The Pro-Bono Client

Whether you’re a new coach looking for experience, or a vet looking to make a difference, sooner or later, you’ll take on “The Pro Bono Client.”

“Free” Isn’t Always a Win-Win

New coaches often see pro bono clients as better than no clients at all. At first, this seems like a great deal for both of you – a client who might not be able to afford coaching gets free services, and the coach racks up valuable experience.
But as the journey progresses, the coach may start to see issues with commitment and follow-through. Specifically, a lack of both. With this, momentum fades. Why? Because the client hasn’t got any “skin in the game.” It turns out, when a client doesn’t have to invest financially, very often they don’t invest emotionally either.

The Secret: Charge Something

Requiring even a modest investment (whether it’s money or an exchange of services) makes a huge difference. The key is to set your “pro-bono” rate somewhere between “write-off” and “hardship” – and this is different for every client. For someone with very few resources, $5 per session might be a fit. However, for someone with a modest full-time income, 75% of your full fee might be more appropriate.

The beauty of this is that you don’t need to guess what a reduced-fee client can reasonably afford. Instead, just be candid: explain that you’d like to find a compromise that isn’t an unreasonable burden, but will be enough of a stretch to support their forward momentum. With all of this information on the table, ask the client what fee they think is most appropriate.

A Modest Investment Can Be a Win-Win

This kind of candid, respectful conversation builds consensus around what will benefit both of you and the coaching partnership, instead of creating a zero-sum negotiation.

So, the next time you have an opportunity to work with a pro-bono client, work out a reduced fee instead. Help them become more invested in the coaching process from day one. Your client will work harder to get their money’s worth, and you’ll watch them succeed in record time!

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