The Problem with Free Introductory and Sample Sessions

If you’re a coach, consultant, or service professional, it’s possible that you offer some kind of free introductory session, sample session, or complimentary consultation. Indeed, this is the primary method of “marketing” taught in some coaching schools. It goes something like this: “Go offer free sample sessions to everyone you know. Ask them if they’d like to continue coaching. Some will. Congratulations, you now have clients!”

And you know what? Some people will hire you. Maybe one out ten. Maybe two out of ten. Chances are, some won’t want to pay the going rate for a coach or other service professional, some may even insist on “trading services” instead of cash, but they enjoyed your service, and they’d like “more, please!”

You rationalize, a client is a client, and you take a few under-paying clients.

Now you’re somewhat busy (though not making much money), so you go find more people to give free intro sessions to. And the cycle repeats… you give umpteen free sessions to find a few clients who might not even be willing to pay your rate, much less stick around for the long term. Invariably, they leave about the time you find your next new client, so it feels like you are just spinning your wheels.

And it’s getting harder, not easier. You’ve exhausted your initial list of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and other warm contacts, and now you’ve got to go meet complete strangers you hope will hire you.

You give free sessions to friends of friends. You offer sessions to people you meet at grocery stores. You network like a maniac. You blog. You tweet. You give introductory sample sessions, and just in time, because the first people who hired you have now run their course, so the new clients are just replacing the ones leaving through attrition.

Congratulations, you’re broke and exhausted. Welcome to self-employment.

What went wrong!?

Let’s take a look:

1.      You used the scattershot method of marketing.

You didn’t wait for people to identify themselves as prospective clients; you simply went out and found people who could fog a mirror and agree to a sample session. The result is that now you’re trying to convert prospects you didn’t even really attract in the first place! It’s more like you “attacked” them – by putting them on the spot to do a “free sample session” with you. (more…)