Living as I do in Boulder County, I meet coaches nearly every day; business coaches, marketing coaches, life coaches, success coaches. As a marketing coach myself for over 20 years, I find myself frequently writing various versions of this letter to them, in my head:
You love helping people to greater success in their lives and business, and you’ve entered on to the path of being in business for yourself. You know you have great products and services. But as you look around, where are your clients? How do you find them? And most importantly in today’s inbound/content marketing-driven world, how do they find you?
This is where conventional marketing wisdom gets turned on its head. Charge what you deserve. Don’t give your services away for free.
OK. But here’s another angle:
For most people, If you want clients, you need to be *busy*. You need to have the flow and rhythm of working with people, solving business problems on a daily basis. New clients should fit into your already full schedule.
Yet, most of the people and organizations I know who would really benefit from coaching – in fact, kind of direly need it in order to be able to function successfully – cannot afford it.
These are startups with brilliant ideas and little capital (yet). Nonprofits providing much-needed services to individuals who have little resources. Or they are individuals, from people who are either chronically ill, or single mothers with extremely limited funds, to people on the autism spectrum who have great skills but are too “high functioning” to merit any social services help at all, so they slide back and forth between bouts of being employed/employable, (85 percent of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed), frustrating relationships, and avoidable health issues.
These are businesses and individuals that without you help, could be headed for oblivion. or people who have slipped through the cracks. Businesses that have great ideas that who could be incredibly benefitted by having a skilled, encouraging person to help them to keep going. To not give up hope. To keep putting one foot in front of another. People who have often been given up on by friends and family who just don’t get it.
The power of marketing is in IDEAS. If you can get others enthusiastic about a great idea or product or truly inspiring person — you can get the money flowing. Which means that, whether you have paying clients or not, you need to just keep coaching, and fill up your content pipeline with your success stories and the inspiring and heart-warming successes of your clients. Start with 100 percent pro bono clients if that’s what you need to do, in order to have a full schedule. Do good work. Find the big stories that the media is hungry for or that you could turn into a viral content item. And follow them with all your heart.
In all the decades of my career, I have not found any coaches offering free/low cost coaching to these huge and needful populations of bright, creative people who really, sincerely want to make the world a better place, introduce a new product, or improve their work and relationship and health skills – and who could, eventually pay for this service once they become more comfortably or fully capitalized.
When I think that 90 percent of all coaches end up leaving the profession after a couple years of trying and failing to generate clients, I feel very sad about all that wasted talent. And I think: I know the prevailing wisdom is to never offer your services “for free” – that people don’t value them without paying a pretty penny.
But how do you know for sure?
How about all those people who talk about how they just kept doing what they loved and eventually found a way to get paid to do it?
This is not necessarily the easiest thing to manifest. It takes commitment. Building your skills slowly. Perhaps founding a nonproft organization, or building relationships with foundations and social service agencies that may see the use and need for this kind of service, and could add it to their offerings.
I just know in my bones that coaches who developed one of these areas of speciality would eventually have a thriving practice, between grants, contracts, and word of mouth that would reach paying clients.I guess I’m putting this out there because I’ve always been generous with my time in this way, and I’ve always been able to put food on the table, and had clients come to me.
I believe in doing well by doing good. What do you believe?