve listed a whole range of such factors that play into setting your fees in this blog post, so feel free to jump over there for a quick overview.
Fears around fees.
Don’t compare yourself to other coaches.
With the vast differences in fees, it’s easy to compare your fees to other coaches’ fees. You might think it doesn’t seem right when someone with less experience is charging more than you. Alternatively, putting your prices up because you’ve seen what successful coaches charge, is a sure-fire way to erode your confidence. How you set your fees should never be about others. It’s about you and your clients! It’s about being authentic, ethical, building confidence, and owning your fees. If you can’t say your fees with confidence, practice! The more often you say them, the more natural it’ll sound. After you’ve told people what you charge a hundred times, trust me, it’ll sound like you pitch this number all the time (which will be true) and it’ll sound normal. And if it sounds normal to you, it’ll sound normal to your clients. And remember: for every coach who charges an arm and a leg, there’s a coach who is too afraid to charge any money. They’re just usually not out on social media telling everybody how (not) successful they are in charging high fees. So just do your thing and focus on serving your clients well, regardless of how much you can confidently charge at this moment.
Breaking myths about selling.
Okay. If you’re like most coaches and you hate pushy sales tactics, and you think (like I used to) that “selling” means to get into someone’s head and manipulate them into buying crap they don’t need, let’s step back for a moment and look at what coaches are actually offering (and btw, this “offering to help” instead of “selling” in itself is probably the most powerful reframe of my career and allows me to be a lot more straight forward)! So, yes, coaches use their skills and time as a guide to set fees. But that’s not what our clients are actually ‘buying’. They’re after results. They want outcomes. They’re looking to create (a sense of) achievement. They’re not looking to buy “coaching” per se. That’s the tool, the process, the relationship that will get them there, but it’s not what should be at the forefront of what you’re talking about when you’re in a consultation.
But the biggest problem here is that when we think we’re ‘selling’ something, we’re at risk of making it about us: WE are selling something, instead of this could really help YOU to get what you want. If you’re genuinely passionate about and dedicated to your clients’ success and you believe that entering a coaching relationship with you is likely to help them achieve what they want or at the very least get closer to this, then you would want them to sign up, right? If what it takes to do this is to be really committed (see above), then you’d be doing them a disservice not to charge them a fee that will create that kind of commitment. What fee you end up agreeing on may be flexible, but get confident about your service first, challenge your stance on “selling” and get comfortable with some basic sales techniques that you deem ethical and authentic (yes, there’s a lot of unethical and manipulative stuff out there, but really it’s about who is offering their help and how the choose to do this).
The first thing coaches can do to help them overcome their fears around fees is to position their price relative to the outcomes their clients hope to achieve. For example, 3,000 pounds for coaching might sound like a lot of money by itself. But how much is “getting your life back” or “waking up with excitement rather than dread about going to work” worth to you, perhaps because you quit a miserable job or left a painful relationship two years earlier (than you would have without coaching). If you’re a 37 year old woman and want children, getting out of a relationship two years earlier can make a huge difference to your life. When you’re 70 years old looking back, how will you reflect on those two years of your life? Would it have been worth it getting out of your comfort zone and invest a chunk of money into a coaching relationship? When you put the potential outcomes of the coaching in relation to a package fee, often it doesn’t seem so expensive anymore.
This is why it’s not necessarily helpful to respond to emails asking for a quote or pricing. Hearing the fee without the context of what you’re selling (the outcomes) can put clients off when your fees are high. If possible, it’s always better to discuss fees during a consultation meeting with a client. Higher fees do tend to weed out less committed clients and clients may appreciate the transparency (that’s why many coaches argue it’s better to put your prices up on your website), but it also means you’re not in a conversation when you share your fees and you can’t respond or be curious about their reaction, and you’ve not had the chance to build a relationship with your clients yet, which is why many coaches have a consultation first and then figure out which will be the right kind of fee or package for this client. Higher fees (compared to lower fees) also allow coaches to focus on their work with highly committed clients, which is just so much more enjoyable! Higher fees also create more time for you, the opportunity to be more present and better at your work, your fees are being reinvested in training and making yourself more available to your clients. All of these are selling points which you may share with your clients when they are curious as why the fees are “so high”? Learning and practicing how to respond to some common objections that a client might have after hearing your fees (like “let me think about it”, I will need to talk to my partner about this before I make a decision”, or “It’s too much”) is a crucial sales skill that can be done with the highest level of ethics and authenticity. Painting a clear picture and ideally creating an experience (through engaging all of your client’s senses) when exploring what they are looking to create through the coaching (who they will be or what they will do in the future they desire) will help them hear your fees in relation to the value of coaching.
A ‘selling’ mindset can lead to manipulative and/or pushy sales tactics and fear. Offering your help and helping the client to see their potential, while not making promises that you can’t keep, that’s authentic ethical sale practice and it will change the way you do business. Read a few books on sales and see what you might be able to integrate into your practice in a way that sits well with you. The more you practice, the more natural these conversations will feel for you.
