The High Cost of Free Coaching and Consulting Offers

For years now, a lot of coaches and consultants have used “free one-hour sessions” as a way to attract new clients. The idea is to convince a prospective client to meet via phone or in person to discuss an issue they’re having… then do a no-cost session to address it.

When everything supposedly works out as planned, the prospect sees what an awesome coach you are and wants to hire you on the spot… that is until they don’t.

The problem is…

This strategy may seem like a winner on paper, but it is a big loser in practice.

That’s because it almost always attracts marginal prospects… those who are simply looking for a free session or those who will need more information before deciding to hire you. Both represent a horrible cost in terms of the coach’s time, energy and expertise.

These types of free sessions are almost always doomed to failure because the client and coach have different objectives. The coach sees a terrific opportunity to get a new client, while the prospective client often just wants to get free coaching.

The worst part of it all… it “wastes” leads that you spent time and money to generate. This is because the closing rate (the percentage of people you sign up with free samples) will be far lower than using the strategy that I am about to suggest.

Think about it this way…

If a coach does 25 free sessions a year and closes 1 of 5 of them, that’s a 20% close rate netting just 5 new clients. Now, if that same coach can close 40% of the sessions, that would yield 10 new clients. Assuming the same fee for all clients, that would double their annual income compared to the “free session” method. Think about what such a swing would mean to the health of your bank account!

What to Do Instead…

Highly successful coaches and consultants do not offer free sessions to demonstrate competence. Instead, they establish it in advance by writing, presenting webinars, providing testimonials, and sharing success stories ahead of meetings with potential clients. Only then, do they employ what I refer to (just between you and me) as “commitment conversations” to close new clients.

Commitment conversations totally differ from free sessions in that they don’t focus on delivering a free sample. Instead, the objectives of the call or meeting are fivefold. They are to:

  1. Determine the distance between where the potential client is today vs. their vision of where they want to be at some point in the foreseeable future.
  2. Identify the one or many barriers or obstacles that are keeping them from achieving their desired outcome.
  3. Propose exactly how the coach would work with the prospective client to achieve that desired outcome.
  4. Determine if the prospect would be a good client “fit” for the coach.
  5. Gain not simply a “yes” from the prospect, but a real commitment to moving ahead by hiring the coach.

As this list shows, these commitment conversations with prospective clients are vastly different than the idea of free sample sessions. They are designed to significantly increase the number of prospects that convert to clients. Imagine a sizable rise in the number of your free consultations that turn into new clients and what that would mean for your business!

When talking to prospective clients, I like to refer to these calls/meetings as something other than a “free one-on-one consultation”.  “Free consultation” is often code for “sales call”… something a lot of prospective clients might want to avoid!


  1. Betsy Brown

    Jim, Thanks so much for this post. It was a real wakeup call for me.

    • Betsy,
      I’m glad that you were moved by the post… I would encourage you to put the ideas into practice starting today!!!

Comments are closed.