Agreeing terms with your coach

How to work with a coach, part 5

By Martin Vogel

The price is right.

If you have been following the guidelines in earlier posts in this series, you should have been able to find one or two coaches with whom you would be confident to work. But what should you be paying for their services?

The price of coaching is a bit of a vexed issue. At first glance, there is not much transparency of pricing. Rather than post their rate on their websites, many coaches prefer you to ask. If you do this a few times, you’ll find that prices for coaching vary a great deal. You can pay anything from £50 per hour for a life coach working in your local neighbourhood to a four-figure sum for an executive coach working in large corporations.

To compound the confusion, many coaches themselves charge different rates for different types of clients. And herein lies the reason why they might be reluctant to publish their rates. Practitioners are more aware than most of the potential benefits that coaching can offer to people in a wide range of situations. So they are especially keen that coaching shouldn’t be a luxury affordable only to the well-off or those sponsored by their company. For this reason, many coaches are prepared to discount their commercial rates to meet the budgets of, for example, charities, small businesses or individuals paying their own way.

This creates a difficulty in quoting prices on coaches’ websites. If they quote their full commercial rate, this might deter individuals with limited means from even picking up the phone. But if they quote the rates to which they will discount for certain types of clients, this might put pressure on their business with commercial clients.

One lesson to take from this is that coaching is one area which is not governed by the maxim, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Another is that, before you pick up the phone to a coach, you should have a good idea of the going rate for the type of client you are and the budget you have available. If you keep in mind that your prospective coach is keen to make the coaching affordable, there are a number of options for reaching satisfactory terms.

It helps if you try to understand the price in the context of the whole value proposition that the coach is offering. Often this will be put in a written proposal. How many sessions are envisaged? Are you expected to commit to a certain number up front or can you withdraw at any time? What is the duration of the sessions? How frequent will they be? Where are the sessions? Will the coach come to you or you go to the coach? How suitable is the venue for private conversation? How is the coach’s work supervised? What check points does the coach proposing for reviewing your progress together?

The envisaged number of sessions is quite a telling detail. Some coaches might expect you to commit to a regular slot and on an open-ended basis. Others will schedule sessions ad hoc and will be planning to get out of the way as soon as appropriate. You should expect to pay less per session for the former than for the latter.

If the quoted price seems too much, be prepared to spend some time exploring with the coach how you might reach a deal. If you’ve found a coach with whom you think you can have a good working relationship, you would do better agreeing terms than settling for a coach who may seem less costly but may be less appropriate for your needs. You can look at factors such as reducing the length or number of sessions or substituting some face-to-face coaching with Skype or phone sessions.

But be prepared also to question your own expectations on price. Consider what it is you value in the coach. If you want someone who takes a properly professional approach to their work, you should understand that you are paying not just for their time with you. The fee also has to cover the coach’s costs of supervision, continuous professional development, insurance, and so on. A coach who is cheaper may not be incurring these costs – in which case, you should consider whether their offer represents good value.

It’s also worth considering how you value yourself. What are your expectations of pay? This should give you some insight into what you should expect to spend on your coaching.

On a final note, sometimes coaches are prepared to work on a pro bono basis. There are two reasons to accept such an offer: if you are desperately need in of coaching but have very limited means; or if you are helping the coach’s professional development by being a guinea pig in some way, perhaps for training they are doing or a new coaching product that they want to try out. In general, though, your development will be better served if you are prepared to pay. You are likely to take the coaching more seriously, and therefore get more out of it, if you have some skin in the game.

Part 6 will look at getting going with your coach.

Other posts in the series, How to work with a coach:

  1. Why use a coach?
  2. What do you want from coaching?
  3. How do you find a coach?
  4. Meeting a prospective coach
  5. Agreeing terms with your coach
  6. Your first session with a coach
  7. Working with your coach
  8. Your work between coaching sessions
  9. If your coaching isn’t going well
  10. When it’s time to finish coaching

Image courtesy Jessica Rabbit.