Many years ago, an SME approached me as their HR manager had met me and was hugely keen for me to provide their executives with coaching. I met their MD, we had a good rapport but she was wary of coaching. She asked me if I would coach one of her team pro bono and if successful, she would introduce coaching (and me as the coach) to the whole organisation.
I am generally not a fan of free sessions (I prefer to give my time freely in a different way), but I liked the organisation, wanted the work and agreed. The coaching sessions were a huge success, but the MD prevaricated for weeks over whether to introduce coaching, the HR manager eventually left and the MD decided she didn’t want a coach after all. Other coaches will have a different experience I’m sure, but throughout my career, I have always found that clients value what they pay for.
But the issue of charging for coaching services is an unnecessarily thorny one for many coaches as it goes to the heart of self-worth. How much do you value your expertise and how much do you believe others will value it? When I started more than 20 years ago, although I was a new coach, I was both an experienced counsellor and businesswoman so felt happy charging my worth. By comparison, when I first started counselling, I was patently aware of my lack of experience and charged a minimal fee accordingly.
Charging organisations is quite different from charging individuals. An organisation will have a coaching budget and an expectation of how much coaching will cost. They will decide who should benefit from this, when and why, and the individual won’t pay a penny. So the client we charge is the organisation, the client we coach is someone else altogether. To complicate matters, sometimes the coachee holds their own budget for coaching, at other times, it’s the coachee’s manager or the HR Department.
If your fees are slightly under their expectations, clients may be pleased with the savings. However, if your fees are vastly less, they will wonder why and may privately question just how good you are, if your fees aren’t commensurate with their expectation of your ability. Decide if you’re willing to negotiate before you talk prices. Negotiation could be anything from lowering your pricing, to a sliding scale depending on volume of work. There’s no hard and fast rule, so be entrepreneurial and create your own pricing model, as long as you don’t under-price yourself! Knowing your market will give you confidence, so make some enquiries, and see what other coaches charge - there are several who will put their prices online. It’s undoubtedly true that experienced coaches can command high prices, but if you know you’re good at what you do, you can, too.
Below is a list of questions you need to consider either before you meet your client or to ask in a preliminary meeting:
- What is the organisation expecting to pay?
- What budget does it have?
- How much does it value executive coaching?
- What has it paid in the past?
- How experienced are you? How will you add value and therefore, command a higher fee?
- What are you comfortable charging?
- If you charge x, how will you be perceived?
- Is it a large Corporate, SME (small to medium size enterprise), or Not-for-Profit? Does this make a difference to the amount you want to charge and if you decide to charge less (for Not-for-Profits for example), can your own budget cope with the reduction?
- If you provide work pro bono, how will you feel at the end of it? Will this vary if you do or don’t get further work from it?
- Do you have a sliding scale of charges, depending upon the amount of work you do for an organisation (eg slightly lesser fees if the work is regular than a one-off)?
- Are you a good negotiator? How will you respond if your client wants to negotiate down or if they just don’t have the budget to meet your fees?
Ultimately, you need to feel comfortable with the charges you provide, which should be a reflection of you and all that you bring to every client you meet. As therapeutic coaches, we offer a deep and broad experience to our clients. Within many organisations, encountering such a coach is a new, fulfilling and valuable experience, a great investment for businesses and the individuals who make them work.
Michèle Down is the Executive Specialist for Organisational Coaching for BACP Coaching division.