Free coaching sessions… should you do them? That is a question that a follower and friend of mine asked me on Instagram recently. So I decided this needed to be a podcast episode because I’m sure there are a lot of other dietitians, therapists, and coaching professionals that are listening that might be contemplating offering free coaching sessions in their own business. And even though today’s episode is about free consult calls, it really does also start with your website.

So, when I was talking to this person on Instagram, they asked is it something that I personally offer? In short, I do offer free consult calls, but not free coaching calls. And I said, but I don’t even offer them to every single inquiry. And she responded and said, well, everyone in my field swears by offering a free coaching session to help build your business. But it feels really off to me. And I was like, wait, wait, wait, free coaching calls. No, this is not okay. Uh, we need to talk about this.

So first of all, I think there’s a difference between a free consult call and a free coaching call.

So in my business as a web designer, I offer free consult calls. And really this is just a chance for the clients to ask me questions. It’s usually like, well, I need this kind of functionality on my website. Is that something you can do? I’m not sure about x, Y, z? Is that something you can help me work through during this process? Do you think I need to have this kind of website? You know, those kinds of questions.

Now, there have been times that I’ve had people who asked me, you know, like, well, what would you do on my website? And I’m like, well, that’s what we would discuss during your strategy call after you hire me. I’m not going to lay out the strategy for you during our free call because then you could run away with that free strategy and implement it yourself. And it’s not that I’m trying to hoard all this information to myself because trust me, I have plenty of resources and content about websites and what you need to include on your website here on the podcast, on my Youtube channel, on my blog.

There’s plenty of free information out there that I’ve provided, but I’m not going to spend my time coaching somebody for free. But technically, I guess I do kind of offer free coaching calls because I do those coaching calls for particular episodes here on the podcast, as you’ve probably seen. But I think that’s totally different because I’m not doing that as a way to try and get those people to hire me. I’m doing it as a way to create content. And if you’ve listened to those episodes, which you should because they’re packed full of information, they don’t turn into a sales call.

Our time is our most valuable resource and that’s why I don’t think you should be doing free coaching calls. Now, like I said, there’s a big difference between a consult and a coaching session.

If you’re giving away free coaching sessions just to try and get people to work with you, you’re going about it all wrong because if you have to do those free coaching calls in order to convert people into clients, that tells me that you are not showing that you have enough authority in your industry.

If people really need convincing in order to work with you, that’s not ideal. So of course there are a few things you could do to help remedy to this. One, you could start creating content. This is going to help show your authority and build your expertise and people are going to be like, she knows what she’s talking about. And two, you probably need to clarify the messaging on your website. It may not be selling your services for you. As I briefly mentioned earlier, I do offer quick little 15 minute consult calls with clients, but I said I don’t offer it to every single inquiry. Part of that is because sometimes I just don’t think we need that call and I’m not going to spend my time doing a pointless call if they don’t have questions or it can all be answered over email.

But honestly, most of my clients don’t even request a consult call. I have very, very few who are like, can we hop on the phone? Like I have some questions, I just want to talk this through. In which case I’m like, yeah, I’d be happy to hop on a call real quick and answer some questions for you. Not a problem, but I intentionally do not link to my call scheduler from my website because I again don’t want to spend my time on a phone call with someone who’s not a good fit. This is where your inquiry form on your website is so crucial. If you just have a simple contact form that’s like name, email, how can I help you? That’s not giving you all the information you need to see right off the bat if this person is a good fit for you or not.

In my inquiry form, besides just the basic info, I asked them for details about their project, their budget, their timeline, and then they just have a miscellaneous space of like if there’s anything else you think I need to know, let me know here. Knowing their budget and timeline upfront allows me to tailor my message to them, so if they are in budget, then I don’t have to kind of tell them, hey, I don’t think we’re a good fit or if they’re slightly under budget, that tells me I may need to be a little more specific and really communicate that value in that email and potentially even also in the console call as a dietitian, some questions you might need to ask are, what diet programs have you tried before? What health problems do you have? Do you have a history of an eating disorder? Those kinds of questions that will tell you, oh, hey, maybe I don’t work with people who have a history of eating disorders or, sorry, I can’t help people who have type one diabetes, like you need to find a specialist, whatever it is.

That way you’re not wasting your time or the potential clients time either. I think really laying out the expectations on your website of what you do and how you can help them is super important because that will help qualify your leads. This does not mean saying things on your website like if you’re not ready to start living your best life tomorrow and put yourself first, no, that is not a good way to qualify your leads. No one is going to read that and be like, hmm, yeah, sorry. I don’t think I want to put my best foot forward tomorrow. I think I would rather wait until next year. That’s not a good way to qualify leads.

