When I made the decision to study life coaching and to start my own business, I was committed to making my dream become a reality ASAP. For this to happen, I knew that I needed glowing testimonials on my website and happy clients singing my praises to their loved ones and colleagues. To get the ball rolling, I did A LOT of pro bono coaching. In fact, I pro bono’d my bottom off. Even today, I still have at least one free client on my books at any given time.
I believe that pro bono coaching is a fantastic way to build your confidence and experience, and when done smartly can also help with expanding your reach through word of mouth and other means of promotion.
Plus, I find it is such a beautiful way to give back by sharing your unique gift of facilitating transformation within those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford your services. I honestly hope that I will always offer pro bono coaching services to those in need, no matter how ‘in demand’ my services are.
Over the past months, I have received many emails from new coaches about how best to find pro bono clients. This post will summarise the tips that I’ve learnt from my pro bono coaching experience that might help you attract ideal pro bono clients and indirectly get paid for your free work (through testimonials, promotion, and referrals).
Pro bono coaching tip #1: Make it clear up front that you would like a testimonial in lieu of financial payment
When offering or accepting an application for pro bono coaching, always make it clear that you would like a glowing testimonial (plus a photo, if possible) in lieu of financial payment (only when they are happy with your wonderful services of course). The testimonial itself will be a valuable barter and when published on your website, will likely lead to referrals.
Pro bono coaching tip #2: Don’t offer pro bono coaching to anyone who would only accept it as a favour to you.
If you ask friends or family if they would like pro bono coaching in exchange for a testimonial, please make it clear to them that you only want them to accept your offer if it something that they truly want and think would be useful.
Ask them not to do it as a favour to you; that you only want to work with people who will truly commit to and value the experience.
Pro bono coaching tip #3: Reflect on where your ideal clients ‘hang out’ and offer your pro bono services there.
Reflect on where your ideal clients ‘hang out’ – what groups might they be part of, where do they shop, what do they like to do for fun, what books or magazines do they read, what courses do they do, what Facebook groups are they part of? Write a list of these places or avenues, and think about how you could reach them and offer your pro bono coaching services. Pro bono coaching with ideal clients is highly rewarding, both in terms of watching them grow and change – and also in terms of the lessons and experience you gain in your interest area as a result.
When I first started coaching, I thought I mostly wanted to work with mothers – so I contacted the local Facebook groups for mothers in our area (Canberra Mums) and put a post out offering pro bono coaching there. Since then, I have also offered pro bono coaching to magazines, charities, businesses, and fundraising events who might attract an audience of my ideal clients. I have also exchanged services with other professionals, including a fellow life coach.
Pro bono coaching tip #4: Use your pro bono coaching offers to grow your list, reach, and exposure.
If you already have a website and a mailing list, think about ways that you can use your pro bono coaching to grow your list and exposure. For example, I did this by:
- Having gift vouchers printed and giving them to charity groups, magazines, and other platforms to use in their fundraising or promotional efforts. This meant that I was in a sense paid for my free coaching through them advertising and promoting the ‘prize’ and my work to their audience. (Note: This sometimes paid off – and other times didn’t as I had no control over who won the prize and whether they were my ideal client.}
- Running subscriber exclusive pro bono coaching giveaways on my blog and promoting these giveaways on social media. This meant that I was in a sense paid for my free coaching through gaining new mailing list subscribers and followers on social media.
Pro bono coaching tip #5: Have an application and screening process for pro bono clients, just as you would for paying clients.
In an ideal world, it is best to have pro bono clients who are just as committed to the coaching series as paying clients. It is not fun to be doing free work with someone who isn’t committed to the process or doesn’t value your time and expertise. I therefore had an application and screening process for pro bono clients from the very beginning – which tended to ‘weed out’ those who might not be ready or truly committed to the experience.
My personal screening process involved them ‘applying’ or ‘entering a competition’, where I asked them to introduce themselves, tell me about what they were hoping to get out of coaching, and why they would be motivated and committed to the process. Then once I had selected the ‘winner/s’, I would treat them just like potential paying clients, and get them to fill out my pre-coaching questionnaire prior to our first sessions. I made a firm boundary from the beginning of my business, that I would not begin working with a client (free or paying) until they had completed this pre-coaching questionnaire.
Note: You can access a free editable Pro Bono Application template via the image below which you can then customise to suit your business for the purpose of screening pro bono clients.
Pro bono coaching tip #6: Treat your pro bono clients as you would your paying clients.
I made a commitment to myself before taking on pro bono clients that I was going to treat them as I would a paying client. This meant not only investing my time, but also my money, into someone who I didn’t expect to ever pay me one single cent.
Because of this attitude, I gave my pro bono clients the same amount of love and attention as I did my paying clients – right down to sending them a welcome and thank you gift. I truly wanted them to have the same experience as my paying clients and I like to think that this lead to beautiful testimonials, future support and referrals, and in some cases becoming paying clients down the track.
I hope that this article helps inspire you to take on pro bono coaching, and to do it in a way that helps your business blossom and grow. I’d love to know in the comments below – what do you think you might try after reading this post? Or if you have already worked with pro bono clients, do you have any lessons to share with the readers to help them with their new coaching business moving forward?
Let’s soar together,
PS. If you are a new coach and would like my one-on-one support to amp up and expand your business, check out my Business Coaching packages here.