Clients reach out to you because you made yourself available. You in some way said, “I’m here to help.” That’s enough for most clients to jump at the chance and take you up on your generosity particularly at a time when they feel they really need the support. That feeling of “Yes, someone is here to help me!” may override any other thoughts including, “But, how am I going to pay for this?”
This is quite common in the coaching industry where everyone means well and really wants to work together, but the concept of the responsibility of paying for the service pops out of mind. If this has happened to you, I bet you have felt frustration, hurt and possibly even anger at having to chase up the money. What’s possibly even more painful is when the client just “disappears” without paying their invoices.
These situations can happen for a number of reasons:
- The client knew in advance they couldn’t pay for it but were desperate for the help and didn’t want to be turned away.
- The client is fearful of being judged for either not having any money, or for their life choices which have led to their current financial situation.
- The client doesn’t control their own money – someone else, like a partner does – and they don’t want that other person to know they’re getting coached.
- The client doesn’t feel comfortable negotiating a lower rate they can pay.
- The client gets scared in the coaching relationship and runs away and contacting you again, even if it is in order to pay their bills, feels to confronting to them. It’s easier to just disappear.
- The client feels they’re not getting any value from coaching and decides to walk away, and silently they’re delivering the message that they don’t want to pay for something they don’t think is working for them.
- There are of course as many other reasons as there are clients.
So, what’s the solution?
Here are various strategies that could work for you:
- Ensure your rates are clearly published.
- If you offer pro bono, reduced rate or coaching scholarships, ensure those are also clearly published.
At the first conversation with a potential client, discuss your rates and payment terms. Many coaches shy away from this part of the conversation because they don’t want to scare away the client. If this is you, it could be that you want to ensure the client feels there’s a good relationship happening and you don’t want to damage that by talking about money. This could be entirely your “stuff” and has nothing to do with the client. If this is true for you, please consider getting coached on this!
Ensure you have a “Coaching Agreement” or contract of some sort which clearly outlines the financial responsibilities of the relationship, including your responsibilities on accurate invoicing, refunds, etc. You and the client need to work through this at your first session and properly discuss any potential issues that might come up and how you’ll handle them.
At the very first instance of a client not paying their bill on time, discuss it with them then. Don’t allow the situation to exist where the client believes they have permission to pay late or allow invoices to pile up, simply because you haven’t discussed it with them.
Be open to changes in the client’s financial situation. If you think it might be the client’s best interests, and your needs as well, to renegotiate the contract, offer that opportunity to the client.
Be prepared to not provide any additional services until the client’s account is paid up. This is your business and it is completely appropriate to discuss with the client that in addition to your deep desire to help and support the client to meet their goals, that you also have business ownership responsibilities to attend to. Some clients don’t even think about the fact that you run a business. They just see you as the person who is currently available to help them.
Know what your “collections” process will be if clients just disappear without paying their bill. Encourage them to contact you to discuss the situation, or to let you know if there are any special needs or changes to their finances. Be open to negotiate, and also know your limits.
You may also need to know when to “just let it go”, delete the invoice from your books and know that you’ll likely never hear from that client again. It happens.
The next issue of “Coach the Coach” will explore the pros and cons of providing pro-bono (free) coaching.
If there are any topics you’d like me to cover in this column, please feel invited to email me directly with your requests through my website (see link in bio).
Noel Posus is a master coach with 20+ years experience as a professional educator, coach and author. He won the prestigious inaugural “Coach of the Year” award (2008/2009), Finalist in the Coaching Business of the Year (2010) and is an ambassador/leader for the coaching industry. www.noelposus.com