How to say “No”, and Yes, to people who can’t afford your rates (the Capacity Solution)

I want coaching to be accessible for as many people as possible. 

Ideally I’d like to see all people have access to a good coach, regardless of where they are in the company hierarchy, or how much money they have or earn. 

The problem that many coaches run into (me included) is that in order to run a sustainable business (in the midst of exploding cost of living and/or investing in growth) we must charge rates that make our services inaccessible for a significant chunk of the population. 

By definition, raising your coaching fees makes your help increasingly exclusive. And this is painful to anyone committed to making a positive difference in the world – not just a positive difference in the world of those who are already doing well. I listen to this pain frequently during Rocket Supervision sessions, and I’m no stranger to the feeling. 

There are many ways in which we might tackle this issue. Here’s my “Capacity Solution”: 

Saying no to a client who could really benefit from working with you and who you’d be excited to take on, but they can’t quite afford your rates, can be really difficult. Especially when you feel you’ve not got a “valid” reason to say no. 

I believe your capacity to be such a valid reason, because your coaching business will cease to exist if you take on more clients below your rate than you can afford to. You’ll start making a loss, burning through your savings, or you’ll need to find and take on more clients than you have time or energy for. Once that’s been happening for a little while, you#ll either burn out or go bankrupt, and you won’t be able to coach anyone anymore; or at the very least you’ll have to start taking on other work, and just do a bit of coaching on the side. 

The solution: Work out your capacity, meaning the amount of money you need to bring in to sustain your coaching practice, and work backwards to arrive at a fee structure that is workable. 

This may look like a tiered system, a certain number of VIP or standard fee clients each month, after which you’re able to drop your prices. That client you talked to who can’t afford your rates will have to simply wait until later that month to get confirmation from you as to whether they can start at a discounted rate; or they may have to wait another month (practical advice: start a waiting list rather than saying No).

Or if, like me, your capacity feels ambiguous or you just don’t want to be that organised, you can set aside a capacity of “X” (2 in my case) for clients who pay you a reduced rate (in my case that rate is “whatever you can afford as long as it feels like a stretch for you”). I work with strictly 2 clients at any point in time and they get 6 sessions at that rate, only once. 

That means I can say yes (albeit usually “not now”) to prospects who can’t currently afford the standard rates (I disqualify those who could afford it but choose to wait for a discount), and I’ve been surprised in the past at who all of a sudden is able to “find” the money to start straight away. 

I feel this is fair to everybody, and if all coaches were to “gift” a small amount of their capacity at a rate that’s affordable to anyone (while maintaining an exchange that keeps clients committed to the process and stretches them appropriately), the world would be a better place as the generative systemic impact of coaching is not to be underestimated. 

I’d love to hear your/other solutions! 

With Love

New content: A meeting of existential minds – New Coaching Uncaged

Emmy is deeply inspiring and a role model for how to navigate life, career and existence with an existential attitude. Coming from the world of existential philosophy and therapy, she was instrumental in putting existential coaching on the map as an approach to helping people navigate their everyday mysteries, and as she’s moving into the next stage of her mission – to bring existentialism to a much broader audience – I felt it was the perfect time to open her perspective up to our audience of coaches, and to engage in a dialogue on what it means to enter conversations and relationships with an existential lens, and how that might look like in practice. 

I’ll never forget the moment in this podcast she switched from coach to therapist in an instance. It really embodied for me a key difference between existential coaching and existential therapy. I’m excited to share this episode with you and hope you’ll enjoy listening/watching as much as I did engaging in the conversation. 

As always, you can listen to this episode or watch it on YouTube

And if you’re hungry for more podcasts, click here

Next event: Can AI coach at PCC level? Yannick’s Coaching Lab with AI Coach Bot Alpina

If you are, like me, incredibly curious (and also quite sceptical) whether an AI chat bot could replace low level (possibly even mid to high level) human coaching, then March’s Coaching Lab is for you!

We’ve invited AI Coach Bot Alpina and its creator/trainer Rebecca Rutschmann into the Lab to showcase several live demos with real clients, and we’ll get the chance to dig into Alpina’s approach and style.

Alpina has been assessed at high ACC/low PCC level, and double blind research is currently underway to properly test its capabilities.

This session will be a little different, as Alpina tends to do shorter sessions, and it’s going to be chat based (though we’re exploring whether speech-to-chat may be a worthwhile experiment too). Either way, I can’t wait to see Alpina in action, and I hope you can join us and offer some critical questions and observations for the debrief/analysis section.

Tickets links via MeetUp, Eventbrite or catch the recording as a member of the Lab.

And if you’d like to be a coaching client for this (or future Lab session), you can apply here.

See you there?