A source of frustration for both coaches and clients is that many wonderful people who’d benefit greatly from life coaching can’t afford it. Many clients are eager to find low-cost or free life coaching.
I won’t sugarcoat the situation and tell you that you can get all the benefits of working one-on-one with a masterful coach without ponying up some serious cash, unless you luck out. But you can get many of the same benefits for free or lower fees if you’re willing to be a little creative and maybe make a compromise or two.
Below is a list of the ways you can snag some time with a talented coach without breaking the bank. Note: We’ll look at alternatives to coaching elsewhere. This article is about ways you can work with a coach in some capacity without paying high fees.
SCORE — free small business mentoring
If you want to start or grow a small business, SCORE has some real goodies for you. You can work with a mentor in person or through e-mail — FOR FREE.
How can it be free?
Because experienced business people donate their time to help people succeed and the program is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Just thinking about it makes me want to do the happy dance. They also have online and in person workshops — some for free, some for a small fee (nothing like the crazily high fees many business coaches charge).
If you want access to personalized small business support for free — or you just want a reminder that the world is a good place — check out the SCORE website.
The coach organizes a group of people that she works with at the same time, sometimes around the same theme, like building a business, recovering from divorce, or overcoming writer’s block. The coach does real coaching with everyone, but each person only gets a small amount of her time.
Group coaching doesn’t provide you the privacy and safety you get working with a coach one-on-one, but you get the benefit of hearing other people being coached. I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve gotten out of hearing other people being coached. They think of questions that help me that I wouldn’t have thought to ask. Their different perspectives help me think about my situation in a new way. And I generally relate to almost everyone’s experiences, even though they’re different from mine on the surface. There often seem to be these almost spooky coincidences and connections among group members. People who’ve participated in group coaching programs report the same thing.
Group coaching fees are generally much lower than for individual coaching. Unlike with one-on-one coaching, you usually don’t need to call if you’re going to miss a group coaching session, but you also won’t get a refund for sessions you miss.
Meet with a coach less frequently
If you’ve found a great coach for you but her fees are out of your range, you may want to work with her on a less frequent basis. Even if you only talk with your coach, say, once every three months, you’ll get many of the normal benefits of working with a coach.
Your coach won’t be able to make sure you take action on a project by giving you assignments and holding you accountable for doing them. But you can get most of the other benefits of coaching — clarity, strategy, support, guidance, and help with overcoming blocks. Having a coach’s presence in your life and knowing someone cares about the deep issues and progress in your life can make all the difference.
I suspect most clients (and coaches) would be surprised at how beneficial it is for a client to talk to a coach once every few months. The industry norms are so different from that schedule that people rarely test it out. Not all coaches will agree to less frequent sessions.
Working with a student
One of the best deals in coaching is working with students. A person who’s just learning her craft may be happy to give you low-cost or free life coaching as she hones her skills. There are some real advantages to working with a new coach, as well as some disadvantages.
Sharing sessions with friends or colleagues
You may want to get a group of people together who want to work with the same coach. You meet with the coach together, and each person gets his fraction of the coach’s time. This is basically group coaching but you arrange it instead of the coach.
You’ll probably have to take care of the logistics. Someone from the group will have to gather everyone’s funds to pay the coach and arrange times that will work for everyone. Your group will have to decide what you’re going to do if someone cancels, which can be a messy situation. (Do you all cancel the session? If you have the session, does everyone pay or do only the ones who attend?)
Because dealing with several people is more of a hassle than dealing with one, the coach may charge your group a bit more than she’d charge an individual. You also have to willing to have your friends (or colleagues) listen to your conversations with the coach.
Pro bono or low-fee slots
Some established coaches set aside some low-fee or pro bono slots for people for whom full coaching fees would be too much of a burden. These slots often have a set time, say three to six months. Some coaches list these programs in their materials, but most don’t.
If you want to ask a coach if she offers low-cost or free coaching, phrasing it as a policy question instead of a personal favor to you makes things less awkward for you and the coach. A question like, “Can I have a discount?” or “Will you work with me for free?” makes it sound like you’re asking (or begging) for a personal favor. A question like, “Do you take on reduced-fee or free life coaching clients?” is a less in-your-face, more respectful way to get a sense of where a coach stands regarding discounts and pro bono coaching.
Prizes, bonuses, and gifts
Coaches offer low-cost and free life coaching occasionally as a prize, bonus, gift, or limited offer.
Why does a coach do this?
She may want to:
- test out new techniques,
- get coaching hours for certification,
- use low-cost coaching to jumpstart her business during a lull,
- take a break from writing and teaching to work with a few people one-on-one for a few months,
- sell you someone else’s program through her affiliate link, or
- support a friend’s work by offering her coaching as a prize during a promotion.
In order to jump on these opportunities, you need to find out about them.
If you find a coach you really like, I suggest that you connect with her in any way she makes available: follow her on Twitter, sign up for her e-mail list, subscribe to her blog, and whatever else is available.