Should you coach for free or do trades?

by | Apr 11, 2016 | New Coaches Start Here | 2 comments

I believe that as coaching professionals, we should always get something in exchange for our coaching skills and time.

Does it always need to be money though?

For example…

Is it OK to coach for free?

Can you trade coaching for a massage, baby sitting or another service that you want?

Where do we draw the line?

In this article I’ve picked out 3 of the most common trade scenarios offered to coaches and offer recommendations on how to go about each one.


#1 Waive your coaching fees in exchange for experience/coaching hours

As you may have read in my last article, the most important thing a new coach can do is to get 200 hours of coaching under their belt. Giving away free coaching packages is a great way to do this fast.
I only recommend this as an option for coaches with less than 200 coaching hours.


My Recommendation

Offer this trade to people from your networking. Choose people you like and are impressed by.

If you don’t know what to do in these sessions, try focusing on one of these topics per session: wheel of life, beliefs, values, setting, team, vision, goal setting Our Pathfinder Program includes worksheets for each of these topics.

If you are NLP trained, try out as many NLP interventions as the client expresses and interest in. I got about 60 hours this way and mastered Time-line Therapy, Parts Integration and Values elicitation in the process!

Treat the client as if he/she was a fully paid client. Have a coaching agreement and follow up with all the professionalism you would do with any client. Check out the Coaching Starter Kit for templates you may need.

Get your client to commit to 6 or more sessions as a part of the agreement. That way you will have 6 hours locked in and you will learn more by working with someone for a longer period. If you can you will also position yourself in a more sustainable business model. Lots of client turnover through short term work is not doing anyone any favors.

If you can start to systematize your coaching during this time, do it. what things do you repeat for all of your clients no matter what? Together these things will start to form your own unique signature coaching program!


#2 Waive or reduce your coaching fees in exchange for building an asset

Every once in a while an opportunity will cross your path that has little or no money involved BUT it sounds fun and will result in a new asset for your coaching business when it’s done – like a training course, workshop or workbook. So after the gig, you’ll have an awesome coaching product that later you can resell to another client.

An example situation would be something like getting paid to design and deliver a coaching program for a not for profit organization. The initial client gets to use the product but you retain the rights to the material after the coaching initiative is done so you can use it with other clients.


My Recommendation

Not for profits, government, religious and community organizations are great places to look for these opportunities.

If they organization has a problem that you can help fix, they can almost always find some funding. Find out what they can manage and then negotiate from there.

Treat the client with the same professionalism you would treat a full paying customer. Write a proposal. Have a simple yet formal coaching agreement that outlines who has rights to what material. For some easy templates to get you started on the right foot, check out the Coaching Starter Kit.


#3 Trade your time for someone else’s time

You will come across other product and service providers that want what you offer. If you are into what they are selling it’s really tempting to negotiate a trade.

I’ve tried exchanging the product development coaching I do for other types of coaching that I’m interested in. In every case so far, I have been disappointed with the outcome. It has been my experience that clients who pay money for coaching get better results.


My Recommendation

Just say, “No thank you” to trades.


What do you recommend?

These ideas are what I have learned from my experience but I know there are many ways to climb a mountain.
What do you think? Should coaches coach for free, offer discounted rates or offer trades? What’s worked/not worked for you?


  1. Conor Keeling

    Thank you for this article. Found it very useful as I often find I received things in return for my pro bono coaching as well as the learning

    • Benay

      Thanks for sharing Conor. I agree – pro-bono hours are a true gift. Mine really shaped my coaching style and helped me build confidence. Highly recommended – so long as you stop doing pro-bono once you’ve got 200 hours under your belt!

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