In my last article, I laid out some basic ideas for you to start thinking about if you are a Coach, particularly a new Coach. In this article, I will build further by focusing on the professionalism aspect of your practice.
If you are a new Coach you may not have given much thought to the professionalism aspect of the contract however this is essential if you want to be successful enough to keep working as a Coach.
I often find that new Coaches on my training programmes are uncomfortable with some of the necessary elements of creating a business. This makes sense if you think about values. You are most interested in helping others if you are drawn to coaching. This means that sometimes the professionalism elements of the contract can feel unpleasant or be in conflict with your values.
So regarding professionalism, what am I talking about?
In particular, I am talking about ‘terms and conditions”. There are several very specific things to consider:
- How much do you charge?
- When do you need payment?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- If clients don’t pay what will you do?
There are other aspects of professionalism to consider however for right now let’s focus on this list.
What To Charge:
Deciding what to charge is often a topic in my Supervision groups and one of the most difficult challenges if you have a value around helping others. Sometimes there is an unnecessary complex equivalent in play, e.g. charging is unkind.
I look at it another way, when a client pays for a session there is an exchange of energy. The client will be more committed to whatever outcome or action plan results from a coaching session if there is this exchange.
Does this mean you can’t do pro bono work or offer low rates for those on limited funds? Of course not. The exchange of energy can take other forms such as sharing your posts on social media.
Another aspect to consider, how are do you value yourself? Is your reluctance to charge connected to a self-worth issue?
There are many rather alarming marketing campaigns that claim they can help you earn a 6 figure salary as a Coach. They often tap into self-worth issues and quite frankly in my option most if, not all of them, are really just scams based on pyramid selling and/or false promises and are best avoided.
Here are some professionalism tips about deciding what to charge.
Firstly, what is your market sector? Are you aiming at business coaching or self-financed life coaching? The market price for these two categories can be quite different. There can be regional differences. Having said that in all sectors and all locations there will be a scale of prices on offer. There will be people charging as little as £20 through to people charging £2000.
So where do you place yourself whilst remembering professionalism?
I recommend that you start by writing down all the costs of the training you have received up until now. This will give you an idea of how much you have invested in yourself as this is your product. Make sure you include course fees, books, materials, travel expenses if you did face-to-face training and also your time.
Now you have a reminder of what the client is paying for, they are paying for your expertise, experience and time.
Do a little market research on the sector you wish to work in. You really don’t want to be the cheapest. Many people have the belief “you get what you pay for”. If you price yourself too low in the market a lot of people will be put off. Paradoxically the ones who do take it further often ask you to reduce your fees further.
If you are the most expensive coach in the area you will need to be sure your CV and marketing strategy is strong enough to draw your preferred client to you. You might want to consider pitching yourself mid-range. This will give you a comfortable income to get started with and if clients check around they will feel they are getting a bargain if you are lower than others but high enough to signal competence.
Remember you can still have the option to offer reductions for people in real need who are cash poor. You just need to make sure this is not your fallback position with everyone.
When to get paid:
Coaching is a trusted business so when should you expect to be paid? Again this can be the cause of anxiety for many new Coaches. There are many ways you can go with this, the most important thing is to be clear about your expectations.
A professionalism example is if I work with a new client that I have not met before I usually ask for payment in advance. This tends to ensure commitment for the first session. With my regular clients, I am far more relaxed.
This connects in with Cancellation policies which we will touch on again in a later article when we discuss boundaries. Sometimes we need to “teach” clients to value the time slot that has been set aside for them.
It is not uncommon for Coaching clients to cancel at the last minute or even just not turn up. This happens most often with new clients, free sessions or where payment is collected after the session.
A clear Cancellation Policy can safeguard against this. For example, full payment is appropriate for a late cancellation or a failed appointment. With the former, it is too late to offer their spot to someone else and a failed appointment means you were sitting there twiddling your thumbs waiting for them to arrive!
You need to decide what you consider a late cancellation to be and you can have a sliding scale. E.g. full payment with less than 24 hours’ notice (2 days or 3 days or whatever you think is reasonable). Seven days’ notice could be a 50% fee for example.
You might also want to consider what terms would be okay for a postponement.
At the end of the day, the most important thing about terms and conditions is that you have some. You can post them on your website or include them on your invoices. Having terms and conditions in place means you can then choose to waive them and this will give you emotional credit with your clients. For example, if I have a client who has a genuine family emergency I will be flexible. This deepens the trust between Coach and the client.