Now, as I’ve said a few times already, there’s a difference between a free coaching session and a free consult call and if you feel like you do want to offer free consult calls and that’s a big if, because you don’t have to offer a free consult call to every single client, you just don’t. It’s your business.

You can offer it if someone brings it up or if you think you know, this is a lot to work through, maybe we should hop on a call, that’s totally fine, but just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to. There are plenty of people in my industry who do offer consult calls to everyone and they swear by them and I rarely do them and still manage to book clients out three to four months in advance.

But if you do feel like you want to offer these calls, the first thing you need to do is sign up and use an appointment scheduler like Calendly or Acuity Scheduling.

Either of those are great options and are free in these kinds of platforms will sync with your calendar so you don’t double book any appointments and you can block off time even.

So if you never want to take calls on Mondays, you can do that, but this makes part of the client experience much easier and much nicer so you don’t have to go back and forth between, well are you free on Thursday? Well, what about Tuesday morning? Or I could do Friday. They get to choose a time. Your calendar is already set to your availability so you don’t have to worry about if a time works for you or not.

Personally, I use Calendly and you can set different types of quote unquote events so I have a free minute consult, a 60 minute podcast interview. Different things like that makes it super easy and reminds the people, hey, this is a 15 minute consult. Now you don’t do the calls through Calendly, it’s just the scheduler. So you do actually have to keep track of time on your call.

Now once you get to the actual call, what I do is just, hey, thanks for inquiring. I’d love to chat with you about your project and what you’re interested in. You know, here’s how I’d love to spend our time since we only have 15 minutes together. I have a few questions to ask you. First, get to know your business a little bit more. Um, and then give them time to ask questions. Because especially in my business, they are usually the reason that we’re having the call because they have questions that they want to ask me and not do it over email. So then I would say something like, tell me a little bit about your business. What do you do? How do you serve your clients? What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing? How’s this affecting your business?

So you can twist that to fit your own business. Since you’re clients are probably not seeking you for business help cause you’re a dietitian, they want nutrition counseling or they want you as a personal trainer, whatever. So it might be, you know, tell me about your life. Like what do you do? What’s your current workout regimen? Why are you trying to seek help now? How is this affecting your relationships? And if you can take notes of their responses so you can empathize with them and even mention those problems again in your followup email. So you can say, you know, I understand how frustrating that can be. In fact, most of my clients I’ve worked with have come up with that same issue or something similar. My job is to x, Y, Z, and I provide these kinds of solutions. It sounds like I can definitely help you resolve some of those problems and get you back on track, see if they have any other questions.

And then if they don’t say, okay, so there are a few ways we could work together. You could do x, y, or z. Go into brief detail about each option. And then it just kind of depends on how the conversation is going. Sometimes I end the call by saying, great, then I will send over a contract and an invoice so we can get started. If they’re like, yes, sign me up, I want to do this. Or if they’re like, okay, well that gives me more to think about. You know, I’m going to make a decision this week. You can say, okay, great. Well if you have any questions, you have my email, you know, I’ll follow up in a few days to see if you have any other questions or want to move forward.

Or honestly it might be that you hear their problems and their questions and you realize they’re not a good fit because that’s also something that can happen. You can just say, well this is a little bit out of the realm of what I do, but I’m happy to send over some recommendations for you so you can still get the help you need.

I’m not going to lie, that part can be a little bit awkward because sometimes people are like, wait, what? Like you don’t want to work with me. Like, am I being rejected as a potential client? But it’s definitely something I’ve done because I’m at the place in my business where I do not take on every single client. I don’t say yes to every single project just because it’s a potential project. And potential money. I want to do things that I enjoy and work with people that I feel like are good fit.

And you just have to remember that you are the business owner. You’re in charge here. So if they tried to overstep the bounds and ask for specific advice or get some free coaching on this call, you can say something like, yeah, that’s a great question. That’s something we would definitely dive into in our coaching. Um, I mean even if you have like a specific outline, you could be like, that’s what we cover in week two of our calls.

To recap: no, you don’t have to do free coaching sessions to get clients.

You can build your authority through content, through the messaging on your website, and through sharing social proof of past clients and sharing those testimonials. And you don’t have to offer free consults to every single inquiry if you don’t want to.

And just remember that you are in charge on the free consult calls. You dictate how much time you spend on the call and you help guide the conversation. They have questions, but you also can use this time to ask them questions and determine if they really are a good fit.

Before I wrap up, I’m going to give you a piece of homework. I want you to go look at your contact forms on your website and see how you can make them better. How can you ask more qualifying questions and get more information from those initial inquiries. And if you have any questions for me, feel free to reach out on Instagram at @JessCreatives and I will see y’all in next week’s episode.