There are many programs out there that claim to help new coaches get to six-figures in 6-12 months. While I’ve seen this happen very occasionally (usually coaches with a pre-existing and flourishing professional network of many years, advanced sales and people skills, decades of experience in their sector and a powerful personal story combined with great story-telling skills who have already been having “coaching-style” conversations for years), it usually takes time to get develop your coaching and business skills to a level that match very high fees. It may also take some time for your confidence to match fees in the thousands (depending on your currency obviously)! So how can we build up fees along with your confidence?
One approach is to choose a fee that you feel comfortable asking for. You can base your fee on what you currently earn at a job or you can choose flat fee of 50 pounds or create a small low-cost package. It’s important to set a price you’re happy with and comfortable offering to clients. Then fill-up your practice at that fee. Regardless of whether that’s 5 or 30 clients clients, decide on how much time you have available for your coaching practice and how many clients would enable you to reach full capacity and go for that. Our recommendation is to start small and only make a few slots available for coaching. Most coaches start part time. This will also makes your practice feel more valuable and you only work with a limited amount of clients. As your demand grows for your service, your value increases. Once you reach capacity, the next clients you increase your fees. There are a lot of coaches that jump into higher prices and struggle to get clients. Filling up your practice with clients at a fee that you’re happy with will allow you to grow your practice while you grow your confidence. The other advantage is you can experiment with higher fees. If it’s too high and clients stop saying “yes”, you can always bring it back down.
Packages or hourly?
It’s quite a common question: Should I create packages or charge clients by the hour (or session) for coaching? Predominantly, coaching tends to be project-based. People typically come to coaching to achieve a goal or outcome and you journey alongside them for some time to work towards this. When coaches make a connection between a client outcome and the fee, packages are a more useful way to work. Packages allow coaches to structure bespoke packages to meet their client’s unique needs. They offer coaches the flexibility to work with clients in a variety of ways. You can create VIP packages with 24/7 access to you. Alternatively, you can meet clients weekly or monthly, with little interaction between sessions. Because of this, packages enable coaches to more seamlessly raise their fees based on the client’s needs for coaching.
Lastly, packages emphasises the value the client receives from coaching, that is, coaching is an investment into future possibilities, rather than by hour, which promotes the idea that clients are buying your time as a coach. We discuss this topic more in this episode of our podcast.
Clients who can’t afford your fees.
It is inevitable there will be potential clients that cannot afford higher fees. However, if you sense they are committed to the work and you really want to work with them, there are ways to make this work without reducing your value.
One is to have a very limited number of slots available that you can offer at a discount. Don’t offer these too early though. Often a client who really wants to work with you will find the money.
Another is to offer payment plans so that they will pay a commitment fee that covers the first 2 or 3 sessions and then pay off the rest in monthly installments at a manageable rate.
Some coaches also don’t have set fees but work on a sliding scale basis whereas the client chooses how much they can afford. As a coach working with this model you will have to emphasize that this is offered on an honesty-basis and that clients need to be fair about what they can afford, to commit to stretching themselves a bit (rather than squeezing a bargain out of a good will system) and to consider the potential value they’ll be getting from the work with you.
First-hand experience – Invest in coaching yourself!
One of the most powerful ways to gain the confidence to ask for higher fees is to have invested high fees yourself. When you’ve put yourself in your client’s shoes, you can confidently walk the talk. When you’ve stretched yourself, you know what it’s like paying the fees you are asking your clients to pay you. When you invest in yourself as a coach through high quality training, supervision and coaching at the fees you’re asking, you can speak from personal experience and genuinely say that it’s worth it (in your experience). Working with not just one coach, but with coaches from different backgrounds or approaches can feel, as Siawash says, like having a hidden superpower. It allows you to be the hero you want to be and by stepping into your power as a coach. The best part of all, no mask or cape required!
Factors that play into setting your coaching fees at a glance
- Your level of experience and coaching skills (e.g. years of training, level of accreditation, number of certificates)
- An amount that you’re comfortable with and which you can say/pitch confidently
- Client’s potential ROI (return on investment) –> the value that the client is likely getting from the work
- Market rates or what the competition (you care about) charges
- What resources the client has access to (e.g. their salary, assets, savings, wealthy relatives, sponsors, etc.)
- The cost of acquisition (cost of advertising, time spend networking, writing proposals, tickets to events, etc)
- How much you’ve invested in your coach training (incl. supervision, events and other activities that helped you form)
- How much you might earn if you weren’t a coach or if you would spend your time doing something different
- What it takes to get or keep your client really committed to the process (the best fees a bit of a stretch for your client)
- How much you would like to earn or how much you need to earn to get by/be comfortable/live the life you want